I don’t really have the time i would need to involve myself more in-depth than this with the current discussion involving Robert Wenzel and Walter Block about any need or requirement of an “overruling body” in an anarchocapitalist society. But there are some things that can be commented on quickly, simply on the basis of logical reasoning.
There is a series of articles forming this debate but I will only offer the links of the latest two, between Robert Wenzel and Walter Block.
One of the very first arguments from Block in his article is: “If I’m a minarchist, then so are you.”
This is a rather strange argument to make. Regardless of the fact that Wenzel has argued that there is a difference between their points of view, the argument above is one that is tantamount to saying “I cannot be a minarchist, because if I am then so are you.”
This is a logical fallacy known as a Tu Quoque fallacy. If Walter Block is a minarchist, then claiming that Robert Wenzel too is a minarchist will not invalidate any argument that Block is a minarchist. It would merely indicate that both Block and Wenzel are minarchists. Therefore the claim that Wenzel is a minarchist as well, does not in any way invalidate Wenzel’s claims that Block is a minarchist. The point that Block is trying to make with this Tu Quoque argument is therefore unknown because it proves nothing.
The position of Walter Block is that some overruling body is required even in an Anarcho-capitalist society in order to prevent the “chaos” that intellectual opponents of Anarcho-capitalism claim would run rampant in society without it.
But at first glance this already exposes a logical contradiction for Block’s position. An overruling body means that it must overrule all other bodies (different bodies with different views would after all lead to “chaos”), otherwise the term would be meaningless. However, such an overruling body would de facto be a government because it would have authority over all others and therefore have a legal monopoly, and therefore de facto turn an anarchocapitalist society into a minarchistic one. Block’s defense of an overruling body therefore is a defense of minarchism. Block seems to be agreeing with Objectivists and minarchists alike that ‘chaos’ would rule without a final arbiter that is above all other parties, and to which everyone should be made to conform.
Block’s referral to our intellectual opponents’ claim that chaos reigns in a society without an overruling body, is not a valid argument but a quasi-emotional appeal not to let our intellectual opponents be “right’’. They are wrong about almost everything else, so why should they be right about this? And why should we care what they think anyway? Block’s argument is basically one where he appeals on people with the Wenzel position not to “prove our opponents right”, when the very notion that they are right is the notion in contention.
In contrary, it is Block that is giving the intellectual opponents of anarchocapitalism the intellectual ammunition it wants by AGREEING with them that chaos would ensue in absence of an overruling body. Block is basically conceding to our intellectual opponents that a de facto government – a legal monopoly – is indeed necessary for peace to reign and rights to be respected.
Block’s contention that the NAP itself stems from “overruling body that can (en)force rules” is extremely odd and highly problematic, when coming from a self-described anarchocapitalist.
First of all, the NAP is the result of philosophical and logical conclusions about the nature of aggression, not the result of deliberating or law-making from an overruling body. IT DOES NOT STEM FROM AN OVERRULING BODY, any more than negative rights or freedoms stem from government. If indeed the NAP would stem from this overruling body, then Block would argue that the non-aggression principle has been brought to us not by morally and philosophically consistent thinking, but by people with legal power. Overruling power. But with overruling power, this body will ironically violate the very NAP Block claims stems from this body. ‘
After all, where does this body gets its overruling monopoly from? Something is required to give this overruling body any moral and legal authority if it is to have legitimacy in an anarchocapitalist society. But this something is supposed to be the NAP and private property rights. These, however, make overruling powers contradictory to the NAP and private property rights.
Block seems unable to see the contradictions between the notion of anarchism and a legal monopoly. Something must invest a body with a legal monopoly to overrule. That something must by itself have the authority to do so. But that something cannot then be overruled by that legal monopoly, because it would inflate itself with authorities it has not been given by that something which invested that body with overruling powers in the first place. The moment it does so, it has become bigger than the NAP and bigger than all else in terms of authority.
