Objectivist Anarchists: Can There Be Such A Thing?

Wayne Simmons's picture
Submitted by Wayne Simmons on Fri, 2006-07-21 05:15

There is a new convert to Anarchism who seems to be very popular among Anarcho-Capitalists. His name is Stefan Molyneux. The host of Freedomain Radio and a regular contributor to LewRockwell.com, Stefan is an old friend of mine. We lost touch with each-other about 10 years ago. I remember the days when Stefan and I would discuss Anarcho-Capitalism. He would say that Anarcho-Capitalists should stick to writing science fiction because their theories aren't grounded in the real world. Stefan also stressed the need for philosophical change prior to politics. At the time, Stefan, was a consistent advocate of Objectivism. How times have changed. Within the last 2 years he has divorced his political theories from reality and converted to Anarchism. Yet, it appears from his podcasts that Stefan still clings to his Objectivist roots.

Stefan is an incredibly talented writer and intelligent speaker. On his podcasts, in terms of his breadth of knowledge, he reminds me of George H Smith. And, like George H Smith, Stefan he has a tendency towards rationalism - as do all anarchists.

Anarchists such as Stefan Molyneux - and presumably George H Smith - who claim that Anarchy is the logical outcome of Objectivism face the following impossible dilemma:

If they're loyal to Objectivism they must accept that facts about man's nature have normative consequences. If the distinguishing characteristic of man is his rational faculty then the social consequences are that man should be left free to exercise his rational judgment in the pursuit of his own happiness. Rights are a moral concept derived from our nature. They're social requirements for our existence. The individual's (natural) right to life, liberty and property needs Constitutional protection. As a result, Government and society are subordinated to moral (objective) law.

Now, if these so-called Objectivists are loyal to Anarchy they'd have to evade the knowledge they've already sworn allegiance to as discussed above. Anarchists, on the other hand, believe that there should be a market in the use of force without a final arbiter (Government) to rectify disputes. Justice would be impossible when you can opt out of any judicial decision. How are natural rights - and the rule of law - to be protected when there's no constitutional protection of natural rights? And, whose version of rights has the final authority when the decision is left up to the market place? One way around this is that Anarcho-Capitalists (supposing they actually believe in natural rights) could have their protection agencies force other non-liberty friendly protection agencies out of business. This is, of course, a contradiction because they would then be acting like a de facto Government. Since this is not desired, a consistent Anarchist would have to accept the arbitrary subjective decisions of the market place and strive for shared common opinion to implement their version of anarchy. Enter social chaos and civil war. Left anarchists. Right anarchists(Friedman vs Rothbard). Environmentalists. Islamic extremists. Christian extremists. Welfare/Corporate statists, et al, would all be fighting among themselves for "shared common opinion."

So it's either-or. Objectivist Anarchists cannot exist! Either they remain loyal to their Objectivist premises, or they don't. The claim you can support both is a contradiction.

( categories: )


Kenny's picture

I agree with your consolidation point. Rand advocated one monopolistic government that would be funded by voluntary means. She was opposed to competing legal systems.

Rothbard criticised minarchists as seeking the immaculate conception of the state. Equally, it could be argued that anarcho-capitalists seek the immaculate conception of anarchism.

My own view is that a monopolistic minimal state could abuse its monopoly. Competing legal agencies could turn into a cartel or monopoly.

I must admit that my current preference is for Rand's solution but there must be means of getting rid a minimal state government that abuses its power. That requires a constitution, limited democracy and a secure source of finance.

I see such states being small in size, nowhere near large as current nation states. That would faciltate competing governments - you can move from one state to another if legal and protection services are poor.

There is no reason why, under such a minimal state, there should not be competition in the provision of courts, policing and defence services, e.g. through licensing.

The problem for the Objectivist hawks on this site is that such a minimal state would not have the legal power, nor funds, to pursue an interventionist foreign policy.


Aaron's picture

Hmm... So was your post really part of a plan to get more anarchists to join SOLO? Smiling

What you describe (concerning voluntary taxation) is the key to the anarchist argument I mentioned in an earlier post. It's also central to Roy Childs' letter that Jeff referenced; read it if you haven't already. The flipside is that anarchists could end up seeing competing agencies consolidate into a monopolistic one.

One of the more interesting viewpoints I've seen on the matter recently was at http://www.amberpawlik.com/Fun.... Someone saw the same similarity you did between a (voluntarily funded) minimal state and market anarchy - and concluded hence it must be avoided by ensuring government funding always be coercive. I disagree with her, but it is an intriguing train of thought that shows where some Objectivists are willing to go upon realizing what you mentioned.

I started Anarchy, State and Utopia years ago, but stopped somewhere around page 100-150. Nozick seemed to have a penchant for clearly stating problems, spending a couple paragraphs clarifying what makes a problem so complex - building up anticipation thinking that he is extremely insightful and thorough and will tackle all these aspects of a difficult problem. And then in the next paragraph, he brushes aside the very complexities that made it interesting as something to be addressed by him or someone else later. After a couple times of that I was frustrated enough I put the book down and didn't go back. Perhaps I'm giving him short shrift, though, and will put ASU back on the to-be-read list.

