When I was young and in high school I believed that minarchy was the ideal situation. I embraced the notion that a limited government which protected individual liberties and freedom was the ultimate goal and would work. I knew that most of what government did was wrong and needed to be cut back; you might say I was a Ron Paul follower before Ron Paul himself got into politics.
As I read economics and political philosophy in college I began to understand that history teaches there never was a government that protected the rights of the citizens. The central tendency of all governments is to accumulated power and abuse the power accumulated. Then I discovered Murray Newton Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises. Even though von Mises was a Classic Liberal and not an anarchist I saw in the works of the two men an indictment of even the smallest of governments. Rothbard once famously asked, “Do You Hate the State?” I answered, “Yes!”
But it was the book “The Ethics of Liberty” by Murray Rothbard that sealed the deal forever in my mind. By its very nature the State is evil.
For there is one crucially important power inherent in the nature of the State apparatus. All other persons and groups in society (except for acknowledged and sporadic criminals such as thieves and bank robbers) obtain their income voluntarily: either by selling goods and services to the consuming public, or by voluntary gift (e.g., membership in a club or association, bequest, or inheritance). Only the State obtains its revenue by coercion, by threatening dire penalties should the income not be forthcoming. That coercion is known as “taxation,” although in less regularized epochs it was often known as “tribute.” Taxation is theft, purely and simply even though it is theft on a grand and colossal scale which no acknowledged criminals could hope to match. It is a compulsory seizure of the property of the State’s inhabitants, or subjects.
It would be an instructive exercise for the skeptical reader to try to frame a definition of taxation which does not also include theft. Like the robber, the State demands money at the equivalent of gunpoint; if the taxpayer refuses to pay his assets are seized by force, and if he should resist such depredation, he will be arrested or shot if he should continue to resist. It is true that State apologists maintain that taxation is “really” voluntary; one simple but instructive refutation of this claim is to ponder what would happen if the government were to abolish taxation, and to confine itself to simple requests for voluntary contributions. Does anyone really believe that anything comparable to the current vast revenues of the State would continue to pour into its coffers? It is likely that even those theorists who claim that punishment never deters action would balk at such a claim. The great economist Joseph Schumpeter was correct when he acidly wrote that “the theory which construes taxes on the analogy of club dues or of the purchase of the services of, say, a doctor only proves how far removed this part of the social sciences is from scientific habits of mind.”[see here]
I saw a problem with the beliefs of the minarchists which put them in the same class as any Statist. This problem is the principle of force and power – the principle of government. It is my core belief that initiation of force is wrong and that any involuntary subjection is always wrong.
What separates me as an anarchist from libertarian minarchists is the same as what separates me from the statist socialist. Both have a fundamental belief in government as the means to an end that I do not share. Minarchist libertarians often are out there yelling their displeasure over the latest horror committed by government even louder than the anarchist. They are for rolling back the state greatly. They are our allies, but, the problem is that they support the fundamental principle of government and I can not support that.
Consider this illuminating example. I remember distinctly the events surrounding the horror of 9-11 and the reactions to 9/11 written in the days and months just after these events. The anarchists and hard-core libertarians tended to say the government should, at most, send people out to find the terrorists and arrest them while the reactions written by ‘small-government’ libertarians tended to support the war in Afghanistan. War against people who had not harmed us. Men, women, and children have been dying in Afghanistan for over a decade due to our invasion; and the violent war spread over the middle east as the USA invaded country after country.
I am sure that the reader of this has his or her own examples of government action that the “small government” types support out of their innate belief in government itself. Once you give into the principle all you are debating is the size of the criminal gang writ large. (as Rothbard famously called governemnt)
The essence of the State as a criminal organization has been put forcefully and brilliantly by Lysander Spooner in this passage:
It is true that the theory of our Constitution is, that all taxes are paid voluntarily; that our government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily entered into by the people with each other. . . .
But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: “Your money, or your life.” And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.
The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.
The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.
And with that, I see no reason why one would not realize that the State is inherently illegitimate.