What do you think of the Boy Scouts’ decision to continue excluding gays?

The Boy Scouts have reaffirmed their policy of excluding gays from their organization, both among scouts and their leaders. Today’s Question: What do you think of the Boy Scouts’ decision to continue excluding gays?

  • Bill Robinson

    Once again the Boy Scouts have chosen to adhere to an absurd policy that has been repudiated by the Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, and our U.S. military.

    The Boy Scouts receive all kinds of support from tax payers via religious groups and local governments and continuing tax exemptions. The previous Supreme Court 5-4 decision was just another of its classically wrong-headed decisions.

  • jockamo

    The Boy Scouts have, once again, chosen to triumph over the oppression of big govenment and remain true to the freedom of speech and freedom of association, and freedom of assembly that are the base freedoms of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    Having attained Eagle Scout in the 60’s, I applaud this decision. GLBT is the exact opposite of what the Boy Scout organization stands for. The two cannot exist in one group. The Boy Scouts have every right to operate in the manner they understand to be best. The Nanny State does not know best. The Boy Scouts do.

    Anyone can organize and operate a “scouting” type group. GLBTs can start one, and call it the Rainbow Nation Scouts, or something. No one is stopping them.

    But, alas, they do not want to start their own. They want to destroy the Boy Scouts. Some will not be satisfied until they have ruined everything in sight.

    Good for the Boy Scouts. Make a stand. Make the destroyers join in fair battle…..or back off. Beat them right here, right now.

  • Sandra

    There you go again georges/jockamo with the Rainbow Nation misunderstanding and the homophobic belief that repressing homosexuality will make it go away.

    The Boy Scouts’ decision to continue excluding gays is modeling homophobia and narrow mindedness.

    The Boy Scout founders need to meet up with some shamen and get their head cleared and eyes opened to the nature of what is.

  • Steve the Cynic

    As a former Boy Scout, the main reason I object to the BSA is that it’s a paramilitary organization. The fact that they’re also closed-minded is secondary.

    And again, liberals would do well to avoid using words like homophobic. Implying that disaproval of homosexuality constitutes a mental illness is counterproductive and is morally no different from the anti-gay slurs that are used to cruel effect.

  • jockamo


    I said Freedom….three times…….

    And clicked my heels…….

    And, dontcha know, out come the jackbooters.

    The brown shirts are kinda musty smelling, though.


  • Steve the Cynic

    Another molotov crock tale from our friend the anarchist…..

  • Duane

    I was reluctant to enter this discussion since I expected it to gravitate toward the acceptance of the gay life style. After reading the news article that precipitated the question, I find it is about the right of an independent organization to place certain qualifications on the people placed in leadership. It was not on excluding the people of the gay community from membership. I feel the Boy Scouts have every right to place certain qualification on its people of leadership, just as any other independent organization.

  • Rich in Duluth

    I think the decision shows a closed mindedness that flies in the face of the diverse society in which we live.

    I would like our society to be an inclusive one, but we are free to associate with whomever we please, so being closed minded is legal. It’s sad that the Scouts won’t accept this reality of our society as so many other organizations have.

  • Tom

    It does not matter what I think nor does it matter what the nanny state thinks. The Boy Scouts are free to set their own polices and boys are free to chose to join or not to join. Let freedom ring!

  • Alison

    I think it’s tragic. I’m an Eagle Scout and scouting was the major focus of my life through middle and high school. I learned much about life, teamwork, leadership, community service, and value of hard work. My Boy Scout experiences were central to making me the person I am today.

    But I am also transgender. Homophobic and transphobic bigotry drives many young people to suicide. Indeed, though I was closeted, the attitudes expressed by those in Boy Scouts, in my Catholic church and school, and by my own family and friends led me to consider taking my own life many times.

    The Boy Scouts of America taught me to live with integrity and courage, which is what I now do. I use the skills they taught me to oppose their bigotry. I tell young GLBT people that they don’t need to listen to these hateful messages, and I try to make the world a better place for their generation. Due to the efforts of many courageous people, gay, trans, and straight alike, it is getting better every day.

  • matt


    Please do not degrade us anarchists by lumping jockamo in with our beliefs. In the end he would use the state to force his twisted views on anyone he could. He has no love of liberty nor understanding of freedom. Also remember, as long as there is a state there is an opportunity for people such as jockamo to rule.

    To the topic at hand, no benefit can come from forcing a group to associate with others or in ways that are against their beliefs. Let the boy scouts marginalize themselves out of existence. They are an anachronism but it would be an injustice to them and to all voluntary groups to dictate the terms under which free people gather.

    Haters gonna hate.

  • GregX

    Stupid is as stupid does – but it is free to do so. If church organizations and their affiliates need to retain their ingrained bigotry, bias and ante-deluvian ideals – they are free to do so. That , however, comes with the caveat that they no longer receive any aspect of any sort of federal support. No tax deductions-exemptions, no grants, no public scholarships, nothing. Freedom from the obligations of fairness across all peoples – eliminates the finacial benefits dervived from those same peoples.

