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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Limited government vs. anarchy

By Harry Browne September 7, 2004

It seems to me that a lot of time is wasted by libertarians who argue whether it's possible to have a society without any government at all.

What's the point?

Right now, we're $2.3 trillion away from no government, and about $2.2 trillion away from limited government.

That means that until we trim $2.2 trillion from the federal budget, the issue of limited government vs. anarchy is moot. I can only presume that both sides would be pleased as punch (and then some) to reduce the federal government by $2.2 trillion. So that's what we all should be working toward as the first goal.

If we can get the federal government down to $100 billion, I'll lead a drive to raise the money necessary to rent the New Orleans SuperDome for three months — so we can all get together and argue over how much further the federal government should be reduced.

Those who want no government at all can continue working to reduce the size of government. Those who want limited government can fight to keep the federal government at $100 billion — or work to reduce it slightly more — or even work to increase it slightly.

But none of it is relevant until we reduce the government dramatically from where it is now.

As to the question of whether a society without government is possible, today we try to answer it with limited knowledge. If we can ever make government very small, we will undoubtedly find that plenty of people — people with more creativity and imagination than we have — will find it profitable to devise ways to do things privately and voluntarily that today seem possible only through government. Until those creative people have an incentive to put their minds to the question, we're contemplating the issue without knowing all the possibilities.

But so what? The question is moot.

In the meantime, there are two things we know for sure:

• Government is force, and we want to reduce the use of force to the absolute minimum.

• Government doesn't work, and so we want to remove as many activities as possible from government.

And no matter which side of the limited government vs. anarchy you're on, when someone asks you what size libertarians think the government should be, you can answer:

"Libertarians want to reduce government to the absolute minimum possible, and we can't really know what size that is until we get there.

"In the meantime, don't you agree that government is way too big, way too powerful, way too intrusive, and way too expensive?

"If so, please help us reduce it to the absolute minimum possible."


V. Fournier said...

This is forever old, and I know Harry can't answer, but the debate between anarchists and minarchists has a lot to do with strategy.

Minarchists tend to favor political action. Anarchists often think this is counter-productive. Thus, if one is an anarchist following a politically-active minarchist approach means making a more viable state, exactly what the anarchist does not want to see.

Minarchism and anarchism are not 'on the same road', minarchism is a species of statism and a dangerous delusion. It is a utopian fantasy just like Communism, and produces far more dangerous states - since a state which is limited (for some time) will have a huge tax base with which to invade the planet (See: America). So, it is not irrelevant.

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