Some Questions About a Republic

A paraphrase of some questions about the essay “The Moral Case Against a Republic” and my responses are posted below.

Are compulsory participation and taxation inherent components of a republic?

They are not. A republic, by definition, does not have to include forceful compulsion or taxation. I should have made that point clearer when I said, ” … why I believe any state-imposed government is antithetical of liberty and, therefore, illegitimate.” The emphasis is on “state-imposed.” As I said in the essay, I support the idea of competing government-like organizations to provide services within the same territory. It’s just that statist governments throughout history, including the American one as originally conceived, have been compulsory because they used initiated force to form a territorial monopoly.

Competing forms of government most typically results in war, such as the case of the Union and the Confederacy in the United States. Would that be the case when these government-like organizations are competing withing the same geographic space?

I draw the exact opposite conclusion from that war. The Union and Confederacy were the very statist governments that I oppose. They were literally at war because they disputed which side would control this territorial monopoly. Domino’s and Pizza Hut compete peacefully in the same territory, as do millions of other organizations, because neither attempts to use force to establish a territorial monopoly. So everyday, millions of organizations compete on a daily basis, and yet you will never find Domino’s invading a Pizza Hut. It’s when that organization uses force to form a territorial monopoly that arms are used.

What keeps Domino’s and Pizza Hut in peaceful competition?

Look to the American empire. The financial costs of aggression are tremendous, while the costs of defending property (look to the Iraqi insurgency) is far less. These firms are profit driven, so it is not justified, financially or otherwise, to aggress against others in a society of free association.

Capitalistic (or free-market) competition is not a win-loss scenario. It benefits everyone. The profitable shareholders and the customers clearly benefit. Shareholders of a bankrupt or unprofitable company also benefit because they can put their resources to more profitable uses sooner and be better off than they otherwise would have been instead of further cannibalize their assets.

Some companies do rely on the state’s coercion for a competitive advantage, but that coercion is paid by a belief in the state’s legitimacy by the American taxpayer.

What will keep these voluntary governments limited to protecting individual liberties? If they move beyond those bounds, what will keep them from taking further initiations of force?

There are three reasons I believe an aggressive agency would fail: it is too costly, it would have a terrible employee base, and it would not have the means of funding its violent operation.

Imagine for a moment that one of these defense organizations turned to aggression and started attacking innocent people, even by accident. The agency has now become a target of retaliation. Businesses and individuals would recognize that any association with murders is harmful of their own character, because of the stigma of that association, and of their own person, because any disagreement with the aggressing agency could result in their own injury.

Influential business interests like insurance companies that rely on protecting and preserving assets would also shun the acts of the agency because aggression and the inevitable retaliation are an inherently wealth-destructive processes. Without this financial backing to protect its valuables, the aggessing agency has borne an even costlier burden. Even if an insurance company continued its coverage, it would have to raise its premiums drastically to cover the added liability. If insurer tried to pass down these costs to peaceful individuals, those customers would hire cheaper firms, putting the original insurance company in jeopardy. A whole host of services like contract insurance and other business dealings of a modern economy could be lost by the aggressing agency.

From the point of view of the employees, aggression is also a heavy burden. If, or should I say when, government employees commits aggression today, they are shielded from justice by the state by the concept of sovereign immunity. In a society of free association, lines like, “I’m just doing my job,” no longer hold any validity. Private employees have no such immunity and are held accountable for their actions. Knowing this, any honest employee of the aggressing agency would resign or refuse such orders, and the agency’s ability to carry out any violence would also be substantially crippled.

Does that mean only dishonest people would work for such defense agencies? If so, and only dishonest people would employ such services on their behalf, then honest individuals would have no interest in dealing with them. These dishonest individuals would have to rely solely on force to survive, raising the costs of providing their defense dramatically. Such people today make their profit off the black market, but in a free society there is no black market to inflate their profits and subsidize their aggression.

Thus, such dishonest individuals come to power, to the extend that that they do, because of the infringements that the state creates in the first place.

This sounds good in theory, but isn’t it too complicated for the real world?

A noose is also a lot less complicated than court proceedings and the rule of law. The horse and buggy is much less complicated, less deadly, and more environmentally friendly, I understand, than automobiles. But the benefits vastly outweigh their costs. It’s an obvious point, but it deserves to be stated: everything has a cost.

One of these defensive firms could rise to power and form a monopoly of its own to exclude competition and plunder its customers. How can competitive defense agencies prevent that from taking place?

That is a legitimate concern, and the state is the largest monopoly of them all. In a society of free association, there will still be those who prefer aggression to association. The forces of economics and self-interest are much better equipped to prevent such monopolies from granting an organization such a monopoly from the outset and hoping it doesn’t exercise its might.

What is the natural law response to some proposed slight aggression for the public good?

I, for one, see aggression as aggression, whether it is wielded by tyrants with machine guns or by polished politicians who hire gunmen, the police, to instill their will on others. Each requires a unique response, but the lesson is still the same.

Natural law simply tries to establish and maintain an order in which individuals may realize their full potential as rational, sensitive beings. Force is used to negate another’s own judgment and, therefore, limit an individual’s primary means of survival, the mind. Force is thought control.

The initiation of force, even for the most noble purpose, is universally immoral, while self-defense is moral because it attempts to restore the primacy of the mind.

Aggression (force, for the sake of brevity) creates nothing; it leaches off the products of reason for its own destructive ends; and it only does so to the extent that individuals allow it. There can be no compromise with with aggression, no mitigating it. Ayn Rand said, “In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.”

I believe the primary method of human advancement is reason, not aggression. Humans used reason to build skyscrapers, to fly 400,000-lbs. metal tubes in the sky, to visit the moon, and to split the atom. It is force that is used those to destroy those gains. It will be when reason is fully released, when the mind is freed of this crippling aggression, that human beings will be able to achieve their full potential. That is when free association and free exchange will be fully achieved.

Rand also said, “Anyone who fights for the future, lives in it today.” I take heart in that.

Why is natural law anymore moral than a republican form of government?

Natural law helps individuals achieve their greatest potential because it seeks to be in harmony with their requirements for a full life. A republic, if it holds a territorial monopoly by force, is immoral because it necessarily limits an individual’s life since it initiates force, or the threat thereof, to maintain that monopoly.

Lord Acton said, “The philosophy of natural law defends the rational dignity of the human individual and his right and duty to criticize by word and deed any existent institution or social structure in terms of those universal moral principles which can be apprehended by the individual intellect alone.”

Wouldn’t voluntary arbitration be overly burdensome and require an unlikely near agreement on the role and authority of government in an individual’s life?

That standard is an agreement not to aggress against each other. That authority is their self-interest. Frederic Bastiat said, “All men’s impulses, when motivated by legitimate self-interest, fall into a harmonious social pattern.”