PHIL: The (im)moral state (was Re: welfare...)

Arjen Kamphuis (
Sun, 22 Mar 1998 04:38:32 +0100 (CET)

At 11:35 19-03-98 -0800, Mark D. Fulwiler wrote:
>The problem with these discussions is that there is a major
>philosophical split on this list between those of us who think it is
>immoral for the state to redistribute income by force and those who
>think it is moral.

I've been thinking a _lot_ about this since I joined this list last august
and I'll try to explain my viewpoint as it is now. Philosophically speaking
I can't justify forced income redistribution by a state (even a democratic
one). But:

If the state can't redistribute income, the state can't exist, it needs
resources to provide the kind of high-level services single individuals
can't buy and most companies can't provide (see my example below).
Redistributing income is much more than welfare, tax-funded security
(police) is also a kind of income-redistribution, the rich paying for the
security of the poor to some extend. So, if I'm not mistaken, you're saying
that you want no governement whatsoever.

To this I can only say that AFAIKT absence of some kind of governing body
leads to a very unconstructive chaos that makes it very hard for people to
actually do what they're good at. Instead they are kept busy with personal
security and ensuring all kinds of other basics that we can take for granted.

I'll be the first to aknowledge that states themselves have done some
pretty bad things throughout history but I can also give some examples
where people seem to be reasonably happy with their state. Democratic
representation and a 'trias politica' seem to be the lesser evil (IMHO). I
know of no example where stateless situations have lead to stable,
high-tech, prosperous communities (but am willing to listen to interesting

Of course it can be argued that untill now the conditions have always been
wrong for an anarcho-capitalistic society to succed but this is pretty much
the same arguments that hard-line communists use when they defend their
system: "No, no, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot weren't true communists, but when
we take power things will be different." We've had a whole bunch of
large-scale social experiments this century and almost everyone some form
og genocide occured.

Structural changes to a complex system as society should be done gently and
_very_ carefully. A system-crash can (and has) cost millions of lives.

I'll try to give an example of problem I think only a state-like
organisation can solve (it's a bit nationalistic but bear with me ;-).

In 1953 a large part of Holland was flooded when a combination of
high-tides and storm occured. The dike system protecting
lower-than-sea-level land was breached and about 2000 people drowned. I
response to this the Dutch governement implemented the Delta-plan. Over a
perion of 33 years over a $10^12 was invested in upgrading all dike-systems
so that an occurrance like the '53 flood could never occur again. The final
construction was finished last year, two giant doors that can close a
canal's opening into the sea.

I've been trying to think how a commercial organisation could have achieved
such a thing. Who would invest in such a project? Who would 'buy' the end
I believe that only a state has the means and the organisation to pull
something like that off. Can anyone think of a scenario where companies
would have made something like the Internet? (a free-to-use-for-all utility).

I don't like the fact that a state is needed so that people can live
together but for now I firmly believe it is the lesser evil.


Arjen Kamphuis | "Here Be Dragons", read the ancient maps | in all the white spots that seemed large
enough to hold the fabled creatures.

let's go dragon hunting.

Transcedo, the Dutch Transhumanist site: