Browsed by
Tag: Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson versus John Marshall on the Nature of the American Union (2006) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Thomas Jefferson versus John Marshall on the Nature of the American Union (2006) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 26, 2014
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2006 and published in two parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 1,900 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 26, 2014


Thomas Jefferson’s Views on the American Union as a Compact Among the States


Early American political thought about the Union’s nature was divided into two radically different perspectives. One of these was expressed by Thomas Jefferson’s 1798 Kentucky Resolutions, which viewed the Union as a loose compact of the states, whose legislatures could overrule and judge the constitutionality of the federal government’s actions. The South Carolina Declaration of Causes (1860) and the Mississippi Resolutions (1861) developed this position-using Jefferson’s premises to justify Southern states’ secession from the Union.

Jefferson portrayed the Union as voluntarily entered into by the states; the states were “not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government” (KR, 153). The Union was created by the ratification of the Constitution, which served as a “compact” by which the states “delegated… certain definite powers” to the general government (KR, 154). The government’s exercise of powers not expressly granted to it by the Constitution was thus illegitimate. For Jefferson, the Constitution both defined and limited the Union’s nature and essence.

To keep the national government one of limited and expressly delegated powers, Jefferson warned that it should not be “the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself” (KR, 154), since that would allow the government to define the scope of its powers and dissociate these powers from their original source – the states. The states – as parties to the Constitutional compact – have no common judge among them; hence, “each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of the infractions as of the mode and measure of redress” (KR, 154). Jefferson acknowledged state legislatures’ right to judge federal actions’ constitutionality.

The South Carolina and the Mississippi legislatures agreed with Jefferson that the Union was a compact among the “free and independent states,” whose sovereignty was asserted in the 1776 Declaration of Independence (SCDC, 310). In 1787, deputies sent by the states affirmed the “Articles of Union”-the Constitution-which defined the Union and required the states’ consent to take effect (SCDC, 311). The South Carolina Declaration emphasized that – while only nine out of thirteen states needed to ratify the Constitution for it to be adopted-those that refused to ratify it would have remained “separate, sovereign states… exercise[ing] the functions of… independent nation[s]” (SCDC, 311). Via the Tenth Amendment, the Constitution assured that all powers not expressly delegated to the national government were left to the states or the people, while the federal government remained “limited to the express words of the grant” (SCDC, 311).

In the Southern legislatures’ view, the Constitution established the “law of compact” (SCDC, 311), which required mutual reciprocity of obligations on behalf of all parties to the Union. If any party – such as the Northern states – refused to fulfill its Constitutional obligations and infringed on the rights of the other parties, the Union was dissolved and “the ends for which this government was instituted have been defeated” (SCDC, 312). The Mississippi Resolution asserted that whenever the compact is thus destroyed, “parties to the compact have the right to resume, each state for itself, such delegated powers” (MR, 314) as they had formerly granted the national government. According to the Mississippi Resolution, the Northern states’ explicit unwillingness to enforce the Constitution’s fugitive slave clause justified the Southern states’ secession from the Union (MR, 315). Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolutions and the declarations of the South Carolina and Mississippi legislatures viewed the Union as a compact of sovereign states that retained broad powers and could exercise them to counter federal abuses.

John Marshall’s View of the American Union as a Direct Association of the People


John Marshall’s McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) decision stated a view which directly contradicted Thomas Jefferson – a view of the Union as a direct association of the people – not of the states. Marshall denied states the ability to overrule federal actions. Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address (1861) reinforced this view and argued that the Union was perpetual and could not be dissolved by individual states.

Marshall’s vision of the Union differed sharply from Thomas Jefferson’s. According to Marshall and contrary to Jefferson, the Union was not a compact between the states, but an association created directly by the people. Although the Constitutional Convention’s delegates were elected by state legislatures, the Constitution itself was “submitted to the people” (MMD, 149) for ratification. The Constitutional Convention’s delegates ordained that special conventions in the states – not the state legislatures – ratify the Constitution. Marshall emphasized that “from these conventions, the constitution derives its whole authority” (MMD, 149); thus, “[the] government proceeds directly from the people” (MMD, 149). The states were only instrumental to the Union insofar as their legislatures “called a convention, and thus submit[ed] that instrument to the people” (MMD, 149).

