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In civics, minarchism (sometimes called minimal statism,[1] small government, or limited-government libertarianism[2]) refers to a political ideology which maintains that the state's only legitimate function is the protection of individuals from aggression.[2][3] Minarchists defend the existence of the state as a necessary evil,[1][4] but assert that it may only act to protect the life, liberty, and property of each individual.

A minarchist state would therefore consist of very few branches/parts of government, in the most minimal way - such as, for an example, courts (but not necessarily). Generally, minarchists identify themselves within the broader libertarian movement.

Samuel Edward Konkin III, an agorist, coined the term in 1971 to describe libertarians who defend some form of compulsory government. Konkin invented the term minarchism because he initially felt dismayed of using the cumbersome phrase limited-government libertarianism.[2][5] Some classical liberals, who believe in the necessity of the state, label themselves as minarchists to differentiate from market anarchists.

Contrastingly, market anarchists—who dismiss the legitimacy of all forms of compulsory government and advocate private law, private arbitration, and private defense—see the minimal state as an unnecessary evil on the grounds that it infringes on individual liberty by unnecessary taxation,[4] wars,[3] and police brutality.[6]

Contents

Ideology

Minarchists oppose all compulsory spending, intervention, and regulation, except those whose only function is to protect individuals from aggression.[1] Such minimal functions include courts, military, and police. However, most minarchists support some level of government funding, including perhaps taxation in some limited cases, as long as the state does not compromise all other areas of individual liberty.[2]

Minarchists legitimize their belief by pragmatic, consequentialist, and/or natural law arguments. Minarchists may use theoretical economic arguments, like Ludwig von Mises's contribution to Austrian economics, or statistical economic research, like the Indices of Economic Freedom. Important ethical aspects of libertarianism include the non-aggression principle, self-ownership, and property rights.[4]

A central tenet of minarchism consists of the idea that the minarchist government must not initiate violence to prevent the development of competing governments. Robert Nozick, a libertarian philosopher who has gained popularity for his work Anarchy, State and Utopia, theorized that, under anarchy, a dominant private defense agency (PDA) will eventually outcompete all other PDAs, then turn into an ultra-minimal state, and finally into a minimal state.

If the minimal state decides not to suppress newly arising PDAs, Nozick predicted that the newly competing government will wage war against each other. Nozick, therefore, advocates the right for the minimal state to violently prohibit the formation of competing jurisdictions.[7] However, if the government allows individuals to freely unsubscribe from the current jurisdiction to join a competing jurisdiction, then it does not by definition constitute as a state, but as an anarchistic private defense agency.[8]

Views on federalism

Both market anarchists and minarchists oppose victimless crimes, drug laws, compulsory education, and conscription, at all levels of government.[3] However, minarchists tend to favor the administration and funding of minimal government services in a small jurisdiction (such as the local or city level) over a larger jurisdiction, such as the federal government. Minarchists tend to favor this arrangement because decisions are presumed as more efficient when the decision-makers are more local.

This also leaves individuals who wish to avoid living or working under a municipality to move to another municipality. Thus, this reduces the likelihood of government oppression and corruption due to competing municipalities. However, if the government allows all individuals to freely secede, then the "government" does not by definition constitute as a state, but as an anarchistic private defense agency.[8]

Views on strategy

Minarchists often disagree on exactly how to accomplish this. Minarchists are more likely in favoring reforms such as voting instead of the counter-economic strategies advocated by market anarchists.[9] Some minarchists even insist in keeping with the status quo, and consider stopping the expansion of the current state as a higher priority than to abolish the state altogether.[2]

Other minarchists propose mixed approach of electoral politics and education. Often, minarchists will ally with paleolibertarians and paleoconservatives in reducing the expansion of the state. The Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty movement tries to educate the population about sound money, non-interventionism, and the original intent of the Constitution.[10] Many libertarian conservatives and paleoconservatives, that comprise these movements, share a goal of restoring the nation back to a constitutional republic with religious freedom, states' rights, and federalism.

