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Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published August 9, 2009,
as Part of Issue CCII of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 2, 2014
Note from the Author: This essay was originally published as part of Issue CII of The Rational Argumentator on August 9, 2009, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator. The arguments in it continue to be relevant to discussions regarding minarchism and anarcho-capitalism, and therefore it is fitting for this publication to provide these arguments a fresh presence.
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 2, 2014

As one of the many libertarians who loves individual freedom and free markets but nevertheless perceives an important role for government, I have been challenged numerous times on my stance. The best way to describe my position is that I am a minarchist in theory; I happen to agree with Thomas Jefferson that “that government is best which governs least,” and yet I recognize that an active government is necessary for combating force and fraud and for ensuring that the natural rights of individuals are not transgressed upon by other private parties. In practice, I am an incrementalist – a strong supporter of evolutionary change rather than revolutionary change of any sort. I believe that real-world political reform is a delicate process, and that the sequence of transitions matters just as much as the abstract desirability of any given transition. We want to implement the right changes, but we also need to implement them in the right order – just as a doctor who wishes to cure a patient using theoretically sound procedures cannot just apply the procedures in an arbitrary sequence and hope to succeed.

Following Murray Rothbard (who, unlike me, was a noted anarcho-capitalist), I believe that liberty is the most desirable political end, but it is not necessarily the most desirable end of all. The length, prosperity, and security of every individual’s life are to me much more important – and I see liberty as the surest means of attaining those ends to the greatest extent. However, it is possible for those ends to also be partially and tolerably well attained – at least in the short term – in an environment that lacks complete liberty. This is why I developed a rough system that “measures” degrees of government oppression using a mixture of cardinal and ordinal approaches. Irrespective of the particular criteria of comparison, any reasonable thinker will agree that some governments today are much more tolerable than others – and a few are quite innocuous and even outright beneficent, especially when we consider governments over smaller jurisdictions, such as states and localities, and particular agencies of those governments which do not employ coercion to any substantial extent. Metaphysically, I agree with Ayn Rand that there is an objective reality, where A = A – i.e., every particular thing is what it is and not what one’s mental model of it happens to be. Thus, I believe in judging every particular instance of government or governance not just as “government or governance in general” but rather as precisely what it is specifically – which means that a government is nothing more than the sum of the people who compose it and their actions, which need to be judged on their own merits or lack thereof. I am therefore open to the possibility that some governments may be able to solve some problems without infringing on natural rights at all. I am equally open, of course, to the possibility that those problems may be solved on the free market without government participation.

Here, I will present a basic outline of my objections to anarcho-capitalism as it is typically presented today. Anarcho-capitalism can be defined as the position that government is unnecessary altogether and that market-based services can provide all of the essential functions of government recognized by the minarchist as legitimate – including police protection, protection from foreign invaders, enforcement of contracts, and adjudication of disputes.

My Foremost Political Goal

I define a state of complete liberty as the absence of the initiation of violence or coercive dishonesty by any individual against any other individual. By “violence” I mean the physical disruption of either the integrity of an individual’s body or that of the material things which that individual owns. The term “coercive dishonesty” encompasses fraud, breach of contract, bad-faith dealings, and failure to fully disclose information that would affect the decision of a party in a business transaction. By “initiating” violence or coercive dishonesty I mean being the first party to inflict such acts on another, without having had such acts inflicted on oneself by that other and without defending some other innocent party against those acts inflicted by that other. I do not consider retaliatory force – provided that it is a proportional response to the initiated force and does not harm innocent parties – to be illegitimate or undesirable.

Thus, I believe that the state of the world which minimizes violence and coercive dishonesty as much as possible is the most desirable state. To be sure, both many governments and many private parties throughout history have engaged in these heinous acts – and I am not defending any entities that have. My position does not embrace governments as they currently are, but as they can be and ought to be. Anarcho-capitalists may object to my position by arguing that few, if any, governments in history have subscribed to minarchist principles and initiated no violence or coercive dishonesty. To this, I will reply by quoting John Lennon: “You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Few, if any, societies in history have been viably anarcho-capitalist, either. Neither my position nor the anarcho-capitalists’ has any existing real-world incarnation. The question before us, then, is which of these positions would result in less overall violence and coercive dishonesty if implemented in practice?