"In a Capitalist (Objectivist) society all individuals, including government officials, would be strictly liable for the results of their actions. (As I pointed out in another thread, liability insurance would encourage objectivity and rationality, since sellers of liability insurance will have incentive to offer lower premiums to the most objective and rational individuals.)"

I like this as a hybrid idea; it's rare that I've seen minarchist Objectivists suggest true individual accountability for those in the government. I don't know if the feasibility and stability of it would be easier than an incorruptible constitution or competing DROs, but I like the creative approach.

[[[In a Capitalist

Nielsio's picture

[[[In a Capitalist (Objectivist) society all individuals, including government officials, would be strictly liable for the results of their actions.]]]

Under anarchy, people CAN be liable to their actions through market forces. The people who have the monopolistic power are not liable to anything.

Roderick - reification?

AdamReed's picture


I'll keep this brief, because I am traveling and I have only limited, and unpredictable, access to the Internet - and I might not be able to address your reply to this, if you decide to post one, for a while.

You write that "as a government claims territorial monopoly and final say, it must inevitable be a judge in its own case..." But this looks like reification of an institution, as though "government" were a person, capable of the consciousness that is inevitably required to have goals, to act, and to be liable for one's actions. In fact, though, only individuals are in that category. In a Capitalist (Objectivist) society all individuals, including government officials, would be strictly liable for the results of their actions. (As I pointed out in another thread, liability insurance would encourage objectivity and rationality, since sellers of liability insurance will have incentive to offer lower premiums to the most objective and rational individuals.) Thus no individual would be in a position to judge his or her own case. A mechanism for selecting and appointing one-time magistrates could be needed when regular judges' positions as government employees might compromise their objectivity. Other than that, your argument, depending as it does on reification of collective institutions, does not appear relevant.

It's the Anarchists Who Are The Platonists

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The anarchists here argue that because monopolistic government—a redundancy, since there can be no other kind—might go bad, it shouldn't be countenanced, and the best efforts to ensure that it doesn't go bad (constitution, etc.) are a waste of time. If Platonic perfection can't be guaranteed, don't strive to identify & enact the best that fallible human beings with free will can do. Surrender the field to unbridled subjectivism, meaning the rule of the brute.

I hadn't realised till I read Smith's posts on the foreign policy thread the intimate connection between anarchism & rationalism, nor how eloquent a demonstration anarchism is of the fact that intrinsicism & subjectivism are two sides of the same coin.


Jefferson, US Declaration of

Ross Elliot's picture

Jefferson, US Declaration of Independence, paragraph 2, answers that question.

But Ross

Kenny's picture

How do you ensure that there is only one rationally constituted governmental body if it is funded voluntarily? That is why Rand's support for voluntary taxation Playboy interview is important (see my earlier post).

What happens if the rationally constituted government fails to protect individual rights? Is there a right to overthrow such a failing government? Are individuals entitled to withdraw their support and seek alternative private suppliers?

These are vital issues that Objectivists must address.

Let's keep in mind that

Ross Elliot's picture

Let's keep in mind that Wayne's original question related to the compatability of Objectivism and anarchism. And, are they?

Since one leg of the objectivist table *is* capitalism which Rand defined as a system that recognises and protects individual rights, entailing one rationally constituted governmental body, the answer is no.

When we get to anarchy let

eg's picture

When we get to anarchy let me know; then we can have an argument about anarchy vrs limited government.



Fred Weiss's picture

Prof. Long, if you don't mind, I'd like to make a side comment about Bidinotto's argument which he presents in his essay, "The Contradiction in Anarchism". I had not read it before but I was immediately struck by how he - very revealingly - misses the essential issue. Not only does he miss it but he almost argues against it!

The essential point is that the question of rights is a closed issue. In its fundamentals it was closed during the Enlightenment and certainly in the writing of the American Constitution. I don't think you and I would disagree about it - would disagree about what we think are man's basic rights. Furthermore, we would agree I think that there is an objective basis for those rights, i.e. it's not just my subjective preference that we have the right of free speech or your whim that we have the right of property.

If that is the case, then in contrast to washing machines and theories in science, there is not only no basis for "competition" about it but that such competition would actually be detrimental to the upholding and protection of those rights! Do we want people who believe in censorship for example to be competing with us?

However, Bidinotto blathers on and on about how we all always disagree with each other and look how bloody history has been and that therefore...what?...we need someone to force some one view down our throats? Huh?

In any event, I wanted to make it clear that I didn't agree with his approach to the issue.

Prof. Long

Fred Weiss's picture

Thank you for taking the trouble to summarize your argument. I have bookmarked your article, "Why Objective Law Requires Anarchy", and I plan to read it in the coming days. But for now I will respond to your summary.

If I understand it correctly, the essence of your argument is that objectivity requires conflict, similar to the way in which competition in a free market will lead to the best products or in the way that truth emerges from the differing points of view in science. In any event, we would certainly both agree that we would not want either any aspect of the market or of science to be put under the monopolistic control of one entity with the power to bar any competition.

