Stephen Kinsella Needs to Take a Nap

by Scott McPherson

Writing on the blog on June 19, Stephan Kinsella claims that it “is a surprise…that we have libertarians who are still in favor of government – so called ‘minarchists’…It should be clear by now that minarchism is just another form of statism.

“America was not some minarchist paradise,” continues this invective, “it was a flawed utopian experiment resulting from an illegal coup…It was a society that condoned slavery, one of the worst evils ever, while establishing a constructivist new order based on a ‘rational, scientific’ paper document and rejecting traditional, superior [sic], unwritten, monarchist limits on state power, thus setting the world on the path of democracy and democratic tyranny, and all the evils of the 20th Century.”

Mr. Kinsella is essentially saying that if someone refuses to embrace “anarcho-capitalism” then they are, by definition, a statist. Further, anyone who sees the foundation of the American system as a dramatic improvement in how people are governed, relative to anything that ever came before, must also be a statist.

Worse, such people are no different, in theory, from any dictator, and are instead following the “path of democracy and democratic tyranny, and all the evils of the 20th Century.” (I guess it is a sign of my own corrupted, statist mindset, but I thought it was flawed moral ideas – collectivism and paternalism, for example – that brought us all these bad things. No, says Mr. Kinsella, it was a “path”.)

Am I really to believe that Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Ayn Rand, Clarence Carson, Henry Hazlitt, Jacob Hornberger, and Ron Paul are the moral equivalent of Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, Abraham Lincoln, Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Franklin Roosevelt, Augusto Pinochet, Fidel Castro, and Osama Bin Laden?

Objectivist author David Kelley, in his book The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand, wrote about the danger of Objectivists’ equating libertarian “anarcho-capitalists” and nihilists with communist dictators. Kelley argued that to say libertarians are no better than butchers means butchers are no worse than libertarians – a position he rightly calls “moral hysteria”. Such hysteria destroys the concept of morality altogether.

If one were to ask a self-described “liberal” to define the term, he would likely refer to himself as a “progressive” who advocates racial tolerance, “social justice”, and “equality”. But if push came to shove – if pressed hard enough – he would admit that what he really wants is a centralized society with government control over the economy, or at least a large part of it.

But originally the word “liberal” meant someone who wanted government to maintain law and order and otherwise leave people free to regulate their own economic and social affairs – a world view that has since come to be identified as “libertarian”. Though the self-proclaimed “liberal” of today would likely bristle at the term, a more fitting description of his political ideal would be “statism”.

One wonders if Mr. Kinsella ever thought about consulting a dictionary before insulting many of his fellow libertarians. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Tenth Edition, 1994, page 1149) defines “statism” as the “concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government.” Employing the arbitrariness of a spoiled child, Mr. Kinsella would change the definition to “any system that isn’t anarcho-capitalism.”

To suggest that minarchists or limited-government libertarians are really statists stretches the word so far as to destroy its meaning. That was the goal of  those who co-opted the word liberal. The truth of the matter is that Mr. Kinsella, and some of his fellow anarcho-libertarians, see themselves as the self-appointed Protectors of All Libertarian Virtue, and wish to drum from the Freedom Movement anyone who doesn’t see through the exact same prism as they do – exactly the tactic used by the statists to destroy liberalism (and by Objectivists, to purify their own sacred pool). In this way, at least, Mr. Kinsella shares more in common with the statists and – Shock! Horror! The Objectivists – than he would ever care to admit.

After the mis-labeled “Republican Revolution” of 1994, some libertarians were actually threatened by the possibility that a conservative majority in the Congress might begin to tear down the Welfare State and start moving America back towards a system of limited government. What to do when your life’s work is realized?

I wonder if some anarcho-capitalists – threatened by the current momentum of the Freedom Movement – are seeing themselves as ever-smaller fish in a growing pond. Or could it be that with more people joining the movement the anarchist is pressed to distinguish himself from us lesser mortals? Either way, let’s not let delicate egos and delusions of superiority destroy all our good work. The true statists would love nothing more than a major rift in our ranks.

My personal views on government did not develop without a great deal of consideration, study, discussion, and debate, and it is not my intention to revisit the “anarchy vs. limited government” argument here. Feel free to email me your 8 page dissertation on the virtues of anarchism, if you like. My Delete buttons works just fine. But if you wish to call me a statist, or a sellout, or in any other manner question my commitment to  freedom, I sure wish you’d say it to me in person. I’ve dedicated over a decade of my life to this cause, and have reached the conclusion that the best hope for freedom is to educate people on the value of capitalism, individual rights, limited government, and private property. If this be treason, make the most of it!

Scott McPherson is a policy advisor at the Future of Freedom Foundation and a member of Seacoast Liberty. He would be very easy to find in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.