7 votes

No Government vs Limited Government - Debate

No Government vs Limited Government, which is better? Debate


Trending on the Web

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


Examples like that happen all the time.

If Kinsella wasn't just blustering profanities, Jan could easily have led him where he led Larken Rose.

Rose was led to claim two contradictory ultimate ends; the freedom of humanity, and self ownership.

He was led to confusion about whether he'd commit aggression to preserve his life.

He was almost led to see that his ethics would be placed on hold for life or death circumstances.

Combined with Jan's plausible argument that one's life would be gravely endangered on the anarchist model, he almost led Rose to realize why it's legitimate to use coercion to prevent anarchy, even as a libertarian, if your ultimate value of surviving comes before 100% non coercion.

Jan Helfeld's picture

Thank you for your analysis and support.

Thank you for your great analysis and support.

Jan Helfeld

Thank you!

For going into the arena and keeping things so interesting.

Jan Helfeld's picture

It is good to have someone notice.

Thank you for your analysis and support. It is good to have someone notice.

Jan Helfeld

In a philosophy classroom

Is where these extreme examples belong imo. I understand extreme examples can be used to test strictly the principle. But they don't operate in the wheelhouse OF REALITY. Just like the question of "How many angels on the head of a pin?"

I think it makes more sense to base your system on typical events, and then make room for extreme exceptions.

So if your mother is burning, and you steal a fire extinguisher to save her life, you can explain the situation after the fact to the person you stole from, you can admit the theft was a violation, and you both determine what to do about it.

But I need to go watch the Helfeld Rose debate, because it sounds like it has some interesting points.

Sure but if anarchy be

Sure but if anarchy be defined as a perpetual state of your grandma burning, then you can justify government as a perpetually justified stolen fire extinguished. And I think that's more or less accurate.

Once you've conceded the point that its okay to steal the fire extinguisher, you have to concede the point that the state is just, if it truly does prevent perpetual fires... So you have lost the moral high ground, and are stuck arguing only the practical point that anarchy wouldn't actually be what almost everyone knows it to be.

That is quite a different bag of apples than the typical ethical apriorism and obnoxious moralism of anarchists.

Lost the moral high ground?

I agree with you on this statement, because it would mean that in extreme cases, there could be injustice.

But something WE MUST CONSIDER is the following. In the CURRENT SYSTEM of govt, in these extreme examples, people will still "act immorally," steal the fire extinguisher or what have your extreme case. BUT in the current system, you can file charges against the person that stole; OR you could opt not to file charges and just understand the circumstances and admit the the circumstances were extreme.

So in both systems, the theft still occurs.

But in a voluntary society, if you notice a problem that needs solving, you better believe businesses would love to provide a solution.

So LET'S NOT act as if we are just going to have to sit there with our hands tied if we have serious problems.

So for example, if there is a gang problem in your town, you can make sure that your chosen DRO has a solution to the gang problem, or promises compensation if you are attacked by a gang.

So that is another issue, we WILL HAVE MORE power to solve problems, not less! Currently, if you want to employ a "solution" under the govt, you have little power to make it happen, it will take a long time because of the bureaucracy, and the "solution" in the form of a passed bill may have tacked on extra policies that you disagree with.

Without govt regulation, solutions can be implemented asap, not AFTER congress meets and things hopefully go your way.

Limited government? No

Limited government? No government?

I think we tend to think about government in very narrow terms. If we understand government according to the truest meaning of the word, then we should all welcome government.

When two people come to an agreement, they are "governed" by the terms of the contract; this is no less "government" than the central authorities that are the focus of so much legitimate criticism.

Rather than dividing government into degrees of "more" and "less", I think that we should argue about government in terms of its kind, the type of government it is.

Have you ever thought that perhaps we do not need less government, maybe we need more? We should be governed by freedom, by voluntary contracts, by property rights, by morality--we need MORE of this type of government; I think that it IS possible to be "governed" by liberty.

Only semantics

It is clear to all of us what "government is" and there is no need for a semantic play. We are talking about THE AUTHORITY that we have given the leadership, and what that can mean to the individual.

If my spouse and I "agree" to take care of each other, that is a form of the semantic use of "governance" that you described.

But will I be allowed to handcuff her, lock her in a cage, point a gun at her, take some or all of her assets without repaying, force her to go from room to room and listen to propaganda on a bell schedule...

There are MANY ANARCHISTS on this board. Libertarianism aka Constituionalism aka Minarchism aka Limited Government aka Small Government... Are all about 99% anarchistic philosophy!

Yet most people ARE DEATHLY AFRAID of the term "anarchy." And they go off: "You want no rules? No protection? No police? No taxes? No military? No schools? No roads? No prisons? There will be riots. Gangs. Mohawks. Graffiti everywhere. The Vikings will pillage your family..."

