George H. Smith

Thoughts on Rand, Government, and Anarchism

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As I have gotten involved once again in the anarchist/minarchist debate on another thread, I have become aware of how many aspects of this controversy have not been adequately discussed in any forum. And I am not talking about arcane philosophical points. I mean issues of fundamental importance to both O'ism and libertarianism generally.

Since I have never discussed some of these issues before, I am going to jot them down in various posts, as they occur to me, in no particular order.

1. I have often remarked that Rand's ideal limited government, viewed historically, is more of a government in name than anything else. I say this because of Rand's opposition to coercive taxation. The fact that Rand pushed the elimination of all coercive taxation into the distant future, as the last step toward a free society, is irrelevant here.

Rand's belief that taxation requires the initiation of force, and is therefore a violation of rights, is a highly unusual view in the limited government tradition of Locke, Jefferson, etc, and it sets her apart from most other limited government philosophers. (Auberon Herbert is one exception, but there are not many.) In the mainstream of Lockean liberalism, taxes were justified as part of the social contract. Taxes were not seen as involving the initiation of force, because we had previously agreed to pay taxes in order to finance the legitimate activities of a limited government. When viewed from this perspective, we are morally and politically obligated to pay taxes in order fulfill our part of a social contract.

Rand's view of taxation puts her on the radical edge of the classical liberal tradition, and it is along that same edge that we will find libertarian anarchists. One need only read the The Federalist Papers and other tracts pertaining to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution to appreciate the key role that the power to tax played in the thinking of the Founders. Taxes were frequently referred to as the "lifeblood" of government and as an essential "mark" of political sovereignty. Those Antifederalists who did not want to vest the federal government with the autonomous power to tax (i.e., without going through the state legislatures) pointed out that the power to tax carries with it political sovereignty, so to vest this power in the federal government is to make the federal government sovereign over the state governments. Champions of the Constitution agreed. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that a government without the power to tax cannot be a sovereign government.

It is difficult to say how the Founders would have reacted to Rand's ideal government financed by voluntary means. The very idea would have struck them as highly peculiar, to say the least. A government without the power to tax was, for the Founders, a contradiction in terms. It is possible they would have regarded Rand as an "antinomian" in the tradition of Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams.

To have denied to one's government the legitimate power of taxation would have been, in effect, to deny the validity of a binding social contract from which all specifically political obligations flowed. And this might very easily have gotten Rand branded as an anarchist.

My point is not that Rand was really a closet anarchist of some kind. Rather, I wish to call attention to the fact that Rand's opposition to taxation, when viewed historically, places her a political twilight zone -- a nether region between advocates of government and anarchists.

2. Modern libertarian anarchists, especially those influenced by Rand, find themselves in a parallel situation in regard to the anarchist tradition. They don't really fit. Many forms of anarchism are socialistic or communistic in nature. There are exceptions, of course, such as the 19th century "individualist anarchism" of Benjamin Tucker and others associated with the great periodical Liberty. But though these anarchists defended private property, free trade, etc., many (including Tucker) were influenced by Proudhon, so they condemned interest and rent as exploitative phenomena artificially created and sustained by governments. In addition, "money cranks" (to use Rothbard's term) were common in this eclectic group of American radicals.

What we call "libertarian anarchism" or "anarcho-capitalism" is almost wholly the creation of one man: Murray Rothbard....

To be continued.

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George:

Nicely laid out.

This has been the central issue that has to be resolved in order to bridge "the realism gap" that divides the folks caught in between the limited government camps and the anarcho-capitalist camps, the "political twilight zone," as you aptly named it.

How can we realistically "fund" the core functional elements of a society without taxation.

The first lock to open is "declaring" the core functions of society that have to be "collectively shared," in order for the society to function.

Ayn listed three:

1) a system of defense;

2) an internal system for protecting individual rights; and

3) a system of courts to resolve disputes and prosecute crimes;

I used to be completely comfortable with all of the three before I saw how perverse they became.

However, these elemental social needs have to be realistically solved to bridge that gap.

Taxation is absolutely not an answer because it is selective, massively open to corruption and essentially immoral.

Good start to this thread.

Thanks.

Adam

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> Rand's belief that taxation requires the initiation of force, and is therefore a violation of rights, is a highly unusual view in the limited government tradition of Locke, Jefferson, etc, and it sets her apart from most other limited government philosophers...In the mainstream of Lockean liberalism, taxes were justified as part of the social contract...Rand's view of taxation puts her on the radical edge of the classical liberal tradition...

That's very interesting. I hadn't realized that. I wonder if her identification of the non-initiation of force itself was original or on the 'radical edge'? Or if it was her grounding it in man's nature and the nature of rights?

And then her more consistent application of that principle than anyone else would have?: If you take NIOF seriously, clearly taxation is the initiation of force against those who did not 'agree' or contract to accept it. So do you know if that formulation ever came up? It would seem the other classical liberals would have been forced to say taxation was a 'necessity' exception to NIOF, do you think?

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The answer to the question? Very easy. You want the government to protect you from squatters? The government doesn't work for you for free - pay a property tax. You want the government to enforce your contract? The government doesn't work for free. Pay a percentage of its value, or do without the ability to sue. You want a patent? Pay a percentage. If taxes were 5% of what they are now, and business was booming with a lack of regulation, people would be hapy and proud to pay 'taxes'.

I definitely can see the need for a new thread to cover this.

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Thanks for this detailed exposition, George. My take is government is a "necessary evil" because you cannot get rid of it although you can transition from one to another. I think Rand should have said this--her ideal--is the ideal that we should always work towards even though we will never get there. Just as countries represent competing areas of influence depending on the amount of power of various kinds that can be projected, so too the citizens of a country and their power against their own government(s). It's not that I choose to be a minarchist but that the Randian and the anarchian ideal are virtually the same. Now, once we get government down to a real small size let's bring in those competing whatevers and see how they work. A big virtue of government is it's the personification in action of public evil--to feed a public good, sometimes--and by virtue of the citizenry throwing themselves against it they maintain and strengthen their intellectual and moral muscles.

--Brant

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What we call "libertarian anarchism" or "anarcho-capitalism" is almost wholly the creation of one man: Murray Rothbard....

To continue....

What we call "libertarian anarchism" or "anarcho-capitalism" is almost wholly the creation of one man: Murray Rothbard. Rothbard's anarchism drew from a number of intellectual disciplines and traditions. His call for private protection agencies can be traced to Tucker and other individualist anarchists of the 19th century, but Rothbard replaced the deeply flawed economic theories of that school, such as the labor theory of value, with Austrian economics.

Rothbard's deep distrust of all power, but especially of centralized power, was rooted in Jeffersonian individualism -- a tradition that looked with a jaundiced eye on banks and other financial institutions that had typically allied themselves with government. Rothbard's commitment to natural law and natural rights was unflinching, and the manner in which he applied these theories to the U.S. Constitution and other issues closely resembles the approach of Lysander Spooner, one of Rothbard's greatest heroes. Rothbard's philosophical debt to Ayn Rand is also evident in some of his early writings, such as "The Mantle of Science" -- a superb critique of "scientism" that adopts Rand's approach to causation and free will, but which generated a controversy for its failure to give adequate credit.

(3) I am writing this article from scratch, changing very little as I go along, and I am now tempted to explore the similarities and differences between the ideas of Rothbard and Rand. But such a digression could be fatal to the focus of this piece, so I will return to the theme of anarchism.

