angel and devil over shoulder

Compromising Good with Evil
By Nelson Hultberg - April 03, 2015

One of the reasons for libertarian antagonism towards the welfare state lies in the fact that welfarism is an attempt to philosophically compromise freedom with totalitarianism (i.e., merge what is politically "the good" with what is politically "the evil"). It is an attempt to combine legal and illegal methods in the same society, which is not only immoral but also impractical, for such a compromise system will eventually evolve into some variant of the very evil with which it is trying to compromise.

This is what the novelist Ayn Rand termed the "either-or principle." There simply can be no middle ground between the two fundamental philosophical opposites of freedom and slavery. Either we are a free society or a slave society, but we can't be both. Just as wheat is consumed by locusts when mixed in the same field, so also is freedom consumed by slavery if their fundamentals are mixed in the same society.

This all libertarians agree upon, or they're not libertarians. But we need to go further if we are to truly understand this "either-or principle." The question we need to ask is: Are good and evil philosophically comprised of a two-poled spectrum with good and evil on opposite ends; or are they comprised of a three-poled spectrum with the good in the center and evil on the extremes, as Aristotle taught? And can this be objectively demonstrated to apply to everyone?

As I wrote in my recent article, "Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard: The Verdict after Fifty Years," Aristotle maintained that virtue consists of the "rational course" that lies between two opposite and natural extremes of defect and excess. This rational course he called the Golden Mean. Here again are some examples of it:

Aristotelian logic tells us that midway between the defect of apathy and the excess of zealotry there lies the rational balance of "concern." Between vulgarity and prudery, there is the mean of "decency." And the same thing with all the other triads of value listed here. All the highest values of civilization are means between two opposite extremes. The mean is the good, and the extremes are the evils of existence.

Critics of the mean, however, claim that it is relative to each individual due to his personal disposition and therefore of no use in objectively determining values. One man's confidence is another man's timidity. What is loyalty to a politician is not always loyalty to a mother. Unfortunately, this is sophistry.

The flaw in the critics' reasoning is that the value of loyalty does not differ according to individuals, only to circumstances. Aristotle maintains that rational principles (i.e., practical wisdom) can be used in determining loyalty for each circumstance, making it objectively definable for all individuals. Moreover, loyalty is always the mean between treason and fanaticism for all humans despite its different interpretation for different circumstances.

For example, in the circumstance of war, even though a political leader and a mother might differ on what kind of loyalty is required from the mother's son, it does not mean loyalty is relative. One of the two is right and one is wrong depending upon what standard is used to judge loyalty (defense of the country or love of family). In wartime, if one's country is under attack, "defense of the country" is the rational standard to use and loyalty can be objectively defined under that standard for everyone. This, as philosopher J. Budziszewski points out, is true for all the moral virtues defined in an Aristotelian approach – courage, ambition, freedom, order, peace, etc. They are virtuous means for humanity and can be objectively defined for everyone according to rational principles depending upon what circumstance we are concerned with. [1]

Thus Aristotle's famous Doctrine of the Mean is most indubitably universal to humans. It will tell us where "truth and goodness" reside for everyone in the overwhelming majority of life's circumstances. It has been doing this for over two thousand years through the practical wisdom of our greatest intellects who then teach their prescriptions to the rest of society. This practical wisdom is the product of synthesizing reason, experience and intuition into what we call "right reason." It is crucial to the progress of civilization.

Both To the Left and the Right

What this means is that the "either-or principle" of Ayn Rand applies both to the left and to the right. Just as it is impossible to compromise the FREEDOM of a Constitutional Republic with the SLAVERY of socialism on the far left to establish a workable "welfare statism," so it is also impossible to compromise the ORDER of a Constitutional Republic with the CHAOS of anarchy on the far right to establish a workable "anarcho-capitalism." For example, below is the political spectrum according to Aristotelian logic:

If you haven't read my recent article linked above, please do so. It discusses the Aristotelian philosophy of good and evil in more detail, and it will make the issues discussed in this article much clearer.

