I got into an argument with an Anarcho-Capitalist Libertarian a few nights ago, and many of the things he said are still ringing in my ears. But one statement sticks out in my mind more than any other; “the state is always wrong, even when it’s right.”
The argument then went where these tend to go – an outrageous, albeit simple, hypothetical scenario. You come home to find your wife being raped by another man. What happens to the intruder?
We both agreed that he should be shot, immediately. But what happens to the intruder if he is not shot or otherwise killed, maimed, brutalized and then thrown off the nearest tall structure? We both agreed that in this case the police would and should be called. Where we diverged was how far the police, or “the state”, should go afterwards. I suggested that he be put to death. The an-cap put forth that he should just be detained, as the state does not have the right to kill anyone; i.e., the non-aggression principle. That being, the state is not defending itself by killing the rapist, and it does not have the authority to do so in any case. “The state is always wrong, even when it’s right.”
This argument is founded on the belief that all men can make the right decision for themselves; that somehow everyone’s moral character, willpower and strength are in tip-top shape and no one can make the wrong choice. It is to believe that if someone is raping a man’s wife, that man will always kill the rapist.
If this were true, if no one could make the wrong decision, there would be no rapists in the first place. It follows, then, that if one man can make the wrong decision and rape someone’s wife, then the husband is equally capable of making the wrong decision by not killing him.
So where does it stop? When do these incorrect decisions finally meet their end? When does someone, something, step in and say “enough is enough”? Is it after that rapist is released from prison and has raped the wife of yet another man incapable of pulling the trigger? What about two more raped women and their weak husbands after that? What if the wife demanded that he be killed and yet the husband stood, twiddling his thumbs?
The argument then went to another hypothetical. If a blind man were walking towards a cliff, and you shouted at him, “stop walking, if you go any further you will die,” and that man kept creeping towards his death because he did not believe you due to lack of proof, would you let him keep walking? The an-cap said he would let the man walk off the cliff, because “that’s his choice.”
In both scenarios, men are making a decision – the wrong decision. One is too immoral to understand that he should not rape, the second is too weak to see that the first should be put down, the third is too blind to see his inevitable doom, and the fourth is too self-righteous to step in, to use his hands where his eyes and mouth failed him.
This is Libertarianism and the non-aggression principle at their core. The belief that something should be done but not the fortitude to actually get it done, even at the cost of life, and all for the price of liberty. They are fine with the ignorant blind man walking off the cliff, and yet they oppose the rapist being forced to do the same.
Dear Libertarians, you must understand that not everyone can make the right choice. If this were the case, you wouldn’t be a Libertarian.