Bryan Caplan  

History + Comedy = Rothbard

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For centuries, the State (or more strictly, individuals acting in their roles as "members of the government") has cloaked its criminal activity in high-sounding rhetoric. For centuries the State has committed mass murder and called it "war"; then ennobled the mass slaughter that "war" involves. For centuries the State has enslaved people into its armed battalions and called it "conscription" in the "national service." For centuries the State has robbed people at bayonet point and called it "taxation." In fact, if you wish to know how libertarians regard the State and any of its acts, simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all of the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place.

                          --Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty

If anything is simultaneously obvious and brilliant, it is Rothbard's insight that governments are glorified gangs of criminals.  How can anyone who knows the basic facts of history disagree?  If you strip virtually any chapter of world history down to a postcard, it's a story of vicious murderers killing each other in order to enslave nearby civilians.  Nearly every guy nicknamed "the Great" was a serial killer on a massive scale - and not the nice kind, either.

If all this is so obvious, why don't most works of history have a Rothbardian flavor?  The answer, in short, is that most historians are serious.  When they tell the story of William the Conqueror, for example, they take a considered, pompous tone, and treat all the key historical players with respect.  They've usually got their facts straight, of course.  But they don't want to write the "story of William the Mass Murderer," so they briefly mention his body count, then move on to William's land titling policy.

It is because of these shortcomings of traditional history that I enthusiastically recommend the complete Cartoon History of the Universe series by Larry Gonick.  While he relays the same facts as an orthodox historian, Gonick is a comedian who freely ridicules the great and powerful.  When an historical figure makes an inane mistake, Gonick draws him as a doofus.  When an historical figure murders millions, Gonick draws him as a blood-soaked tyrant.  And when an historical figure puts out the eyes of his predecessor... well, you get the idea.  Gonick is the ultimate Actonian, for he never stops reminding us that, "Great men are almost always bad men."

But wait, there's more!  Cartoon history also turns out to be excellent pedagogy.  I've read many traditional works of Chinese history, but nothing sticks.  Gonick's cartoon history of ancient China, in contrast, is so vivid that it has a real chance of becoming part of my mental furniture.  If I had my way, every elementary school in the country would dump traditional "serious" history in favor of Gonick cartoon histories.  Not only would our children actually learn the material; they'd learn to treat history's "great leaders" with the respect they deserve.

 


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COMMENTS (46 to date)
Robert Capozzi writes:

Caplan: How can anyone who knows the basic facts of history disagree?

Me: I'd say Rothbard wildly overstates. Certainly the State *can* appear quite like a gang of criminals, and much of history is like that. But is all of it?

If anything short of Rothbard's "nonarchy" is the measuring stick, then sure. Nonarchy hasn't worked out too well in Somalia, near as I can tell. So, empirically, the alternative seems not much of a choice.

Is all hope lost? Not for me, for I don't deal in absolutes. Serious, yes, serious inquiry suggests that when the State is smallest, relative peace reigns. Rather than holding high Rothbard's nonarchist banner, I prefer the more practical banner of "lessarchy."

But, then, I was never a fan of comic books, even as a kid ;-)

Randy writes:

Robert Capozzi,

"...and much of history is like that. But is all of it?"

Can you name an exception? I mean, when we strip away the rationalizations, what we're left with is human sacrifice on a massive scale. At the very least we should be very wary of the rationalizations - but that doesn't seem to be the case for most.

Jayson Virissimo writes:

"If anything short of Rothbard's "nonarchy" is the measuring stick, then sure. Nonarchy hasn't worked out too well in Somalia, near as I can tell. So, empirically, the alternative seems not much of a choice." -Robert Capozzi

Are you so sure that Somalia would be better off with a functioning state? Perhaps good states are better than no states, but it does not follow that bad states are better than no states.

You should check out this paper on the empirical evidence:

http://www.peterleeson.com/Better_Off_Stateless.pdf


Keith writes:

As to Somalia, the problems there have more to do with people fighting to become the state, rather than embracing no state.