Marshall believed that the national government was granted enumerated powers by the people and was hence free to exercise those powers “directly on them, and for their benefit” (MMD, 149), without states’ interference. Marshall’s view, unlike Jefferson’s, does not permit the states to overrule an act of Congress or to declare it unconstitutional. Marshall interpreted the Constitution’s “necessary and proper” clause to mean that “the government of the Union, though limited in its powers, is supreme within its sphere of action” (MMD, 150); it could use any means necessary to fulfill powers expressly delegated to it, and the states could not legitimately overrule its actions.

Abraham Lincoln challenged claims that the Union was founded via the Constitution. Lincoln traced the Union’s origin back to the Articles of Association in 1774; the Constitution’s purpose was not to create the Union, but merely to “form a more perfect” one (FIA, 121). The Union is not conditional; it “is perpetual,” since “no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination” (FIA, 121). The Constitution provides no terms under which the Union might be destroyed; therefore, it will continue to “endure forever” if the Constitution is followed (FIA, 121). Lincoln developed this argument to claim that “no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union” (FIA, 122); any attempt at secession amounts to insurrection. Secession would only set a highly negative precedent for any minority that did not acquiesce to the majority’s decisions. Lincoln saw it necessary for the Union to maintain itself by all constitutional means-though he initially hoped to avoid bloodshed in reconciling the states.

John Marshall and Abraham Lincoln saw the Union as a perpetual association of the people – incapable of being overruled or dissolved by individual states’ actions. This view, incompatible with the ideas of those who saw the Union as a compact among the states, fueled disputes that would eventually culminate in the Civil War.

The Debate Regarding the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 (2003) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

The Debate Regarding the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 (2003) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 20, 2014
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2003 and published in four parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 14,000 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  ***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 20, 2014

Mid-1798 was the culmination of a development of heated antagonisms which had entangled the United States on both the domestic and the foreign scenes. The passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in June and July of that year was met with a myriad of responses by various influential individuals and political movements within the country, thus adding fuel to a multifaceted dispute. Key areas of intense disagreement included relations with European powers, the nature of acceptable political dissent, and the distinction between loyalty to the Constitution and the present wielders of power.

This essay will examine the historical events and controversies central to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts and the debate regarding them.

American Diplomacy with Britain and France


In 1793 France, engulfed by a bloody revolution, declared war on Holland, Spain, and its archrival, Great Britain. The United States encountered a dilemma; it maintained key ties with both France, its principal ally by the Treaty of Alliance of 1778, and Great Britain, its chief commercial partner and the source of much of its overseas revenue.

In April 1793, Citizen Edmond Genet, a representative of the French government, employed the alliance with the United States as the pretext for recruitment of Americans on American soil to fight the British in the Western hemisphere (Norton 219). Genet also sought to entangle America in the war with Great Britain, facing instead a neutrality proclamation by President Washington, who strove to retain friendly impartiality between the United States and each of the warring powers.

Meanwhile, in hopes of averting war with England and resolving matters such as the stationing of British troops in the American Northwest and the British seizure of American merchant ships with French wares from the West Indies, Washington sent Chief Justice John Jay to negotiate a treaty in 1794-95. The treaty satisfied a substantial portion of the United States’ requests and set its relations with Britain on a stable footing (Norton 221).

In the meantime, however, the Jay Treaty provoked a reaction by France, manifested by the Directory’s order to intercept American vessels that transported British goods. Upon the deployment of John Marshall, Elbridge Gerry, and C. C. Pinckney for the purpose of negotiating an end to these violations, the American envoys were met by three agents of Foreign Minister Talleyrand, who demanded a bribe, a loan, and an apology for President Adams’ anti-French remarks before the negotiations could even begin. Their extortionist approach was publicized in the “XYZ Affair,” which sparked a severe attitudinal backlash against France within the United States (Norton 224).