So, what we have to demonstrate is that the law is a different kind of entity, that not only won't it benefit from competition but that it would be positively destructive of the purpose of law if it were subjected to it. What we have to demonstrate, in short, is that - in contrast to business and science - the law needs to be monopolistic and that all its power must reside in one authoritative entity.

The first question I would pose to you, Prof. Long, is the following: the two of us might disagree on the best automobile or frozen pizza or model of washing machine; if we were physicists we might debate the relative merits of "String Theory", the validity of which has not yet been established. But would we disagree on the basic rights of man? Do either of us still consider it an open question what those are?

So what is there to compete about? Do you think it would be valid for some private agency to engage in censorship or the confiscation of property. In fact, I think you and I would consider such actions to even possibly be grounds for rebellion! So, what difference does it make that some segment of the population "subscribes" to that agency? If they want to be censored and have their property confiscated, that's their business. But they don't need an agency to do it for them. They can do it voluntarily. For example, they can become monks. No one will stop them.

The problem comes in, doesn't it, when they try to impose that view on us? You won't force me to buy your brand of frozen pizza, nor will you insist that I subscribe to String Theory. You and I wouldn't debate that point. You are free to eat what you want and to think what you want. But isn't that because we live in a society which protects our right to do so?

What's to discuss or debate about it? What, in short, is there to compete about? I don't want competition in that area! I'd be surprised if you did either. But that seems to be what you are arguing for.

In reply to Fred Weiss

Roderick T. Long's picture

OK, here's the short(er!) version.

Re objective law: I think Locke was right when he said that it was a bad idea for people to use coercion acting as judges in their own case; emergencies aside, they should submit their disputes to 3rd-party arbitration. (Call this Locke's Rule.) But Locke's mistake, as I see it, was to take this as an argument AGAINST anarchy, when it's surely an argument FOR it. Locke's Rule can be implemented in anarchy (from the claim that all disputes should be submitted to arbitrators it doesn't follow that there should be a single monopoly organisation to which all disputes should be submitted, just as from the claim that everyone likes at least one tv show it doesn't follow that there's at least one tv show that everyone likes), and indeed market incentives make it likely to be implemented. But it's inherently impossible for it to be implemented under government, because to the extent that as a government claims territorial monopoly and final say, it must inevitable be a judge in its own case, because in the case of its own disputes it forbids third-party arbiters. Now if objective law means submitting disputes to public, neutral adjudication, then that's something that can occur only under anarchy.

Here's a further respect in which objective law requires anarchy: in science we value objectivity too, but we don't suppose that the way to get objective science is to put all scientific research into the hands of a single governmental monopoly; on the contrary, we recognize that it is only through allowing competition among scientific theories and scientific research programs that scientific objectivity is possible. We learn the worth of our ideas by seeing how well they can withstand challenge, whether in the form of intellectual arguments or in the form of alternative experiments in action. A view that is insulated from critique is less well grounded, since we cannot tell whether it would have survived had critique been permitted. Nothing would be more deadly to scientific objectivity than monopoly control.

Re constitutionalism and final arbiters: constitutionalism is not primarily a matter of paper prohibitions (the Soviet Constitution had those) but rather a matter of institutions, practices, and incentive structures. But those have no existence independent of the actual behaviour and interactions of actual human beings. Checks and balances don't exist in their own right, as external limitations on society as a whole; instead they exist only insofar as they are continually maintained in existence by human agents acting in certain systematic ways. Since human beings have free will, no social pattern of behaviour can be guaranteed to be automatically self-perpetuating; but a pattern that tends, by and large, to give most of the people participating in it an incentive to keep interacting in that way is more likely to survive than one that does not.

Now both a governmental legal system and an anarchic legal system are maintained in existence by humans who, having free will, cannot be guaranteed to cooperate. Anti-anarchists worry about what happens when people disagree. Well, what happens in a government when people disagree? What happens if, say, the President disagrees with Congress, or Congress disagrees with the Supreme Court? How do they get resolved? Not by some super-government set up over the government. And not by the legal system, if that's thought of as something distinct from, some sort of external constraint on, these very people and their activities. Instead they're led (when they are) to cooperate by incentival structures. Unless the government is a dictatorship, there’s no one person in the government who can serve as final arbiter. (And even if there were, one person by himself could never be strong enough to force his will on the rest of the government.) How are disputes among different branches of, say, the U.S. government resolved, and how is compliance with such resolution secured? There is no one branch, let alone one individual officer, who does this. Who has the final legal say under the current U.S. system. Congress? No, the Supreme Court can declare its laws unconstitutional. The Supreme Court? No, Congress can initiate the process of amending the Constitution to get around the Supreme Court. The only system that allows for a final say would be a Hobbesian dictatorship, with all power vested in a single person (for even a small ruling council might have internal disputes, and who then would have the final say in resolving them?). But as La Boetie points out, no individual ruler (unless she hails from Krypton) possesses in her own right sufficient power to compel obedience from everybody else; hence any dictator's power depends on the concurrence of those she rules. That's what I mean when I call legal finality, in the sense that anti-anarchists use the concept, a Platonic ideal without reference to reality. Securing cooperation among the branches of government is the function of "checks and balances" between one branch and another, not the function of some unchecked superordinate branch. Anarchy is simply a generalisation of this principle. If a government can be stable even though there's no "final arbiter" within the government, it's not clear why the wider society needs a "final arbiter."

