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Slavery re-legalization bill?

It looks like Congressman Rangel is at it again.

I guess he just thinks enslaving your fellow man is a great idea.

Our thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link.

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33 comments to Slavery re-legalization bill?

  • Jso

    He voted against his own bill last time he tried this. How about that democrat sincerity huh?

  • Uh, Dale, I am genuinely baffled. Why on Earth do you regard conscription as “slavery??” If I am not mistaken, Israel (to name one prominent democratic nation) has mandatory service for all men and women (with some exceptions for e.g. religious minorities).


  • guy herbert


    I’m baffled why you think if Israel does it, it can’t be slavery. That’s possibley the weirdest of many weird arguments offered on this blog.

    Conscription is slavery because it places individuals, without any choice on their part, in a condition where they are obliged to do as someone else instructs them at all times, even where that places then in the way of death or serious injury, even where it requires them to rob, injure or kill others.

  • Well Marku$, it’s that old distinction between liberty and democracy again. The right being violated in the case of slavery is individual self ownership (aka individual liberty), not the right to participate in the election of representatives.

    It is the rights of the individual that classical liberalism seeks to protect against any government –elected or not. Israel may be a democracy, that does not stop it from violating human rights (in the traditional sense). It was an Israeli court that ruled the use of torture illegal, not because the law permitting it did not come from a democratically elected assembly but because doing so violated the rights of those tortured.

    Many people, for some reason, take a different view of conscription although the same logic should apply and should lead to the conclusion that by conscripting a person you are claiming ownership over him or her; the fact that this ownership claim is exercised by a democratically elected representative does not change the fact that the conscript is appropriated as an economic resource for the defence sector of the economy without his consent. (Most readers of this blog will know this topic all to well, but if you don’t, try this(Link) for an introduction.

  • ian

    Soldiers died by the thousands at Verdun and the Somme simply because they were available, their lives nationalised as it were, by the modern state.

    Michael Walzer
    Just and Unjust Wars

  • Nick M

    Conscription is wrong. It is wrong in principle and it is wrong in practice. Millennia of military history attest to the greater power of professional soldiers over conscripts. So why force people into military service when the end result will be a piss-poor army anyway?

    Don’t get me wrong here. I’m against conscription on principle – and principle is enough here. But when principle coincides with pragmatism I can’t help but feel there is absolutely no question to answer.

    Furthermore, it would appear that Congressman Rangel is grandstanding. His argument is along the lines that forcing military duty upon the unwilling would result in a utopia in which the US would not indulge in adventures like Iraq.

    That argument is so cynical that it is beyond contempt.

    Dale is right. Conscription is slavery. It was only felt necessary in the UK after the appalling tactics of The Somme. Pressing people into the army is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

    Who do you want protecting your country? Do you want free men and women, or do you want slaves?

    Marku$, citing Israel as an example for the US is utterly bizarre. Comparing the world’s only hyper-power which has cordial relations with its only two, much weaker, bordering neighbours with a small state surrounded by vastly more populous countries with what are essentially “mission statements” to destroy it is weird.

  • widgmo

    I’ll support a draft for mandatory service outside of the military once all congressmen who vote for it interrupt their careers and serve their time as airport screeners and bedpan attendants.

    I can support a call for a military draft. I cannot support a call for universal service. If the well connected had the options of deferments and service in the National Guard during Viet Nam, I can not imagine the loopholes that would be exploited to work in hospitals rather than on the front line in a time of need.

    I also cannot condone the waste in forcing every 18 year old to change bedpans, sweep streets, patrol the local mall or enlist in the military. Universal service will waste tax dollars and youth.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    rantingkraut’s comment is superb. Come back and comment again!

  • The Wobbly Guy

    There is a thin line to be drawn, especially when a greater liberty is at stake. In this case, the lesser evil of conscription would just have to be endured, for the freedom to die or to be enslaved by intruding powers is no freedom at all.