In my previous post I argued that Rand's ideal government, which lacks the power to tax, places her in a Twilight Zone in the history of political philosophy. I have also claimed that Rothbard's anarcho-capitalism exhibits a similar fuzziness in the history of anarchist thought. This is because Rothbard's private protection agencies, which operate within the rule of law and which employ objective legal procedures to protect property rights, can bear a striking resemblance to governmental agencies, depending on our perspective.

Given how radical the label "anarchism" typically seems, we tend to assume that there exists an enormous gap between any kind of anarchism and any kind of pro-government theory. But this is not the case with Randian minarchism and Rothbardian anarchism, which may be described as philosophical kissing cousins.

We need look no further than OL for an illustration of this point. Despite the arguments between anarchists and minarchists that occur regularly on OL, these are easily recognizable as family squabbles. I am a Rothbardian anarchist, but I feel much more at home with a minarchist than I would with many types of anarchists, such as syndicalists or even the old-style individualist anarchists who call for the abolition of rent and interest. I daresay that the reverse is true in most cases as well. OL minarchists will feel more in tune with my views than they would with many other non-anarchists, such as true believers in Obama.

The reasons for these family feelings should be obvious. My views on rights, the proper use of force, and similar subjects will be virtually the same as the views of a minarchist, but they will differ dramatically from the views of many anarchists. This is because there are many different types of anarchism, just as there are many different types of governmentalism.

Major political traditions, such as classical liberalism and socialism, have internal variations, and we will commonly find an anarchistic variation in each school of thought. A libertarian anarchist and a socialist anarchist will typically feel no more affinity to each other than libertarians generally feel toward socialists. The fact that all anarchists oppose government means very little, because the evils that different schools of anarchism attribute to government differ a great deal, depending on the moral, economic, and sociological theories of those schools.

(4) Despite the rancor exhibited toward anarchism by orthodox O'ists, most differences between Rothbardian anarchism and Randian minarchism are relatively minor. The huge gap that normally separates an advocate of government from an opponent of government is reduced considerably when we keep in mind a point that I discussed earlier, viz, that the ideal Randian government lacks the power to tax.

Getting to this point -- i.e.., to the point of opposing all taxation in principle -- is the radical leap. After this leap has been made, the remaining gap between Randian minarchism and Rothbardian anarchism has been reduced to little more than a crack by comparison. This is why the divide between minarchism and anarchism does not constitute a formidable barrier to communication and cooperation among most libertarians.

Yet we find factions on both sides of the barrier that view their wayward family members with utter contempt. Some Peikovians will communicate with socialists and communists but not with Rothbardians. Some Rothbardians are convinced that any serious admirer of Ayn Rand must be a true-believing ignoramus.

The Peikovian problem has been widely discussed, but the snobbery among Rothbardian elitists has not. I shall therefore focus on the latter. Given my years of working with accomplished Rothbardians (and Rothbard himself), I am in a position to contribute some insights in this area.

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To my knowledge, there IS one other thinker besides Rand that exhibits the same attitude towards minarchy vs. anarchy; Robert Nozick.

Nozick's position is often called the 'ultraminimal state' where people pay for government services.

Rand seemed to be akin to Nozick on this, since IIRC she advocated user payments for government services rather than taxation.

However, the vast majority of Objectivists (even the orthodox Objectivists) tend to be Misesian Minarchists (Courts, Police, Military, Gold Standard, Tax to fund) rather than Ultraminimal Statists (what? A deviation from Rand amongst the orthodoxy?!? Why yes, there is!).

I'm an Hayekian minarchist in terms of practical politics, although in the 'ideal world' I'd support free market anarchism (of the modern, Austrian-school variety).

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The theory that the only proper functions of governments are the army, police, and courts is also peculiar to us. The word "police" appears nowhere in the constitution, of course, because the first department was the London Metropolitan Police in 1829. Federal marshals were created by the first act of Congress, as officers of the federal courts, but they were not specifically enumerated, though the Post Office was. The Mint was not enumerated - and congressional Republicans tried twice to close it in 1800 and 1802, as unnecessary - but it is a logical extension of the power to coin money and regulate its value, as well as to set the value of foreign coins. That last, of course, is contrary to the actual role of government.

However, by the Objectivist theory - advocated by many libertarians - is that the government has no right to create its own money. Some say that it must issue only gold and silver coins, or notes backed in them, etc., etc. However, that is clearly wrong. Obviously, any person (real or legal) has the right to create its own monetary and fiduciary media. In truth, we have a gold-based dollar right now: the Mint strikes gold coins and sells them at the market price for Federal Reserve Notes. What else is required?

On my blog, Necessary Facts, I have a couple of posts about "Unlimited Constitutional Government." Even if you start with the Objectivist model, a determined statist can easily extend the government. I have not yet posted about the government orphanages that raise generations of workers, but that is coming soon. (The government has a compelling interest in the welfare of its citizens. If a child is being abused, the state must intervene to protect the rights of the child. "You take it from there.")

You will not find many libertarians or objectivists defending the Federal Trade Commission. But according to them, the government exists to protect against fraud as well as against force. Thus, the government's own "better business agency" has enforcement powers. It makes perfect sense, given the premise.

Our interminable debates on anarchy-minarchy are rooted in personal history and personality. Ayn Rand lived through a civil war - barely lived through one, as we all know - so, for her, "competing governments" is obviously a bad idea. In fact, consistent Objectivism would advocate a world government with a world police and world courts and a world army to protect us from Klingons and Reptiles. As derived from The Law of Identity, anything less is imperfect. Other people with different personal histories trust the open market so much that they spin fantasies of life in an "anarcho-capitalist" utopia. The Tannehills, Wollstein, and others easily glided from "could" to "would" to "will." Myself, I look at the real world. Here and now corporations (and others) pick the legal systems that they find best to enforce their contracts. They shop for states to locate in. They also hire private agencies. (Corporate security today is largely a matter of top level employees contracting uniformed services. The large corporate guard force is a thing of the past. The other engagement is executive protection and there corporations do have internal employees, though others contract out, as well.) The largest contract forces - Securitas and G4S - have tens of thousands of guards in dozens of countries. And they do not shoot at each other. However, private armies do.

Rand and others conflate the police and the army. Her scenario had private police shooting each other to recover the wallet of a client or prevent the arrest of the man accused of stealing it. Yet, in her time Ford Motor Company and General Motors had huge uniformed and armed forces that never came into conflict. On the other hand, gang warfare is real. The root of the difference is in the self-chosen natures of the actors. Private guards do not shoot at each other. Private armies do.

If you read any serious contract - for a home, its mortgage, if nothing else - you will see that you agreed to arbitration. Your realtors also agreed to it among themselves. They are not alone. I am willing to wager that Ayn Rand's contract with Random House also specified arbitration. I know for a fact that the Tannehills' contract for the library edition of TMFL did specify the American Arbitration Agency and it was not their idea, but their publisher's.

Those who argue this versus that are largely ignorant of the actual markets and how they operate. That is why they argue. Identifying facts would stop the fun.

Edited by Michael E. Marotta

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(4) Despite the rancor exhibited toward anarchism by orthodox O'ists, most differences between Rothbardian anarchism and Randian minarchism are relatively minor. The huge gap that normally separates an advocate of government from an opponent of government is reduced considerably when we keep in mind a point that I discussed earlier, viz, that the ideal Randian government lacks the power to tax.

