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The Contender
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Government should be abolished

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/23/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,861 times Debate No: 13455
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (3)
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Before getting started, I would like to thank whoever accepts this debate and wish them good luck. That said, I will now begin my argument.

In this debate, I hope to defend a radical claim, that government is unnecessary and undesirable. First, I must define what a government is. I define government as a geographical monopoly on the legal initiation of force. I define initiation of force as use of force against an individual who has not yet used force against the aggressor. Initiation of force with respect to property is determined by who either produced the good, or in the case of land, put the land to use in some way. I believe that my definition of government is accurate as the government is the only institution which may (on a large scale) initiate force through taxation, laws prohibiting victimless crimes, and it's monopolization of police and courts (as well as many other fields) either de facto through crowding out private competition, or de jure through outright prohibition.

With definitions out of the way, I will move on to my positive case against a state. There are two objections commonly brought up by anarchists which I will now put forth.

A. Moral Objections

In order for the state to exist, it must necessarily tax it's subjects; this is a form of theft, as it involves the forcible involuntary taking of someone's property, aka theft. As theft is generally regarded as immoral, this provides a strong moral argument against government.

Furthermore, anarchism is the only system which could reliably permit people to voluntarily abide by any form of governance that they please. This could be done in two major ways. The first is with a homeowner's association, requiring contractual agreement to a political system and certain laws in order to purchase or rent a house there. The second is through private police agencies, which could provide enforcement of certain laws to all who subscribe to their services.

B. Practical Objections

While the moral argument may be found convincing to many people, others (myself included) would rather focus on the practical consequences of the issue. For these people, there are several pragmatic arguments which I find convincing.

The most powerful of which is the fact that government, by definition, is a monopoly; as such, it has misplaced incentives, as the profit motive is not sufficiently present, due to lack of competition. On the other hand, in a market, firms are incentivised to provide the best good or service at the lowest price so as to attract costumers. If government is less efficient in virtually every field you can name, from food to cars to clothing, con must provide an explanation of why fields such as police, law, etc. are exceptions to this rule.


I hope that I have shown why anarchy, whether one values ethics or practicality, is superior to statism. As such, I believe it follows that government would be abolished in order to achieve the aforementioned values. While many objections might be raised against the above arguments, I hope to respond to any objections that con may raise in the next rounds.


I would like to thank my opponent for such an intersting topic.

English philosopher Thomas Hobbes , articulates most clearly what can be expected when Governments are abolished:

" In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short (1)."

The philosophers refer to the condition of people who have no governing authority over them as the "state of nature." For Hobbes, this is the worst possible condition, because the nature of man is such that peaceful society is only possible where people have a "common power to keep them in awe."

The Con would like to expand the definition of government as follows:
Body of people that sets and administers public policy, and exercises executive, political, and sovereign power through customs, institutions, and laws within a state (2).
The organization, machinery, or agency through which a political unit exercises authority and performs functions and which is usually classified according to the distribution of power within it (3).

The Con would like to make the following observations that will help limit the scope of this debate:

Observation 1:
The question of government cuts directly to the heart of human nature. To ensure that the debate is meaningful, the debate should be confined to real world situations involving real people. We should not imagine this to be a question of whether perfectly trained and reasonable people would need to be governed, but whether actual humans need it. The view of human nature advanced should be consistent with what we find in the real world.

Observation 2:
The resolution states that "Government should be abolished." It does not specify a specific government or form of government. This means that, in order for the Pro to win, he must demonstrate that ALL government must be abolished. Replacing the nation-state with some other governmental form, such as a local co-op, is not sufficient for to meet the burden of proof in this case. The Pro MUST advocate the abolition of any and all government to win.

Observation 3:
The human need for social interaction is assumed not to be in question. It is acknowledged that government is unnecessary in situations of solitude. Also, for the purposes of space, the terms human and man will be interchangeable throughout the debate. No disrespect is intended to female readers.

The Con will negate the resolution through the following 2 contentions:
1) Government is necessary and 2) Government is desirable.