Of all the various life values that I outlined in the Rand-Rothbard article, there are four that, when placed on the spectrum, show distinctly the desirability of a strictly limited government system as compared to the two extremes of "total government" and "no government." Each of the three primary forms of government organization lead to the specific values listed below:

Thus, if Aristotle were alive today he would be telling the anarcho-capitalists that in all four of the above triads of value, the mean will always evolve under limited government, while either a defect or an excess will evolve under the two opposite extremes of "total government" and "no government." That is to say, a no-government society will ultimately produce an excess of freedom and individuality and a defect of order and growth. This is the way much of human life is constructed – on a spectrum between opposite vices.

In any attempted compromise between virtue and vice, all you end up doing is eventually establishing the vice you are trying to compromise with: regimentation and uniformity if it's a leftward compromise and chaos and perversity if it's a rightward compromise. The anarcho-capitalists fail to see this, that they are just as distinctly a threat to the ideal of individual freedom as the welfare statists, only from the opposite side of the spectrum. The welfare statists threaten individual freedom from the left with too much government; the anarcho-capitalists from the right with not enough government. Both experiments will end in tyranny and disillusionment, one from stifling bureaucracy and the other from the unchecked terror of brute mentalities.

The Aristotelian spectrum, of course, is not enough to prove anarchism to be fallacious. One needs to corroborate such logical exposition with an historical examination. So let's do that. If we look at how anarchism has actually functioned in reality with real human beings, we find that Rothbard's "anarcho-capitalism" is a flawed, chaotic, unworkable system of socio-political organization. It cannot hold up under the scrutiny of reason or history.

Evidence for this is clearly found in the voluntary "custom law" period of the early Middle Ages in England and much of Europe (450 AD – 1000 AD), which was totally anarchistic. There was no mandatory "legislative law." This period of history was comprised of voluntary courts of law, armies, and police. It led to a warlord society in which all people were raised to be combatants, everyone lived behind castle walls and moats, women were not able to travel openly on the roads for fear of being attacked, vicious outlaws roamed the countryside impervious to the "voluntary courts," commerce and trade were minimal and sparse, tribal customs were arbitrary, equal rights were nowhere. Life was indeed as Hobbs described: "mean, nasty, brutish, and short."

Numerous historical scholars have validated the above portrayal of anarchism, which we will examine shortly. The anarchist societies of the early Middle Ages were not any kind of "ideal." They were ruthless and primitive. They stifled economic progress and led to a dreadful existence.

Flaws of Rand Lead To Anarchy

Here is where all anarchist libertarians have gone wrong: They have misconstrued the "either-or principle" of Rand, stating that there can be no middle ground philosophically and practically between a fundamental good and a fundamental evil. If a nation attempts a compromise between such values, it will ultimately evolve into some form of the evil it is trying to avoid by its compromise.

All well and good. There can be no compromise between opposite fundamental values. But such a philosophical outlook has made most libertarians think in terms of good and evil being a two-poled spectrum, and that one must then choose between one of the two extremes. With such a conception of good and evil, one must inevitably evolve into anarchy in order to remain logically consistent, for anarchy is the opposite extreme to totalitarianism.

Combine this two-poled conception of good and evil with the fact that most libertarians have also bought Rand's moral-philosophical denunciation of "initiatory force" and you have only one alternative – to move toward some form of anarchy.

Libertarian ideologist Roy Childs showed some 40 years ago that Rand's first political principle (the denunciation of all initiatory force) leads to anarchism. He demonstrated that even a government limited to Rand's three basics of retaliatory force (military, police, and courts) requires the use of initiatory force in order to perform its duties.

For example, Rand's retaliatory state must monopolize its functions. This requires the "initiation of force." A strictly retaliatory state must also tax its citizens, which is initiatory force. And it must capture, imprison, and prosecute suspected criminals (some of whom will be innocent and have never initiated force). Thus, Rand's retaliatory state initiates force in imprisoning these innocent suspects.

Obviously then, even a retaliatory government must initiate force in order to function. And since most libertarians adhere to the two-poled concept of good and evil and are morally and philosophically against any initiation of force, a great many of them have evolved with Childs, Rothbard and Bruce Benson into what is called the anarcho-capitalist position.

The error in all this is twofold: First of all, the concept of good and evil is seldom a two-poled spectrum. It is almost always a three-poled spectrum, as Aristotle showed 2300 years ago, with the ideal (or good) lying in the middle of the spectrum and the evil being the two opposite extremes beyond which one cannot go.