Getting to this point -- i.e.., to the point of opposing all taxation in principle -- is the radical leap. After this leap has been made, the remaining gap between Randian minarchism and Rothbardian anarchism has been reduced to little more than a crack by comparison. This is why the divide between minarchism and anarchism does not constitute a formidable barrier to communication and cooperation among most libertarians.

It's a radical leap--into the clouds. Back in the real world . . .

--Brant

he's right about Rand, but she wasn't--the horse ran away with the sleigh--the problem with "ideal" systems is their cleanliness while the world we actually live in is quite messy, but the Utopians, sooner or later, when they get the power to do good--usually their descendents--shit all over all of us because they got the righteousness and think of the ideal as right is right because it's the ideal--fuck everyone else!; they ain't ideal and they'll get what the impure must get to make the way! bam! bam! bam!--it's only right; it's only just!; the future awaits--the glorious future!--who can deny it to our children? and who can deny us our immortal glory!!!!--for making this shit possible, this bloody shit!

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Dennis, I thank you, and I thank Michael too, for the comments on my 1987 essay.

Is the assessment on rents at which I arrived, the assessment which would pay for the military defense of the land state (which is at the core of any state), a tax? It is what it is, regardless of whether we call it a tax. But should we think of it as a tax when we are being exact?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines tax as:

1. A contribution for the support of a government required of persons, groups, or businesses within the domain of that government.

2. A fee or due levied on the members of an organization to meet its expenses.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines tax as a pecuniary contribution that shall be made by persons liable, for the support of government. Black’s goes on to say:

In a broad sense, taxes undoubtedly include assessments, and the right to impose assessments has its foundation in the taxing power of the government; and yet, in practice and as generally understood, there is a broad distinction between the two terms. Taxes, as the tem is generally used, are public burdens imposed generally upon the inhabitants of the whole state, or upon some civil division thereof, for governmental purposes, without reference to peculiar benefits to particular individuals or property. Assessments have reference to impositions for improvements which are specially beneficial to particular individuals or property, and which are imposed in proportion to the particular benefits supposed to be conferred. They are justified only because the improvements confer special benefits, and are just only when they are divided in proportion to such benefits.

I suppose that in political philosophy we have some leeway whether we shall use the terms under their general dictionary usage or whether we shall use them as they would be used in law. If we go with the latter, it seems that the rent assessments which fell out of my analysis come to rest somewhere between taxes and assessments.

As most readers here know, Ayn Rand and most modern libertarians opposed any form of taxation, at least in the most just state that might eventually be reached. But what was Rand’s definition of a tax? She writes that they “represent an initiation of force.” She writes in her 1964 essay "Government Financing in a Free Society"

“What would be the proper method of financing the government in a fully free society?”

This question is usually asked in connection with the Objectivist principle that the government of a free society may not initiate the use of physical force and may use force only in retaliation against those who initiate its use. Since the imposition of taxes does represent an initiation of force, how, it is asked, would the government of a free country raise the money needed to finance its proper services?

In a fully free society, taxation—or, to be exact, payment for governmental services—would be voluntary. . . .

For the reasons given in my essay, the assessments on rents would not be an initiation of the use of force. It is false that owners of land (in the general economic sense) have ownership already perfected against all rational contests to those ownerships independently of the land state at the core of the state. The claim of any such perfect property right would be false, so no such right is infringed by the assessment.

Because Rand’s characterization of taxes as entailing the initiation of force is so widely presumed by readers here, it is probably best to decline calling these fundamental assessments on rents a tax. Dennis sensibly writes:

“The dues you speak of are clearly a form of taxation, since a person cannot decide not to pay and cannot secede from the alliance. However, the tax is levied against income from land, whose property rights exist only because of the alliance, so it is reasonable to demand that the cost of the alliance supporting the owner’s right be paid by him. Is this how I should understand your meaning?”

The second sentence, exactly so. Concerning the first, I would say a little more than I have already in this post. As it happens in my own personal case, I have never owned any real estate. I’m just a renter. It’s not so bad. If my landlord did not want to pay the land state’s assessments on his rents, he would have to sell the house and become a renter. In his case, he would go to a nice home for seniors and continue his good and very free life. My serious point is that I don’t see liability to such an assessment on rents as necessarily a great burden to people’s freedom and well-being.

Unknown to me are the macroeconomic differences that would come from financing national defense by assessments on rents rather than by income tax (and inflation).

Dennis, I will try to respond at least little to the rest of your thoughtful post shortly.

Another point about your article raised alarms. You said:
Subgroups of individuals within the territory of a land state could subscribe for fees to various ongoing organizations offering to assure public and just vindication of rights (beyond rights in real property). All such organizations would have to dovetail their laws with the law of real property, they would have to recognize the particular real estate titles recognized by the land state, and they would have to derive all their revenues from subscriptions or donations. Each such agency of justice would have to earn public confidence in its justness; otherwise, like individuals, these agencies would have no right, good against third party intervention, to wield retaliatory force (Nozick 1974, 12–18, 133–34, 140; see also Hardin 1982 101–24). George Smith has given reasons for believing such agencies would have economic incentives to reach demonstrably true verdicts (1979, 411–14, 421–24).

What happens in the case where two justice agencies come into conflict? I believe this was the whole point of why Rand believed that the use of force must be a government held monopoly. I give the following two examples.

Suppose two people enter into an agreement and write up a contract. However, these the wording of the contract has an ambiguity in it which neither person recognizes, but which each interprets differently. If these two people each subscribe to different justice agencies, how could this dispute be resolved? Would not a more reasonable solution be to have people entering into an agreement agree at that time on a justice agency to arbitrate any disputes, and register their agreement for a fee, rather than have such agencies work on a subscription system?

A similar dilemma could be suggested where two people, subscribing to different justice agencies, get into a fight which was witnessed by no others, and each claims the other was the agressor. Suppose both agencies investigate, but come to opposite conclusions based on the evidence, each supporting their own subscriber. How will these agencies determine whose assessment is valid to be enforced? The subscribers of each agency would demand that their agency upheld their verdict and failure to do so would result in a loss of business. It seems that there is need of an impartial agency which can, at a minimum, settle disputes of this kind.

Neither of these scenarios considers differences in rules by which such agencies would judge cases and determine punishment.

(I apologize if this material is covered in your references. Unfortunately, I do not have easy access to these materials to read the background to your assertions.)

Dennis, concerning this, the second part of your post, I’m going to bow out and urge reference to the principal works on these topics, which I will list.

An easy place to begin, which you mentioned already, is with Rand’s 1963 essay “The Nature of Government,” where she discusses the sorts of conflicts that you raise. This essay is readily available. It is in her book The Virtue of Selfishness and in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

The most important work on these issues of evidence and procedure is Robert Nozick’s 1974 book Anarchy, State, and Utopia. The first part of this book deals with these issues. That part was written in 1972. It was this work that first got me to give a thought to the idea of private protective associations as agencies of justice, an idea that was being advocated by some libertarians. I always agreed with Nozick and still do.

Murray Rothbard and David Friedman were the most well-known and steadfast proponents of modern libertarian anarchism. I think their books are still available. These would be books such as For a New Liberty by Rothbard and The Machinery of Freedom by Friedman.

Rothbard’s periodical The Journal of Libertarian Studies is available for free online. The premier issue of that journal contained important rebuttals to Nozick’s analysis and ethical elements. Through the years, that journal continued to carry essays against Nozick’s treatment.