Contention 1: Government is necessary.

James Madison wrote:

"It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary (4)." The fact is, although man is social by nature, yet he is also extremely selfish in his needs and desires.

Hobbes, again, writes:

"From this equality of ability ariseth equality of hope in the attaining of our ends. And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their end (which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their delectation only) endeavour to destroy or subdue one another. And from hence it comes to pass that where an invader hath no more to fear than another man's single power, if one plant, sow, build, or possess a convenient seat, others may probably be expected to come prepared with forces united to dispossess and deprive him, not only of the fruit of his labour, but also of his life or liberty (1)."

The truth of these statements can be clearly seen throughout history. Somalia, which languished in anarchy from 1991 until 2006 provides a unique real world view of the condition of people without a government (4). In the absence of a common power, a multitude of warlords arose, destroying infrastructure, industry and agriculture .

Contention 2: Government is desirable

Government provides the peace necessary for man to survive and thrive. This is desirable in itself. However, more than just limiting our ability to destroy one another, government provides the means to achieve greater liberties and provide for the establishment of humane justice.

John Locke writes:

"So that however it may be mistaken, the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom. For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others, which cannot be where there is no law; and is not, as we are told, "a liberty for every man to do what he lists." For who could be free, when every other man's humour might domineer over him? But a liberty to dispose and order freely as he lists his person, actions, possessions, and his whole property within the allowance of those laws under which he is, and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary will of another, but freely follow his own. (5)."

The Pro argues that anarchism allows people the choice of their own governance. But this is not an affirmation of the resolution. This is only government of another form. A people could choose to be governed by a parliament or a dictator or a corporation and they are still choosing government. Whatever governance they choose will execute more or less the same functions that define any government. They will still insist on a monopoly of force. They will still govern the people. This argument is defunct as an affirmation of the resolution.

Again, the contractual system envisioned by the Pro is essential what Hobbes and Locke proposed that all states consist of. This is not an affirmation of the resolution. Private police are still government actors enforcing the rules and regulations of whatever power is employing them.

The Pro tries to shrug the burden of proof by stating that I must show why law enforcement and justice ought not be privatized. While this is not my burden, I can answer that in one word: Somalia. When competing laws attempt to govern the same people, and no agreed upon judiciary is present, chaos ensues. Having a monopoly on law creates a level playing field wherein people can flourish. That some governments create unfair playing fields is irrelevant. Imagine trying to play chess against an opponent who's playing checkers by the rules of twister! Even if your opponent is Bobby Fisher, the chess match is more productive (indeed is only possible) if both of you are playing chess. The law is the same. If one player is trying to build a reputable business and another is trying to run an extortion racket, who or what decides between them? The answer, government.

Going forward, a few challenges for my opponent:
How do you propose to address anti-social behavior in the absence of any government (use your definition as well as mine)? How do you address violations of the rules? How do you ensure the warlord from the next city doesn't decide to overrun your homeowner's association? How do you secure the rights of the individual against the majority's decisions?

Debate Round No. 1


I wish to once again thank Con for accepting this debate.

My opponent's argument begins with a quote from philosopher Thomas Hobbes. The problem in Hobbes's reasoning is that his "common power to keep them in awe," otherwise known as government, is run by humans with the same nature, whatever that may be, as those who are governed. So if humans are violent by nature, the state cannot be expected to be any less violent. Hobbes's argument also seems to assume that statelessness means lawlessness. This is false, however, as there are ways by which law can come into existence under statelessness. The first is through non-coercive boycott, that is, people could enforce contracts and prevent fraud by agreeing, implicitly or explicitly, to boycott firms which commit fraud or violate contracts. A good historical example of this is the Merchant Law of the late Middle Ages. The Merchant Law was a form of de facto law whereby fraud and dishonesty were discouraged without the use of a central government. {1} The second is through privatized enforcement. This would happen when people would pay a private defense agency (henceforth PDA) to defend them. {1} While the PDAs may still initiate force, they would not be governments as they are not geographical, nor are they monopolies and without those necessary conditions, a rapist would be a government, as he initiates force as well.