Objection 1: Lack of an Ultimate Arbiter

Anarcho-capitalists posit that dispute resolution – be it of the character of police action or judicial proceedings – can occur among entirely private entities on the free market without any government involvement at all. For sake of conciseness, I will call the entities that engage in this manner of dispute resolution DRAs – or dispute resolution agencies.

It is true that many forms of dispute resolution can occur without government participation and do occur in this manner today – within families and business arrangements subject to private arbitration. If a private dispute is resolved satisfactorily by the relevant private parties themselves, then there is no need for recourse to government. However, there also exist instances – all too many today, as evidenced by the overwhelmed American judicial system – where private parties cannot reconcile their differences solely through private means. Anarcho-capitalists’ typical response to this is that in a wholly free market (as they define it, that is, with no government altogether) ex ante arrangements would exist whereby, if DRA X and DRA Y – representing two different and opposing parties in a dispute – could not reach a mutually satisfactory decision, the power of decision would be delegated to a third DRA – Z. This is conceivable, but it is by no means guaranteed that such an arrangement would occur in all cases. Thus, under anarcho-capitalism, there is nothing theoretically preventing there being no ultimate resolution to a dispute – ever – from the standpoint of legitimacy, in which case there would be no recourse left but to the principle of “might makes right.” If a dispute cannot be resolved peacefully, then it will devolve into violence – which is the least desirable of all outcomes. Anarcho-capitalism lacks an ultimate arbiter that would step in irrespective of prior contractual arrangements or lack thereof in order to quell the initiation of violence if it were to occur.

It is conceivable that a government could leave most dispute resolution to the private market – unless the market has demonstrated its failure to achieve lasting, peaceable resolution. In that case, the government, as the ultimate arbiter, would need to intervene and offer a resolution, either through a decision of its courts or through the interposition of armed agents whose presence would prevent violence from erupting. It is important to remind my readers that my foremost objective is the prevention of violence breaking out. If two private DRAs were about to begin a miniature war – and they happened not to have contractual procedures in place for preventing it beforehand – then it is desirable for a third agency with greater powers than a mere private entity to decisively put an end to such coercive and damaging behavior.

Objection 2: Lack of Legitimate Enforcement against Violent Non-Parties to Contracts

The way an anarcho-capitalist society would work – according to most of its advocates – is that all members would bind themselves by contracts in their mutual interactions, and the contracts would stipulate consequences for non-compliance. This raises an interesting issue: What if a person within the society refused to bind himself by any contracts whatsoever and simply raided, stole, and murdered as he saw fit? If there is no law other than what individuals choose to bind themselves by, then what legitimate recourse do other non-coercive members of the society have against this initiator of violence? Moreover, if this person were to team up with a host of others who similarly chose not to bind themselves by any contracts that prohibit initiation of force, could not a formidable criminal gang form and terrorize – if not overwhelm – the peaceful portions of the anarcho-capitalist society? Of course, somebody in the anarcho-capitalist society could always simply kill or detain the aggressors in practice, without regard for whether the aggressors broke a contract or not. However, such an act would not be legitimate in an anarcho-capitalist society. Illegitimate acts can and do occur – both with and without governments – but what counts as an illegitimate act matters. Under a government, murder can and does happen, but murder is considered illegitimate. Under anarcho-capitalism, murder by non-parties to any contracts is not illegitimate, but punishing by force a person who commits such a murder is illegitimate. A system where legitimacy fails to apply to actions with obvious morality and desirability is a troubling system indeed.

Objection 3: The Oxymoron and the Danger of Markets in Force

A market arrangement is an arrangement based on voluntary participation of all parties – an arrangement where trading is substituted for compulsion. On a free market for a typical good or service – such as an item of food or a construction job, for instance – no individual is required to buy and no individual is required to sell, except on terms mutually favorable and explicitly agreed upon. However, the term “market” no longer applies in this sense when any element of compulsion is introduced. When a “market service” involves wielding weapons and enacting violence against individuals who do not wish to have this violence inflicted upon them, it ceases to be a “market service” and becomes something quite different. This does not necessarily make such a service illegitimate, of course – as the potential for retaliatory force is a necessary component in minimizing the initiation of force. However, this difference does invalidate the application of typical principles of analyzing markets to such “services.” There can be no market-based analysis of a service that does not entirely rely on voluntary consent from all parties involved.

