If You Were a King

Not the chess piece, but a king in real life. Tongue Out This thought-provoking video presents a thought experiment that challenges you to come up with just one good thing that you could do with your power if you were King--or President or Prime Minister or Senator, etc.

For my full post on this video see If You Were King on my blog.

As Roderick T. Long said in his short (3-4 minutes to read) An Open Letter to the Peace Movement, "A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist."

I recommend reading Gustave de Molinari's "The Production of Security" for an introduction to what a society might look like without a monopoly on security, i.e. a government.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to mention them below. Thank you.

UPDATE: With 26 comments this discussion has become pretty long. So far I have not seen anyone give an example of a good (just) way that you could use your power if you were king.

My view is that such a just use of government power does not exist. Why? Because:

1. All acts of aggression are unjust.
2. All uses of government power are acts of aggression.
3. Therefore all uses of government power are unjust.

Note that the argument is clearly valid and the first premise is essentially a truism. Therefore, the argument depends on the truth of the second premise.

To determine whether the second premise is true or not requires determing:
1. Whether a particular act is an act of aggression or not
2. Whether a particular act is a use of government power or not

The first task above requires a further examination of property rights and the second task requires a detailed definition of government and what it means for that government to exercise power.

Some progress was made in the comments below regarding these two tasks, but there is certainly much more to discuss. It is my hope that you will consider looking into this very important subject more in the future.

"Market Anarchism is the doctrine that the legislative, adjudicative, and protective functions unjustly and inefficiently monopolised by the coercive State should be entirely turned over to the voluntary, consensual forces of market society." -- About Market Anarchism

thought-provoking video: If You Were King
Tuesday's thought-provoking video: Government Explained
Wednesday's thought-provoking video: George Ought to Help
Thursday's thought-provoking article: An Open Letter to the Peace Movement
Friday's anarchist chess game: Tom Woods vs Walter Block


  • 3 years ago


    rtc3 wrote: "there are basically 3 types of actions: group 1 are just for one to do to his equal, such as self defence, charity, etc. group 2 are only just for one in authority to do to those subject to him, such as taxation, punishment, etc. group 3 are never just, such as murder, genocide,etc. the holocaust falls into group 3, but just because group 3 exists does not mean thsat group 2 cannot exist."

    I do note believe that group 2 exists because I believe that all people should be equal in authority. Roderick Long's essay Equality the Unknown Ideal makes a great case for this. He explains that libertarians believe in a (John) Lockean equality of authority.

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    To rehabilitate consent of the governed theory: think of it this way: there are basically 3 types of actions: group 1 are just for one to do to his equal, such as self defence, charity, etc. group 2 are only just for one in authority to do to those subject to him, such as taxation, punishment, etc. group 3 are never just, such as murder, genocide,etc. the holocaust falls into group 3, but just because group 3 exists does not mean thsat group 2 cannot exist.

    to address the essay: it claims that one can never say that the people are the government. i agree. rather, the people IS the government, at least in a full democracy. collectively rather than individually. the government is a body of people acting as a whole, not a group of persons. as such, dissenting persons cannot be blamed for the choices of the majority. pick any conservative; they did not elect Obama. the American people did.

  • 4 years ago


    if i were a king i would quit and give it to a very wise person

  • 4 years ago


    Even if I do use "pure lunacy"(quote from video) to influence my choices, wouldn't it be nice to treat me as if I "own myself"(quote from video), and have the right to give responsibility for my wellbeing to another human who would happily receive it, without calling me a pure lunatic? By the way, I must be a total idiot because I have thought about this for more than 5 minutes, and I still am not convinced Anarchy is the only way to go(reference to video).

    By the way, before you tell me you are just trying to help me make good decisions, isn't that just trying to force me to make better choices by the means of threatening me with insults if I disagree(reference to video)? Even if your measures are significantly less drastic than those suggested in the video, aren't you still just violently abusing those who will not follow your "advice"(i.e. orders)?

  • 4 years ago


    sorry i have not posted for so long, but i had a lot of school work these last 2 weeks.

    i do not believe you addressed my strongest point: that the potential security providers in your model are the same people who run the existing governments. I contend that these people will always seek to establish a government rather than run independent security companies. they may have to fight each other to establish a monopoly, but they will create a government, just like they did however long ago. these monopolies are more profitable for them, and they, like all people, will act on their own self interest.

    a new point, brought up by my dad this evening when i brought up this discussion: what about the poor? if they cannot afford security, what will they do? what if i, a rich business man, hate impoverished joe who just lost his home in hurricane sandy? why cant i hire someone to go kill him? or are the security providers more moral than i am?

  • 4 years ago


    asbnak, nice idea, but how would you pay for them? If some people did not want to pay for them would you force them to pay anyway? Peace.

  • 4 years ago


    rtc3, I'm a student there. No, I don't know him.

  • 4 years ago


    completely off topic for a second after i saw your facebook page, do you teach at worcester polytechnic? do you know Jacob Cooley? He went to my high school.