Federalists’ and Republicans’ Views of Britain and France


As fighting between American and French navies in the Caribbean developed into an unofficial war, the ruling Federalist Party in the United States saw the volatile situation as a pretext for implementing domestic controls. Hence, the Alien and Sedition Acts, legislation that lengthened immigrants’ naturalization period (Naturalization Act), gave the President almost unlimited power to detain (Alien Enemies Act) or deport them (Alien Friends Act), and rendered any criticism of government policy a virtual crime (Sedition Act), came into being. The Federalists hoped thereby to kill two birds with one stone, to actively resist France and to crush their primary political rivals, the Democratic-Republicans.

The dispute over foreign affairs was one of the key issues which separated the advocates of the Alien and Sedition Acts from their opponents. The rampant Reign of Terror during the French Revolution horrified many Federalists, and the effrontery of Commissioners X, Y, and Z even further intensified their hostilities toward France.

James Madison wrote concerning President John Adams’s opinion of France that Adams considered the French and American revolutions to be diametrically opposite in principle. Alexander Hamilton added that it would be treason for an American to sympathize with France and thereby offend his own government, which had been so callously mistreated. Hamilton and the High Federalists especially constantly urged for an official declaration of war against France during 1798-99 (Norton 226).

The Republicans, on the contrary, sympathized with the French Revolution and viewed the XYZ affair as exploited out of proportion by the Federalists to advance the ulterior motives of the latter. Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to Madison that the XYZ papers were revealed to the American public in a misconstrued format, for the purpose of creating an intentional “shock” and arousing animosity against France.

While the Federalists sought stable commercial and cultural relations with Britain, the Republicans sensed danger in all things British. Jefferson, writing to Phillip Mazzei, explicitly mentioned the Federalists’ association with England and English monarchy, and the purported desires of the Federalists to re-impose British-style government on the United States. While the Federalists perceived the integrity of America as threatened by French extortion, the Republicans saw a radically different menace in British-imitating aristocracy. Whereas the Federalists persecuted French sympathizers because of the alleged threat to national security that the latter caused, the Republicans saw the threat in the Federalists’ persecution itself.

Arguments About the Permissibility of Political Dissent


Aside from issues of desirable American foreign policy toward Britain and France, the arguments over the Alien and Sedition Acts also encompassed issues of free speech and political dissent.

For the Federalists, the acts were an opportunity, explicitly acknowledged by Senate whip Theodore Sedgwick, to eliminate factionalism and opposition within the country. Fifteen indictments and ten convictions resulted from the Acts, the victims including outspoken Republican newspaper editors and Matthew Lyon, a Republican congressman (Norton 224).

The Federalists did not consider the silencing of critics to be in opposition to the First Amendment; John Allen, a Federalist congressman, expressed the generally prevailing view within his party that the freedom of the press did not imply the right to slanderous smearing or incitement toward subversion of lawful government. Allen’s statement assumed that the integrity of Federalist policies was beyond question, and anyone who doubted their validity was automatically a liar and an insurrectionist.

In short, the Federalists did not see a distinction between forceful revolution and peaceful denunciation of government policies. The Republicans, on the contrary, recognized the philosophy behind the Sedition Act to be a foundation for dictatorial oligarchy and the antithesis of a free society.

Representative Edward Livingston, for example, noted that the Acts invested in the President (and his Federalist-packed courts) the authority to determine what constituted a crime under them, whom to convict, and how to punish the convicted. Thus, the Acts violated the balance between the various branches of government and tipped the scales in extreme favor of the executive.