  • BenCh

    As an Eagle Scout myself, I am still not happy. It is a great organization that does great things, but some of the policies are out-dated and should be changed. The worst is still the influence the Mormon Church has on the Boy Scouts (they require all young boys to be registered with the BSA). Honestly I do not agree with their stance on homosexuality, or their religious requirement. However they will keep this going because threats from religious organizations (like the Mormon and Catholic churches) that if they change their policy then they (churches) will stop their membership.

  • essjayok

    Of course the Boy Scouts’ can do what they want and further what they believe, but per the question “What do you think of the Boy Scouts decision to continue excluding gays?” :

    I think, not so far into the future, they and any others who further bigotry and hate, will look as backwards and ridiculous as those individuals who opposed women’s right to vote, biracial couples from marrying, mixed-race schools, and every other hate-filled action in our ‘great history’ falsely protected and pushed forward in the name of “belief.”

    Their movement is backwards. It won’t take long for all of us to look at them for their ignorance and backward “beliefs.”

  • Steve the chronic

    I was a member of the BSA. I had fun and thought if was a great experience. When spending summer at Many point camp, the older scouts would bring up a few joints (early 70’s) and pass it. Good times.

  • Jim G

    The exclusion of gays by the National BSA will be judged by history as bigotry. Today, I judge any organization; religious, political, nonprofit, any group seeking to deny deny civil rights as… oppressors seeking to control the actions, activities, and beliefs of others.

  • jockamo


    A fancy capitulation from the weak sister, matt.

    Even tried to use my own words against me. Hahhahahaha……Always an indication of the weak, unfit mind, totally lacking any real abilities.

    I lead, the weak follow, choking on the crumbs.

    A girlish capit for my birthday.


  • Mary

    I was a Boy Scout leader for many years. This anit-gay policy doesn’t fit with the core values that leaders try to instill in the boys. I grew up as a scout in a scouting family. My Dad was a troop leader and 3 of my brothers were scouts, 2 were Eagle scouts. I don’t think my Dad would have objected to a gay boy, and he is a WWII vet. I achieved 1st class, the highest level of Girl Scouts. This was back in the 70’s. We had a gay boy in our troop and not one of us objected. He was one of our leaders sons, I’m sure he wouldn’t have joined otherwise at that point in time. He was there because he wasn’t allowed in the Boy Scouts. The girls in our troop, including me, never understood why he couldn’t be a Boy Scout. The Boy Scouts live in the stone age.

  • Steve the Cynic

    There, matt, is the reason your otherwise noble and enlightened conception of anarchism can’t work. Says georges/jockamo: “I lead, the weak follow, choking on the crumbs.” Such Nietschian psychopaths are encouraged by power vacuums, which is why they’re disproportionately represented on the internet. If We the People don’t collectively define who we are and are not, someone of such ilk will.

    One good thing about the BSA is that they teach ideals of integrity, selflessness and cooperation that tend to resist such things. Too bad it’s in the context of glorifying military culture and excluding sexual minorities.

  • matt


    The absence of a state does not mean the absence of power. A voluntary society is perfectly capable of dealing with such cases. We can simply ignore them. As long as they do not use aggression they are limited to simply spouting their ideas. If they use force against person A, person A may use force against them, person A could also contract with one or more other persons to defend against aggression. Power still exists it is just retained by the individual rather than the state. Not perfect, but definitely preferable to our current status where 50% + 1 jockamo can: exploit, imprison, suppress, steal and wage war with impunity.

  • Steve the Cynic

    But, matt, contracting with one or more other persons to defend against aggression is the beginning of the evolution of government, is it not? Aggressors soon figure out that being organized helps them, and then the defenders need to be better organized, and so on. Government is inevitable. The only question is how good or bad it will be, in terms of helping people live happier lives than otherwise.

  • Ann

    I agree with the Boy Scouts.I am sure that there have always been some homosexuals in the Boy Scouts.But now they want to demand that others accept and honor their homosexual behavior. Churches and groups like the Boy Scouts have the right to their own beliefs and standards for behavior.The Boy Scouts should not be forced to accept homosexuality–just lke churches should not be forced to perform homosexual marriages or accept homosexual clergy. A person can disagree with another person’s standards without “hating” that person.

  • kevins

    I achieved my Eagle in 1969, with God and Country award shortly before that. I believe that my troop would have tolerated a homosexual member well, only because of the maturity and wisdom of our leaders, who were ultimately, superb role models. It is clear however, that during that time and in our local culture, homosexuals were closeted, and more comfortable staying in than out. This of course raises an irony that BSA policies can’t deal with: that being, the assumption that the policy keeps homosexuals out. Several years ago, our local BSA organization ran an ad in the paper, requesting that old Eagles like me make themselves available for a mentorship program they were starting. I corresponded, saying that I would be happy to be of help, but would they want me if I were gay? I did not hear back.

  • Alison

    \\A person can disagree with another person’s standards without “hating” that person.

