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Posts tagged Geoffrey Allan Plauché

A Place for Positive Law

For those of you who don’t know, L. and I will be out of town for the holidays. In fact, we are already out of town; but I’ve arranged to have some not-especially-time-sensitive posts go up while I’m away through devious WordPress scheduling trickery, so stay tuned. While we’re away, we’ll first be visiting my assorted relations in Texas, and then heading east to the Molinari Society session at the APA Eastern Division meeting in Baltimore. The session will be a symposium on the theme Anarchy: It’s Not Just a Good Idea, It’s the Law. Roderick will be presenting a paper on Spooner’s early theory of constitutional interpretation (most famously presented in The Unconstitutionality of Slavery), and the degree to which it can be reconciled with his later radical rejection of the Constitution and all forms of government-made law as having no legitimate authority over anyone. (Geoffrey Allan Plauché will be giving prepared comments in reply.) I’ll be presenting a new paper, A Place for Positive Law: A Contribution to Anarchist Legal Theory, which is also about Spooner, but from a different angle:

Peter Kropotkin famously defined anarchism as

… a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government—harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of civilized beings.

If he was right about that, then anarchist legal theory would seem to be either a contradiction in terms, or an exercise in demonology. Anarchists want to abolish the State as such, and replace it with a society without government. And without a government, how would you have laws? Maybe so, but what I want to do today is not to storm the Law from the outside. Before the Law there stands a doorkeeper, and I note that he is mighty. My remarks will aim instead at an internal critique of a common-sense view of the law, beginning with some common premises that most statists share, and then moving towards the anarchistic conclusion that no government has sovereign authority to impose legal obligations on anyone. I will then consider a difficult problem that seems to face the anarchistic conclusion—the problem of reducing the natural law. I shall argue, though, that the solution that government seems to promise cannot withstand critical scrutiny; an anarchist solution to the problem will be difficult—one of the most difficult theoretical problems for anarchists to tackle—but the difficulty is necessary for a solution to the problem that is not simply arbitrary. The place for me to begin, then, is with the concept of law.

John Hasnas will be commenting. You can read the whole thing online. Comments, questions, applause, brickbats, etc. are welcome, either in private or in the comments section below.

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