A Circular Argument in Libertarian Reasoning?

by Gene Callahan

Although I have touched briefly on this topic at my (mostly) solo, non-serious blog, the volume of response I received there has prompted me to flesh out my argument and present it here, on the blog where I limit myself to my more sober postings.

The proximate cause of my addressing this topic was a post by Brian Doherty at Reason.com, where he wrote:

“States, after all, cannot function without first aggressing against someone, if only to get tax money to fund their activities.”

But the ultimate cause was my much longer-term conviction that such reasoning simply begs a central question that political theory is seeking to answer, namely, just when is coercion justified and when isn’t it? After all, every wavelength of the political spectrum considers some coercion to be OK, and some to be “aggression.” Continue reading

Man: The Political Animal?

by Gene Callahan

I recently saw a prominent anarchist saying, in effect: “Look, we can all go wrong — after all, one of the greatest thinkers in history called man ‘the political animal.'”

This statement, I think, exhibits a common misunderstanding of what Aristotle meant here. Man is a political animal, the Philosopher held, because he is the one animal that tries to order his social arrangements according to his sense of, and rational arguments about, the justice of those arrangements. Thus the anarchist, in debating the justice of the State, is illustrating, and not disputing, Aristotle’s point.

It is, in fact, Hobbes’s position that the anarchist should dispute — if man is not naturally a political animal, then justice is just a creation imposed on the natural human exogenously, and there really is no arguing against the justice of the Leviathan — there simply is no justice in the absence of whatever it defines as just!’