    Except this isn’t about “standards”, Ann. This is about discriminating against a person for a having a trait that’s as inherent as skin color or left handedness. Discrimination, barring the person from participation, might be perceived as hatred by the person being discriminated against.

  • matt


    Contracting with others against aggression is not the beginning of govt, no more than contracting with others for clean water is the beginning of govt. Govt takes away the “choice” to contract and forces you to be a party. As for escalating aggression between two groups there is a greater incentive for a voluntary group to reduce conflict…I will not contract with group A if they are fighting with group B, I risk my own safety and will pay a higher price than I would pay to contract with peaceful group C. Groups A and B have to pay for more weapons, higher salaries to their combatants, property damage, etc (what would our national debt be if we subtracted the expense of military, arms race, silly wars?). The nice thing about gang wars is that they die down rather quickly (except when govt action makes markets so profitable – such as the drug trade, prohibition).

    If group C then declares it will not protect homosexuals but will give out merit badges for winter camping I am free to move on to group D. Then again I might be ready for the “Group W bench”

  • Steve the Cynic

    Matt, you’re a starry-eyed idealist. I don’t believe there are enough strong-minded people of good will to make it work.

  • matt


    If I set out to convince the whole world I would get discouraged. I am happy just to plant seeds. But every day the jockamos, Obamas, Netanyahus, Palins, Romneys, and Cheyneys team up with the Lockheed Martins, Goldman Sachs, Mexican drug gangs, patent lawyers and Islamic terrorists to make my message just a little more palatable.

    You may say that I’m a dreamer…

  • Regnar JAmes

    Thanks MPR for removing my post.

    So much for the First Amendment.

    You will keep all the doper comments, but If I say the MPR is flamingly gay I get pulled….nice.


  • Bill Robiner

    I was a boy scout and am an assistant scout master. I am strongly opposed to the national Boy Scout policy. Many of my fellow scouters in Minnesota also are strongly opposed to it. Fortunately, our local Boy Scout Council does not embrace the national policy and allows chartering organizations and troops to choose their own leadership regardless of their gender, gender identity, or sexual preference. I think the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is misguided and is teaching intolerance and disrespect by maintaining this policy. It is a shame that its good works are tarnished by this discriminatory policy. I hope they reassess it again and soon. Opposition to the BSA because of this policy is not going to go away. It will continue to be an issue that alienates many people who otherwise would support scouting.

  • david

    I think “who cares”. Just one small reason of many to encourage any future son I may have to avoid the scouts and any other sheeple factory as much as possible. Spent one summer in scouts and besides a trip to the BWCAW discovered it was not for me.

  • Steve the Cynic


    At the risk of getting too far off topic….. Given the choice between pining for an unachievable utopia and being content to keep our good-enough system good enough, tinkering around the edges for marginal improvements from time to time, the latter wins hands-down in my mind. Also, I have yet to see any explanation of how, in the absence of government, resources can be effectively and fairly pooled to do those things that are everyone’s responsibility in general but no one’s in particular, such as caring for the friendless disabled, the childless frail elderly, unadoptable orphans, and others who lack the resources to get the Free Market to provide what they need. Don’t say charity should do it, because that lets the selfish and greedy off the hook. Why should the burden fall only on the high-minded and good-hearted? Or should such folks be allowed to succumb to the forces of social darwinism?

  • suestuben

    What a bigoted, ridiculous decision they’ve made. The civil rights for GLBT folks is a snowball rolling down a steep hill; it cannot be stopped. Those orgs who try will become unhappy memories of yesteryear. All the boys in the scouts who are gay are learning to hate and hide themselves; is that something a true Christian would stand for? Jesus loved everyone and traveled with a group of men of whom some were undoubtedly gay. The scouts are worthwhile (for now) and have positively affected many lives, but are choosing to ostrasize some of their young charges instead of providing a welcoming platform in which to grow up. Shame on the bigoted, fearful board of BSA.

  • Mike M

    The posters here have moved away from the main issue:

    National BSA led by a secret (or unnamed panel)not the board of directors, have concluded the same policy they had previously should remain in place.

    I DO NOT AGREE, but I started a troop, I’ve been a scouter for 21 years, have knowledge this is a National BSA stance, and the Northern Star Council that represents 75,000 scouts and about 25,000 adults, plus many other scout partners, DOES NOT adhere to National BSA policy.

    Read their policy of inclusiveness on their web site. If you are wondering why- it’s the values of our community, not the values of what goes on in Texas or Alabama or Oregon or Arizona…get the idea?

    Thanks Bill Robiner for your thoughtful insight.

  • John

    I think its disgraceful. Gays should be allowed to molest the young boys and teach them the way of the gay. It will breed more of the same and that is what life is all about. A challenge. Whats wrong with a little molestation? It builds character. Maybe the wrong character but still a character. Maybe he will grow to molest others, maybe kill someone over his mental issues, but still, it must be allowed to happen. Its only the right thing. Right?

  • Matt


    You have identified the trade off of anarchism. You are willing to accept war, imprisonment of people who have done no harm to others, and policies that consistently harm the helpless and or benefit the rich and powerful, I would rather risk the market failing people to stop the destruction caused by govt.

