One common justification for the state is that, “Without government how will people know what they are allowed to do and what the punishment will be for violating it? Without universal laws specified in advance how does a person know if they are acting aggressively or not? Even if everyone in society agreed that the only things that should be against the law are actions that are aggressive, how do people know what those laws are? Even among anarchists there is constant disagreement, for example, “Is abortion a victimless crime and so outlawing it violates a woman’s right to self-ownership, or is abortion a violent act that violates the fetus’s right to self-ownership? Without a government how does a person know how to act? How does a woman know if she is allowed to get an abortion or she will be punished for getting one without a state?”
This is a very interesting question. Essentially the question says, “Without government how do people know when they are violating individual rights or not?” But the problem with this question is that the existence of a government does not solve this problem, for the anarchist can rightly reply, “How does the government know if they are protecting individual rights or violating them?” If people are unable to distinguish between aggression and peace then how do the people in government obtain such knowledge. Either people have the cognitive ability to recognize when individual rights are being protected or they don’t. And if you think only some people obtain this knowledge, what are the odds that the people who obtain such knowledge have all chosen the same career path?
If human beings are incapable of distinguishing between consent and aggression then so are the people in government.
Another problem the statist must answer is this, “What mechanism is in place to keep the government limited? What mechanisms or incentives are there to insure that the government protects individual rights instead of violating them?”
The response typically is, “The people.” The people must be dedicated to the cause of liberty and when government starts violating individual rights and puts its nose where it doesn’t belong, the people should vote such politicians out of office.” But such a response is incoherent. If the justification for government is to set the rules of the game and to protect individual rights since no one else but the government is capable of engaging in such activities then how do the people know when the government is violating their rights? The only way people can know if government is turning from a protector into an aggressor is for people to understand the difference between aggression and peace, but the whole justification for the state in the first place is that the people lack such knowledge!
If the majority of the population can’t distinguish between when they are committing aggression and when they are not then they can’t distinguish when the government is either and therefore according to the statists own “logic” the people are no check on the government’s power.
In order to know if government (or anyone else) is protecting your rights or violating them you need to know what rights people have and when they are protected or violated first. This is true of everything. If I order a car but I have no idea what a car is then how do I know that I got what I ordered? In order to know if someone is giving you the service you think they need to provide you, you have to know what that service is first.
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