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Just as socialism displaces profit-making firms from producing goods, so welfare statism displaces mutual aid organizations, families, churches, and fraternal organizations from producing solidarity, upward social mobility, and care for the least fortunate. An especially important application of the understanding of markets is the maintenance of harmony and concord among people of different races, religious creeds, and nations.

As markets are forums for persuasion, so they are opportunities for peaceful cooperation. A good introduction to the economic analysis of racial relations is the work of the economist and historian Thomas Sowell, Markets and Minorities New York: Basic Books, Rather than comparing imperfect markets with perfect government, which is the normal approach of critics of the market, we should compare imperfect markets with imperfect government.

In his witty book Capitalism Oxford: Basil Blackwell, , Arthur Seldon turns the tables on antilibertarians and compares imperfect governments with perfect markets, a clever move to show how unreasonable many proposals for substituting government coercion for market persuasion really are.

It was claimed above that a belief in imprescriptible individual rights is a hallmark of libertarianism. Rights necessarily entail obligations on others. It is therefore a hallmark of libertarianism to maintain that al humans are under certain obligations. But what are those obligations? John Locke and others in the libertarian tradition have insisted that all such particular obligations have to be based on consent. In contrast, nationalists, socialists, racists, and other sorts of collectivists typically insist that one has a multitude of particular obligations to which one did not consent, but to which one was born, as a member of a particular nation, class or race.

The argument that government should be based on the principles of contract, which played so important a role in the American founding se the Declaration of Independence, reprinted in this reader , has a long history. West, ed.


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The argument that one has nonconsensual particular obligations to particular political organizations is subjected to withering criticisms by A. Various attempts have been made to reconcile government—or institutions to protect individual rights—with consent, that is, to establish the legitimacy of government. It is certainly clear that most governments or states, to use the more precise term around the world did not originate in acts of consent on the part of the populations over which they rule.

Dictatorships, absolute monarchies, and the like are obvious examples. To that extent, libertarians would certainly consider them illegitimate.


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  • Some libertarians have argued that profit-making business firms competing in free markets can provide defense from aggression more efficiently than monopoly states, and without violating fundamental rights in the process. This is clearly at least partly true, as there are far more private law enforcement security guards, bail bondsmen, and so on in America than there are governmentally employed police, and rights violations by private security guards, while greater than zero, are a tiny fraction of rights violations by members of the police and other state enforcement agencies.

    It was this argument by Murray N. Such approaches typically rest on the claim that restitution, or making the victim whole again, is preferable to punishment, or harming the perpetrator without making the victim whole again, and that the incentive to obtain restitution can drive a more efficient and humane legal system.

    Two scholarly and fascinating studies of how a stateless society with a restitution-based legal system function are found in William I. The model that Rothbard advocates is easily misunderstood, as it sometimes seems from his writings that law and justice are merely commodities to be purchased like hamburgers or lawn fertilizer on a free market. But since law and justice are what define markets, it seems rather odd, if not contradictory, to se them as the product of markets.

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    Boudreaux and Randall G. Other libertarians, citing the difficulties of obtaining the unanimity of consent that would be necessary o generate such legitimacy, have established unanimity as an ideal toward which one might aspire, even if it is never to be realized. The theme of imprescriptible rights plays an important role in the legitimacy of government, for, as Thomas Jefferson insisted in the Declaration of Independence, some of our rights are inalienable.

    Even if we were to want to give these rights away to another person, we could not do so; it would be a violation of our very nature. Thus, a tyrannical government that attempted to destroy us or to take away all of our liberties would be ipso facto illegitimate; there are limits to the legitimate power of government, even when it has been constituted through initial acts of consent.

    If it is the case that most states around the world are illegitimate, how did they come to have the unjust powers that they effectively claim? A French bastard landing with an armed banditti, and establishing himself king of England against the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original.

    Article excerpt

    If we consider the issue of the origins of states from the perspective of the different means to the accumulation of wealth by no means the only way to consider the issue, but certainly a fruitful one , we may turn to a useful treatise by the German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer, The State ; New York: Free Life Editions, A horrifying tabulation of how many people have been killed by states in tis century is presented by political scientist R. Libertarians typically ask how one can expect an institution with such a bloody and savage record to accomplish all of the wondrous and humanitarian ends assigned to it by collectivists.