If the masses were to truly decide they didn't want a state, and would fight to prevent a state from coming into existence, after a few years those that wish to be rulers of a state might back off.

At which point we can figure out how life can work without the state.

However, there are plenty of states around Somalia and throughout the world that don't want that example to exist. The US and Ethiopia have both actively tried to prevent Somalia from becoming a positive example of anarchy.

David W writes:

I have an even simpler argument than "most historians are serious" - most historians live where said criminal gangs can get at them. Note that failed conquests are usually described much closer to reality than successful ones.

Only in the past 100-200 years have *any* historians writing about successful governments been able to trust in being unharmed regardless of what they say, and I don't think it's a coincidence that it's the same period that's spawned 'revisionist' histories and the like.

Sam Grove writes:

So if Somalia formed a state, it would likely be composed of what are now called pirates.

Al Newberry writes:

"I prefer the more practical banner of "lessarchy."

Unfortunately, "lessarchy" inevitably becomes "morearchy." Our "limited government" in the USA is a classic example.

Josiah Neeley writes:

Bryan,

Have you ever seen the Lion in Winter? Comedy it ain't, but it does cast a rather cynical eye on English history (specifically the reign of Henry II).

Ed Hanson writes:

What Rothbard and other libertarians who demand theory over reality forget is that war, mass murder, and conscription predate the State. The creation of the State proved to be the only successful defense not to be on the worse end of murder. I am as sorry as Rothbard that the State was not the cure of human nature, but I never thought that human nature would be cured by human means.

MasterChief writes:

Ed has a point.
One of the main reasons for the creation of the Nation State was mutual defense against roving bands of pirates taking slaves and women from adjointing regions. One village cannot fight back, but the wrath of an entire group is a good disincentive for such.

The only real solution is being aware of the dangers of too large a government. That is not going to happen utopianly with an average IQ of 100, and not happen even realistically without restricting the vote first.

Chris Milroy writes:

Ed Hanson-

I agree. The state is, in some sense, the equilibrium of a state-of-nature game. Hobbes notes essentially that in the Leviathan.

Even more to the point, nonarchy won't work in a world where there are other states in existence. Unless we could convince not just one country but the entire world's population to disband their governments (and the associated militaries), it would be seriously disadvantageous to unilaterally do so.

Kurbla writes:

The government is not the same thing as state. The government has little power government to do something on its own. Evidence? My standard example: the salary of the top 10 000 US government officials combined is about $1 billion -- less than single top US capitalist earn in a single year. Obviously, the government has no power to seize more. Isn't it shocking? I think it is.

And how is that they suddenly have enough power to start the war that costs thousands times more, not saying human lives. Why that subject who is able to prevent seizing $10 billions for salaries doesn't prevent the war? This is the place to continue the search for responsibility.

One might say, nevertheless, government or not, if there is no state there wouldn't be wars. Maybe, but it is not an argument for anarchocapitalism, since there is no significant difference between anarchocapitalist property and state. Saudi Arabia is state, but in the same time it is anarchocapitalist property of the Saudi family. Brunei is anarchocapitalist property of its Sultan. You got the idea. Anarchocapitalism, much like anarchocommunism, change only words, not the essence.

One way toward piece is uniting in the single world state - of course, if people like that single world state, otherwise they'd start civil wars, not much better. People should change the way they think and feel.

James writes:

Kurbla,

The top N US government officials allocate more dollars worth of resources than the top N US capitalists. Whether the funds to finance those decisions appear in their personal income statements doesn't make much difference.

A single world state certainly precludes violence between states, but that doesn't make a single state a path to peace. Most of the aggression in the world is committed by states against private parties. Do you know any reason to believe that a single world state would be less aggressive to private parties? Historically, situations where people lack the option to move away from their government, have been characterized by more state aggression, not less.

Luke writes:

"..since there is no significant difference between anarchocapitalist property and state. Saudi Arabia is state, but in the same time it is anarchocapitalist property of the Saudi family. Brunei is anarchocapitalist property of its Sultan."

