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Anarcho-Capitalism: A Branden ‘Blast from the Past’


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#161 Brant Gaede

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:03 PM


So now we find ourselves back to square one again. This type of context-dropping remark is what makes these debates seem ultimately pointless. Two words: Objective law. Everything I have said in my prior posts explains why objective law requires a single agency entrusted with that purpose, strictly delimited to the protection of rights and subject to democratic control by majority vote.

The problem isn't we can start out fresh but can't stay that way. Young countries grow old and . . .

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#162 George H. Smith

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:15 PM


Anarchism is an example of rationalism. It proceeds deductively from a limited set of premises which are presumed to include all the relevant considerations, without any examples of anarchism in action.



This is crap. Rothbardian anarchism is merely a variant of traditional theories of limited govenment. It is pro-rule of law, pro-constitutional limits on the use of force, etc.

As for legal pluralism, this was the norm in Europe for many centuries. Entire historical books have been written about nonmonopolistic legal systems, such as the book by Harold Berman, Law and Revolution, that I mentioned previously. There have also existed anarchistic societies, such as those discussed by Jefferson, Spencer, Kropotkin, and many modern anthropologists. Just because you are too lazy to read and don't know anything about historical precedents doesn't mean that such precedents don't exist.



Our Founding Fathers created a Constitution after doing all that the Rational Anarchist does but as Empiricists they also looked at the American Colonies and the Constitutional Monarchies of other countries as examples to emulate or avoid. To be fair to the Rational Anarchist we must insist that they produce an example of *no government* that worked. A hypothesis needs an experiment.



There were no historical examples of constitutional republics on the large scale implemented by the U.S. Constitution. Conventional wisdom spoke against it. Indeed, for 150 years a central tenet of Radical Whiggism was that freedom can be preserved only within small geographical areas. Madison had to argue against this premise in the Federalist Papers, especially in #10. Moreover, Hamilton (also in the Federalist Papers) spoke of a new theory of political science -- one that had been developed very recently -- that repudiated many of the older assumptions about government that had previously been accepted by advocates of limited government.

Neither Madison nor Hamilton were able to give historical examples of the radical innovations they were proposing. They relied instead on two things: first, mistakes that earlier republics had (supposedly) made; second, a political theory based on principles knowable to reason.

Rothbardians have done exactly the same thing. Indeed, Rothbard's discussions of anarchism are heavily laced with historical disussions of how states have arisen and maintained their power, and why freedom has failed in the past. Like the Founders, he then combined his historical analyses with philosophical reasoning.

You don't know what you are talking about, so stop wasting my time -- and read some of Rothbard's books, such as For a New Liberty.

Ghs

#163 Michael E. Marotta

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:21 PM


For example, as Rothbard and many others have suggested, rational self-interest would generate cooperation among different agencies. The result would probably be ...


As I have said repeatedly, the actual historical record provides all the evidence necessary. As noted at the very top, Rothbard, the Tannehills, et al, commit rationalist errors by spinning their imaginations instead of examining empirical experience.

I just posted to my own blog, an outline of some problems I found in Rothbard's treatment of money and banking.

Rothbard substituted political rants for historical facts.

http://necessaryfact...d-or-faker.html

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#164 George H. Smith

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:29 PM



Unfortunately, you haven't even attempted to show how one agency, which calls itself the government, can legitimately impose, by coercive means, its own notion of justice on other agencies.


So now we find ourselves back to square one again. This type of context-dropping remark is what makes these debates seem ultimately pointless. Two words: Objective law. Everything I have said in my prior posts explains why objective law requires a single agency entrusted with that purpose, strictly delimited to the protection of rights and subject to democratic control by majority vote.


I have two words for you: Educate yourself.

Ghs

#165 Michael E. Marotta

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:36 PM

Our Founding Fathers created a Constitution after doing all that the Rational Anarchist does but as Empiricists they also looked at the American Colonies and the Constitutional Monarchies of other countries as examples to emulate or avoid. To be fair to the Rational Anarchist we must insist that they produce an example of *no government* that worked. A hypothesis needs an experiment.


The evidence is all around you. Corporations and private individuals alike shop for laws. We choose the ones we want.

