[Warning: this talking point contains references to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. This means that many will completely shut their minds off upon hearing those references, so use with caution.]
Those who have put in time promoting a stateless society have likely encountered what has come to be known as argumentum ad Somalium. It sounds like, “Hey, if you hate government so much, just move to Somalia.” It is implied that, since Somalia has been without a centralized State since 1991 and since economic conditions there are poor compared to our own and since statelessness obviously caused said poverty and no other factors could possibly have contributed and things were so much better when they had their disgustingly corrupt State — it is implied that you should go reap what your philosophy supposedly sews and leave the place the local State claims control over. If you stay, you consent to be governed.
A great reply to this, courtesy of a Redditor, is that Hitler was appointed Chancellor by a democratically elected President in a Constitutional Republic. The laws and programs persecuting, deporting and eventually slaughtering Jews were all perfectly legal. If the Jews didn’t like it, they could leave Germany. By remaining, the Jews consented to being persecuted and killed. Therefore, the German government was not to blame. It was the Jews’ own fault.
Those who champion the “social contract” often do so with their own nation in mind and not the myriad other authoritarian dictatorships extant today, not to mention those throughout bloody history.
After replying with the above comparison, I like to continue, “You can see how absurd that is when you apply it universally. Now, would you like to engage in a conversation with me and address my assertion that the State is illegitimate, or are you just going to dismiss the whole matter by telling me to move?”
A blog post has been making the rounds lately with renewed interest (most likely in response to all of the mind-numbingly vapid Republican debates the media have subjected us to) that calls on those who “do not like taxes or government” to stop using 102 things “provided” by taxes and government. The items on the list include such things as Medicare, the military, emergency services, utilities, public transportation, etc.
Although the sentiment expressed in this post easily falls under argument by dismissal (if you don’t like it then leave it), I want to use it to demonstrate another, equally pervasive fallacy: denying the antecedent. The form of this fallacy goes something like this:
If P, then Q.
Therefore, not Q.
Here is an example of this fallacy in use: “If you give a man a gun, he may kill someone. If he has no gun, then he will not kill anyone.” This argument is not valid because the conclusion does not follow from the premises under all circumstances. In the example above, a man can kill someone through innumerable means and methods. He could use a knife or a blunt object or even his bear hands.
Statists are fond of employing this fallacy in the following form:
The State does x; therefore, without the State, there would be no x.
You can substitute x for pretty much anything. “The State makes roads; therefore, without the State, there would be no roads.” “The State provides police services; therefore, without the State, there would be no police services.” “The State manages a judicial system; therefore, without the State, there would be no judicial system.”
You can see how ridiculous this argument is when you substitute x with some essential thing society manages to provide just fine without the State. Take food, for example. We cannot live without food. Imagine we lived in a nation where the food industry was socialized. Voluntaryists in such a nation would advocate for the elimination of the State, and opponents would cry, “The State provides our food! Without the State, there would be no food!”
Statists may here interject, “Yes, we make our own food, but it is safe because of State regulations. It is produced safely because of State labor regulations. It is delivered to grocery stores using State-funded transportation systems.” I hope we can all see the same fallacy at work here. The statist has assumed that, without the State, there would be no safety or labor regulations or transportation systems.
One last thought about the aforementioned, infantile blog post: always remind statists where taxes come from. Each time you hear them say that taxes “provide” something, ask them what provides taxes. The State does not actually “provide” anything. They confiscate it from the labor and ingenuity and exchange of those of us it hypocritically forbids from engaging in the same confiscatory behavior. If taxes truly were “good” and desirable, the State would not only allow but encourage all to engage in it. But of course this cannot happen, because someone has to produce what is taken.
For this item in our series on logical fallacies, I want to address two that appear in tandem so often when having discussions about the philosophy of liberty that I simply cannot approach them separately. Read more >>
[In an effort to improve the quality of discourse while discussing libertarian principles with others, I'm going to be writing about several of the most common logical fallacies I encounter in my advocacy efforts. This is not meant as an argumentative tool, but rather as a tool to help the advocate quickly identify and move past the most common objections. Hopefully, this will result in more rational and civil conversations.]
As I discussed marijuana prohibition with an acquaintance recently, he told me that he knows the War on Drugs is a wasteful failure; however, he cannot support decriminalization because this would amount to the government endorsing or encouraging drug use.
This assumption of his stems from what is known as the appeal to law fallacy. This fallacy occurs when one equates legislation with morality. In other words, if something is illegal, it must be morally wrong. Conversely, if something is legal, it must be morally right. Read more >>
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