Eh? Since when did the royal families of Saudi Arabia and Brunei homestead the lands over which they claim authority to rule over?

Grant writes:

Kurbla,

...there is no significant difference between anarchocapitalist property and state.
The difference is how those properties are acquired. States are created via conquest, while property under market anarchy is acquired via trade.

Of course this brings up the question of how to deal with property which originated via conquest (as nearly all property did at some point), but I believe the answer to this is relatively simple: it is the act of theft (or conquest) which is objectionably to the market anarchist, not the results of that theft or conquest. In many cases of modern property this act was done by someone now long dead.

Grant writes:

Ed Hanson does have a point, though I disagree with him. Heirarchies of differed violence seem to promote peace among humans in the same way they do among wolves: letting people know their place (even if this place is being the property of others) prevents needing to constantly remind them via costly violence. In modern times, violence is more costly than its ever been.

However, this doesn't mean states are the best means to reduce violence. If the meme of the state and legitimized, violence-backed hierarchy was replaced with that of "anything peaceful", we may very well get more peace. Its worth considering, at any rate.

In modern times not only is violence very costly, but control itself is increasingly costly! The increasing complexity of modern society may mean that control is becoming less and less profitable (as it is harder and harder for the controller to command his subjects intelligently, and more and more costly to control them). I think where the old command-and-control hierarchies break down because they are no longer profitable (but not because one hierarchy is defeated by another, or fails and creates a vacuum), we can have anarchy without violence.

Human nature is only flawed in certain circumstances. Remove the circumstances that make people act like irrational savages, replace them with circumstances that make people act like saints, and the problem disappears.

Greg writes:

Kurbla makes an excellent point, in my opinion. If state leaders had that much power, they would be able to enact unpopular policies like paying themselves billions of dollars. That only happens in places like, I don't know, Zimbabwe. In other countries, only popular policies are enacted. Otherwise, people get thrown out of office (or there's a revolution/coup/civil war). So blame the population, for the most part, at least in modern democracies. We have met the enemy, and he is us. Doesn't fit as well in libertarian ideology, though.

Jayson Virissimo writes:

"We have met the enemy, and he is us. Doesn't fit as well in libertarian ideology, though." -Greg

Sure it does. Libertarianism doesn't advocate democracy to solve the problems of the world. The whole idea is that people should be free from coercion, not that coercion is okay as long as the majority decides on how it is done and for what. I am more on the classical liberal side of things, but you are claiming libertarians believe something they clearly don't, which is a straw-man tactic.

Kurbla writes:

James-

    The top N US government officials allocate more dollars worth of resources than the top N US capitalists. Whether the funds to finance those decisions appear in their personal income statements doesn't make much difference.

It makes big difference: fact that 10 000 top politicians earn less than single top capitalist show that politicians are unable to distribute the wealth they govern on the way they really want. They have constraints.

But, who imposed these constraints? Who has enough power to limit the income of the most powerful politicians so dramatically - but in the same time does nothing to prevent them from spending 1000 times more on war? And why?

Isn't it fascinating question?

Grant-

Peasants frequently disagree about land. Some - intentionally or not - try to increase their land on the expense of neighbors. They sue each other. Sometimes they fight, buy weapons, even kill each other because of such territorial feuds. If there is no juridical system, the stronger would win, and that's it. Just like states.


Robert Capozzi writes:

Randy: Can you name an exception?
Me: All states coerce. Much of the time, it's like a low-grade fever...reasonably acceptable if sub-optimal. Caplan says it's "a story of vicious murderers killing each other in order to enslave nearby civilians." That surely happens, but it's rare, especially the enslavement part.

Jayson: Perhaps good states are better than no states, but it does not follow that bad states are better than no states.

Me: Agreed. Somalia is an evolving story. Ethiopia seems to be filling the vacuum. I'd love for a nonarchist "regime" to play out as an experiment, but whether other states will allow that is a great impediment.

Al: Unfortunately, "lessarchy" inevitably becomes "morearchy." Our "limited government" in the USA is a classic example.

Me: Yes, so I suggest following Jefferson's counsel of "eternal vigilance."