The 1979 essay by George Smith in that journal is here: http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/3_4/3_4_4.pdf

. . .

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(4) Despite the rancor exhibited toward anarchism by orthodox O'ists, most differences between Rothbardian anarchism and Randian minarchism are relatively minor. The huge gap that normally separates an advocate of government from an opponent of government is reduced considerably when we keep in mind a point that I discussed earlier, viz, that the ideal Randian government lacks the power to tax.

Getting to this point -- i.e.., to the point of opposing all taxation in principle -- is the radical leap. After this leap has been made, the remaining gap between Randian minarchism and Rothbardian anarchism has been reduced to little more than a crack by comparison. This is why the divide between minarchism and anarchism does not constitute a formidable barrier to communication and cooperation among most libertarians.

It's a radical leap--into the clouds. Back in the real world . . .

--Brant

he's right about Rand, but she wasn't--the horse ran away with the sleigh--the problem with "ideal" systems is their cleanliness while the world we actually live in is quite messy, but the Utopians, sooner or later, when they get the power to do good--usually their descendents--shit all over all of us because they got the righteousness and think of the ideal as right is right because it's the ideal--fuck everyone else!; they ain't ideal and they'll get what the impure must get to make the way! bam! bam! bam!--it's only right; it's only just!; the future awaits--the glorious future!--who can deny it to our children? and who can deny us our immortal glory!!!!--for making this shit possible, this bloody shit!

The ideal of pragmatists is doing all that to us right now, and you are their descendant!

Shayne

-Did you ever understand Rand's idealism at all?

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I remember Rand’s idea that if you wanted to use the civil courts in an Objectivist Country, then you would pay a penny a page for documents that would allow a citizen to use the courts. That would be paying for services. She wrote, “Consequently, the principle of voluntary government financing regards the government as the servant, not the ruler, of the citizens—as an agent who must be paid for his services, not as a benefactor whose services are gratuitous, who dispenses something for nothing.”

But Rand also wrote:

“In a fully free society, taxation, or to be exact, payment for governmental services—would be voluntary . . . . Since the proper services of a government—the police, the armed forces, the law courts—are demonstrably needed by individual citizens and affect their interests directly, the citizens would (and should) be willing to pay for such services, as they pay for insurance.”

end quote

Those words “would and should pay” are intriguing. George is onto something here. What if in Objectivist America a person did not pay their objectively estimated share of taxes for national defense? She defined Freedom as, “What is the basic, the essential, the crucial principle that differentiates freedom from slavery? It is the principle of voluntary action versus physical coercion or compulsion.”

Therefore, coercion or compulsion could not be used by an Objectivist Government to collect taxes. With what tools or recourse does that leave the Government?

Shame? A government could threaten to put a list of dead-beats in the paper unless they paid their taxes and then do it.

A government could exclude dead-beats from non-emergency services like the civil courts, while still supplying police services and maintaining an Army and Navy.

Peter Taylor

Notes:

Government

A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.

Taxation

In a fully free society, taxation—or, to be exact, payment for governmental services—would be voluntary. Since the proper services of a government—the police, the armed forces, the law courts—are demonstrably needed by individual citizens and affect their interests directly, the citizens would (and should) be willing to pay for such services, as they pay for insurance.

The question of how to implement the principle of voluntary government financing—how to determine the best means of applying it in practice—is a very complex one and belongs to the field of the philosophy of law. The task of political philosophy is only to establish the nature of the principle and to demonstrate that it is practicable. The choice of a specific method of implementation is more than premature today—since the principle will be practicable only in a fully free society, a society whose government has been constitutionally reduced to its proper, basic functions.

“Government Financing in a Free Society,”

The Virtue of Selfishness, 116.

Any program of voluntary government financing has to be regarded as a goal for a distant future.

What the advocates of a fully free society have to know, at present, is only the principle by which that goal can be achieved.

The principle of voluntary government financing rests on the following premises: that the government is not the owner of the citizens’ income and, therefore, cannot hold a blank check on that income—that the nature of the proper governmental services must be constitutionally defined and delimited, leaving the government no power to enlarge the scope of its services at its own arbitrary discretion. Consequently, the principle of voluntary government financing regards the government as the servant, not the ruler, of the citizens—as an agent who must be paid for his services, not as a benefactor whose services are gratuitous, who dispenses something for nothing.

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(4) Despite the rancor exhibited toward anarchism by orthodox O'ists, most differences between Rothbardian anarchism and Randian minarchism are relatively minor. The huge gap that normally separates an advocate of government from an opponent of government is reduced considerably when we keep in mind a point that I discussed earlier, viz, that the ideal Randian government lacks the power to tax.

Getting to this point -- i.e.., to the point of opposing all taxation in principle -- is the radical leap. After this leap has been made, the remaining gap between Randian minarchism and Rothbardian anarchism has been reduced to little more than a crack by comparison. This is why the divide between minarchism and anarchism does not constitute a formidable barrier to communication and cooperation among most libertarians.

It's a radical leap--into the clouds. Back in the real world . . .

--Brant

he's right about Rand, but she wasn't--the horse ran away with the sleigh--the problem with "ideal" systems is their cleanliness while the world we actually live in is quite messy, but the Utopians, sooner or later, when they get the power to do good--usually their descendents--shit all over all of us because they got the righteousness and think of the ideal as right is right because it's the ideal--fuck everyone else!; they ain't ideal and they'll get what the impure must get to make the way! bam! bam! bam!--it's only right; it's only just!; the future awaits--the glorious future!--who can deny it to our children? and who can deny us our immortal glory!!!!--for making this shit possible, this bloody shit!

The ideal of pragmatists is doing all that to us right now, and you are their descendant!

Shayne

-Did you ever understand Rand's idealism at all?

Sure. Freedom. How do we get it? We put up the ideal and say let's go get it, let's fight for it. Let's change direction from toward statism to toward freedom. Let's fight for our rights. So on and so forth. Now if you want to talk about Rand's human idealism, she assumed too much plasticity in human nature. That's a huge subject.

--Brant

pragmatist, my ass

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Sure. Freedom. How do we get it? We put up the ideal and say let's go get it, let's fight for it. Let's change direction from toward statism to toward freedom. Let's fight for our rights. So on and so forth. Now if you want to talk about Rand's human idealism, she assumed too much plasticity in human nature. That's a huge subject.

--Brant

pragmatist, my ass

Let me just say that I don't understand what you're trying to say. On the one hand it seems like you're attacking ideals, on the other you support them. That is what I am perceiving, but I'm not saying that's what you're saying, I don't know what you're saying.

Shayne

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Sure. Freedom. How do we get it? We put up the ideal and say let's go get it, let's fight for it. Let's change direction from toward statism to toward freedom. Let's fight for our rights. So on and so forth. Now if you want to talk about Rand's human idealism, she assumed too much plasticity in human nature. That's a huge subject.

--Brant

pragmatist, my ass

Let me just say that I don't understand what you're trying to say. On the one hand it seems like you're attacking ideals, on the other you support them. That is what I am perceiving, but I'm not saying that's what you're saying, I don't know what you're saying.

Shayne

You simply have to understand this ideal is "a city on a hill." Politically it's a hill that needs climbing and it's the climbing that's really the ideal and it will never quite be achieved nor should it be because if you can get there and live there bad people will be right behind you to screw it all up and take you down because you'll have turned flabby respecting such folk. But let's say I'm wrong. That'd be a legit, practical question. Okay, there we are, just below the summit. Is the radical vision achievable afterall and what exactly do we do now to get that? "Now," though, is so far from today we shouldn't put too much into it. Let's simply keep focused on the ideal we can put in our pockets and work for, the ideal of human freedom.

