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Anarchism & Justice
Part I
I. Preface



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The twentieth century has in many ways seen a reversion to an earlier period of human history. Before the eighteenth century, there existed everywhere in the "civilized" world an identifiable "Old Order," a regime of caste and privilege, of feudalism, monarchism, despotism — of statism, where the ruling castes of each political society governed by the alleged "right" of conquest and divine inspiration, and ruled by means of military might. But in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, for the first time in mankind's history, there arose a number of revolutionary movements designed to overthrow the "Old Order," to abolish the society of status and replace it with the society of contract, to establish a society of liberty, free trade and individualism, where only stagnant regimes had existed before. At the heart of these revolutionary movements was the ideology of classical liberalism, the ancestor of libertarianism. At the heart of the opposition, in defense of the Old Order, was conservatism as a social and political force.

The United States was a product of this early libertarian movement, and the American revolution was the first violent breakaway from Western mercantilism and imperialism in history — to be followed later by a great many others of somewhat lesser libertarian bent. [1]

But for many reasons, which cannot be detailed here, the nineteenth century witnessed the decay and near-death of this libertarian movement, and its replacement by socialism as the key radical movement of the day. Socialism had originated as a confused offshoot of both libertarianism and conservatism. It originally aimed at the libertarian ends of peace, free trade, and prosperity, but attempted to attain them, for the most part, by statist conservative means: centralization and State planning. [2] Socialism was, in addition, an offshoot of classical economics — an economics which attempted to replace the older natural rights analysis of social relationships with a confused doctrine of "utility" to society as being their main standard of social evaluation, dropping the mantle of justice completely, leaving it for the socialists to assume. Unable to provide a rigorous defense of their pre-natural rights position against the positivists and utilitarians, and unable to show the justice of such key economic categories as interest, rent, and profit (and individual ownership of land), the school of classical liberalism lost title to the banner of true radicalism — which was then assumed by the socialists.

Whatever their faults, and these were indeed many, socialists in the nineteenth century were vitally concerned with upholding the ideal of justice in social relationships, to apply theoretical principles (however wrong) in judging the justice of existing regimes. The result was that socialism became the dominant intellectual movement of the nineteenth century — and that classical liberalism slowly died, first attempting to survive as utilitarianism, then as positivism, then as evolutionism and "Social Darwinism." By the end of the nineteenth century, the former radical battle cry of "laissez-faire!" was heard infrequently, if ever.


Thus it is that we in the twentieth century face a rebirth of the Old Order, in form if not in substance. The twentieth century has seen the rebirth of statism as an alleged ideal: the rebirth of the society of status, of militarism, imperialism, protectionism, and war. The twentieth century has witnessed more wars and bloodshed, more deaths at the hands of State armies and weapons, than any other single century in the history of man. Because of the inner contradictions in state socialism, because of the necessarily strong and centralized State which it requires to conceive and implement central planning, of the failure of earlier libertarian attempts to place limitations on the power of the State, and of the rise of fascism and "national socialism," the twentieth century has in fact been the century of the all- powerful State — armed with the technology made possible by the industrial revolution.

Thus, the problem of the State has again become of central concern to political philosophy, a political philosophy, I might add, which has in the twentieth century been all but dead, under the thumb of positivism, analytic philosophy, and "Wertfrei" social sciences in general. [3]

There have been many reactions against the sterility of modern philosophy and social sciences with respect to values. Some reactions, such as Existentialism, have counseled despair. Some people have returned to a more radical Marxism. Others have readopted mysticism, which had faded in the nineteenth century "age of reason and science." And some, in an ultimate union of activism and despair, have turned to nihilism. But few have taken the time to re-examine the premises of the existence of the State and of social organization in general.

It is my purpose in this essay to examine the justifications for the State offered by a number of diverse philosophies. In one short essay, one cannot possibly examine the entire course and history of political theory, so I must limit myself to examining positions immediately relevant to libertarianism — such as legal positivism, traditionalism, limited-government libertarianism, Objectivism, and a few others.

My own position is that of free-market anarchism, arrived at from within the philosophical framework of Aristotelian-Thomistic-Lockean tradition, which is basically the same as the framework of Objectivism. I shall concentrate on a few major issues, and shall attempt to prove that the institution of the State is not justified, and, as a corollary, that anarchism is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the establishment of justice in a social context. Since I maintain that justice is a fundamental need of man, my thesis can be stated: anarchy is a necessary condition for man's proper survival in a social context. There are doubtless other needs, but this shall be my focal point.

I shall consider, in different contexts, such issues as the justification of the State per se, the legitimacy or source of its specific authority, its jurisdiction, structure, and financial base. Before these issues are reached, much later on in the essay, I shall consider the necessary ethical base of the discussion.

Posted November 28, 2004


Published by permission of the International Society for Individual Liberty, Vince Miller, president. Art adapted here is by Bob Leet.

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