Responding to Brian Holtz
The Discussion begins here.
A response from Brian Holtz.

#1: Does Abstaining From Aggression Minimize It?

My first reaction to this title is to conclude that the author is a sophist. If we all abstained from aggression, aggression would be minimized. If we all abstained from polluting, pollution would be minimized. Why would anyone even ask the question, "Does Abstaining From Aggression Minimize It?" I suspect the author objects to people who want to minimize aggression.
The fundamental question here is whether the landscape of attainable levels of liberty has no local maxima, i.e. whether an investment in force initiation could ever lead to a net reduction in the overall incidence of force initiation. I, too, wish that theft didn't exist and the strong never preyed on the weak and that coercive taxation were not necessary and that every child had a pony. However, I just don't see any sticker on the store packaging of this universe that guarantees that all ethical judgments inside the box involving political theory have to be simple ones. Nobody can certify for us that for the tool-using speech-capable pair-bonded omnivorous bipedal primates on this planet, it just so happens that 100% absolute abstinence from force-initiation is always the optimal strategy for minimizing the net incidence of aggression in the societies such primates form. I can take very seriously the detailed consequentialist arguments of a David Friedman for advocating such abstinence, but I see very little merit in simplistic deontological arguments for it. In other words, "I don't think so."

The reader is supposed to be awed by this first flowery paragraph and assume himself mistaken in his naive belief that abstaining from aggression will result in less aggression.

It's obvious to me and to most Americans that aggression will never end up minimized if liberty-lovers simply promote aggression abstinence through the example of their chastity. I'm a libertarian, and so I value the actual real-world protection of liberty — i.e. the minimization of aggression — over maintaining the non-coercive purity of my white-gloved hands. I value the actual protection of real-world liberty over its sacrosanct hypothetical inviolability. The child and her doctor both seek to minimize her pain, but only one recognizes the necessity of needles. But if diet and exercise can alleviate my sickness better than needles, I'll take diet and exercise and reject the needles.
Many minarchists would say that the general right not to suffer force initiation is not absolute and in fact can only be well-protected using certain constitutionally-defined kinds of coercion that Rothbardians would call force-initiation. These minarchists might cite some combination of  
  • enforcing a due-process-observing monopoly on retaliatory force;
  • the right of the accused to subpoena witnesses and enjoy an impartial jury;
  • prevention of free-riding on the provision of protection from foreign invasion and universal access to the justice system;
  • policing of forms of aggression (e.g. pollution) too distributed and cumulative to allow tort-based prevention;
  • collection of the ground rent of exclusively-possessed land, in order to compensate those excluded from it.
In other words, minarchists believe in the moral legitimacy of these kinds of initiation of force, and that they are necessary to minimize other, non-legitimate forms of initiation of force.

This is a fine summary of the minarchist position, but it is neither an argument in support of the position, nor an argument against the anarchist position.

For such libertarians (like me), the assertion that force is being initiated is not always an argument-ending trump card. If I have to choose between minimizing the real-world incidence of aggression and accommodating some anarcholibertarian's desire to have what he thinks is a clean conscience, I'll choose the former every time. As a grownup, I recognize that this universe has not arranged itself so that the optimally moral political choices will always be obvious and always be guaranteed to to never blemish my hands or trouble my conscience or have any possibility of direct negative consequences. A repetition of the statement of faith in the first paragraph.

As a Christian, I do not share Holtz' faith (or anti-faith). I agree that "this universe has not arranged itself." I believe the universe was created, and the Creator has arranged the universe in such a way that if we obey "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" -- that is, abstain from the initiation of force -- then we can indeed have "a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence" -- that is, an overall reduction in human aggression. The Constitution refers to this state as "the Blessings of Liberty."

And yes, there are no "guarantees," as the example of Job illustrates.

  If there are anarchists who are completely a-social, and do not see any need for educational systems to lay a foundation for non-aggression, and only seek to live isolated, self-sufficient lives of non-aggression, then yes, merely abstaining from personal aggression will no minimize the aggression of others, particularly those others with whom the aggression-free individual has no social contact whatsoever. (A personal "example" is not an example if nobody knows about it.) My campaign for "Anarcho-Theocracy" advocates education which promotes an aggression-repudiating morality.


#2: What Empirical Evidence Supports Anarchism?