And private armies commit atrocities.

Like the rationalists you denounce, you have a Platonic Ideal against which you measure the evidence of your senses, condemning reality for not meeting your expectations. We have hundreds of constitutionally limited goverments. We have hundreds of private defense agencies. We have seven billiion people. Evidence is not hard to find: rather, it is hard to avoid.

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#166 Dennis Hardin

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:42 PM

If I am confronted with two justice agencies that enforce the same system of law, but one agency does this much more efficiently than the other, then why may I not use my own reason to decide which agency I wish to employ? Where do you get the right to tell me: "You cannot choose that agency, even if it is more efficient. Why? Because I call the other agency the "government." I like the other agency better, so you must choose it."


This is hopelessly detached from the real world, George, both with respect to the nature of the institutional structure required for government and the notion that two or more agencies would have identical systems of laws. It is, as I said before, using your words, "absurd on its face."

One must first understand an argument before one can take it seriously. You do not seem well-informed about the issues involved here. Have you ever read the essential presentations of the anarchist side, such as Rothbard's For a New Liberty or The Ethics of Liberty or Power and Market? Have you read any of Randy Barnett's extensive publications on the subject of legal pluralism (some of which were published in the Harvard Law Review), including The Structure of Liberty?



I read some of Rothbard's various writings on this issue many years ago and found his arguments sorely lacking with respect to the world we live in. More recently, I read Chris Sciabarra's extensive examination of Rothbard's utopian theories in Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. I thought Chris did a fantastic job of analyzing the pro's and con's of Rothbard's utopian fantasies. If you haven't read it, you should. He presents a very thorough, detailed, objective analysis.

I have read nothing that suggests to me that Rand was wrong with respect to her position that ruling force out of human relationships is a precondition of free market capitalism, and that minarchy is the only viable and reaiistic means to that end.

How about Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Harvard, 1983), by the distinguished legal historian Harold Berman? -- a book that has often been cited by libertarian anarchists, even though Berman is nothing of the sort. This book is a fascinating account of the different European legal systems -- canon law, manorial law, mercantile law, urban law, etc -- that functioned simultaneously in overlapping jurisdictions for many centuries throughout Europe. Believe it or not, Dennis, these legal systems usually harmonized quite well. And the wars that did erupt did not match the scale of the highly destructive wars of the era of the modern nation-state. Not even close.

Ghs


Concurrent jurisdiction exists today, of course, not only between state and federal courts but between different levels of state courts and other governmental agencies. But the reason these courts can function in harmony is because there is a single governmental authority overseeing them.

In feudal times,.from what I know, when church and state divisions created a situation where there was no single governmental authority, things did not go nearly as smoothly as you suggest. Concurrent jurisdiction worked fairly well in France during the reign of the House of Capet, for example, just as it does in the United States today. Ecclesiastical courts, courts of feudal lords, mercantile courts, et al—operated under customary laws and were largely subordinate to the crown.

When there were significant disputes between royal jurisdiction and papal supremacy, however, there was also significant civil unrest. After the Norman Conquest of 1066, William the Conqueror successfully centralized ecclesiastical authority for the king and secured the authority to decree canon law. But a century later, under the reign of Stephen (1135-1154), the papal authority made significant gains in prestige and power, leading to what was called “the anarchy of Stephen,” a period characterized by significant civil unrest.

In the minarchy-anarchy debates, the primary discussion revolves around the question of internal chaos created by civil unrest, not wars between nation-states.

#167 Peter Taylor

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:58 PM

Ghs wrote:
James Madison's record of the Constitutional Convention was published for the first time.[11] Much that transpired during the Constitutional Convention remained hidden from Americans for fifty years, thereby permitting delegates to escape accountability through death. Madison's detailed notes--suitably altered so as to understate his youthful nationalism--left no doubt about the place of slavery in the Constitution. It was sanctioned and protected as a means to bring the deep South into the union.
end quote

This illustrates that any great human undertaking can be flawed - by pragmatism, lack of forsight, prejudice, and by any of our human failings. And any great enterprise can be rescued by reason. The issue of slavery, outlawed in 1808, WAS finally corrected, NOT by a competing defense agency, The Confederacy, but by the legitimate Constitutional Government of the United States of America.