Minarchism versus classical liberalism

Some limited government advocates use the term "libertarianism" almost interchangeably with the term classical liberalism.[11][12]

Raimondo Cubeddu of the Department of Political Science of the University of Pisa says "It is often difficult to distinguish between 'libertarianism' and 'classical liberalism'. Those two labels are used almost interchangeably by those we may call libertarians of a minarchist persuasion—scholars who, following Locke and Nozick, believe a state is needed in order to achieve effective protection of property rights".[11]

Enlightenment ideas of individual liberty, constitutionally limited government, and reliance on the institutions of civil society and a free market to promote social order and economic prosperity were the basis of what became known in the 19th century as liberalism.[13] While it kept that meaning in most of the world, modern liberalism in the United States began to mean a more statist viewpoint.

Over time, those who held to the earlier liberal views began to call themselves market liberals, classical liberals or libertarians.[14] In the 1940s, Leonard Read began calling himself libertarian.[15] In 1955, Dean Russell wrote an article in the Foundation for Economic Education magazine pondering what to call those, such as himself, who subscribed to the classical liberal philosophy. He suggested: "Let those of us who love liberty trademark and reserve for our own use the good and honorable word "libertarian."[16] Even after the New Deal, liberal economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek continued to use liberal, in defiance.[17]

Hayek eventually noted that in the United States it had become almost impossible to use "liberal" in its original definition, and the term "libertarian" has been used instead. However, for his part Hayek found this term "singularly unattractive" and offered the term “Old Whig” (a phrase borrowed from Edmund Burke) instead. In his later life he said: "I am becoming a Burkean Whig".[18]

Libertarians see themselves as sharing many philosophical, political, and economic undertones with classical liberalism, such as the ideas of laissez-faire government, free markets, and individual freedom.

Minarchism and political liberalism

Some argue that minarchism and political liberalism are fundamentally incompatible because the checks and balances provided by liberal institutions conflict with the support for complete economic deregulation offered by most minarchists.[19] Nevertheless, others reject this as a mere "superficial" resemblance:

Libertarianism's resemblance to liberalism is superficial; in the end, libertarians reject essential liberal institutions. Correctly understood, libertarianism resembles a view that liberalism historically defined itself against, the doctrine of private political power that underlies feudalism. Like feudalism, libertarianism conceives of justified political power as based in a network of private contracts. It rejects the idea, essential to liberalism, that political power is a public power to be impartially exercised for the common good.[20]

Minarchism and economic liberalism

The values of the state capitalist economy are strongly associated with the classical liberal doctrine of economic liberalism. Classical liberal thought has generally assumed a clear division between the economy and other realms of social activity, such as the state.[21] Economic liberalism maintains that the state has a legitimate role in providing public goods.[22][23] Adam Smith, for instance, argued that the state has a role in providing roads, canals, schools and bridges that cannot be efficiently built by private entities. However, he preferred that these goods should be paid proportionally to their consumption (e.g. putting a toll). In addition, he advocated retaliatory tariffs to bring about free trade, and copyrights and patents to encourage innovation.[22]

Walter Block, a market anarchist, also emphasized that the distinction between classical liberalism and minarchism point out that some of the key thinkers of classical liberalism were far from minarchist:

Adam Smith should be seen as a moderate free enterpriser who appreciated markets but made many, many exceptions. He allowed government all over the place.[24]

Classical liberalism is an ideology that includes state intervention of macroeconomic infrastructure. Classical liberals such as Adam Smith, Alexander Hamilton, and Abraham Lincoln, supported state intervention of infrastructure. They built railroads, canals, and macroeconomic regulatory infrastructure.