    Quite importantly, a conscript army is useful only for defensive actions. Successful offensive war is still far better carried out by highly motivated volunteers. Conscripts can also fight well(see WW2), but only when they perceive their very way of life at stake, and often only a war on their own home soil will foster that attitude.

  • happycynic

    I think a clear distinction needs to be drawn between military or militia service and slavery. Defense of the Republic in time of war is the obligation of all citizens, and is indeed the very price for citizenship. It is not slavery because it is not submission to a master, but the fulfillment of an obligation for all citizens which has been in existence ever since the concept of the citizen was created. Athens, Rome, the Swiss Cantons, and all historic Republics have had some form of compulsory service. In the United States, our own Militia Act of 1792 required all able bodied males to be enrolled in the militia and be in possession of military arms.

    What Rangle wants, however, is not in this spirit. He wants to use conscription not to defend the United States in time of war, but to force everyone to contribute a year or two of “service” to the government. He has deliberately avoided all of the traditional protections of the militia (such as being called out only for a time of war, and only to defend the Continent), and I have no doubt that the majority of the “service” would be non-military, but would be liberal activism like Clinton’s horrid Americorps program. That can justly be compared to slavery.

  • Nick M


    Well obviously any form of conscription is enormously costly and wasteful. This is why the European nations that have it are back-peddling on it.

    TWG, happycynic,

    Yes, but… When people feel truly threatened they volunteer in their droves. This has always been the case. They ended up turning folk away in WWII. Nowadays, a modern army is by it’s very nature small and professional (or should be). The very nature of modern warfare enables the expenditure of such staggering quantities of ordnance that even in the event of a proximate threat to a civilised state a general call-up would be counter-productive. Most folks being far more useful in the general economy than the front-line.

    Couple that with the fact that modern military techniques and weapons are enormously more complicated than those of generations past and the need to stick everyone in uniform and give them a gun seems even less pressing. With the best will in the world what precise use would the average 18 year old be on a battlefield?

  • Happycynic, you seem to argue that conscription can rightly be expected as a price for citizenship because for a long time it has been demanded as a price for citizenship. There is a lot wrong with that line of circular reasoning. At the very least, it falls foul of Hume’s law in that a normative statement can not logically follow from a positive one: the mere fact that conscription has existed over a long time and in a large number of places does not make it right. To be rightly expected as a price for citizenship, the price would have to be agreed on by all parties involved in advance. That usually doesn’t happen.
    I accept though that a number of thinkers who were genuinely committed to liberty have accepted conscription as a legitimate form of direct coercion on the grounds that it alone guarantees the order on which liberty ultimately depends. I doubt that conscription is really all that useful, but that is a different story. The issue of compatibility with classical liberalism hinges on a matter of subjective opinion: does conscription itself constitute an infringement of individual liberty so severe, that the residual liberal order that remains after its imposition is no longer worth defending?
    I think so. Others, including quite a few who are seriously committed to classical liberalism do not think so. I do not say that my opinion is the only reasonable opinion for a liberal to hold. One should acknowledge though that the issue of legitimacy rests on a subjective value judgement rather than being an unquestionably acceptable counterpart of citizenship.

  • Pa Annoyed

    There is an argument that conscription is justified in an emergency and to defend liberty when military action is a ‘tragedy of the commons’ case. People benefit collectively from having liberty defended, but individually from not being the ones defending it. If this leads to an insufficient defence and a consequent loss of liberty, everybody pays. On that basis, it is better for them for each individual to be forced to join up than for them to be on the losing side because everybody was allowed the choice. Not only does this satisfy the libertarian requirement that liberty only be restricted so as not to cause harm to others, but it would seem unjust that the generous and honourable should die while the selfish should live. That’s not a selective breeding programme you want to follow for too many generations.

    While the ‘tragedy of the commons’ argument supports a national self-defence, I would argue that the libertarian argument supports a defence of liberty in general. If you only want liberty for yourself, then why should anyone else want to preserve liberty for you? Do you support liberty as a higher principle above your wants and needs, as a good thing in itself, or purely for the sake of those wants and needs?

