Minarchism and Anarchism: Taxonomy/MorphologySubmitted by Faithkills on Mon, 02/25/2013 - 18:12
It seems to me that the debate between minarchists and anarchists is baffled to a large degree merely by not understanding the philosophical underpinnings of each. I don't think this will solve the debate, but at least it will help people to better understand what they are discussing.
Most people understand minarchism as an 'individualist' philosophy which believes in a state, but one with a small government.
Anarchy, specifically anarcho-capitalism or voluntaryism believes in no state, although there can be 'governments' in the sense that a 4H Club has a government, or a firm has a government in the form of it's board of directors, or what have you. Those 'governed' accept the rules in that context, or exercise their natural right to disassociate.
Our question is: What are the philosophical building blocks of these two ideas? What do they share? What do they not share?
There are four fundamental concepts involved.
The Rule of Law.
The Non-aggression Principal.
Delegation of natural rights.
You could probably boil it down to two, but it is useful to understand them separately.
The Rule of Law:
The Rule of Law is not the existence of laws, statutes, acts, or legislation. The Rule of Law was instead invented because there tends to be too many, and unjust, laws, statutes, acts, and legislation.
The Rule of Law is merely the principal that insomuch as laws exist, they should apply to all, even and especially the law givers or makers. Or as I like to say, 'law perpetrators'. The King's law can be just and consonant with the Rule of Law if it applied to him as well. Obviously this is rarely the case. The existence of any 'sovereign immunity' or what we call in the US, 'executive privilege' means that the Rule of Law does not obtain.
Law perpetrators should and must always also be law victims for the Rule of Law to obtain.
The Rule of Law not only doesn't mean laws exist, the Rule of Law in fact cannot be violated unless laws exist. In a world with no laws the Rule of Law is not violated. It would however be a rather academic concept. As well, the fewer laws there are, the less likely one violates the Rule of Law. Law proliferation is thus an indicator of the lack of Rule of Law.
Nevertheless here Anarchists and Minarchists agree. If we must have law perpetrators and law victims, as least the perpetrators should always victimize themselves along with everyone else.
One purpose of the Rule of Law is to enhance ethical symmetry. This is merely the concept that what is moral for one man is moral for another. If one man claims rights or privileges that another man does not have, then we have ethical asymmetry. The Rule of Law tends to impede ethical asymmetry, but is not proof against it.
A progressive tax is an example of a law that treats people differently. Progressives would assert it does abide the Rule of Law because the 'schedule' of taxation is objective. That is wrong. The fact is people pay different rates and that is a violation of the Rule of Law. Again calling something a law does not mean the Rule of Law exists.
A capitation would be consonant with the Rule of Law. Everyone pays the same amount.
A flat tax, consumption or income, is iffy. But most people consider this a fair sort of tax and not a violation of the Rule of Law.
However all taxes are ethically asymmetric. Ultimately some are net thieves and some are net victims. All taxes imply that what is moral for one man is not moral for another.
All collectivist political philosophies are ethically asymmetric. The purpose of collectivist political philosophies is to justify ethical asymmetry. Who, whom.
This is also why they tend to be convoluted. One can't just say it outright that party members can steal and enslave the rest of the populace. So democracy, monarchy, socialism, fascism, racism, communism, etc all have some complex justification and rhetoric to justify ethical asymmetry.
Now I hesitate to point this out, because I count minarchists and anarchists as natural allies.
In only upholding the Rule of Law, which in itself does not preclude ethical asymmetry, much less the non-aggression principle which is a certain case of ethical symmetry, minarchism is a collectivist political philosophy. A very well behaved one, granted. It worked fairly well in the States United for about a century give or take.
Minarchism is technically collectivist, even if minimally so.
One could conceivably have an ethically symmetric system in which aggression was acceptable, eg in certain primitive raiding cultures, men would go Viking, but they didn't much trouble themselves trying to make the claim that it was somehow immoral if someone in turn raided them.
The NAP is an ethically symmetric political philosophy that goes steps further. One thing is it deligitimizes any assertion of rights which create a contradiction in their exercise while legitimizing aught else. We can both have the right to protect our life or property without contradiction. But if we both also have a right to take others' property, while not posing a logical contradiction, it certainly poses a contradiction in reality. In particular it causes violence. Thus according to the NAP nothing may be a right which necessitates conflict when exercised by all parties. This doesn't mean natural rights according to the NAP may not sometimes cause conflict when exercised by all, but they do not have to do so.
Obviously while minarchists tend to approve of the NAP, they are willing to vitiate it in some circumstances. Anarchists do not think it is ever moral to act outside of the NAP. We don't trust the motives of those who want to do so. We especially don't like the ramifications of making exceptions to the NAP. Having done it once, there's always a new excuse.
Delegation of Rights:
The government of the people cannot logically have powers or rights not delegated to it by the people. If no person has a right, then no matter how many zero's you sum, you still get zero. If I do not have the right to steal, nor does the government via it's IRS agency. Someone must have the right to steal for the government to have that power. This can be explained in terms of ethical symmetry but I think delegation is an important concept in it's own right.
Anarchists do not believe powers or rights can be delegated which do not exist in the first place. Minarchists are willing to look the other way when someone adds a bunch of zeros together and comes up with a positive number, when it suits their preferences. Here again the consequentialist anarchists don't like the results of bending the principle lest it keep being bent, and further bent.
I hope these thoughts might help some people clarify their thinking on the debate. Yes obviously I take the ancap position, but I want to stress that the Rule of Law is very important, and I do count as an ally anyone who supports the Rule of Law, even a somewhat imperfect form such as the Constitution of the States United.
If we could ever get back to that I would be most pleased and cheer along with minarchists. If we could achieve that I imagine many anarchists would not trouble with the effort of trying to achieve the final mile to complete freedom, although that is speculation.
Some ancaps don't think anything can or should be done. Some, like agorists certainly do. But many ancaps do think something should be done, and certainly most minarchists do.
So for those of us that think something should be done, we should at least agree that the best first step is probably restoring the Rule of Law as embodied in the Constitution.
We shouldn't fight over points that while real are academic at this point. We don't even have the Rule of Law. We'll be fortunate to achieve even that.
On the stairway to liberty, the last step is a doozy. It's ok if not everyone takes it, or is ready to take it, just yet.