Government vs. State; Why Anarchism Fails (Kind of)Submitted by Tman2000 on Tue, 07/09/2013 - 23:32
These are my definitions, but I think they're true and relevant and highlight an important difference.
Government - The structure of laws and legal force in a society.
State - Derived from estate, the authority which claims ownership over lands, peoples, property for establishing rules, codes, and standards among them towards the ends of that authority according to its values and aims.
A state can be in the body of a lord or lords, or a republic. "Democracy" is just a method or component of either an autocracy or republic. Republic means 'the public thing' and is basically a corporate body that is a state. Unlike an autocracy, the corporation possesses the state, and is governed by rules, has symbols, etc. As opposed to being tied to the interests of a specific person.
A state has/uses government, but government is not necessarily state.
State employs civil law. Legitimate government employs common law. State is not legitimate, but it's all we have.
Is there legitimate government. Yes. Is it necessary? Yes. Am I arguing against anarchy? Yes!
Specifically, I'm arguing that government is a monopoly of law over a people and territory for a given time. This is necessary. First, ancap supporters have to admit that law is necessary. Like Locke, Rand, Rothbard explain: a man with natural rights who enters into a state of society to be able to engage in commerce with other men accepts a set of laws governing that commerce. On such law is simply, fair trade rather than theft. That is a condition for two people to accept each others' society (i.e.: company, like to be in each others' presence).
So, life between rational people inherently involves law. So what? Why do we need rulers? We don't need rulers who own us in their state.
We do need a monopoly on law. Why? Law should generally be voluntary and objective, so why must there be a monopolistic authority?
Because scarcity applies to knowledge, communication, manners, reason, etc. Law implies, quite strongly, a pre-existing knowledge of standards and agreement of penalties for violating those standards. Competing police forces and courts won't cut it. Factional interests such as the emphasis for the worker on what they perceive as fair compensation, or the employer on reasonable profit: this would bias the preference of law enforcement.
The point isn't to say that people are wicked and will always thuggishly support whatever law benefits them. Rather, there is always a deficiency of education, of knowledge, of information. Not everyone can be fully educated in law, commerce, mine safety standards. As economics implies: society leads to a division of labor. Information is scarce too, particularly in terms of time. The world doesn't pause to wait for each legal process to take its course.
Yes, ancap supporters admit this and contend that there will be a perfectly established division of labor, and respect for legal processes, just that there is no central authority and that there is also competition of ideas.
I contend that the scarcity on information and time is sufficient that deficiencies of knowledge and action will compound in an ancap system and in fact defeat natural law. For example: private security forces similar to mafia gangs. Rather than stand up for 'ancap' people will just scurry to whichever group they perceive to be least bad and live with the chaos and terror. This is because armed thugs don't wait for society to take its time to work out a competitive legal process. Another example: division of political opinion on factional lines. Everyone can support 'non-aggression' and still split into political factions. This is because one man's enterprise is another man's pollution dump. There might be one single objective legal solution to that issue, but inevitably people will rationalize the side they prefer.
The issue, again, isn't wickedness. Assume: any legal process is deficient because there's scarcity in everything all the time, including access to information. Solution: one central legal process so that deficiencies are common and isolated centrally. Thus deficiencies are corrected by reforming one system. The goal is this: unity on matters of force, to preserve freedom in matters of voluntary action.
The analogy in economics is that while you might not have an analytic universal law for the economy as a whole, your individual employment contract is very much a given law for the context of that small sector of the economy. This does imply a very local emphasis for government.
Fact: there is force in society, even if it's reactionary and just. Reactionary force can easily split people into irrational factions (differing legal conclusions). Once this occurs, the existence of 'separate' legal processes inherently delegitimizes these processes to those who don't affiliate with them. This delegitimization and disharmony of judicial outcomes means that someone will inevitably engage in force that someone else judges as pre-emptive. As Locke explains, this is a state of war.
Scarcity of information, like all scarcity, has a scope: space, time, persons. Thus, the minimal skeleton of government is territory, population, and some legislative body to proscribe general laws. The only necessary characteristic of these laws is that they describe wrong action and the correct response in general terms (pre facto).
This body could be a congress, a moot, a court. It could elect a sheriff, or a king, or rule directly on a matter (the general law being that if somebody pisses someone off, you'll face community judgment as opposed to vigilantism).
But, in the context of a territory and population, there must be one acknowledged source of law. It can't merely be a book, because laws must have the ability to be dynamic to apply to any situation as well as changes in society.
The American/Anglo-Saxon tradition is this: common law. The county has a sheriff/king. The people appoint him. He must not oppress the people, he must be successful in his duties. This person was the commander-in-chief, the chief boss of all legitimate violent forces in the community. The forces themselves are the militia. Everyone with a sword/musket. They don't pick up arms against fellow man accept united behind the sheriff.
The congress, town hall, moot, thing, etc. chooses law, in addition to picking the sheriff. They can also appoint wise persons to make judgements after a violation of law, but the moot legitimizes the person making the judgment. In all things, government is minimized. There might be a law body, and a court, but most of the law is commonly understood, and traditional - so it isn't owned by the government itself. In the executive power, the ability to cause violence depends on the consent of the people to act in the militia. The sheriff is just a convenient boss so people act in harmony when they do choose violence.
This is the basic government. Principles such as non-aggression legitimize the government, but it is distinguished from ancap because there is the notion of unity and commitment to the monopolized law.
Consider the early American republic. It had legitimacy in the sense that it depended on the consent of the people. There was monopoly of law: given territory, people, and time. The consent came from the right to secede. Secession doesn't overturn the notion of monopoly. If you secede in 1834, then you still granted a monopoly of (delegated) law to the federal government in 1833. That was a discrete period of time.
Secession is elegant because the majority of laws that directly affect that 'scarcity of information' issue exist at the state level. Thus, states can federate or dissociate with little chaos. Also, as in the last paragraph, secession as a principle doesn't violate the definition of government because the scope of secession respects periods of time and clear territorial boundary.
Where it gets complicated is secession of small political units or even individuals from larger political units. In any society, people's lives and productivity are intertwined. A person is very limited if they choose to 'secede' from society because then they have to live apart from everyone else. This is key. You can't choose to not consent to society's laws, but also remain in society. That's the difference between monopoly of law for legitimate government an ancap. In ancap, you can not consent to laws, but still live with the people pushing them. The only factor that matters is whether you can get away with it (political maneuvering).
Certainly we can all build fences - and if our fences are good enough we ought to be able to secede from all of society if we choose.
Nevertheless, just like if you choose that you think you can murder your neighbor, your community will punish you against your will, likewise your community might believe that your actions 'aggress' against them even if you don't. An example: you pollute the air, but don't buy the medical studies linking soot and cancer. Your neighbors do buy those studies, and 'war' against you even if you 'secede'. Their actions would to you seem like irrational pre-emptive force against your productivity.
So, in joining a society you must accept the monopoly of law of that society, and there should be one. But in theory you can withdraw from society, and also there are reasonable limits to the scope of that monopoly. Again, county size is a good approximation.
In conclusion, I leave with two points. First, government as monopoly of law is necessary because information is scarce. That scarcity must be isolated into a process of government so that it doesn't cause violence. Scarcity is permissible in commerce, because commerce is not violence. But as much as scarcity affects legitimate retaliatory violence, that scarcity needs to be isolated in a legislature and court and sheriff, so that the violence isn't accelerated unnecessarily.
Second, though we here justify and even demand government, we condemn the state even more naturally. Localism, secession until localism, wide latitude for giving consent even in the local context - these are all principles of legitimate government.