Monday, January 25, 2010

The Rule of the Violent

One of the interesting things that hard-core Glibertarians will say to you, when you mention the public order / public safety / national defense justification for having government, is "I don't need government to protect me, I have my guns!"

Let's do a little thought experiment, why don't we? First of all, let's identify when a gun is useful:

  1. You have the weapon upon your person (it's not in a closet, in another room, or something like that).
  2. You are awake and aware of your surroundings
  3. You have identified a target,
  4. You have identified that you wish to kill this target and are capable of doing so, rather than having qualms or doubts.
  5. You are able to kill this person before he kills you.
Okay, so let's look at the advantages that a bad guy who has cased your place has in, say, a home invasion situation at 3AM:
  1. He has the weapon on his person. You don't (weapons make lumpy sleeping companions, it might be as close as the nightstand, but it still isn't on your person).
  2. He is awake. You aren't.
  3. He is shining a very bright light in your eyes so that you can't see him. He can see you clearly.
  4. He knows he wants to kill you. You, on the other hand, can't see him, don't know who he is or whether he has evil intent towards you, have qualms about violence and the taking of life that cause hesitation, and so...
  5. He thus kills you before you kill him.
In other words, because the criminal can choose the time and conditions under which he will take you out, you're dead. The criminal is violent, has no qualms, has identified you as someone he wishes to kill, does not hesitate, is not only comfortable with violence and the taking of life but enjoys it, and you ... are ... dead.

So why doesn't this happen more in real life, you say? Well, actually, it does -- every evening, around the country, there are thugs breaking into homes with the purpose of making the inhabitants of that home either dead or harmless. Except they're called "police officers", and they're arresting *other* thugs. We as a society hire a lot of the violent types and put them to work for us policing the rest of the violent types and protecting us from them. Second of all, the majority of the worst of the violent types, the most amoral killers, are either in prison or refrain from excessive violence because they don't wish to go to prison. In short, the deterrent effect of having police officers and prisons is what keeps most of us safe at night despite the fact that if anybody really wanted to take us out, we'd be dead.

So what would happen if we did not have our own thugs and prisons to take care of other thugs? Well, then thugs would rule the world. They'd go anywhere they wanted to go, kill anybody they wanted to kill, take anything they wanted to take, and if you objected, you would be dead because they're amoral killers who identify *everybody* as someone they want to kill and thus will never hesitate, while you waste precious moments trying to figure out that this guy wants to kill you rather than being the harmless meter reader he's dressed as. Why do we know this is what happens? Because it's what has happened everywhere that government has failed -- Somalia, Afghanistan, the tribal areas of Pakistan, all of them are thugocracies where the majority are cowed and victimized by a vicious and violent minority. You, as an individual, have about as much chance of stopping The Taliban as a mosquito has of stopping an elephant.

But, you say, let's form some voluntary organizations to hire our own thugs! Well, okay. Let's say that everybody in my neighborhood joins together to hire some security guards to protect us from those OTHER thugs out there. So far, so good. But what if someone in my neighborhood doesn't want to pay his part of paying for those security guards? He's free-loading off of the rest of us -- he's getting security for his home, but WE are paying for it!

So what is the Libertarian answer here? Apparently, to say "can't happen! Never happens! yada yada yada!" But my dad was manager of a townhouse complex for a while, and I'll tell you this, it *does* happen, and is prevalent. Mr. Grouch says, "I don't think we need security guards so I'm not going to pay." Or, "I don't use the pool, so I'm not going to pay" -- even though having a pool in the complex makes his house more valuable. And you can't exactly move his house to *outside* the secured perimeter, so he's getting free security AND free benefit to his property values from having a pool in the complex!

In short, we've run into the fundamental problem with libertarianism: the FREELOADER problem. The other people in the complex will get tired of paying for freeloaders, and more and more of them will refuse to pay, until eventually the few still paying for the security guards give up because they can't afford it anymore, nobody pays, and the thugs just march right in and turn everybody into their own personal slaves. Only something that we can call GOVERNMENT that says, "No freeloaders, if you refuse to pay we'll seize your home at a tax auction and sell it to someone who WILL pay" handles the freeloader problem.

