Statist Fallacies: “Libertopia”
“So you’re going to go on record stating that in Voluntaryist Utopia, everything that is currently provided to the citizenry by the state would continue to be available to everyone in at least an equally hassle-free manner?”
The term “Libertopia” is similarly used to imply that libertarians expect that everything will be perfect (for some value of “perfect” defined by the complainant) in a free society.
”OMG, you want to abolish rape? You stupid utopian! OK, then tell me how guys are gonna get laid, huh? How’s that gonna happen? Unless you can guarantee that every single guy everywhere is getting laid constantly in your system of ‘non-rape’, then you are a utopian and your system can’t work!”
Frequently voluntaryists are attacked with the baseless assertion that voluntaryism (anarcho-capitalism) is a “utopian” philosophy. By that what is generally meant is that it assumes and relies on all men being good, or at least (in context) respecting the non-aggression principle. Despite the reams of literature about crime and punishment in a free society, this fallacy is perpetuated. From Rothbard’s For A New Liberty:
While it is vital for the libertarian to hold his ultimate and “extreme” ideal aloft, this does not, contrary to Hayek, make him a “utopian.” The true utopian is one who advocates a system that is contrary to the natural law of human beings and of the real world. A utopian system is one that could not work even if everyone were persuaded to try to put it into practice. The utopian system could not work, i.e., could not sustain itself in operation. The utopian goal of the left: communism—the abolition of specialization and the adoption of uniformity—could not work even if everyone were willing to adopt it immediately. It could not work because it violates the very nature of man and the world, especially the uniqueness and individuality of every person, of his abilities and interests, and because it would mean a drastic decline in the production of wealth, so much so as to doom the great bulk of the human race to rapid starvation and extinction.
In short, the term “utopian” in popular parlance confuses two kinds of obstacles in the path of a program radically different from the status quo. One is that it violates the nature of man and of the world and therefore could not work once it was put into effect. This is the utopianism of communism. The second is the difficulty in convincing enough people that the program should be adopted. The former is a bad theory because it violates the nature of man; the latter is simply a problem of human will, of convincing enough people of the rightness of the doctrine. “Utopian” in its common pejorative sense applies only to the former. In the deepest sense, then, the libertarian doctrine is not utopian but eminently realistic, because it is the only theory that is really consistent with the nature of man and the world. The libertarian does not deny the variety and diversity of man, he glories in it and seeks to give that diversity full expression in a world of complete freedom. And in doing so, he also brings about an enormous increase in productivity and in the living standards of everyone, an eminently “practical” result generally scorned by true utopians as evil “materialism.”
The libertarian is also eminently realistic because he alone understands fully the nature of the State and its thrust for power. In contrast, it is the seemingly far more realistic conservative believer in “limited government” who is the truly impractical utopian. This conservative keeps repeating the litany that the central government should be severely limited by a constitution. Yet, at the same time that he rails against the corruption of the original Constitution and the widening of federal power since 1789, the conservative fails to draw the proper lesson from that degeneration. The idea of a strictly limited constitutional State was a noble experiment that failed, even under the most favorable and propitious circumstances. If it failed then, why should a similar experiment fare any better now? No, it is the conservative laissez-fairist, the man who puts all the guns and all the decision-making power into the hands of the central government and then says, “Limit yourself”; it is he who is truly the impractical utopian.
On the contrary, it is those that think, despite history, the nature of man, and all logic, that a government will remain limited, that are utopians:
Thus, even in the United States, unique among governments in having a constitution, parts of which at least were meant to impose strict and solemn limits upon its actions, even here the Constitution has proved to be an instrument for ratifying the expansion of State power rather than the opposite. As Calhoun saw, any written limits that leave it to government to interpret its own powers are bound to be interpreted as sanctions for expanding and not binding those powers. In a profound sense, the idea of binding down power with the chains of a written constitution has proved to be a noble experiment that failed. The idea of a strictly limited government has proved to be utopian; some other, more radical means must be found to prevent the growth of the aggressive State. The libertarian system would meet this problem by scrapping the entire notion of creating a government—an institution with a coercive monopoly of force over a given territory—and then hoping to find ways to keep that government from expanding. The libertarian alternative is to abstain from such a monopoly government to begin with.