    And why can’t I say charity? Are you saying under the current scheme the selfish and greedy still pay their fair share now? What is fair? What is the common level of sacrifice we should have to give? Mother Teresa levels? Equality has never existed in the history of our species, and it never will. Your objection is not unique to anarchy but it is the one objection that anarchy never seeks to satisfy because it is against natural law.

    Person A believes person B must give up object C. Person B refuses so person A uses force to take C. You try to moralize the scenario by how Person A uses C. But by doing that you must conclude that A’s values are superior to B’s values.

    If it all stopped at protecting the weak you would at east get 98% buy in on the idea. But currently we are debating if killing people on the other side of the world, universal health care, the number of fresh foods provided in school lunches, how much more is needed to build prisons to hold prostitutes and drug users, paying back people we borrowed money from are all superior reasons to take C from person B.

    The values of A can never be universally superior to those of B. accepting that logical premise is not utopian at all. Wants and needs will still exist, A will sometimes still try and take C, fate will sometimes favor B. but institutionally subordinating B to A is not the right answer and it does not get any closer to utopia.

  • Steve the Cynic

    No, matt, I’m not accepting the government abuses you list. I want the people to hold the government accountable for such things. Besides, most people want government. By whose authority will you prohibit it’s existence? Your abstractions about persons A and B and thing C are nice, but the real world has never worked that way. Utopian visions are distractions from making real things in the real world better. As the old saying goes, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

    But let”s save further discussion of this for a TQ where it’s more relevant.

  • Mark in Freeborn

    It’s discrimination, pure and simple. And when any group makes a unilateral decision to discriminate, that group immediately marginalizes itself.

  • Craig

    Matt and Steve, I have enjoyed your conversation. Just my two cents on anarchism versus factionalism before the thread dies.

    Our desire to band together and go to war in order gain an offspring advantage runs deeply; it precedes our evolutionary split from the other apes. We know this because chimps go to war without Malthusian provocation in this humanistic, game theory manner. Our genes—which carry hard-wired, hard-won lessons from the past—construct us to have qualms about unjust, pre-emptive war, producing a weak factive detente, but when the risks are low and the reward high, we are programmed to go for it. The intellectual forces forestalling the urge for war, or exploitation of the subaltern, are either an a priori calculation of Locke-ian enlightened self-interest (a task not everyone is both able and willing to perform) or bad experiences (which must be reacquired every few generations).

    The promise of anarcho-syndicalism is properly deployed as a Socratic gadfly, as is perhaps your intent Matt.

  • matt


    I will run the risk of contempt of the readers by continuing here, technically this is yesterdays question (BSA backwards views are so yesterday).

    I don’t advocate prohibiting govt, as I stated before you can subscribe to govt all you wish. Anarchism simply means that you cannot compel me to join. You can shun me for not being a part of your club, refuse to trade with me, refuse me entry on to your property, etc. But you cannot imprison me for not supporting you, you and your govt cannot force me to follow rules that you have decided. I voluntarily decide to belong the Catholic nation now. I accept their rules and any punishment for breaking them. I support that govt with my “taxes” and service. I used to belong to the Baptist govt but decided to secede. My parents support the Methodist govt, my sister supports no “govt” of that nature. Somehow we are all able to enjoy family get togethers in spite of our differing allegiances. I have not a single desire to force you into accepting my catholic govt, and if the Pope says different, I’ll be the first to secede.

    Years ago people joing the Eagles, Moose, Elks or other such govts to get social health care, life insurance, college aid, etc. To my knowledge the Eagles never went to war with the Elks.

    You, too, choose to let perfect be the enemy of good. Since anarchy is

  • David Poretti

    @ John –

    Your homophobic (showing an irrational hatred, disapproval, or fear of homosexuality, gay and lesbian people, or their culture) red-neck is showing. The premise of your argument is that a gay person = a child molester. This is a logical train-wreck, not supported by any understanding of human sexual orientation or behavior.

    As Senator John McCain said, regarding Michelle Bachmann’s latest: “When anyone…, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance for what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation and we all grow poorer because of it.”

  • matt


    I don’t intend to be a gadfly but do accept that is as far as I can go.

    I do accept that there is a natural survival instinct that overrides our humanity and that will never be extinguished. The toll of that instinct is limited greatly, there is never a fear of complete species extinction based on infighting – mainly because there is an opportunity for each chimp to walk away from the fight when the cost benefit calculation tips. Our ape ancestors never had the aggravating factor of being blindly beholden to ideals. No state nor god compels them into war. The flip side is they do not recognize property rights and so even within a group “might makes right”. We have evolved to accept property rights and can evolve to accept non-aggression.

  • Stanley

    “What do I think of the Boy Scouts’ decision to continue excluding gays?”

    It’s totally unnecessary.

    Boy Scouts need to evolve not regress.

    Learn to appreciate humanity and nature.

    Scouts could learn to recognize and utilize entheogens in the natural world as well as within themselves.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Since no one seems to be complaining….

