Fixing A False Criticism: Libertarianism, Anarchy and Somalia


[T]o start with, definitions help us communicate clearly. And they both force us to be honest, and prevent others from making false arguments against us.

1) Liberty is a sentiment. It is a minority sentiment. It is a sentiment held by some percentage of the people that favors the ability to obtain new experiences without external constraint, as long as they harm no others in doing so. (see Haidt)

2) Libertarianism is a political bias. That bias favors various forms of minimal government. It eschews the concentration of power, and the loss of sovereignty. It is a sentiment that is embedded in the western tradition. That western tradition is the egalitarian union of aristocracy. That Aristocratic Egalitarianism is a social adaptation to early Indo-European battle tactics which required independent but coordinated action by self-funded warriors. This social strategy allowed a professionalized minority using advanced weapon technology to conquer or fend off conquerors with much greater numbers. (see Duchesne)

3) Libertarianism it is a philosophical framework authored by Murray Rothbard. This framework argues that all possible rights are reducible to articulated property rights. It contains errors. (Which I have discussed elsewhere). Those errors are significant in that they are morally, and therefore socially and economically regressive. However, the fundamental insight that human actions can be reduced to property rights remains valid, and the errors in Rothbard’s incomplete ethical framework are repairable.

Rothbard was unable to solve the problem of institutions, so his framework describes little more than a secular moral religion of opposition to the state. Hoppe solved the problem of cooperative institutions, but did not correct Rothbard’s (or Mises’) initial errors. He did not solve the problem of heterogeneous societies which we live in. So for these two reasons he has described small governments. (I have tried to repair Mises and Rothbard’s errors, and use Hoppe’s insights to create solutions for the problem of heterogeneous and therefore large governments consisting of voluntary institutions which preserve the aristocratic egalitarian ethical system of property rights. But my work is incomplete and not yet available for analysis and criticism.)

4) Anarchy is a) a state of disorder – an inability for humans to organize. Propertarians argue that this means little more than an absence of homogeneous property rights. b) Anarchy is a Utopian idea of an ordered society without any articulated form of order other than human instincts.

5) Property is a form of establishing order – the ability of humans to organize. It is a very simple rule that matches, with some significant variation, the human moral instinct, while allowing us to cooperate in a vast division of knowledge and labor, the result of which is lower prices and increased choices.

Since a) property can vary from the purely private to the purely common, and since b) the utility of property at any point on that spectrum is different for those with different abilities, and c) since the genetic bias of men and women has shown us a demonstrated preference for different points on that spectrum, which better suit the reproductive strategies of each gender, therefore, the preferred monopoly of property rights varies by class and gender, as well as, perhaps, race whenever a population is heterogeneous.

6) Anarchism is a philosophical research program the purpose of which is to find institutional solutions (organizations, processes and rules) that are an alternative to a monopoly power that we grant to the state, when we create a government in order to institute some set of property rights, and therefore establish order.

[callout]But in no case do Anarchists or Libertarians suggest there is no ‘governance’. A set of articulated property rights and a judiciary that resolves conflicts over property, is a government. It is just a reactive government. A government or rules. It is the rule of law. [/callout]

[S]ince our invention of politics, we cannot seem to limit the republican or democratic state to the functions that preserve our aristocratic egalitarian order: a) the defense of those property rights, and b) the concentration of capital for shared investment at the same time. And by doing so, force people to cooperate in the market, instead of by violence, or the proxy of physical violence we call politics. So, because of that failure of democratic institutions, the anarchic research program seeks to use competition for services to eliminate the corporeal state’s monopoly on power, while maintaining a monopoly on the articulated enumeration of some set of property rights within a geography.

The a) libertarian sentiment, b) Libertarian history (the classical liberal model) and c) the libertarian philosophy (all of which are different things) do not answer this problem. The anarchic research program has attempted to. And any attempt by libertarians to state that we have solved this problem is either a failure to understand the state of our intellectual development, or an intentional misrepresentation of it.

But in no case do Anarchists or Libertarians suggest there is no ‘governance’. A set of articulated property rights and a judiciary that resolves conflicts over property, is a government. It is just a reactive government. A government or rules. Judges under the common law cannot make law. They can discover it. And they can be overruled by other judges through market competition. But they cannot proactively make law. As such, there is a government under all libertarian models that have been articulated to any degree.

The problem remains only in how we first establish a set of property rights. In the west this is not as difficult as elsewhere because those property rights are native to the framework of thought that we inherited with our Aristocratic Egalitarianism. Anyone who is enfranchised (fights) has a right to property which is not abridge-able by his peers. We extended the requirement to fighting, first to those who demonstrated nobility through service of any kind (chivalry). And third to those who demonstrated nobility through exchange and trade. But the principle of property is fundamental regardless of which means one earns his enfranchisement.

When anarchists say that they advocate anarchy, it means that they eschew the concentration of power to alter the set of property rights involuntarily, since it breaks with the Aristocratic Egalitarian ethics. Ethics which allow each of us who is enfranchised to experiement and add value to ourselves and society as long as we commit no involuntary transfer from others who are enfranchised.

What anarchists and libertarians of all stripes have failed to do is describe how we create a monopoly definition of property rights without the application of force to do it. In the west, the aristocracy created it out of habitual necessity. And they did it by force. Rome in particular was a powerful machine that mandated a set of property rights and then defended them because it was simply profitable to do so.

Critics are wrong in the sense that libertarianism will not work in somalia. But they are right in that libertarians and anarchists have not provided a means by which to institute a monopoly of property rights without it first existing.

As I’ve stated above, we are less than a century into our research program at articulating our ancient system of cooperation that we call the libertarian sentiment, but which is more accurately termed the political system called Aristocratic Egalitarianism with its dependency on property rights.

While I have filled the hole in our ethics. The hole in our institutional process of implementing a monopoly of individual property rights by other than organized violence is still in need of filling.

And we should ask our critics to help us answer that problem, rather than deny we have it.

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