    I’m not sure about the use of the ‘slave’ terminology. It is, I think, somewhere between milder metaphorical usages like “wage-slave” and real slavery. A conscript would still have some freedom of action within the constraints of their orders, is free to rise through the ranks through merit, can refuse illegal orders, and has a claim on justice if abused for reasons outside military necessity. They cannot be bought and sold, and are generally subject to the same system of discipline and responsibility as those who give them their orders.

    That said, it is a measure only justified in dire need, when the collective danger to individuals is greater than their individual danger from participating. I don’t think those conditions exist in America at present, at least for the short-term.

  • happycynic

    What I object to is the position, often taken by more extreme libertarians, that liberty comes unhindered by responsibility. Mutual defense is an essential term of the social contract. Being unable to fend for ourselves individually, we come together to provide for mutual defense. All those wishing to partake in the benefits of the social contract must also take upon themselves the burdens of it. Thankfully, due to the wonders of science we no longer need to field every able bodied man in time of war. This does not mean that we are, however, relieved of the obligation of mutual support, and a proper draft, conscription, or calling of the militia is clearly within the realm of legitimate collective action by a state founded upon the principles of classical liberalism.

    Our own Republic in the United States is an excellent example, being perhaps the state most explicitly founded upon classical liberalism. I am not aware of any of our founders objecting to compulsory military service. In fact, they were pretty much universally in favor of a militia consisting of all able bodied males and considered it to be an important bulwark of protection for a free state. As I’ve stated before, collective defense of the state has always been considered a price of citizenship, going all the way back to Ancient Greece.

  • RKV

    1) Peace thieves are free riders who get the benefit of protection from the state and seek to limit their own contribution to the safety of the state (which protects them and others) to money. Libertarians who get the benefit of state protection owe a duty to the state to protect it. Not under any terms, mind you, but it is cowardice to deny the duty.
    2) Today, as a practical, legal matter, you can be “conscripted” to serve on a jury (just try and run out on jury duty – it can end you in jail) and you can legally and morally be conscripted to be a soldier under US law. Arguments that it is “slavery” will get you no where in a court of law.
    3) Where we differ today than the early American Republic is that the state doesn’t want you to have the same guns that the government does – that would mean that the people have significant military power. Like the peace thieves, the state wants you to bear the risks, and gain little of the rewards of service.
    4) As a measure of how far we have gone betwen then and now, I remind all that in 1792 the Congress could pass laws that required every male citizen between 17 and 45 to own a military rifle and ammunition (bought by the citizen and kept at home). In todays’ terms, this would put a machine gun in every home (as is in Switzerland). Somehow I doubt that our government would like this to be the case today.

  • I know this is my third comment on this topic, but I just can’t help it. Somehow, I am really surprised by how far some people contort ideological principles to justify a particular policy conclusion.
    The argument that conscription under certain conditions satisfies ‘the libertarian requirement that liberty only be restricted so as not to cause harm to others’ seems to misrepresent the non-aggression principle which lies at the heart of libertarianism. The non-aggression principle bans me from setting your house on fire, it does not oblige me to extinguish a fire which started through no fault of mine. What is protected here are individual rights, not wellbeing. The utilitarian ‘no-harm principle’ carries you much further: competition harms your competitors, so should liberty be restricted to prevent it?
    Similar statements can be made regarding the public goods / free rider argument. Consider the following statement: Hygiene thieves are free riders who get the benefit of rubbish collections by the state and seek to limit their own contribution to the cleanliness of the public space (which benefits them and others) to money. Libertarians who get the benefit of state waste disposal owe a duty to the state to remove rubbish from public premises. Not under any terms, mind you, but it is snobbery to deny the duty.
    The bottom line is this: once the above arguments are accepted in general terms we have a justification for modern social democracy, not libertarianism. It seems both more appropriate and more honest to admit that almost all libertarians will at some point decide that some pragmatic concern should be allowed to compromise ideological purity. A healthy dose of pragmatism need not be a bad thing though, even if it means that libertarians will disagree on some issues.

