The Ideal Randian State

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Murray Rothbard argued in his classic work "Robert Nozick and the Immaculate Conception of the State" against Nozickian minarchism, on the basis that no State has ever or ever would develop in the perfect, pristine and uncorrupted circumstances in which the Nozickian night-watchman State must be born in order to exist.

The Randians, however, know that a perfect State cannot come about through "immaculate conception." This is just religious hogwash. The Randian State must be planned, crafted, and drawn up in blueprints; manufactured and implemented by individualists working unanimously to usher in an Ideal Capitalist Utopian society; and observed and respected as infallible by all people who live within its jurisdiction.

We can wonder how the central planning of a Randian State would begin, commence and conclude. Objectivists disagree with each other on many matters. Politically, they share no uniform foreign policy. An intelligent minority of visible students of Rand seem to favor peace and nonintervention, basing their dissenting view on Randian principles. In the more inclusive Randian circles, even some disagreement on minarchism vs. anarchism is allowed. Some fans of Rand’s work have trouble reconciling her true brilliance and importance with some of her quirky views and her even quirkier, less rational modern followers.

Despite these disagreements and discrepancies, I have, from surfing the net lately, come to form in my mind a composite model of the ideal Randian State. Now, certainly, many Objectivists, and probably Rand herself, would dispute the accuracy of my design. I mean them no offense. But based on what a good number of Randians online seem to believe, I do contend the average vocal Randian advocates a set of policies which, if put into practice, would imply a State quite similar in character to what is described below.

First off, as we know, the Randian State would not "initiate force," since that would violate the central tenet of Rand’s political philosophy. It would therefore not regulate industry or even collect taxes.

At the same time, the Randian State would maintain a monopoly on the use of violence, so as to prevent another State from emerging in the same geographical location. We know that most Randians would expect at least this much from their State, for this coercive monopoly is the bare minimum criterion necessary for a State to be considered a "State." Without a monopoly on violence, so believe the Objectivists, society would collapse into a Somalia-style anarchy. Without a State, we would have warlordism. Rand herself warned, in The Virtue of Selfishness, that "If society provided no organized protection against force, it would compel every citizen to go about armed, to turn his home into a fortress, to shoot any strangers approaching his door"; and that "the use of physical force — even its retaliatory use — cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens." Even though, at times, some Objectivists have challenged this Randian principle; that it is a Randian principle — that a monopoly in violence, including retaliatory violence, is a necessary characteristic of a Randian State, as conceived by Rand and most of her followers — of this much we can be fairly certain.

This minimal coercive monopoly that is the Randian State would enforce "intellectual property rights," protect people’s reputations against "slanderers" and "libelers," restore the now-defunct "property rights" of Western companies over Middle Eastern oil appropriated through colonial mercantilism more than ninety years ago, and carry out some other limited functions.

The Randian State would also have a very aggressive foreign policy, unhesitant to target civilians, to the degree that, in the months following 9/11, it may well have nuked the Middle East and killed hundreds of thousands, or even hundreds of millions, of people — both to avenge the deaths of 9/11 and also to reassert American dominance and get "our" oil back from the Arabs and Muslims who stole it. In responding to 9/11 in a Randian style, the U.S. government would have approached the action with the "standard value," as one Objectivist put it, that the "rights of one American, whether a soldier or a civilian, are worth more than the lives of all men, women and children in all these [Middle East] nations combined." If, during this hypothetical vengeance killing, you had spoken out against the nuclear annihilation of millions of people, you might have been tried for treason, for, under a Randian State during wartime, no individual can be allowed to spread doubts over certain Fundamental Truths — namely, that the Randian State protects individual rights and Western Civilization, and represents everything that is Objectively Good about humanity.

But the Randian State would not initiate force or collect taxes.

The State would be completely separated from religion, and any other ideological organization or predisposition other than Objectivism Itself (which, of course, is The Truth, and should be enforced by the government). The military would abandon any remaining attachment it might have to the Christian, and therefore irrational witchdoctor-like, "Just War Theory." The courthouses would be guided by Objectivist ethics, enforcing intellectual property rights and the corporate charters created by the State.

But the Randian State would not aggress against people, nor would it tax them or regulate industry.

