AnarchoDebates: Barry v. Keegan 2
By: Barry Belmont

Keegan’s Second Email

I don’t know why I didn’t get your email, but if the nets screw up your next response, I’ll let you know a bit earlier (well, I’ll just post something on UNRforliberty after about a week).

Wow there is a lot there for such a small scope of discussion, but I will try to be concise as possible.

I only mentioned Creationism to point out that I am unwilling to read enormous numbers of other books. But if you want to argue along those lines, I see the point of your argument but it does not apply (at least not in the same way). Creationism is about what is (or was). This philosophical discussion of governance is about what should be. I don’t doubt that you could feasibly have an anarchist community for a while. The question is what type of place will it be, and what will it eventually become. For example, if a creationist argued with me about the effect of having each type of belief, that would be an argument that is not based on faith (despite usually being based on bull shit but thats a whole different story).

Perhaps you can understand the way I feel about being an “anarchist to every other government but [my] own” were I to explain it like this. Different governments are not mutually exclusive. If America is real, that does not mean that Egypt is not. This is not true with religions. Its not that other governments exist, its just that I don’t accept their authority over me. In much the same way, every business has its own set of internal rules, and its own governing board. But the only ones that have authority over me would be the ones I work for.

“how can one coherently believe in a State without believing there should be a Total State?”
-Easy. There are some things that the State is better at doing, and there are some things that free peoples making their own decisions are better at doing. For example, I think the state is better at dispensing justice. I think that the State is better at protecting peoples freedoms. That type of thing (there are others but since they are on shakier ground I think we should hash out the details on them after addressing the validity of the State).

The reason I mentioned IG/OG is to say that people are not necessarily moral. I agree with you completely that opinions are fine until they become used as a form of coercion. The question is, how does a governmentless society deal with one group oppressing another?

I don’t claim that IG/OG will necessarily lead to violence, but I do claim that such divisions will often undermine morality. This is a specific attack on the claim that people are nearly always moral. This is not saying that IG/OG mentality will always lead to immorality.

The two accounts of this argument being used against government: 1) The governed and governing generally do split into two groups where the governing try to oppress the governed. This is why specific types of governments are better than others, primarily in their ability to prevent this. 2) This is also a problem. One in which there is no easy answer. Governments do have IG/OG mentality against each other, and often use this to oppress one another. For this reason, I think that world government is inevitable (either that or global annihilation). We have global laws and courts already, but they have no teeth. Since they do not have the ability to coerce anyone, they are largely ignored (hopefully you see where this line of reasoning leads).

As far as the military turning on us: you forget that the military is formed of people. These people identify more strongly with other Americans than they do with the military. If the leaders of the military tried to become oppressive, the individuals that form the military would turn on them. That said, this is a constant fear as military coups are not uncommon.

The proper way to do government is to have the people with the power to oppress others robbed of the ability to do so. Our system is not the best, but it does have some qualities that make it better than others. If any of the ruling class begin to oppress the others, they are voted out. If any of the courts start stop dispensing justice, they are removed (either by other courts or by the voting population). If the military becomes oppressive, it will fracture plus gun ownership would make actually conquering America difficult (but I don’t think a standing army would exist in an ideal State). Ideally states were able to make nearly all of the rules. This allowed people to leave to governments that had better rules.


Barry’s Second Response


You seemed to have misunderstood why I brought up the analogy between your belief in the necessity of a State and the creationist’s belief in the necessity of a god or gods. You attempted to side step the whole issue by saying that creationism is about what is and your belief in a State is about what should be, but that’s just sort of a red herring: you believe in the attributes of the world A, B, C, and you believe in the attributes of a State 1, 2, 3 and you say because A, B, C, therefore a State (which can do 1, 2, 3) is necessary. It’s quite equivalent to someone claiming that the world is too complex therefore a god must be called upon to explain it. Simply because someone cannot think of how a universe could come about in the absence of a deity does not mean it cannot. Similarly, just because you cannot imagine a society without a State does not mean it is not possible. You are, when you make a claim about what “should be” necessarily making a claim on the way the world works. You’re saying the world works like this and thus we can use this to produce that result. There is no difference between the ought and the is in this case (consider my article on the website for a further elucidation on “ought from is”).

The main assumption that seems to underlie your entire position is that you can’t imagine order in the absence of a State, you can’t imagine a coherent moral structure in society without coercion. But this is an argument that is lifted nearly directly from the stand Christian Retorts Handbook that holds that people simply couldn’t be moral without a god. Indeed, they claim, if there is no god, then everything is permitted (a la Dostoevsky). But anyone who’s given the nature of morality even the slightest bit of critical thought sees this as hollow as it is. The obvious response is “Is the only reason you don’t kill, steal, and rape because you think there is a god watching?” If they say yes, then we should rightly dismiss them for horribly backwardass opinions in matters of morality. If the only reason a Christian (or a Jew or a worshipper of Ra) has any qualms about slitting my throat is because he thinks there’s an eye in the sky that might catch him, then we can say that his position is a weak one and what he thinks about matters of morality should be held suspect. I mean this with no offense, but I see the exact same logic at work in your argument. You hold that people simply couldn’t be moral without a State. If there is no guy-in-the-sky watching, then society will devolve in to chaos from your point of view. This is clearly the same argument and it has the same amount of evidence in its favor. It’s simply an antiquated position that is repeated often enough to be believed on its face. Where is your evidence that such a thing is true? Where in the literature can you point to examples that say voluntary actions necessarily devolve into chaos without coercive intervention? You can’t just make your claim without evidence.