Randy writes:

MasterChief,

"One of the main reasons for the creation of the Nation State was mutual defense against roving bands of pirates..."

That's one main reason. Another was to create more effective bands of pirates.

The state arose out of the warrior class (heroes and pirates), to which the modern state has added mystics, idealists, and confidence artists. And around these groups has arisen a thicket of propaganda so dense that it is difficult to distinguish one group from another - with the pirates claiming the title of hero and the confidence artists and mystics claiming the title of idealist.


Don Estrafalario writes:

Something I don't understand in "nonarchists" is their claim about the impossibility of a limited state or, as someone named it here, "lessarchy". I don't understand why they say that this is impossible arguing that, from an historical point of view, all limited states ended in huge states.

This would make anarcho-capitalism impossible too. The first status of human beings was "nonarchy", first humans weren't members of any political community. But soon they formed simple political communities. So, as historically we have adopted this forms of political organization, I think "nonarchists" should apply their argument to their utopia.

They also say that, when someone helds political power, he'll do everything to mantain it and make it bigger, no matter constitutional limits. Why don't they apply this to their "nonarchist" utopia? I mean, if someone in a non-state context has power (not based in politics, but in wealth), why won't he expand it against the rest? Do "nonarchists" honestly think that a non-state society wouldn't turn into a tenth-century feudal one? Maybe that's what mr. Hoppe (anything-except-democracy) wants.

Grant writes:

Kurbla,

Peasants frequently disagree about land. Some - intentionally or not - try to increase their land on the expense of neighbors. They sue each other. Sometimes they fight, buy weapons, even kill each other because of such territorial feuds. If there is no juridical system, the stronger would win, and that's it.Just like states.
Yes, they can do those things, just like states, and just like Don Estrafalario points out. States are only legitimized coercion, not all coercion.

The key word is "legitimized". Coercion in the name of the church or king used to be legitimized, but people no longer stand for that. If coercion in the name of democracy was de-legitimized, we most certainly would not see the end of coercion (as you say, neighbors can still coerce neighbors), but libertarians claim it will be greatly lessened. The goal may not be realistic but the claim isn't absurd on its face.

The costs of coercing in a non-legitimized way is very high; this is why states evolved to legitimize their actions by various means (first religion, now democracy). Ruling by brute force is very expensive, and any group which did so would necessarily be limited in scope compared to a modern state.

Alan writes:

Ed has a point, but not a very good one. From his comments, one might assume that we can resolve the basic problem of violence by institutionalizing and legitimizing it by providing government with the legal monoploy of it.

The doesn't work for me. I'd rather have a clear and widely accepted right to defend me and mine, than try to defend myself through the voting booth, or any other government approved method.

And i would much rather deal with any "pre-state war" than the mass slaughter that we have under government.

Paul

Bob Roberts writes:

I am trying to educate myself on the Libertarian way and am struggling to understand the posts here (imagine a grade schooler amidst graduates!). First off, has not the world been ruled, or at least reacted to violence since the beginning? Will it not be with us forever? Has not every society that started as a defense against violence been corrupted by power?
Second, please show me any society that followed the libertarian way and lasted.
I am not trying to be adversarial here, I just want to broaden my horizons. Will we create more corrupt robber barons the likes of Mellon, Rockefeller, Carnegie and Astor? Should we have some rules to guide us? What is to stop people from stripping this world of all its resources in the name of free trade?
I truly want to understand the inner workings of the competeing theories, so that I can make an educated choice. Please, to all of those who have posted here, help me understand!

Kurbla writes:

Grant, you speak about coercion. Do you think on coercing own citizens, like tax? Tax can be justified easily under anarcho-capitalist conditions. Just imagine the landlord who rents the land, and his condition is that you pay 50% of your income, whatever it is. Is it coercion? Not as long as you can leave. That is exactly what your state is doing - pay the tax, if you do not want, leave the state.