The best system is not one that eliminates conflict within the legal apparatus -- no system can eliminate it, and anyway checks and balances work precisely by making use of conflict -- but one that does the best job of providing its constituent agents with an incentive to resolve their disputes a) peacefully, and b) in a manner favourable to individual liberty. The question is: which does a better job of this -- markets or governments? And the anarchist claim is the superiority of market anarchy over government here lies in the fact that under government the tie between the decision to commit aggression and the cost of that aggression is far weaker than under anarchy. Under a governmental system, the cost of coercive policies is borne by taxpayers, not by the politicians who crafted those policies. Under market anarchy, by contrast, agencies who resolve disputes through violence rather than arbitration will have to charge higher premiums and will thus lose customers. A government can't lose "customers" (taxpayers) unless they take the drastic step of moving to a new country; by contrast, switching protection agencies would be as easy as switching long distance service. Governments "buy" coercion at less than the "market price" by shifting the costs to their subjects.

Incidentally, this is not just "rationalistic" ivory-tower theorising; the actual history of nonstate legal systems supports it, e.g. the Law Merchant. For actual real-world evidence of how nonstate legal mechanisms operate, see here. For my own further argument on this topic see here.

>>>There is/will be a final

Nielsio's picture

[[[There is/will be a final arbiter in anarchism: whoever has the biggest gun.

You could of course say the same thing about gov't, except that if the standard is *rational* gov't - and therefore one governed by objective laws - it is not simply rule by whomever has the biggest gun.]]]

Wrong. The type of anarchy we are striving for is that which has an equilibrium of force. Under this situation it pays more to provide a service than to take arms.

A simple illustration: we know for certain that Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction because the US invaded. They simply executed the greater power they had to do whatever they wanted (in this case: spend taxdollars, like all wars). But they wouldn't even think about attacking North Korea. That's suicide and actually endangers the lives of the politicians.

Also: government IS power. No matter what kind of legitimacy you try to give it (voting, restrictions, 'checks and balances', whatever); the basic truth remains: it's a monopoly on power and that's the only basis on which it works. When the 'judge' says: you're going to jail, it is because he represents ALL the power, and has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with providing a service.

Nozick is relevant

Kenny's picture

It's just after midnight here in London so I will write a longer post later. Robert Nozick's criticique of anarcho-capitalism is very relevant. IMO, his advocacy of a minimal state from a natural rights perspective is similar to Rand's. The discussion of Rand in Anarchy, State and Utopia is too short (possibly due to academia largely ignoring Rand, especially when the book was written). It would be useful to compare Nozick's and Rand's critique's of anarcho-capitalism.

Prof. Long

Fred Weiss's picture

Would you mind stating your argument briefly, both for my sake and those who are following this discussion?

I have no objection in principle to reading some of your articles. In fact I plan to. My concern is that with your lengthy and distinguished resume - not to mention the vast general literature on anarchism - if you insist at every step of the way that we read some article or other of yours or someone else, it will make this discussion excessively tedious.

I am familiar with the basic arguments on both sides of the "anarchism vs. minarchism" debate - as I am sure are a number of other people here - so you won't be burdened with needing to teach "Anarchism 101".

On the other hand, I am sure no one here will object to your footnoting any of your comments - and some may appreciate it if they wish to undertake further study on the question.

objective law

Roderick T. Long's picture

Certainly objective law is a requirement, but as I argued in the debate I linked to earlier, and also in this piece, objective law requires anarchy. Anarchism is simply the objective form of constitutionalism.

Prof. Long

Fred Weiss's picture

You're right in a way, Prof. Long. There is/will be a final arbiter in anarchism: whoever has the biggest gun.

You could of course say the same thing about gov't, except that if the standard is *rational* gov't - and therefore one governed by objective laws - it is not simply rule by whomever has the biggest gun.

That's the basic difference.

final arbiter?

Roderick T. Long's picture

As I maintained in my debate on this subject with Robert Bidinotto (see here, here, and here), the notion of a "final arbiter" is ambiguous (maybe even an anti-concept). If it means some factor or feature that guarantees that all disputes will be firmly settled with no possibility of continuation (I call this "Platonic finality"), then anarchy lacks a final arbiter -- but so does any conceivable governmental system. If instead it means some factor or feature that brings about closure reasonably often enough (I call this "realistic finality"), then there's no reason anarchies can't achieve that. The anti-anarchist's mistake, as I see it, lies in thinking of the government as some sort of reified entity, rather than as a pattern of interaction among human beings. Both anarchy and government depend for their functioning on checks and balances, etc.; the difference is that anarchy does this in a way that doesn't require inequality of rights among people.

Rand advocated voluntary taxation

Kenny's picture

Below is an extract from Rand's famous Playboy interview. In it, she says that taxation should be voluntary.