One of the glaring dangers of a “market service” specializing in the use of force is that such a service could simply use the force it “produces” to extort or steal other people’s wealth instead of earning it in voluntary trades. Without an external authority to enforce a prohibition on this behavior, there is no guarantee that such behavior would not occur. A free-market DRA would not always do this, of course, but there are conceivable scenarios where every incentive would favor such behavior. Only when there are substantial disincentives to the use of force from other armed parties on a free market or when the DRA administrator is particularly humane, benevolent, and enlightened could a DRA be reasonably expected not to violate individual rights. There are two ways for such incentives to arise without reliance on anyone’s personal virtues. Either 1) there could exist a “balance of power” among the DRAs such that each of them is afraid of transgressing against clients of the other or 2) there could exist an authority external to the DRAs that would always protect the parties unjustly aggressed upon, irrespective of the power differential between the aggressors and the targets of aggression. I favor solution 2), because it is not as contingent on a particular balance of power being in place.

Moreover, many anarcho-capitalists claim that one of the problems with government is that it has a monopoly on the use of force and that, as a monopoly, it necessarily offers a lower quality and lower quantity of its product at higher prices. I urge the reader to recall, however, that we are not here discussing a monopoly on otherwise entirely voluntary transactions. It is useful to ask the question whether it is desirable to have force offered in “higher quality,” higher quantities, and a lower price. I, for one, would prefer it to be more expensive to kill a person rather than less – and for the methods of killing to be both of lower quality (i.e., less reliable at killing) and available in lower quantities. Perhaps a monopoly on force has the potential to minimize the use of force compared to “competition” in force. This, I believe, is an empirical question – but even the question itself challenges many anarcho-capitalists’ assertions that governments are necessarily bad because they are monopolies on the use of force.

Objection 4: Each Person a Judge in His Own Case

This objection to anarcho-capitalism comes from none other than one of history’s first libertarians – John Locke. Locke believed that a government is necessary to resolve disputes and decide on punishments, because no individual is qualified to be an impartial judge in his own case. Virtually all of us, when we feel wronged, have a tendency to exaggerate the magnitude of the injury we have suffered and to demand a punishment that is likely to be disproportionate to the offense. On the other hand, when a person has wronged somebody else, he has an incentive to maintain his innocence or to argue that his act was not as grievous as was truly the case. A third party, not itself a victim or a perpetrator of the wrongful act, is needed to ascertain both the facts of the case and the apportionment of guilt and punishment. Sometimes, such a third party could indeed be a private arbiter. However, it is entirely possible for two private DRAs to each be vested – either emotionally, financially, or both – in the interests of their particular clients in a manner that would detract from objectivity in reaching a decision. In that case, I believe that an indispensable role exists for government to provide the desirable impartial arbitration.

Objection 5: Over-Emphasis on Names, Under-Emphasis on Reality

My concern with anarcho-capitalism is it substitutes consideration of the names of political arrangements for the reality of those arrangements – i.e., the physical actions performed by physical people in the physical world. Whether a function is called a “market” function or a “government” function is not as important as the physical movements involved in carrying out that function. If the physical movements involved do not cause disruption of body or property (as in violence) and do not involve the formation of chemical reactions corresponding to false impressions of reality in the brains of parties to a transaction (as in coercive dishonesty), then the action is legitimate from the standpoint of natural law. On the other hand, if the physical movements of individuals correspond to acts of violence or coercive dishonesty, then these actions are illegitimate – irrespective of whether the individuals call themselves (or are called by others) government officials, free-market DRAs, or private gangsters.

