Monday, 10 August 2009

From Indifference to Minarchy to Anarchy

Two years ago, I was indifferent to most questions of economics and politics. I was not interested in either subject. My interest in world affairs was stimulated when I became aware that the truth about many major events and trends is systematically suppressed by the mainstream media. I started out on a journey seeking truth. Realizing that the world is full of manufactured myths and grand lies led me to ask how this situation has come about and what can be done about it.

I stumbled upon Ron Paul, 2008 U.S. Presidential candidate. His inspiring vision, refreshing clarity and candid truth-telling led me to find out more about the political philosophy and economic viewpoints he stood for – libertarianism and Austrian economics. Very quickly, I became a minarchist (or constitutionalist), and began seeing that freedom is good and government is the opposite of freedom. I became interested in the new Libertarian Party UK, which has a minarchist platform.

Now, I am an anarchist. I no longer support the minarchist view that government should be limited to protection of life, liberty and property. I now believe that government should not exist at all.

Looking back I can identify several key discoveries which caused my shift from indifference to minarchy and finally to anarchy:

1. Learning that the concept of government is unethical.
2. Learning that government is behind virtually all the problems with the world.
3. Learning that the free market is superior to government.
4. Learning that there is nothing that cannot be provided by the free market.

The first discovery was the simplest. Government is obviously unethical, when you recognize that taxation is theft.

The second discovery involved learning to recognize the difference between corporatism and the free market. Just because a particular industry is “private”, this does not mean it is not under the control of government. Only an industry subject to no licensing, regulations, price controls, etc is a free market industry – and therefore no industry today is truly a free market. Some industries, such as the technology industry, are subject to less government controls than others and this explains why some private industries are highly efficient, dynamic and competitive, while other industries are stagnant and inefficient, with quality declining and prices increasing.

The pharmaceutical industry, for example, is seen by many as highly exploitative and evil. To the extent this is true, it is because of heavy government controls in that industry. Evil and exploitative firms cannot survive on the free market, and rely on government privileges to stay in business and continue their morally questionable actions.

The third discovery involved learning economics. Because of my interest in Ron Paul, I found very quickly and began learning economics in the Austrian tradition of Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. I learned that the Austrians conceived of economics as an axiomatic-deductive subject, rather than as an empirical subject, as it is conceived by all other schools. I studied the epistemology of economics, and came to understand that it is invalid to treat economics as an empirical science. Empiricism is valid only where the constancy principle holds. A rock, a planet and a molecule always act the same way to the same stimuli. Thus, their behavior can be analyzed by observations, data, equations, experiments, hypotheses, predictions and models. Human beings cannot be analyzed in this way because human beings have reason, make choices, and aim at goals. In short, human beings act.

Austrian economics is entirely derived, using verbal logic, from the axiom that human beings act. As long as the logic is sound, Austrian explanations for events are as undeniable as the action axiom itself. Where an Austrian explanation is in conflict with a non-Austrian explanation, the former must be true, and the latter incorrect. A major focus in the work of Austrian economists is exposing the flaws in non-Austrian economic theories – such as those of Marx, Marshall, Keynes and Friedman, whose theories dominate mainstream economic teaching. Mainstream theories about inflation, the business-cycle, competition and monopoly, welfare, money, banking and all forms of government intervention have been debunked by generations of Austrians.

The fourth discovery resulted from my own sense of cognitive dissonance. I realized that, as a minarchist, I was denouncing all taxation as theft, and yet supported the existence of government (essentially saying that government is unethical and inefficient, but necessary).

The arguments for free markets in healthcare, education, money, banking, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, etc are all essentially the same: the free market is superior economically to government, and is also the only ethical position. The question then begged itself: why, if the free market is better than government in all these areas, should it be any different in the protection and arbitration (law) industries? Or is it not any different at all? Is any government necessary?

Virtually all modern Austrian economists are anarchists. The first few generations of Austrians – Menger (1st generation), Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk and Frederick Wieser (2nd generation), Mises and F.A. Hayek (3rd generation) – were all minarchists. Mises gave two reasons why he rejected minarchy. First, he did not think that security and law could be provided on the free market. Second, he believed that in some rare circumstances, monopolies could be formed on free markets which could exploit consumers, and government was needed to prevent this.

Mises’ student Murray Rothbard, standing on the shoulders of his great tutor, made the leap to anarchy. He showed that Mises had made an error in his theory of monopoly and that, in fact, exploitative monopolies are not viable, or even identifiable, on a free market under any circumstances. Exploitative monopolies always rely on a government grant of legal privilege.

Rothbard’s other great breakthrough came when he revived the work of the 19th century individualist anarchists, such as Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker and Gustave de Molinari. Building on their pioneering insights, he demonstrated how security and law could be provided by free markets and there are enormous benefits to having them provided that way – even greater benefits than those that would be obtained by establishing free markets in other areas like education, healthcare and money.

Rothbard also integrated his economic work with natural rights philosophy and individualist ethics. He saw that economics and ethics are intimately connected via the joint concept of property. Economics is concerned with how resources can be allocated efficiently. Ethics is concerned with how resources can be allocated justly. Efficiency and justice are both maximized by strict adherence to property rights and the non-aggression principle.

Rothbard used the term “anarcho-capitalism” to describe his integrated system. It is known by a number of other names such as libertarian anarchy, market anarchy, and voluntarism.

Rothbard’s works Man, Economy and State (1962), Power and Market (1970), For a New Liberty (1973) and The Ethics of Liberty (1982) were quickly embraced by the Austrian school, and there was a flowering of anarchist thought and literature. Most Austrians became Rothbardians. Even non-Austrians, such as David Friedman, son of Milton Friedman, became anarcho-capitalists.

The current (5th) generation has extended the work of Rothbard. Hans-Hermann Hoppe has made breakthroughs in our understanding of democracy, how it functions, and how it compares to monarchy. Joseph Salerno has clarified the distinction between Mises and Hayek with regard to the socialist calculation problem, emphasizing the fundamental problem as one of property and the role of entrepreneurship. Stephan Kinsella has critiqued the Rothbardian view of copyrights, and Kinsella’s anti-IP stance has become popular in the last few years.

Through studying the work of libertarians and Austrian economists, I reached the view that government is always:
1. Unethical.
2. Undesirable.
3. Uneconomic.
4. Unnecessary.

For these reasons, I cannot morally advocate anything except libertarian anarchy; total freedom and no government.

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