  • Wild Pegasus

    The state enforces its “protection” on me whether I want it or not and crushes any potential competitors whom I may prefer to patronize. I don’t owe it a damned thing.

    – Josh

  • Pa Annoyed

    “…the non-aggression principle which lies at the heart of libertarianism”
    That’s a new one on me. Where does it say that?

    “…it does not oblige me to extinguish a fire which started through no fault of mine”
    Yes of course. First they came for the Jews, but I was not obliged to defend the liberty of others threatened through no fault of mine…

    “What is protected here are individual rights, not wellbeing.”
    Yep. That’s why I said it was justified in defence of liberty, an individual right. The ‘commons’ argument can also be applied to things like the national interest; but the libertarian argument cannot, unless you can put a price on liberty.

    “competition harms your competitors…”
    No it doesn’t. That’s the basis of the free market. Say, you’re not a Socialist, are you?

    Hygiene thieves…” Public hygiene is another classic ‘tragedy of the commons’ case. That’s why the state does it. When the state starts trying to charge extra or restrict disposal (in an attempt to look environMental) you get fly tipping. Those are your free riders. They take advantage of collective hygiene efforts to save time and cost for themselves.
    Get rid of the state, and you either need some alternative means to organise voluntary collective waste disposal, or to enforce people tidying their share of the mess up, or you live in a tip.

    The first of these is the purely voluntary militia or military, the second conscription, the third slavery. As a libertarian, isn’t your favoured option that you freely volunteer to clean up my mess? ;-)

    “once the above arguments are accepted in general terms we have a justification for modern social democracy”
    Aha! I knew it! A Socialist! ;-)

    What is the Libertarian answer to the Tragedy of the Commons? You form a cooperative to buy the shared resource, and then use property rights to coerce the necessary cooperation and reap the profits. You restrict citizenship to those willing and able to defend the polity, and then you only defend your own citizens. It is the old reciprocity meme – you help those who you believe will help you in return. But the principle must be enforced if it is to work; one who claims the benefits of citizenship but then does not reciprocate must be punished. This is essentially what states are, but it does not imply socialism (or indeed statism).

    The difference is that people in a libertarian state must be free to declare themselves outlaw and unprotected by the state. Having repaid any benefits of citizenship one might have received, one must then forego all benefits and protections, and make one’s own arrangements. Statelessness does happen to people through denaturalisation, although rarely voluntarily. Generally, it is only practical through transferring to another state – one more congenial to one’s beliefs – true statelessness in the absence of Socialist charity is a truly miserable place to be.

  • Uain

    I must admit to an unseemly enjoyment to think of young, cynical and terminally hip left wing college aged twats now being told by a kook left democrat that he thinks they should be drafted, have there tender arses kicked into shape and then sent into harms way.
    I am sure they are soiling their thongs at this point.

  • Nick M


    the state doesn’t want you to have the same guns that the government does – that would mean that the people have significant military power

    Er… No. This is just another Samizdata Minuteman fantasy. Assuming you were allowed any weaponry you wanted to buy I see very few individuals who could pony up the dough for an F-15 or an Aegis Cruiser. Battles have not been determined by individuals with guns for a century and that’s not the fault of the state.

    Pa Annoyed,

    You’re beginning to souund like Robert Heinlein at his most Starship Troopers… You restrict citizenship to those willing and able to defend the polity. Well that’s the disabled dienfranchised isn’t it?

    Conscription of any form is not really very useful. It results in a sub-standard military, staffed by folk who really don’t want to be there. The digression into the discussion of citizen militias is pointless because they are militarily irrelevant nowadays. OK, the armed citizenry of the US would make it very difficult for a hostile power to control the US but how realistic is that prospect? It isn’t going to come to that in any even vaguely plausible scenario which doesn’t involve me donning a TFH.

    That is not an objection to the general right to bear arms. It’s an objection to the idea that such a right results in the formation of an effective military organisation.