Can you predict that your Rational Anachism would not resemble the Confederacy, The Mafia, Boss Tweed, The Bowery Boys or The Pug Ugly New York gangs? No one can predict what will happen because you have no signatories to a plan, or a consensus for a plan among a large group of people. You lack a plan.

So if someone is convinced by you and sincerely asks, “I bought your book Mr. Smith. Where do I sign up for Rational Anarchism.” What do you say, “Moron, you lack the fundemental basis for being an Anarchist, which is knowing that the plan is to have no plan. Go away kid, you bother me?”

You complain about the same doubts concerning Anarchism coming from Objectivists over and over again. But I must echo Dennis Hardin. You never answer those doubts with a plan and then you call the Objectivist a Subjectivist for wanting proof! Help correct the flaws in the Constitution, IN YOUR LIFETIME. May fame and fortune be yours.


Tomorrow will be my last day here at Objectivist Living, hopefully, for just a little while. As the joke goes, I am blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other. Unfortunately I am truly blind in one eye and it is not correctible. And I can’t see out of the other, which is why I slip up occasionally and print my notes in a large type font. What a dilemma.
Peter Taylor
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Peter Taylor

#168 George H. Smith

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 07:06 PM


If I am confronted with two justice agencies that enforce the same system of law, but one agency does this much more efficiently than the other, then why may I not use my own reason to decide which agency I wish to employ? Where do you get the right to tell me: "You cannot choose that agency, even if it is more efficient. Why? Because I call the other agency the "government." I like the other agency better, so you must choose it."


This is hopelessly detached from the real world, George, both with respect to the nature of the institutional structure required for government and the notion that two or more agencies would have identical systems of laws. It is, as I said before, using your words, "absurd on its face."


You have a short memory, Dennis. You began this discussion by positing an ideal Randian government, based on NB's premise of unanimous consent. If any premise is "hopelessly detached from the real world," you found it.

Oh, and how about a government that doesn't tax but relies on voluntary financing instead? Talk about being hopelessly detached from the real world!

As I have said repeatedly, I have no problem discussing ideal models for the purpose of philosophical discussion. This is done all the time not only in philosophy but also in economics and sociology. (Max Weber called these models "ideal types," and his conception of theoretical reasoning in the social sciences influenced Ludwig von Mises, who discusses the methodology of ideal types in Human Action.)

But you may not propose an ideal type of limited government for your purpose, and then deny to your adversaries the same privilege. I just read a comment by you (I don't recall which post it is in) in which you say that bad guys (in effect) will surely form their own agencies. In the real world, yes, this would probably happen from time to time.

But what, in the real world, would those bad guys do in regard to your government? Well, many of them would infiltrate your government and take control of it, just as bad guys have done throughout history.

And if we are going to deal not with ideal types but with the real world of bad guys, I would much rather have them running an outlaw agency in a free market, where other agencies can restrain their power, than have them control a monopolistic government, where no one stands a chance against them.

So how would you keep the bad guys out of your limited government? With a piece of paper called a "constitution"? Yeah, good luck with that.

Ghs

#169 Tim Hopkins

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 07:31 PM

Can you predict that your Rational Anachism would not resemble the Confederacy, The Mafia, Boss Tweed, The Bowery Boys or The Pug Ugly New York gangs? No one can predict what will happen because you have no signatories to a plan, or a consensus for a plan among a large group of people. You lack a plan.


Doesn't this imply a central planning perspective? How do libertarians and Objectivists respond when asked for a blueprint explaining how health care or education would work? In short, they can make broad, general predictions based on the spontaneous order of the market, But a "plan" is something mapped out in advance by someone independant of the system in question, which misunderstands the position of the anarchist.