Most of the early proponents of economic liberalism in the United States subscribed to the American School. This school of thought was inspired by the ideas of Alexander Hamilton, who proposed the creation of the First National Bank and the Second National Bank and increased tariffs (e.g. tariff of 1828) to favor northern industrial interests. Following Hamilton's death, the more abiding protectionist influence in the antebellum period came from Henry Clay and his American System.

In the mid-19th century, the United States followed the Whig tradition of economic liberalism, which included increased state control, regulation and macroeconomic development of infrastructure.[25] Public works such as the provision and regulation transportation such as railroads took effect. The Pacific Railway Acts provided the development of the First Transcontinental Railroad.[25] In order to help pay for its war effort in the American Civil War, the United States government imposed its first personal income tax, on August 5, 1861, as part of the Revenue Act of 1861 (3% of all incomes over US $800; rescinded in 1872).

While minarchists oppose all government intervention except for defense and dispute resolution, classical liberals make more exceptions and allow state intervention and provision of extraneous public goods such as public transportation and utilities. Therefore, we can claim that minarchism is not the same as classical liberalism because while classical liberals support additional macroeconomic intervention, minarchists only see preventing aggression as the role of the state.

Minarchism and cultural liberalism

Cultural liberalism expresses the doctrine that one should not impose a specific culture over others, even though there are self-proclaimed cultural liberals that do not completely subscribe to this, but still condemn theocracy. Both self-proclaiming cultural liberals and conservatives produce moral legislation over a person's control of their own body. Among cultural liberals, this can be seen with drug laws and hate speech, while cultural conservatives are noted to promote moral legislation over sexuality and suicide, while both tend to exercise prostitution restrictions and overlap in other areas as well. Sometimes people are misidentified as one or the other when it comes to legislation of the central government, since there is a great split, ranging across all realms of moral opinions, concerning the limits placed upon it versus the rights of its states. This is especially true for the United States.

The argument of morality should be distinct and separate from fiscal responsibility, but is known to be a factor in legislation, policy, and practice of governmental politics. Alan Ryan, professor of Political Science at Princeton University, argues that the claim from

contemporary libertarians...that they are classical liberals...is not wholly true. There is at least one strain of libertarian thought represented by Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia that advocates the decriminalization of 'victimless crimes' such as prostitution, drug-taking and unorthodox sexual activities. There is nothing of that in John Locke or Adam Smith.

Having written nothing regarding these subjects, however, does not negate that there may have been support, or that prostitution and current illegal narcotics were already legal (or not legally enforced).

Russell Kirk made this same distinction between libertarianism and classical liberalism. In a polemic essay, Kirk (quoting T. S. Eliot) called libertarians "chirping sectaries," adding that they and conservatives have nothing in common (despite his early correspondence with the libertarian Paterson). He called the libertarian movement "an ideological clique forever splitting into sects still smaller and odder, but rarely conjugating." He said a line of division exists between believers in "some sort of transcendent moral order" and "utilitarians admitting no transcendent sanctions for conduct." He included libertarians in the latter category.[26][27] Kirk, therefore, questioned the "fusionism" between libertarians and traditional conservatives that marked much of post World War II conservatism in the United States.[28]

However, Kirk's has a positive view of "classical liberals." He agrees with them on "ordered liberty" as they make "common cause with regular conservatives against the menace of democratic despotism and economic collectivism."[29] After the New Deal, some classical liberals began to ally with conservatives in the United States, and even began calling themselves "extreme right-wing Republicans."[30] This was especially true of the Old Right, who opposed The New Deal and U.S. military interventions in World War I and World War II.[31]

Kirk grounded his Burkean conservatism in tradition, political philosophy, belles lettres, and the religion of his later years; rather than libertarianism and free market economic reasoning. The Conservative Mind hardly mentions economics at all.

Hayek disparaged conservatism for its inability to adapt to changing human realities or to offer a positive political program, in an essay titled Why I Am Not a Conservative.[32] His criticism was aimed primarily at European-style conservatism, which has often opposed capitalism as a threat to social stability and traditional values. Even after the New Deal, European conservatism continued to mean conserving hierarchical class structures through state control of society and the economy.