--Brant

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Brant wrote:

Politically it's a hill that needs climbing and it's the climbing that's really the ideal and it will never quite be achieved nor should it be because if you can get there and live there bad people will be right behind you to screw it all up and take you down because you'll have turned flabby respecting such folk.

Oh yeah, Pilgrim?

The President talking to Chance the Gardner, in the movie, “Being There:”

“When I was a boy, I was told that the Lord fashioned us from His own image, that's when I decided to manufacture mirrors.”

Peter

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Sure. Freedom. How do we get it? We put up the ideal and say let's go get it, let's fight for it. Let's change direction from toward statism to toward freedom. Let's fight for our rights. So on and so forth. Now if you want to talk about Rand's human idealism, she assumed too much plasticity in human nature. That's a huge subject.

--Brant

pragmatist, my ass

Let me just say that I don't understand what you're trying to say. On the one hand it seems like you're attacking ideals, on the other you support them. That is what I am perceiving, but I'm not saying that's what you're saying, I don't know what you're saying.

Shayne

You simply have to understand this ideal is "a city on a hill." Politically it's a hill that needs climbing and it's the climbing that's really the ideal and it will never quite be achieved nor should it be because if you can get there and live there bad people will be right behind you to screw it all up and take you down because you'll have turned flabby respecting such folk. But let's say I'm wrong. That'd be a legit, practical question. Okay, there we are, just below the summit. Is the radical vision achievable afterall and what exactly do we do now to get that? "Now," though, is so far from today we shouldn't put too much into it. Let's simply keep focused on the ideal we can put in our pockets and work for, the ideal of human freedom.

--Brant

I think I disagree more with your definitions than with what you are trying to say. I definitely would agree that part of the ideal has to include the work to keep it that way; the point you are underscoring is an excellent one. Analogy: the ideal to have a body like Arnold takes a lot of work to get there and a lot to keep it, and even the end result is not necessarily exactly what is being aimed at.

Shayne

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I think most of the time I have a stark disagreement with Brant I've misunderstood what he's trying to say, and vice versa.

Shayne

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Some of my posts on the "Against Anarchism" thread overlap a great deal with points I wish to make on the thread. I am going to transfer some of my posts, or parts thereof, here, because I do not want my major points spread all over the place, and because I don't want to repeat myself.

It has been a long time -- at least 25 years -- since I studied some of the literature on "stateless" societies, and this field has probably expanded considerably since then. Given my interest in classical liberalism, I am more interested in older treatments, such as Jefferson's observations (mainly in Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781) about American Indians.

A serious student of Native American culture, Jefferson attributed the highly decentralized nature of Indian tribes to "the circumstances of their having never submitted themselves to any laws, any coercive power, any shadow of government" (Koch and Peden, Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 221). Since Jefferson believed that freedom is best preserved in decentralized societies, he was naturally sympathetic to societies without government, as he indicated in a letter he wrote to Edward Carrington in 1787 (p. 412):

I am convinced that those societies, as the Indians, which live without government, enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under the European governments. Among the former, public opinion is in the place of law, and restrains morals as powerfully as laws ever did anywhere.

In a letter to Madison (p. 413) written around the same time, Jefferson divides societies into three basic "forms," one of which is society "without government, as among our Indians." Although a bit uncertain about the matter, Jefferson suggests that this may be the best form for a free society, better even than a society with a limited government, but he also believes that societies without government are "inconsistent with any great degree of population."

In other words, anarchistic societies rely on public opinion instead of coercive laws, and the effectiveness of public opinion as a social sanction decreases as a population increases.

It is at once interesting and instructive to compare Jefferson's approach to anarchistic societies (i.e., societies "without government") to Rand's. I am speaking here not of Jefferson's particular conclusions but of his general perspective. It is difficult to imagine Rand discussing the same topic with the same attitude. Indeed, when Rand considers the possibility of a society "with no organized protection against force," she immediately jumps to this conclusion:

...it would compel every citizen to go about armed, to turn his home into a fortress, to shoot any strangers approaching his door -- or to join a protective gang of citizens who would fight other gangs, formed for the same purpose, and thus bring about the degeneration of that society into the chaos of gang-rule, i.e., rule by brute force, into perpetual tribal warfare of prehistorical savages. (VOS, 108.)

The dramatic difference between Jefferson's perspective and Rand's perspective is obvious. What is far less obvious is the reason for this difference. We often think of Rand's political philosophy as falling fundamentally within the Jeffersonian tradition, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence -- or, more generally, the Lockean tradition. Lockeans shared Jefferson's perspective; that is to say, they didn't go ballistic, as Rand tended to do, when considering the possibility of an anarchistic society.

Rand's perspective, as expressed in the passage I quoted above, is very similar to that of Thomas Hobbes. Consider this passage by Hobbes (from Leviathan) in which he discusses the "state of war" that we would find in a society without government. (In 17th and 18th century political thought, this was typically called the "state of nature.")

[D]uring the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war, as is of every man against every man....

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building, no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts, no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear , and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. (Leviathan, chapter 13, Oakeshott ed., p.100.)

I have argued for years that we find undercurrents of Hobbesianism in Rand's political theory. Of course, this doesn't mean that she read Hobbes and took some ideas from him; nor is this my point. I am talking about recurring themes in the history of political theory. Now, I know that this kind of historical analysis annoys many O'ists, who regard such digressions as irrelevant. But they are not irrelevant; on the contrary, it is by exploring the history of ideas that we can see how their inner logic has generated new ideas that were never intended. There are many examples of this in the history of libertarian thought, as ideas intended to advance a free society became major arguments against a free society.

Anyway, in future posts I will explore why Rand departed so radically from Locke, Jefferson,and other celebrated advocates of limited government. Meanwhile, if someone else has some thoughts on this subject, I would like to hear them. But please don't regale me with uninformed comments about why none of this matters.

Ghs

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"Feudal anarchy" referred to the absence of a sovereign power, i.e., a government with supreme authority over a given territory, a government that enforced a single system of laws. Instead, a system of legal pluralism operated for centuries, as manifested in canon (i.e., church) law, royal law, manorial law, mercantile law, urban law, and so forth.

Legal pluralism has been used by many classical liberal historians -- most notably Lord Acton -- to explain why free institutions evolved in the West but not elsewhere in the world. I have been interested in this thesis for a long time. The earliest presentation of it I have found appears in a historical work by Voltaire, and it was subsequently presented throughout the 19th century in works by Buckle, Lecky, and other pro-freedom historians. Nevertheless, it is in the writings of Lord Acton that we find this thesis most fully developed and defended.

The easiest way for me to explain all this is to post an article that I wrote for the Acton Institute around two decades ago. I do this not out of vanity but because I think the historical significance of legal pluralism is summarized nicely in my article.

I know how some minarchists will react to the Acton Thesis (as I call it). They will say that Acton and Rothbard were not talking about the same thing, etc., etc. There is not much I can say in advance about these inevitable criticisms, except to note that when Rothbard and other anarcho-capitalists appeal to the Acton Thesis, they do so primarily to break down the wall of ignorance that some (not all) minarchists hide behind when making grand historical pronouncements about legal pluralism. If you study Acton with the care he deserves, you cannot help but go away with some extremely valuable insights. This is true for minarchists and anarchists alike.

