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Author Topic: Defining Government - Need Feedback  (Read 11684 times)
RJ Miller
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« on: October 13, 2013, 11:27:38 PM »

This may seem like a trivial task to pull off at first, but about a year ago I was in a conversation via email with someone who is in a bit of a gray area ideologically. This stemmed from him being staunchly Libertarian but not sure about falling under the market anarchist camp because distinguishing government and market is a contentious issue for him.

I'll go into the details about that soon, but for now I would like some feedback on a five-point criteria for what makes a government different from everything/everyone else:

http://wiki.mises.org/wiki/Essay:RJ_Miller%27s_draft_five-point_criteria_for_demarcating_state_and_market

The person who I was emailing recently posted that from an email I sent him, and I just want feedback to make sure that (a) there are no exceptions to those rules, and (b) the criteria itself is comprehensible enough to be understood and applied.

If anything, I need to figure out how to make it less wordy...  Undecided
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Polobear
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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2013, 03:20:52 AM »

I would add the birth of the state, have you read Murray Rothbards anatomy of the state? Some other great points are in there as well and it is a short read http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&sqi=2&ved=0CCkQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fmises.org%2Fpdf%2Fanatomy.pdf&ei=T6lbUqG8AuKCiwLav4GoCQ&usg=AFQjCNH0wNWktVG1tury8rY88aJvxyilqw&bvm=bv.53899372,d.cGE
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AuNero
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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2013, 11:56:03 AM »

From Rothbard's article Society Without A State:

"I define the state as that institution which possesses one or both (almost always both) of the following properties: (1) it acquires its income by the physical coercion known as "taxation"; and (2) it asserts and usually obtains a coerced monopoly of the provision of defense service (police and courts) over a given territorial area. An institution not possessing either of these properties is not and cannot be, in accordance with my definition, a state. On the other hand, I define anarchist society as one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of an individual."

http://mises.org/daily/2429
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MAM
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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2013, 12:09:40 PM »

The State is the monopoly on the "legitimate" use of coercion in a geographic area. The government is the method by which this coercion is administered e.g. dictatorship, republic, democracy etc...

The market is what results from people improving their lives through trade.
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RJ Miller
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« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2013, 06:53:41 AM »

Let me clarify something: I'm talking about a criteria that refers to tangible actions as well as tangible things. Not some abstract statement about an "institution of coercion" or "monopoly on violence" that leaves tons of unanswered questions about how all this plays out in real life.


There's basically three main problems about how these definitions work:

-They rarely distinguish between a landlord or someone who "owns" a place or area and collects "revenue."

-Definitions stating that government has a "monopoly" on certain services run into problems when you consider that private security and dispute resolution already exists to some extent today. And as for the term itself:

Quote from: Mises in "Human Action"
"The products of the processing industries are more or less different from one another. Each factory turns out products different from those of the other plants. Each hotel has a monopoly on the sale of its services on the site of its premises. The professional services rendered by a physician or a lawyer are never perfectly equal to those rendered by any other physician or lawyer. Except for certain raw materials, foodstuffs, and other staple goods, monopoly is everywhere on the market."

Are the employees and management at a hotel a "government" because they have a monopoly on a variety of things simply because you reside there?

All of us would rightfully say no. This is because there is a huge difference between how a government and how a landlord or hotel owner acquire the territory or property they control. See point #4 in the criteria.

-Finally we have the issue of whether the US belongs to the Natives. I say no for a number of reasons that will become clear as this thread evolves.


I would add the birth of the state, have you read Murray Rothbards anatomy of the state? Some other great points are in there as well and it is a short read http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&sqi=2&ved=0CCkQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fmises.org%2Fpdf%2Fanatomy.pdf&ei=T6lbUqG8AuKCiwLav4GoCQ&usg=AFQjCNH0wNWktVG1tury8rY88aJvxyilqw&bvm=bv.53899372,d.cGE

That's covered in point #4. And yes, I've read AotS. It's decent for the most part but there are some limitations to how he defines government itself that leave some questions unanswered.

I guess I need to do a whole new blog post altogether that explains what these issues are. It's not that the definitions themselves are wrong, but that they aren't detailed enough to make distinctions between, say, the an IRS agent and a Landlord.

From Rothbard's article Society Without A State:

"I define the state as that institution which possesses one or both (almost always both) of the following properties: (1) it acquires its income by the physical coercion known as "taxation"; and (2) it asserts and usually obtains a coerced monopoly of the provision of defense service (police and courts) over a given territorial area. An institution not possessing either of these properties is not and cannot be, in accordance with my definition, a state. On the other hand, I define anarchist society as one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of an individual."

http://mises.org/daily/2429

Again, the distinction between a landlord and a government are not made in that two-point criteria. And how do we define "monopoly" in this instance anyhow given that private security guards are widespread and arbitration services exist outside the government's legal system?

The State is the monopoly on the "legitimate" use of coercion in a geographic area. The government is the method by which this coercion is administered e.g. dictatorship, republic, democracy etc...

The market is what results from people improving their lives through trade.

Define coercion by example.