Anarcho-capitalists might respond here by noting that, in the 20th century, governments have killed more people than possibly all private crime in human history. This is true – but it does not undermine the case for any government whatsoever. The killing was done by some governments – such as the governments of Nazi Germany, the USSR, and Maoist China – but not others, such as many of the governments of American cities, towns, and villages. Moreover, even in the governments that perpetrated the killings, only some of the officials were responsible for either ordering the killings, promoting them as desirable, or carrying them out. Millions of government employees have never committed a single coercive action (and yes, that even includes their mode of earning a living – as quite a few government positions are not tax-financed). It does not seem fair to lump a peaceful bureaucrat doing research or mediating consumer complaints at his desk with an NKVD officer massacring villagers in the Ukraine. Both are “government” functionaries, but they could not be farther apart in terms of what they do, and the atrocities of the latter do not de-legitimize the former. The anarcho-capitalist characterization of all government as violent, coercive, and unnecessary is a poor substitute for a thorough consideration of reality. Moreover, it is a violation of the principle of methodological individualism, which evaluates the actions of each person as an individual person, and not primarily as a member of a collective. Collectives do not act or think; only individual people do – although the incentives people face depend on the institutional structure to which those people are subject.

Objection 6: No Practical Application

To date, I have not found a single viable proposal for the attainment of anarcho-capitalism in the real world. Anarcho-capitalists have tended to spend most of their time on either 1) describing what an ideal anarcho-capitalist society would be like or 2) discussing why government, in its various manifestations, is undesirable. At the same time, some anarcho-capitalists have disdained and even actively discouraged participation in “the system” as it currently is, because that would grant “implicit recognition” to existing power structures. During the 2008 Republican Primaries, for instance, many anarcho-capitalists (though, of course, not all of them; I do not mean to offer a blanket characterization) endeavored to actively dissuade people from supporting the Ron Paul movement, arguing that attempting to reform the U.S. government from within would grant legitimacy to the structures of the U.S. government. These anarchists were preoccupied with formal structures over the substantive functions of the government – which could be better or worse than they are today. Moreover, these anti-Ron-Paul anarcho-capitalists undermined a movement that had the potential to eliminate many of the abuses of the U. S. federal government against its subjects’ liberties.

I happen to believe that political theory is more than a mind game; it has relevance to the real world, and it ought to have real-world implications for how we act in our own lives. It is not enough to simply state that one would like the world to be a certain way. Rather, a specific, technical, and quite involved series of steps is necessary to transition from the status quo to any state considered desirable. To simply contemplate the end outcome without any idea of how to attain it or even approach it is to divorce one’s political thinking from reality. We find ourselves today with a highly imperfect political system – one that involves numerous violations of individual liberties and also jeopardizes the economic prosperity and technological progress of the Western world. To solve today’s political problems, we cannot but participate in government in some way for the purposes of reforming it or at least protecting ourselves. To reject government altogether instead of endeavoring to improve it is to hide from the real, pressing problems of our time.

Perhaps the anarcho-capitalist ideal will be realizable in some distant future time, once human beings have progressed morally and technologically to such an extent that the initiation of force is no longer lucrative to anybody. I even suggested that this would happen in my short story, “The Fate of War.” In that enlightened time, violence would altogether not be within the realm of human consideration, and a viable anarcho-capitalism would be the natural corollary to that state of affairs.

Meanwhile, however, we are alive today – and if we do not have that which we consider good within our lifetimes, we shall not have it at all. If it is liberty we want – and the anarcho-capitalists have not come up with a viable way to have it without government – then we must have liberty with government. This endeavor will require working through government as well as through private channels; it will require not rejecting the existing system, but modifying it incrementally to move it toward more liberty and less violence. At the same time, a revolution against government is the least desirable course of action, because it would devastate our current levels of prosperity, health, and stability. Individuals who are wealthy, productive, and in control of their lives will come, over time, to civilly demand increasing amounts of independence from centralized control. On the other hand, individuals whose livelihoods have been ruined and whose prospects for upward mobility have been thwarted by an unstable macroeconomic and political climate – which inevitably accompanies revolutions – are easy prey for demagogues and would-be tyrants. Advocates of freedom must be patient, civil, and cautious. While challenging abuses of government authority as such abuses occur, freedom-loving people ought never to do anything that would undermine the standard of living or the safety and comfort of people in the Western world.

