Meanwhile, in Minarchistan…
Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 15 years ago, in 2008, on the World Wide Web.
Steven Rhett gets pinched by the border cops at San Ysidro while he’s trying to peaceably move some marijuana across an imaginary line for some willing customers in the United States. Dale Franks, a California limited-governmentalist blogger who opposes drug prohibition, gets to sit in as Juror #1. If Dale Franks doesn’t vote to convict, the jury will hang and Steven Rhett will be able to go on living his life. After a short chat about the facts of the case, Dale Franks does his civic duty by voting to convict Steven Rhett on all charges, because that’s what The Law says. Back at QandO, Dale Franks blogs about his
interesting experience. Meanwhile, Steven Rhett will be having an interesting experience in federal prison for the next ten years of his life.
Down in the comments, several anarchists ask Franks how he justifies directly collaborating in ruining a harmless man and robbing him of ten years of his life, when Franks himself doesn’t believe that anything Rhett did should be treated as a crime. Franks answers their objections decisively by getting into an argument with another limited governmentalist over whether or not the Constitution says it’s O.K., and what the word
regulate meant in the 1780s.
If this is how the trains run around here, I’ll pass. I’m not interested in Dale Franks’s kind of railroading.
Yeah, this is why I’m willing to be labeled an “anarchist.”
I’m supporting Ron Paul, and I think I’d be pretty happy living under a Paulite minarchism (of course, Paul himself admits that a Paul Presidency cannot simply usher in Paulite minarchism — the President is not in charge).
But what does distress me is so many of our minarchist friends’ (and almost all non-libertarians’) inability to get beyond the mystification of the state and see that there is nobody here but us people.
The “state” in a very real sense does not exist. There is simply a bunch of guys who engage in obvious crimes but who have managed to convince themselves, and most other people, that these are not “really” crimes because they are really carried out by a mythical, semi-divine creature, the “government,” not by ordinary human beings acting as individuals.
One reason I am reluctant to call myself an “anarchist” is that I do not believe in an “anarchist society” or in “anarchist doctrines” or anything of the sort. If we can convince most of our “fellow citizens” to stop believing in the myth of the state, I am not even completely certain that violations of individual rights will decline: it’s possible (though not likely) that some people would successfully continue predatory activities at the same level currently carried out by the “government” but without hiding behind the mask of the “state.”
You’ve heard of “Jesus mythicists” who maintain that Jesus of Nazareth was a mythical creation like Hercules, William Tell, etc.? I’m tempted to call myself a “state mythicist” rather than an anarchist: I simply want people like Mr. Franks to have the guts to stand up like real human beings and admit that their actions are their own actions taken of their own free volition, not dictated by nythical constructs such as the “state,” the “law,” or the “Constitution.”
Nobody here except us people!
Perhaps, the post-modernists have a point: maybe the root problem here is “inauthentic discourse.”
William H. Stoddard /#
I got called up for jury duty on a drug case a few years ago. When I was asked the standard questions, I closed with “and I have serious doubts of my ability to render an impartial verdict.” Naturally they asked me to explain, and so I very carefully said that I understood that my duty as a juror was to render a verdict according to the law and not according to my personal convictions; but that I personally believed the state had no legitimate reason to restrict the production, sale, possession, or use of psychoactive drugs, and that by voting the defendants guilty I would be helping to carry out an improper act; and that this was emotionally stressful for me, and I could not be sure that I would apply the standard of reasonable doubt correctly, or that I would give credence to the statements of the arresting police officers, though of course I would do my best. They sent us out, and half an hour later the bailiff came out and told me that my jury service was completed and I could go home.
The thing that was most memorable to me was that when I was explaining why it would be difficult for me to rule impartially, I could see the prosecutor struggle to repress a grin. . . .
Bob Kaercher /#
I clicked on the link to Franks’ blog post so I could leave a comment to the effect that he should remove the “Free Markets, Free People” subtitle of his blog since he obviously believes in neither. Such a claim is out and out fraud. But alas, he has closed the comments thread on that particular post. Perhaps he didn’t like some of the feedback he was getting.
So if I just may add here: Dale Franks is a traitorous scumbag pile of dung.
Edward O'Connor /#
This is yet another example of why jurors should know about the right of jury nullification!
Bob Kaercher /#
Edward, Mr. Franks appears to be well aware of the concept of jury nullification, but as he explains in the comments section of his blog post:
Try wrapping your brain around that weasely hunk of BS.
Am I to understand that his opposition to the state’s prohibition against individual human beings transporting and selling pot to other freely choosing human beings is merely a “personal disagreement”? One would think that disagreement with such a policy would be grounded in moral and ethical principle, i.e., absolutley no one–regardless of the costume and shiny badge they’re wearing–has any right to kidnap another and lock him away in a human cellar for 10 years for the alleged “crime” of trying to make a living.