In fact, while we’re at it, we should remember that burden of proof in this debate really shouldn’t be on me: I’m not the one making any significantly positive claims. Just as an atheist does not need to prove the nonexistence of a god, I do not need to prove that a State shouldn’t exist, it is you who needs to prove that it should exist. You are the one that needs to prove that there are voluntary actions which should not be permitted. You need to prove that coercion should be used legitimately against innocent people. You need to prove that monopolies in the area of laws and militaries are better than open competition. So I turn this conversation on you: prove to me that there are realms of life where coercion against innocent people is better than voluntary interaction.

Though, you didn’t really answer any of my last questions with any substance, you merely dismissed each of my points. In response to being an anarchist to every other government, you claimed that governments (unlike gods) weren’t mutually exclusive, therefore it’s not like religion. But the connection isn’t between religion, it’s between a belief in a god. You could surely believe in Thor and recognize that Odin exists and still be completely atheistic to Ra or Yahweh. Even though you believe in Thor and Odin (and all the other gods of your religion), you are still an atheist to most gods that have ever existed. And this really isn’t even the main point. Rather the point is *why* would you believe in the legitimacy of one government over another? Why Thor, why not Odin? And even then *that* misses the point. Because first you need to establish that these States should exist, that these gods do exist. Without that, you aren’t saying anything about anything.

Or at the very least you say contradictory things when you rely on these assumptions. For example, you imply that you can coherently believe in a State without believing a Total State (a world government) would eventually rise and then a few sentences later claim “I think that world government is inevitable.” You can’t have it both ways. Either you think a Total State would arise or it wouldn’t. And do you think it “should” happen? Is one world government better than countries? What about at the state, county, city level? Where is government most optimal? Why? What makes States’ coercion against innocent people “better at dispensing justice” than voluntary interaction? How does a State that violates people’s freedoms make it more qualified to protect them?

Even in your questions there are a slew of hidden assumptions. For instance you ask “how does a governmentless society deal with one group oppressing another?” What makes you think that would even happen? The UNR SFL and Circle K are governmentless societies, neither of which oppress the other. We could count the number of voluntary organizations around the world that oppress one another and compare it to the number of coercive organizations that do and arrive at a conclusion that would render your point moot. Discounting that evidence entirely (it is after all muddled in the fact that States do exist) we can then ask the question what “oppression” would look like under a voluntary private civilization? How does Wal-Mart or Google oppress people? The obvious indicators of war through out time have been nationalism, militarism, and conquest. Conquest only makes sense when you’ve got an “infinite” supply of one thing to trade for another in order to take yet more things. If I’m a State I can just print off money, give it to some citizens, fill their heads full of “duty” and “honor” and what not and then go make them napalm Vietnamese children. Can you imagine the outrage we would all feel if Google did that to protect a processor company from an ideology it didn’t find suitable? And yet it all seems to hunky dory when the US sends troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and kills thousands of civilians and even journalists (on camera!) in the name of Democracy or Liberty or Human Rights or WMDs. Where is your outrage? It’s nowhere to be found because you’ve still got that Old Testament version of government. Sure, you’ve got your New Testament morality gleaned over it, but your lumbering god is still righteous in his slaughter.

You then go on to completely skip over two huge criticisms of governments: how do you keep coercers from overly-coercing citizens? You just say Well, some governments are better than other at this. Obviously. That much is clear. But how does a government “of the people” prevent them from tyrannizing “the people”? Democratic governments have no more control by the governed than a voluntary organization, in fact it must have considerably less because there is no reason to “play nice” when you’re the one in charge of the rules. This goes back to Rand’s idea of “the sanction of the victim” which you should consider when making these arguments. The only reason we find “democracy” acceptable over “tyranny” is because the cost endured compared to the benefits is less in one than in the other. The coercive element, at this point, is as much a tax upon apathy than it is anything else. But you have still yet to prove why this apathy tax is better than no tax. And after you’ve done that you have to explain how it is that a society could properly control this modern day highwayman called the State.

Your response to my second point is quite odd. Just so we’re not mistaken, do you believe there should be one government over all the people of the world or not? You do concede (as I feel you must) that if governments are to exist, it seems that there is one “best” government that should rule over all people. Can you not see the parallels between this and saying that if there exist gods, we should worship the best one? My constant reference to religious themes is to underscore the irrationality that is inherent in your position. If we grant that we believe in a god, why not make it such that it is the best that could ever possibly exist? Why not give to him or her all the attributes that we would find comforting and reassuring and all things great and grand. That way when we speak of our god we can say that he is loving and caring and powerful and gives us the best of all possible worlds. We can do all this, but our mere description of such a god does not, in anyway, prove that a god exists. Similarly, we can give a State all the details and colorings-in that we want (social welfare programs, fair elections, a strong military, paved roads)…but none of this does anything to prove that a coercive entity should be called upon to provide such things.

And after all of this, you make the extraordinarily strange claim that “the proper way to do government is to have the people with the power to oppress others robbed of the ability to do so.” Perhaps the confusion is merely on my end, but what exactly is that suppose to mean? If I understand you right it means that we’ll put some people A in charge of the military that protects B, but give B the power to control A (through some sort of means). Hence a president is elected by the people he reigns over. It reminds me of Escher’s drawing of the hands drawing each other. It’s recursive. It’s like trying to arm wrestle with yourself. It doesn’t make any sense. At least not in any meaningful way. Your answer to coercion is more coercion to prevent more coercion. If you’ll beg my pardon, but how is this an answer to anything?

To wrap this up, I feel you need to fully answer at least one of the questions I have presented so far, perhaps starting at the beginning and explaining why some voluntary interactions shouldn’t be allowed. This is ultimately what the argument comes down to. In believing in the necessity of the State, you must believe that there are certain voluntary actions that people should not be allowed to do.

So please, if you expound nothing else, explain this to me,

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