  • 4 years ago


    rtc3, I appreciate your interest in this subject and I am glad you decided to read Molinari's "The Production of Security."

    There is government today because "a group of people subjugated the others and ruled over them, in which case the security measures provided by anarchy were insufficient." ... "the fact that government exists today means that the security system you propose has failed."

    Someone else presented this exact argument to me on Saturday (see the end of this comment for the link). You're right that the market has failed to secure people before, but this is not proof that the market cannot secure people as adequately as (or more adequately than) government can.

    History is proof of the fact that people relying on the market for security have been overpowered by others. In short, the market failed to secure them. Of course the same thing is true of governments. How many people relying on a government for protection have been invaded and conquered by other governments through history? When Hitler Invaded Poland the Polish government clearly failed to protect its citizens (especially the many (millions of?) Polish Jews who were killed). And it's not just other governments that have managed to make governments fail to protect their citizens. How many people relying on a government for protection have been robbed or assaulted or murdered by other private individuals? So yes, the market has failed to secure people, but you should remember that governments have failed to secure people on countless occassions as well. (Note: "A tax-funded protection agency is a contradiction in terms — an expropriating property protector" --Hoppe, so arguably governments fail to protect their citizens not just "on countless occassions" as I said, but always.) So I think you're wrong to conclude from this observation that governments are justified in the name of protecting people since this observation does not show that governments are better at protecting people than markets.

    Also we should recall that "the market" is really just people engaging in voluntary exchanges with each other. Even though we live in a society with a state "the market" is still protecting people in several ways. People voluntarily hire security guards who protect people. People voluntarily help their friends or strangers who are being attacked. People see thieves running away with stolen property and voluntarily choose to spend the effort and risk to try to stop them. These are all ways that "the market" secures people.

    So the point really being examined is the question of whether a free market society without a state could provide protection at least as adequately as the monopolistic government alternatives do. I still strongly believe that the answer is yes. The observation that societies without states in the past have failed to protect people from the gangs of people who subjugated them and called themselves "governments" does not show that the answer is no.

    To see my reply to the person who made the same argument as you to me on Saturday, see the first comment by "Will Kiely" (that's me) on this public Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151264098961145&set=a.133154991144.129929.593331144&type=1 . Note that the person named "Jared MatrixDisruptor Kenwell" is the one who made the argument that you made here. He said, "If governments could reestablish themselves after the vacuum when a revolution had toppled the previous government, why was anarchism not able to maintain itself? .... If anarchy was not able to establish and maintain itself after the king of France had his head chopped off, then when? If a few rebels can take on Anarchy and overpower it, then 'when' will Anarchy be able to establish itself. If it depends on begging people to please not seek power, that's not going to work". In short, he argued that the market cannot sufficently secure people by observing that the market has failed to protect people from governments, just as you observed and argued.

    You also said, "
    first, he argues that monopolies inherently require force to compel people to pay for the good."

    He was not using monopoly in the sense of a natural monopoly. You are right that you can have a situation with a natural monopoly in which people are not compeled to pay for that monopoly firms' products or services. But, Molinari was talking about the sort of monopoly that governments are. Governments do compel you to purchase their goods with force. Note that the U.S. Postal Service has a legal monopoly on first class mail, meaning that it is the only firm that is allowed to provide first class mail services. If you don't want to buy any first class mail you don't have to. Governments are a different kind of monopoly, however. If you don't want to buy the government's products or services, too bad, you do have to. You are compeled to pay taxes for them. So note the different kinds of monopolies.

    the topic of monopolies brings up another interesting point. if monopolies destroy the free market, might it be good to have a way to stop them? in anarhy nothing can do this, but government can break them up and preserve free enterprise."

    Natural monopolies don't destroy the free market; coercive monopolies do. Governments are coercive monopolies. A completely free market requires anarchy. In other words a society with a state is necessarily not a society with a completely free market. So the suggestion that government can preserve free enterprise in the security industry is nonsense, since government is the monopoly in the security industry that needs to be abolished.

  • 4 years ago


    i have started reading the production of security and there are already several things i disagree with.

    first, he argues that monopolies inherently require force to compel people to pay for the good. but the point of a monopoly is that people will pay the price because they desire that good. if the price is greater than their desire, the monopolists will lower the price, as it does not benefit them to do otherwise as in that case there will be no sales.

    secondly, he assumes that people will go into business as security providers (sec provs).

    he states very clearly that these sec provs will be the strong and their customers will be the weaker. this is clearly true.

    yet right after that he mentions that throughout history the strongest have always been the creators of government and have sought to establish a monopoly on security. this again i would generally agree with. (while he also adds most warlike and strongest, i would contend that these are the strongest irrespective of temperment, since they have succeeded in producing a monopoly--no one can protect anyone else from them. if there were stronger, more just men than the monopolizers would not have succeeded.)

    this is clearly contradictory. those capable of selling security on the free market have always chose not to. instead, they realize that it would be more profitable to create a monopoly. thus the security you suggest could never exist.

    people are inherently selfish beings. if it will benefit them more to do things one way, then they will do that even if it harms others. 

    aside from all this, the fact that government exists today means that the security system you propose has failed. molinari says that government is formed by the stronger seizing a monopoly. obviously the proposed sec provs were unable to stop this. nor would such small businesses be able to stop a mob/ small army. charismatic leaders would take control easily when there is no government to stop them. security needs to be provided on a large scale in order to work at all.

    the topic of monopolies brings up another interesting point. if monopolies destroy the free market, might it be good to have a way to stop them? in anarhy nothing can do this, but government can break them up and preserve free enterprise.