Transhumanism and Minarchism Are Compatible: A Response to The Sliceman – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Transhumanism and Minarchism Are Compatible: A Response to The Sliceman – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 27, 2014

This essay is part of a debate with The Sliceman on whether transhumanism and minarchism are compatible. For prior installments of the conversation, see the following essays:

– “Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism” by G. Stolyarov II

– “In Response to G. Stolyarov II and his Transhumanist Minarchism” by The Sliceman

I appreciate that The Sliceman has taken the time to post his thoughts on the question of the compatibility of transhumanism and minarchism, and I thank him for his good words regarding my work. If, as he writes, we agree on 90% of the issues, “with the lone exceptions being minarchy and monogamy”, then we have plenty of common ground that could also be used to reach some points of agreement on the question of transhumanist minarchism.

My aim in this discussion will not be to discredit or refute anarcho-capitalism; instead, I will strive to show that transhumanist minarchism is a fully reasonable and logically consistent position. Empirically, transhumanist anarcho-capitalism also clearly has articulate adherents and holds out promise for the incremental improvement of the human condition. The Sliceman writes of my views, “Your stance is that, [anarcho-capitalism] would be better than normal statism, but not as good as minarchism.” This is correct, meaning that I would see transhumanist anarcho-capitalism as an improvement over the status quo both politically and technologically. However, transhumanist minarchism would be superior still, because it would contain a method for resolving tensions and disputes that would have escalated into violence under transhumanist anarcho-capitalism.

The Sliceman writes in response to my statement that anarcho-capitalism has no practical application in today’s world that “yes, there has never been a practical application of Anarcho-Capitalism replacing a state but there has never been an economic powerhouse minarchy that didn’t evolve into totalitarianism either. We are BOTH in the realm of theory here, my friend.”

In an important way, I agree. I wrote in “Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism” that “Neither my position nor the anarcho-capitalists’ has any existing real-world incarnation. The question before us, then, is which of these positions would result in less overall violence and coercive dishonesty if implemented in practice?” However, in another important way, I disagree with the argument that an empirical refutation of minarchism can be offered by observing formerly freer societies that have devolved into totalitarian or near-totalitarian ones. The Sliceman is correct that the United States has undertaken this trajectory over the past 238 years, while in the meantime facilitating considerable prosperity and economic growth through political structures that were freer than most. However, at no point in history was the United States minarchistic – not even by a long shot. The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights were closer to the libertarian ideal than the governance structures of 18th-century Europe, to be sure, so they constituted steps in the right direction for their time. But the very language of these documents – including the “Commerce Clause”, the “General Welfare Clause”, and the “Necessary and Proper Clause” – opened the floodgates for extensive centralized intervention as these clauses were interpreted to have increasingly expansive and open-ended meanings. The devolution of the United States to the near-totalitarianism it exhibits today is not the result of minarchism, but israther due to the infusion of non-minarchistic elements into the US political structure at its founding. (The recognition of slavery certainly did not help, either; it paved the way for the bloody Civil War, which led to the first round of attempted totalitarianism by central governments under Abraham Lincoln in the Union and Jefferson Davis in the Confederacy.) I also note that the non-minarchistic nature of the early United States can be clearly seen in such travesties against liberty as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 (which effectively forbade criticism of the government) and even Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act of 1807 (which effectively forbade all overseas trade) – neither of which would be conceivable even in today’s United States.

So the historical trajectory of the United States is no more an argument against minarchism than the brutal infighting and miserable standards of living in Somalia today are an argument against anarchism. The argument presented by The Sliceman that bureaucracies tend to try to grab more power for themselves may be true, but, if so, its only implication is that non-minarchistic elements of a government will tend to expand over time, changing the proportions of an initial mix of coercive and non-coercive government functions to be more heavily dominated by the coercive functions over time. However, if a minarchist government lacks the coercive functions (which involve non-retaliatory use of force) to begin with, and both the constitution and public opinion provide strong barriers to the emergence of such coercive functions, then the trajectory toward totalitarianism need not occur.