"PLAYBOY: If force may be used only in retaliation against force, does the government have the right to use force to collect taxes, for example, or to draft soldiers?

RAND: In principle, I believe that taxation should be voluntary, like everything else. But how one would implement this is a very complex question. I can only suggest certain methods, but I would not attempt to insist on them as a definitive answer. A government lottery, for instance, used in many countries in Europe, is one good method of voluntary taxation. There are others. Taxes should be voluntary contributions for the proper governmental services which people do need and therefore would be and should be willing to pay for -- as they pay for insurance. But, of course, this is a problem for a distant future, for the time when men will establish a fully free social system."

But what happens if the people are dissatisfied with the government's services and wish to purchase better services from private suppliers? There is no mechanism for funding the monopoly supply of policing, judicial and defence services. Rand appears to recognise "the problem" and says that it is for the distant future.

This quote appears to be ignored by Objectists but is very significant. By advocating the voluntary funding of "governmental services" through commercial means such as lottery, Rand's position is much closer to that of Rothbard or Bruce Benson. Just substitute lottery stakes with voluntary charges.

I would welcome SERIOUS comments on this important issue.


eg's picture

I don't consider anarchism to represent practical or obtainable governance. What is practical is that advocates of limited, Jeffersonian natural rights or whathaveyou government obtain political power and stick it to the rest of the country in connivance with a citizenry constituency. Those who protest the protection of human rights will protest this. Those who say "We didn't consent to this government" will protest. So what? Go start your own country/government/state or whatever--elsewhere.

Ideally this country will be big and powerful enough to protect its citizens from foreign attackers/invaders and in that sense I don't mind being a citizen of the United States of America.

I think the anarchists are just looking for perfection in this world by imagining a perfect world or society. It'll never happen. No perfect philosophy, world, society, human being or planet earth, not unless one imagines perfection as a dynamic, ever changing ongoing process that aspires for and strives for but never reaches the static perfection of utopia.


Kelly, the difference is

Ross Elliot's picture

Kelly, the difference is that "private governments" would exist within the *same* geographical area.

Despite protestations to the contrary, that's not government, that's gang warfare, and it's nuts.

"Do you *have* to move to another area if you want to change supermarkets? Or phone service? Or insurance? Or employer?"

Specious. You don't have two supermarkets occuping the same physical location each deciding, for instance, whether to honor or dishonor each others' special offers! A recipe for confusion, waste and disaster, and eventually, violence. To be solved, of course, by competing private police forces!

Shootout at the OK Quik-E-Mart Smiling

And, Just Maybe...

James S. Valliant's picture

Maybe my Irish ancestors would have better served with a stronger military, perhaps even a navy, as well, in order to preserve that all-too-brief "golden age" of liberty, eh? It was the coming of the Vikings, after all, which spoiled the fun, right?


Fred Weiss's picture

Re: Ireland, no doubt, James. I find it tiresome though to continually have to investigate all of their...err...half-baked claims. I do recall an interesting and very lengthy exchange a few years ago between Richard Lawrence and David Friedman (or maybe it was Gordon Sollars) on HPO in which Richard - having researched the subject - challenged the anarchist assumptions about Iceland. It turns out it wasn't...umm...really all that anarchist afterall.

Anarchism reminds me of String Theory in physics. It sounds great on paper but it will either be very difficult if not impossible to ever verify it. It's like with communists, what you always get is, "Oh, but that wasn't REAL communism". How convenient!

I've never felt the need for that excuse in defending capitalism, even when I've had to explain the problems which emerged because of gov't regulations. So, that we've never had "real", i.e. full laissez-faire, capitalism is absolutely no barrier in mounting a vigorous defense of it and with many, many empirical examples.


James S. Valliant's picture

I met Roy Child's in the back-room of Laissez-Faire Books in Greenwich Village, when I worked there in the early 80's.

Charming fellow, but, what was your word... "half-baked"?

Well, you said it, not me.

Ireland's golden age was something, in the context of its time, quite noteworthy, Fred. I am just not convinced that "anarchy" is the best way to describe its "government," however.

These things strike me the same way that Marxist myths of a medieval "golden age" do.

Kelly, Do you *have* to move

Nielsio's picture


Do you *have* to move to another area if you want to change supermarkets? Or phone service? Or insurance? Or employer?


Fred Weiss's picture

Yes, pathetic, Jeff, that you think someone should have the choice as to whether they accept the jurisdiction of a gov't. How does this work? You commit a crime and when they come to arrest you, you say, "Sorry, I don't accept your rules. I believe I have the right to rob banks."

Just as the notion of a "voluntary gov't" is a contradiction in terms, so is the notion of needing to accept its jurisdiction - other than the nominal right not to live in that geographic area (city, state, or country). If you do choose to live there, you implicitly agree to accept its jurisdiction. Your pleas to the contrary nothwithstanding will not help you when they arrest you - except as it might provide evidence in support of an insanity defense.

As for Roy Childs, I'm happy to defer to your greater personal knowledge of his thinking. It's too bad though based on what you are saying. He had been raised somewhat in my estimation by my understanding of his last thinking on the subject.