    Matt, your argument also depends on the assumption that a right to personal freedom is a moral absolute and that individuals never have any enforcible responsibility toward the well-being of others. One obvious counterexample is deadbeat dads (or moms, which are much rarer). I hope you would agree that you have a moral responsibility to provide for children whose existence your behavior has caused to exist. And if you shirk such a responsibility, there should be some means of compelling you to, for the sake of those kids, who have no leverage over you. What am I missing here?

  • Steve the Cynic

    Also, “Catholic anarchist” is is an oxymoron. Read Romans 13 if you don’t believe me (and St.Paul was referring to Caesar, no less).

  • matt

    Yes, there should be some mechanism to deal with deadbeat dads. One method is a simple contract between mother and father. This could be further enhanced by refusing to enter into contracts with deadbeat dads. Not taking care of your kid? You don’t get to work in my service garage, drink beer at my tavern, etc. Currently the state does it this way, they just assume the contract into existence and then enforce it. A prenuptial simply makes the contract real so the state doesn’t have to create it. It does make the last call hook-up a bit more cumbersome as our young lovers search for a notary public but I never said it would be utopia. Currently deadbeat dads are a problem and have successfully beat the system (as the son of one I can attest) so, again this is no new problem.

    I do agree that there are moral laws and I have bound myself to them but they are categorically different from natural laws and contract laws. In my case I subordinate my rights under contract law and natural law to my duties under moral law, but in no circumstances can I force someone else to subordinate their rights from any category of laws.

    As for Romans…I do submit to govt rule and render unto Ceaser what is Ceaser’s. I stop at stop signs in stupid locations and try to drive close to the speed limit (as an economic calculation the optimal number of speeding tickets is > 0). I also understand that Paul was not saying that if I lived in Nazi Germany that I was bound to support their cause, nor should I brand Dr. King as a sinner for his resistance against the govt.

    Jesus defied the state, Paul defied the state as well. Both came to untimely ends at the hands of the state. If you google Jesus was an Anarchist there is a good piece of work on it. I have no doubt that if I google Jesus was a Republican, Democrat, Socialist, etc people would have just as exceptional arguments in favor. I leave theology to others (which is why I had no problem converting to Catholocism as an adult – and not as a requirement of marriage). I don’t believe a man, save Jesus, that has the full grasp of God’s will so I am happy to follow the intent the best that I can. My faith tells me God cares more about me being a good dad than he does about me trying to bring down all the govts of the world via Question of the Day 😉

  • Steve the Cynic

    Matt, you’re use of the word moral sounds like you’re thinking of morals as some optional set of guidelines to which one may or may not choose to submit oneself. I’m using it as essentially synonymous with ethical. And to be clear, it sounds like you’re agreeing with the proposition that individuals never have any enforcible responsibility toward the well-being of others. If so, that’s a fundamental disagreement between us.

    (And just try applying contract law to a case of date rape.)

    (And to say Jesus was an anarchist is quite a stretch.)

  • matt

    Moral – optional set of guidelines vs ethical – what is the universal ethical framework? We can debate throwing a switch on train tracks knowing it will kill one person instead of 5. Unless we can all come to the same conclusion we are stuck…my ethics, morals, are not yours. They may be similar but who trumps when we disagree? You cede the trump card to the state, I cede it to society. If my actions (assuming they meet my understanding of ethics) offend others I allow that society may punish me short of aggressing on my person or property. That leaves the door open for a whole lot of punishment. You may feel so secure that you have the correct ethical framework laid out that you are willing to send people to jail if they do not perform up to your standards, I do not, and at risk of offending, I doubt your mastery of ethics.

    Abortion is an easy one – if Person A believes abortion is morally wrong and Person B feels that it is not a moral question (not a human life – no moral implication), if A controls the state A can require B to abstain from abortions even though it may cause B great harm even death. A is enforcing B’s responsibility to look out for the well being of B’s unborn child. Any problems with this?

    What to do in the case of date rape – it is aggression against a person and the aggressor is liable for all damages. No contract is needed this falls under natural law.

    I did not say that Jesus was an anarchist, I pointed to the discussion because it disects various pieces of scripture to make an argument for it, which I find convincing but in the end trivial. As I said an equal case could be made that Jesus was a Republican, etc. I have no need to make Jesus be what I want him to be, I am okay with what he is. My concern is that he is okay with what I am. My guess is that my anarcho-capitalist leanings are pretty far down on his grading criteria.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Ah, now we’re getting somewhere, matt. I think you’re making too sharp a distinction between society and the state. The state is nothing more than the institutional form of society. Ideally, the state should embody the values of the society. Too often it doesn’t, but the existence of bad governments doesn’t imply that government is inherently bad. If the state is too powerful, I agree that’s a problem. But if it’s too weak, what you’re left with too easily devolves into mob rule. (As I’ve said on other occasions, the opposite of one mistake is usually another mistake.) In either case, whether there’s a formalized government or some kind of informal social consensus where discipline takes the form of social approbrium (“shunning,” as the Amish call it), there is always something more powerful than the individual that one defies only at great cost to oneself. In that sense, government is inevitable, and the only difference is that you aren’t calling it government. I think it’s much better if the social contract is explicitly negotiated in the form of something like a constitution.