Christianity and Liberty

By George H. Smith

An atheist is rarely asked to write an essay on "religion’s positive role in society," but it is fitting that this request came from the Acton Institute. Lord Acton (1834-1902) was a Catholic, a classical liberal, and a great historian who devoted his life to the history of liberty.

Acton always stressed this important truth: No one group or movement, religious or secular, deserves exclusive credit for the theory and evolution of free institutions. All historians should avoid the unpardonable sin of "making history into the proof of their theories." Instead, the historian should try "to do the best he can for the other side, and to avoid pertinacity or emphasis on his own."

Acton is one of my intellectual heroes, and I hope this essay does justice to his memory. Using some of Acton’s brilliant insights, I shall briefly discuss some of the important contributions that Christianity has made to the cause of liberty.

Ironically, Acton’s Catholicism and my atheism give us something in common. In Protestant countries, Catholics and atheists were often lumped together and branded as subversive minorities whose doctrines, if permitted to circulate freely, would jeopardize the core values of a free society.

This "dark myth" was especially popular in seventeenth-century England, where it found adherents even among some of liberalism’s most distinguished founding fathers. John Locke, for example, argued that religious liberty is a "natural right" that should be enjoyed by everyone–except Catholics and atheists. The doctrines of these minorities, Locke believed, are incompatible with the moral foundations of a free society (though for different reasons), so they should be legally suppressed.

Acton attacked this dark myth in two ways. First, he identified minority rights as a defining characteristic of a free society: "The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities." Second, according to Acton, the history of liberty is inextricably linked to the history of minorities:

"At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own.…"

This brings us to Christianity’s first major contribution to liberty. The early Christians, a despised and sometimes persecuted minority, fashioned a pro-freedom philosophy that (in Acton’s words) "was really subversive of the fundamental institutions of the Roman Empire."

Early Christians–those "enemies of mankind," as Tacitus called them – confronted a variety of allegations, including incest, cannibalism, atheism, and sedition. Christian apologists (from the Greek, meaning "speech for the defense") successfully refuted these charges, and they repeatedly affirmed the loyalty of Christians to the state. But this was a troublesome issue because Christian obedience was always conditional.

The apologist Origen put the matter well. The Christian will "never consent to obey the laws of sin." His first allegiance is to "the law of nature, that is, the law of God." The Christian will submit to secular punishment rather than transgress a divine law.

Moreover, Origen believed that Christians should refuse military service. Rather than fight Rome’s battles, they should pray for victory. Even this is ambiguous, however. Christians should pray "on behalf of those who are fighting in a righteous cause, and for the king who reigns righteously.…" Whether Rome was always on the side of righteousness, Origen does not say.

Some radical apologists developed a "conquest theory" of the state in an effort to delegitimize the Roman Empire. Tertullian argued that "all secular power and dignities are not merely alien from, but hostile to, God." Secular governments "owe their existences to the sword." All institutions of the Roman government, even its charities, are based on brute force. This is contrary to the way of Christians, among whom "everything is voluntary."

Similarly, Minucius Felix believed that the Romans had acquired power by "capturing, raping, and enslaving their victims." John Chrysostom contrasted the use of force with the Christian community, where "the wrongdoer must be corrected not by force, but by persuasion."

The apologists established important precedents that were cited frequently by later Christian thinkers. The Stoic doctrine of a "higher law" became a cornerstone of the Christian theory of justice and a formidable barrier to tyranny and the rise of the absolute state. The theory of a just war, as discussed by Origen, Tertullian, and other apologists, was also influential. For example, Hugo Grotius frequently cited the apologists in On the Law of War and Peace (1625), a seminal work on international law.

Another precedent was set by those apologists who argued for religious liberty ( a "natural right," as Tertullian called it). Sebastian Castellio, a contemporary critic of Calvin, collected these pro-toleration quotations in a book that became a landmark in the Protestant movement for religious liberty.

Christian critiques of the Roman Empire became less common after Constantine issued the Edict of Milan (313), which established religious liberty as a fundamental principle of public law. Before long, Constantine was bestowing special favors on the Christian Church. His Christian successors continued this policy until Theodosius revoked the Edict of Milan during his despotic reign (379-95). This emperor established orthodox Christianity as the official religion, outlawed pagan worship and rituals, and decreed severe penalties for heresy.

Thus did a church born in opposition to the state become its friend and ally. Lord Acton commented:

"Christianity, which in earlier times had addressed itself to the masses, and relied on the principle of liberty, now made its appeal to the rulers, and threw its mighty influence into the scale of authority."

Even after the church abandoned the principle of liberty, it sometimes functioned as a protective buffer between the state and the people. "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s" – these words of Jesus suggested a sphere in which the church reigns supreme, a sphere immune to state power.

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan from 340-97, fiercely defended this principle. No friend of religious liberty, Ambrose nevertheless believed in the independence of the church: "Palaces belong to the emperors, churches to the priesthood." He also believed that the church could call secular rulers to account. "Thou art a man," said Ambrose to Theodosius after this despot had ordered a brutal massacre in Thessalonica. Threatened with excommunication, Theodosius submitted to Ambrose’s demand for public penance. As this astonishing story was recalled in later centuries, it did more to limit state power than volumes of theory.

The case of Ambrose illustrates a central theme in Acton’s history of liberty. For centuries after the fall of the western Roman Empire, the church was the only institution with the authority to challenge the power of feudal lords, monarchs, and emperors. Church and state contended for power, and if either had achieved total victory, "all Europe would have sunk down under a Byzantine or Muscovite despotism."

According to Acton, neither church nor state favored liberty, but, while competing for allies, they granted various immunities and privileges to towns, parliaments, universities, guilds, and other corporations. Eventually these institutions were able to resist the power of both church and state – and so there evolved a decentralized system of power unknown to the ancient world and the East.

Institutional barriers to arbitrary and absolute power, long advocated in theory, now existed in fact. Individual liberty was a happy by-product of this system.

The conflict between church and state also inspired theories with radical implications. For example, during the eleventh century, Pope Gregory VII challenged the power of Emperor Henry IV and other secular rulers during the "Investiture struggle." In The Dictatus Papae, Gregory decreed that the pope "may depose Emperors" and "may absolve subjects of unjust men from their fealty."

This right of revolution was limited, because it applied only to secular rulers, not to the pope himself who (as Gregory put it) "may be judged by no one." Nevertheless, the seed had been planted, and it began to grow immediately. Manegold of Lautenbach, while defending Gregory’s claim of papal supremacy, compares the secular ruler to a swineherd who has been employed for a specific purpose. If this swineherd exceeds his delegated authority, he should be dismissed "ignominiously from his task."

The ruler, Manegold argues, has a compact with his subjects to "defend them from the tyranny and unrighteousness of others." When rulers betray this trust, "no fidelity or reverence ought to be paid them." Tyrants lose all their "authority and dignity" and should not be obeyed.

This type of social contract theory would bear fruit in later centuries. After the Reformation, both Catholics and Protestants developed their own theories of revolution. Around 1640, Sir Robert Filmer (who would later achieve fame as a target for John Locke) complained that the principles of absolute monarchy were under attack from two camps – radical Catholics and radical Protestants. As Filmier put it: "Monarchy hath been crucified, as it were, between two thieves. …"

Filmer’s complaint became a major theme for Thomas Hobbes, a champion of absolute monarchy, who devoted over half of Leviathan (1651) to attacking the traditional ideas and institutions of Christianity. Throughout history, as Hobbes correctly noted, this religion had stubbornly resisted the absolute state in theory and in practice. Churches and other institutions that stood between the individual and the state were like "worms in the entrails of a natural man." Hobbes knew his enemy well.