But anarchists do not want any of those things.

We WANT protection, we WANT courts, we WANT laws, we WANT roas, we WANT militaries and police, we WANT schools, we WANT governing programs.

But... We WANT to be able to CHOOSE them, which means obviously, that WE CAN CHOOSE TO OPT OUT of any of these, or to choose or create a competing program.


After sitting here cringing through the whole thing my conclusion is that the Bald guy is an Intellectual Wanna Be, and that He got his ass handed to him on a platter.

Blessed are the peacemakers

Jan Helfeld's picture

Watch Part 2 Borowski on anarchism

Watch Part 2 Borowski on anarchism


Jan Helfeld

So where did the US experiment go wrong?

I disagree with Jan's conclusion:

"A limited government society will not work if the people of the country do not understand limited government...So the way to get back to the limited government is by people obtaining the knowledge that the founding fathers had (again), reabsorbing it and applying it in the elections."

Are you serious? In what part of the world did you grow up, Jan? I spent twelve years of government education (most of it compulsory) with constant droning on-and-on about American exceptionalism and the reasons behind it. My indoctrination started at a very early age, where me and my classmates would pray to a flag, and contract with the government by pledging our allegiance. In college I was required to have a general course of education in US government history. On top of this, our mainstream news has 24-hour coverage of pundits debating the constitutionality of issues and the Founders intentions. My whole life I've been surrounded by nothing but reverence for the founders and a constitutionally limited government.

All that and I'm supposed to believe the US took a wrong turn due to a lack of understanding and education? BS! I don't buy it. As further proof, you will never hear a politician lobby on a platform of "unlimited government". Instead, we always hear how they intend to rein in government abuse and power.

Therefore, I have my own theory -- something that I think is much more plausible. Maybe, just maybe the US experiment went wrong because politicians lie! Maybe setting up a power structure that grants special rights will always inevitably be taken over by those who seek it. Or, perhaps it's a truism that power corrupts, and no matter what magical words are written down in unicorn blood, they will always become twisted and ignored over time.

If you disagree, please don't just downvote and move on. Enlighten me by giving me your own straightforward answer to this question:

If you could snap your fingers and magically have the government you desire, what would prevent it from becoming the same massive and corrupt beast it is today? Or to put it another way, what was the fundamental flaw in the US Constitution that allowed what we have today?

In Jan's case I would ask exactly how he would implement and enforce the kind of education he's proposing, ensuring "limited government" now and into the foreseeable future? Exactly what words would you use in your revised constitution to make sure that happens?

If men are good, you don't need government; if men are evil or ambivalent, you don't dare have one.

I agree, there are flaws in the constitution

those flaws are not a problem with ethical and honest politicians. But when has anyone ever seen more than a few of those in a lifetime.

Here are a few flaws that I think led to this mess:

1. Allowing the feds to appoint and confirm the Judicial Branch.
2. Allowing the feds any ability to propose amendments to the constitution
3. Allowing the feds total authority about raising armies and declaring wars.
4. Not having term limits
5. Not specifically denying the feds any policing powers within the several states.

Agreed! A lack of ethics and honesty is the problem

That's the whole point of the exercise, to come to the realization that government will NEVER be run by ethical, honest politicians and I think it's important everyone examine why that is.

Hint: establishing divisions of authority (no matter how altruistic or noble the intentions) attracts sociopathic behavior and breeds sociopathy in those who are exposed to such power. This has been demonstrated over again in many social experiments, such as the well known Stanford Prison and Stanley Milgram experiments.

Adding to the problem is that people will always falsely believe they can spot the good guys from the bad. They can't! Many sociopaths come off as very charismatic because of their lack of a moral compass. Even so, any good ones who make it through are still subject to becoming corruptible as pointed out earlier.

A guy like Ron Paul is extremely rare. He wasn't corrupt before he entered politics and he was not corruptible while he served. And for all the reasons I mentioned he will ALWAYS be an exception to the rule. There will NEVER in history be a government of Ron Paul's.

If men are good, you don't need government; if men are evil or ambivalent, you don't dare have one.

Jan Helfeld's picture

If Ron Paul did it others can as well

If Ron Paul did it others can as well.

Jan Helfeld

You're not paying attention

Of course "others can as well". I never claimed otherwise. The point is that Ron Paul is a statistical anomaly. I highly suggest you look into the two social experiments I listed, as well as others to gain a better understanding of human nature and predictable behavior under certain conditions.

If men are good, you don't need government; if men are evil or ambivalent, you don't dare have one.