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison undertook a campaign against the Acts on a state level, drafting the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, which proclaimed the laws unconstitutional due to the fact that state approval of the measures had been bypassed. The Constitution and the Federal Government, it was argued, were the products of a compact amongst the states, and the Federal Government’s legislation possessed no legitimate connection to the interests of the people unless verified by more direct representatives thereof (Norton 225). Thus the Republicans, far from espousing any anti-American rhetoric, actively condemned Federalist policy using the principles of the American revolution and of a limited government that safeguards, not violates, the sacred liberties of man.

It is fortunate that the Republicans won the debate over the Alien and Sedition Acts, thereby setting a strong precedent against government suppression of criticism which has lasted to this day. Free political speech came under attack in the United States during the first decades of the country’s existence, and it thankfully withstood that attack.

Loyalty to the Constitution Versus Loyalty to the Government


In the political disputes over the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the distinction between loyalty to the Constitution and loyalty to the established government further separated Federalists and Republicans in the controversy over the Acts.

Representative Albert Gallatin criticized the Federalists for equating the two loyalties and, in contraposition, the two disloyalties. The idea that an opposition to the temporary majority of the present day is an opposition to the Constitution was, according to Gallatin, “subversive of the principles of the Constitution itself.”

The Federalists, by rendering criticism of their measures illegal, would thereby institutionalize their regime into a force-backed behemoth that would no longer be susceptible to the interests and displeasures of the people. With the press silenced, both sides of an issue would not be able to be transferred to the public, who would thus be manipulated by the government into favoring the incumbency. How, then, would the First Amendment apply? This perversion of the public’s electoral right was, stated the Republicans, the gateway to dictatorship.

Both the Federalists and the Republicans viewed each other as traitors to the American essence. The former categorized treason as dislike of the political status quo, whereas the latter saw the status quo as a form of treason in itself.

On the foreign front, the Quasi-War with France was resolved during the Convention of 1800, canceling the Treaty of Alliance of 1778 and freeing America from all binding foreign obligations (Norton 226).

Domestically, the Alien and Sedition Acts proved to be the Federalists’ undoing. Matthew Lyon, arrested during the Federalist reign of censorship, would cast the deciding ballot in favor of Republican Thomas Jefferson in 1800. Jefferson would pardon all persons convicted under the Sedition Act.

The Acts themselves expired in 1801, and the newly empowered Republicans had no intention of renewing them. The controversies over foreign affairs, political dissent, and the nature of Constitutional adherence were ultimately resolved in the Republicans’ favor; war with France was averted, freedom of speech reinstated, and loyal opposition forces encouraged in American politics up to the present day. Since the death of the Alien and Sedition Acts, America has remained a haven for spirited and vibrant ideological dispute.

To this day, it is urgent for Americans to keep in mind that loyalty to the United States and to the Constitution does not necessarily imply loyalty to the government currently in power, which can and often does trample on America’s founding principles and neglect the proper nature and limits of its operation.


Norton, Katzman, et. al. A People and a Nation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

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.

Ron Paul, Richard Cobden, and the Risks of Opposing War – Article by Ryan McMaken

Ron Paul, Richard Cobden, and the Risks of Opposing War – Article by Ryan McMaken

The New Renaissance Hat
Ryan W. McMaken
May 1, 2014

Since at least as early as the eighteen century, classical liberalism, and its modern variant libertarianism, have opposed warfare except in cases of obvious self-defense. We see this anti-war position clearly among the anti-federalists of eighteenth-century America (who opposed all standing armies) and more famously within George Washington’s Farewell Address. Thomas Jefferson frequently inveighed against war, although in moves typical for Jefferson, he acted against his own professed ideology on a number of occasions.

On the other side of the Atlantic, liberalism finally made significant gains in Britain with the rise of the Anti-Corn Law League in the late 1830s. The head of the league, a radical liberal named Richard Cobden, rose to prominence throughout the 1840s and is notable today for his active defense of laissez-faire capitalism as a member of the House of Commons, and also for his staunch anti-interventionism in foreign affairs.

For a time, his political star rose quickly, but by the time the Crimean War ended, Cobden, had been cast aside by both a ruling class and a public enthusiastic for both empire and war.

