This fall, the world was treated to an excellent lecture from Hans-Hermann Hoppe from Moscow titled “So to Speak”. Other than the floating logo that stood about 10 feet in the air for the duration of the lecture, the event was excellent. Hoppe was given proper respect as the master social philosopher that he is with a huge turnout of what appeared to be a rather young Russian audience. The lecture was incredible and explained how the greatest social disease is the modern state which was created approximately six-hundred years ago.
It is curious, then, that the host of the event, Mikhail Svetov, chose the following words in his afterword: “Anarcho-Capitalism and Minarchism are two sides of the same coin. Anarcho-Capitalism is our ideology. Minarchism is how we apply it to the real world. Anarcho-capitalism is not something you can ever achieve.” I wonder if Mr. Svetov was listening to Hoppe’s speech as he sat there on a stool right behind him (an opportunity that I also would have taken even though it appeared to be incredibly awkward). Because the great ill that Hoppe identified is the state. How then, can we rectify libertarian philosophy with the existence of a sate. We cannot. And I want to explain why libertarians should not only advocate the dissolution of the state on capitalistic grounds, but on legal grounds aswell.
A Capitalist Reason for Opposing a State
For a brief period in my introduction to libertarianism I too was a minarchist. My logic was as follows; we need to protect property rights, and without a state, property rights could not be protected. Therefore, we need a state. Of course, my logic was easily turned on me. I would be told, ‘The state would have to tax you in order to pay for the protective services such as police military and courts, which is a violation of your property rights. Your view is contradictory’. Of course, they were correct.
And, as Rothbard brilliantly points out. Rights protection still requires some amount of resources. We must decide how many guns to buy and how many policemen to employ. There must be some decision made regarding the allocation of resources towards rights protections. The amount today offered by the state certainly doesn’t guarantee that my rights will be completely protected and a free-market solution will be no different. It should be up to the consumer which amount of their resources they will allocate to rights protection.
Here, we have a simple capitalist reason for opposing the state; rights protections should be decided by market forces just like and good or services.
A non-Capitalist Reason for Opposing the State
Imagine that I was not convinced of the merits of the capitalist system. Instead, I thought that the distribution of resources should be based on something other that homesteading and voluntary contract. There is still a legal reason, which separates itself from capitalism, for opposing the state.
The reason that men need law at all is because men are bound by conflict. Throughout our entire existence men will always conflict over the use of physical resources. What is the cause of these conflicts? Frank van Dun answers as follows:
There are four necessary and sufficient conditions for interpersonal conflict. First, there is plurality. You and I can only conflict insofar as there are two of us. Crusoe alone on his island can never come into interpersonal conflict since there is no one for him to conflict with. Second, there is diversity. Conflict is only possible when there is an imperfect coordination of wants between people. If Crusoe and Friday were on their island and perfectly agreed on how all physical resources including their own bodies should be used, then there could never be conflict. They would simply do what the other wanted since it is also what they wanted. Third, there is scarcity. Men must conflict since there is not enough resources to meet all men’s ends. In the Garden of Eden, there was an unlimited amount of all things. If you wanted a shovel in my possession, another shovel would simply appear. However, since, in the world we live in, we are bound by scarce resources, we can conflict over their use. If Crusoe should want to use the shovel today to dig a hole on the east side of the island and Friday should want to use the shovel today to dig a hole on the west side of the island, both ends cannot be achieved. This would not be the case in the Garden of Eden, in which they could both use the unlimited shovels given to us by God. Finally, there is free access. This occurs when there are no rules governing the use of some resource. Unless some person is given the right to use the some resource for a specified time and for specified purposes, then it is possible for people will conflict since their diversity of interests in the use of scarce resources will force them to simply fight and struggle for the use of that resource.
The solution for eliminating conflict offered by the libertarian is an attempt to eliminate free access by creating rules for who gets to use which resources when; property rights. The first person to use a resource becomes the rightful owner of that resource since he could not have come into conflict with anyone when first appropriating the resource. Then, anyone else may become the owner of that resource only through voluntary contract in which the current owner of the resource transfers title to the next owner. Any other physical invasion of other persons or their property is thus a rights violation.
While this is the libertarian answer, rejecting this answer will still require that we solve our conflicts in some way (I am personally skeptical that any such solution can possibly be universally applied which is not the libertarian one). For the Hoppean or van Dunite, this is the purpose of law. In the application of law, the solution to human conflict, we must choose someone who will decide how resources will be used and by whom in the cases of conflict. Return to the case of Crusoe and Friday. Should the two of them conflict over the use of the shovel, regardless of the decided way of choosing who can use the shovel, they require someone to adjudicate; a judge. Who, then should be the judge in the case of Crusoe and Friday? Here we are left with a bit of a problem. If either Crusoe or Friday are left with the responsibility of being judge in cases, the result of the cases will come out in favor of the chosen judge.
With only two people present, this makes it nearly impossible to select a judge. In each case someone must be the judge in a case in which they are involved. Imagine, though, that a third member arrives on the island The Spaniard. Now, it is possible that in all cases of interpersonal conflict, there can be an impartial judge. In the words of Sir Edward Coke, “No man is judge in his own cause”. When Crusoe and Friday conflict, The Spaniard will be the judge. When Crusoe and The Spaniard conflict, Friday will be the judge. When Friday and The Spaniard conflict, Crusoe will be the judge.
This system appears to be a workable solution to problem of adjudication of human conflict. However, suppose that with the three on the island, a different solution is proposed: In all cases of conflict, including his own, Crusoe will be the judge. Some immediate implications may be clear; in cases in which Crusoe and someone else are in conflict, Crusoe will favour himself. This alone should be enough to see the legal problems that will arise from such a system. There is, however, a much more insidious problem that will arise. Not only will the already existing cases of conflict between Crusoe and others be solved in favour of Crusoe, Crusoe is now incentivized to create conflict. No longer is he bound only to the use of resources which he might properly own, he now has the ability to claim that he has title to other resources and when this claim is challenged, Crusoe will inevitably judge in his own favour. If Friday has chickens that Crusoe wants, Crusoe need only claim that the chickens are his, and then judge in his own favour. If The Spaniard has coconuts that Crusoe wants, again, Crusoe need only claim that the coconuts are his, and then judge in his own favour.
As absurd as it sounds, this is the exact situation we find ourselves in with the state. The state is the judge in all cases of conflict including cases in which it itself is involved. What does this allow the state to do? The state can create conflict between itself and others and it is economically encouraged to do so! This is what we know as legislation. Just as in the case of Crusoe, the state may claim that any resource properly belongs to them and any argument to the contrary will simply not hold up in court since the state itself is the judge. Now, the state can say that you do not properly own your house but instead must pay them y% of its property value every year. Now, the state can say, as of date x, y% of your income is properly the property of the state. Now, the state can say, as of date x, all men between the ages of y and z do not properly own themselves but are instead the property of the state to be sent to die fighting against their enemies. Now, the state can say, as of date x, anyone of y ethnicity are the property of the state and will be sent to work and die in their camps. Who will legally stop them? They are the judge. They will tell you what the law is.
The state has amassed its incredible power because of its nature. It is a territorial legal monopoly in which it is the judge in all cases of conflict including cases in which the state itself is involved. The outcome of government expansion is not merely the state of affairs we happen to find ourselves in. It is the inevitable outcome of the state. It should be clear that the state, regardless of the solution to human conflict that you prefer, is a legal absurdity and has no right to exist.