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« Vernon L. Smith Celebrates Liberty | Main | Canon in D Major ... »

04/18/2010

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"I consider the anarchist deviation in libertarians a form of (largely unconscious) cowardice"

That's funny. I have always considered the limited government deviation in liberals to be (largely conscious) cowardice born from an implied perfection that limited government will never be able to achieve.

"Liberty will always be a struggle for liberty, a very precarious struggle."

Especially when one must accept the role of government in society at some level. Anarcho-capitalism (A/C) is the ideal that frees the mind from the consideration of government involvement in all things; a present mindset which has its moorings in liberal thought. Whether A/C can be achieved is debatable, but by removing the notion of government from consideration, it does a very admirable job of convincing people to think outside the state-built box in their government-educated, state-propagandized mind. Many arguments used by liberals are anarchistic in nature because it is the direction toward which they wish to go. To the liberal, anarchism is a cliff where one must pull up just in time or plummet to one's death. To the AC believer, the cliff represents a place where one sprouts wings to fly. While it is a type of faith that propels the ACer over the edge (where reason presumably stops the liberal), such faith lies in both of us at the moment and is our most ardent debate mechanism, since we can only promise our skeptics a better life in a world presently drenched in socialism.

Mises may not have been for anarchism, but he would be for a much smaller government - pretty close to A/C. After all, he was the one that stood before the Mont Pelerin Society and declared them to be "A bunch of socialists."

It seems to me that this touches upon the "sticky wicket" that we in the liberty movement find ourselves in so often. Virtually all of us are willing to say that government has gotten too big; the problem is agreeing on how far we would prune it back.

I notice in occasional e-mail exchanges amongst C4L State Coordinators a seeming hostility toward one another which seems based on differing opinions of "how far" to go. Some would seem to want to kill the beast of government altogether and move into a state of anarchy; others just want to chain the beast and give it proper limits via constitutional means.

I'm not convinced that anarchism is unlike the Hobbesian notion of "all against all" where life is "solitary, nasty, brutish and short." It sounds good--a life where there are no constraints (other than those which one places on oneself), where we can "sprout wings to fly"--but ultimately, it seems as impossible as a good place to live as did the Marxist dream. As Orwell suggested in "Animal Farm", "some animals are more equal than others." I'm not convinced we can ever get to an anarchist state--because someone is always going to be trying to take advantage of others for their own benefit.

For those of us of certain faiths, the notion that we can ever live in a society without some constraints of government seems a highly dubious concept. Human beings have been flawed creatures since the Fall in the Garden. Cain killed his brother out of anger, jealousy and pride; Jacob bought Esau's birthright rather than just giving his brother some food, and then deceived his father into giving him his blessing. My point here is simply that as good as we may be (Jacob was the founder of the Jewish people), in a state without external limits on our behavior, it is sometimes difficult to stifle our vices without an external threat of punishment.

The question then, is how far do we go--how much government is enough--and how much is too much? Personally, I'd be pretty happy to go back to a late 18th century understanding of it, and see what happens under the Constitution.

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