Tim

#170 George H. Smith

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 07:42 PM

Ghs wrote:
James Madison's record of the Constitutional Convention was published for the first time.[11] Much that transpired during the Constitutional Convention remained hidden from Americans for fifty years, thereby permitting delegates to escape accountability through death. Madison's detailed notes--suitably altered so as to understate his youthful nationalism--left no doubt about the place of slavery in the Constitution. It was sanctioned and protected as a means to bring the deep South into the union.
end quote

This illustrates that any great human undertaking can be flawed - by pragmatism, lack of forsight, prejudice, and by any of our human failings. And any great enterprise can be rescued by reason. The issue of slavery, outlawed in 1808, WAS finally corrected, NOT by a competing defense agency, The Confederacy, but by the legitimate Constitutional Government of the United States of America.

Can you predict that your Rational Anachism would not resemble the Confederacy....



First, the slave trade, not domestic slavery, was outlawed in 1808.

Second, the secrecy of the Constitutional Convention was no oversight or human failing. The Congress and most of the states (Rhode Island didn't even send delegates) had authorized the Convention -- which was then called the Philadelphia Convention or the Grand Convention; it wasn't called the Constitutional Convention until later -- only to correct and amend the Articles of Confederation. To draft an entirely new Constitution was illegal and contrary to provisions in the Articles of Confederation -- America's first Constitution, in effect. This is why two out of three New York delegates (Lansing and Yates) left the Convention in protest long before the Convention had concluded its business, leaving Alexander Hamilton, the third delegate, without a quorum. And this was one reason why George Mason, a distinguished delegate from Virginia who had written the Virginia Bill of Rights, said that he would rather cut off a hand than sign the finished document.

The Convention was held behind locked doors and closed windows, and delegates agreed not to publish any accounts of it for 50 years, for a very simple reason: The delegates didn't want their constituents back home to know what had gone on. Most would probably be dead in 50 years.

Third, the "correction" of slavery that you speak of was an unintended consequence of the Civil War. It cost 620,000 American lives, maimed and crippled many thousands, caused utter devastation throughout the South, and set the United States on a path to statism that we are still following.

I thought it was competing agencies that were supposed to end in conflict. But here we had this supposedly great constitutional government, formed in 1788, that resulted in more American deaths than any other war, including WWII. In the Civil War, the ratio of deaths to the total population was 1.988 percent. The next highest ratio occurred during WWII; it was 0.307 percent -- not even close.

Fourth, you obviously don't know anything about the Confederacy, but why should that surprise me? The Confederate Constitution followed the U.S. Constitution very closely, except for a few items -- such as the explicit authorization of slavery and a private postal service. Secession was forbidden under the Confederate Constitution. Does this sound similar to libertarian anarchism to you? Can you really be that daft?

I still haven't finished my next Cato Essay, which is due tomorrow morning, so I am going to take a break from this madhouse for a while. This will be my last response for now.

Ghs

#171 George H. Smith

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 07:58 PM


Can you predict that your Rational Anachism would not resemble the Confederacy, The Mafia, Boss Tweed, The Bowery Boys or The Pug Ugly New York gangs? No one can predict what will happen because you have no signatories to a plan, or a consensus for a plan among a large group of people. You lack a plan.


Doesn't this imply a central planning perspective? How do libertarians and Objectivists respond when asked for a blueprint explaining how health care or education would work? In short, they can make broad, general predictions based on the spontaneous order of the market, But a "plan" is something mapped out in advance by someone independant of the system in question, which misunderstands the position of the anarchist.

Tim


Reinforcements, at long last!



Ghs

#172 whYNOT

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 08:25 PM

Getting to basics, and looking from the point of view of Rand's intent -

So, we tacitly hand over to our (hopefully minimal) government the responsibility to protect our person
and property from those who would initiate force against us. Why? because few of us desire, or have
the ability, to constantly protect ourselves. Second, because it is logical to have one, central Agent, equably protect
us with objective laws.
With the responsibility - and the duty - justly comes the right of that Agent to be the only one to wield that power.


It is obviously not the power to initiate force (illegal for both g-ment and citizen) and nor, I believe, the right to "retaliate" (an unfortunate choice of word imo) -
but the right and responsibility to "respond" on our behalf to the initiation of force... with force - for the sole purpose of our protection.
Okay, this is just semantics, but 'framed' this way it gives me a clearer idea about that "monopoly of force" thing,
and actually how much curtailed it really is. It is not the scary ogre we make it out to be.
"To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge". Nicolaus Copernicus (An original objectivist) 1473-1543 ***No man may be smaller than his philosophy...***

#173 Selene

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 08:28 PM

Can you predict that your Rational Anarchism would not resemble the Confederacy, The Mafia, Boss Tweed, The Bowery Boys or The Pug Ugly New York gangs? No one can predict what will happen because you have no signatories to a plan, or a consensus for a plan among a large group of people. You lack a plan.