Prior to the war Cobden traveled Europe as an honored guest at international peace conferences while advocating for free markets, civil liberties, and libertarianism everywhere he traveled. But in the end, as has been so often the case, his political career was ended by his opposition to war, and his refusal to buy into nationalistic propaganda.

Like the Crimean crisis of today, the Crimean crises of the early 1850s were caused by little more than the efforts of various so-called great powers to tip the global balance of power in their favor. Foremost among those grasping for global power was the British Empire.

But even as early as the 1830s, the British were seized by a series of national hysterias whipped up by a variety of anti-Russian pundits who were obsessed with increasing British military spending and strength in the name of “defense” from the Russians.

As is so often the case in securing the case for war, the pro-militarist argument among the Brits rested on perpetuating and augmenting the public’s nationalistic feelings that the Russians were uncommonly aggressive and sinister. Cobden, obviously far better informed on the matter than the typical Brit, published a pamphlet on Russia in 1836 actually considering the facts of Russian foreign policy, which he often compared favorably to the hyper-aggressive foreign policy employed by the British Empire.

Cobden began by comparing Russian expansion to British expansion, noting that “during the last hundred years, England has, for every square league of territory annexed to Russia, by force, violence, or fraud, appropriated to herself three.” And that among the self-professed opponents of conquest, the British failed to recognize that “If the English writer calls down indignation upon the conquerors of the Ukraine, Finland, and the Crimea, may not Russian historians conjure up equally painful reminiscences upon the subjects of Gibraltar, the Cape, and Hindostan?”

In an interesting parallel to the modern Crimean crisis, much of the opposition to the Russian among British militarists was based on the assertion that the Russians had annexed portions of Poland in aggressive moves that were deemed by the British as completely unwarranted. Cobden, however, understanding the history of the region to be much more murky than the neat little scenarios painted by militarists, recognized that neither side was angelic and blameless and that many of the “annexed” territories were in fact populated by Russians that had earlier been conquered and annexed by the Poles.

The Russians, while themselves no doubt hostile toward neighbors, were surrounded by hostile neighbors themselves, with the origins of conflicts going back decades or even centuries. The puerile and simplistic arguments of the British militarists, who advocated for what would become a global, despotic, and racist British Empire, added little of value to any actual public knowledge of the realities in Eastern Europe.

For his efforts in gaining a true understanding of global conflicts, and for seeking a policy of negotiation and anti-nationalism, Cobden was declared to be un-patriotic and a friend to the great enemy Russia during the Crimean war. Cobden, who had perhaps done more to consistently advance the cause of liberty than anyone else in Europe of his day, was declared to be a friend of despots.

The similarities to today’s situation are of course striking. The Crimea, an area of highly ambiguous ethnic and national allegiance is declared by the West to be a perpetual territory of anti-Russian forces much like the Eastern Polish provinces of old, in spite of the presence of a population highly sympathetic to Russian rule.

Moreover, the successor to the British Empire, the United States, with its global system of client states and puppet dictatorships and occupied territories declares itself fit to rule on a Russian “invasion” that, quite unlike the American invasion of Iraq, resulted in exactly one reported casualty.

As was the case with Cobden in the nineteenth century, however, merely pointing out these facts today earns one the label of “anti-American” or “pro-Russian” as in the obvious case of Ron Paul.

Like Cobden, Paul spent decades denouncing oppressive regimes domestically and internationally, only to now be declared “pro-Putin,” “pacifist,” “unpatriotic,” and “anti-American” by a host of ideologues utterly uninterested in familiarizing themselves with Paul’s actual record, including his denunciations, while in Congress, of Communist regimes and his warnings about Putin’s desire to expand Russian influence in Afghanistan.

Of course, Russia has not been the only target. For those who can remember the lead up to the Iraq War in 2003, this should all feel like déjà vu since many at that time, including some libertarians, claimed that opponents of invasion were “pro-Saddam Hussein” for pointing out that Iraq clearly had no weapons of mass destruction, and that his secular regime was probably preferable to the murderous Islamist oligarchy that has replaced it.