  • matt

    I agree that we are close on this, I am even for carefully negotiated agreements such as a constitution. I dont think govt is bad – I think compulsory monopoly govts are bad. Give me the power to take it or leave it, as I can with religion, the boy scouts, etc and I am all for it. Order and expectations are not contrary to anarchistic thinking.

    You assume that anarchy results in mob rule only because you don’t accept that self interest and societal interests are closely intertwined. We are social creatures. We want safe roads, clean water and fair play not only for ourselves but for others. We subordinate ourselves to the common good without thinking twice. We hold our flatulence, mind our language and help up someone who has fallen because we desire society. It is not govt that creates this in us. Yes, there are those people that are sociopathic but they still exist within the state, they do not fear jail any more than they fear shunning. The long arm of the law does not keep order the people do. The state desires to perpetuate itself and grow so it serves us kool-aid.

    The minders here seem to eat my posts every time I provide a link so I encourage you to go to the site marginalrevolution.com (an econ website not a flaky anarchist site…all though they are a bit libertarian) and read the post on “firefighters don’t fight fires”. The number of fire calls has remained steady over the years but the number of firefighters continues to grow. Why? Because now we send them on every ambulance call, needed or not. Not just a firefighter but several with a truck. I see some value but it could easily be done by placing a truck on alert so they are ready to roll. But instead a minor emergency is responded to with great gusto and the fire dept has another call to report to the city council at budget time. The safety provided by the state is greatly overstated.

    Our incarceration level is higher than any other nation because our govt needs bad guys. We outlaw activities that do not harm anyone. We outlaw products that people that want – creating a criminal class based on the incredible profits to be made. Gang violence is not human nature it is a market distortion created by the state.

  • Steve the Cynic

    I can’t get my mind around the idea of optional government, matt. How would that work?

    And again, the fact that governments often do stupid or bad things does not imply that government is inherently bad. A similar list of good things governments have done would not convince you that government is inherently good, would it? You could always point to a hypothetical and say, “Yes, but it would have been better if it had been done without government.”

    Outside of very small communities of highly committed people, the absence of effective government has always resulted in social chaos. In that sense, government appears to be at least a necessary evil. The well-being of humanity would be better served by working to reform government than by trying to abolish it.

  • Craig


    I would agree that there is a diversity of moral perspectives within the human population, just as there is a diversity of height. Though with a more log-normal shaped distribution, as we do not have anyone who is 0 feet tall, yet we do have sociopaths. And because most of us are near the mode, our societal structures only vary due to matters of nurture, not nature; primarily geography, as Diamond points out in ‘Guns, Germs and Steel.’ I.e., does it take lots of cooperation to get food, or little. Are we on an island, or a plain.

    And it is true that even with these vastly different environments, our societal structures vary in mostly superficial ways. It’s akin to what Chomsky once said about language; because we all have the same neurological equipment, if aliens studied humanity they would say we spoke one language with some very minor regional variations.

    I think the core of the question one of rational free riders (not the sociopathic variety).

    The prospect of free-riders is often used as a specter to inspire assent to authority, tapping into childhood experiences that make us hyper vigilant and sensitive to selfish behavior by the others for the rest of our lives. But I think we differ on the true size of the free rider problem.

    Perhaps this difference can’t be resolved without a measurement. I believe most rational people will free-ride a bit, and some quite a bit, if there is no authority; as you say, sociopaths always disregard compulsion, regardless of the system. As a heightened example, I might falsely claim to have a good septic system, and opt out of the sanitary sewer costs, but secretly, I haven’t really been maintaining it, and it is slowly fouling the ground water, but just a little, not so much that it makes a difference, I tell myself.

    Also, as a practical matter, it seems we would have a legal wikiviathan, each agreement would have to specify (and perhaps fund) a governing court system, since each entrant need not accept the authority of any current court or any supporting case law history. And it seems we would have difficulty supporting private property claims, as most land has been taken by force at one point in history or another. And one would be free to “take it back” via force by one’s own authority supported by a tendentious reading of history.

    And finally, I think Steve and I would differ on this point, I take a symbiotic, Platonic-light view that a large segment of the population is not interested in being involved in governing, and they might have a kvetching nature, always complaining about how things are handled, but for their own good, need structure. Plato spoke of the “noble lie” that keeps such people from rejecting authority that is good for them. The obverse of that coin is of course noblesse oblige, something currently lacking.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Actually, Craig, I think I agree with that last point you make. And it wouldn’t be just kvetchers. One reason the Wild West was so wild was that it attracted people who liked the idea of living far from the reach of law enforcement, because they were outlaws. Innumerable folks with deservedly bad reputations out east migrated to the west under assumed names to make mischief anew.