This does not invalidate the "either-or" declaration on fundamental values. Remember, it states that there can be no compromise between two opposite fundamental values, i.e., between good and evil values. This means there can be no compromise between the Golden Mean (which is the good) and either of the extremes (which are the evils). Thus, there can be no compromise between a limited government and totalitarianism, and there can be no compromise between a limited government and anarchism. To strike a mean between totalitarianism and anarchism is not compromising between good and evil because both of these extremist systems are evils.

Anarcho-capitalists readily see that moving to the left on the spectrum toward socialism is an attempt to compromise the good with the evil. But they cannot see that they are doing the same thing by moving to the right on the spectrum. They also are trying to compromise the good with the evil, and thus they are also violating the "either-or principle" – which will ultimately bring evolution into the very evil that they are trying to compromise with.

We must understand that the "mean" is not the "middle-of-the-road." The mean is the establishment of the good. The middle-of-the-road is an attempt to establish a halfway point between good and evil, i.e., between the mean and one of the extremes. Welfarism is a middle-of-the-road position on the spectrum and so is anarcho-capitalism, for they attempt to combine aspects of both the mean and the extreme, i.e., compromise the good with the evil.

Second, where is it said in the laws of life that all initiation of force is evil? Ayn Rand said it, but it can hardly be gospel if such a declaration contradicts the laws of logic, fails to fulfill the requisites of "ordered freedom," and fares disastrously in the denouement of history. Rand is credited with the formulation of the philosophical taboo on initiatory force with her distinction of initiatory versus retaliatory force in her novel, Atlas Shrugged. [2]

This issue is the foundation of Rand's entire political philosophy and was (with her insistence on egoism as the moral base for capitalism) responsible for her fame as a philosophical innovator. But if this is the fundamental premise of libertarianism, then this is its fundamental fallacy. And it must be corrected if we wish to defeat statism. It's not initiatory force on the part of government that is evil; it's unlimited and arbitrary initiatory force that is evil. All governments must initiate force in order to function.

So if one is to philosophically subscribe to the "non-aggression principle," one must accept an anarcho-capitalist framework for society. If one is to philosophically subscribe to limited government, one must look elsewhere for its moral justification. And that "elsewhere" is what the Founders gave us, but what we just failed to understand, define and implement properly because we never fully grasped its relationship to one of the most fundamental of natural laws – Aristotle's Golden Mean.

Moreover, it should be pointed out here that even anarcho-capitalism's proposed "voluntary court system," making use of private customary law, would have to initiate some force some of the time. Its hired police and bounty hunters would have to pursue suspects of a crime (who may or may not have violated the law) and then initiate force to capture them and bring them in for trial. Unless, of course, anarcho-capitalists wish to maintain that all criminal suspects would be willing to voluntarily give themselves up for trial rather than become fugitives.

Here lies a major problem with anarcho-capitalism. If it claims a taboo on "all initiatory force" as the axiom of its politics, it must let alleged murderers and bank robbers decide on their own if they wish to be tried in a private court agreed upon between the defendant and victim of the crime, which is what the "custom law" societies of the Middle Ages did. What percentage of criminals – like Charles Manson, John Gotti, Jeffrey Dahmer, Al Capone, John Dillinger and Ted Bundy – would decide to come in voluntarily to be tried by their peers? None, of course.

Thus, anarcho-capitalists have a dilemma. If they choose to base their politics upon the "non-aggression principle," they must let vicious criminals decide on their own whether they want to go to trial or become outlaws. This, in essence, would allow hordes of very nasty humans to roam society. If anarcho-capitalists choose to allow some initiatory force where needed (e.g., allowing private police and bounty hunters to capture innocent suspects and incarcerate them), then they lose the power of their fundamental axiom as a moral principle and must rely on pragmatic arguments alone to promote their socio-political system, arguments which are not supportable. Whichever way they choose, their political theory breaks down in the face of logic and history.

Anarchist Misreading of History

The definitive statement on anarcho-capitalism and how its private voluntary system of law would work is Bruce Benson's The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State. Therefore, we need to delve into it if we are to properly sort out the issues of statism, republicanism, and anarchism and their basic legitimacy for human societies.

