Tag Archive | legality

Debate on the Nature & Scope of Self-Defense

Friday night, I debated with Matt Kuehnel of “Dankertarians,” who run the website https://dankertarians.com. I don’t really follow the site or the page, but I think they make memes or something. I’m not entirely sure. Matt is a hard-left leaning libertarian of the anarchist persuasion and calls himself a Libertarian Socialist. From my reading of Libertarian Socialism, it’s basically anarcho-communism by a different name. C’est la vie, it’s not important.

After we’d each been cross-examined, we featured Will Coley of Muslims 4 Liberty to talk about his MALIC center project, where he is opening a mosque and interfaith place of worship in Keene, New Hampshire to serve the community there. As a fun bonus, it is opening within five miles of where now felon Chris Cantwell lives. The project has been funded well, but it could use your support, and not just to make a Nazi cry by having a mosque open up in his backyard; even as an atheist, I’m fully on-board with the project. You can find it here, and I hope that you can throw $5 his direction.

I took basically the position that you’ve heard me describe before: there are limits to what is and isn’t self-defense–objective criteria by which we determine an act was self-defense. This is critically important, because saying “I was defending myself” is not just an excuse for one’s own actions; it’s an accusation of criminal behavior. In order for me to be “defending myself,” the person attacking me must be guilty of a crime–assault, battery, etc. Yet this person has the right to be presumed innocent until they are proven guilty (socially or legally–as I reminded Matt several times throughout the debate, we’re not talking about law as much as we are social custom and what is right). If my claim of self-defense is to hold up, I must prove beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt that the person against whom I defended myself was guilty of a crime. This often gets lost in the self-defense debate, but there’s never just one person: both sides are prosecutor and defendant, and both must be presumed innocent.

Anyway, all that said, I was really rusty, and it showed. I haven’t formally debated anyone in years. And after all the bitching about formality, wouldn’t you know it? It was I who cross-examined someone when I shouldn’t have. Anyway, the debate weighs in at just over an hour, and we take questions at the end, so I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for watching.

Negative Consequences

We can’t prevent any and all negative consequences.

The idea that we somehow can lies at the heart of statism. We can’t have freedom of association, because then some racist assholes would choose not to associate with black people. We can’t have capitalism because then some people might not be able to afford food. We can’t have freedom of speech because then some people might hurt other people’s feelings.

The most common criticism of anarchism is that anarchy can’t guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong, a security that people seem to desperately crave, even though they don’t have it, and even though it’s impossible in a universe that doesn’t seem to care much whether we’re here. “What will you do to prevent murder?” people ask the anarchist, using the anarchist’s inability to definitively prevent murder as a reason for rejecting anarchy.

It’s fallacious, of course. The state doesn’t successfully prevent negative consequences either, no matter how much it tries and interferes in our lives. With all the laws and prisons, with all the destruction of liberty in the modern United States, there remains murder. It’s readily apparent that this isn’t an argument for the state; it’s an excuse for the status quo. “The state doesn’t successfully prevent murder, but anarchy can’t either. So why change?”

The obvious answer is that the state doesn’t simply fail to prevent murder; it is the Primary Murderer. As an institution, the state has racked up a body count that should cause any moral person to do a doubletake; in the 20th century alone, counting only war and advice combatants, states killed more than 120,000,000 people. If there were no states, those people killed by states would not have died. So if we want to reduce murder, the stateless society is clearly the way to go.

Prohibition doesn’t work, and we know this. Everyone knows it until we get to their Pet Issue, at which point they decide arbitrarily that prohibition can work. Abortion is a great example, because outlawing abortion doesn’t stop abortion; it merely chases it to the shadows of the back alley. Prohibition against alcohol didn’t eliminate alcohol; it was merely chased into the shadows of the black market. Prohibition against drugs hasn’t stopped people from doing drugs.

The argument may be that it’s fine, because we’ve substantially reduced the number of people doing these things, even if some people still do them, but this ignores the tremendous negative consequences. Our prisons are filled with non-violent offenders, largely minorities. Drugs are bought and sold in secret, unverified, possibly impure, possibly laced, and possibly lethal. People who can’t find heroin turn to krokodil. These are negative consequences. Our state intervention did not come without a price and arguments can certainly be made that the price was higher than the reward. Great, we kept five people off heroin, and the only side effect was that two people got on krokodil! Only a supremely jaded person can call this a victory.

Of course, this simply leads to more interventions, and more attempts to make up new rules to address the negative side effects of the old rules. Russia made codeine prescription-only to fix the krokodil epidemic caused by heroin being illegal, which simply made heroin easier to get and cheaper than krokodil. And then they’ll come up with some new rule to address the negative side effects of the last rule, and the end result is a clusterfuck of nonsensical laws limiting the behavior of adults.

Don’t think that we’re any different in the United States. There are positive and negative consequences to every action. Getting up early and starting my work day early comes with the positive consequence of earning more money, and with the negative consequence of getting less sleep. There’s always a trade-off, and this is the critical thing that statists attempt to deny.

Sure, outlawing heroin seems like a good idea with positive consequences–right up until someone’s skin rots off because they turned to krokodil. That negative consequence can’t be ignored. Furthermore, any attempt to fix it will come with its own set of consequences. And each time, liberty is restricted. The adults out there who use heroin in the same way that party drinkers use alcohol are caught in the cross fire, their lives destroyed in our Quixotic quest to eliminate drug addicts, and turned into hardened criminals by a prison system that rivals the Roman Gladiatorial Arenas in sheer barbarism.

Prohibition against alcohol probably lowered the number of people who drank. It also created Al Capone and turned Chicago into the gang-infested nightmare that it remains today. It drastically lowered the quality of alcohol, leading to widespread poisoning, and turned previously safe warehouses into guarded camps that regularly saw vicious battles erupting over control of the lucrative black market. It was hardly what anyone would call a victory.

Prohibiting abortion today wouldn’t end it, especially not in an age that has the Tor network (The Dark Web), which would make it easier than ever to find an abortionist. Even Craigslist can’t keep illicit activity off, and people would find abortionists through it. Rather than having the procedure done in a safe and sterile environment, though, we’d be back in the alley with coathangers. We know this, because that’s what happened before abortion was legalized.

It’s true. I can’t promise you that nothing will ever go wrong in an anarcho-capitalist society. In fact, the only thing I can promise you is that things will go wrong. The only thing that really matters is which set of consequences you want. Do you want freedom and the sometimes negative consequences? Do you want free speech even though it means people might say hateful things? Do you want free association even though it means racists might not associate with minorities?

Or do you want statism, for the government to attempt to minimize negative consequences by limiting freedom, and thereby creating a new set of consequences that have to be addressed by limiting freedom more?

We can’t have a utopia. In a universe largely hostile to our existence, imperfect beings can’t have a utopia. The state can’t give us one, and anarchy can’t give us one. Basic algebra tells us, then, that we can reduce the equation by erasing utopia from both sides. When we do this, what are we left with?

Freedom and negative consequences, or tyranny and negative consequences.

I, for one, will always choose freedom.