Mr. Taylor:

This actually supports the anarchist argument.

Your structured system that operates with the single centralized premise that ONLY the government/state has the monopoly on the initiation of force produced all of the above "evils" within your system.

There is a probability that the competing defense agencies could effectively eliminate those specific evils that your system produces consistently by your own admission.

Adam
a lover of negative evidence = high probative value
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#174 Tim Hopkins

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 08:42 PM

Getting to basics, and looking from the point of view of Rand's intent -

So, we tacitly hand over to our (hopefully minimal) government the responsibility to protect our person
and property from those who would initiate force against us. Why? because few of us desire, or have
the ability, to constantly protect ourselves. Second, because it is logical to have one, central Agent, equably protect
us with objective laws.
With the responsibility - and the duty - justly comes the right of that Agent to be the only one to wield that power.


Few of us desire, or have the ability, to manufacture our own shoes. Does this mean there must be one (and only one) producer of shoes, to ensure people don't go barefoot?

It's curious that libertarians and Objectivists are so keen on specialization and division of labour as part of the unintended benefits of a free market, but when the subject of protection, defense and adjudication come up, these insights are lost and the worst prejudices about free markets return.

Tim

#175 Mikee

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 09:21 PM

It is possible and acceptable for a market to be mature to the point where all inefficiencies are evolved out and a single entity has a monopoly. Market monopolies are not by definition immoral.

To assign "evil" to all government when most people in the US at least live their entire lives in relative peace and prosperity unknown in earlier times is not the proper context. To call the constitution merely a "peace of paper" doesn't further any argument.

#176 Dglgmut

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 10:05 PM

The rule of thumb is this: If no individual could possibly possess a right in a "state of nature" -- i.e., a society without government -- then no government can legitimately claim such a right. When Rand said that all rights are ultimately the rights of individuals, and that there is no such thing as collective rights, she was echoing a long tradition in classical liberalism.


Yeah, that's a good rule of thumb as far as the acceptable uses of legitimate force.

Btw, a government is in fact an institution separate from "the people." The latter is a collective abstraction, whereas a particular government is a concrete institution.To say, as some Americans do, that "we, the people" are the government is arrant nonsense.

Of course, many civilians participate in the political process, e.g., through voting. But we also participate, say, in the agricultural market as consumers. That doesn't make us farmers.


Yeah, but then again we don't talk about farmers as if they're not part of "the people." The debate is about how people should govern themselves, not how people should deal with the government or how the government should deal with people. That's all I meant.

How should people govern themselves? The term "non-contradiction" get's thrown around a lot within this community... if you're going to construct a political philosophy by first defining the rights of the individual, don't change it in the next paragraph because the individual now wears a blue uniform, or has some sort of social responsibility.

Maybe Rand's theories in politics were her area of weakness because it's all to do with collectives.

Anyway, thanks, George, for all the insight throughout this thread.. you'll probably give me a lot of new ideas.

#177 Dglgmut

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 10:12 PM

It is possible and acceptable for a market to be mature to the point where all inefficiencies are evolved out and a single entity has a monopoly. Market monopolies are not by definition immoral.


What market? Oh, you mean the free-legitimate-force market that existed prior to 1865, from which the people unanimously chose the current U.S. government to provide all of their legitimate force needs? Sorry, just kidding around.

To call the constitution merely a "peace of paper" doesn't further any argument.


Probably because nobody would argue that it's not a piece of paper. The fact is that it isn't enough to stop political corruption. It's like a "no trespassing" sign in a town with no guns or cops.

#178 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 11:54 PM

Third, the "correction" of slavery that you speak of was an unintended consequence of the Civil War.

George,

I don't agree with this interpretation (and yes, I've read what Lincoln said about willing to keep slavery if it meant saving the union).