Benson's book is a noteworthy achievement, for he has unmasked much of the malignant corruption and tyranny that exist in our government legal systems. He shows that voluntary custom law is a workable legal form for certain crimes and that we were mistaken to totally abandon it as we did in favor of what he terms the authoritarian law of government (i.e., coercive statutory law). But just as with Rand's books, his message must be read very carefully, for its primary conclusions are based upon flawed interpretations of historical fact. Sadly, he takes a very useful institution (voluntary custom law) and extends it far beyond its rational capacity for human societies.

As we have seen, during the anarchistic customary law period of Anglo-Saxon England (450 AD to 1000 AD) life consisted of constant fighting between the tribal kings because there was no stronger governing force and higher constitutional law to stop them. There were only the custom laws of the "hundreds" and "shires" (the voluntary courts of the time), which were powerless to check these warlords who fought as a way of life, as did the lesser barons, knights, and earls.

In addition, powerful outlaw gangs operated with impunity and longstanding blood-feuds always broke out whenever a settlement could not be reached through the voluntary "custom law" courts.

In cases of homicide, rape, assault, etc., there developed an understanding under custom law that if the defendant refused to come to trial, or if the voluntary court verdict for settlement to the victim was not accepted by the defendant, the victim (or the victim's family) could then assault and/or kill the alleged defendant as restitution. [3] From our perspective of today, this was certainly not a very civilized means to handle disputes.

Historian Marc Bloc, in his book, Feudal Society, outlines the element of blood-feuds throughout this period:

"The Middle Ages, from beginning to end, and particularly the feudal era, lived under the sign of private vengeance. The onus, of course, lay above all on the wronged individual; vengeance was imposed on him as the most sacred of duties" as well as his right under customary law. [4]

"The family feud was responsible for countless bloody tragedies" because "of the firmly rooted tradition which recognized the right…of the individual or the small group to execute justice on its own account." [5]

All of early medieval society in England and Europe was a process of constant violence and forming alliances and counter alliances for protection – hardly an idyllic setting of peace and plenty overseen by customary law courts and voluntary submission to their decrees.

During the early Middle Ages, "[t]he distinguishing characteristic of the free man was his ability to fight," notes French historian Philippe Contamine. [6] With the coming of the feudal era, "duchies, marquisates, counties, baronies … principalities of every size became centres of independent military systems …. From this sprang that multitude of skirmishes, sieges, raids, burnings, encounters and battles" that makes up the history of the era. [7] Violence and crime were extremely widespread.

English historian Maurice Keen writes that:

"Local knights and lords only too readily took the law into their own hands in their rivalries with their neighbours; and common thieves plied their trade in every part of the country … Police measures were … not capable of dealing effectively with the disorderly elements in society. The lists of offenders presented before the forest courts are impressive, but they become less so when one examines how many cases actually came to trial; over and again the records tell of accused persons who 'did not come' or 'could not be found'. The same applies to the criminal law." [8]

All historians corroborate this account of the times: John Hudson writes in The Formation of the English Common Law that, "Medieval societies with no police forces had great difficulty apprehending offenders … if the offender was not caught rapidly, he was unlikely to be caught at all…. Later evidence suggests that only a very small proportion of crimes were actually brought to trial." [9]

Sir Frederic Pollock and Frederic Maitland tell us in their landmark study, The History of English Law: "It would appear that great difficulty was found both in obtaining specific evidence of offences, and in compelling accused and suspected persons to submit themselves to justice, and pay their fines if convicted." [10]

"The ordinary man," state Pollock and Maitland, "seems to have been expected to be very active in the pursuit of malefactors and yet to 'act at his peril.' This may be one of the reasons why, as any eyre roll will show, arrests were rarely made, except where there was hot pursuit after a 'hand-having' thief." [11]

Pauline Stafford writes, "From the beginning of the tenth century a major concern of the laws was the tightening of procedures for bringing people to justice…. It is enforcement, apprehension, bringing people to court, coping with refusal or failure to attend, proving theft, or dealing with aiders and abettors…which recur time and again." [12]

As long as private citizens were responsible for arresting, holding and trying the more heinous and violent criminals, strife and insecurity prevailed. "Not surprisingly," explain historians Frances and Joseph Gies, "large numbers of wrong doers continued to escape capture. Bands of thieves flourished, terrorizing whole districts." [13]

One of the most dreaded crimes of the early Middle Ages, Canadian scholar Rebecca Colman tells us, was hamsocn (hamsoken), a crime of violence against the homestead.