Con has requested to expand the definition of government. I agree to this expansion so long as my definition remains necessary for an entity to qualify as government. I do not concur if it is merely sufficient, as this definition would seem to potentially include homeowner's associations (henceforth HOAs), PDAs, and possibly other institutions which I am wholeheartedly in favor of. This would defeat the purpose of this debate, since by such a definition, I would in fact concur with Con.

Now I will cover my opponent's observations.

Observation 1: I do not dispute my opponent's claim here.

Observation 2: I do not dispute this observation either; however, I am not sure that a 'local co-op' fits my definition given in my first statement.

Observation 3: As I am in full favor of society, I concur with this observation as well.

To support his first contention (that government is necessary), Con begins by citing James Madison. The problems with James Madison's statement seem to have already been covered above, as the quote appears to be a reiteration of Thomas Hobbes's argument from human nature. Since I have already critiqued this argument, I will not repeat myself.

Next, Con states, "The fact is, although man is social by nature, yet he is also extremely selfish in his needs and desires." This is true; however, my contention is that anarchism is capable of providing sufficient institutions to deter antisocial behavior. In fact, I argue that anarchism is in fact more efficient than government at doing this, due to lack of monopoly.

He then cites Hobbes again, but as I have already stated, anarchism can supply institutions capable of performing this function more efficiently than a state.

Next he gives Somalia as a historical example of anarchism failing. First of all, Somalia has actually improved since the collapse of it's state. For example, the percentage of infants with low birth weight dropped from 16% to 0.3%, infant mortality per 1,000 dropped from 152 to 114.89, the percentage of the population with access to a health facility rose from 28 to 54.8, and radios, telephones and TVs per 1,000 rose from 4, 1.92 and 1.2 to 98.5, 14.9 and 3.7, respectively. {2} Second Somalia is the result of a collapsed state, not agorism or another form of concerted revolution, making it far more susceptible to political instability. Also, failed UN interference has led to further instability. It would be absurd to judge all forms of anarchism based on a period of chaos resulting from a collapsed state, just as it's unfair to judge all states based on North Korea. For successful historical examples of anarchism, see Medieval Iceland {3} and the 'Wild West' {4}.

To support his second contention, Con cites John Locke. This is a strawman, as my position is not that law should be abolished, as the Locke quote implies, but that only one source of law, the state, should be abolished.

Con states that I claimed that anarchism allows people to choose their governments. This is true, but when I made that argument, I mistakenly used the word 'government' when these institutions do not technically qualify for my definition. This was an improper use of the word in the context of this debate. They do not qualify as governments because PDAs are not monopolies, nor are they geographically based, and HOAs do not initiate force, given the standards for initiation of force I gave.

He then states that a contractual government is what was promoted by Hobbes and Locke. This is mistaken, however, as Hobbes and Locke advocated an unsigned, nonconsensual "social contract", distinct from the explicit contracts which I advocate. Hobbes and Locke's governments qualified as governments because they initiate force, PDAs and HOAs do not.

Con then states, "When competing laws attempt to govern the same people, and no agreed upon judiciary is present, chaos ensues." The problem with this statement is that under normal conditions, it is profitable to avoid unnecessary violence. As such, PDAs would probably find it profitable to agree on a private court beforehand to resolve conflicts between one another, as well as their customers.

Con challenges me to answer a few questions:

1. "How do you propose to address anti-social behavior in the absence of any government (use your definition as well as mine)?" Antisocial behavior would be addressed by the apprehension of criminals by PDAs. As both the accuser and the accused likely have PDAs the PDAs would likely have agreed upon a court in anticipation of such situations, the court would then determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.

2. "How do you ensure the warlord from the next city doesn't decide to overrun your homeowner's association?" Most likely the HOA would require that people pay a PDA or HOA-run police agency in order to move there. Also, there would be little incentive to invade an HOA unprovoked, and due to the risk, HOAs would be deterred from provoking others.