  • RKV

    Nick, You have a logic problem, not a Samizdata fantasy problem. The USA was designed to have a citizen militia. We don’t now have one in any appreciable sense. Power has moved from the people to the state. Period. In a number of states, wholesale disarmament and the elimination of individual self-defense is the stated goal of one of the political parties. This would transfer even more power to the government. Please note, circa 1800 privately armed warships up to frigate class (privateers) were owned by individuals and corporations and employed by states (letter of marque). We could do so again – say off the coast of Indonesia vs. pirates?

  • Paul Marks

    I think it is mostly an anti war stunt – the same as “you have not sent your sons Mr President” (which rather forgets than Mr Bush does not have any sons).

    I am more concerned about the minimum wage increase (which will lead to higher unemployment) and the demands for more money for “No Child Left Behind” (although that was Mr Bush’s stupid idea in the first place) bigger subsidies for the univeristies (which will lead to yet higher costs), and yet more regulations in health care (for example on H.M.O.s and insurance companies) – which will lead to even more expense in health care (and give strength to Mrs Clinton’s plans to nationalize it).

    And all this leaves aside such wilder stuff as Congressman Barney Frank’s dreams of world government (for example a world financial services regulator).

    Of course the future Chairman of Ways and Means is fond of saying that “his people” (by which I do not think he means New Yorkers) bear
    the burden of fighting and pale faces should pick up their share. However, this is bullshit (loads of white people join up).

    I am more concered about James Webb. His efforts to attract poor whites (specifically Rednecks) to the left (via talk of “protection” from imported goods and “economic justice”) are more dangerious.

    Also he can make the claim that “the poor” bear the burden of military service with some truth.

  • Gabriel

    Sigh, I suppose you think jury duty is slavery too?

    Anglo-Saxon civilization has always managed to meld individual liberty with a strong sense of duty; the kind of libertarianism that rejects the latter is a grotesque, destructive perversion.

  • Nick M


    I agree with you wrt individual self-defence.

    But the idea of privateers (or similar) is just no longer a player. You’re looking at a billion for a proper destroyer these days. That’s much more in real terms than the cost of a C18th frigate. And there is also the whole combined arms aspect which was never an issue in the days of signalling by flags. The economics don’t work. We’ve got civilian contractors (mercs) in Iraq but these are essentially light infantry. Have they provided a tank brigade or a fighter wing? That simply isn’t going to happen.

  • Duncan S

    The idea of everone having to be a member of the militia was to protect US soil from foreign invaders.. and perhaps it’s own government. I’d have absolutely no problem with everyone being required to own a military-spec assault rifle to keep at home to use in case of invasion and/or to overthrow a corrupt government.

    This is a far cry from forcing you to take up arms (which you cant even keep after the fact) and shipping you off to fight somewhere else … for what government officials feel is a justified use of US troops.

  • Pa Annoyed

    “…Well that’s the disabled dienfranchised isn’t it?”

    Yep! ;-)

    The market does not care that you have nothing to offer. You had might as well complain that the uneducated and stupid end up unemployed, or that some people earn more than others. By the same reasoning my friend uses to argue that he is not obligated to put out fires in other people’s houses, so the disabled are not granted unearned concessions except by voluntary charity, or under a Socialist state supported by a sort of coerced charity. If you propose that you have an enforceable duty to give to those less fortunate than oneself irrespective of what they can or will give back, then surely the same reasoning applies to defending liberty outside one’s own state?

    Personally, I’m very much in favour of the state extending a helping hand to those who really need it, even if they have to force people to do it, but that isn’t pure Libertarianism. I was simply following the logic of the pure ideology to its unfortunate conclusion. :-)

    The ‘state as co-operative’ approach is only one means of dealing with one particular problem; there are many other considerations. While this way of looking at Libertarianism does not induce a ‘contractual’ obligation to help others, I think it is nevertheless justified to force people when needed – because it is sometimes in all our individual interests to be forced.

    That said, I re-iterate: I don’t think such conditions apply at present. There are quite enough volunteers, who have earned our respect and thanks.

  • Paul Marks

    I thought I had already posted a comment here (about what the Congressman and his friends are really up to) – oh well I have never understood these computer things.

