Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Austin Petersen on Balancing Force and Freedom

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversational style and the deep content of Austin Petersen's live stream last night, so I am going to share it here. Austin Petersen is a Minarchist, not an Anarchist. He admits that he identified much more with Darryl Perry than with Gary Johnson at the Libertarian Convention this year. But... he can't quite bring himself to subscribe to the NAP. Because, what if grandma catches a burglar on her own? Should she have to keep him imprisoned in her basement forever without anyone else's assistance?

This is a discussion not about what we are going to do in 2016. Right now Gary Johnson is the Libertarian Party Presidential candidate, and we are all supporting him. There is no one better on the ballot. But in four years' time, the issue will come up again.

Gary Johnson is a Pragmatist, not an ideologue. John McAfee got the celebritarian vote. Adam Kokesh is a sincere Anarchist. Petersen would prefer not to run against Kokesh in 2020, because he does not want to tear the Libertarian Party apart.

Petersen would accept an Anarcho-Capitalist over a Statist "any day", he said.

Kokesh and Petersen have debated before. You can see the full debate in the video above. The point at which they seemed to disagree was when Petersen suggested that even a voluntary collective that makes rules such as "don't hurt anyone or take their stuff" would eventually be a government. Petersen believes that you can never entirely eliminate coercion, but he would like to minimize it. It's the enforcement mechanism to voluntary agreements that is the sticking point.

Petersen defined government as a collection of people who create a monopoly on the use of force. He seems to think that such a monopoly is necessary to some extent. He believes in freedom for everyone, he realizes that we can only enforce it at home. Abroad, he favors non-intervention.

Not everyone can consent to be governed, Children, the disabled and some Democrats are examples of such people. To which Kokesh replies:
So if you can't consent, someone else is going to govern you... So if you don't meet Austin's standard of intelligence, whether its because you're a Liberal or a Statist or a child or a disabled person then you are not entitled to those rights. If you cannot consent to be governed, we're going to govern you, anyway.
Kokesh's point  was that rights should apply equally to all people, even the mentally disabled, In this respect, Kokesh seems more of a purist and Petersen a pragmatist. However, compared to someone like Gary Johnson, Petersen is numbered among the ideologues, and Johnson is the Pragmatist.

What if Petersen and Kokesh run in 2020 for the Libertarian presidential nomination and cancel each other out -- leaving an establishment candidate like Johnson to win? Petersen is not sure that running against Kokesh is the right thing to do.

This all comes down to the NAP -- the Non-Aggression Principle. Petersen is afraid that the moment we contract out our rights to a defense agency, then that agency will be a de facto government, no matter what we choose to call it. This is true if that agency acquires an exclusive monopoly on law enforcement and judicial practices. But what if we didn't grant anyone a monopoly on justice?

The local, neighborhood policeman is our friend, as long as he has no special rights to enforce laws that the rest of us do not have. It's when police officers can carry guns and we cannot, can wear body armor and we cannot, can arrest us, but we cannot arrest them, that the police officer becomes the enemy.

I think that Austin Petersen should run on a platform of the right of all citizens to use force to uphold the law. If someone is violating our rights, we get to use deadly force to defend ourselves. We can also ask our neighborhood policeman to help us, if we can't manage the task all on our own and pay him for his help, but the policeman will not have more rights than we do. It will be just as it is today with our volunteer firefighters. It is okay to call the fire fighters for extra help in a pinch. But there is no law that says we are not allowed to put out the fire on our own, too.  Then Adam Kokesh will not be able to object that this privileges some people over others. And Petersen will still be better at representing the Libertarian position, because he understands how to talk to ordinary people and not just ideologues.

Does grandma have to imprison the burglar she caught in the basement forever? Certainly not. She can hire a warden if she wants to and pay him. The neighbors can all pitch in, too, if they feel it's a good idea. But nobody will be held at gunpoint to pay for the local prison.

Anarchists and Minarchists should all agree on this. And then Petersen will explain it to the general public without using scary words like Anarchy. It's all common sense, really.

Problem solved!


  1. I feel like the current political environment puts a lot of chilling effects on free speech. Like I did not know until yesterday that having a different political opinion could be defined as hate speech. If we keep going this way, will having your own opinion about where you cross the road be considered hate speech. Will wearing a certain color one group does not like be hate speech.

    1. Yes, I agree, Julia. It's getting so that almost anything can be labeled hate speech -- even when no hatred is actually involved. I hope we can turn things around.