Uncle Grady Still Has a Gun

The following letter appeared in today’s Opelika-Auburn News; it’s a rejoinder to a recent reply to my “Uncle Grady” letter.

To the Editor:

Carol Robicheaux (May 15) accuses me of hubris, hypocrisy, and naivety for my preference for voluntary modes of social organization over coercive ones – as though personal attacks and name-calling constituted a refutation of my position. Can’t we discuss differences of opinion in a more grownup fashion?

anarchist

Robicheaux seems to think that in criticizing taxation I am hypocritically attacking a system from which I benefit. But first, it would be rather cowardly for me to confine my criticisms only to institutions from which I do not benefit. And second, a market freed from plutocratic privilege would bring so much greater prosperity that universities could easily afford to pay their professors without recourse to tax funding.

Oddly, Robicheaux seems to think I need reminding that the U.S. government is better than a communist dictatorship or a theocracy.

Well, of course it is. A broken leg is likewise better than a broken neck; but that’s hardly an argument in favor of breaking people’s legs.

The reason the U.S. is both freer and more prosperous than those other regimes is that it is closer to being a voluntary social order, an anarchy.

While Robicheaux recognizes that government is “made up of people just like us,” she writes as though it is really made up instead of magical super-people, since she implies that ordinary people would be unable to perform tasks like road maintenance, food inspection, college instruction, and police protection without rulers giving orders.

As for Robicheaux’s questions about how such services would be provided, if she is sincerely interested in the large theoretical and historical literature on these subjects, the best place to start is with the Stringham and Carson books I cited in my previous letter.

Roderick T. Long

My original letter was apparently too long, so the O-A News, wonder of wonders, contacted me to ask me to reduce it, rather than cutting it themselves (though they still tinkered with it a bit more afterward). FWIW, here’s the original unedited version:

To the Editor:

Carol Robicheaux (May 15th) accuses me of “hubris,” “hypocrisy,” and “naivety” for my preference for voluntary modes of social organization over coercive ones – as though personal attacks and name-calling constituted a refutation of my position. Can’t we discuss differences of opinion in a more grownup fashion?

The charge of hubris is especially mysterious. I should think that the term would better apply to the statists, who seek to impose their will on others through governmental violence, and not to the anarchists, who oppose this.

anarchists

Ms. Robicheaux seems to think that in criticizing taxation I am attacking a system from which I benefit, and that this represents hypocrisy on my part. But first, it would be rather cowardly for me to confine my criticisms only to institutions from which I do not benefit. And second, a market freed from plutocratic privilege would bring so much greater prosperity that universities like Auburn could easily afford to pay their professors without recourse to tax funding.

Oddly, Ms. Robicheaux seems to think I need reminding that the U.S. government is better than a communist dictatorship or an Iranian theocracy. Well, of course it is. A broken leg is likewise better than a broken neck; but that’s hardly an argument in favor of breaking people’s legs. The reason the U.S. is better – both freer and more prosperous – than those other regimes is that it is closer to being a voluntary social order; in other words, it’s more anarchistic. Anarchists are simply working to complete the process of liberation that the American Revolution began.

The problem with government is not that the wrong people are in it, but rather that government is a hierarchical and coercive mode of human interaction, one that involves implicitly treating other human beings as property rather than as persons.

On the one hand, Ms. Robicheaux correctly recognizes that government is “made up of people just like us,” but on the other hand she writes as though she secretly thinks that it is really made up instead of magical super-people, since she implies that ordinary people would be unable to perform tasks like road maintenance, food inspection, college instruction, and police protection without rulers giving orders.

Finally, Ms. Robicheaux asks a number of questions about how such services would be provided without government. I can scarcely address all those questions in a brief letter; but if she is sincerely interested in the large theoretical and historical literature on these subjects, the best place to start is with the Stringham and Carson books I cited in my previous letter. Information is also available online at the websites of the Molinari Institute, the Center for a Stateless Society, and the Alliance of the Libertarian Left.

Roderick T. Long

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12 Responses to Uncle Grady Still Has a Gun

  1. Charles H. May 22, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    Safari MacIntosh

    …which the editors subsequently cut down again. The published version reads “Anarchy: Mostly harmless.”

    • Roderick May 22, 2010 at 11:46 am #

      Safari MacIntosh

      Heh. That’s not a bad slogan.

  2. Black Bloke May 22, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    Safari MacIntosh

    Fonts are all odd today… interesting choices Brandon (or whoever).

    • Brandon May 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

      Chromium 6.0.412.0 Linux

      These are mostly temporary choices until Google adds a lot more than they currently have available.

  3. Michael Wiebe May 23, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    Chrome 4.1.249.1064 Windows XP

    “While Robicheaux recognizes that government is “made up of people just like us,” she writes as though it is really made up instead of magical super-people, since she implies that ordinary people would be unable to perform tasks like road maintenance, food inspection, college instruction, and police protection without rulers giving orders.”

    Someone needs to write an article investigating how the arguments for government rely on treating government agents like magical super-people.

    The unsophisticated statist views government as a god: omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent. But Austrian economics has debunked the first; public choice the second; and now work needs to be done critiquing the idea of government omnipotence. The insight of Boétie and Hume that government power rests on opinion seems like the best place to start.

  4. Gene Callahan May 24, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    Chrome 5.0.375.55 MacIntosh

    “While Robicheaux recognizes that government is ‘made up of people just like us,’ she writes as though it is really made up instead of magical super-people, since she implies that ordinary people would be unable to perform tasks like road maintenance, food inspection, college instruction, and police protection without rulers giving orders.”

    Yes, she probably thinks bakeries are made up of magical super-people, since she stupidly thinks that without bakeries we wouldn’t have bread. And she probably even thinks that without philosophers we wouldn’t have strawman arguments!

    • David K. May 24, 2010 at 10:28 am #

      Firefox 3.6.3 Windows 7

      Your analogy works only if you interpret Roderick’s phrase “ordinary people” as referring to non-specialists. But obviously, it refers to non-rulers.

      • Roderick May 24, 2010 at 11:37 am #

        Firefox 3.0.19.NETCLR3.5.30729 Windows XP

        Wow, Gene’s amnesia is really serious.

    • Rad Geek May 24, 2010 at 11:46 am #

      Firefox 3.6.3 Ubuntu 10.04

      Gene Callahan:

      Yes, she probably thinks bakeries are made up of magical super-people, since she stupidly thinks that without bakeries we wouldn’t have bread.

      Man, if she thought that, it really would be a stupid thing to think. I made some bread just the other day, with no help at all from a baker or a bakery.

      Maybe you ought to pick another example — like nuclear physicists and supercolliders, or something like that.

      But of course, if you pick an example where it’s obvious you’re referring to specialized expertise, rather than to rule, the problem is that it becomes rulers have no specialized expertise that’s of any use in building roads, inspecting food for safety, teaching college, or protecting people and property from danger, and that these things would be better left to engineers, consumer protection agencies, colleges, and security guards, all whom provide private goods that can be chosen and gotten by open exchange in a free and competitive market, rather than being monopolized and allocated by political prerogative.

  5. Carol Robicheaux June 1, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    MSIE 8.0 Windows XP

    Wow – so much for grown- up discussions instead of name calling. I “stupidly believe without bakeries there would be no bread” really?

    • Black Bloke June 1, 2010 at 10:15 am #

      Safari MacIntosh

      You have now met Mr. Callahan. And you might have noticed that he was using that example in defending you from Roderick’s argument.

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