Wars are not fought merely by one person. (Imagine me telling you that. Well I just did, so there. :smile: )

There were plenty of people fighting that war for many reasons, including to end slavery. They were very clear about that. You know... underground railroad and so on...

Another point--the fact that preserving the union was an intended consequence of the war in no way prohibits slavery from likewise being an intended consequence. Do you hold that there is only room for one intended consequence in a war and everything else is unintended?

I'm always uncomfortable when I hear the argument belittling the end of slavery in the Civil War. It always comes off to me like the person trying to push an agenda. I'm not trying to be snarky, but the argument just doesn't make any sense to me otherwise.

Here's part of my point. I always read the harshest criticism of the USA government's involvement in wars from libertarian circles, with the insinuation (or outright statement) that the leaders are nothing but corrupt power-lusting thugs. They prove this by initiating force against others.

What would their intended consequence be for promoting wars? The standard response I have read in libertarian literature is to expand the empire.

So what about the soldiers who go off to fight those wars voluntarily? Nowadays they are certainly not forced to go and fight. Most are proud to go. Are they all corrupt power-lusting thugs hellbent on expanding the empire? That is what drives them? They are evil empire builders with no concern for human life?

I know military people and I find that does nor reflect my experience of them. So why do they go voluntarily? Are they deluded? An entire army?

I find that difficult to swallow, too.

And what is the intended consequence of the war that they seek?

That's an interesting question--one I believe needs to be considered.

But let's stay with force being the essential issue with government as per the libertarian view you have stated. All the soldiers have to do is quit if they disagree with a war. it's complicated, granted, but doable. Leaders can't fight a war without armed forces. And for those serving who disagree but don't quit, there will be no one holding a gun to soldiers' heads and telling them to shoot innocents or die.

So why do they do it voluntarily even when they think the war is wrong?

Honoring a contract?

An entire army killing innocents because the individuals in it are primarily concerned with honoring their contract?

That doesn't fly with me, either. I doubt their definition of themselves is as contract killers.

So why?

I believe the answer to that question lies right in the crux of what a government should and should not be able to do.

In other words, I believe I would restrict the government far more than a standard minarchist would, maybe even more than an anarchist would for one of his idealized organizations that handle force. (On the other hand, I also see some specific situations where the government could initiate force and I believe be right--but that is another can of worms. And obviously, my fundamental standard is not NIOF only.)

This is why I talk about human nature as the fundamental standard so much. Force is one fundamental component among several in government, not the fundamental component.

And force is not primarily what drives the folks in the armed forces, especially the young people. Persuasion is. They--the individuals in the armed forces, including law enforcement--are the organized threat and execution of force that keeps the government from being overthrown, and persuasion (sometimes called the "engineering of consent"), not force, is the mechanism that holds the individuals in the armed forces in place.

This sounds woefully incomplete to me so far, and I know I'm not as clear as I should be. But this is serious. That is why I'm laying it out.

Michael

Know thyself...


#179 Brant Gaede

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 12:51 AM

The Civil War was primarily fought to preserve the union with the end of slavery slowly blended into the situation much like death and destruction on a massive unanticipated scale and other reality changing consequences spilling out all over the place all part and parcel of the inexorable march of federalism--the American Moloch.

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#180 George H. Smith

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 05:13 AM

Third, the "correction" of slavery that you speak of was an unintended consequence of the Civil War.

George, I don't agree with this interpretation (and yes, I've read what Lincoln said about willing to keep slavery if it meant saving the union). Wars are not fought merely by one person. (Imagine me telling you that. Well I just did, so there. :smile: ) There were plenty of people fighting that war for many reasons, including to end slavery. They were very clear about that. You know... underground railroad and so on... Another point--the fact that preserving the union was an intended consequence of the war in no way prohibits slavery from likewise being an intended consequence. Do you hold that there is only room for one intended consequence in a war and everything else is unintended? I'm always uncomfortable when I hear the argument belittling the end of slavery in the Civil War. It always comes off to me like the person trying to push an agenda. I'm not trying to be snarky, but the argument just doesn't make any sense to me otherwise. (snip)


There are lots of reasons why people go to war. Some Union soldiers enlisted in the hope of finding adventure, and some for the enlistment bounties. May we therefore say that adventure and bounties were among the reasons why the Civil War was fought?