"The worst form of assault was the work of organized gangs… who deliberately set out to attack individual homes or whole villages, pillaging, setting fire, and forcibly abducting women….

"The numbers of men involved might range from as few as the five or six mentioned in Lombard and Danish law, to the size of a small army….

"Evidence of such thuggery can be found in the laws of the West Saxon King Ine, who ruled from 688 to 726…. [A] single raid from a marauding band of the kind mentioned in Ine's laws could reduce a community to beggary….

"[A]s we have seen from a variety of evidence, in the formative stages of English and other societies neither the physical structures nor…the human resources of small communities were sufficient on their own to provide the necessary protection. This had to depend on the growth of larger power." [14]

Thus, it was the basic inability of voluntary courts to handle serious criminals and curb the incessant fighting among the ruthless nobility in pursuit of more wealth and prestige that led to the gradual realization that something more than "custom law" was necessary. Those aspects of the law involving violence and major crime needed to be monopolized by a more authoritarian structure that could end all the conflict. It was the only way to provide some teeth to the judicial process.

Consequently, the three retaliatory agencies of the modern state in the West found their origin in England and on the European continent during the period of 1000 A.D. to 1300 A.D. Such agencies came into being because they were deemed necessary to create a safer, more ordered way of life than what local "custom law" had produced during the previous 500 years.

Because these agencies of government gradually expanded into the tyrannical statisms we know today is no reason to deny the legitimacy of their original intent. Their tyrannical expansion was due to the fact that they were launched under flawed defining theories and implemented under weak limitations.

This lack of a proper defining theory and effective limitation was taken up, of course, by our Founders in 1787. A magnificent effort to correct the flaws of the nation-state was put forth in the form of our Constitution, which attempted to effectively limit the state's authority. Sadly, it was not explicit enough in language, nor sound enough in theory to be successful. And this is why the establishment of such verbal explicitness and theoretical solidity must become our purpose in the 21st century. We must complete the revolution of the Founding Fathers and establish more firmly the limitations of our Constitution so that the concept of "federalism" can finally become the system of strictly limited government it was meant to be.

Monopolized State Law

Monopolized state courts won out over private customary courts because, even though the state's "use of force" was far from perfect, the people found it less imperfect than what transpired with the warlords, vigilantes, blood-feuds and free-roaming outlaws under customary law. This is because monopolized state law could marshal a more uniform and effective use of retaliatory force. Moreover, its prescriptions could be codified under a written constitution, and the idea of objectivity could be enshrined into the Constitution. This would make it easier and fairer to implement than relying on the divergent customs of clans, families and social groups to handle violent crimes and the explosive emotions that always accompany them. This would, in theory at least, make the law objective for the entire country, giving uniform rules for all civilized people.

Most importantly, monopolized state law won out because it divorced the retaliatory function from the emotions of the participants in the dispute. By combining this divorcement with an objectively driven law, there could then develop an increased trust among all citizens of a wider and wider geographical area, which then would lead to an increase in travel, commerce, capital accumulation, cultural development, etc. And this was, in fact, what took place with the flowering of the later Middle Ages.

Customary law was a wonderful institution for civil disputes and merchant disputes, and it should be resurrected in modern society with the state withdrawing from such cases. But it was not effective enough for crimes of heinous and violent nature. For these instances, the monopolized authoritarian law of a government was needed. Early medieval society sensed this and ushered in the formation of the nation-state. The fact that its authoritarian law structure was badly designed and its implementation poorly limited down through the centuries is no reason to discard it. We need instead to redesign it, to streamline it and to perfect it.

Most anarcho-capitalists have a romanticized view of "custom law" and its efficacy in the early Middle Ages and feel such an institution could be established in modern society with no difficulties. Unfortunately, private armies, police and courts (no matter how skilled and technologically adept they are) can never overcome the problems created by the flaws of human nature. Left to a totally voluntary life with no government authority, men will not angelically interact with their fellows. They will do all the things that men have done since the beginning of time: fight, steal, murder, deceive, plot, conspire, corrupt, rape, pillage, kidnap, bomb, terrorize and tyrannize.

