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Friday, September 14, 2012

Roderick Long on Anarchism and Objective Law

I enthusiastically recommend Roderick T. Long's "Why Objective Law Requires Anarchy," which responds to one of the most common libertarian (and Objectivist) challenges to market anarchism. Here are a few highlights intended to entice:
. . . I see anarchism as the logical conclusion of the checks-and-balances approach. The point of checks and balances is to put a brake on the tendency of political institutions to aggrandize power by arranging it so that a power grab by one part of the system will trigger opposition by other parts of the system. This was the idea behind the U. S. Constitution, with its federalism and division of powers. Unfortunately, it failed, as the supposedly antagonistic parts learned the benefits of working together to oppress the people. From an anarchist perspective, the problem with the minarchist version of checks and balances is that it does not go far enough; the opposing parts are too few in number, and too closely linked together in a single overarching institution.
I once opposed anarchism precisely because I was so convinced (largely as a result of reading Isabel Paterson’s The God of the Machine) of the importance of constitutional structure. I assumed (as Paterson had) that there is no constitutional structure under anarchy. But it now seems to me that precisely the opposite is true: the competitive market provides a much more sophisticated and complex constitutional structure than any state monopoly. . . . 
The fundamental question is this: under which system—market competition or government monopoly—is abuse of power more likely?
But the problem is not one of evil motivations alone. Even a state run by saints would face an informational problem. Just as the most well-intentioned central planner would be unable to make objective decisions about economic production, consumption, and distribution, because the information generated by the spontaneous market order would be inaccessible to him, so without the competitive, evolutionary process through which law originated and developed before the state, a centralized legislature would be unable to make objective decisions about which legal rules and procedures work best.

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