  • matt


    Yes, govt is inherently bad. It is a positive statement that the will of the governing shall trump the will of the governed. It is fine when the wills of govt and the governed are aligned…but when that alignment exists there is no need for govt structure, correct? Society can handle that piece just fine. If we want health care for all regardless of ability to pay we could accomplish that without ACA. Mutual defense? We could do that too. It is when the govt and governed disagree that govt becomes bad, either forcing them to engage in activity that do not wish to engage in or prohibiting something they would wish to do. So against my will I am required to support the killing and imprisonment of millions of people. I have three sons with kidney disease that will require a transplant at some point in time, it is illegal for me to compensate the donor for their generosity. The will of the govt trumps my own desires. Can I survive and even thrive under govt? Yes. But why should we have to?

    Your statement that outside a govt is social chaos is simply not true. First, you have a view of what social order should be and are deeming everything else to be chaos – a bit presumptuous, no? Second, consider the huge realm of social interaction that is not controlled by the govt – how do we manage table manners, clothing, and forming lines at the grocery store without the watchful eye of the state to enforce? Third, you try to make the change in one leap. As an anarchist I do not for one minute hope for anarchy tomorrow. The slow slide of control from society to govt must be reversed, and just as slowly or it would be failure. 100 years would be too soon. So it starts with libertarian thought, but not your tea party wacko strain. More of a left-leaning libertarian that fully supports the importance of institutions such as health care, education and a safety net. How can society become more engaged in those things? How can govt remove barriers to make it easier for those things to flourish. Ending patent laws, increasing tax preferences for supporting them, voucher systems, allowing diversity of models to see what can create more success instead of central planning. The other path, which may prove to be a bit quicker would be for charter cities to emerge. Allowing a geographical pocket to emerge and demonstrate ways (as a good anarchist I always remain neutral on how anarchy should/could work) that society can function sans state.

    So yes, it is a matter of reform as a temporary step but in the end the goal must be to end mandatory govt.

  • matt


    Free riders are not the core question unless you can show me there is a difference between anarchy and govt when it comes to free riders. They exist under govt and would exist under anarchy. Yes, they would be self-selected under anarchy as opposed to being selected by govt but what difference does that make? We selectively free ride on others all the time when the state does not compel behavior correct? I enlisted in the Marine Corps, my brother did not. I adopted 3 children (one parent deceased, other parent in prison kind, not cute Asian status symbols :-)), my sister has adopted none. Society is better off because of that and economically speaking I am in a worse position, but would do it again in a heart beat (well not the USMC thing, I’ll never be as dumb as I was at 18 again). People often have values that exceed standard economic calculation.

    The obverse of the free rider coin is those who enjoy priveleged status. Monopolists, rent seekers, and like are creations of the state. How does the elimination of these entities square with change of free riders? Measurement is the difficult piece but I suspect that result would be a surplus to society.

    As to the legal wikiviathan (love that phrase!) contract law does not work because of fear of enforcement it works because of mutual benefit. I give you $100 for a pair of shoes because the shoes have more value than $100 to me an the opposite to you. Mutual benefit covers the great majority of our contractual dealings. For more complicated transactions most contracts already contain a clause regarding jurisdiction based on geography so changing the jurisdiction based on competence of the court that would adjudicate any dispute is not much of a difference, nor would selection of a legal standard.

    Ownership of land never really seems to stop govt from doing what it desires so again, you simply carry an existing problem forward. Seized property, eminent domain and conquest all negate property rights by force with much less consideration than one might get from a suit in court.

    I would ask how kvetching against anarchy is any different than kvetching against the state. Anarchy does not need the noble lie because it does not bend/break people to its will, it does not kill in the name of others. How many people must govt kill or imprison before you say enough? Were all nations Canada and Norway the question might be less pressing (of course, they too are free riders on their agressive friends) and we could simply adress our greivances at the ballot box. But we have, here and elsewhere, govts that kill, feed on the weak and protect the strong. That is not a kvetch against sunday liquor laws or taxing super size sodas. Until the state is abolished govts will continue these activities, and no man should be compelled to bow to state and accept this simply because it makes the 9-5 workday a little easier.

  • Steve the Cynic

    A basic assumption behind your argument, matt, which I challenge, is that the will of an individual must categorically be respected and that any coersion is morally/ethically wrong.

  • matt

    I understand that position and sensible people can and should have that position but how do you translate that to compulsory law? 50% +1, or the ruling elite are always right? 50% +1 Michelle Bachmans or Ralph Naders should be able to impose their moral view on everyone? No, 51% is too low – lets set the bar higher – 75%. If 75% of the people decide that you must accept a specific definition of marriage (whatever it is) than the thoughts of other 25% do not matter? 98% of the people feel that providing medical care for all, including abortions is a requirement. 2% feel that it is murder and to aid it in any way makes them complicit and will cause them great mental anguish. They fear eternal damnation. They are not even asking the 98% to make it illegal simply allow them to opt out in order to save their soul. Sorry, pay your taxes or go to prison (and then we will tax you there) the values of the 98% must be upheld!