Your next claim might be "BUT I am not tenant on the US land, I bought the land I live on." It is not exactly right - you actually never bought all possible property rights. You bought many property rights, but not all. Something like "I accept the sovereignty of US court" is written in all your contracts. That's why, if you have land, you paid it much less than you would in the case it was 'extraterritorial.' And you knew that, right?


Randy writes:

Bob Roberts,

..."help me understand"

Its simple really. Contrary to the propaganda, government is not the will of some mystical meta-community. It is the will of a sub-section of a population achieved at the expense of the rest of the population. Libertarianism is a response. To personalize it, how would you respond if your boss was becoming more and more of a tyrant but quitting wasn't a feasible option? With a touch of subversive behavior perhaps?

scott clark writes:

Bob Roberts,

It also might help you broaden your horizons if you would reexamine the claims that Rockefeller, Mellon, et al. were "robber barons". Libertarians tend to see them as the pillars of the industrial revolution, finding more productive ways to use and organize labor and capital to increase productivity and output, and therefore increase the material standard of living for all those in the world around them. They may have been bad dudes, they may have been total a--holes for all I know, but they did achieve some unprecedented feats that changed the world for the better. It is true that they largely had to enter the political class to protect (and enhance) their wealth from the depradations of the State at some point. You might also have to reexamine the claim that free trade will strip the world of its resources.

Grant writes:

Kurbla,

Yes, I know all that. Again, the difference is how the rights were acquired. The original states and the current US government were not created via individual consent, but rather by consent of those with political power. The US system of government was forced on those without political power by those who had it. Of course they did it in such a way that the inhabitants did not leave, as that would have defeated the point.

Currently, the US government can (through creative interpretation of passages such as the commerce clause) effectively expand its rights to do whatever it wants. So even if the original government was legitimate, its long since been in breach of contract.

Jim Glass writes:

Rothbard writes (and Caplan nods at):

For centuries the State has robbed people at bayonet point and called it "taxation." In fact, if you wish to know how libertarians regard the State and any of its acts, simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all of the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place.
I've libertarian sympathies myself, but the problem with this sort of Paleo-Libertarian righteousness is the classic mistake of the righteous everywhere -- not considering the real-world alternative.

For instance, while governments killed 150 million people or some good deal more (depending on how one counts) in the last century, it was a mere 150 million or good deal more ...

"It’s true, of course, that twentieth-century state societies, having developed potent technologies of mass killing, have broken all historical records for violent deaths.

"But this is because they enjoy the advantage of having by far the largest populations of potential victims in human history.

"The actual percentage of the population that died violently was on the average higher in traditional pre-state societies than it was even in Poland during the Second World War or Cambodia under Pol Pot."

-- Jared Diamond
The anthropologists and such who are experts on such things say the death by violence rate in pre-state societies was fully 30% -- that's by violence, not by disease or famine. Applied to the 20th century that would be death-by-violence for billions, except of course that there wouldn't be billions of people in such a world.

Steven Pinker has pointed out that among societies that have developed states the death by violence rate is not only hugely lower than in pre-state societies but has been declining steadily for hundreds of years.

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/pinker07/pinker07_index.html

So maybe the state-type social organization isn't all that bad -- it's actually enabling libertarians and libertarian type thinking to exist, and is generally moving societies in that direction.

All this also answers a question that should occur to any economist with liberatrian tendencies:

Given that the state extracts for itself such great monopoly profit and rent by force -- presumably so inefficiently for society, as monopoly profit and rent should be -- just how does it manage contuinue to exist so universally, with no revolution against it ever creating anything but another state (often a worse one)?

The answer is that, compared to world with a 30% death rate by violence, the state in fact creates a huge welfare gain for the population, with the population willing to see the state take the profit and rent it does as its share of the bargain.

So while the Paleo-Libertarian Rothbardians may see the state as a "criminal band" the alternative reality is much worse -- a society based on tribal structure with endless blood-feud and vengence.

After all, to decribe a band as "criminal" implies the existence of laws and legal sensibilities as we recognize them without any state, which you don't get.