If it has overruling power in determining when the NAP has been violated, then it has power to determine in which way such violations can be interpreted. What happens when an overruling body can and will interpret its powers and the limits upon it, to its own advantage, we can clearly see from the American experiment. Wasn’t the constitution supposed to be a limit upon the power of government? And wasn’t government meant to protect rights and liberties guaranteed by said constitution?
A legal monopoly is a legal monopoly. The arguments about which came first: constitutional rights, or the overruling body that guaranteed them, and which power one has over the other have lead to the same trouble as the notion that the NAP would stem from an overruling body and that an overruling body would be needed to guarantee the NAP.
Obviously, the whole idea of an overruling body – a legal monopoly – in an anarchocapitalist society is a contradiction in terms. It is astonishing that an anarchocapitalist like Walter Block would not see this.
Further, even if the NAP does indeed come from an overruling body that can enforce rules, then where does this overruling body itself come from? Who, or WHAT, gave this overruling body its authority if it does not stem from the NAP, but rather the NAP stems from it? Was it an elite, which has no legal or moral power in anarchocapitalism? Was it a democratic majority, which has no legal or moral power in anarchocapitalism? What was it that gave this overruling body its authority? Is it Block’s implication that the NAP stems from the overruling body, and at the same time the overruling body stems from the NAP? In that case Walter Block is making a circular argument.
Where do we get the NAP and private property rights from? I certainly do not hope that they come from an “overruling” body that precedes the NAP and private property rights, because what it given, can be taken away. For this reason I find it very odd that Walter Block would make this claim.
Block contradicts himself clearly by stating that “The NAP itself stems from an “overruling body that can (en)force rules,” and then later stating that “say, he punches someone (an innocent person) in the nose. You, surely, would object to this, no? But how can you do so, unless there is an “over-ruling body that can (en)force rules” such as the NAP?”
By this, Block seems not to know which came first: the NAP or the overruling body. Unless as argued earlier, he may be engaging in circular reasoning to evade this conundrum.
If we do have an overruling body, how are we to determine that their view of justice is in line with libertarianism, and how are we to determine that they apply the NAP justly if they are the overruling body? In absence of open competition and voluntary acceptance of this body, how is any transgression from this overruling body to be contained or stopped? They are, after all, the overruling body; the final arbiter.
Somewhere in between Block also argues to the effect that Wenzel is denying the NAP; but Wenzel does nothing of the sort. He is instead denying that it needs to be enforced by a monopoly overruling body. To equate the NAP with a monopoly overruling body tasked with enforcing it, is no different than equating private property rights right now with the government that is supposed to protect them. Ludicrous of course, and the equation is Block’s own. Not one that can be attributed to someone who is in fact denying this very equation.
It should be said that Wenzel’s response is in line with my own view of the anarchocapitalist society; one that has also been outlined in similar ways by people like Stefan Molyneux.
Wenzel makes clear that contractual agreements, the kind that would ultimately be in the best interest of the majority of people with a vested interest in non-aggression and private property rights, would determine how violations of the NAP and private property rights are dealt with. Only these voluntary contractual agreements can be in line with an anarchocapitalist society because they do not violate the NAP and private property rights in the way that a logical self-contradiction such as an overruling body would.
You may claim, regardless of any other valid arguments or evidence in your support, that an overruling body is needed to protect the NAP and private property rights. But then you should stop pretending to be an anarchocapitalist. You are in favor of legal monopolies which are de facto governments because by their very nature they must exclude competition to its overruling powers, and therefore have the legal means to grow in power. Overruling power, after all, means that it can overrule any objections to itself, and use force to do so.
Furthermore there is no logical starting point for the legitimacy of such an overruling body. If the NAP can only exist because of such an overruling body, then it cannot get its legitimacy from the NAP. If the NAP precedes the overruling body, then the overruling body violates the NAP by outlawing competition, by the very nature of it being an overruling body.