Re: Karl Popper on 'Why Government?'

Dan Fabulich (
Mon, 19 Jan 1998 17:27:06 -0500

At 01:01 PM 1/19/98 -0500, you wrote:
>The "State" is not just the beuracracy; it is also our day to
>day conformity to laws and other expected behaviors.

I disagree. I quote David Friedman's definition of government from his
_The Machinery of Freedom_:

"A government is an agency of legitimized coercion. I define 'coercion',
for the purposes of this definition, as the violation of what people in a
particular society believe to be the rights of individuals with respect to
other individuals.

"For instance, people in this society believe that an individual has the
right to turn down a job offer; the denial of that right is a form of
coercion called enslavement. They believe that an individual has the right
to turn down a request for money or an offered trade. The denial of that
right is called robbery or extortion.

"Government is an agency of legitimized coercion. The special
characteristic that distinguishes governments from other agencies of
coercion (such as ordinary criminal gangs) is that most people accept
government coercion as normal and proper. The same act that is regarded as
coercive when done by a private individual seems legitimate if done by an
agent of the government.

"If I yell 'Stop, thief!' at a stickup man escaping with my wallet, the
bystanders may or may not help, but they will at least recognize the
reasonableness of my act. If I yell "Stop, thief!" at an employee of the
Internal Revenue Service, leaving my house after informing me that he has
just frozen my bank account, my neighbors will think I'm crazy.
Objectively, the IRS is engaged in the same act as the thief. It seizes my
resources without my permission. True, it claims to provide me with
services in exchange for my takes, but it insists on collecting the taxes
whether or not I want the services. It is perhaps, a fine point whether
that is robbery or extortion. In either case, if it were the act of a
private party, everyone would agree that it was a crime."

>The hope of Extropians is to make our semi-mutual agreements more
>beneficial to all involved.

Actually, your "semi-mutual agreements" sound an awful lot like coercion to
me. I reason that if gov't exchanges were genuinely mutual, then any
private citizen could run a state based on mutual agreements. However,
much of the time they are not mutual; by definition, exchanges which are
not mutually agreed upon by all participants are coercive.

I don't seek to make "semi-mutual agreements" more beneficial; rather I
seek to eliminate coercion through Intelligent Technology.