Some kinds of moral stances—for instance, those that support unqualified (Lockean? Rothbardian?) property rights—can readily dismiss all taxation as theft and thus all states as robbers. I don’t dislike this conclusion; indeed, it warms my heart whenever I’m reminded that it invalidates the kind of petty local tyranny expressed in zoning laws and eminent domain action. But my political morality is rooted in the thought of Aristotle, Aquinas, and their modern interpreters (who have tended to offer pragmatic arguments for state authority), and that means that my account of rights and duties is somewhat more complicated. That means that I can still offer a credible case against the legitimacy of state authority; but it will be qualified, tentative, and contingent on at least some empirical claims that might be contestable.
I’d like to outline the multi-part case I’m inclined to offer against state authority and benefit from the responses of my readers. It would be good to hear from both Rothbardians and others who think it is obvious that the state is always and everywhere illegitimate (and who will therefore think I have been insufficiently radical) and from minarchists and other statists (who will doubtless think I have been excessively so).
I brief: I think anarchism is defensible on at least the following tentative but substantial grounds:
- The Absence of Justification for the State. There is no natural right to rule. The authority of the state seems arbitrary and indefensible. The state lacks legitimacy, but it may often be argued that, pragmatically, the state still does something useful. However, there are both negative and positive reasons to regard this as unpersuasive.
- Unjust and Destructive State Behavior. The state tends to be destructive. It engages in war and plunder, it oppresses, it excludes, and it subordinates.
- Undesirable Consequences of State Behavior. The state tends to promote inefficiencies through subsidies, monopolies, patents, tariffs, and other mechanisms that allow corporations to escape the cost principle. It also burdens people frustratingly.
- Positive Consequences of Anarchy. An anarchical society will foster efficiency and productivity.
- The Possible Effectiveness of Anarchical Social Institutions. (i) An anarchical society can provide the coordination needed to ensure social order. (ii) Anarchical social institutions can provide the services the state provides efficiently.
- The Capacity of Anarchical Social Institutions to Foster Creativity. An anarchical society can make possible a range of social and cultural experiments, the exploration of a range of possibilities, experiments in living.
What’s wrong with this list? In what ways is it too short, in what ways too extensive? I look forward to hearing from you.