    This is no refutation of the collectivist arguments, of course, but it should at least raise questions about the appropriateness of the means chosen to the attainment of the ends.

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    That the association of the state with war is not limited to the distant historical past is made evident by the experience of the twentieth century, when government power has grown by leaps and bounds through war. It is frequently assumed that the emergence of militarily organized territorial monopolies over violence that is, states , extended their powers through conquest, is the only conceivable or even normal form of political organization.

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    Counterexamples are presented by Hendrik Spruyt in The Sovereign State and Its Competitors Princeton: Princeton University Press, , which examines other forms of political organization, often of a far more voluntary nature, such as the Hanseatic League of German merchants, and forms of nonterritorial organizations, such as the Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire. By imposing relatively small costs on large numbers of people, great wealth can be accumulated and delivered to relatively small numbers of people. As Milton Friedman has observed, in every country where farmers form a large majority of the population, they are brutally oppressed and squeezed for the benefit of the much smaller urban population.

    But wherever farmers are in the minority, many of them manage to squeeze enormous sums of money from the much larger urban population, through governmentally guaranteed high prices, government purchase of surpluses at above market rates, acreage allotments, payments not to farm, and on and on. This seems a paradox, at least in democracies. But it is easily understood when we realize that the costs of becoming informed and of organizing identifying one another as having common interests, coming together, agreeing on ends, and so forth can be very high for large groups, but disproportionately smaller for smaller groups.

    The power of any minority is irresistible as against each single individual in the majority, who stands alone before the totality of the organized minority. At the same time, the minority is organized for the very reason that it is a minority. A hundred men acting in concert, with a common understanding, will triumph over a thousand men who are not in accord and can therefore be dealt with one by one. Meanwhile it will be easier for the former to act in concert and have a mutual understanding simply because they are a hundred and not a thousand. The study of wealth transfers of this kind was of great interest to the members of the Italian school in fiscal theory, most of whom were libertarians, who raised the topic of the status of a science.

    Finer, ed. Amongst the people who use sugar there is not one in a thousand who is aware of the appropriation of wealth that goes on under the system of production-subsidies. Every one of the donors will give up one franc a year; every one of the beneficiaries will receive one million francs a year.

    The two groups will differ very greatly in their response to the situation. Those who hope to gain a million a year will know no rest by day or night. They will win newspapers over to their interest by financial inducements and drum up support from all quarters. In these circumstances the outcome is not in doubt: the spoliators will win hands down. Musgrave and Alan T. Peacock, ed. A good place to start, however, would be James M.

    Buchanan, Robert D. Tollison, and Gordon Tullock, eds. What libertarians conclude from historical study and from economic and sociological analysis of the activity of the state is that, if the state cannot be replaced by other—voluntary—forms of organization, it must be carefully limited. Peterson, ed. Allen, ed.

    Ayn Rand - Wikipedia

    As long as people have yearned for a society of free and equal individuals, in which relations between people are determined by consent, rather than by coercion, there have been critics who have argued that such a system would be unworkable, chaotic, or immoral, that individuals would be alienated and deracinated or that voluntary cooperation on a large scale is impossible because the interests of individuals are inherently conflicting and can only result in violence. Perhaps the earliest, and probably the most influential and brilliantly presented, of such criticism is to be found in The Republic , the dialogue written by the Greek philosopher Plato.

    Many of the ideas of the so-called Sophists now largely a term of abuse, thanks to the brilliant polemics of Plato, their relentless critic can be identified as protolibertarian, and as defenses of the emerging liberty, commerce, and toleration relative to its predecessors and neighbors of the Greek world. And with war will come the state, and the end of the voluntary society. This argument alleging an ultimate irreconcilability of human ends and aspirations also plays a role in the thinking of many critics of libertarianism—notably among collectivist racial and national ideologies, according to which the interests of different races or nations are in irreconcilable conflict—and has proven a formidable opponent to libertarian views.

    As Mises notes:. But for these facts men would have forever remained deadly foes of one another, irreconcilable rivals in their endeavors to secure a portion of the scarce supply of means of sustenance provided by nature. Each would have been forced to view al other men as his enemies; his craving for the satisfaction of his won appetites would have brought him into an implacable conflict with all his neighbors.

    No sympathy could possibly develop under such a state of affairs.