Libertarians Misunderstand Government
Libertarians are generally guilty of misrepresenting government. They also overlook the fact that anarcho-capitalist land ownership does not differ from government by a dictator: the landowner can require anything he wants on his land, including abiding by his rules (laws), taxes, and punishments (up to and including death) by the contract to be on his land.
Libertarians are generally guilty of misrepresenting government. First, they discuss government as if it is monolithic, but it is not. Modern government is dispersed in two ways: by separation of powers among three branches and by division of responsibilities among federal, state, local, and non-government authorities. Second, libertarians represent government as a source of coercion, but it is not. Coercion is an inherent ability of people that cannot be eliminated and is pervasive through almost all social interaction. Government is where we deliberately channel coercion because the alternative (the private sector) gives much worse results, as the history of privately owned states (monarchies, dictatorships, and other despotisms) and private "law" such as slavery, mafias, warlords, etc. show rather clearly. We have constructed a government that is jointly owned by all, because private ownership gives too much incentive for private profit through coercion of others.
Government is NOT a monopoly of violence/coercion: it is a monopoly on determining legality of them. Big difference. Because in the US and most other nations, private violence is often permitted for defense and protection of property and other rights.
(Currently, this is simply a hodgepodge of misc points to be rewritten.) Bundling of decisions is easily confused with coercion. For example, accepting employment at will equates all orders with "voluntary agreement". In law, bundling is called standard form or adhesion contract. Why not then for social contract? Libertarians will not explain why government works as well as it does. They have numerous theories of government failure, but ignore explanations of government success (such as the creation of the market system.) A prime example of confirmation bias. The inescapable evils of coercion are not unique to government. Government is where we choose to channel them, because the alternative (the private sector) gives much worse results, as the history of privately owned states (monarchies, dictatorships, and other despotisms) and private "law" such as slavery, mafias, warlords, etc. show rather clearly. We have constructed a government that is jointly owned by all, because private ownership gives too much incentive for profit through coercion of others. The private sector is not benign: it would be far more rapacious than representative government if our government didn't curb those practices. That you have the illusion that private entities can't do those things is a testimony to the efficacy of our government at stopping what used to be common private practices. Concentrations of power cannot be avoided. They can only be regulated. The heart of liberalism is the insight that such concentrations of power can be regulated by systems of checks and balances. Other examples of private law: feuds, medieval Icelandic law, lynchings, terrorism, etc. The unable/coerced dichotomy for distinguishing freedom is usally false because most "unable" really means that you haven't the money to bribe your way past the coercive protections of property. (freedom as absence of restrictions does not apply in a market society, where all useful material and situations tend to be property, and you must bribe your way past coercion.) You are equally unfree to do something if it is prohibited to you by government or if you haven't the money to bribe (pay) private owners not to coerce you. The foremost defenders of our freedoms and rights, which libertarians prefer you overlook, are our governments. Government traditionally has been a hindrance to, and not a defender of our freedoms... Government can only get in the way. The simple answer is that if government is a hinderance to your freedoms, go where there is no functional government; for example Somalia. Bring your AK47 and your posse. You can do all the drugs you want in Somalia, and have all the freedoms you want. Why would be dissatisfied with Somalia? Perhaps because you don't want full freedom, which includes the freedom to oppress others. Instead you want to trade off some freedom for order, for safety, for rights, for equality. That's what our government does, and many don't even notice because they're fat, safe, smug, and protected; they've never had to suffer, never had to provide those things for themselves, so they presume they're natural and not a creation of government. Alternatively, you could be set down naked in the middle of international waters. No government interference: you can do anything you want. Perfect freedom, no laws, nobody interfering with any of your desires. So why might you want anything else? Doing what you want requires more than just freedom: it requires The basic problem of many libertarians is their refusal to admit that there are other values than liberty, and that there MUST be tradeoffs to satisfy those values. And liberty by itself is inadequate to fulfill our desires. Even individual wealth is a government construct: without coercive protection, nobody would be able to accumulate much wealth, and all would be much more equal (albeit very much poorer.) In general, libertarians want to overlook government action and (their term) coercion when it supports their preferences, and condemn it for others. Why do people prattle about "as if an invisible hand" when it is government alone that visibly constrains the businessmen to mere economic competition rather than violently achieved monopoly and theft? It is that government coercion that redistributes from the businessman to the consumer the vast bulk of the consumer surplus, and limits business profits. (Note the incredible coercion required to create anything resembling a free market.) But then the same is true for the libertarian idea of property: it is just as coercive and illegitimate as the state because it demands duty without any question or compensation. by Kevin A. Carson http://flag.blackened.net/daver/anarchism/iron_fist.html As a mutualist anarchist, I believe that expropriation of surplus value--i.e., capitalism--cannot occur without state coercion to maintain the privilege of usurer, landlord, and capitalist. "The only thing that makes a government special is its monopoly on legitimate violence." Government is not a monopoly of legitimate violence (force) in the US: there are federal, state, county, and local governments, all of which can use force. They all have their own laws and police, and many have their own courts. Individuals are also allowed many sorts of legitimate violence in defense of person and property, as any gunloon can tell you. Indeed, the US was set up that way precisely to avoid problems of monopoly.
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- Should the U.S. enforce more explicit restrictions on monopolies, or can innovation and democracy alone mitigate the pervasive effects of monopoly power? A panel of historians and economists at the recent Stigler Center conference on concentration in America discussed the historical evolution of this debate.
- Libertarian Slogans That Are False: II [More...]
- "... the libertarian asserting "The government doesn’t create resources or wealth, it simply redistributes them," has to be claiming is that no government project ever returns an accounting profit. And that is an extraordinary claim, given, say, that several of the TARP investments seemed to have clearly resulted in large accounting profits, as did the Mexican bailout."
- State monopoly on violence (3 links)
- This is a bad misdirection from Max Weber. The state has a monopoly on JUDGING what violence is LEGAL. This allows the state to permit and regulate violence by lesser governments and private parties, as well as making some of its own violence legal. We deliberately delegate much violence to the public state, because private parties are too partial when unregulated.
- The big lie of libertarianism [More...]
- "The big lie libertarians make is that membership in the State and any collective mutual advantage insurance agreements it establishes is not voluntary, when everybody knows that there is a market in State memberships, and if one does not like to be a member of the UK for instance one can shop around and say purchase membership in the Monaco Principality."
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