    On the question of private naval forces. Well most of the English ships that drove off the Spanish in the 16th century were private ships.

    As were many of the American ships that defeated the Royal Navy in the war of 1812.

    But I doubt that such things would work aganst a major power (such as China) these days. Pirates are another matter of course.

    As for conscripts for the army. Well it would solve my lack of a job problem (if they conscipted 41 year olds).

    But the military do not want conscripts – they believe that they make crap soldiers.

    As for “at least the rich would be forced to serve” – well I do not remember the present Vice President (not even particularly rich at the time) having much trouble avoiding the draft during the Vietnam war.

  • Pa annoyed said:

    “…the non-aggression principle which lies at the heart of libertarianism”

    That’s a new one on me. Where does it say that?

    Many people who call themselves libertarians have forgotten what the word means. L. Neil Smith defined libertarianism as equivalent to non-aggression a long time ago:

    Who is a libertarian?

    Zero Aggression Principle (“Zap”)

    “A libertarian is a person who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being, or to advocate or delegate its initiation. Those who act consistently with this principle are libertarians, whether they realize it or not. Those who fail to act consistently with it are not libertarians, regardless of what they may claim.”

    – L. Neil Smith

    Non-aggression implies a lot. Taxation and conscription are plumb out.

  • Gabriel

    No taxation? Have fun with that Bill.

    Much as I dislike Ayn Rand it is simply astonishing how often one comes across walking, talking, versions of her caricature of Libertarians.

  • AaronM

    Agree with above, if PA annoyed can’t find the non-agression (and hence non-cooercion, voluntary association, markets etc) at the heart of what most of us here are about, its high time for him to join the communists or some such other statist claque.

    With regards to RKV, its fine to employ private security against small scale, non-state threats (think contractors) but with regards to highly integrated systems focussed against same in the form of a hostile state? Those of us adhering to a minimalist state ideal still recognise even the market has some limits.

    Conscription. Meh. Few states manage to utilise it effectively for good reason, quality matters more than quantity in these on-the-verge-of-an-RMA times. However, an interesting connundrum with regards to what an above poster said about the masses flocking to defend the state when threatened. If that be so, and the threat of Islamic terror is so strong (which I don’t for a minute deny) why are chickenhawks like the aforementioned Glenn Reynolds not queueing up to join?

  • Pa Annoyed

    Amazing! Well, it’s on the internet, so it must be true!

    I’m a bit unclear as to its meaning, though. What does it mean by ‘initiate’, and what does it mean by ‘force’?

    The ‘initiate’ would at first glance seem to imply that one cannot use force at all, since there logically has to be a first use. Presumably it means the first of a particular class of uses of force; but it doesn’t say what. Is it the first use of force against a particular person, or the first use of force in a particular social interaction, or being the first user of force in a social interaction, or the first to use force on the other considered pairwise?

    I’ll try to clarify: suppose you witness an altercation where person A hits person B, person B does nothing because they are scared of being hit harder. Can you hit person A because they are the first user of force, even though it wasn’t against you? Can you hit person B because you are not initiating the use of force against B? Can you hit person C who is standing with A and B because you are now all involved in a social interaction in which force has already been initiated? If you see the three people several months later, can you hit any of them, on the basis that force was initiated on the earlier occasion? (And if not, when does it time out?) If somebody else, person D we’ll call them, meets us all later, knowing about the earlier strike of A on B and knowing that no response has been made or justice served, can they then hit A, B, or C? If in the earlier situation you had hit somebody as a result of A hitting B, can D (or anyone else) now hit you? (Please take care to specify the conditions.) If person A shoves person B, and person B responds by blowing person A’s head off with a shotgun, are you now allowed to hit person B? Once you find youself embroiled in the general punch-up all this has started, is there any requirement to ever stop, or does the principle have nothing further to say on the matter?

