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A recent variant of anarchistic theory, which is befuddling some of the younger advocates of freedom, is a weird absurdity called “competing governments.” Accepting the basic premise of the modern statists—who see no difference between the functions of government and the functions of industry, between force and production, and who advocate government ownership of business—the proponents of “competing governments” take the other side of the same coin and declare that since competition is so beneficial to business, it should also be applied to government. Instead of a single, monopolistic government, they declare, there should be a number of different governments in the same geographical area, competing for the allegiance of individual citizens, with every citizen free to “shop” and to patronize whatever government he chooses.

Remember that forcible restraint of men is the only service a government has to offer. Ask yourself what a competition in forcible restraint would have to mean.

One cannot call this theory a contradiction in terms, since it is obviously devoid of any understanding of the terms “competition” and “government.” Nor can one call it a floating abstraction, since it is devoid of any contact with or reference to reality and cannot be concretized at all, not even roughly or approximately. One illustration will be sufficient: suppose Mr. Smith, a customer of Government A, suspects that his next-door neighbor, Mr. Jones, a customer of Government B, has robbed him; a squad of Police A proceeds to Mr. Jones’ house and is met at the door by a squad of Police B, who declare that they do not accept the validity of Mr. Smith’s complaint and do not recognize the authority of Government A. What happens then? You take it from there.

Ayn Rand doesn't finish her argument. She tells us to take it from there. Where does Objectivism provide a full explanation?

There already are competing governments, e.g. the U.S. and Israeli governments. They already deal with conflicts like this. A U.S. citizen claims an Israeli citizen stole from him. The result is not a gun fight. Even today's governments are smarter than that. They have some non-violent methods of resolving conflicts with each other. Anarchist competing governments could also have some non-violent methods of conflict resolution. Whatever the answer to this topic, I don't think it's obvious enough to leave unexplained.

For clarity, I want to say: there are a lot of approaches to anarchism and I do not approve of most of them. (And before anyone asks, I do not approve of libertarianism.)

Did Ayn Rand ever address anarchy fully? If not, did another Objectivist? Please tell me where to find this information. I'd also be interested if someone here has an answer, but my primary question is asking if there's any sources that already address this.

asked Nov 29 '14 at 22:13

Curi's gravatar image


edited Nov 30 '14 at 12:39

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

North America had a long run at trying to have multiple governments competing as equivalents in a single geographical area. Quite simply, it failed, and we had a civil war, and out of that civil war came a situation where the state governments within the geographical area of the United States are clearly subordinate to United States government.

That, I would say, is what happens when you "take it from there".

(Dec 04 '14 at 15:22) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Ayn Rand ... tells us to take it from there. Where does Objectivism provide a full explanation?

Where do advocates of competing governments provide a full explanation? Competing governments means two governments having jurisdiction over the same geographical territory, with no other governmental relation or restraint over the two governments. Advocates of such a view have a lot left to explain. Ayn Rand's argument against competing governments is a reductio ad absurdum.

Note that the U.S. and Israel are not in competition in the same geographical area. If they were, the situation would be untenable until some higher-level governmental framework were created to make clear which governmental entity is responsible for what. Also consider the process by which the American colonies initially formed a loose confederation of independent states under Articles of Confederation, then transitioned to a more centralized national government under a federal constitution specifying the division of powers between the national government and the states.

answered Dec 04 '14 at 01:25

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

"Where do advocates of competing governments provide a full explanation?" Nowhere. Where does Rand provide a full explanation of, "how to implement the principle of voluntary government financing" (VoS)? Nowhere (as far as I know). But I agree with her position (that it's possible) anyway. Regarding anarchy, why doesn't Objectivism say that all the approaches to anarchy proposed so far are either incompete and ambiguous, or bad?

(Dec 04 '14 at 02:42) Curi Curi's gravatar image

Wouldn't it be an error to reject anarchy as a concept because no one figured out how to make it work in detail yet? By what principle can a voluntary defense agency stop another one from being created and taking subscribers in the same geographical area? How would competing be initiatiation of force if they did everything responsibly (e.g. working out non-violent arrangements to handle disputes before having any employees with guns go knock on doors)?

(Dec 04 '14 at 02:42) Curi Curi's gravatar image

What is a "voluntary defense agency" and how do they differ from the private security agencies which currently exist today?

What's the non-violent arrangement you're supposed to work out when one side says abortion is murder and the other side says abortion is a fundamental right?

(Dec 04 '14 at 08:10) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Anthony, are you looking for a discussion? I'm not really sure how to use this site best but I don't think it's a discussion site and the comment character limit is short. I don't know the best way to handle this. I have answers to what you say but I don't know what to do with them. Your comments seem designed for a back-and-forth like I might have elsewhere, which makes sense to me, but I don't know how to handle at this site. I expect my answers to you would also lead to back-and-forth discussion. Please advise.

(Dec 04 '14 at 13:17) Curi Curi's gravatar image

I don't know, but I'm definitely not looking for a discussion about having a discussion. If you have answers, but they're too long, maybe link to them?

(Dec 04 '14 at 15:22) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I have answers involving back-and-forth discussion where you explain where you're coming from too so I can address that, rather than generic one-size-fits-all answers that would please and persuade everyone. Addressing a topic in discussion and in an essay are pretty different. I don't have something like a pre-written essay on why the civil war isn't what I'm suggesting.

(Dec 04 '14 at 15:35) Curi Curi's gravatar image

Hi, Curi. As the FAQ notes, "What makes Objectivist Answers special is that it is a question and answer site, not a general discussion group. Please avoid extended debates in the answers as they tend to dilute the essense of the topic. If you have an alternate answer or a comment to extend someone else's answer, please post it (and revise it as warranted)."

(Dec 04 '14 at 16:57) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

I know, that's exactly why I asked how to handle this. He started arguing with me in comments and I don't know what to do.

(Dec 04 '14 at 18:31) Curi Curi's gravatar image

Hmm, perhaps start a discussion thread somewhere and invite folks to participate in it? Like a Facebook thread, or something on a blog you might run, etc.

(Dec 04 '14 at 18:56) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

(And then bring the results here as a nicely-formed Q and/or A, of course. :^)

(Dec 04 '14 at 18:56) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Well, if anthony (or anyone else wants) I have a philosophy discussion yahoo group https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/fallible-ideas/info I will be happy to discuss anarchy or whatever else. It is friendly to Objectivism.

(Dec 04 '14 at 19:19) Curi Curi's gravatar image

I asked a question to try to clarify one of your questions (so I could answer it), and I posted a partial answer to another one of your questions.

(Dec 04 '14 at 23:15) anthony anthony's gravatar image

You raised a bunch of issues that we're totally not on the same page about and I can tell it'd take a bunch of discussion for us to get on the same page. I'm not complaining. If it was a regular forum i'd just discuss it with you, no problem. but the rules say not to here and i was trying to respect that. I'd be happy to discuss it at the yahoo group if you want.

(Dec 04 '14 at 23:34) Curi Curi's gravatar image
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Asked: Nov 29 '14 at 22:13

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Last updated: Dec 04 '14 at 23:34