Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Burden of Proof : what it is and is not

The burden of proof argument is perhaps the single most powerful argument in favour of market anarchy. Aaron wrote about the burden of proof in "The Burden of Proof, and Aaron Kinney's Political Deconversion", and I have a future entry on the topic called "Why should we justify anarchy ?". But until then, I want to quickly point out what it is and isn't.

What the burden of proof argument IS :

* It is an excellent tool to structure the debate between anarchism and statism (in the same way than it informs the debate between atheists and believers). It clearly shows how statism is NOT the default position, but rather in need of justification, just like any other claim about reality.

* It is a very easy argument to use and understand. You may not like what it entails, but you can't really argue with it.

What the burden of proof IS NOT :

* It does not automatically prove anarchism. Anarchism is a claim about reality just as much as statism is. However, anarchism is an inherently simpler claim than statism, since it does not claim that government and its associated processes are needed for a society to flourish (indeed, government is inherently parasitic and thus an attack on society). So the anarchist has somewhat less to prove than the statist. And as we have both deductive arguments about the incentive system of government beign inherently destructive, empirical data from anarchies of the past and present which confirms our thesis, and powerful general arguments against the possibility of statist justification (such as the argument from morality, the argument from the state of nature, or the meaninglesness argument, on which I will write later), it is relatively easy to demonstrate that anarchy fulfills its burden of proof, while statism cannot.

* It is not a one-shot argument. Anyone who is not honest (i.e. committed to reason and logic, following the truth wherever it leads) will not see any validity in it. In most cases the argument from morality should be used.

1 comment:

Aaron Kinney said...

This is very good. You clarify what it is and is not, and how to utilize it.

Now lets go free the world from organized crime... uh, I mean, government! (Whats the difference?)