Dykes on Objectivism

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Political Theory / History The Facts of Reality: Logic and History in Objectivist Debates about Government Nicholas Dykes The man Of virtuous soul commands not nor obeys. Power like a desolating pestilence Pollutes whate’er it touches: and obedience, Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth, Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame A mechanised automaton. — Percy Bysshe Shelley (quoted in Stephens 1990, 19) Preface This paper is a contribution to the long-running anarchy/ minarchy debate.
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  The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies  7, no. 1 (Fall 2005): 79–140. Political Theory / History The Facts of Reality:Logic and History in ObjectivistDebates about Government Nicholas Dykes   The manOf virtuous soul commands not nor obeys.Power like a desolating pestilencePollutes whate’er it touches: and obedience,Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame A mechanised automaton. — Percy Bysshe Shelley (quoted in Stephens 1990, 19) Preface  This paper is a contribution to the long-running anarchy/minarchy debate. It is in five parts. Part I responds to a critique of  1 anarchism by David Kelley. Part II revisits individual rights, theprotection of which is at the root of the debate. Part III examines theproposition ‘government is justified because it protects rights.’ PartIV looks at the premise ‘government is essential to protect rights,’ while Part V reconsiders some of Ayn Rand’s historical views in lightof the evidence discussed. A note about terminology: in this essay, rightly or wrongly, the words ‘state’ and ‘government’ are used interchangeably to refer toany geographically-defined monopoly on the use of force—including ‘limited government’ or ‘minarchy.’ ‘Anarchism’ refers to libertarian anarchism  , the philosophical advocacy of a future society without sucha monopoly. 2 Part One: Kelley and the Necessity of Government  Anarchy is order: government is civil war. — Anselme Bellegarrigue (quoted in Woodcock 1962, 258)  The anarchy/minarchy debate is now into its fifth decade and no  The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies  Vol. 7, No. 1 80 doubt merits a full-length essay in its own right. Many contributorsdeserve attention, but this section will limit its focus to the views of one leading Objectivist intellectual who has attacked anarchism inprint: David Kelley. 3  While the criticism in what follows is rigorous, I sincerely hopethat it will not be construed as antagonistic. Anarchists and min-archists share an overarching goal, individual liberty. Disputes abouthow to achieve it should not be allowed to mask how much we havein common or how much we might achieve by working side by side(  cf. Block 2004, conclusion). When I first read David Kelley’s essay “The Necessity of Govern-ment,” I decided that, because it was written in 1974, when Kelley wasstill a student, I would leave it lie, though I did mention it in a note(Dykes 1998b, n. 48). In 2000, however, the essay was republishedunchanged on the Internet, which presumably means that Kelley still 4 defends the views expressed. Since he is the author of some impor-tant works in philosophy and was the founder of The ObjectivistCenter (formerly The Institute for Objectivist Studies), “The Neces-sity of Government” merits close attention. The first thing one notices is that while Kelley constantly refersto logic, his essay is not very logical. He begins by employing afallacy. He derides anarchism as a “simple-minded theory,” displaying such little wisdom that “[i]ts antipathy to law apparently extends evento the laws of thought” (Kelley 1974, 243). It takes no great skill torecognize this for what it is: an attempt to belittle one’s opponentsby casting doubt on their abilities, but without offering any evidence.In other words, ‘attacking the man’ or, in logic, the fallacy  argumentum ad hominem  . Kelley might protest that the evidence soon follows, but what he points to as logical errors in anarchism would be—if true, which they are not—examples of incorrect identification, which arematters of fact, not of logic.Before addressing anarchism’s alleged logical errors, Kelley asserts: “An anarchist is one who wishes to place coercion, the use of force and the ability to use it, on the market” (243). This is bothmisleading and mistaken. It is misleading, because it does notdistinguish between legitimate and illegitimate uses of coercion or  Dykes — The Facts of Reality  81 force. On the one hand, defensive force, e.g., to defend oneself fromunprovoked attack, is perfectly legitimate. On the other, initiations of force by muggers or thieves, say, are clearly illegitimate. The distinc-tion may be obvious, but in view of popular misconceptions aboutanarchism, it is important to clarify the two very different meaningsof the words coercion and force. 5 Kelley’s assertion is mistaken, because “placing coercion on themarket” is not  an anarchist position. An anarchist is one who wishesto eliminate  coercion. What anarchists seek in fact is to open protec-tion of individual rights, arbitration of disputes, and judgment of  wrongdoing, to any person or persons who may choose to offer theseservices and, further, to allow anybody who wishes to offer or to availthemselves of these services to do so freely—without interferencefrom any group calling itself ‘the government.’ And the premisesunderpinning those objectives are firstly, that to  prevent  the freeoffering of these services is to initiate force. Secondly, competitionis invariably more efficient and productive of excellence than any statemonopoly has ever been or ever could be. Thirdly, present govern-ment provision of these services is costly, ineffective and frequently unjust. And, finally, non-governmental provision of protection andarbitration is how things used to be done, most effectively, in history  —and still is today in some parts of the world.It is ridiculous to call the anarchist objective “placing coercion onthe market.” What anarchists actually seek is to place   protection,arbitration, and justice back on the market  —   with the express intentionof driving coercion out of human society.On the basis of his misstatement of the anarchist position, Kelley goes on to allege that “anarchists overlook a crucial differencebetween this coercive service [government preventing the initiation of force] and all other economic goods and services.” However, no cleardescription of this “crucial difference” is forthcoming. We are firstdistracted by a long digression to the effect that “[o]ne has noright . . . to restrict the actions of someone just because they areimmoral,” which, although true in certain contexts, has little bearing on the point at issue. Thereafter, whenever the subject of coercion israised, we are referred back to “in just the respect mentioned” (244)  The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies  Vol. 7, No. 1 82 or “the proviso mentioned earlier” (245) yet it is hard to see what thisproviso is. It may be “the market is unjustifiable if it allows the violation of individual rights,” but we are immediately told thatfortunately “the market does not allow this.” We are then told thatthe use of coercion by government is a service that may be consideredan economic good, but when its use is morally improper, “it does violate individual rights”—which nobody would dispute. Next we aretold that the value of this service is restricted by “the moral principleforbidding its use against persons who have not themselves used forceagainst others,” which is a basic principle of  anarchism  . After thatcomes the admission: “If [government] power is exercised improperly . . . it violates rights,” which we have already been told. To repeat, the“crucial difference” we are waiting to have explained—between acoercive service and other goods or services—is not spelled out in any coherent manner, if at all.Kelley’s case becomes more clear in the second paragraph of page245. We are there told that “Coercion . . . has the potential for violating rights if used improperly . . . [therefore] its use cannot bedetermined . . . by market forces. . . . Power to coerce . . . must beplaced in another institution altogether, outside the market and thesway of subjective value preferences. This institution must have strictcontrol—a monopoly, in effect—over the use of force, since itsfunction is to take force off the market. . . . This institution all mencall government.” There is much to object to here. To begin with, Kelley again failsto distinguish, at this point anyway, between legitimate and illegitimateuses of force, something crucial to the argument whichever side onespeaks for. The issue of the non-initiation  of force, which was of suchgreat significance for Rand, and which has been adopted as a firstpremise by many libertarians, is hardly addressed in the essay.Next, the sole reason offered for a state monopoly on coercionis the allegation that coercion “may be used to violate rights” if left tomarket forces. This is hardly persuasive. The assertion that some-thing  might  happen does not justify the monopoly on force Kelley recommends. He would be more convincing if he offered evidencethat what he fears has indeed occurred. Instead, he has just told us
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