Thursday, June 11, 2015
The Anti-Logic of the State
Consider a gathering of people, as small or as large, as temporary or as persistent as you please. It may be two humans meeting on a street corner or a nation of billion, or anything in between. If there is no force/fraud/coercion in this gathering, then no one in the gathering is being murdered, robbed, raped, defrauded, or otherwise deliberately harmed by any other in the gathering. This doesn't mean everyone is happy with their lot or getting all their needs and desires met. It does, however, mean that all interactions are consensual and no interactions are considered harmful by any parties involved (known to economists as "Pareto superior" transactions). Generally, this will mean that all interactions will generate some positive benefit for the involved parties and zero harm. The technical name for a persistent version of this state of affairs is "Anarchy": the absence of coerced authority.
Now let us, as humans are wont do to, introduce force. One of our two humans on the street corner produces a gun and demands money from the other; a party of humans in a geographical region declares themselves "the State" and proceeds to forcibly rob the entire population ("taxation"). Someone ostensibly benefits from this: the recipient of the coerced goods, be the goods a sexual experience for the rapist, or funds for a hospital stay for the recipient of federal healthcare benefits. However, harm has most certainly been done: the pedestrian has been robbed, the man/woman/child has been sexually violated, or the taxpayer has been fleeced. In the context of force, the "good" is questionable (not all recipients of such goods value them enough to be willing to pay for them) and the "bad" is beyond question (the victim's rights have clearly been violated).
In order to justify this introduction of force, we must now prove a case that the desires of the recipient of the goods clearly outweigh the desires of the loser of the goods. This is impossible, because desire is completely subjective and differs from person to person: every human's desire for life, dollars, peace and quiet, etc., has the potential to be different from that of every other human. Even "needs" are extremely difficult to determine: the extreme allergic person may need to live away from all artificially-derived chemicals and the accomplished meditation master may not need much in the way of food, water, or even air. No government is omniscient enough to be able to accurately determine who needs what. The final determinant of "need" is the person himself, and that person's need must weigh against all the needs of every other person in our theoretical gathering if resources are finite. In a peaceful society, this weighing occurs through voluntary trade. Every participant in the market fulfills his own needs by exchanging goods and services that fulfill the needs of others. All transactions are win-win because in a peaceful society, no transaction occurs unless all participants perceive that they will be better off (or at least not worse off) afterwards.
There has never been a logical proof of the need for institutionalized force. There cannot be one without first relying on one or more massive assumptions. The only way to justify force is to set aside pure rationality and assume that the value system of one or more humans is superior to that of all others. The Marxist who subscribes to the labor theory of value assumes that the labor of one human is automatically equal in value to the labor of all others. The Right-wing Fascist assumes that "national unity" trumps the needs and desires of any number of hapless citizens. The welfare statist assumes that the value of coercively distributed capital to the society exceeds the value of consensually-distributed capital. But again, value is subjective and individual. Any other definition of value can only come into existence by assuming that one is a super-human moral authority and that one's value system is therefore more valid than all others.
There is only one logical way to coexist with other humans who, each being unique, each possesses a different value system. This way is to acknowledge that there is no universal value system. The way to coexist is to pursue that which we consider of value, be it collecting vintage cars or helping the homeless, without interfering in the ability of others to do the same. In this example the car-collector (if not a criminal) must provide a great measure of value to his fellow humans to support his habit; the homeless-helper in comparison is funneling resources towards persons that often do not produce resources themselves, thereby reducing the amount of resources available to the collective as a whole. From an economic standpoint, the car-collector does more overall good to society than does the charity-monger. To favor forceful interference in the peaceful interactions of either person, however, requires an equal measure of illogic. To simultaneously help ourselves and our fellow humans, a framework of non-coercion, of consensual interaction and the banishment of non-consensual interaction, is the only solution. This excludes the possibility of creating a state as we know it today.
Today's rant is brought to you by the planet Pallas. I'm sure one of those brainy people at mises.org has already made the same case in a more convincing fashion.
Write to me at "alan" + "@" + "zot.net".