If we look at the socialist program advanced sixty, or even thirty years ago, it will be evident that measures considered dangerously socialistic a generation or two ago are now considered an indispensable part of the “mainstream” of the American heritage. … In fact, one of the reasons that the conservative opposition to collectivism has been so weak is that conservatism, by its very nature, offers not a consistent political philosophy but only a “practical” defense of the existing status quo, enshrined as embodiments of the American “tradition.” Yet, as statism grows and accretes, it becomes, by definition, increasingly entrenched and therefore “traditional”; conservatism can then find no intellectual weapons to accomplish its overthrow (Ibid.)
Slavery, protection, and monopoly find defenders, not only in those who profit by them, but in those who suffer by them. If you suggest a doubt as to the morality of these institutions, it is said directly—“You are a dangerous experimenter, a utopian, a theorist, a despiser of the laws; you would shake the basis upon which society rests.” (Bastiat, The Law)
So let us hear no more of this folderol of a voluntaryist belief in “perfect people” or utopianism, which we see is rather a bit of the pot calling the kettle black coming from any statist.
Interestingly, the original, i.e. Thomas More’s Utopia was much more like socialism or communism and was almost entirely unfree. Of course, that does not mean the term could not be more widely applied if it fit; the problem is that it clearly does not.
Stefan Molyneux writes in Practical Anarchy:
First and foremost, although I am an anarchist, I am not a utopian. There is no social system which will utterly eliminate evil. In a stateless society, there will still be rape, theft, murder and abuse. To be fair, just and reasonable, we must compare a stateless society not to some standard of otherworldly perfection, but rather to the world as it already is. The moral argument for a stateless society includes the reality that it will eliminate a large amount of institutionalized violence and abuse, not that it will result in a perfectly peaceful world, which of course is impossible. Anarchy can be viewed as a cure for cancer and heart disease, not a prescription for endlessly perfect health. It would be unreasonable to oppose a cure for cancer because such a cure did not eliminate all other possible diseases—in the same way, we cannot reasonably oppose a stateless society because some people are bad, and a free society will not make them good.
He continues discussing societal makeup and the implications of various combinations of good and evil and how none of them justifies a state:
Two objections constantly tend to recur whenever the subject of dissolving the State arises. The first is that a free society is only possible if people are perfectly good or rational. In other words, citizens need a centralized State because there are evil people in the world.
The first and most obvious problem with this position is that if evil people exist in society, they will also exist within the State—and be far more dangerous thereby. Citizens are able to protect themselves against evil individuals, but stand no chance against an aggressive State armed to the teeth with police and military might. Thus, the argument that we need the State because evil people exist is false. If evil people exist, the State must be dismantled, since evil people will be drawn to use its power for their own ends—and, unlike private thugs, evil people in government have the police and military to inflict their whims on a helpless and largely disarmed population.
Logically, there are four possibilities as to the mixture of good and evil people in the world:
- That all men are moral;
- That all men are immoral;
- That the majority of men are moral, and a minority immoral;
- That the majority of men are immoral, and a minority moral.
(A perfect balance of good and evil is statistically impossible.)
In the first case, (all men are moral), the State is obviously unnecessary, since evil does not exist.
In the second case, (all men are immoral), the State cannot be permitted to exist for one simple reason. The State, it is generally argued, must exist because there are evil people in the world who desire to inflict harm, and who can only be restrained through fear of State retribution (police, prisons etc). A corollary of this argument is that the less retribution these people fear, the more evil they will do. However, the State itself is not subject to any force, but is a law unto itself. Even in Western democracies, how many policemen and politicians go to jail? Thus if evil people wish to do harm but are only restrained by force, then society can never permit a State to exist, because evil people will immediately take control of that State, in order to do evil and avoid retribution. In a society of pure evil, then, the only hope for stability would be a state of nature, where a general arming and fear of retribution would blunt the evil intents of disparate groups.