Lincoln was very clear on the purpose of the war; he waged it in order to "preserve the Union," not to free the slaves. As some pro-Lincoln historians have noted, Lincoln did not believe that the federal government had the authority to abolish slavery in the states. As a Free Soil man, however, Lincoln did oppose extension of slavery into the territories, and he believed the federal government did have the power to prohibit this.

Moreover, given the rampant racism in the North, Lincoln knew that most men would never volunteer to risk their lives in order to end slavery. Many would fight for patriotic reasons, however.

Southern states had various motives for secession. The mistaken belief that Lincoln would attempt to end slavery was the overwhelming motive of South Carolina and other states in the deep South. It was a dumb move.

The second wave of secession came after Fort Sumter. Virginia and three other states in the Upper South said that they would not secede so long as Lincoln did not use force to prevent other states from seceding. These states seceded after it became clear that Lincoln planned to use force.

Some abolitionists believed that the war would end slavery, even though this was not Lincoln's intention. Garrison, Phillips and some other abolitionists did not trust Lincoln. In his autobiography, the remarkable Moncure D. Conway -- a southerner who had inherited slaves but freed them and took up the antislavery cause -- told of a meeting he had with Lincoln on this issue early in the war. Conway attempted to convince Lincoln that emancipation would facilitate a Union victory, because the Confederates would need to keep many more men on plantations in order to prevent slaves from escaping and revolting. Most slaves would not be willing to take these risks without the hope of freedom.

According to Conway's account, Lincoln didn't say much about this idea, but it was the strategy he adopted later in the war. The preliminary Emancipation Proclamation stipulated a certain period of time for Southern states to rejoin the Union, after which they could keep their slaves. (The North had four slave states of its own.) The final document frankly called itself a "war measure." It declared emancipation only in those states and parts of states that were under Confederate control. The basic hope here was that slaves in rebel areas would be motivated to escape or rebel, and that this threat would require the South to commit much more manpower to plantations, thereby drawing them away from combat roles.

Here is an excerpt from the Emancipation Proclamation:


Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.


All this is a matter of the historical record. The facts are not in dispute, and I don't know why they should make you uncomfortable in the least. Perhaps you think that anti-Lincoln types are somehow pro-Confederate. This certainly isn't the case with the libertarian historian Jeffrey Hummel, an old friend of mine who wrote a superb book on this subject (Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War), nor is it true in my case.

Was secession justified -- or, to be more precise, was it constitutional? The libertarian and abolitionist Lysander Spooner believed that the southern states had the right to secede from the Union, just as the American colonies had the right to secede from the British Empire, and that the North was motivated primarily by economic reasons.

For years the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison had called for free states to secede from slaves states -- the motto" No Union with Slaveholders" appeared on the masthead of The Liberator, the leading abolitionist periodical -- so he clearly believed in the right of secession. But Garrison later opposed southern secession on the grounds that only a just cause can justify this measure, and the defense of slavery was obviously not a just cause.

My opinion is that there were reasonable constitutional arguments on both sides, but that the South probably had the stronger case overall. As for the Civil War itself, I believe that secession was a bad move, but that Lincoln's use of force to prevent secession was inexcusable. In short, I have very little sympathy for either side, but I despise Lincoln for bringing about the mass butchery of a savage conflict that could have been avoided.

Leaders on both sides believed that their side would win a quick victory, so the war would not last very long. More of the usual stupidity about war.

H.L. Mencken once speculated on the reason why people never seem to learn any of the obvious lessons about war. Not long after one war has exhausted a people, they can easily be whipped into a frenzy and support yet another war enthusiastically. Mencken suggested that many people are bored with their humdrum lives, and that war makes them feel that they are participating in a great and noble cause. War gives "meaning" to their otherwise pointless lives.

I fear Mencken's cynical explanation may have hit the nail on the head. In the immortal words of the comedian Ron White: You can't fix stupid. Stupid is forever.

Ghs




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