3. "How do you secure the rights of the individual against the majority's decisions?" A better question to ask would be "How does a state secure rights?" as even under a relatively free government, rights are violated en masse through laws against all kinds of victimless behavior, as well as the practice of taxation and monopolization of industries. To answer Con's question, rights would be protected by PDAs, which would be deterred from enforcing victimless crime laws because there is less demand (for example, I care far more that my neighbor doesn't rob me than I care if he wants to smoke crack). On the other hand, in a state, costs of enforcing these laws are not borne directly, so voters are less likely to take into consideration the cost of their enforcement.

Lastly, I'd like to point out that my opponent has not rebutted the two lines of argument I presented in my first statement. My first being that government is unethical, and my second being that government is inefficient. I wish to extend these arguments and hope that Con will rebut them in his next statement.




My opponent has agreed to debate this issue in terms of the real world. Let us look a few real world examples of situations in which private groups exercised defense powers:

1) Somalia – Somalia leads the list as an anti-anarchist's dream. Until the situation in Somalia, most of this debate would have been relegated to the realm of conjecture, but the 15 year absence of government has provided an excellent case study. A BBC reporter observed the conditions on the ground in 2004:

"Somalia is the only country in the world where there is no government. Seventeenth century philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote that "life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short", if there is no central authority. Few Somalis have probably heard of Hobbes but most would agree with his description - except for "solitary", as family and clan ties remain extremely strong . Driving 50km (30 miles) from one of the airstrips near the capital, Mogadishu, to the city, you pass seven checkpoints, each run by a different militia. At each of these "border crossings" all passenger vehicles and goods lorries must pay an "entry fee", ranging from $3 - $300, depending on the value of the goods being carried - and what the militiamen think they can get away with. There is no pretence that any of this money goes on public services, such as health, education or roads. It is now estimated that only about 15% of children of primary-school age actually go to school, compared with at least 75% even in Somalia's poor neighbors. Some schools, universities and hospitals continue to operate but they are mostly privately run and charge fees. The many thousands of people like Mrs Ladan are unable to pay the $3 it costs to see a doctor and so people die of diseases which could be easily prevented or cured. Somalia is a pure free market…But is a pure free market a good thing? Speaking from a theoretical point of view, some economists might say so, but in the very harsh reality of Mogadishu, it means guns and other military hardware are freely available in a market not far from the city centre. Similarly, the printing of passports has been privatised. For just $80 and in less than 24 hours, I became a Somali citizen, born in Mogadishu. For a slightly higher fee, I was offered a diplomatic passport, with my choice of posting or ministerial job. "I just want a government, any government will do," one man told me. We all seem to enjoy criticising our governments but life in Somalia shows the alternative is far worse, as Hobbes wrote 350 years ago (1)."

2) Los Angeles – "With a reported 720 active gangs and 39,488 gang members, Los Angeles retains the dubious honor of being the gang capital of the world (2)." Time Magazine reports: "Los Angeles is in terrible shape — again. The city's street gangs, which had been relatively quiet since the crack-cocaine epidemic of the late '80s and early '90s burned itself out, are back with a vengeance. After falling steadily from 1996 to '99, gang murders in the city increased 143% last year; 331 people died because of gang violence, in contrast to 136 in 1999 (3)."

Gangs are of interest because they arise in situations in which government has failed to provide adequate protection for their citizens. "In American cities in the 1920's, neighborhood gangs often arose. Since the neighborhoods were often ethnic, the gangs tended to be dominated by Italians, Irish, Germans, or whatever group was dominant in the district. The leaders of these gangs claimed jurisdiction over their neighborhood - "territory" or "turf" - and collected taxes in the form of "protection money" for the services they performed (4)." The important thing is that gangs begin to act like alternative governments, thereby giving us another glimpse at real world anarchy. When laws and law enforcement are allowed to be competitive (such as the opposing laws of police and organized crime) the result is a turn to violence in defense of our "turf," or geographical area.

