Classical Liberalism’s Impossible Dream by Robert Higgs

Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute wrote a very good article titled “Classical Liberalism’s Impossible Dream“. Here, he shows that although the classical liberal night watchman state (minarchism) seems like an inspiring vision for lovers of liberty, it is in fact an impossible dream. Governments are nothing more than bureaucratized rackets, as such, they will follow the laws of bureaucracy: expand power and influence while minimizing effort (see Bureaucracy by Ludwig von Mises). Higgs’ carefully reasoned critique of minarchism is important. Minarchism still represents faith in government. Although such faith is less than that of statists, it is faith nonetheless. Faith requires one to discard rational thought and see the world via rose colored glasses. Governments are incapable of remaining in the mode of the classical liberal night watchman. We know this from theory and from experience. Thus, one must rationally conclude that government and liberty are incompatible. If one is willing to sacrifice liberty for some hoped for utility, then one is a statist who believes that some form of government is essential. If one is not willing to do so, one is an anarcho-capitalist who rejects the very concept of government. Higgs is clearly of the latter persuasion.

Here are some excerpts form Higgs’ article.

‘I can understand why someone might embrace classical liberalism. I did so myself more than forty years ago. People become classical liberals for two main reasons, which are interrelated: first, because they come to understand that free markets “work” better than government-controlled economic systems in providing prosperity and domestic peace; second, because people come to believe that they may justifiably claim (along more or less Lockean lines) rights to life, liberty, and property. These two reasons are interrelated because the Lockean rights provide the foundation required for free markets to exist and operate properly.

‘Truth be told, government as we know it never did and never will confine itself to protecting citizens from force and fraud. In fact, such government is itself the worst violator of people’s just rights to life, liberty, and property. For every murder or assault the government prevents, it commits a hundred. For every private property right it protects, it violates a thousand. Although it purports to suppress and punish fraud, the government itself is a fraud writ large—an enormous engine of plunder, abuse, and mayhem, all sanctified by its own “laws” that redefine its crimes as mere government activities—a racket protected from true justice by its own judges and its legions of hired killers and thugs.

The entire article can be read here.

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