Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Friday, January 13, 2012

This Is a Libertarian Argument?

Some libertarian minarchists reject libertarian anarchism on the grounds that a few people would get away with crimes or with not paying their debts. I don’t think this is true. The minarchists underrate the power of entrepreneurship and mutual aid to solve important problems. (And it’s not as if people don’t routinely get away with crimes, torts, and contract violations under any political system.)

But even if the minarchists were right, what kind of argument is that for a libertarian to deliver? It says that to make sure no escapes justice we should accept a monopoly law-enforcer sustained by aggressive force. I thought libertarians didn’t believe that good ends justify aggression. ("The principle that the end justifies the means is in individualist ethics regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics it becomes necessarily the supreme rule." -- F. A. Hayek)

Odd, indeed.


shemsky said...

Well said, Sheldon. I always shake my head when minarchist libertarians talk about the free-rider problem, as if having a few people get away with benefiting from things they haven't paid for justifies widespread forcing of people to pay for things they have not asked for and, in many cases, don't even want. I say that if some people want to create benefits then it's their responsibility to find a way to exclude those that don't want to pay for them.

Tom said...


Are you opposed to an array of local monopoly governments, without any central authority? That is, a highly decentralized system? Would this be a close enough approximation to a stateless society?

Sheldon Richman said...

Tom, things can get fuzzy at the level. We may be getting into the area Nock had in mind when he distinguished government from the State. I'd call it governance.

The test is whether aggressive force is used to support the agency, whether consent is required before interaction.

Gary Chartier said...

The question is: in what sense are the local institutions monopolistic? If people are required to pay for their services forcibly, if they acquire territory by force, if they exclude competitors by force, then they're just small states. If, on the other hand, they're voluntary, but there simply don't happen to be competitors, they're products of the market and there's no reason to find them troubling.

Anonymous said...

Sheldon wrote, "I thought libertarians didn’t believe that good ends justify aggression."

Me too.

Mr Richman, what word are you most fond of using when describing your views? Libertarian, anarchist.....????

Tom said...


What I had in mind was every town or maybe county having a monopoly government. People could then choose which government that would live under. I realize that it is not a perfect free choice, but I do think that it would be close enough. Of course, people would have to be free to leave. What if you had 2000 jurisdictions to choose from? It would be less than a stateless society. But would there be any meaningful difference? I'm not advocating for local monopolies, but I think I could live with it.