My opponent argues that "They do not qualify as governments because PDAs are not monopolies, nor are they geographically based, and HOAs do not initiate force." HOA's are, by definition, geographically based. PDA's are not monopolies, but carefully note that my opponent's definition for government does not require a monopoly on the use of force, only a monopoly on" the legal initiation of force." This is important, because a dominant gang or warlord make the same effort to suppress and delegitimize their opponent's use of force within their jurisdiction just like any other government. Gang wars occur when one gang fails to respect the boundaries or laws of another gang. If PDA's are to be effective, they cannot permit another legitimate force initiator in their region, meaning that these function exactly like a private government.

Private government is not a new idea – it is feudalism. This is not an abolition of government by my definition, which my opponent accepted, nor by his own.

I believe that I have fully refuted my opponent's arguments. As to his specific claims that government is unethical or inefficient, these fail because the definition of government is not limited to a specific government. It is impossible to say that all government is bad while you continue to advocate a modified form of government. My opponent can only make these claims if he waives all claim to any governance of peoples. Otherwise, these same objections apply to his alternative governmental forms.

My opponent claims that the social contract is not the same thing as a written contract governing a society. I would point out to him that the Magna Carta, the US constitution, and countless other charters and constitutions are precisely that – contracts for a society – social contracts. These contracts are signed and considered legally binding. I fail to understand his distinction between the two.

In short, the Pro has not affirmed the resolution, while the Con has provided a solid case negating it. Vote con. Con reserves the right to address the questions to the Pro in the next round.

Debate Round No. 2


Con begins his statement by citing Somalia. I have already explained why Somalia is a weak example against anarchy in my previous statement, something which Con has conveniently ignored. I provided statistics showing that while Somalia may be bad, it has been improving by any standard since the collapse of its state. I further pointed out that judging all possible forms of anarchy by one brief example of chaos resulting from the collapse of a government is fallacious. I advocate agorism, which would provide a functional framework rather than depending on one to arise out of political instability, as is necessary if a government collapses. The same framework could also be developed through political gradualism. By the same logic used by Con, I could argue that statism is a bad idea because North Korea is a bad place to live. I showed how Somalia's instability can be explained by how the anarchy began, as well as the failed UN interventions. Lastly, I provided two real-world examples of anarchy resulting in a stable system, which Con also ignored. Con has merely restated his argument after I have rebutted it, doing this without attempting to defend his argument against my rebuttal. If con wishes to use this argument, he must rebut these arguments, not ignore them.

He then gives Los Angeles as a second example of anarchy in practice. This is flawed for several reasons. First, it ignores the fact that gangs make most of their money off of dealing drugs, a practice that would be replaced by private industry in market anarchy. Second, gangs will have a higher propensity to be violent than will PDAs, as gangs are illegal, and illegal activity tends to attract unsavory characters while scaring away legitimate business. Third, if a PDA does attempt to monopolize a region, it will severely damage its public image, reducing its profits drastically through angering and frightening customers. This is not a problem for gangs, as they are already engaged in unpopular activity and thus necessarily do not care nearly as much about their PR. Fourth, if a PDA declares monopoly over a region, it must face the PDAs of each person residing in the territory. As it is unlikely that a previously-agreed-upon court would find in favor of the would-be monopolist, that possibility is out of the equation. Violence is unlikely because it would require the business to raise the wages of its employees due to the drastically increased risk in the job and would also threaten the safety of whoever owns the firm.

Con then states that HOAs and PDAs qualify as governments. With respect to HOAs, he points out that they are geographically based. I agree. They do not initiate force though, as they are contractually agreed to by all parties, unlike the state (see my rebuttal to social contract arguments below). Regarding PDAs, Con states "a dominant gang or warlord make the same effort to suppress and delegitimize their opponent's use of force within their jurisdiction just like any other government." This is logically flawed because PDAs, which are distinct from gangs and warlords, would likely remain competing, for the reasons I listed in the above paragraph. As such, they are extremely unlikely to become monopolized, provided relative political stability. He then states "If PDA's are to be effective, they cannot permit another legitimate force initiator in their region, meaning that these function exactly like a private government." This is entirely baseless; a shoe company is no less effective at providing shoes if it is the only company around. In fact it is less efficient. So why would defense be more efficient if provided by a monopoly? Con provides no reason.