This question strikes me like the question, "What Empirical Evidence Supports Morality?" or "What Empirical Evidence Supports Love?"
Anarcholibertarians ask for a complete overturning of how the American polity provides for its common defense and secures its members' right to life, liberty, and property. According to the three leading indices of freedom, only 13 nations (out of almost 200) are currently more free than America. America's constitutional republican framework has been by far the most successful in human history. It has been increasing personal and civil liberties almost monotonically for two centuries, and America is among the most economically free nations in the world, with a per-capita GDP exceeded only by Norway and Luxembourg. Our 300 million people live and work in a continent-wide nation with a $13 trillion economy built on a twenty-first century technological infrastructure. By contrast, anarcholibertarians can merely wave toward a couple of medieval island nations with populations and population densities four orders of magnitude less than those of modern industrialized states. As great as America is, we have detailed, redundant, and current empirical evidence backing up the mainstream findings of modern economic science about how market-oriented reforms within the statist framework can make America even more free and even more prosperous. Anarcholibertarians have nothing of the kind to support their moralizing a priori claim that America would be a better place if we completely dismantled our system of rights protection in favor of a promise by liberty-lovers to set a good example of aggression abstinence.  


I would say that every single person who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution would say that America is by and large the land of the slaves and the home of the fearful. Our tax burden is 20-30 times greater than it was in 1776. This confiscated wealth, as well as monetization of debt, is counted as part of our "GDP."
Yes, we have 21st century cell-phones, but we also have a nation of drones.



We accept "the statist framework" rather than "liberty under God" because we've been bought-off with technological trinkets.

The first result of abolishing the government would be a reduction in future aggression through schools which taught morality (since the vast majority of Americans want their children to be taught the laws of God).

History provides many examples of situations in which there was no functioning monopoly on force-initiation over a significant region for a significant period of time, for any non-embarrassing standard of significance. There apparently has not been a single case in the entire history of organized crime across hundreds of cities in scores of nations over multiple centuries in which the unregulated market for protection behaved as predicted by anarcholibertarian theory. This track record becomes even more dismal if you include all the cases in history in which there have been regions lacking effective sovereignty by a central authority. This amounts to an empirical falsification of the anarcholibertarian theory of protection markets that by the standards of social science is spectacularly conclusive. What kind of "organized crime" existed in 1799? Was this because there was a powerful, ubiquitous, "functioning monopoly on force-initiation over a significant region?" Or is this because America was a land of "Liberty Under God."

"Empirical falsification" sounds like an experiment was conducted. America's first experiment was an "Experiment in Liberty," The experiment required a certain level of self-consciousness: an attempt to prove to the world that self-government can work. This full experiment was never completed, before another experiment was tried: an experiment in government central planning.

  • America's Founders spoke of America as "an Experiment in Liberty" (1787-1887)
    • The "experiment" was a success: a Free Market made America the most prosperous and admired nation in history. "Capitalism" means freedom.
  • In the 20th century, the experiment in liberty was replaced with another experiment: an experiment in central planning
  • The original American dream of personal, private ownership, has been replaced with private indebtedness and public control.
  • The Invisible Hand of the Free Market works better than the Visible Fist of Government
  • America was founded on the philosophy of "Liberty Under God."
    • "Liberty" means freedom from government suppression of ideas and confiscation of wealth
    • "Under God" means we have a personal responsibility to love God and neighbor.
  • The original American Dream: Everyone dwelling safely under his own Vine & Fig Tree
    • Human beings are endowed with the right to property by God, not the government.
  • America was founded as a "City upon a Hill," a Christian nation from which the Gospel would be promoted around the world.
Every single episode in which there wasn't a monopoly on force-initiation over a region becomes a test case for anarcholibertarianism. Despite the literally hundreds of such test cases, the only purported successes advanced for the theory involve a few thousand pre-industrial farmers sprinkled sparsely across medieval Iceland and the frontier of colonial Pennsylvania. In contrast to how even bastard forms of minarchism have been so spectacularly successful compared to all other significant social experiments, the track record of anarcholibertarianism is simply embarrassing. I disagree with this sentence. The absence of a self-conscious attempt to produce (spontaneously) ordered liberty is not a test of anarcho-theocracy, it is simply chaos, or sociological entropy.


I am not embarrassed by America's "Experiment in Liberty," and I believe the laboratory conditions should be multiplied, not replaced with an experiment in monopolistic aggression.

No experiment in anarchy has ever been characterized by No self-conscious experiment in anarchy has ever been conducted, period.
  • hundreds of millions of people expecting universal (and relatively uniform) access to a justice system across a continental geographic extent
  • skies accessible to nuclear ballistic missiles
  • coasts accessible to aggressive navies using e.g. steel armor, rifled cannons, turbine propulsion, etc.
  • borders accessible to aggressive armored mechanized armies
  • tens of millions of persons living in cities with densities >= 10,000/km^2, and the associated problems of
    • provision and regulation of streets
    • power distribution
    • water distribution
    • sewage removal
    • conflagration risk
  • tens of millions of persons living on water transported from hundreds of kilometers away
  • tens of millions of persons living on food transported from thousands of kilometers away
  • groundwater demand intense enough to have subsided entire towns below sea level
  • flood control and silting problems requiring coordination throughout watersheds inhabited by tens of millions of people
  • population surpluses, prosperity differentials, and inexpensive transportation technology that under open borders could double a society's population in a decade
  • diffused-source pollution causing untraceable damage not only regionally but hundreds of miles away (e.g. acid rain) or even farther (ozone depletion, greenhouse gases)
  • antibiotics whose overuse creates drug-resistant super-germs
  • America's founders would not be impressed by today's "justice system."


