2011-07-13

How Did I Miss This??

Occasionally, even the Ludwig von Mises Institute makes a blunder. (Well, okay, we're not talking about a blunder in this case, we're talking about an organization that gives equal billing to a wide variety of libertarian ideas, and welcomes debate.)

Yesterday's blunder came with a re-publication of Leland B. Yeager's argument in favor of monarchy. This reminds me of something I read on the Becker-Posner Blog way back in October 2010, which I have been sitting on all this time, unsure of how to react.

The general argument goes like this: Autocrats are less susceptible to passing democratic whims; autocrats also face less red tape. Therefore, a "libertarian autocrat" could more easily liberalize a nation than a democracy can.

Such arguments are sadly ignorant of documented history. Indeed, doesn't every dictator believe he/she has the nation's interests at heart?

As Ayn Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged, "morality ends where a gun begins." You cannot force people to do  the right thing. If you do, it is no longer the right thing. You cannot claim moral authority if you require brute force in order to do so. This is one realm where Ayn Rand's ideas completely obliterate the moral bankruptcy of "anarcho-capitalism."

In the libertarian lexicon, we often refer to the "non-aggression principle," which Walter Block describes as follows:
The non-aggression axiom is the lynchpin of the philosophy of libertarianism. It states, simply, that it shall be legal for anyone to do anything he wants, provided only that he not initiate (or threaten) violence against the person or legitimately owned property of another. That is, in the free society, one has the right to manufacture, buy or sell any good or service at any mutually agreeable terms. Thus, there would be no victimless crime prohibitions, price controls, government regulation of the economy, etc.
Libertarians are quick to refer to this "lynchpin" when criticizing the government, however the "anarcho-capitalist" strain of libertarianism consistently brushes aside their tacit endorsement of private aggression. While it's usually better disguised (as in the Robert Murphy article), this Yeager article puts it right up there. (Incidentally, I responded to Murphy's article at the time, too.)

Back to the strength of Rand's position. Whatever else the "anarcho-capitalists" can say about her, Rand never wavered from the non-aggression principle. It was a core of her ethics. In Philosophy: Who Needs It, she put it rather beautifully:
There are only two means by which men can deal with one another: guns or logic.  Force or persuasion.  Those who know that they cannot win by means of logic, have always resorted to guns.
Thus, when the "libertarian dictator" can no longer win over his opponents with reason, he resorts to guns. He throws away the non-aggression principle right along with the concept of democracy or representative government, crowns himself dictator like Simon Bolivar and simply tries to force everybody to do it the "right" way.

But people have other ideas. We don't like to be ruled; not by communists, not by theocrats, and certainly not by "anarcho-capitalists."

No, we don't need a monarchy. We need freedom. We're only going to get it by being reasonable, peaceful, and persuasive.