Yes, the first step of the state is to monopolize use of force -- and that very action is what culturally de-legitimizes tribal-based blood feud and vengence, as has been built into our genes for countless generations, and makes a society of law and civilized behavior as we understand it possible.

Considering the steady decline in violence among state-organized societies that Pinker describes, perhaps we can better describe the state as an intermediate step in our journey from "nature red in tooth and claw" to the libertarian ideal.

The idealists among us may imagine that as this process continues -- as the average citizen becomes wealthier, better educated, more respectful of law, less tolerant of violence, and more dedicated to the virtues of unrestricted free trade, under the shelter from violence projected by the state -- the quality of humanity itself will improve until the state is no longer necessary and withers away. The Liberatrian revenge on Marx!

Well, probably not -- but it's the only way we are going to get anywhere near the libertarian ideal.

Bob Roberts writes:

I want to thank those who replied to my post, and to all that posted here. I just took the "Are you an Austrian" quiz over at the Mises website and linked to from LewRockwell. I surprised myself with a score of 96/100. I only missed one question. It was the economic science question (it was question number 2). I was very surprised. It took quite some time but I am pleased that I am on the road to recovery!!

Kurbla writes:

Grant,

    The US system of government was forced on those without political power by those who had it. Of course they did it in such a way that the inhabitants did not leave, as that would have defeated the point.

I can imagine something like that happening in US. In that case, all inhabitants who didn't voluntarily accepted the state sovereignty should get their sovereignty back. (I'm using word sovereignty for a "missing part" of the property rights.)

If they died, their inheritors should get the proportional part. Say, if you're one of the inheritors, you shouldn't get sovereignty over your current property - but over the proportional parts of the property your ancestors had when their sovereignty was confiscated. It might be impractical, but it is how it should be theoretically, at least if communist arguments for collectivization are not accepted. That's another issue.

However, majority of original inhabitants or their inheritors actually accepted state sovereignty by voting for some party advocating it. Hence, they do not have the right on sovereignty. But they can still advocate and vote that collectivized sovereignty is individualized.

Are we close to agree?

Randy writes:

Jim Glass,

So would you favor the creation of one world government? With all decisions for everyone everywhere made by a supreme council? I mean, if "the state" is "good" for the reasons you give, does it not follow that one supreme and divine state would be "best"?

Randy writes:

P.S. Jim Glass,

Is there any reason to assume that the relationship (between the existence of the modern state and the reduction in deaths by violence on average) is cause and effect? E.g., there are places in the modern United States of America where death by violence is still very common. Shall we assume that the nature of the modern state is the cause of this violence?

Robert Capozzi writes:

Several apparent Rothbardian nonarchists here allude to the notion that the "problem" is that the State is "legitimized" coercion. They suggest that ALL coercion won't go away.

I think they are onto something. Breaking it down, they believe that there will be less coercion in a State-less society. I find that prediction grandiose, but the only plausible way to test it is to roll back the State to a level where vast majorities can fathom a State-less society. IMO.

As a lessarchist, I do not suffer from the idea that the State is "legitimate." It's not. It's highly imperfect, subject to MUCH corruption. Nor is the rule of law. It's also imperfect.

Still, States exist. In a world of WMD, my guess is they will always exist, but will certainly exist for the foreseeable future. Rather than build up a construct based on an absolutist, deontological approach, it seems more useful to simply recognize the State for what it is: An imperfect means to maintain the rule of law and domestic tranquility.

Robert Capozzi writes:

RANDY: ...there are places in the modern United States of America where death by violence is still very common. Shall we assume that the nature of the modern state is the cause of this violence?

ME: Ah, no. Violence seems to be a part of human nature, with or without the State. A case could be made that SOME violence is unintentionally caused by State action...turf wars by drug dealers, for ex. Were drugs legal, turf wars would likely be minimized. But most murder has nothing to do with turf wars. And murder rates are still pretty low.

Randy writes:

Robert Capozzi,

My question was in response to Jim Glass who referenced a correlation between less violent deaths on average in the modern world and the rise of the modern state. Correlation is not causation. Many things have changed in the modern world. My belief is that the modern state is not a cause but an opportunistic response.

