Response to AnCap vs. the World

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Over at AnCap vs. the World, Nick Martinez responds to my article pointing of the flaws in anarcho-capitalism. He took the time to write down his thoughts, so I’ll do my best to address his rebuttal. I genuinely enjoy being challenged with new ideas, and having incorrect ideas corrected.

The author proposes that I don’t understand what AnCap is all about. I propose that it is he that doesn’t understand what AnCap is all about. The joke in conservative circles is: “Liberals can read the Communist Manifesto; conservatives understand the Communist Manifesto”. Perhaps he sees himself as some sort of all-seeing eye. So in presenting my understanding of AnCap and where it diverges from Conservatism, he can clarify where I am wrong.

To wit:

  • The fundamental aspect of AnCap is the idea that the initiation of force is morally wrong.
  • This leads to the conclusion that all governments, which universally use force to impose their will upon the people, are morally wrong.
  • AnCap philosophists propose eliminating the state altogether, and replacing it with responsible individuals who make their own choices for themselves, living the best they know how.
  • However, individuals, acting alone, cannot, on their own, combat organized evil. Thus, a wise individual will selfishly choose to associate himself with like-minded individuals and stand in their defense against others who initiate force. This association will be codified perhaps with some form of agreement.
  • The fact that everyone will not agree to one organization is no problem, since similar organizations will likely cooperate together, forming a loose federation of sorts.
  • Thus, we can, without the initiation of force, replace governments with new pseudo-governments that are really federations of individuals built on mutual respect and non-aggression. We can have moral “governments” that are not really governments at all.

I think up to here, AnCap philosophist are nodding their heads in agreement. Let me continue the story, which has been repeated thousands of times in history, and is being repeated here today in our own country.

  • Over time, the pseudo-governments gain trust and respect in their respective communities. With trust and respect comes power.
  • Some people, who do not believe in or act according to non-aggression, may find themselves in positions of power in these organizations, and thus pervert their power and begin initiating aggression. In fact, I predict such evil people will seek such positions of power.
  • While in most cases, other pseudo-governments and individuals may work together to combat the corruption, they will not be able to completely eradicate all corruption. That is, suppose in the year 2115, we successfully dismantle a rogue pseudo-government. That does not preclude another rogue pseudo-government in 2116, nor does it predict that the people will always be able to overthrow or dismantle such corruptions.
  • And now we’re back to where we were, coming full-circle. No longer are all pseudo-governments honest and virtuous. Some of them are not, and they begin using the initiation of force once again to get their way, and since they are strong and powerful, they are difficult to contain and combat.
  • Next thing you know, you have a neo-Hitler who stands up, telling the people, “Give me all your power, and I will give you unending happiness” and we all know what happens next!

Don’t get me wrong: I agree with AnCap philosophists that the initiation of force is wrong. I agree that governments should not have a different set of morality than regular people. I absolutely agree that all governments (even the US!) are corrupt, evil, tyrannies that we would frankly be better off without!

In fact, in my religion, I look forward to the day when Jesus Christ rules the earth in perfect justice and compassion, without any moral contradictions, when evil simply no longer exists. Not because of government, but because people simply act like angels should. I believe the government that Jesus Christ will set up will be built on voluntary associations rather than the initiation of force. In other words, if you want out of the world-wide Jesus Christ government, you simply have to ask and you’re out. In fact, I believe that after the millennial peace, people will ask to leave and will be obliged, and they will form their own government of evil and there will be the last battle of all battles in mortality, between those who choose to be part of Jesus Christ’s government and those who do not want to and would prefer not living according to the principles of non-aggression.

This is where AnCap and conservatism diverge: I do not believe that it is useful to spend time thinking much of how things would be if people simply acted like angels. The reason is because people don’t act like angels. We are better off seeing each other as demons wearing angelic clothing, and we should think hard about what kinds of chains we should all wear together.

In short, the problem of Hitler was not Hitler! There are always Hitlers among us, and we should each see a little of Hitler in ourselves. The problem of Hitler was people being blind to the fact that there were Hitlers. They thought that someone who preached peace and love and oh-by-the-way-tyranny could be trusted. No one can be trusted, not even myself. I don’t even trust myself, if you’re wondering. It’s when we misplace our trust and respect and give it to governments that is the heart of evil and what allows governments to get away with so much.

We should, instead, view governments as entirely evil, perhaps necessary, much as martial arts and handguns, but evil nonetheless, an evil that maybe the world would be better off without. And in that context, we should ask, “What should be done now?”

Sure, let’s set AnCap as the future, as a utopic possibility. But it’s such a faraway place that it has little bearing on what we do today. Maybe AnCap is doing one thing good: it’s explaining to people how we don’t need to use force and how our governments are corrupt, so that is a good thing.

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2 Responses to “Response to AnCap vs. the World”

  1. Nick Martinez Says:

    If all people are inherently good, then we don’t need government, it would be counterproductive. If all people are inherently evil, we don’t need government, it would only emphasize the evil. If all people are neither good nor evil, we can’t have government, it would attract the evil and punish the good. You did not address the legitimacy of the state, you did not note the economic arguments against statism, and you did not explain how precisely centralization of evil is elimination of it. However, this intrigues me. I could write a thousand refutational pieces, but I’d like to handle this man to man, I have a YouTube channel and a live on air debate with the author would be wonderful. Let me know if you are interested.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      I did address the legitimacy of the state — it is illegitimate and fundamentally immoral. They are all corruptions of what could’ve been or should’ve been, or what used to be.

      I notice that you failed to consider that people are partially good and evil, a mix between the two. Sometimes we are worthy of trust, and sometimes we are not, so we are inherently untrustworthy. That is the true nature of reality. We are all demons and angels together at the same time.

      I also noticed that you failed to recognize the problem is not the morality or immorality of government, it is people placing their trust in government and respecting it. When we give power to individuals or groups like this, it is a form of idol worship and brings with it the corresponding conclusion — our trust and respect will be violated. The only right way to live your life is skepticism of humanity and individuals. I respect AnCap philosophists because they are quite open about their skepticism and willing to consider openly that perhaps government may be unnecessary and even immoral.

      I think the thing AnCap people fail to realize is that I and many conservatives absolutely agree with your premises and some of your conclusions. Where AnCap fails is where the “rubber meets the road” — addressing the problem of evil. Sure, if all of humanity agreed, or a large enough chunk, to non-aggression, we would be better off for it. But how long can you wait for that to happen? Conservatism dictates that each lead their own life as morally as possible, and we use our moral judgment to try and influence government and each other toward a satisfactory arrangement, which is usually preserving the status quo with small changes that would increase liberty and personal responsibility, or in other words, restore things the way they were before governments grew and became more tyrannical. Conservatives exist perfectly happily in tyrannical countries of any degree. The practice of our philosophy is not limited by someone else’s actions, nor are we waiting for some reform to happen before we can begin to live our lives.

      My schedule probably doesn’t allow me to do a live debate. It is an interesting offer though. jgardner@jonathangardner.net if you want to try to work around my crazy schedule.

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