Posted by: John Vandivier | August 28, 2013

5 Objections to Anarchism

This article will discuss a few of my objections to the work of David Friedman and Larken Rose.

First let me disclaim that I am a huge fan of David Friedman and even a marginal fan of Larken Rose, although I have only trivially researched the latter until now. Despite our several agreements, there are, for now, 5 major points I of objection I have to these two distinct forms of anarchism. I have 2 problems with Friedman’s anarcho-capitalism and 3 problems with Rose’s a priori anarchism.

1) Friedman’s definition of anarchism.

Friedman defines, at least in one place, anarchism as the absence of government. My definition of anarchism is a free market of government. Friedman’s definition is problematic for at least two reasons. Consider the possibility of anarchism arising from competitive social contracts. Furthermore, consider the impossibility of the absence of any government. Even if you are fully self-governed this may be considered as a kind of government, and in addition God’s laws from moral law to physical law are all forms of inescapable government.

2) Friedman’s definition of government.

In the same article that I reference for Friedman’s definition of anarchism, he also defines government. Friedman’s obscure definition of government is contingent on another obscure definition of rights. While I won’t get into his definition of rights, I think it is not an accurate one. His definition of government is an institution which, when it violates what people perceive as their rights, the violated person does not illicit the normal reaction.

The definition is silly on its face. Consider that a group of people are hallucinating on drugs. They may not interact with anyone or thing in their normal way, but it is out of their own state rather than the state of the thing they are interacting with. Secondly, Friedman’s definition supposes that no particular thing can be called a government until it has violated the rights of a person. This is an entirely obscure definition. Whether or not the Mayor of a particular city violates the rights of the high school population within it, every person in the high school will recognize the town’s Mayor as part of the government of a town.

My preferred definition, as covered in this article, is that government is any entity is able to compel other entities to follow a set or subset of laws it produces, where laws are commands or rules for how to act or be.

3) Rose’s moral argument for anarchism.

Rose argues that nothing bad can every be good and this implies that government does not exist. He argues that if government does not exist then anarchy is necessarily already real and there is no alternative. Some of this logic is so fast and loose it is nearly laughable.

His argument here is that the term government implies legitimacy, by which he means moral legitimacy. He then argues that some governments make immoral laws and therefore government cannot exist. If you follow my preferred definition, as shown above, this bullet is entirely dodged. While I think we would all prefer a moral government, the fact is that there is a thing we usually refer to as government and being moral is not one of its necessary qualities.

There is more we can do to defeat his argument, however. While it may be true that most government creates immoral laws, he has failed to define what moral even means! Under Christianity, part of morality is following the, “law of the land.” Therefore all government, to a degree, ceteris paribus, is moral. Other parts of the Bible will demonstrate that we must not “obey man rather than God,” but as long as the two are consistent then we should, “render unto Caesar” that which is his. The point I am making is that certain kinds of morality are clearly in line with certain governments, so the claim that government is an illusion is nonsense.

4) Rose’s argument for the inevitability of anarchism.

Rose’s argument is that people will inevitably learn the truth, and that, in this case, the particular truth of interest is the fact that “government is a lie.” Firstly, he fails to define government. As linked above, I provide a workable definition of government which, when used, reveals that several governments clearly exist. Secondly, it is not certain that everyone will eventually learn any particular truth for at least two reasons. First there are plenty of true things that we still don’t know. Secondly, even if we were to learn over time, it is possible that people would all be gone before such time arrives, precluding any person’s knowledge.

5) Rose’s argument from rights for anarchism.

Rose argues here that no one can delegate a right that they don’t have. His justification is that it is “self-evident” and “obvious.” I would of course disagree on the basis of social contract theory and contingent rights. While I may not have a right to take any person’s property, I do have that right if they agree to allow me to have that right as per a social contract. Social contract theory, as per Burke, can be remarkably resilient and sophisticated. Argued for correctly it can provide legitimacy to governments such as the US government and others.

However, let’s grant him that point for argument’s sake. The fact that people can’t delegate rights they don’t have in no way precludes a special set of people from being endowed with a special set of rights under a religious definition of rights. Here the error is that Rose fails to define rights. If we say that rights are endowed by our creator, we can argue for a birth rate or something of that nature. Additionally, civil rights are from government by definition. In that case, which is supported by heavy scholarship, his undefended assertion that a government of people cannot have rights that its people do not delegate falls flat on its face.


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