The sad thing is

these are the same reasons why anarchy fails too. There will always be evil, unethical, dishonest, corrupted, a-holes that want to rule over others for profit and power. It doesn't matter what type of political society is formed they will all revert to tyranny of the elite. It is the human condition since eternity. I guess the only thing to argue over is which form of society gets you there slowest.

Agreed again! There will always be evil.

However, we are drawing two opposite conclusions.

These "same reasons" that we're talking about here, these negative psychological aspects of human nature play out quite differently between a no-government and government society.

Here's the difference -- Anarchists do not believe in legitimate authority, while government makes it acceptable to divide people between rulers and subjects. In other words, there's a complete difference in the mindset of the population, and in their resulting behavior.

In the case of an authoritarian society, you can see this dynamic play out in this very disturbing and dramatic real-world example, where a restaurant employee allowed herself to be violated through strip search: http://youtu.be/LuH3GYmSjzU

This is the result of a society under the delusion of believing in authority. The restaurant manager was "just following orders" from a perceived authority figure, just as the employee did the same. This mindset also has the unfortunately very effective ability to dull ones moral compass. If you aren't familiar with the two experiments I posted earlier I highly encourage you to check them out.

Therefore, I guarantee if that restaurant manager and/or employee viewed themselves and everyone possessing equal rights this would never have happened. So yes, evil people will always exist but their ability to cause harm is largely determined by the mindset of their targets. That's why anarchist, Larken Rose calls it The Most Dangerous Superstition.

EDIT: And I'd just like to add that I believe the internet offers humanity its first real chance for anarchism to work. Because it has provided us the ability to communicate and reason with each other on a scale unlike any time in human history -- This here being one example. So for instance, not only does the anarchist mindset make it hard for evil to triumph. This interconnected world adds a whole new layer of enlightenment, while providing a self-regulating check and balance. Evil in the hypothetical modern anarchist world can not hide. It would be quickly identified and put under a magnifying glass. People will say, "You see this BS right here? Nope, we're not going back to that archaic and barbaric time in history."

If men are good, you don't need government; if men are evil or ambivalent, you don't dare have one.

Anarchy is stable on a desert island

Anarchy is an idea. Perfect for a commune. But inside every commune there will be a voluntary structure that orders people into exile. Not calling that a government is semantics.

I have to...

...respectfully disagree with the idea that without a state, in a voluntarist society, there is no law. There is natural law over everyone, irrespective of whether a state exists. It's up to people to decide on an individual basis whether they will follow that law or not.

Furthermore, every owner of land sets (or should be able to set) rules that govern that private domain. This is the 'law of the land' for that land. If the law of that land conflicts with natural law, then there will be consequences and controversies and challenges from within and without over time, stemming from that conflict.

Where such people have common appreciation for following the highest law -- Love thy neighbor as thyself -- there will be greater chance of stability, harmony, peace, liberty. The less there is of that, the more strife and chaos and decay will ensue.

devastating hypothetical

Is aggression ok under exigent circumstances ----> yes -----> avoiding tribalisn/feudalism that is the historical result of anarchy is exigent.

it shouldn't have to come to this but I'm glad it did. I prefer to rely purely on consequentialist arguments because those are what 99% of the world finds convincing, but Jan is meeting them where they think they are untouchable: their religious principles.

I was glad you mentioned the historical reality that government stability is required for wealth creation, to my knowledge I'm the only one that talks about that here. Even though it is an established fact in economics.

Also, as a "real lawyer" I thought your point about law being inapplicable in anarchy due to competing agencies was good. The smarter anarchists dont believe there would be co.peting protective agencies but the idiot lawyers like Kinsella do. You should debate serious anarchists with economics backgrounds so that they will debate the actual merits of the proposed a anarchist society, not babble fanaticism.

Ventura 2012

Jan Helfeld's picture

It is good to have someone notice.

Thank you for your analysis and support. It is good to have someone notice.

Jan Helfeld


...the second half of the Larken Rose debate. Bravo.

Larken Rose is

Larken Rose is such an emotional thinker. He has zero interest in admitting the real debate: what would result from the removal of the state. Helfeld crushed him.

Ventura 2012

For you Jan

A knock down argument against anarchism that I haven't had much chance to use yet. In the form of a simple syllogism, using anarchists' own premises, it goes:

1. Individuals do not need a government to defend their rights from large predatory gangs.

2. The government is a large predatory gang.

3. There is no problem.

Since premise 1 and 2 are anarchist positions, and they lead to 3, this can be used to good effect to show the impotency of the anarchists to defend against their own supposed villain, "the state."

It removes the rhetorical punch from the anarchist tactic of using the word "government" as a magic word. In their own words, the government is just a violent gang. In their own words, they don't need any government to defend themselves from violent gangs.

