Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Fallacy of the State

A while ago when I was still a Libertarian (the kind that advocated for small govt), my friend David graced me with a form of thinking which he deemed "The Fallacy of the State". It goes like this: "Behaviour X is bad, therefore it should be illegal."

This line of thinking comes up time and time again, most often regarding certain "consensual crimes" like drug use or prostitution. (To read a bunch on this, I recommend Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society )

What David pointed out was twofold: Not only are there immediate epistemological problems with something being "bad", but the proponents of such arguments also never fully internalize what it really means to "be illegal".

Being illegal means that the monopoly on coercion called government has the legitimate authority to use force to prevent you from doing that behaviour. That is to say, if you break the law, they can throw you in jail, or at least fine you, and then throw you in jail when you refuse to pay the fine.

More concisely, following the law is not voluntary, it is required and backed up by force, which is legitimized by your local form of government decision-making process (most usually some form of democracy in today's "free" societies).

There are several strategies to counter this line of thought. I prefer the Socratic method. I would suggest you ask them how we know that certain things are "bad". I would ask whether all "bad" things should be illegal (I use rudeness as an example. Most people think that being rude is bad, but that it shouldn't be illegal). This shows that the journey from "behaviour is bad" to "behaviour should be illegal" is a bit more fuzzy than they perhaps previously thought. Point this out to them.

Taxation is theft

I usually shy away from showing them that "being illegal" is tantamount to "pointing a gun in someone's face", even though they are indistinguishable. Most statists are not ready for this comparison (that's probably a big reason why they're a statist). If you have found a clever way to show a statist this, please let me know!

I'm going to use this blog as a soap-box against bad reasoning regarding the state. I'm taking Tom Woods suggestion to broadcast what you believe in by doing what you're good at. I'd like to think I'm good at dissecting bad reason.

Send me feedback! If you like what you read, let me know and I'll make more (and more in depth)! If not, let me know that too! I'd love to be shown wrong :)

At the end of each blog, I'm going to link to a good read or article in the ancap world. I hope you enjoy this one, I know I did: Defense is not a problem in an Ancap world.

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