More Fun With Fred

jriggenbach's picture

With his usual breathtaking ignorance, Fred Weiss grunts:

"The fact that a great deal of private security is provided and that people can avail themselves of a variety of security devices is ridiculously irrelevant to this debate. The question comes down to the need for a final arbiter in disputes - an entity which can resolve disputes and enforce its decisions without question and by force if necessary. The question is whether there is an entity that can put you in jail and keep you there. Everything else is irrelevant."

Poor Fred! Too stupid to comprehend that the question is actually whether you agreed beforehand to accept the jurisdiction of the entity in question -- whether you agreed in advance to permit yourself to be jailed if you violated the rules you had agreed to abide by. Pathetic, isn't it?

"As for Roy Childs," Fred grunts, "you damn well know that he recanted his anarchist views before he died. Unfortunately, he died before he was able to publish his thinking on the subject."

Actually, Fred, as one of Roy's three or four closest friends for the last two decades of his life, I can testify that he did entertain some tentative objections to Rothbardian anarchism in his last years -- objections he said he had decided carried greater weight than he had believed earlier. The problem was that when he went to put these tentative ideas into finished form, he found them incoherent and decided not to embarrass himself by publishing an analysis he had come to see was half-baked.



Fred Weiss's picture

If "anarcho-capitalism" is a contradiction in terms, so is a "voluntary government" - unless one is only making the inocuous claim that people are free to immigrate or emigrate from it. If a gov't cannot *enforce* its decisions and if those decisions do not apply to everyone without exception in its domain, it is not a gov't. It is just a Jeff Riggenbach masturbation society.

The fact that a great deal of private security is provided and that people can avail themselves of a variety of security devices is ridiculously irrelevant to this debate. The question comes down to the need for a final arbiter in disputes - an entity which can resolve disputes and enforce its decisions without question and by force if necessary. The question is whether there is an entity that can put you in jail and keep you there. Everything else is irrelevant.

As for Roy Childs, you damn well know that he recanted his anarchist views before he died. Unfortunately, he died before he was able to publish his thinking on the subject.

As for Roy Childs' letter to Ayn Rand, I have already stated the fallacy in it. It is not a contradiction to deny someone the supposed right to violate rights. In fact the contradiction is in upholding such a "right". If a gov't exists to protect rights, there can be no objection to it unless someone wants to violate rights. Apparently Childs grasped that himself before he died.

The key difference I see

Aaron's picture

The key difference I see there is geographic boundaries. A set of minimal laissez-faire governments (states) would have boundaries as we think of now with nations. The private competing law enforcement/military/courts view is that they could be intermingled in a given geographical area.


User hidden's picture

I don't understand the distinction between private competing governments and separate countries with their own governments, as long as those countries (and companies) didn't violate rights.



jriggenbach's picture

I think you may find certain key issues in the anarchism/minarchism debate, as it is known among us loathsome libertarians, if you begin by rejecting the misleading "definitions" and tacit assumptions which people like Fred always try to smuggle into the debate, usually at the very beginning. Anarchism is not the rejection of government. It is the rejection of the State. Government will exist and must exist in any human society. The question is whether that governmnent is to be voluntarty or coercive. Anarchists favor voluntary government. They reject coercive government - the kind provided by the State. A good source for further discussion of this key point is to be found in Albert Jay Nock's classic work, Our Enemy, the State, Chapter Two. You'll find it here:


People like Fred like to conflate the concepts "government" and "State" for perfectly obvious reasons.  It enables them to claim, preposterously, that "[t]he Mafia, the warlords of Afghanistan and Somalia, what happened in Yugoslavia after the collapse of communism," and endless similar examples, are cases of "anarchism."  In fact, they are cases of the absence of effective government.  Effective government can be, and in fact usually is, provided by someone other than the State - either by voluntary non-profit organizations or by companies operating on the market.

Every day of the year, people voluntarily support such organizations and voluntarily turn to them for help in governing their affairs.  They govern the use of their property by putting up fences and alarm systems and hiring private security guards.  They employ private detectives to investigate alleged crimes and breaches of contract, seeking the better to govern  their relations with others.  They govern the resolution of their disputes by hiring private arbitration services.  They do these things principally because the State, which claims to provide government, is an abject failure at doing so.  What it actually provides is something much more like the protection racket offered by the Mafia. The State, like the Mafia, steals its income from those it claims to "protect," rather than receiving it voluntarily, as market institutions do; the State then provides little or nothing in the way of actual protection of its victims' rights; instead it takes its stolen money and uses it to aggrandize itself by doing favors for powerful interests that can repay it by extending its power.

Fred regularly plays this game (unless it isn't a game and Fred is simply incapable of making obvious conceptual distinctions - in my less charitable moments, as you know, I incline toward this interpretation of the data).  He refuses to acknowledge the distinction between a State and those it robs and rules, for example, because this enables him to cheer lustily for the incineration of babies, old women, and others in a foreign country who not only had nothing whatever to do with the policies pursued by the State under which they are forced to live, but who are as much victims of that State as Fred is.