The Sliceman writes, “In fact, I believe minarchy to be much more theoretical than anarchy. Anarchy can be seen all over the world every day in the form of capitalism and voluntary association and order. Minarchy is almost never seen in all of history.” Both minarchy and anarchy are similarly theoretical, in my view, because, just as there has never been a completely minarchist government in history, there has never been a complete anarcho-capitalism in any society. Because every person encounters some dose of coercion in going about his or her daily life, that coercion necessarily shapes individual incentives and the kinds of markets and goods and services that arise in the society where the coercion exists. It is true, for instance, that unregulated black markets arise virtually everywhere that a government attempts to prohibit a good or service, but the content, environment, and limitations of those black markets are very much determined by the fact that the prohibition exists in the first place, as well as the extent and manner of the prohibition’s enforcement. Just as a true minarchism could only exist if a government did not have any legitimate power to initiate force, so a true anarcho-capitalism could only exist if there were no need to develop workarounds for the limitations imposed by a centralized authority.

This leads me to the conclusion that what matters more is the incremental direction of political change that one advocates – rather than one’s desired theoretical destination. For instance, abolishing NSA surveillance of the general population, dismantling the TSA, repealing the income tax, withdrawing all overseas US troops, halting the War on Drugs, and ending the requirement that the FDA approve all medicines prior to their availability for purchase by the general public, would all be measures favored by both minarchists and anarcho-capitalists. Their implementation would greatly increase the liberty enjoyed by people in practice, and such measures would also dramatically accelerate the rates of technological progress and economic growth. Whether the changes could be best accomplished by working within or outside the political system is an empirical question, and various strategies can be, at their core, compatible with both minarchism and anarcho-capitalism.

The Sliceman writes: “how dare you consider yourself a transhumanist, yet scoff at that which hasnt been tried yet[?] The automobile has not yet been created, but that is no reason to think the future is a faster horse. If history has taught us anything, it’s that someone’s lack of imagination does not deter future technological advancement in the areas of industry, economy, religion, or government.”

My argument regarding the lack of practical application for anarcho-capitalism does not hinge on the fact that it has not been tried yet in its full form. In fact, I would encourage some group of people to try it – perhaps on a seastead, a small island, or a space colony. The results of such an experiment would provide valuable empirical evidence and fuel for further thought and work in political philosophy. As I have previously stated, my preferred political system of minarchism also has not been tried in its consistent form, so my preference for it does not stem from any aversion for the new and untried.

Rather, when I say that anarcho-capitalism has no practical application today, my exact meaning is that I have yet to see a viable proposal for bringing it about through a transition from the status quo. Unlike minarchism, for whose attainment a sequence of political reforms can be articulated, many strains of anarcho-capitalism reject working within the political system, period, so it is unclear how exactly the transformation from a militaristic welfare state to an anarcho-capitalist society is envisioned to occur. As I wrote in “Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism”, “I happen to believe that political theory is more than a mind game; it has relevance to the real world, and it ought to have real-world implications for how we act in our own lives. It is not enough to simply state that one would like the world to be a certain way. Rather, a specific, technical, and quite involved series of steps is necessary to transition from the status quo to any state considered desirable. To simply contemplate the end outcome without any idea of how to attain it or even approach it is to divorce one’s political thinking from reality.” It also appears to me that, when an anarcho-capitalist does propose ways of working “outside the system” – including seasteading, cryptocurrencies, informal markets, and digital communities – these ways are also perfectly compatible with minarchism. They involve the use of technological innovation, jurisdictional competition, and civil society to motivate a reduction of political power from without. Yet, unfortunately, too many anarcho-capitalists let the perfect (in their minds) be the enemy of the good, and they reject or resist any attempts at bringing about incremental change (even outside of politics proper), for fear that those attempts are somehow intertwined with and corrupted by the existing political or social order. I do support the practical efforts of anarcho-capitalists to achieve their vision in peaceful ways. However, if and when they do this, they do not engage in any activities that are exclusively anarcho-capitalist or that would require adherence to anarcho-capitalism to pursue. A minarchist could undertake those same actions just as effectively.