The policy in and of itself IS an injustice. But Franks doesn’t see it that way because–or at last this is what I can infer–this imaginary entity called “the public” has set the policy, which somehow in some bizarre twist of reasoning reduces any moral or ethical objections to a mere “personal disagreement.”
Franks would have made an ideal citizen of Nazi Germany: “While I personally disagree with the Nazi regime’s policy of rounding up and exterminating Jews, the fact is I live in a country in which that Most Holy God known as ‘The Public’ has decided it should be so, therefore I’ll vote to convict the Jews and send them to the ovens of Auschwitz.”
I’m sure many reading this will consider that an extreme analogy, but keep in mind that pro-“free markets, free people” Dale Franks just voted to send a guy to a teeny, tiny prison cell where he’ll be surrounded by all manner of rough characters, probably routinely humiliated and beaten by both prison guards and inmates alike, for TEN FRIGGIN’ YEARS.
Not only is Franks a traitorous scumbag pile of dung, he’s utterly untrustworthy. He’ll stab anybody right in the back if it suits the policy of “The Public.” And if you soil yourself under the stress of being persecuted by “The Public,” he’ll be sure to blog all about it so as to heap on a good pile of humiliation after having helped to deprive you of your liberty.
All hail The Public! (Or as it’s more commonly known…THE STATE.)
Dale Franks: TRAITOROUS. SCUMBAG. PILE. OF. DUNG.
Rad Geek /#
Well, his stated position is that he regards drug laws ason the government’s part, but not Presumably he would argue that the SS was operating on laws that were indeed unjust. Of course, he nowhere explains, in spite of repeated requests from the anarchists, what possible standard of justice he could invoke that would make it morally permissible, even if prudentially unwise, for the government to lock a harmless man in a cage for ten years, for doing nothing more than transporting marijuana to willing customers.
Meanwhile, he does suggest that he would have voted not to convict if he believed that federal drug laws were facially unconstitutional. Because apparently procedural concerns about what a 200 year old scrap of paper says the government may or may not do to peaceful people who never consented to be bound by its terms go a lot further, in Dale Franks’s conscientious judgment, toward undermining the legitimacy of a law, than the substantive fact that a man who never violated anybody’s rights will be robbed of a decade of his one and only life, rotting in a federal prison.
I’m not especially convinced that Dale Franks should be consideredthough. A traitor to what? You can’t betray what you never aligned yourself with, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s never given any sign of genuine allegiance to the cause of freedom. (He thinks smaller-government policies would be wise, sure; but that’s not the same thing. So did Jimmy Carter, in certain contexts. Big deal.) Of course I agree that he deliberately did something absolutely contemptible in this case; but like many other limited-governmentalists, he is better thought of as an open enemy than as some kind of traitor.
Discussed at positiveliberty.com /#
Positive Liberty » Occasional Notes: A Little Late to Early Modernity:
Bob Kaercher /#
You have a good point there. OK, from now on I’ll stop reffering to him as a traitorous scumbag pile of dung, and simply call him your ordinary, garden-variety scumbag pile of dung. The kind we have to confront every day.
Dale Franks has a follow-up to this post called “Morally Innocent”, which basically argues that those who have anything to do with the use or distribution of drugs are knowlingly providing the funding for all the horribly violent things that drug lords sometimes do. It’s a pretty bizarre justification for punishing vices as if they were crimes.
Rad Geek /#
Thanks for the heads-up.
For those who are interested, the follow-up is here: QandO Blog 2008-01-17: Morally Innocent?
I wonder if, the laws being a little different from what they in fact are, Dale Franks would be willing to collaborate in sending U.S. Pepsi-Cola distributors to ten years in federal prison because some other unrelated company that sells a similar product (viz. Coca-Cola) happened to hire paramilitary gangs to kill innocent people in Colombia.
Other than that, theis mainly interesting as a case study in (1) how to restate your contorversial conclusion as if it were an acceptable premise for your argument, rather than precisely what your critics have asked you to prove; and (2) how much brain-damage you can suffer from inhaling too much ONDCP-funded propaganda.
You might also want to check out Dale’s posting right below “Morally Innocent?”, which he calls “About the Anarcholibertarians”. I haven’t read it all yet, but what I did read was pretty ridiculous.
Bob Kaercher /#
Well has Steve Rhett committed any violence? Did he partner with anyone else in the marijuana trade who committed violence? If so, then Franks is obligated to provide evidence of such. If not, then why should Rhett be held accountable for the actions of others in the marijuana trade? (Assuming that Franks is even correct.)
Here was one of Franks’ more amusing statements in the comments section of his original post:
It’s amusing seeing him weasel from that to hand wringing about drug trade-related violence.
In any case, if Rhett or his associates have not themselves initiated violence against anyone, then Franks’ argument falls flat. Rhett is not collectively representative of “drug lords.”