As to the question at the beginning of this thread, a young student of Objectivism named Roy A. Childs, Jr., back in the late 1960s, attempted to persuade Ayn Rand, in an essay entitled "Objectivism and the State: An Open Letter to Ayn Rand," that anarchism was in fact the logical conclusion to which all her political reasoning must lead.  You'll find Childs's essay here:



You could choose security

Nielsio's picture

You could choose security and arbitration independent of location. That is pretty freakin' awesome compared to worlds' standards of all human history.

Lasting hundreds of years is certainly a great achievement. They didn't just turn into states; they were brutally invaded BY states.

And yes, they were very fruitful in terms of capital achievements compared to neighouring situations.

And to think from a couple

Aaron's picture

And to think from a couple posts of yours elsewhere I was actually starting to think you might be able to engage in conversation without slinging baseless insults. Disappointing to see I was mistaken.

Any Rothbardians or Friedmanites to comment on an-cap examples? I find them pretty weak. Is there anyone here who wouldn't prefer Gladstone era UK or Cleveland era US to medieval Ireland or Iceland?


Fred Weiss's picture

"Anarcho-capitalism" is a contradiction in terms.

And medieval Ireland or Iceland are only examples of the desperation of anarchists to find even remotely credible examples to support their specious arguments. It's no coincedence that they went rooting around in the Middle Ages to find them (the more distant from reality the better).

We did get some sagas out of medieval Iceland. And what else?

And the comparison is not between gov't vs. anarchism - and then for you to blather about how many bad gov'ts there have been. It is between rational gov't and anarchism - and there have in fact been relatively few (relatively) rational gov'ts.

But those just happened to be the United States and Great Britain.

That should tell you something - if you chose to actually think about it. You will try, won't you, Aaron? I mean, if nothing else, just for the change.

I actually meant examples of

Aaron's picture

I actually meant examples of anarchocapitalism rather than anarchism in general. The an-cap examples I've typically heard are medieval Ireland (Rothbard liked this) or medieval Iceland (D Friedman is fond of this). They didn't sound like perfect examples to begin with, and turned into more familiar statist societies in a few hundred years. Anarchism in general (and for that matter, government in general rather than minimal) obviously has plenty more, usually nasty and brutish, examples.


Fred Weiss's picture

Aaron, you are mistaken that there are no real-world examples of anarchism. There are plenty of them. The Mafia, the warlords of Afghanistan and Somalia, what happened in Yugoslavia after the collapse of communism. But the best example is primitive tribalism, wherever it exists or has existed.

True, there are unfortunately relatively few examples of very limited gov'ts (none that have been totally limited, of course). But those few are very telling: England and the United States in the 19th Cent. and Hong Kong until the recent Chinese take-over.

Compare the two sets of examples on the basis of any rational parameter you choose and you have the difference between limited gov't and anarchism.


Fred Weiss's picture

The existence of gov't is not "the establishment of a group with rights in direct contradiction to the rights of others". It is the establishment of an institution for protecting those rights and in fact without which the protection of those rights would be *impossible*. Gov't is a prerequisite and an absolutely necessary condition for the protection of rights.

If a gov't is properly limited to rights protection the only basis for opposing it is if one wants to violate rights and not be constrained in doing so, i.e. if one wants to act on the basis of whim. Anarchism therefore stands in direct opposition to any rational conception of rights and the proper basis for protecting them.

If you define 'Objectivism'

Aaron's picture

If you define 'Objectivism' as agreement with essentially everything Rand wrote, or what the majority of people who call themselves Objectivists believe, then clearly anarchism is not compatible with it. Using Rand's own basic 'standing on one foot' definition of Objectivism, it's not clear that it is incompatible. Obviously many anarchocapitalists - especially of Lew Rockwell stripe - have underlying philosophical disagreements such as theistic worldview or deontological ethics, that do not fit with Objectivism. There are those, however, who hold the same underlying principles and who just disagree on what form laissez-faire capitalism is likely to take.

I don't consider myself anarchocapitalist; I'm too jaded about the virtual lack of real-world stable examples (before die-hard minarchists cheer, remember there's a dearth of examples for minarchy too). I understand the Oist an-cap argument, however, and it's a pretty mundane economic one rather than a philosophical chasm:

Essentially, if you have a substantial majority of people who agree on objective rational law (and without this, any attempt at laissez-faire is doomed) in a laissez-faire capitalism, then the number of agencies involved in dispute resolution/law-enforcement could vary. 1) A monopoly supplier (in minarchy) has no legitimate reason to shut down private arbitration agencies or security forces (assuming they acting by the same laws), meaning if more agencies arise the society could migrate towards anarchocapitalism. 2) Competing agencies (in an-cap) could merge due to economies of scale, migrating towards a single supplier. The stable outcome would be determined by the question of whether such services are a natural monopoly.

Almost all Objectivists assume that a natural monopoly exists and that only the single supplier case could be stable. Oist an-caps assume that natural monopoly is a mythical creature so competing agencies would result. I'm a cynic who still finds it a curiosity, but mainly now just sees how far we are from a world where that question could even be tested.