    The other question is what constitutes force? Does it refer to violence liable to cause injury, application of force that does not cause injury, threat of force, blocking or locking something to physically prevent access, witholding something that the person needs such as food or water, doing something the subject finds unpleasant and wants you to stop but doesn’t actually involve physical contact, theft of your property without using violence to take it, a failure to act to prevent harm, or a failure to act as agreed?

    I never trust political principles that look like slogans – they’re generally used to stop people from thinking about it.

    And one last case; in the hypothetical situation of Mad Dictator A torturing and murdering small child B1 (small children B2 and B3 currently sat chained to the wall in the dungeon, shaking in terror) in order to coerce desperate parent C into giving up their political opposition, would you agree that force has already been used and therefore any actions by anyone against Mad Dictator A would not be initiating anything? If you was desperate parent C being asked to give up Libertarianism and too weak to act against Mad Dictator A yourself, and knew that I would have to coerce my army into acting to get anything effective done about it, what would you want me to do?
    (In principle, speaking as a Libertarian. There are many who would abandon their principles in the face of such a threat, but if you were to stick to them, what would they say?)

  • Pa Annoyed


    Markets are not implied by non-agression – if I fail to deliver goods promised, or counterfeit money, or sell you fakes, or defraud your business, and if I then go around telling everybody that it is you that is a cheat and liar and nobody should trade with you – none of those are initiating force and so there is nothing you can do to stop me. Voluntary association with deferred costs are similarly uneconomic, since I can join your association when convenient, and leave the moment it becomes inconvenient. Such reasoning requires everyone to pay in advance.

    If contracts were not enforceable, there would be little point to them. You can certainly specify that people can only enter into contracts voluntarily, but if once agreed you can back out without consequences, the market collapses.

    I find it hard to believe anyone here has seriously put forward the ‘chickenhawk’ argument. It’s illogic is so apparent that I feel no need to comment on that further, but I will say it becomes more and more apparent to me that George Orwell was right about pacifists. A remarkably perceptive man!

  • Paul Marks

    It is the “lesser evil” area we are dealing with here.

    Yes, taxation is an aggression (it is extortion). However, it is claimed, that the only way to prevent invasion (a GREATER aggression against the bodies and goods of the population) is to have tax payer funded armed forces.

    The argument crops up in other contexts. For example, a fire is going through a city and to defeat it one must demolish certain houses (to create a fire break) – the owner of one of them jumps up and says “I do not care about the compensation, you are not going to smash my house – after all the fire may just stop on its own”.

    Sometimes, it is claimed, some violation of property (in this case dragging the house owner out of the way and destroying his house) is needed to prevent greater violation of property (in this case the whole town burning down).

    It may be right and it may be wrong – but it is not an easy knock down argument.

    Certainly the Rothbard line (no violation of anyone’s property is ever justified and no disscussion of a specific case is even needed – it is all clear from a priori principle) is not correct (at least I do not believe it to be correct).

    I agree that the BURDEN OF PROOF (BEYOND ALL REASONABLE DOUBT) should be on the person who says we must do a lesser evil to prevent a greater evil (otherwise anything will be “justified”), but I am not prepared to accept that the whole topic is out of bounds on first principle grounds.

    As for Jury service. Is having the courts dominated by government appointed (or elected) judges better?

    Or do we have to wait for the end of governement courts when full “anarcho capitalism” is achieved?

    On the other hand, the jury system is not working well. In such nations as Britain and the United States wealthy and/or clever people find it easy to get out of doing jury service – leaving the judgement of important cases to “day time television viewers” (and thus giving the government a private excuse for such things as its plans to get rid of juries in fraud trials).

    Sadly any talk of resestablishing a property qualification for jury service is looked upon with horror (educational qualifications, given how they have changed and are changing, would not be a good guide to who should be on a jury).

    Even when people who have no property (such as myself) suggest going back to the property qualification we are denounced as “snobs” (an odd charge to toss at someone with my gutter background). It would make more sense to accuse us of self interest – after all a property qualification would mean that I would never have to serve on a jury.

    Of course there may be other ways for a check to be put on the government courts than jury service – but I can not think of any just now.