Bob Kaercher /#
Or individually representative of the actions of collective “drug lords,” I should say.
How relevant really is the anarchist/minarchist debate here?
If you’re right that Franks’ “stated position is that he regards drug laws as !!!@@e2;20ac;2dc;unwise’ on the government’s part, but not !!!@@e2;20ac;2dc;unjust,'” then he simply does not believe in natural rights as that idea has been understood for a very long time.
He could, after all, become an anarchist for utilitarian reasons and still not believe in natural rights (there are a lot of “anarchists” who do not believe in natural rights, you know). Of course, he would not be your or my kind of anarchist, but then he’s not exactly my kind of “limited-government” libertarian, either.
I very much doubt that his problem is failing to be an anarchist. His problem is that he really does believe in “following orders” even if that destroys some other human being’s life. In short, he may not be a Nazi, but he does know how to play one on the Web and, sadly, in the jury room.
Laura J. /#
I would love to see North Korean isolationism and United States embargoism smashed by cuddly teddy bears.
Bob Kaercher /#
Well don’t ever get caught selling banned North Korean teddy bears, Laura. If Franks is on the jury, he’ll vote to convict you.
That is just painful.
Anna O Morgenstern /#
PhysicistDave: very good point in your first comment. As I’ve said “there’s no such thing as the Government, just some guys in uniforms carrying guns who will get angry if you don’t pretend there is”.
As far as minarchism/anarchism goes, I think Franks is representative of the kind of minarchism that I can’t see as anything other than evil, namely the sort of Civic Religionist “elections = democracy = the will of the people” sort. The Jeffersonian “government is a [possibly] necessary evil, which should be restrained as much as is feasible” type of minarchism isn’t necessarily evil, just a bit naive in my opinion. :)
Rad Geek /#
On the salience of the minarchist-anarchist debate, I’ll repeat what I said in response to a similar remark by Jason Kuznicki:
I know many anarchists who believe all kinds of wrong-headed things about just treatment or the requirements of individual freedom, and maybe if Dale Franks became an anarchist he would become an anarchist of that kind. But I know of none at all who would have voted to convict an honest drug smuggler ’cause it’s The Law, and I expect that whatever process led a hypothetical Dale Franks to give up on his minarchism would also lead him to cut out the festering legalism that led him to vote for conviction.
Black Bloke /#
Don’t forget that the folks over at QandO are Randian warmongers as well.
Yeah, in a way I suppose I think that the best reason for being an anarchist is that you are then less likely to behave monstrously while living in a minarchist world. It is minarchism which really needs anarchists.
On the other hand, I have seen even libertarian “anarchists” endorse the war in Iraq, including everything that the war means – killing of innocent civilians, etc. Perhaps the distinction here is between what is sometimes called “philosophical anarchism,” i.e., recognizing the objective fact that all actions, decisions, etc. are the responsibility of individual human beings, and what might be called “institutional anarchism,” i.e., having faith in anarchism as some sort of institutional social structure that transcends individual human beings.
If you just view anarchism as a slightly superior institutional alternative to minarchism, perhaps it is easy to dismiss war etc. as the actions of institutions and to take no personal responsibility for endorsing the crimes of war.
Incidentally, you know, most Americans would have behaved as Dale Franks did. In a sense, we partly let most people off the hook because of their “invincible ignorance,” to steal a theological term. In some objective sense, what they are doing is morally horribly wrong, but we recognize that their judgment has been so clouded by state propagandizing that they cannot see this. We’re more reluctant to let Dale off the hook because we think he knows enough that he can be and should be held morally responsible for his actions.
All the best,
Thanks. Yeah, to continue my distinction between philosophical anarchism and institutional anarchism, I think philosophical anarchism is a moral imperative: each human being needs to understand that he or she is morally responsible for his or her own actions and cannot just shrug it off onto the “government” or the “law” (or the “church” or the “company” or whatever).
On the other hand, the prime distinction I would draw between minarchism and institutional anarchism is that I simply think minarchism is, as you say, naïve: it appears to be unstable based on the historical record.
I find it kind of funny that anarchism is often criticized as being unstable. If you once get a society of people who are well-educated, philosophical anarchists (i.e. not propagandized into the mythology of the state and knowledgeable about the historical techniques used to create and propagate statist mythology), I think anarchism would tend to be fairly stable, for reasons argued by Dave Friedman, Rothbard, etc.
So, I’m an institutional anarchist for practical, non-dogmatic reasons. But, philosophical anarchism seems to me to be a fundamental principle of morality.
All this is of course relevant to the great “Ron Paul” debate, to the debate about the morality of voting, etc. All of those issues can be seen in a somewhat different light if you ask: how can we best help our fellow human beings see through the fog of mystification and see “government” simply as a bunch of human beings who are behaving very badly?
All the best,