by Neville Kennard, veteran preaching and practising capitalist
There seems to be much resistance from the think tank industry to debate their classical liberal views and ideas with anarchocapitalists — the minarchist vs anarchist debate.
Why would this be?
There seems to be intense antipathy between these very similar but also very different camps and viewpoints.
The classical liberal minarchists believe in minimum government: government, they believe, is needed and is economic to look after the “essential” government services of police, courts and defence. The classical liberals are very utilitarian in their position, looking at what works, what has seemed to work in the past, and what would work in the future. Classical liberals accept a certain amount of tax as a necessity.
The anarchocapitalists, on the other hand, believe that any coercion or force or fraud is a violation of self-ownership and the right of people to own their own lives and the ethically acquired property of their lives. They believe that any tax, any regulation, any coercion of an individual is a violation of that person’s natural self-ownership and right to live freely as he or she chooses.
Colloquially called the minarchists, the classical liberals are frequently (in America) advocates of “Back to the Constitution” and are sometimes labelled by anarchocapitalists as Constitution worshippers. The anarchocapitalists like to point out that Constitution re-interpretation is inevitable, especially with the State running the courts.
Minarchists include national defence as a necessary role for their very small government. Anarchists argue that to tax people to defend them violates their self-ownership and they can very nicely defend themselves, thank you.
And so it goes …
But why not debate?
As it now stands the classical liberals in their think tanks debate with social democrats of various hues about “How much Government?” The classical liberals point out the damage done by all the interventions and regulations and taxes, and they do a pretty good job in this, trying to keep the never-ending call for more government programs at least a little restrained. But if they, the classical liberals, were to debate with the anarchocapitalists it would drag the debate away from “the centre” towards the extreme libertarian end of the political/economic/ethical spectrum, and away from the authoritarian end where the social democrats sit.
A benefit to the think tanks and classical liberals in debating with anarchocapitalists is that they can distance themselves from the anarchocapitalist “free radicals” and appear solid and sensible. The classical liberals can come out of it with their reputations as down-to-earth realists enhanced.
The interventionists in all their various colours and hues and shades would be left out of this one. Robust debate about no government or small government would be controversial and provocative. I think the classical liberals would win such debates as the constituency, the society is not anywhere near ready to contemplate a no government / anarchocapitalist idea of the way they might live.
So if the classical liberlas, the minarchists, are likely to be the winners, why would they not want to debate and to welcome speakers and papers and books and debates on the subject?
Why would they be defensive and closed to such ideas? They have nothing to lose. Or do they?
Are the classical liberal think tanks wary of offending their supporters with way-out ideas and discussion that may upset them and their financial support?
Would it be like a Christian Minister debating with an atheist in front of his congregation, where the minister sees that he has nothing to gain and fair bit to lose?
Of course if the Minister was sure of his grounds he would embrace such a debate as it would cement and increase his support and his financial contributions. But if he thought the congregation might be swayed away from their beliefs and desert him, of course he would decline such a debate.
Are the classical liberals, therefore, very unsure of their grounds and their arguments and fearful of losing the support and financial contributions of their congregation?
For the sake of the cause of less government, be it minarchist or anarchist, this debate should rage. The popular press would have a field day rubbishing the anarchocapitalists and supporting the classical liberals. That the classical liberals would win is a no-brainer. And it would help their cause. Frequent robust, diverse discussion and debate on the many aspects of this question would invigorate the classical liberals and would enable them to point out the reasonableness, the moderation, the sense and familiarity of having a government, albeit a small one, as against the outlandish, risky, chaotic unproven idea of no government.
I wish the think tanks with their classical liberal positions would reply and respond to my views as to the benefits to them of such classical liberal vs anarchocapitalist debates. Are they too scared? They have the talent, the scholars, the finance … Perhaps they don’t have the guts.
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