    It all works great when you are in the majority or if you are fluid enough to accept oppressing others for the good of the collective. Utilitarianism is understandable but does not have to be universal and absolute.

  • Wally

    Did this discussion ever get derailed. “entheogens”?? Huh?? Stanley, you stick with your entheogens, I’ll stick with “Be Prepared.”

    I’ll second Jockamo’s first comment.

    The things I learned as a Scout kept me out of a lot of trouble, and have helped a lot of other people, maybe even saved a life or two.

    I have four daughters, and as the Girl Scouts unfortunately hiked down the primrose path of political correctness and embraced many of the heresies of the radical feminists, I did not encourage any of them to join, and they didn’t.

    But as a Scout, I am glad the BSA kept to its principles.

    And Steve the C. Where did you get the crackpot idea that the Boy Scouts are a “paramilitary organization”? Because they wear uniforms? That would make every kid at a parochial school “paramilitary.” Oh, but scouts carry pocketknives. Hoooboy. That’s soooo DANGEROUS! You say you were a Boy Scout. Did you pass Tenderfoot? Second Class?

    But Steve the C., I will agree with you on abandoning the silly term “homophobic.” Such labels are a real impediment to intelligent discussion.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Not that you’d know anythig about “intelligent discussion,” Wally.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Yes, matt, the argument in favor of having government is entirely utilitarian. People’s lives are better when there’s stable government, which is why they put up with it, warts and all. Your arguments against government are mostly ideological. You can envision a harmonious society without government, but it has never existed. You can cite examples where governments do bad things, but I can cite as many good things. The examples you give where people govern themselves adequately, such as table manners, are low-stakes situations, where the individual’s cost of compliance with the group’s norms are low and so are the potential rewards of violating them. When the stakes are higher, greed (whether for stuff or power) quickly destroys that social cohesion. All it takes is one person to do something selfish that harms the community, and the community will say, “There oughta be a law.”

  • matt

    “Peoples lives are better when there is govt” – how does putting a person in jail for an action that harms nobody else make that persons life better? How does making me pay for losses incurred by irresponsible bankers make my life better?

    “Warts and all” – was the holocaust a wart or covered under “and all”? How about slavery, internment of Japanese, the kids that were drafted, sent to Vietnam and killed?

    Cite me one – just one – good thing done by govt that could not be done via society. Cure disease, fire prevention, you name it. There is no pixie dust that govt owns that makes something work govt is people and resources.

    I have given you life in general as proof that people can govern themselves but you reject it because you can find examples where some dont govern themselves. I point out those people exist with govt and you project the worst of your fears on every other human. You expect me to believe that if the state were abolished stop signs would be no more effective at controlling traffic than a tree. Yet billions of people stop at millions of stop signs trillions of times each year without law enforcement present. Even though we know that the chance of being caught shoplifting from a grocery store we still keep the jello out of our pockets. Meanwhile no law compels us to be compassionate and loving to our children and it still done in most homes throughout the world, to the best of their ability. That is not low stakes to me. That is society at work. Again no pixie dust involved just the very basic human desire to be social, to be accepted.

    Greed for money or power is your fear – what is the easiest way to satisfy your greed? Use the state. Force, through fear of imprisonment or death, others to give you what they would not willingly surrender. Want to sell your product for 1000 times what it is worth? Have the govt grant you a monopoly via patent. Design a high capacity ammo clip to sell to military and police forces, they buy it to keep the people safe. The cult of guns grows and pretty soon you have Holmes (hunters and target shooters do not drive assult rifle innovations – that is the state all the way). Hide in the bushes around the edge of where govt tells you it is safe to walk and your crime is so much easier…Bernie Madoff never would have happened if people didn’t think someone was watching.

    You defend the state as ideologically as I attack it. You dismiss the evil of killing innocent Afghans as the price you have to pay to ensure city parks and 6 day postal delivery. Sorry for the folks that do not have enough utils in their account to meet the “greater good”. I do not insist on my ideology where you cannot envision giving your fellow humans the opportunity to decide for themselves to participate. The only way a govt works is if it is mandatory – given the choice to opt out we would so it does not pass the popularity test. No govt was ever created by the people it has always been imposed. All states that are overthrown are immediately replaced with a new state. On the other hand people freely adopt moral codes. Vegetarians and Mormons are just the start of a list. Morality and social needs drives action that appears to be contrary to self interest. Doctors without borders, peace corps, voluntary military service, monks, and every volunteer that ever lived. All chosen freely, institutions created and sustained by choice, that is my ideology. No state can or has done that. Bow or face the consequences. That is your ideology.

    I don’t think people who support the state are bad, ignorant or wish ill on those they do oppress – but they do oppress. I hope you can live your life with sufficient utils in your account and you never find yourself on the wrong side and then reconsider the value of the state. But more so I hope you at least consider those with a util deficiency today and at least consider if there is a way other than the state.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Matt, you unfairly paint all government with the same brush. If you can’t tell the difference between Nazi Germany and today’s western democracies, I don’t see any point in debating with you.