And what is the Libertarian answer to the freeloader problem? Apparently, from what I've encountered, to stick their hands over their ears, their second pair of hands over their eyes, and shout at the top of their lungs "I see nothing! I hear nothing! It doesn't exist, lalalalala!" Apparently the Libertarian answer to the freeloader problem is to move to some alternate universe where unicorns are real and cotton candy grows on trees and human beings are perfect. It's the same universe as the hardcore Marxists, in other words, a universe where human beings are perfect and do not behave the way real life humans in this universe behave.

In the end, Libertarians and Marxists are fellow travelers -- utopians whose philosophies have failed everywhere they've ever been tried because they do not take into account the actual nature of humanity: hairless apes, monkeys with delusions of grandeur, with all the vices you'd expect from monkeys such as a propensity to fling poo, selfishness, an inability to cooperate except insofar as led by an alpha male, and a willingness to follow that alpha male regardless of what he leads them into. Monkeys. That's all human beings are. Marxists and Libertarians pretend that humans somehow can transcend a million years of evolution and become perfect. That, in the end, is why Marxist and Libertarian theories have failed wherever tried -- reality simply is, and can't just be wished away by pretending.

- Badtux the Realist Penguin


  1. Hence my observation that one of the cornerstones of conservative thought processes is magical thinking.

    Here's an anecdote on freeloading. I'm the president of our subdivision homeowner's association, so I know what the status of subdivision dues payment is. We provide valuable services, too. We do road repair, in a more timely and cost effective way than the county ever could; we take care of trash pickup; and snow removal from the streets. (Yeah, I know municipalities should take care of this stuff. We live in a fucking township.) Every year there are a few home owners who don't pay. We try to work with anyone in a bad spot, but sooner or later, a deadbeat gets a lien on his property.

    As you probably know, the economy here in S-E MI had been ghastly for a couple of years. The number of liens we've had to place did not go up. Deadbeats are deadbeats, in any economic climate.


  2. Yeah, I was going to go more into detail on the whole homeowner's association thing but I was already way too long. My dad had the same experience when he was on the board of an HOA, there were people who didn't want to pay their dues and there were expenses -- pool care, grounds care, etc. -- that needed to be taken care of. Some people are just deadbeats and if you let them get away with it, the people who *aren't* deadbeats get tired of it and start refusing to pay themselves because, "why should we pay in order to benefit deadbeats?" And they have a point.

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  4. Purple, this posting was a response to a post by a real-life Libertarian on his own blog. Yes, we had a go around there, 10 comments by me, 10 comments by him, basically going in circles. I decided to bring it here because we weren't getting anywhere -- he just kept stamping his feet and saying there weren't no such thing as deadbeats nya nya nya, and I kept telling him that reality simply is no matter what he insists, and so it goes.

    You seem to be out of touch with the grass roots of the Libertarian Party. They are virulently anti-government and insist that voluntary association can work for solving these communal problem such as law enforcement and national defense. I've had this discussion with probably a dozen people who call themselves Libertarians over the years, and every single one of them claims that even a government based on democracy -- the will of the majority -- is tyranny. Astounding!

    -- Badtux the Democracy Penguin

  5. Might also want to read's libertarian FAQ too, while you're at it, Purple. It clearly distinguishes between libertarians (those who follow libertarian principles) and Libertarians (members of the Libertarian Party), who are *not* a 100% congruent set.

    - Badtux the Democracy Penguin

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  7. There you go again, Penguin! Condos have voluntary agreements called CCR's that run with the land. Equating CCR's with laws blurs a necessary distinction that your argument desperately needs. Concerning the po-lice, perhaps your straw man deadbeat has decided that it doesn't make much difference whether it's a criminal or a po-lice man breaking down his door in the middle of the night, and therefore not worth paying for "protection".

    Unicorn Dave and his band of Magical Creatures


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