So why aren't they safe now? Why don't they create defense agencies right now?

Lots of good angles and arguments are developed in the debates that ensue in these threads. Could be a good debate prep resource if you plan to continue spanking internet anarchists.

1.The Robinson Crusoe Version of Anarchy


2. Final Retort to Anarchists


3. Anarchists: "We can't leave the state... some other state will get us."


4. Refuting Walter Block


5. Deus ex anarchia


6. Imaginary Society: Voluntarist or Statist?


7. Anarcho Ad Absurdum


Let's see...

1. Individual nations do not need a global government to defend themselves against threats to their national interests and sovereignty.

2. The emerging global government is a threat to national interests and sovereignty.

3. There is no problem.

So are the people who support nation-state sovereignty delusional to think that nation-states could defend against threats to their sovereignty, because of the growing presence of global government?

If nation-states could really defend themselves unilaterally or with voluntary alliances against threats to their sovereignty, then there should be no global government emerging?

Knock-down argument against nation-states having voluntary interactions with no coercive overseer?

If both premises were true,

If both premises were true, then nations would have no problem. All you've show is that the two original premises aren't both true. And, there is no emerging global government anyway, and nations do need protection of their nominal sovereignty from larger states, to whom they lose a good deal of their autonomy by being so dependent. But they choose the lesser evil, which is what we do with limited government.

Ah, but...

...a voluntary alliance among nation-states, which they can leave if desired, or refuse to honor because of x, y, and z reasons, is different than a coercive body overseeing all nation-states and demanding tribute or taxes or drafting their sons and daughters into a global security force, or establishing international courts or treasuries, and punishing anyone who would dare try to breakaway into a fully autonomous, 'rogue' nation again.

Regardless of where we are currently at in the transition between a hypothetical global government and an actual global government (sounds like we might disagree on how much progress has actually been made towards that end), if one were to actually form, then by your argument we could say that the nation-states were delusional to ever think they could get by defending themselves through voluntary alliances, without a global government, since if they could have, there would be no global government. And it would also be delusional for anyone to then try to form a nation-state outside of that global structure.

A smaller state being dependent on a larger state for security does not take away the sovereign ability of the smaller to eschew such security and decide to be a neutral state or take their chances with other alliances, or unilaterally. It is still voluntary (in terms of the state's leadership, at least), whether or not one option would be more foolish than the other.

A small, poor person might have a big bodyguard of a friend who would provide all kinds of protective benefits when out and about. The friend might even be richer than he, and treat him to all kinds of lavish gifts. It might be unwise for the small person to give up this protection or the friendship in general, but it is still the small person's prerogative to walk away from the friendship and not associate with the other, if desired. If the small person tries to walk away and the big 'friend' pulls out a gun and demands that he stay, now it's crossed into coercion, and a violation of rights/sovereignty.

All this to say that I don't think the above syllogism would be a valid critique that nation-states can't successfully defend themselves without a global state. Just because at that point in history, the nation-states caved in or were deceived or coerced into such a global state, does not mean that nation-states that were stronger/more enlightened and awake, could not have fared better, and could not fare better if eventually formed once more.

Likewise, the fact that we now live in coercive states at the national level does not mean that voluntarist societies of individuals could not successfully emerge and defend themselves at some point. It might be difficult; but the difficult is not impossible to achieve, with the right conditions, and the right motivations.

Whether or not anarchism is truly utopian in all its forms, I don't see how 'limited government' is any less utopian, because history certainly is demonstrating that it doesn't stay 'limited' for very long. Look at how quickly things decayed from the original Jeffersonian concepts of Liberty to nationalism under Lincoln and through the Reconstruction and Progressive era down to our present day.

Its a syllogism, Micah

If the premises are true - and they are the anarchists' premises - the conclusion follows. Granting all that you say, the conclusion would indeed be that there was no problem with the global government or the state, since the individuals or the nation states could just create a fully non coercive set of voluntary alliances to hold off the global government (most likely just some superpower, not the UN).

The phrasing of the conclusion "There is no problem" is not to say there's nothing to be done. Only that the thing, "government," is ust a gang of people. If If anarchists don't need any coercive apparatus to protect them from such gangs, they should be well on their way to establishing liberty.

Now, the comparison of nations, which are largely still semi autonomous units (if they wished to be, they could make the economic sacrifices to break off trade dependencies), seems tenuous to me. Individuals have very rarely in history been self sustaining, autonomous economic units. When they have, their liberty has indeed been much more probable, more easy to defend.

That's why a world of distributed property and more individual and family autonomy lends itself to the highest possible real liberty. Not total isolation, which is neither desirable nor probable, but independence of action, conscience, and ability to withstand coercion.