---

All this being said, are there any problems with the five-point criteria or no?
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« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2013, 09:09:33 AM »

Quote
-They rarely distinguish between a landlord or someone who "owns" a place or area and collects "revenue."

That's because there isn't a difference. If we ignore the distinction between voluntary acquisition and violent acquisition. Both are expression of human will instead of fact.

Quote
I'm talking about a criteria that refers to tangible actions as well as tangible things.

The difference between capitalism under the state and capitalism without the state is a matter of centralization.

Quote
-Definitions stating that government has a "monopoly" on certain services run into problems when you consider that private security and dispute resolution already exists to some extent today. And as for the term itself
Legitimate is the key word in my definition. One of the differences between State-Capitalism and Stateless Capitalism is public perception. In fact that's probably the most substantial difference.

Quote
Are the employees and management at a hotel a "government" because they have a monopoly on a variety of things simply because you reside there?
The private property owner amounts to a dictator.

Quote
-Finally we have the issue of whether the US belongs to the Natives. I say no for a number of reasons that will become clear as this thread evolves.

The US doesn't belong to anyone it's arbitrary. Aside from the nitpick Natives have a claim and I'm interested in learning why you've decided to ignore that claim.

Quote
Define coercion by example.

The general case is more important than specific cases imo.
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« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2013, 10:23:00 AM »

What about this definition: 

The state is an institution whose members either violate, or aid and abet in violating the NAP.  The activities of this institution is generally viewed as legitimate, necessary, and morally acceptable by most people.
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Syock
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« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2013, 10:39:42 AM »

What about this definition: 

The state is an institution whose members either violate, or aid and abet in violating the NAP.  The activities of this institution is generally viewed as legitimate, necessary, and morally acceptable by most people.

I like that one.
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Victor
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« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2013, 07:58:56 PM »

I actually think I like Benjamin Tucker's definition more than Rothbard's.

Quote from: Benjamin Tucker
This, then, is the Anarchistic definition of government: the subjection of the non-invasive individual to an external will. And this is definition of the State: the embodiment of the principle of invasion in an individual, or a band of individuals, assuming to act as representatives or masters of the entire people within a given area.

Rothbard's definition, (tax + force-monopoly,) simply focuses on two particular invasive powers that the State exerts. But I'd use the line between invasive and defensive force as my deliminator.

AuNero's definition I like as well.

I agree that since private security and arbitration methods exist in society today, the State doesn't technically have a full monopoly, but I think it still tries to exert monopoly powers, in that government officials claim the right to regulate and control private security and arbitration.

Actually, I'd propose that as a criticism of the criteria given. You mention, "A portion of whatever wealth you have acquired (via gift, trade, or homesteading) is deemed property of the government," but you don't seem to talk about the government's power to control behavior through other means besides depriving them of property. How come?

Apart from that, I can't think of any criticisms at the moment. (I'd enjoy seeing your syllogistical proof that the idea of a social contract involves circular reasoning though, I don't recall ever seeing any such proof before.)
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RJ Miller
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« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2013, 12:12:50 AM »

You are ignoring that physical coercion part others said.  

No I'm not.

The government can legally kill you anywhere in the world for sufficient resistance to pay.  The best a landlord can get away with is kicking you off the property.  

For the most part I agree with your distinction, but a malicious prick would probably respond by saying that a landlord has the same authority to do so if you refuse to both pay and subsequently leave the premises.

I guess the difference in how "legitimate" the public views the two is a valid distinction, it's just that some would make the non-charitable interpretation I just mentioned above.

What about this definition: 

The state is an institution whose members either violate, or aid and abet in violating the NAP.  The activities of this institution is generally viewed as legitimate, necessary, and morally acceptable by most people.

No specific examples of tangible actions or tangible things exists in that definition. I'm not talking about higher-level abstractions.

Basically this definition boils down to "something that coerces and everyone thinks it's okay."

By that standard a government ceases to be one if everyone it controls hates it. Dictatorships would thus not be governments.
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« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2013, 01:02:53 AM »

Quote
By that standard a government ceases to be one if everyone it controls hates it. Dictatorships would thus not be governments.

Bullets don't rely on public opinion.
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Victor
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« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2013, 06:43:25 PM »

No specific examples of tangible actions or tangible things exists in that definition. I'm not talking about higher-level abstractions.

You're looking for an operational definition, basically, right? Something well defined enough to be measured or examined scientifically?

I guess the main difference between a band of thieves and a government, if not legitimization, would be the degree of power they have. In other words, it's not that everyone thinks what they do is ok, it's that they largely get away with what they do. If a band of thieves was powerful enough that they didn't have to run and hide, but could just set up shop openly in the middle of town, the line between them and a government would be hard to draw.

Besides that, more broadly, the best I can come up with is to define force as physical violence or deprivation of property, and then try to dissect the idea of property with stuff like the homesteading and legitimate title transfer principles. I think physical violence is something one could directly observe and point out without much debate over whether it qualifies or not, but the deprivation of property part of coercion is trickier.

I like what you're trying to do, but I think your 5 points fail to encompass other ways governments control people's behavior. You talk mainly about wealth transfer, but not about, say, victimless crimes. Other than that, I think I like your criteria just fine.
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