Are Small Govt Libertarians Statists? Exploring the CABAL Pod of 7-7-09
I wanted to open this one up for you all, because I find the debate very interesting, although it can be contentious. As you might have heard, Scott McPherson sent me a copy of a piece he wrote in response to a post at LewRockwell.com. In the original post, by Steve Kinsella, it was pretty much flushed out that small government libertarians should take the final step away from the state, and support total freedom. I agree philosophically, though in our current struggles, I am perfectly comfortable working with small government folks to at least reduce the size and scope of government, even while I try to convince them of the logical and ethical consistency of anarchy. Mr. Kinsella is of the opinion that if one supports a small government, even if one calls himself a libertarian, he is still a statist. Scott disagrees, and believes that making such claims insults real libertarian thinkers (though he does toss George Washington in there, which hurts his argument a lot). I stated before I turned his essay into a portabel audio pod that I disagree with Scott. I actually agree with many of the points of Steve. Although Scott cites the Webster's Dictionary definition of "statist", which defines it as one who supports the total control by the state (I'm paraphrasing), I believe that if one supports any aspect of the state, he must be, by logical analysis, a statist. He might not be a statist according to the primary definition of the word in Websters, but I think those who wrote the definition in Websters are wrong. For example, if one supports one aspect of mercantilism, but not all aspects, he is still a mercantilist. if one supports socialism, but not all aspects, he is STILL a socialist.
Speaking to some folks about this, it was noted to me that it's a tricky thing to study, because we are clearly talking about matters of degrees. One person mentioned to me (at her first glance at it) that a person who just supports the basic police function of the state should not necessarily be termed a statist. But I mentioned that the very existence of that police force, created ostensibly to support the "small government" that Washington, Locke and others supported, MUST, by its nature, use force, infringe on rights to property, and will be coercive to some. All government is based on predation, for it must take money from those who would not want to pay, or would not want to pay the amount prescribed by the majority, or would want it spent another way, etc. That is evil. That is the state -- at the outset. So, I asked, if a man molested a child once every twenty years, rather than once every year, would he not be called a child molester? When it comes to definitions about things like these, it seems that the matter of degree is not something we should be considering, as bad as it might make people like Locke look.
Now, I am not equating Locke, Hayek, and other small government libertarians with child molesters. I am merely using the comparison for the purpose of loking at how we use the language and apply definitions. It seems to me that calling a small government libertarian -- who is a supporter of the state, even though it's a "small" state -- a statist is correct. If he supported some racism but not all, he would be a racist none the less.
Again, using these comparisons is not intended to malign small government libertarians, but to pose the question to others: Am I incorrect in thinking that a supporter of government, no matter how small it might be, is still a statist?