Paul remains in good company with the likes of Cobden, H.L. Mencken, William Graham Sumner, and virtually the entire membership of the American Anti-Imperialist League, including Edward Atkinson who encouraged American soldiers in the Philippines to mutiny. These were radical principled opponents of militarism who opposed government violence at great risk to themselves and their reputations. Some modern American libertarians, on the other hand, well out of reach of the Russian state, would rather spend their time stating what everyone already knows: Russia is not a libertarian paradise.

Ryan W. McMaken is the editor of Mises Daily and The Free Market. Send him mail. See Ryan McMaken’s article archives.

This article was published on and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

A Brief History of Western Liberalism – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

A Brief History of Western Liberalism – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

The New Renaissance Hat
Kyrel Zantonavitch
June 1, 2013

This is a brief history of the philosophy and culture of liberalism. It describes a life-style and civilization which lifts human beings far above that of animals, chimpanzees, hominids, and even tribalist hunter-gatherers. Liberalism features man at his best. Liberals are clear-thinking and rational men: natural, sound, healthy, happy, uplifted, and heroic.

Liberalism is a fundamental category of philosophy and life-style – something broad and general. It constitutes a definitive concept – beyond which one cannot venture or improve – like life, happiness, greatness, transcendence, virtue, beauty, pleasure, thought, reality, existence, and the universe. Liberalism’s subsidiary concepts are also ultimate and final: rationality, egoism, and liberty.

In the story of mankind, first come bonobos, then semi-human Homo habilis, then primitive man Homo erectus, then highly advanced Neanderthals, then truly intelligent and impressive Cro-Magnons – who used their 100 IQs to exterminate their brutish competitors, invent sophisticated arrow technology, and make art such as those Venus statues and cave paintings.

By 9000 BC the last Ice Age ended, and humans immediately converted from hunter-gatherers to rancher-farmers. After domesticating multitudinous plants and animals, by 3300 BC human beings further cultivated them with irrigation on their new private property, backed by their revolutionary social institution called government. By 1700 BC men had well-established written laws, well-developed literature and art, easy personal transportation using horses, and elaborate international trade using sophisticated great ships.

All of this constituted impressive advances in humans’ quality of life; but none of it constituted philosophical or cultural liberalism.

Finally, by about 600 BC, the ancient Greeks created the indescribably magnificent phenomenon of Western liberalism. They invented rationality or “Greek reason” or syllogistic logic – or pure thought or epistemology. This is usually described as “the discovery of science and philosophy.”

But along with the stunning and wondrous epistemology of reason – naturally and inevitably and inherently – came the ethics of individualism, and the politics of freedom.

All of this can be fairly, accurately, and usefully denominated as the thought-system and life-style of Western liberalism – of liberal philosophy and culture, especially as exemplified by Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno the Stoic. These three theorists, ironically, were labelled by their intellectual opponents as “dogmatic.” This was not because these scientifically minded open debaters claimed to know everything based on faith, but because they claimed to know anything at all based on evidence and analysis.

By the 100s BC in Greece, the general ideology of liberalism was well-established in the middle and upper classes. Then the Romans conquered the Greeks and within a century made liberalism their own. They even advanced the noble ideas and ideals a bit, with such thinkers as Cicero, Lucretius, Virgil, Horace, and Aurelius.

But skepticism of reason ascended rapidly by the 200s AD, and with it came the decline of the greatest country in human history. The new phenomenon of monotheism began to dominate in the 300s AD, especially Christianity or “Plato for the masses.” By the middle of the 400s, the philosophy and culture of liberalism were dead, and so was Rome. A long, terrible Dark Age ensued.

This irrational, illiberal nightmare of Western civilization lasted for a millennium. The wretched and depraved philosophy of Jesus ruined everything.

