Questions for Minarchists

As I understand the most common justification for the state, there exists scarcity in the world and conflict ensues as individuals compete for scarce resources. (See Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature.) Therefore, we need  an organization that holds a monopoly within a territory on ultimate decision making to resolve conflicts. The decision maker, what I call “the state,” shall also have the power to enforce such decisions and to legislate a set of ground rules on which the decisions will be made.

Two glaring complications arise from this justification. First, the state causes artificial scarcity by limiting competing services in the fields of defense and conflict resolution. Secondly, if the ultimate decision maker is in conflict with another party, then the state has a conflict of interests as it is both decision maker and participant in the dispute. As such an institution is able to create conflicts and then rule in its own favor, individual liberty rests on a whim, its whim. Additionally, individuals acting through the state are more inclined to support violence behavior, to tax other people’s wealth or regulate others, for example, because they can do so without any liability. So, it seems that governments would be much more inclined to create conflict than would individuals acting on their own, further marginalizing the liberty the state was designed to protect.

Even the idea that a government is necessary to protect rights better makes that case that rights do not actually exist, because there would need to be government watchdogs to ensure that the government was effectively protecting rights. But then, there would need to be watchdog watchdogs to ensure the watchdogs did their jobs. It breaks down into an infinite regression, and a blank check, until the only way you are free is unless the government taxes every dime you have in order to pay all those watchdogs.

A more contemporary justification is to correct negative externalities, which individuals could address through more defined contractual relationships. In fact, the state encourages negative externalities by increasing regulations and improperly defining property rights. Modern liberals and conservatives have further justifications, meanwhile, such as to impose their own cultural or religious preferences.

Minarchists (those who support a minimal state that enforces agreements, ensures for a common defense, and perhaps provides minimal infrastructure) generally recognize the inefficiencies of the state and support personal independence in relation to political authority. Rightly, they fear illegal theft, yet they insist on legalizing it and calling it “taxation.” They fear a coercive organization taking control of individual autonomy, yet they create their own and call it “government.” Don’t believe me? Here are few questions for illumination.

  1. Does a group of individuals have any right that an individual does not?
  2. Does government have any right that an individual would not have to stop acts of coercion (such as force or fraud)?
  3. Can an individual delegate a right to the government he or she does not have?
  4. Are the ethical judgments of the behavior of government different from non-government behavior?
  5. If it is legitimate for one group of individuals to secede from a government, is it also legitimate for a an individual to secede from a government. If not, why not?
  6. Is it legitimate for the government to force an individual to fund services he or she does not wish to use?
  7. Is it legitimate for the government to hold a territorial monopoly or somehow mandate, by the threat of force, that competitors receive permission before offering competing defense or conflict resolutions services?
  8. If a government is needed to enforce agreements and providing conflict resolution among individuals, is another such organization designed to enforce agreements and providing conflict resolution among governments also needed. If not, why not?
  9. Does an individual have the right to use force against someone who has the capability to initiate force first but who has not threatened do so?

Anarchists and minarchists would agree that the answer is “no” on the first four questions. These are straightforward questions that libertarians have long dealt with.

The split begins on Question 5. Anarchists and a subset of minarchists called MINOs, or minarchists in name only, would say that an individual does have the right of secession. MINOs insist they support an organization called government that shares none of the fundamental characteristics of a government as it is not territorially monopolistic nor individually non-consensual. It would be like calling people thieves who prevent others from stealing your property; it just creates confusion. The most prominent MINO is Michael Badnarik, who said in a debate with Stefan Molyneux that he does support individual secession. However, minarchists would object to individual secession, yet they have already stated groups do not have additional rights than individuals in Question 1.

For questions six and seven, minarchists support the use of force, albeit regrettably, to compel funding of a service and submission to the state. Else, it would be de facto anarchy. Anarchists and MINOs disagree, believing that forced taxation and forced submission to the state contradict individual liberty. Minarchists agree that protection and dispute resolution should be provided by the state, but hardly address how many resources should be spent on these services, something the market can answer based on supply and demand.

On Question 8, minarchists would have to support a type of government’s government to enforce agreements with other governments. Otherwise, governments would exists in a state of anarchy with every other government, a point minarchists already conceded is not acceptable for individuals.

Question 9 is the syncher. Reluctantly again, I think that minarchists have displayed support for using force on the mere possibility of others using force against them. It is the most epic self-fulfilling prophecy, an endless preemptive war on individuals. In and of itself, the state’s claim of territorial monopoly is not a violation of rights had property owners consented without duress. Property is similarly a monopoly claim, but its lineage of ownership, if valid, has been consensual.

In practice, the justification for the state is the subjugation of the politically weak to the politically connected, from what Samuel Edward Konkin III called the economic class to the political class. It is blunt force. Minarchists serves as the wedge of that force, but they will never wield the hammer.


A reader had this comment.

While anarchy may be viewed as a Utopian state, so long as a single individual wishes to undermine the rights of their (sic) neighbor, the response will always be a de facto government. As soon as you have de facto government, you will have those that will advocate that the role of that government extends out into providing services that are viewed to be not efficiently achieved individually.

Total liberty as a function of society is therefore not achievable and the degree of liberty achievable is reliant on the morality of those that control government’s decisions.

“… it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”

To advance a state of anarchy is to advance that man has another alternative for the protection of life, liberty and property. Time and time again, man has come to the conclusion that only laws will protect and therefore has rightfully rejected anarchy.