Home > Philosophy > Are objectivists a type of anarchist?

Are objectivists a type of anarchist?

December 17, 2013

There is an apparent contradiction at the heart of objectivism. Ayn Rand said that she opposed the initiation of coercion/violence, but she also rejected anarchism and insisted on having a government… which is defined as an institution that has a geographical monopoly over the initiation of violence/coercion.

That doesn’t add up. Either objectivists accept a government, and then they accept the initiation of some violence/coercion in some circumstances. Or they don’t want a government, which makes them anarchists. Those options are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive; there is no other option.

Given the vehemence of Rand’s opposition to anarchy, I had previously thought that objectivists accepted government and that they were confused about the whole coercion thing. But in a debate this evening it seemed that my objectivist sparing partner was inadvertently advocating for no government (anarchy)… but with the assumption that people would voluntarily give money to a security provider that would protect everybody. The idea is that this benevolent non-profit donor-funded security provider would be called “government”, despite not initiating violence or coercion.

If this is accurate, then there are two consequences. First, semantics notwithstanding, a benevolent non-profit donor-funded security provider is not actually a government and it is totally consistent with anarchy — so such a position is really just another type of hyphenated-anarchy with a particular vision of how a free society might function. Second, it seems to me that the above approach to security provision is very reliant on the benevolence of one organisation and the people who will donate to that organisation, which means it is actually less stable than the system suggested by other market anarchists.

What do you say objectivists… are you secret anarchists living in denial, or are you people who oppose coercion all the time except for when you don’t? 

  1. December 20, 2013 at 2:00 am

    The credible threat of coercion–like pointing a gun at someone’s head–should itself be regarded as coercion, correct?

    Well here’s the answer to your question: An Objectivist Refutation of Anarcho-Capitalism (Market Anarchy).

    • January 3, 2014 at 9:39 am

      Coercion is the threat of violence. So the “threat of coercion” is the threat of the threat of violence, which is the same thing as the threat of violence.

      Your article has a mistake in the first paragraph. Government is not defined as having a “monopoly over retaliatory force”, but a “monopoly on initiation of force”. This goes to the heart of your problem — you say you are against initiation of force but you want the initiation of force. Catch-22. As an aside, the idea that only the government should be able to use retaliatory force is beyond bizarre. It implies that I should not be able to defend myself in a fight and I should not be able to defend a person being raped. Surely you don’t actually think that. But that’s a sidetrack; the issue is whether a government (monopoly on initiation of force) should exist.

      Soon later you get the definition of “market anarchy” desperately and dramatically wrong, and your examples show an amazing ignorance about what market anarchy means. It is no crime to be ignorant about anarchist theory, but I strongly suggest that you do some basic research about market anarchy *before* forming your opinion. I recommend “the machinery of freedom” by David Friedman.

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