Nor will modern corporations solve the problem of defense against outside invaders. They will just reduce the hostility potential we experience today between nation-states to smaller corporate entities defending smaller geographical areas. But the flaws of human nature will still be present in the interactions of the new "corporate-defended" areas, and thus the same problems of greed, expansion, fear and distrust will prevail to incite wars. It is from these "private corporate defenders" that the warlords of a future Anarcho-America would come.

Herein lies the most ghastly flaw of anarcho-capitalism. The anarchist societies of the Middle Ages only used bows and arrows and spears to do their fighting. Imagine what such a no-government philosophy would bring about today with modern weaponry openly available to all market participants. We would have Hatfield and McCoy clans armed to the teeth with nuclear bombs and scud missiles fighting among each other. America would be a land of bombed-out Beiruts in no time, with mushroom clouds of radiation everywhere. The private defense agencies of anarcho-capitalism would become modern day warlords. This is human nature.

With today's modern war weaponry (stinger missiles, scud missiles, nuclear bombs, biochemical weapons, etc.) all freely available in an anarcho-capitalist society to any thug with enough knowledge and money to procure them, this would be a frightful prospect, indeed. Do we actually want a society in which nuclear bombs and biochemical weapons are available to purchase in the open market by any and all criminals? This is what anarcho-capitalism would lead to. To blank out on this inevitable denouement is inexcusable. Yet anarcho-capitalists blithely ignore it and claim they have a credible theory of politics.

It must be said, however, that Bruce Benson's work is a masterful piece of historical scholarship and should be read thoroughly by all freedom-seeking people. I, like other advocates of limited government, disagree with many of his interpretations as well as the philosophical vision he shapes from those interpretations. But he does make a powerful case for the reinstitution of "custom law" for many of the nonviolent conflicts and disputes that arise in society. For that reason alone, one needs to read his book.

Herein lies part of the solution to the grotesque tyranny and inefficiency of our modern-day political-legal systems. If we restored "private" custom law as a supplement to rather than a replacement of our "state" authoritarian law, then we could remove much of the overload from the state system, which would bring about a considerable increase in efficiency and justice.

The Baby and the Bathwater

I contend, therefore, that the key to freedom, order and justice is not in morally denouncing "all initiatory coercion" as libertarians and anarchists are attempting to do. No system of law (even a voluntary anarchist system) can exist without some initiatory force. Nor, for practical reasons, is the answer to return our society to a totally custom law system of private police, courts and armies. This would merely bring back warlords, free-roaming outlaws, vigilantes and blood-feuds with a hideous modern technological prowess to exacerbate their barbarism. Our need is simply to establish a government whose use of initiatory force is truly objective and limited, with those limits clearly spelled out within a federalist structure.

In this way, government has some flexibility with which to provide for those few services that can't be handled through the marketplace (military, police, courts, communicable disease control, 911 services, city streets, etc.), yet it is still contained, and thus freedom is preserved.

In addition, we must find a new "moral limiting principle" to replace Ayn Rand's flawed non-aggression principle. Rand was quite correct in showing that the Founders erred in thinking that the separation of powers alone could stop government from expanding. Our Constitution needed to have an accompanying moral limiting principle. She thought she had discovered it with her famous taboo on "all initiatory force" that John Galt announces to the world in Atlas Shrugged. It is indeed a powerful principle, but it is flawed because it leads us to anarchism in order to be consistent. She failed to see this. But the answer to her flaw is not to carry the fallacy to its conclusion, i.e., anarchism, as Rothbard has done. The answer is to find another equally powerful "moral limiting principle" that will lead us to a strictly limited government, and then correct the errors in our Constitution.

In my book, The Golden Mean: Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values, I show the reader a new "moral limiting principle" that is equally as powerful as Rand's taboo on initiatory force. This new principle (when combined with the logic of Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean) will stop the growth of government cold, and most importantly it does not lead to anarchism. It leads to a strictly limited government. Space prohibits its proper explanation here, but I discuss it extensively throughout the book.