  • I would argue (if I had the time) that the monopolized system of aggression of the U.S. has been the single greatest source for ballistic missiles, navies, and armies which now threaten our own security. As a libertarian "City upon a Hill," America exported Bibles and peaceful technology. As a secular archy, the U.S. now exports more weapons and pornography.


  • I see no real argument in any of these bullets that anarcho-capitalism cannot meet the needs of large population groups. I see no theoretical reason why we should not conduct an experiment in liberty to see if pure capitalism works. Water supplied by crony capitalists like Mulholland, aided by monopolized aggression, has created as many problems as it has solved.


  • I am not by any means a ZPG advocate. However there is also a moral quality to population. Technology produced by monopolized aggression may create large populations of easily-manipulated, easily-governed docile drones. Anarchist technology may be accompanied by populations which are more self-governing, more like the Americans envisioned by Thomas Jefferson, who would be deeply disappointed in the character of today's Americans.
  In general, it appears that Brian is attracted to monopolistic human organization of society using systematic widespread aggression, while I am more attracted to a society organized by "the Invisible Hand" and characterized by Christian morality.


#3: and my other essays at p...portal#Advocacy

I really am not motivated to read all these essays. I suspect Mr. Holtz has not bothered to read all the links I've put in my response above. I wouldn't be surprised if this were one of those "worldview" issues that aren't going to be settled by arguments about details, but will only be settled by agreeing on the "big picture."

For example, the essay "Is Taxation Theft?" begins, "A tax on aggression — like a pollution tax, or other Pigovian taxes on negative externalities — is not itself aggression." If my neighbor is polluting my land, and the government levies a tax on my polluting neighbor, then my neighbor is (still) aggressing against me, and the government is aggressing against my polluting neighbor. Taxation is theft. Taxation is aggression. There were people who saw the smokestacks of the industrial revolution not as pollution, but as progress. Monopolistic Aggression is not the way to resolve this conflict of visions.

That's a moral claim. Its part of a moral worldview, not simply bean-counting.


Brian Holtz Responds

First, I'd point out that according to the three leading indices of freedom, only 13 nations (out of almost 200) are more free than America.

I'm totally baffled by this comment. Here are those 13 nations:

I'm not sure I'd want to move to one of these "freer" nations. Comparing Switzerland or New Zealand with the U.S. might be a toss-up, but I don't think I'd want the socialized healthcare of the other nations. Tax rates in Sweden "are commonly cited as among the highest in the world," with personal income taxes as high as 59.09%, and additional corporate and VAT taxes collected at point of purchase. While this is worse than the U.S., both are completely unacceptable given a 3 pence per pound tax on tea giving rise to the "Boston Tea Party," and a total tax burden of 1-3% in the American colonies being called a "tyranny."

In other words, by the standards of the Declaration of Independence, all of these governments are tyrannical and should be abolished.