I note that the lack of a concrete proposal to achieve anarcho-capitalism is quite different from what one observes with transhumanist projects and aspirations. Virtually every transhumanist vision, from indefinite life extension to various incarnations of the technological Singularity, has an associated detailed sequential plan for attaining it or view of the unfolding events that would bring it about. Consider, as examples of this, Aubrey de Grey’s SENS roadmap to reversing all the types of age-related damage, or Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, forecasting the continued exponential growth of emerging technologies. I certainly see the amount of centralized control in a society as capable of having a powerful impact on the rate at which these transhumanist aspirations can be realized; the more centralized control, the slower the rate. However, neither minarchism nor anarcho-capitalism would impose coercive restrictions on transhumanist projects, and so both are, in theory, quite compatible with transhumanism. Minarchism has the added advantage that it more readily embraces incremental political reforms that could help make an existing society more free, even if any given reform will not completely achieve the libertarian ideal. Minarchist activism could therefore be one effective way to increase the rate of technological progress in the near-to-intermediate term, paving the way for massive prosperity in the long term, which would increasingly consign the “social service” role of many welfare states to irrelevance.

The Sliceman writes, “Libertarian Tranhumanism and Minarchism is an extremely rare match. The creed of Transhumanism is to use historical patterns and trends to predict the future. I’m sure this study greatly contributed to your [belief] and support for indefinite life extension. The creed of Libertarianism is to increase liberty, freedom, and the protection of private property by decreasing the institutionalized initiation of the use of force that is the state.”

I disagree with the proposition that libertarian transhumanism and minarchism are a rare match. It is important to keep in mind that, among libertarians today, anarcho-capitalism is still a significant minority position. Transhumanism attracts significant interest from both libertarians and non-libertarians alike, but its affinity with libertarianism is stronger, so a larger proportion of libertarians are transhumanists as compared to non-libertarians. I have seen no evidence to suggest that anarchist libertarians are more inclined toward transhumanism than minarchist libertarians. While I have done no polling on this question (and some empirical research would certainly be extremely interesting here), a more plausible hypothesis is that transhumanism attracts libertarians independently of their views on the question of minarchy versus anarchy. So if X% of libertarians are anarchists, and (100-X)% are minarchists, and Y% of libertarians are attracted to transhumanism, then it would appear that, as long as X% < 50%, then X%*Y% would be less than (100-X)%*Y%, so there would be more minarchist transhumanists than anarcho-capitalist transhumanists. Again, this is only a hypothesis at present, and conducting a scientific poll of libertarian transhumanists would enable a more in-depth exploration of this question.

The Sliceman continues by describing an “exponential curve of liberty” that has unfolded throughout history, as greater technological advancement, especially in communication technology, has increased individual sovereignty. I agree with this general characterization. In fact, it fits with Steven Pinker’s immensely well-researched look in The Better Angels of Our Nature into the decline in rates of human violence over time, as technology, culture, and political liberty have tended to progress. However, Pinker is certainly no anarchist. He points out that hunter-gatherer “stateless” societies experienced per capita rates of violence and murder greatly exceeding those of the most despotic governments or those that were manifested during the two World Wars of the 20th century. Pinker’s view is that even despotic government is preferable to tribalism or lawlessness, while constitutional or limited government is greatly preferable to despotic government in reducing the rates of violence (which are at their lowest point now as compared to any prior era) and maximizing the scope of individual liberty. I have read the entirety of The Better Angels of Our Nature, and it appears that the evidence Pinker presents suggests that technology, commerce, and culture – rather than political structures – offer the greatest contributions to the reduction of violence, perhaps because political structures are very much conditioned by the technological, economic, and cultural environments in which they arise.

The Sliceman writes, “The question here is what kind of liberty this technology will lead us to. Your answer seems to be that the exponential change in liberty will come to a stop at minarchy and we will just stay there, where my answer is that the exponential change will continue and the only logical conclusion is that we will approach 100% liberty with only [a] few tiny fractions of a percent of violence being accounted for by the fact that we are still, in fact, animals, and animals are violent.”

