Here’s an interesting quote from prominent 20th-century libertarian Murray Rothbard, which is this week’s #mondaymotivation.
At first, this statement might seem not-very-radical and perhaps even rather insipid. But, on the contrary, it has profoundly radical consequences in the context of a statist society, which makes it very powerful.
If there was no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of an individual in societies today, then there would be no such thing as eminent domain, no state monopoly on money supply and interest rates, no government legislation or regulation whatsoever, no state monopolised healthcare and education etc. Ultimately, no taxation at all and, thus, no state at all. Now that’s radical.
That doesn’t mean no government, no protection/security services or conflict resolution. it doesn’t mean every product or service the government currently provides will vanish without trace, never to be seen again. It just means no institution with the exclusive legal right to use coercive aggression against the person or property of an individual – and thus no institution with a legal monopoly on supplying these things to society. It means whatever the government provides now would be provided by (freely competing) private enterprises.
And, make no mistake, government in the most literal sense of the term is essential. Society, as we know and love it, cannot even get off the ground without the legal possibility of using (self-defensive) force to protect your own person and property or someone else’s who has contracted you to do so. Enforcing one’s rights using violence is what government is. Nothing more, nothing less.
So libertarian or anarcho-capitalist anarchism isn’t pacificism, but that doesn’t mean it’s about changing the world through bloody revolutions of violence. Historically, violent revolutions have invariably failed to produce lasting improvement, and in my view, they’re an attempt at shortcutting the path to progress.
This quote from Rothbard, then, is a useful reminder that Libertarianism is about achieving human progress through peaceful evolution of ethical and economic reasoning. And we also shouldn’t forget that for as long as States exist there is enormous legal possibility and potential for unlimited aggression against entire populations.