[quote]Anarchists, on the

Nielsio's picture

"Anarchists, on the other hand, believe that there should be a market in the use of force without a final arbiter (Government) to rectify disputes."

Your 'final arbiter' is solely based on force. A monopolist can, by definition, not provide a service or any meaningful justice. The only way to provide a meaningful service is through market forces.

Anarchy is a pure default position. You are the one who has to show how a powergrab is moral.

Arbitrary Assertion

Billy Beck's picture

"The individual's (natural) right to life, liberty and property needs Constitutional protection."

Sez you.

Prove it.

Excellent questions Wayne!

FreedomainRadio's picture

Thanks for taking the time to have a listen to the podcasts, I appreciate it!

My response would be to say that rights must be common to all men and women, or they become subjective, and just a matter of opinion, and so cannot be logically enforced.

If rights are common, then no man may claim rights oppositional to the rights of other men. The existence of a government is de facto the establishment of a group with rights in direct contradiction to the rights of others - i.e. a monopoly of force and the right to tax and so on.

Plus, governments never work out in the long run anyway, so I think it's well worth exploring alternatives. If the non-aggression principle can be extended to its logical conclusion - that no man has the right to initiate force - then governments are by definition immoral.

I understand that the consequences of this premise are alarming, so I try to go into more detail about how all this can work. Listen a little more and let me know what you think!

Thanks again.

Stefan Molyneux, MA

Host, Freedomain Radio www.freedomainradio.com

A Lot of That Going On Here Lately...

Dan Edge's picture

There is a common theme to several of the discussions going on at SOLO lately: a lack of clarity about the Objectivist theory of rights.  The OPAR may be a good reference for this.  (Aaron, if you're reading this, we should both read back over chapters 6-8 in the OPAR before writing any essays on war theory.)  I'm open to other references as well, if anyone has any recommendations.

--Dan Edge


Tim S's picture

Amazingly, I partially agree with something Rick wrote.

He wrote:

"You need to defend the necessity of a constitutionally entrenched single government per geographical area. This is hard to do."

In the mixed up world we currently live in, I think things could be greatly improved in many cases if governments took a more relaxed attitude to secession. I'd be quite happy if the commies kept to their own space and let us have ours for instance.

But even in Objectivist nirvana, where the whole world was at least sympathetic to Objectivism, there shouldn't be any reason to deny people who want to secede from the government of a particular geographic area. I just think that in an Objectivist world, there wouldn't be much reason that anyone would want to secede.


Ross Elliot's picture

Ricker, capitalism was created by *men* to secure the rights of *Man*.

Anarchism makes the mistake of establishing a conflict between men and Man.

Ain't no such thing.


Rick Giles's picture

Oh yes, I've been listening to heaps of Stef's podcasts. They're very good. Also had a couple of chats with him online, very nice chap. I do remember him exploring this matter, but not in any depth. He said something along the lines of asking why libertarians, and Ayn Rand, manage to understand so much but fail to go that little bit further to see things his way?

Seem to remember Duncan Bayne having this conundrum earlier in the year. Wonder how it got on with it?

Wayne and Ross, I think an Objectivist a'cap would not disagree that our moral claims extend to natural rights. What they would not connect, however, is the necessity of a constitutional objective monopoly on the use of force. Indeed, the premise would be that monopolistic government is inferior to individuals governing themselves. Laissez faire politics is as desirable as laissez faire economics, and for the same reasons. Or, as Guns'n Roses put it, "You can't trust freedom when it's not in your hand."

If you wish to undermine the a'cap position, particularly this one, it is not natural rights you must defend. You need to defend the necessity of a constitutionally entrenched single government per geographical area. This is hard to do.

Objectively setting a geographical area is difficult. The lines on our maps are suspiciously straight. How objective is that? It seems all too convenient in many cases that a line so pleasing to cartography would be pleasing to demography as well. So it seems our world is made of rather arbitrary borders and boundaries already and all that an'cap asks for is that these be set voluntarily by the people who choose to live within those geographical areas and at a community level rather than at the level of nations as we know them in the present age.

The other difficulty is proving the superiority of your cultural expectations over that of the anac'capatalist. A constitution as ink and paper or as a law is really quite meaningless, it needs to be in the hearts of those who adhere to it. Culture is omnipotent. The libertarian knows that and asks for a particular culture that will be a revolution to permit people to live in freedom. Is the ana'capatalist asking so much more? Indeed, are they not asking perhaps for even less of a revolution both in practical terms and ideological terms?

I think if you can sort that out you're a long way toward taking down The Stef.

Yes, Wayne, correct.

Ross Elliot's picture

Yes, Wayne, correct.

The fundamental flaw in the Anarchist position is the equivalence of natural rights and capitalism. Rights exist because we are thinking beings and have specific requirements for our survival. But protection of those rights is another thing altogether. Capitalism is a *construct* designed to do just that.

To be painfully clear, capitalism is an artificiality designed to secure a natural requirement. And, it's our nature as thinking beings that allows us to achieve that. The two are sympathetic.

Actually, anarcho-capitalism is a contradiction in terms; that is, you can't have your capitalism and eat it too Eye

Comment viewing options

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