The “What About’s”
Posted by PintofStout on April 20, 2006
In discussions with friends and family about a stateless society, the same line of attack (or defense, in my opinion) on my philosophy ultimately begins with the words “what about.” There are infinite aspects of life and organized society to contemplate “what about.” In the context of a government no longer existing to enforce laws, there are nearly infinite directions to make this argument; every aspect of our lives that government has some involvement in, as a matter of fact. And there is a common thread in whatever “what about” defense you encounter; how are we ever going to survive without a government?
The questions asked of you about your radical theories arise genuinely (most of the time) from simply not being able to imagine a stateless society. The dependence upon the force of government used to strike me as unnatural or weird, but I realize that I am the outcast. We’ve been immersed in the “knowledge” and inevitability of our government and governments, in general. The fact that it has impressed upon most what it was designed to do isn’t really a surprise. The surprising and extraordinary occurrence is the wrangling free of such ideas.
Answering these “what about” questions satisfactorily can be difficult. Depending on the persons personal knowledge in some cases and lack of knowledge in other cases it would seem that you need to have an intimate and expansive knowledge of that particular subject. Whether it’s roads, national defense, science research, crime, poverty, old people, health care, education, or the census, your explanation of how it would possibly work without the government running it would have to be tantamount to solving all the world’s problems and creating world peace in order to answer all the possible “what abouts” in terms of specific solutions. I say leave the specific solutions to those in that particular field.
One tack I’ve tried in the past is to turn the question around and ask them to prove that government is solving such problems. This implies that the foundation that they are assuming for their argument, that without the government that particular problem wouldn’t be solved, is invalid anyway. While this turns the burden of proof off of you, it takes the argument nowhere in terms of resolution. The same problem of infinite detail arises again, also. To avoid getting bogged down in detail, it is best to stick to general principals. Nobody ever changed their ideology or outlook based on minute details.
I find it is best to steer the argument toward the ends justifying the means approach. Sure, we may agree that roads are good and it is a decent thing to do to help out the less fortunate; we’re arguing for anarchism not brutish selfishness. Most everyone will agree that education is important for everyone, but simply looking at the end result can have dire consequences in-between. Roderick T. Long gave a good speech for the Ludwig Von Mises institute that illustrates this in a portion of it. Some people will continue to believe that some causes or ends are worthy of state violence to enforce, but that is the real argument. Is it ok to rob somebody or put a gun to their head to make them do something you deem worthy or important that they may not? There is not distinction of degree of force or violence, just whether it is ok or not. Even among various libertarians the answer to this question differs.
So it is not for specific results in a particular aspect of organized society that we should argue for, but the motivations, morality, and consequences of abandoning just means to achieve a desirable end.