Supposing that exponential increases in liberty through technological progress can be achieved, this is not per se a sufficient argument that all government would disappear. For instance, exponential advances have been made to store data in ever-smaller volumes of physical space. This does not, however, suggest that we will ever arrive at a point where no physical space at all will be required for the storage of data. At most, we could perhaps keep reducing the space required without any lower limit, but we would only asymptotically approach zero space without ever getting there. The same reasoning could apply to government. Indeed, I see in accelerating technological progress our best prospect for minarchism. As advancing technology raises the prevailing levels of prosperity, fewer people will find themselves in need of government services to rectify any perceived deficiencies in their lives. The more the role of the redistributive welfare state dwindles away, the more governments would be relegated to their theoretically justified roles under minarchism – the resolution of disputes and protection against the initiation of force. It is quite feasible that additional private mechanisms for dispute resolution would emerge, and people would become generally more comfortable and less likely to want to engage in violence in the first place – both of which phenomena would reduce the frequency with which the government would resolve disputes in practice or interject its retaliatory force. If many humans receive augmentations to their minds, increasing both their intelligence and their moral sense, then the result will be an even further-reduced inclination to initiate force. But would this trend ever result in the elimination of government altogether? I doubt it – for the simple reason that the ability to have an ultimate arbiter of disputes or an entity that can interject itself to prevent violence would be too valuable for a future society to do away with altogether. 99.9999% of future transhumans may be entirely peaceful and capable of dealing with one another solely through market arrangements. But suppose there is even one person who rejects all transhumanist paths for humankind and who seeks, in some way, to use violence to wage war on the transhumanist society. Maintaining some very minimal government to deter this person would be wise. Furthermore, if the situation improves to the point where no such person exists, then the mechanisms of a minimal government might well lie dormant for a time – but there would be no reason to abolish them. It would be better to keep them available, just in case a future threat of violence arises, and all market-based methods for preventing it fail. After all, what would happen if some barbarous militaristic alien species discovers the transhumanist Earth and simply launches an invasion, with no questions asked?

The Sliceman writes, “You don’t need an ultimate arbiter when you are running your contracts through the Bitcoin Blockchain or its future replacement. You don’t need an ultimate arbiter when everything on Earth is constantly being recorded and a murderer (whose act can be proven 10 ways from Sunday through constant voluntary surveillance i.e.: Google glass, dashcams, and their future equivalents) can be given a voluntary unanimous Yelp review of ‘exile’.” In some cases, technologies such as the blockchain or universal sousveillance might actually generate more of a need for an ultimate arbiter. It is true that those technologies can facilitate more transparency and discovery of facts, but, in some cases, they are just as open to exploitation for nefarious motives. For technologies based on the blockchain, this is evidenced by the many thefts that have occurred from third-party Bitcoin services or the dishonesty and consequent failure of Mt. Gox. For sousveillance, there is an extremely fine but important line between monitoring that can help deter or prevent crime and monitoring that can infringe on individual privacy and deter innocent behaviors that could only occur in private. When such conflict areas arise (as is inevitable with transformative new technologies), it would be nice to have an impartial arbiter that could resolve conflicting legitimate interests and help overcome the “growing pains” of technological change. Of course, today’s archaic and cumbersome legal system is not the answer to this challenge, but a highly streamlined, extremely knowledgeable, and technologically sophisticated minarchist court might be.

The Sliceman writes that “Technology does not stop at minarchy.” I respond that, ultimately, no single form of government can be seen as the final form, upon which there cannot be any improvement. I do not rule out the existence of true anarcho-capitalism at some future time, somewhere. In “Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism”, I wrote that “Perhaps the anarcho-capitalist ideal will be realizable in some distant future time, once human beings have progressed morally and technologically to such an extent that the initiation of force is no longer lucrative to anybody.” I would have no quarrel with transhumanists who attempt to implement anarcho-capitalism through emerging technologies – but, at the same time, minarchism appears to be a far more proximate prospect, and, in the next several decades at least, the very same concrete methods that any anarcho-capitalist would effectively pursue, could also be used to pursue minarchism (since societies would be moved in the direction of both ideals by the application of such methods). Perhaps one implication of my argument is that, for the time being, it does not really matter whether one is a minarchist or an anarcho-capitalist, as long as one supports pro-liberty incremental changes. Another implication, however, is that minarchism and transhumanism are fully compatible, at least for the foreseeable future.