The third possibility is that most people are evil, and only a few are good. If this is the case, then the State also cannot be permitted to exist, since the majority of those in control of the State will be evil, and will rule over the good minority. Democracy in particular cannot be permitted to exist, since the minority of good people would be subjugated to the democratic will of the evil majority. Evil people, who wish to do harm without fear of retribution, would inevitably take control of the State, and use its power to do their evil free of that fear. Good people act morally because they love virtue and peace of mind, not because they fear retribution—and thus, unlike evil people, they have little to gain by controlling the State. And so it is certain that the State will be controlled by a majority of evil people who will rule over all, to the detriment of all moral people.
The fourth option is that most people are good, and only a few are evil. This possibility is subject to the same problems outlined above, notably that evil people will always want to gain control over the State, in order to shield themselves from retaliation. This option changes the appearance of democracy, of course: because the majority of people are good, evil power-seekers must lie to them in order to gain power, and then, after achieving public office, will immediately break faith and pursue their own corrupt agendas, enforcing their wills with the police and military. (This is the current situation in democracies, of course.) Thus the State remains the greatest prize to the most evil men, who will quickly gain control over its awesome power—to the detriment of all good souls—and so the State cannot be permitted to exist in this scenario either.
It is clear, then, that there is no situation under which a State can logically or morally be allowed to exist. The only possible justification for the existence of a State would be if the majority of men are evil, but all the power of the State is always controlled by a minority of good men. This situation, while interesting theoretically, breaks down logically because:
- The evil majority would quickly outvote the minority or overpower them through a coup;
- Because there is no way to ensure that only good people would always run the State; and,
- There is absolutely no example of this having ever occurred in any of the dark annals of the brutal history of the State.
The logical error always made in the defense of the State is to imagine that any collective moral judgments being applied to any group of people is not also being applied to the group which rules over them. If 50% of citizens are evil, then at least 50% of the people ruling over them are also evil (and probably more, since evil people are always drawn to power). Thus the existence of evil can never justify the existence of the State. If there is no evil, the State is unnecessary. If evil exists, the State is far too dangerous to be allowed existence.
Why is this error always made? There are a number of reasons, which can only be touched on here. The first is that the State introduces itself to children in the form of public school teachers who are considered moral authorities. Thus is the association of morality and authority with the State first made, and is reinforced through years of repetition. The second is that the State never teaches children about the root of its power—force—but instead pretends that it is just another social institution, like a business or a church or a charity. The third is that the prevalence of religion has always blinded men to the evils of the State—which is why the State has always been so interested in furthering the interests of churches. In the religious world-view, absolute power is synonymous with perfect goodness, in the form of a deity. In the real political world of men, however, increasing power always means increasing evil. With religion, also, all that happens must be for the good—thus, fighting encroaching political power is fighting the will of the deity. There are many more reasons, of course, but these are among the deepest.
I mentioned at the beginning of this section that people generally make two errors when confronted with the idea of dissolving the State. The first is believing that the State is necessary because evil people exist. The second is the belief that, in the absence of a State, any social institutions which arise will inevitably take the place of the State. Thus, Dispute Resolution Organizations (DROs), insurance companies and private security forces are all considered potential cancers which will swell and overwhelm the body politic.
This view arises from the same error outlined above. If all social institutions are constantly trying to grow in power and enforce their wills on others, then by that very argument a centralized State cannot be allowed to exist. If it is an iron law that groups always try to gain power over other groups and individuals, then that power-lust will not end if one of them wins, but will spread across society until slavery is the norm.
It is also very hard to understand the logic and intelligence of the argument that, in order to protect us from a group that might overpower us, we should support a group that has already overpowered us. It is similar to the statist argument about private monopolies—that citizens should create a State monopoly because they are afraid of a private monopoly.
Sourced from A Voluntaryist Wiki.