With federalism's rules perfected and a rational "moral limiting principle" implemented into the Constitution, there would then be a ceiling placed upon how big government could grow, yet there would be plenty of room for government to shrink.

Thus, it would be up to the citizens of any particular state to decide just how streamlined they would like to make their government. If they were taught in the schools, churches, and communities a proper vision of moral philosophy that enshrined the concept of equal individual rights and Judeo-Christianity's "golden rule" in dealing with others, then they should move toward a structure of freedom, justice and efficiency.

The old adage of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater is appropriate here. It is the evil aspects of government (its arbitrary controls and interventions, its special privileges, progressive taxation, control of the money supply and ill-defined limits) that must be eliminated – not the government itself.

Government doesn't "automatically" grow into tyranny as anarcho-capitalists maintain. It is government, improperly and irrationally defined, that grows into tyranny. Government as an institution is not innately evil, just as armies as institutions are not innately imperialistic. The evil is our inadequate constitutional limitation of government through a flawed document and our weak moral-philosophical teaching about government to the citizens of our society. The evil is our greed and our shortsightedness. As an eloquent man once said, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Government is, indeed, as George Washington said, "like fire, a dangerous servant and a fearful master," but also like fire, a necessary force for the preservation of human life. We must remember that all powers are dual. They have the capacity to be used and misused. Electricity can create light, and it can also snuff out life; but where among us is there anyone suggesting that we eliminate the use of electricity from the earth? Where is there anyone urging the discontinuance of the use of fire because it so often gets out of control and levels whole city blocks and virgin forests?

The fault of government lies not in its basic nature, but in our unwarranted application of its power to the everyday elements of our lives. Therefore, our task is to patch up the cracks in government's intellectual armor of containment. We must truly make our government objective, specifically limited, a protector of individual rights, not a provider of economic needs.

Our freedoms will not be restored by extinguishing government's fire. They will be restored by strengthening the walls of the constitutional furnace that houses the fire. Libertarians must quit beating the ideological bushes in search of an illusory utopia and realize that no ideal is worth fighting for unless it will work. In fact, no ideal is ideal unless it will work.

As the renowned philosopher John Hospers told us: "Libertarians need to be reminded of John Stuart Mill's famous statement that what is held to be true in theory but is not applicable in practice, is not acceptable even in theory. Conservatives at least do not make that mistake." [15]

Anarcho-capitalism is not a credible political theory; it is a dangerous and delusional exercise in irrationality. It must be rejected by all those who believe in freedom and wish to restore it to our country and to our civilization.


1. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1962), Book II, Chapter 6. See also J. Budziszewski, Written On the Heart: The Case for Natural Law (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), p. 30-31.

2. Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (New York: Random House), p. 1023.

3. Bruce L. Benson, The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State (San Francisco: Pacific Research Institute, 1990), p. 24.

4. Marc Bloc, Feudal Society (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1961), p. 125.

5. Ibid., p. 411.

6. Philippe Contamine, War in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1994), p. 51.

7. Ibid., p. 31.

8. Maurice Keen, The Outlaws of Medieval Legend, (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1977), pp. 192-193. Emphasis added.

9. John Hudson, The Formation of the English Common Law (London: Addison Wesley Longman, 1996), pp. 61 & 68.

10. Sir Frederick Pollock and Frederic W. Maitland, The History of English Law, Vol. 1 (Washington, DC: Lawyers' Literary Club, 1959), p. 49.

11. Ibid., Vol. 2 (London: Cambridge University Press, 1923), p. 583.

12. Pauline Stafford, Unification and Conquest: A Political and Social History of England in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1989), p. 140.

13. Frances and Joseph Gies, Daily Life in Medieval Times (New York: Black Dog and Leventhal, 1990), p. 218.

14. Rebecca V. Colman, "Domestic Peace and Public Order in Anglo-Saxon Law," in The Anglo-Saxons: Synthesis and Achievement, eds. J. Douglas Woods and David A. E. Pelteret (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1985), pp. 55-61.

15. John Hospers, Freedom and Virtue: The Conservative-Libertarian Debate, George W. Carey, ed. (Lanham, MD: University Press, 1984), p. 69.

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