Defending the state

Often, after I have presented evidence that rape, assault, theft (taxation), fraud (currency debasement), murder and other such crimes are wrong, and in particular when I have shown my spotlight on that institution for which legitimacy is claimed for some of the above acts, and if my interlocutor has known me long enough to know that I welcome any effort at ratiocination combined with linguistic expression, the objections will begin to sneak out. Below I state in general form–and I hope I do it justice. What use would it be to hold up before any audience, a straw man, and then proceed to tear it to shreds!

“Objection your honor. Objection. Bad states are bad. But, we don’t defend bad states. We only support good states. So, while we agree with your criticisms of the state, we think your conclusion that the state should be dissolved too strong. We would back off and conclude that the state needs to be reformed.”

I think that I have stated the position generally enough and been far too gracious in its articulation. What is more common is that the interlocutor feels one of his sacred cows threatened. He is for the military, maybe he has familial loyalties to military service. Or, he is for welfare support for the down-trodden. He feels the threat to such forced charity. Or, she is making use of the affirmative-action policies that promote her sex specifically. The state threat of suit against those accused of disparate impact important for increasing her opportunity. On and on and on.

An even more common but still cheap myth in the background of the above objection–the robber baron, the capitalist pig, the greedy businessman. It is often portrayed in lamentable terms that were we to pursue the dissolution of state power the flood gates would be open to all manner of evil. You may lay at the feet of state controlled education the myth that those who the state parasitically relies but resist its parasitism are to be characterized as full of evil (greed). How silly. Quite the opposite.

The state is business plus the right of initiated aggression (attack). How could this be judged to be better? Well, says the defender of the state, we must reform it! We do not defend evil use of initiated aggression, only good use of initiated aggression. Did you just read what I read? Did the defender of the state really openly and brazenly proclaim that there is legitimate and rightful attack on those who are not attacking? Did the defender of the state just express in language good plus initiated aggression?

First, that the anti-logos is present in the expression does not mean that anyone is guaranteed victory in rhetorical persuasion. What we call minds can be staunchly and willfully committed to anti-logos willy-nilly, come what may, regardless of status as anti-logos. So, the point here is not to guarantee practical success. There are times when it is best to leave another in his hugging of anti-logos. The next question is about further interaction. Is he worthy of further association? Or would one do better to disassociate and prepare defense? This is a matter of the particulars of any situation.

Second, what is wrong, formally, with the claim that mere reform to state power is the best conclusion from evidence of state trouble? Theoretically, what is wrong is that the position still holds as legitimate, right, permissible initiated attack against non-aggressors. Practically, what is often added by the interlocutor, in order to protect from further state trouble, and so to bolster the call to reform (a call which is puny unless accompanied by some practical suggestions), are the ingredients of virtue and omniscience. Let’s take that up momentarily.

Reform proposal: omnipotence (state power) will be legitimate when omniscience (perfected knowledge) and virtue or goodness (moral perfection) are added to state activity. A non-starter. This provides one way of articulating the problem. What the reformer keeps hoping for is the instantiation of the god. But, all the reformer is ever left with is the omnipotence (state power) combined with the less than perfect in knowledge and virtue. Oh, the longing for the god. Setting aside that it is always my version of the god that I long to see instantiated, the longing itself is insatiable. The first-year university student who hopes to solve all the worlds problems by turning to the state for aid turns because of the omnipotence but only adds as a hope the ingredients of perfected knowledge and virtue.

To utter that initiating attack against others or their property is ever legitimate or right or just is plain and simple to utter the unutterable. It is to speak gibberish. So, he who utters it and takes serious the reply will then argue that the aggression is only right because the individual aggressed against has consented to the aggression (this is called the social contract theory) or the individual has himself done what is wrong. Fine. We can have that conversation about when and where contracts exist and what they say. And, we can have conversation about the rightfulness of using violence against wrongdoers. But at that point we have moved the conversation well beyond the legitimate right to initiated aggression of non-aggressors. And this puritanical libertarian is happy with the result.

Next? “Objection your honor. Objection. Such is theoretically defendable (the commitment to the dissolution of the sate) but practically impossible. So…(usually there is silence as if what follows is so obvious as to not need saying. Far from it. The rhetorical move is smoke and mirrors. The silence actually is evidence of no thought, no words.) We will deal with this objection next. It is worthwhile to deal with, especially for he who is dealing with the passionate idealist. The passionate idealist thinks that every time a theoretical truth has been discovered actions of a corresponding for must be engaged in. But this is a mistake. In-between what one commits to theoretically and ones practical choices and actions is a yawning chasm of consideration that needs to be filled by the goddess prudentia. Listen for her voice (which requires knowing what she sounds like. This puritanical libertarian is still learning do discern).

Published by Purilib

Anonymously interested in grasping the good life.

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