For all its flaws, America's constitutional republican framework has been by far the most successful in human history.
The conservative columnist Richard Grenier* is correct:
“It has never occurred to most Americans that their Republic – the first democratic state on a national scale — adopted a Constitution that has been taken seriously as an enduring model by nobody.
I said, nobody.”
No serious constitutional scholar believes that the Framers of the Constitution would see their vision of government embodied in today's labyrinth of bureaucracy in Washington D.C. See the quotes here. Jefferson talked about binding government down with the chains of the Constitution. The chains did not work. Not a single person who signed the Constitution would say they worked. See:
enumerated powers doctrine
Bill of Rights
various cabinet-level agencies
Government Tentacles of Atheism and Immorality
If the British government should have been abolished, then today's federal government should be abolished -- with more urgency, immediacy, and vigor.
It has been increasing personal and civil liberties almost monotonically for two centuries.  A welfare recipient who does not work a productive job, and spends his welfare check on drugs and prostitutes, is not a "free man" in the sense envisioned by America's Founding Fathers.
In just the last half-century we've seen enormous progress regarding racism,
  • Anti-black prejudice in whites was diminished more by Branch Rickey and Alfred Lion than by the Constitution or the Federal Government.
  • Anti-white bigotry in blacks is arguably at an all-time high, chiefly a result of the inculcation of resentment by federal entitlements-thinking.
civil rights,
The USA is arguably the world's greatest Prison State.
Go down the street and ask the first 100 people to summarize the Bill of Rights. It will be a most depressing experience. The more closely your worldview resembles that of America's Founders, the more depressed you will be.
And fearful.
As Jefferson put it,
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.
Ah, but to those who are fearful and depressed, the government give us the right to anesthetize our brains with the "rights" to drugs and extra-marital sex.
The Bill of Rights is virtually abolished.  The rights which were important to Americans in 1776 are dead today. A "right to a welfare check" and other "civil rights" would not impress America's Founding Fathers.
divorce rights, Great for women, and children, who are left high and dry by philandering men.
sexual freedom, attack on chastity, fidelity, self-control
reproductive freedom, Americans murder 3,000 babies a day.
gay rights, An abomination and a disaster
criminal procedure, The 4th Amendment is dead meat.
free expression, and nothing of value to express
gambling, builds a productive America
and even society's attitude towards substance use. escapism and mental incoherence.
Meanwhile, America is among the most economically free nations in the world, with a per-capita GDP exceeded only by Norway and Luxembourg. Building instruments of destruction and rebuilding in Iraq increased the "GDP." Nobody's standard of living was increased, and were arguably diminished.
  The Moral Issue. There are two completely different worldviews and views of society at war here. America's Founding Fathers believed that liberty was the product of morality, and Christianity was the foundation of freedom.  Conversely, a people who were slaves to sin would soon find themselves enslaved to tyrants.
A government that confiscates two-thirds of everything we earn, and comprehensively regulates every area of our life, also (unconstitutionally) gives us freedom to sin, and even encourages it.
Government is out of control. Sin is out of control. The Founders of American government would not be pleased.
  The Political Issue. As an anarchist, I do not support government penal sanctions against the sins above, either at the local or federal level. Nobody who believes in the Constitution believes that the Framers intended to give the federal government power to strike down state laws against these sins, nor to promote these sins, penalizing those who "discriminate" against them, and subsidizing businesses that promote them. This is the extension and expansion of government, not the diminishing of it. It is also the diminishing of the individual freedom of those who believe in "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" and the diminishing of the personal development of people of good character and productivity.
Second, I'd quote his own words back to him: "To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes". Yes, America's Founding Fathers believed that God commanded human beings to create governments. See here and here.
I believe on Biblical grounds that they were wrong.
I believe I could convince the Framers that the Bible does not require us to form a government, and in fact urges against the move.

Historically and theoretically, I believe it has been proven that governments are both unnecessary and counter-productive for the "happiness of mankind."

Third, I'd inform him that if he thinks anarcholibertarianism depends for its justification on the notion of a personal Creator whose whims dictate our morality, then I'd tell him to read the academic literature regarding the Eut...thyphro_dilemma. I do not believe in an amoral, arbitrary finite god of "whims," nor the gods of Euthypho's day who were themselves subject to the vicissitudes of superior impersonal "natural forces," nor did America's Founding Fathers, so "Euthyphro's Dilemma" is utterly irrelevant and unconvincing. See refutations here and here.
Finally, I'd warn him that there is a place called the Internet with people roaming it who say that debating them is comparable to debating a time-traveling anarchistic Thomas Jefferson. Holtz refused to deal with my argument for liberty because of its theology. But the theology of my argument is no different than that of Jefferson, so, point being, this is a flimsy excuse not to interact with the critique of minarchism -- a critique which could just as easily be advanced by an atheist anarchist.
If you're not sure how or whether I count as an atheist polemicist, see bio.html. One does not qualify as a polemicist who refuses to engage in polemics.
* Richard Grenier, “A System Out of Balance?” Washington Times (July 13, 1987).

My last post at Knappster

My response to Brian Holtz is here. This is supposed to be a discussion of the "Dallas Accord," after all, and I'm not sure Tom wants my rants on his blog.

But in nutshell, I'm confident that not a single signer of the Constitution would see his vision of government in Washington D.C. today. Every signer of the Declaration of Independence would agree that our current government is more of a "tyranny" than the government they abolished. So America's Founders would abolish the Constitution and the tyranny it created, and replace it with . . . the Constitution again? Of course not. Like chains, the Constitution was supposed to bind down government.

It failed.

It couldn't have succeeded. The whole idea of giving elites the power to aggress against others is a corrupting leaven in our society. The whole idea of "government" -- originating in ancient conquest, baptized by Constantine and the "Church," and inconsistently retained by Founders like Jefferson -- is a bad idea for human society.
Kevin Craig | Homepage | 08.03.09 - 12:57 pm | #