Larken’s 5 Questions

Larken recently created a YouTube video against Austin Peterson’s 5 Reasons I’m Not an Anarchist. Tangentially, I recently wrote against Austin’s article as well.

In the last 5 seconds of the video, Larken asks 5 questions which he claims, once answered, will show that “there is no one, no one in the world, who can give a consistent, rational, moral justification for believing in government at all.”

Before I get to the questions, I would point out that Lark en and I are both anarchists but I think we are rather different types. I oppose government as a pragmatist on the grounds of economic efficiency and utility. Larken has a moral opposition to government. Larken not only opposes the state, but the concepts of authority and government per se. He claims “…the belief in authority, which includes the belief in government, is horrendously destructive, it is the primary threat to humanity…and it’s time for it to change.”

Importantly, the belief in authority also includes the belief in God. In contrast to Larken, I claim that some authority and government are inescapable, necessary, moral, and proper. However, this is not the case for all authority, and it is the case for certain authorities only some of the time.

I think the traditional state is a form of government which is increasingly illegitimate over time as it becomes relatively more inefficient compared to alternative institutions such as the market. In fact I think it is already the case that government is entirely illegitimate on such grounds, but I think there was a period in history where it was legitimate on such grounds which has to do with certain transaction costs and organizational structure.

In a separate forthcoming article I will ask 10 questions which should help to establish various aspects of my view on authority.

Apologies if anything is poorly worded. I hope we can operate on principles of intellectual charity in order to improve the social debate, not just to win technical points. That being said, I do welcome recommended refinements of language.

Larken’s 5

1 – Is there any means by which any number individuals can delegate to someone else the moral right to do something which none of the individuals have the moral right to do themselves?

Yes and no. Two sorts of rights exist and both have cases where individuals may cause other individuals to come into possession of rights they would not otherwise have, but this causal relation is not a matter of delegation. These rights frameworks do, however, provide mechanisms for the emergence of unique rights for a traditional state and other entities.

De facto rights exist and divine rights exist. De facto rights exist when a person cannot be prevented from conducting some action.

It is the case that individuals may collectively conduct actions which none of them could conduct individually. While a person may build a widget in a week, 2 people may be able to build a widget in a day.

Building quickly may be seen as a fundamentally different action than building slowly. A de facto license to a new action has been granted through collective action.

It could be the case that building 1 widget per week is immoral while building 7 widgets per week is moral.

Consider a scenario where 2 widgets exist and either can be built at the same rate by an individual, but Widget B can save twice the number of lives.

The individual can be considered to be morally required to build Widget B because the opportunity cost of the unsaved life can be viewed as something similar to murder.

However, consider that Widget A is subject to large economies of scale which Widget B is not subject to. A team of 2 people can built 7 of Widget A in a week, or 1 of Widget B. In this case it would be moral for the collective entity to build Widget A while it would be immoral for an individual to do so.

Or, consider a simpler scenario in which the individual just can’t build the widget. Perhaps he lacks diverse required skills or something. A collective may build a moral widget, or perform a moral service, which an individual cannot.

This can be called moral productivity and it is a case of de facto morality. Basically, economic efficiency can allow a morally productive process to increase in moral productivity, even from negative to positive values.

While collectives have a de facto right to certain actions which individuals have no right to do, it does not follow that the collective entity needs to be a traditional state.

Divine rights exist when God gives either a moral license or requirement for something.

God gives unique moral license and requirements to national rulers, education instructors, and others.

When individuals elect a person to the office of President, for example, God may chose to give that person unique moral license and requirements. On the other hand, God may view democracy as fundamentally different from God-chosen kings, autocrats, and so on.

When individuals allow a person to work as a teacher this may also result in God, not the individual, giving additional moral requirements to the new teacher. God’s moral allocation is not unique to the case of the traditional state.

2 – Do those who wield political power have the moral right to do things which other people do not have the moral right to do? If so, from whom and how did they acquire such a right?

Yes, as provided for under the previous question. De facto rights from their new position of power and divine rights from God.

3 – Is there any process by which human beings can transform an immoral act into a moral act (without changing the act itself)?


Moral productivity can allow the same act to be moral or immoral. For example, being an ineffective surgeon might be immoral because you might just be killing lots of people, but a skilled surgeon doing the same things might be moral because they save lots of lives.

However, as previously discussed under section 1, different degrees of moral productivity can be seen as fundamentally different actions. Building widgets quickly can be seen as the same or a different action compared to building widgets slowly, depending on how you define terms.

Sanctification is the process through which God makes things good. The doctrine of Hypostatic Union says Jesus Christ is both man and God. Jesus declared all foods clean. Jesus declared healing the sick on the sabbath moral, although it’s less clear whether he actually made that act moral or simply revealed the assumed immorality of the act to be faulty from the beginning. Jesus also declared additional moral responsibilities, arguably making previously morally neutral things now morally bad.

Under the possibility that God grants moral license to democratic leaders, it’s unclear whether voters are considered partially responsible for that grant. Not in the sense that the voters are the origin or even capable of granting that license, but in the sense that if they had selected someone else God would have as well, so voters may be said to have some explaining power or influence on the outcome.

4 – When law enforcers use force in the name of government, do they bear the same responsibility for their actions that anyone else would who did the same thing on his own?

No. What do we mean by bearing responsibility? We see special treatment of military and cops all the time.

Second, in the divine sense the agents of government have some privileges, but are also susceptible to greater standards of judgement. However, some of the divine rights stuff becomes unclear when dealing with the democratic model, and even less clear when dealing with the anarcho-capitalist model of private law and security.

5 – When there is a conflict between an individual’s moral conscience and the commands of a political authority, is the individual morally obligated to do what he personally views as wrong in order to obey the law?

Only in the case that the individual is wrong. If the individual correctly believes that the law is morally wrong then they have a moral license to disobey, although they may not have a practical ability to do so. On the other hand, it might be the case that the person believes a law to be immoral when it is in fact objectively moral, in which case they have no license to disobey although they may believe otherwise.


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