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Friday, May 30, 2008

Rationally obliged to accept anarchism? Nah...

Crispin Sartwell writes:

do me a favor?: cut and paste this everywhere. it's a...marketing ploy. but it's sincere.

A Philosophical Challenge

My irritating yet astounding new book Against the State (SUNY Press) argues that all the arguments of the great philosophers (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Hegel, Rawls, Nozick, and Habermas, among others), are, putting it kindly, unsound.

The state rests on violence: not the consent of the governed, not utility, not rational decision-making, not justice. Not only are the existing arguments for the legitimacy of state power unsound; they are shockingly fallacious, a scandal, an embarrassment to the Western intellectual tradition.

So I issue a challenge: Give a decent argument for the moral legitimacy of state power, or reconstruct one of the traditional arguments in the face of the refutations in Against the State.

If you can't, you are rationally obliged to accept anarchism.

I'd offer a huge cash prize, but I'm broke.Henceforward, if you continue to support or observe the authority of government, you are an evil, irrational cultist.

You're an anarchist now, baby, until further notice.


Will Wilkinson argues “If the state is not legitimate, then it is not morally defensible” is a false premise. Maybe. But for my part, I'd like to suggest the following thought-experiment:

You live on a property completely surrounded by one or more neighbors who happen to either hate you or want you (or your estate) to sell the property to them at a distress price. There is no government nor public roads, and private property rights are enforced by private police agencies. Are these neighbors operating within their rights when they prevent you from leaving your property and thus starve you to death?

This scenario is indicative of a deep problem with anarchocapitalism: It would allow gross violations of liberty by private actors, without even a theoretical recourse to equality before the law. And if it turns out that the neighbors don't have the right to keep you on your property, then that assumes that there's a legitimate role for someone to circumscribe the neighbors' property rights in order to protect your well-being. And from there, it seems we are on a slippery slope to that dangerous but thoroughly necessary thing called government.

(Wilkinson point found via The Corner.)

UPDATE 5/31: Sartwell has video here.

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