The Ideal Randian State would uphold the values of Western Civilization, which are best understood by reading Ayn Rand. As the U.S. government is now, it is far from the Objectivist ideal, since it is too hesitant to attack civilians and yet it also initiates force too much through the mechanisms of taxation and antitrust law. However, the U.S. government, being an integral, necessary part of America — and certainly far better than any possible alternative in the real world! — does, to a large degree, represent and embody the best of Western Civilization even in its current, imperfect, overly bureaucratic form. Accordingly, either the Ideal Randian State or the current U.S. government has the right — nay, the duty — to destroy uncivilized States, not worry too much about the savages who die or what the survivors among them might think, and thus ensure that America, which is Objectively so much more in tune with Western values, scientific knowledge and The Truth than its small dictatorship enemies, survives forever as a symbol for the entire world to follow.

But, being modest and limited in its functions as it is, the Randian State would never initiate force.

A Randian State would go around the world toppling non-Randian States, so long as it does so in a non-altruistic fashion. Destroying evil States is a positive good, and a Randian State, being the positive good that it is, could never be blamed if anything went wrong during its escapades of invasion and foreign intervention. Anything bad that happened — any innocents that died during the Randian rampage to cleanse the earth of savagery and anti-mind, anti-reason, anti-reality values — would of course be the fault of the Randian State’s enemies; as we all know, the Randian State, categorically and unconditionally, cannot be culpable for any damage caused by its clashes with less civilized States: the Randian State does not initiate force by definition: anyone hurt during a conflict involving the Randian State either had it coming, or must file his complaints with another, less perfect State. And, Truth be told, any ethical person who lived in a non-Randian State would not only "acknowledge the moral right of a free nation to bomb" him, but would Objectively want to be bombed by the more Randian State, regardless of his chances of dying in the process, for such bombing presents his only plausible chances of salvation, freedom, and deliverance to the realm of rationality and individualism.

If two Randian States existed at the same time on Earth, they would, of course, never have any conflict with each other, since they would both be right about everything. But if, perhaps by some disruption in the space-time fabric, they did come into conflict with each other, the Randian State with the more Randians in it would presumably be in the right. Or, perhaps they would both be right as they tore each other to shreds.

But neither Randian State would ever initiate force or regulate the economy.

Living in the Ideal Randian State would be superbly swell, unless you happened to disagree fundamentally with Objectivism. Since Objectivism is The Truth, and since any decent State should reflect It, certainly there is little room in a free, Objectivist society for non-Objectivist barbarians.

Smoking would be legal in all public places — perhaps even mandatory. (Okay, this is a cheap shot. But we do know that anti-smoking ads would be one of the first government programs abolished.)

Indeed, the Randian State would be absolutely perfect, limited just enough never to violate anyone’s individual rights, but empowered just enough to make the world safe for and conducive to Randian democracy. It would keep its massive nuclear arsenal just in case it had a reason to wipe one billion people off the face of the earth to make more room for the individualists in the Randian State.

Libertarians might even find the situation quite tolerable. They had better, anyway, for the alternative would either be prosecution, punishment, or — worst of all — excommunication from Randian society.

Yes, oh yes, the Randian State would be wonderful, and never collect taxes or initiate force. But if it did happen to collect taxes, it would have to be for the military, and therefore the tax rate could conceivably climb as high as 80%. But this wouldn’t be so bad, by Randian standards, so long as the money is being used for individualistic, rational, and egoistic purposes — such as bombs, warplanes, and uniforms — rather than anything collectivist, mystic, and altruistic.

For, as nearly any Objectivist can tell you, being taxed 5% of your wealth for welfare is a far greater burden and offense than being taxed 80% of your wealth for the military.

So maybe the Randian State would tax, and regulate industry to the extent necessary for national defense and the military. But none of this taxing or regulating — and, certainly, none of the tax-financed invading and bombing — would be an initiation of force, since, as we know, a Randian State could never initiate force.

Perhaps some of you might wonder about this Randian State, and believe you have discovered within its framework a number of irreconcilable contradictions. If so, you are obviously wrong. Check your premises, and rest assured that the Ideal Randian State is not only obtainable and desirable; it is the only possible political organization in any way compatible with reality, human reasoning, and, most important, today’s popular Objectivist theory.

Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He is a research assistant at the Independent Institute. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.

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