But a bit of reason and hope came back into the world in the 1100s of northwest Europe with the mini-Renaissance. High-quality Greek thinkers were gradually reintroduced. Then came the 1300s and the Italian Renaissance.

By the 1500s a whole Europe-wide Renaissance began with France’s conquest of northern Italy. The French brought their reborn art and philosophy to everyone in the West. The beautiful general philosophy of liberalism ascended still higher while the ghastly evils of fundamentalist skepticism, Platonism, monotheism, and Christianity declined. The classical liberal era was brought about by radical and heroic innovators like Francis Bacon, John Locke, Voltaire, Adam Smith, and Thomas Jefferson.

The late 1700s Enlightenment and Age of Reason in Britain, France, Holland, and America featured liberalism at its height. But it was gradually and massively undermined by the irrational, nonsensical philosophers Bishop Berkeley, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and Friedrich Hegel.

During and after the 1790s the French Revolution went astray and embraced ideological dogmatism, and self-sacrifice to the cause. It also converted itself into an early version of modern communism; as well as the false, evil, and illiberal ideologies of right-wing conservatism and left-wing progressivism. In the art world this was manifested by the slightly but definitely irrational Romantic movement of 1800-1850. Paintings started to turn ugly again.

Socialism and communism fairly quickly went into high gear after Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto of 1848. Religion also somewhat revived in the late 1800s. These two monstrous ideologies backed the moral ideal of self-destruction, or the “Judeo-Christian ethic,” or, even better, the “religio-socialist ethic.” The fin de siècle of the 1890s was the giddy, despairing, hopeless, lost end of a noble era in the West – a dynamic, heroic, rational, liberal era.

A practical, real-world, irrational, illiberal dystopia was achieved in the mid-1900s with Stalin, Hitler, and Mao. Later in the 1900s there were Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Ayatollah Khomeini, and countless other despots. Illiberalism reached a hellish trough around 1985.

Then came Ronald Reagan in America, Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia, and Deng Xiaoping in China. These four political semi-revolutionaries, in four leading nations, used their governments to change world culture in a liberal direction.

These liberal leaders emerged on the world scene because theory always precedes practice, and the theory of liberalism began to rise again – at least intellectually, and in certain recherché circles – around the early 1900s. It began anew with Austrian economic thinkers like Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, and Friedrich Hayek. In addition to the dry, mechanical realm of economics, these three addressed the fields of politics and sociology – and even ethics and epistemology. They filled in many of the gaps, and corrected many of the weaknesses and failures, of Locke, Smith, and company.

The Austrians also attacked the communism, socialism, and progressivism of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson, among others. And they taught the fiery intellectual novelist Ayn Rand.

Rand converted from fiction to philosophy from the late 1950s to the late 1970s. She was by far the most liberal thinker in the history of man. She created the philosophy of Objectivism. Ayn Rand advanced human knowledge about as much as Bacon, Locke, Voltaire, Smith, and Jefferson combined.

Sadly, however, Rand undercut her liberal ideology with a heavy atmosphere and subtext of cultism and religiosity in her propaganda movement. This was understandable, considering how revolutionary and hated her philosophy was, but hardly rational or legitimate.

However, Rand died in 1982, and a highly rational and non-religious organization, organized around her discoveries, emerged in 1989. This brought the world Objectivism as a thought-system, not a belief-system; and Objectivism as a rational, benevolent, effective philosophy – not an irrational, malicious, weird cult.

There are currently three separate but related avant-garde liberal ideological movements: Austrian economics, libertarian politics, and Objectivist philosophy. All three are tiny but, based on historical intellectual standards, seemingly growing solidly.

Pure liberalism – a pure, clean, complete comprehension that reason was 100% right in epistemology, individualism was 100% right in ethics, and freedom was 100% right in politics – began in the early 21st century. Randroid illiberalism began to die out. A New Enlightenment is about to begin.

Kyrel Zantonavitch is the founder of The Liberal Institute  ( and a writer for Rebirth of Reason ( He can be contacted at