At the Guardian newspaper on-line Glenn Greenwald posts wonderful anti-war, anti-sycophantic press, and anti-politician essays all the time. Wonderful stuff. In the comment section after the post I have tried to explain market anarchy and the non-aggression principle over a long time, but the progressives there just never get it. Take this comment by a lawyer who posts there so much I guess she has nothing else to do:
Very interesting points and they actually feed us a bit of that in law school, where it is usually all case law, all the time.
Most people refrain from homicide because they are conditioned to find it abhorrent. If homicide was not a big deal in the culture, the law would have a big struggle to enforce that prohibition.
But there are those at the margins who are [not] dissuaded by fear of consequences. Similarly, the case of Erik Loomis shows that enough banging on the table about the First Amendment causes university administrators to take the correct position, or face a court forcing them to do so.
Or is Mark Stoval right? A stateless society sans laws, and only mores, is possible and preferable?
It would be a difficult job to count how many times I have told progressives there that the idea of anarchy is not that there would be no law or law enforcement. It boggles the mind to come to the realization that these types can not see that we are saying that there should be no monopoly on defense services or legal services. Many libertarians have written books and millions of articles on how law would be enforced in the absence of the state. Besides that, there are shining moments in man’s history where the free market was uppermost in men’s minds and freedom, wealth and security came from trusting in the market.
Libertarianism is rooted in ancient ideas of natural justice, fairness, peace, and cooperation. Most people would not steal their neighbor’s property even if they could get away with it because most people are moral, but there are those who would steal their neighbor’s property and so any society will need rules and ways to enforce those rules. Law and enforcement in other words. Law professor Butler Shaffer has pointed out that most of your life right now is lived out in anarchy; we can see anarchy working now and it is not too difficult to see that private legal services can fill the need for those times certain people don’t follow society’s rules.
It has been observed that modern, full-fledged, sophisticated, radical libertarianism begins with Murry N. Rothbard. His book For A New Liberty published in 1973 and his 1982The Ethics of Liberty outline libertarian law and means of enforcement. There is no dependency on “only mores” to be found. Modern libertarian thought requires a sound understanding of property rights and economics and so the Austrian school of economics which is sound economics is found underpinning much of Rothbard’s political works.
Libertarianism is primarily concerned with individual rights and aggression against those rights. This means that crime is seen as the fundamental enemy of our rights. There is both private crime and crime committed by the state. The state is the agency of institutionalized aggression and so it is the primary threat to our rights. So naturally libertarians are radically against the state, but then we are no friend of the local private criminal either!
The leading libertarian theorist today is arguably the German Hans-Hermann Hoppe. He explained the libertarian vision of Rothbard as follows:
Rothbard was one of those rare individuals who did contribute to ethics as well as economics.
This is illustrated in The Ethics of Liberty. All elements and principles — every concept, analytical tool, and logical procedure — of Rothbard’s private-property ethic are admittedly old and familiar. Even primitives and children intuitively understand the moral validity of the principle of self-ownership and original appropriation. And indeed, the list of Rothbard’s acknowledged intellectual predecessors goes back to antiquity. Yet, it is difficult to find anyone who has stated a theory with greater ease and clarity than Rothbard. More importantly, due to the sharpened methodological awareness derived from his intimate familiarity with the logical, axiomatic-deductive method, Rothbard was able to provide more rigorous proof of the moral intuitions of self-ownership and original appropriation as ultimate ethical principles or “axioms,” and develop a more systematic, comprehensive, and consistent ethical doctrine or law code than anyone before him. Hence, The Ethics of Liberty represents a close realization of the age-old desideratum of rationalist philosophy of providing mankind with an ethic which, as Hugo Grotius demanded more than 300 years ago, “even the will of an omnipotent being cannot change or abrogate” and which “would maintain its objective validity even if we should assume — per impossibile — that there is no God or that he does not care for human affairs.”
While there remains much work for libertarian intellectuals to do to refine our understanding of libertarian law and ethics we have a long tradition already and we do not just rely on “the good will or the good mores” of people to see our libertarian ideas play out in society. In the last 30 to 50 years there has been an explosion of libertarian, free market, and market-anarchy books and articles and many of those have looked that out private defense and legal services might work. No one knows for sure since the people themselves via the market would make the decisions.
In no way are we total pacifists who would let the criminal element run over us. We would see the rise of competing private legal and protection services. Why is this so hard to get over to the progressives? No matter how many times I have tried to explain all of this to the lady whose quote begins this essay she just can’t understand it. You see many other progressives who just can’t seem to understand what we are staying.
“All government, in its essence, is organized exploitation, and in virtually all of its existing forms it is the implacable enemy of every industrious and well-disposed man.” ~ H.L. Mencken