Criticism

The distinction between minarchism and big government is not clear-cut, and often there is a spectrum of minarchism. For example, minarchists of the Constitutionalist type advocate the provision of some essential common infrastructure such as roads and currency.

Murray Rothbard was a prominent critic of minarchism. As an anarcho-capitalist, he argued that government defence is inefficient. He criticized minarchists activists for supporting geographically large, minarchist states. In his book Power and Market, he argued that geographically large minarchist states are indifferent from a unified minarchist world monopoly government.[33]

But minarchists counter that a government could survive on private donations and the creation of trust funds without any form of taxation whatsoever. Even if a government could be voluntarily funded, then it still amounts to an authority with a monopoly of force over a given area, and as such would dictate and control. Additionally, some argue that voluntary donations are not enough to support a government to prevent a foreign invasion. The mere existence of government, irrespective of how it is funded, undermines one's self-ownership, since to govern is to control.

Minarchists, however, depart here from anarcho-capitalists in philosophical beliefs, believing that the government should indeed be the sole arbiter of force in law and military matters, on the premise that competing law systems would inevitably lead to chaos, where no libertarian principles could possibly reign. However, market anarchists had argued that the sole arbitrator can just be the society itself, instead of a government that is separate from the society.[34][35]

Also, some libertarians believe that the concept of "constitutionally limited government" is a fallacy. They argue that the American Founding Fathers' approach of limiting the inherent force linked with government (in respect to the United States Constitution) has not worked. They claimed that states would inevitably become corrupt.

Some minarchists state that human beings naturally gravitate towards leaders, hence making anarchism untenable and not viable. As such, they believe that the existence of government is inevitable, and people should only be concerned with limiting the size and scope of the state, rather than opposing its existence. Murray Rothbard denounced this claim by citing that it often took hundreds years for aristocrats to set up a state out of anarchy.[36]

Some minarchists believe their approach to be more pragmatic. However, Hans Hermann Hoppe has argued that the only form of state that can pragmatically be restrained from expanding is a monarchical (privately owned) state.[37]

See also

Contrast:

