Says the defender of the state: “All your idealistic theorizing is well and good. And you make some good points. But, theoretically justifiable though the private law society may be, it is just not practically possible to live without state.”
The objection is of a general form. The form is something like this: “It’s too hard, so not worth it.” Expanded:
P1) All that is too hard is not worth it.
P2) Overcoming the state is too hard.
C) so, overcoming the state is not worth it.
A couple of points:
First, P1 is a tautology in the worst sense. It says something like “All that is blue is blue.”
Second, P1 could benefit from specifications of the criterion of too hard. The one who says it is usually comparing the great sacrifice imagined to the chance of success and has deemed the costs to outweigh the benefits.
Third, P2, has found, somewhere, a recommendation for practical action. In that form, it has never come from me. I do not, and have never, recommend revolution in any literal sense. The mistake of asserting P2 is the mistake of introducing overcoming the state at all. From whence?
The objector explains: “Puritanical Libertarian, you talk ad nauseam about the evil of monopoly on state-like services (dispute resolution, security). Don’t you think that evil should be eradicated? All I am doing is moving on to the practical implication which follows from your theoretical commitments.”
The theoretical principle “Avoid evil, pursue good” is one I hold. But avoid has less active connotation than eradicate does and so is in that sense preferable. Setting that aside, theory is independent of the particulars of time and place. The passionate idealist often forgets this. The anarchist planning his street action has asserted passionately and heroically the unity of theory and practice, but disastrously. The unity is ultimate. But what is ultimate is not what is now. What is ultimate is what is always and so always relevant no matter the time now. Since the ultimate theoretical limit such as the god, logic, mathematics, praxeology, moral purity, physics is ever-presently meaningful, it cannot decide the in-the moment considerations.
What is needed here and now, in time and space, with these conditions, including these scarce resources and these embodied souls? What is needed most is virtue. And in particular, prudence. It is prudence, good judgment regarding time and place, that gives clarity on action. Prudence is supported by temperance and courage (good feeling producing) and justice (good action producing), but it is not to be identified with these. Prudence is the virtue which is both intellectual and practical and in this sense combines both that which finds its home in theory and yet also finds its home in time and place.
So, my response to the worry that it is too much to commit oneself to elimination of the state, is that it is only too much if it is misunderstood. NO ONE thinks it too much to be for the elimination of theft and assault on the grounds that it would be too much practical trouble. As if commitment to the wrongness of actions requires ones total practical commitment to doing nothing else but seeking their elimination. But the preposterousness of the latter is to evident to need further elaboration.
Life goes on in the error that is the state. Because the oppression exists, and oppression is wrong, all the more important that we be aware of the source of trouble, the impact on the lives of those blessed with intellect and will to decide for themselves, the effects of coercion and aggression, and the defensive position that each of us should hold immersed in state activity as we are.
That defensive position to me is proper. That the most powerful institutional structure in all our lives is both seeking profit AND conceives of itself as rightfully monopolistic is concerning and should ignite in each a posture of defense and lookout. But, street-action? Nay. Call on the goddess prudence. Ask and you will receive. Test the supposed sounds of her voice and discard the sounds that turn out to not be her. Above all, remember that it is calm of soul which makes hearing most effective. Tumultuous soul distorts appearances. Strive for temperance and courage. This more than any other will ready the soul for the sound of Prudence.