In the course of announcing that he’s running for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Mark Bennett writes:
I believe that the answer to “how much government do we need” is, and probably always will be, “less,” but I am not an anarchist.
Do away with government, the anarchists say, and the market will fill the role of the state—keeping us free, protecting our property, keeping us safe.
I don’t share the anarchists’ rosy view of human nature. Do away with government, and for a while the strong will dominate the weak. Then the weak will band together and dominate the strong. Then the strong will band together and dominate the weak again. Some of the weak will join the strong until finally more than half of the collective power is dominating less than half. Whatever this dominant 50+% is called, it will be, for practical purposes, the state. Over the long term, anarchy is impossible.
. . .
Libertarianism in national government serves authoritarianism in state and local government. Traditional conservatives—Santorum conservatives—if they favor less government, favor less federal government, as though state governments are benign. I suspect that their reasoning is that government is not dangerous when it is close to home. And for those in the majority, this may be true—it’s easier to remove a school board member who disagrees with you than to remove a senator. But for anyone who might not share the political views of the majority, the opposite is true: the nearer government is to us, the more it can intrude in our lives and interfere with our liberty.
I am cheered to see Ron Paul pulling down good numbers (maybe better than you’ve heard) in the Republican primaries. He may have some influence on the party’s platform, if not on its choice of candidate.
But libertarianism can’t be imposed from above. Libertarianism in federal government but not in state government is not libertarianism, but mere federalism. Libertarianism has to start at home and grow from there.
I understand the reluctance to call oneself an “Anarchist.” One of the greatest lawyers and Anarchists who’ve ever lived, Lysander Spooner, apparently refused to do so. The same could be said for Henry David Thoreau, who wrote:
But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.
But Anarchy simply means “without rulers.” It doesn’t mean “without rules,” or “without law,” or “without government.”
To speak practically and as Thoreau advises, the kind of government that would command my respect would be one without rulers. One step toward obtaining it is to recognize that those who purport to rule us in fact have No Authority to do so. Another step is to recognize that government without rulers is possible, however remotely, and practical.
A man’s claim to exclusive possession of the yard on which his house is built is the fundamental building block of government, and is in a sense itself a government. Indeed, there is no law which says governments must govern a territory of a certain size, and we could theoretically imagine a world composed only of such “governments.” Why would such a world necessarily be any more “anarchic” than the rulerless anarchy which prevails between nations at this very moment? But the man’s claim to his yard, like the claim of larger governments, has no inherent legitimacy his neighbors are necessarily bound to honor. Georgism supplies that missing legitimacy, and is the mortar for building from the ground up rulerless governments whose purpose is to “secure these rights,” rather than
governments States whose purpose is to serve the interests of the rulers at the expense of the ruled.