In conclusion, I would like to reinforce a point I made earlier. Throughout history, the love of liberty has transcended religious controversies. This is good news indeed. If an atheist who values liberty meets a Christian who values liberty, this common ground gives them a reason to value each other.

Ghs

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(Okay, ready to go....)

Having provided some background material in my previous posts on this thread, I will now tie some loose ends together in this and in subsequent posts. As before, I won't be defending any point at length. My purpose is to get a handle on some aspects of the anarchist/minarchist debate, some of which have never been discussed before (to my knowledge).

1.I noted how neither Randian minarchism nor Rothbardian anarchism fits comfortably into their respective historical traditions of limited government and anarchism. Much of this fuzziness stems from Rand's conception of an ideal limited government that lacks the power to tax.

In Lockean political theory, this "power of the purse," was regarded as essential to political sovereignty. Citizens incurred the obligation to pay taxes as part of the social contract, so to propose a government without the power to tax would have been to propose a contradiction in terms.

2. I have mentioned this problem many times in O'ist forums, and I have always gotten some form of the following response:

Who cares if Rand agreed with Locke or in what respects she may have disagreed? Why all the fuss? Smith may have good intentions, but his pedantic digressions into history will contribute nothing to a resolution of the anarchist controversy.

This criticism has a point insofar as my historical perspective does not qualify as a solution to the anarchist problem within O'ist circles. I firmly believe, however, that my historical observations can provide key insights into why the problem has taken the form that it has. In other words, what I will be outlining here is not a philosophical solution to a philosophical problem, but rather a socio-historical explanation of why this problem has taken the form it has and why it seems so intractable to many people.

3. Here is the key point:

Many political traditions have a radical anarchistic version, and it requires a big theoretical jump to get from the main body of that tradition to its anarchistic extremity. This is certainly the case if we equate Rand's ideal government with the limited government envisioned in the Lockean tradition.

But the same is not true if we understand and keep in mind the extremely radical nature of the ideal Randian government itself. This is a government that differs so dramatically from the government in Lockean social contract theory as not to qualify as a "government" at all, by the standards of that tradition.

Thus the big jump here is not from the main body of Rand's political theory to a radical anarchist version of that theory. Rather, the big jump is to the belief that no government has the right to tax anyone for anything.

In most political traditions, this would be regarded as a leap into anarchism. In Objectivist political theory, however, this is regarded as a leap into the correct conception of limited government. The final jump into anarchism, by comparison, is like jumping across a puddle.

Ghs

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Roy Childs

1

In September 1969, I became an anarchist. As conversions go, it wasn't much of an experience. My jump from minarchism to anarchism did not entail a radical shift in perspective or belief. It seemed little more than a course correction during an intellectual journey. Before the correction I was an avid defender of Ayn Rand's conception of limited government. After the correction I was an anarchist.

As founder and president of the UA Students of Objectivism, I knew that I wasn't a garden variety anarchist. I had become one of those befuddled anarchists described by Ayn Rand in The Nature of Government . If Rand was to be believed, I had embraced a “weird absurdity called ‘competing governments.’” My fall into sin involved something worse than a contradiction in terms or a floating abstraction. I had accepted “the basic tenet of the modern statists – who see no difference between the functions of government and the functions of industry, between force and production….”

My conversion experience didn’t take more than a few hours. Everything happened while I was typing an article that I had proudly titled Strange Bedfellows: The Objectivist Anarchism of R.A. Childs, Jr. I had no doubt that my article would be the definitive refutation of Roy's now famous article, Objectivism and the State: An Open Letter to Ayn Rand.

The stage for my destined-to-be-a-classic article had been set two days earlier, after I returned home from the University of Arizona. The latest copy of The Rational Individualist (August, 1969) was waiting for me in the mail, but this was no ordinary issue. Word had already gotten out that this issue contained a powerful defense of “free market anarchism” by the wunderkind Roy Childs.

I knew very little about this school of thought. Murray Rothbard was not yet a household name among libertarians, and I knew him mainly as the author of Man, Economy, and State. I also had a copy of Men Against the State: Expositors of Individualist Anarchism 1827-1908, by James J. Martin. but I found this dense book difficult to get through. It even took me a while to understand that the individualist anarchism discussed in Martin's book differs considerably from the anarcho-capitalism of Rothbard.

When Roy's article appeared in late 1969, there was virtually no information readily available on free-market anarchism. What little information I had came from Rand's vitriolic polemic in "The Nature of Government." Having read that article many times, Rand's discussion of a "recent variant of anarchistic theory" became seared into my brain." I invariably reacted badly to that section, even during my days as a fervent minarchist -- not so much because of what it said but because it didn't say much of anything, and what it did say didn't make a lot of sense to me.

For example, Rand speaks of the anarchistic proponents of "competing governments" without giving any indication of who these proponents were. Nor does she indicate the manner in which she became familiar with their ideas, e.g., through personal conversations, published articles and books, etc.

Rand's account contains tell-tale signs of inaccuracy. I didn't know much about anarchism at the time, but I knew enough to understand that the very notion of "competing governments" is nonsensical. Sure enough, Roy Childs hammered Rand on this very point:

We "younger advocates of freedom, incidentally, are not "befuddled" by our anarchist theory. The theory which we advocate is not called "competing governments," of course, since a government is a coercive monopoly....

To be continued....

Ghs

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Rand's account contains tell-tale signs of inaccuracy. I didn't know much about anarchism at the time, but I knew enough to understand that the very notion of "competing governments" is nonsensical. Sure enough, Roy Childs hammered Rand on this very point:

Either Ayn Rand didn't think anarchists were important enough to deal with properly, or she was not able to do so. Judging by her incompetence at dealing with patents, I think it is the latter, her remarks on anarchism being "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Shayne

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(This post is one long digression. While writing a continuation of my last post, I found myself recalling various details about my early years with O'ists at the University of Arizona. Since some of this material may prove useful for my autobiography, I decided to keep writing. Although nothing I have written so far gets into the minarchist/anarchist stuff, readers may be interested in other details, especially the comments about Objectivist religiosity at the end. I need to do something else now, but I will try to finish this missive within the next few hours. ).

I was excited when I learned that the latest Rational Individualist had arrived at my house. Even before Roy's article was generally available it had provoked a good deal of discussion among the Objectivists and libertarians that I hung out with at the University of Arizona. At that time the UA Students of Objectivism was the second-largest organization on campus, second only to SDS.

In addition to our weekly meetings, in which 50 or more students showed up to listen to recorded lectures by NB and BB, an elite group would frequently gather in Louie's Lower Level, a hamburger joint in the basement of the Student Union, to argue about this and that. Arguments over the Rand-Branden split had lost some of their intensity after a year, so we were all in the mood for something new. Roy's Open Letter was made to order.

It might seem difficult to argue about an article that no one has read, but we managed to have some spirited arguments for a week until Greg, my best friend since the 7th grade, showed up with a copy of the Rational Individualist a day before mine arrived. I had gotten Greg interested in Rand during our junior year in high school, and he fell for the lady, hard.