References

  1. ^ a b c Rob Miller. An introduction to minarchism. Homeland Stupidity.
  2. ^ a b c d e Marcus, B.K. BlackCrayon.com: Dictionary: Definition of "minarchism"
  3. ^ a b c Gregory, Anthory.The Minarchist's Dilemma. Strike The Root. 10 May 2004.
  4. ^ a b c weebies. An Anarchist's Proposal for Limited Constitutional Government -- Minarchy vs. Anarchy. Strike The Root. 3 March 2005
  5. ^ Konkin’s History of the Libertarian Movement bradspangler.com.
  6. ^ Linda & Morris Tannehill. The Market for Liberty, p. 84.
  7. ^ Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974)
  8. ^ a b Murray Rothbard. Power and Market: Defense services on the Free Market. p. 1051. http://mises.org/rothbard/mes.asp. "But, of course, if each person may secede from government, we have virtually arrived at the purely free society, where defense is supplied along with all other services by the free market and where the invasive State has ceased to exist."  
  9. ^ Davis, Mark. The Anarchist Vote. Strike The Root. 14 January 2008.
  10. ^ Campaign for Liberty: Mission Statement
  11. ^ a b Cubeddu, Raimondo, preface to "Perspectives of Libertarianism", Etica e Politica (Università di Trieste) V, no. 2 (2003). "It is often difficult to distinguish between 'Libertarianism' and 'Classical Liberalism.' Those two labels are used almost interchangeably by those whom we may call libertarians of a minarchist persuasion: scholars who, following Locke and Nozick, believe a state is needed in order to achieve effective protection of property rights."
  12. ^ Schmidt, Steffen W., American Government and Politics Today (Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2004), 17.
  13. ^ Libertarianism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 24 July 2006.
  14. ^ The Achievements of Nineteenth-Century Classical Liberalism, Cato Institute, Cato University home study course module 10.
  15. ^ Boaz, David, Libertarianism: A Primer, Free Press, 1998, 22-25.
  16. ^ Russell, Dean, Who is a Libertarian?, Foundation for Economic Education, "Ideas on Liberty," May, 1955.
  17. ^ Dieteman, David. Hayek and Conservatism. LewRockwell.com. 1 March 2001.
  18. ^ E. H. H. Green, Ideologies of Conservatism. Conservative Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 259.
  19. ^ Alan Haworth, Anti-libertarianism: Markets, Philosophy and Myth (New York: Routledge, 1994), 27.
  20. ^ Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View", Philosophy & Public Affairs 30, no. 2 (2001): 107.
  21. ^ Calhoun, Craig (2002). Capitalism: Dictionary of the Social Sciences. Oxford University Press.  
  22. ^ a b "Adam Smith". econlib.org. http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Smith.html.  
  23. ^ Eric Aaron, What's Right? (Dural, Australia: Rosenberg Publishing, 2003), 75.
  24. ^ Jeet Heer, "Adam Smith and the Left", National Post, December 3, 2001.
  25. ^ a b Guelzo, Allen C. (1999), Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, ISBN 0-8028-3872-3, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=99466893  
  26. ^ A copy of Kirk's Libertarians: Chirping Sectaries can be found here
  27. ^ Nevertheless, many paleolibertarians respect Kirk's cultural conservatism.
  28. ^ Somin, Ilya, Russell Kirk, Libertarianism, and Fusionism, The Volokh Conspiracy, 9 December 2006.
  29. ^ Kirk, Russell(1993), A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians" in The Politics of Prudence.
  30. ^ Murray Rothbard, The Life and Death of the Old Right, first published in the September 1990 issue of The Rothbard-Rockwell Report, at LewRockwell.com. "That’s why, politically, all libertarians, whether minarchists or anarcho-capitalists, were happy to consider ourselves "extreme right-wing Republicans." [The general term for the broader movement was "individualist" or "true liberal" or "rightist" – the word "conservative" was not at all in use before the publication of Russell Kirk’s Conservative Mind in 1953]."
  31. ^ Murray Rothbard, The Libertarian Heritage: The American Revolution and Classical Liberalism, excerpted from the first chapter of For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, at LewRockwell.com.
  32. ^ Hayek, Friedrich (1960), Why I Am Not a Conservative, The Constitution of Liberty, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press) (included as an appendix to The Constitution of Liberty)
  33. ^ Murray Rothbard. Power and Market: Defense services on the Free Market. p. 1051. http://mises.org/rothbard/mes.asp. "It is all the more curious, incidentally, that while laissez-faireists should by the logic of their position, be ardent believers in a single, unified world government, so that no one will live in a state of “anarchy” in relation to anyone else, they almost never are."  
  34. ^ Long, Roderick, Market Anarchism as Constitutionalism, Molinari Institute.
  35. ^ Plauché, Geoffrey Allan (2006). On the Social Contract and the Persistence of Anarchy, American Political Science Association, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University).
  36. ^ Murray Rothbard. Power and Market: Defense services on the Free Market. p. 1054. http://mises.org/rothbard/mes.asp. "In the purely free-market society, a would-be criminal police or judiciary would find it very difficult to take power, since there would be no organized State apparatus to seize and use as the instrumentality of command. To create such an instrumentality de novo is very difficult, and, indeed, almost impossible; historically, it took State rulers centuries to establish a functioning State apparatus. Furthermore, the purely free-market, stateless society would contain within itself a system of built-in “checks and balances” that would make it almost impossible for such organized crime to succeed."  
  37. ^ Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. Democracy: The God that Failed: Studies in the Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2001

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