Thursday, April 28, 2005

Minarchy and Me

In a recent post, I took issue with an essay written by Thomas L. Knapp, to which he responded with a comment. If you’re interested, check it out and glean from it what you will. To the extent that I mischaracterized his position, if indeed that’s the case, it was unintentional.

Speaking of interest, Thomas’ blog is Knappster: Blog Naked for Jesus. In addition, he's the Publisher of Rational Review…from “About Rational Review”:
Rational Review was conceived as an answer to the conventional "conservative" and "liberal" commentary that dominates the American political scene. Building on the considerable intellectual strength of a growing freedom movement in the United States, our desire is to manifest the libertarian idea in an institutional manner. Much as The New Republic and National Review have come to be regarded as the periodical repositories of their respective philosophies' best offerings on the issues of the day, we aspire to become the libertarian movement's journal of record.
I’m going to accept the challenge Thomas proposed: A comment thread is hardly big enough to hash out the whole minarchist versus anarchist argument. However, I will note that I disagree that "the alternative is not an option" and that "no 'true anarchy is extant." As a matter of fact, I'd argue that anarchy is the natural, organic, ongoing, existent and extant form of human civilization and that the state exists only in anarchy's interstices, and on its sufferance, as a parasitic phenomenon. Maybe we can go at each other at length on this some time.

In the sense that liberty and natural rights are unalienable and the default human tendency, then I would agree that anarchy is "organic and ongoing". Further, mere laws and regulations are not always effectual in restraining or preventing individual aggression. And I too see the state as a “parasitic phenomenon”, which cannot but feed upon the individual. So what’s wrong with dissolving the state altogether?

When I think of a stateless existence, I’m struck by two opposing ideas. First, the beauty of full-orbed liberty, positive and negative. Second, the necessity of excessive vigilance and insecurity due to the irrational behavior of predators. It’s the latter that precludes, in my mind, the absence of a state. That said, any such “authority” ought to be irreducibly minimal.

Robert Nozick, in his book Anarchy, State and Utopia, articulated the essence of my view:
Our main conclusions about the state are that a minimal state, limited to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts, and so on, is justified; that any more extensive state will violate persons' rights not to be forced to do certain things, and is unjustified; and that the minimal state is inspiring as well as right. Two noteworthy implications are that the state may not use its coercive apparatus for the purpose of getting some citizens to aid others, or in order to prohibit activities to people for their own good or protection.
The question is: can the “night watchman” be contained within the strictures of its mandate? History suggests not…but I’m an optimist. My optimism is fueled, in part, by the seemingly unlimited discourse that is enabled by the internet, among other things. This is, in large part, the reason that I decided to wade in to join the battle of ideas. Such is unquestionably more preferable than a violent resolution of political differences. Therefore, a minimal government comprised of citizens, that serves as a neutral arbiter and the Rule of law, to which all are fairly and equally bound, strikes a palatable balance between liberty and security…with individual liberty taking precedence.