I have never seen someone as deeply affected by Rand as Greg was. What for me was philosophical enlightenment was for Greg a transformative experience on a deeply personal level. It is difficult to describe, but Rand's ideas infused a seriousness and sense of purpose into Greg that were quite astonishing. Most of this was for the good, of course, but Greg also began to take on some of the "religious" characteristics that I described in "Objectivism as a Religion," which I first presented as three lectures for our club in 1970.

I believe that "Objectivism as a Religion" was the first analysis of its kind. Albert Ellis's book, Is Objectivism a Religion?"(1968) preceded my 80 -page manuscript by two years, but the focus of his book differed considerably from my lectures. In fact, "Objectivism as a Religion" was partly inspired, if in a negative way, by Is Objectivism a Religion? I regarded Ellis's analysis of Objectivist religiosity as so unfair and inaccurate that I decided to write my own analysis -- one that did not place the primary blame on Rand or her ideas.

As I saw the matter, Objectivist religiosity was largely an unintended consequence both of Rand's ethics and of her admirers who succumbed to religiosity. I came to this conclusion from my observations of O'ist friends during my college years. Greg was my primary lab rat, which is not to say that he suffered from severe pychological problems brought on by Objectivism. Rather, Greg and I had been close friends for so long, and we continued to spend so much time together, that there was virtually nothing we could not talk about. Moreover, Greg liked my interest in the psychological and emotional fallout of Objectivism, and he was pleased when I said that I wanted to model some of ideal types in Objectivism as a Religion -- hereafter abbreviated as OR -- after him.

Over the years I have gotten a lot of positive feedback about OR. What very few people know is the huge impact OR had on my writing of ATCAG. One of the best sections in ATCAG, in terms of both substance and style, is my discussion of standards and rules, which I link to "rational morality" and "religious morality" respectively. Most of this discussion, which runs from page 292 to page 304, was taken nearly verbatim from the version of OR that was published -- in three parts c. 1972-- in the O'ist/libertarian zine Invictus. All the material on sin and guilt, and on the nature of sin qua "psychological sanction" -- was developed and originally written by me to serve as background for my discussion of religious Objectivism.

I wrote most of ATCAG at age 23; I am now 62. It can be an unsettling experience to go through a book that one wrote 40 years ago, especially when the book was written at a very young age. Many people assume that ATCAG was written by a much older person, and this assumption has occasionally contributed to some awkward moments.....

&&&&&&&&&

Do I know how to digress, or what?

I hereby declare, arbitrarily and irrevocably, this post DEAD! The cause of death was self-mutilation.

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This post will pick up where #22 left off, but this time I will give some background of my experiences with anarchism. Go here to read Objectivism and the State: An Open Letter to Ayn Rand,, by Roy Childs.

1. I was a minarchist when I first read the "Open Letter" in September, 1969, and no doubts or strong emotions about government were plaguing me at the time. I therefore wasn't ripe for a conversion to anarchism' far from it. Indeed, minarchism (a word that had not yet been coined) versus anarchism -- or what I shall call the m/a debate -- was not much of an issue before the publication of the Roy's Open Letter. This is one thing that makes it a historical landmark in the modern libertarian movement. It was the first and single most important factor in generating the m/a debate that remains with us today.

2. I had some prior experience with anarchism, but it was of a much different character than the m/a debate. The story is as follows:

Prior to forming the UA Students of Objectivism, I had been a founding member of S.L.A.M -- the Student Libertarian Action Movement. And, believe it or not, I was the first editor of S.L.A.M.'s periodical, The Match! I also wrote some of the first articles to appear in The Match!, and I even produced the first two (maybe three) issues myself, typing them on "stencils" and printing them on my own used mimeograph machine that I had purchased specifically for this reason.

Within a year I left S.L.A.M., and Fred Woodworth took over The Match! which he has published ever since. Here is the Wiki entry on The Match!

The Match! is an atheist/anarchist journal published in Tucson, Arizona, United States since 1969. The Match! is edited, published, and printed by Fred Woodworth. The philosophy of the journal is ethical anarchism, which is elucidated on the back of the journal.

The Match! is published irregularly; new issues usually appear once or twice per year. Over 100 issues have been published to date.

The Match! espouses a generally individualist anarchist form of anarchism.[citation needed] In addition the magazine also espouses atheism, opposition to surveillance technologies which may be seen as posing a threat to privacy, and opposition to computers. For this reason, Woodworth prints and publishes The Match! entirely without the use of digital technology, and neither has nor desires a web site....

It is interesting to note that the Wiki article nowhere refers to the origin of The Match! or to its first few issues, much less to its first editor -- yours truly. I don't blame Fred (who I assume wrote the entry) for this at all, even though the early history is highly interesting. I was not suited to edit The Match! because it was obviously intended to be a anarchist periodical,and I was a Randian minarchist, not an anarchist, at the time. I was never enthusiastic about the job, but I agreed to do it at the behest of Conrad Goeringer (the founder of S.L.A.M.), who was an anarchist. I have not seen Conrad since those days, but I think he has been active in the freethought movement for many years.. While we worked together at the University of Arizona, he wrote a column for the Arizona Daily Wildcat titled The Libertarian, and I wrote one titled The Atheist.)

I believe my first article for The Match! was on the topic of student demonstrations and the non-initiation of force principle. (This may have been a two-part article) I tried to analyze different features of student demonstrations, such as the occupation of ROTC buildings, to determine whether they violated the NIOF principle. This was pure Randian minarchism, and a rather conservative version of minarchism to boot, not anarchism.

Although Fred and I did not get along personally, I should note what would be obvious to anyone who has ever seen those first issues of The Match! that I personally mimeographed, namely, that Fred transformed The Match! into a completely different zine -- a zine that, according to what I have read, is highly regarded in the anarchist community.

3. I think my association with S.L.A.M. (I was president of the UA chapter) lasted around a year. I and the three other board members of the UA chapter -- Objectivists, one and all! -- resigned after Conrad and I had a heated argument in a large classroom as I was setting up the equipment to play one of the lectures from NB's Basic Principles of Objectivism course. Conrad was stringing a very large banner (red letters on a yellow background) across the entire blackboard that read Smash the State! I insisted that he take it down, pointing out that it was completely inappropriate for a recorded lecture on Objectivism (or anything else, for that matter). As the UA president of S.L.A.M., I prevailed, but this incident made it clear that Objectivism needed a separate organization that was not involved in political activism. I formed UA Students of Objectivism shortly after resigning from S.L.A.M. That proved to be a highly successful organization. Intellectual activism rather than political activism was clearly my strong suit.

4. Nevertheless, I still wanted a more politically oriented group, so I contacted Jarret Wollstein and established an SRI (Society for Rational Individualism) chapter on the UA campus. (I think this was one of the first SRI chapters on any campus.) I don't recall all the details, but after Jarret hooked up with Roy Childs, SRI became SIL (Society for Individual Liberty). I changed all the signs for the UA group accordingly. Later, under the tutelage of the late, great Vince Miller, SIL changed to ISIL (International Society for Individual Liberty). My pic to the left was taken while I was lecturing at an ISIL conference.

Thus did two groups -- one intellectual (UA Students of Objectivism), the other liberarian (SIL) -work in tandem to spread the ideas of freedom. I founded and ran both organizations, but I often needed help with mailings, table sittings, and so forth, and for these tasks I could count on a dedicated band of volunteers. One of these was a brash but very bright student named Michael Emerling. You may know him as Michael Cloud.

To be contined.....

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