Next Con states that private government is feudalism. This is arguably true. Fortunately, I am supporting anarchism here, not private government. Supporting privatization of the functions of government is not the same as supporting a government that is private. Under feudalism, not only is there a geographical monopoly on the legal initiation of force, but there is little or no mobility for those living under the system. Feudalism is a form of statism, not anarchy.

Con claims arguments that governments are unethical fail, "because the definition of government is not limited to a specific government." This is a non-sequitur, as I am arguing that *all* government is unethical, and therefore support its abolition. He then claims, "It is impossible to say that all government is bad while you continue to advocate a modified form of government." I agree with the statement here. The problem is, I don't support a "modified form of government," making this claim a strawman. PDAs fail to qualify as governments because they do not initiate force, are not monopolies, and are not territorial. HOAs fail to meet this standard as well, as they do not initiate force. Con then says, "My opponent can only make these claims if he waives all claim to any governance of peoples. Otherwise, these same objections apply to his alternative governmental forms." This is, once again, a strawman, as I have established that my system does not involve government.

Con states, "My opponent claims that the social contract is not the same thing as a written contract governing a society. I would point out to him that the Magna Carta, the US constitution, and countless other charters and constitutions are precisely that – contracts for a society – social contracts. These contracts are signed and considered legally binding. I fail to understand his distinction between the two." The distinction is that not all parties agree to a social contract, meaning it initiates force against parties which are affected, but do not sign (which means everyone in the country, except for those few people who signed the Constitution themselves). On the other hand, in a PDA or HOA contract, all affected parties explicitly agree to the terms, meaning that force is not initiated.

To recap:

1. Con has ignored all of my points regarding Somalia, and merely repeated his initial argument.
2. Con's argument that PDAs would be comparable to gangs fails because the environment gangs thrive in is very different from anarcho-capitalism, making it a flawed analogy, among other reasons given above.
3. Con's argument that PDAs and HOAs are states fails because they fail to qualify, as PDAs aren't geographical monopolies, nor do they initiate force, and HOAs do not initiate force.
4. The accusation that private government is feudalism fails because it is irrelevant; I do not support any government.
5. Con's claim that the social contract is indistinguishable from a contract with a PDA or HOA fails because not all parties agree to a social contract, which means it initiates force. All parties agree to PDA/HOA contracts, so they do not meet the qualification of initiating force.

In conclusion, Con has failed to justify government, ethically or pragmatically. Furthermore, his arguments for the necessity and desirability of government have failed for reasons stated both in the body of my statement and its recap. I urge you to vote with an open mind after round five ends and judge the arguments made without bias.

Vote either pro or con, but be sure to be objective and rational.


I apologize that I will not be submitting an argument. The time constraints have proven to be too much of a burden. I would appreciate a chance to debate this topic again with longer time limits if my opponent is willing; however, I must unfortunately withdraw from the present debate. Vote Pro. Thanks
Debate Round No. 3


I am sorry that my opponent will be unable to continue due to time constraints. I thank Con for his participation in this debate and would be more than willing to pick up this debate again with looser time constraints. My apologies for any trouble the strict time limits may have caused.

I urge voters not to vote for either side here, as the debate was not completed.


I have accepted the new debate and sincerely thank my opponent for the opportunity.
Debate Round No. 4


Austriananarchist forfeited this round.


rkkell forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Austriananarchist 7 years ago

Not true, structure can still form from the bottom-up with private institutions such as PDAs, as I stated in the debate.
Posted by THE_OPINIONATOR 7 years ago
if you take away government you take away structure a recipe for disaster
Posted by Austriananarchist 7 years ago

I sent you a challenge with 72 hours per round. Hope you'll be able to accept.
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