As for the advocates of nonarchy, I think their's is a legitimate and useful response to those who advocate a monolithic state. Do they overstate their case? Perhaps. But a touch of subversion now is better than the inevitable violence later when the statists go too far - and the statists will go too far - they always do.

Robert Capozzi writes:

Randy, sure, correlation is not causation. My take is to avoid entirely the question of what "caused" the State, as any answer is wildly speculative. And most answers are likely to miss the mark, as the "cause" of the State is most likely varied.

It's not my place to judge whether nonarchism is legitimate, but, sure, it seems legitimate enough, since all opinions are legitimate. Nihilism is legitimate, too, in that sense.

Useful? That's a tricky one. If a nonarchist says "Smash the State" tomorrow, that's the "correct" libertarian position, I would suggest that's NOT useful, but in fact counterproductive. A "touch" of "subversion" is one thing. Nihilistic, irresponsible, inappropriate, soap-boxery another. It tends to discredit not only the advocate, but fellow travelers and the very idea of liberty.

It gets worse. Many nonarchists say that minarchists and lessarchists are NOT libertarian, but in fact statists. I find that judgmentalism both toxic and incorrect.

I have no problem with nonarchy and nonarchists personally, I just find the propensity for sanctimony enervating and misguided.

Randy writes:

Robert Capozzi,

The problem, as I see it, is that the advocates for the monolithic state are, at best, idealists, and at worst, mystics and confidence artists. That is, they are not rational - they rationalize. And in case you hadn't noticed, most of their rationalizations center around not so subtle threats of violence. I have no problem whatsoever with responding to rationalizations and threats with rationalizations and threats. This is the game. And they started it.

Robert Capozzi writes:

Randy, sure, statists "started it." To me, the question is: What's the credible and appropriate response? I don't find Rothbard's response credible or appropriate. He disregarded Hayek and came up with a counter construct that is just as conceited (and delusional) as Marx!

Doesn't work in my book.

Randy writes:

Propaganda does work, Robert. And what works is what counts. Marx may have been wrong as hell, but his ideas had impact - and still do. Counter them with reason, or counter them with subversive propaganda and subtle threats, its all the same to me.

Robert Capozzi writes:

Randy, I'd say SOME propaganda works, yes. Marx's worked pretty well. Rothbard's? So far, no. And I'm not liking his odds in the future.

Kurbla writes:

James-

    A single world state certainly precludes violence between states, but that doesn't make a single state a path to peace. Most of the aggression in the world is committed by states against private parties. Do you know any reason to believe that a single world state would be less aggressive to private parties?
Yes. Instead of applying average model of the state, it is enough to apply one of the best existing models of the state. For example, in modern Europe, state is responsible for some 1% of total murders in country, while citizens are responsible for 99%. That problem seems to be solved already .
    Historically, situations where people lack the option to move away from their government, have been characterized by more state aggression, not less.
I don't know, but I believe you.
Randy writes:

Odds of a Rothbardian political class taking control? Not good. Odds of a Rothbardian movement forcing the political class to reevaluate its methods? Better.

Robert Capozzi writes:

Randy, fair assessment, as far as it goes.

Since Rothbard is a constructivist, and since I believe constructivism is false, and since Truth sets us free, I'd suggest that a Rothbardian movement's chances of "forcing" anything is low, much less than a more truthful Hayekian movement! Of course, Hayekians only use force when necessary.

Rothbard is at root far too inconsistent, on the one hand employing Leninist dialectics, on the other preaching non-initiation of force.

Sisyphus writes:

No one else has commented on the Comic History of the Universe? That can only mean that most of the other commenters haven't had the pleasure of reading it.

In my estimation, I think it is the single best broad history of the world I have ever read. It is both fun and well-researched, with a readability that makes it easy to revisit again and again. I have read lots of other broad histories of the world, some promoting an idea or synthesis of history, others not, and I would recommend the Comic History of the Universe before every other one I've read, unless the reader was looking for a certain, specialist approach as part of some other project.

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