  • 4 years ago


    peace, where do you think government originally came from? 

    the way i see it, there are 2 options:

    1. a group of people subjugated the others and ruled over them, in which case the security measures provided by anarchy were insufficient. this is where the governors create government

    2. people joined together in a league to protect themselves from others because they did not trust the security provided by anarchy, in which case again those measures were insufficient. this is consent of the governed.

    in either case the existence of government is justified in order to protect the people.

  • 4 years ago


    I don't believe that this callenge could be met. But, I have a couple of questions. In the anarchist setting, what happens if I don't want to treat my neighbor as if he owns himself? What if I don't want to be treated as if I own myself?

  • 4 years ago


    rtc3, The Anatomy of the State is a great essay. (At least try out the first two pages... if it's a chore to finish it then don't.) "Consent of the governed" is a myth. The Jews did not commit suicide in the Holocaust. They did not consent to be killed.

    Also, we need not choose between the lesser of various evils. There is an option that is not evil at all: respect peoples' rights.

  • 4 years ago


    All human beings are animals. If one animal is hungry and another has food the hungry one will attack the one with food. Such attacks are cruel and unjust. If food were freely available--as in a hunter-gatherer society--men would form groups to improve their hunting efficiency and to protect themselves from other hunting animals. The groups would be successful, so much so that more would form until eventually there would be so many that the world would be hunted out and men would have to form agriculture based societies to feed themselves.  The stronger ones would  seize control of the land and force others to work for them, in other words slave societies. Slavery is cruel and unjust. So I guess men are basically cruel and unjust animals no matter what they do.     

  • 4 years ago


    before you limit the debate to that syllogism, consider the lesser of 2 evils concept: if government is slightly unjust, then it remains to be seen whether government protects us from harms that are greater than that of government. all government limits liberty, but if the alternative is anarchy, i would choose government. 

    second, a government based on the consent of the governed cannot be unjust to its citizens, because by implied consent they have agreed to any penalty the government imposes on them. they have agreed, by living in, voting in, and taking advantage of the benefits provided to citizens of that country, to abide by the country's laws, and any violation of those laws, whether it be murder or tax evasion, is a violation of a social contract and thus any violence is not agressive, but punitive and defends the government from further abuse by its citizens.

    unfortunately i am going to bed very soon, but i look forward to continuing this tomorrow. 

  • 4 years ago


    rtc3, what's your argument that there can be a just democratic government?

    I have made multiple arguments why democratic governments (and governments in general) are unjust.

    For example:
    1. Aggression is unjust.
    2. Governments (i.e. states (I have been using the terms interchangeably here)) necessarily employ aggression.
    3. Therefore governments are unjust.

    As for the "tyranny of the majority" argument, I was just pointing out the obvious fact that if the majority in a democratic government vote to use aggressive force and then the government agents proceed with using that aggressive force then peoples' rights have been violated. Any democratic government that authorizes people to vote for such aggressive things and has its agents enforce what is voted for is thus necessarily unjust. You mentioned Constitutions restricting the sorts of things that majorities can vote for, however no Constitution in history has ever restricted all aggression and thus all democratic governments are unjust. Note that any democratic "government" that did restrict all aggression would be just, but would not be a government. Instead it would be a market entity (if you disagree then tell me, what would be the difference between it and a market entity?).

  • 4 years ago


    This is how i understood your argument:

    1.democracies place absolute power in the hands of the majority

    2.majorities are unjust(or can be)

    therefore, democracies place absolute power in the hands of an unjust entity, and are therefore unjust.

    I attacked the first premise by giving an example of a government that has seen this problem and has refrained from giving the majority such power. the constitution limits the power of the government and thus of the majority.

    as for your second point, could you explain your definition of power and how it differs from mine? if no one is to say otherwise, the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. there is no way around it--it is human nature. how to deal with this problem of sin is the question of structures of government. oppressors always exist, the question is how to deal with them. i believe my point is very similar to oman's. in fact this power excercised by the government when it exists and the "strongest" in anarchy is very similar: as the video pointed out, governments use brute strength, as do bullies.

    governments, especially constitutional republics such as ours, seek to make that bully as nice as possible, and i would rather be ruled by our government than by anyone bigger than me.

    thiunk about the french revolution: they wanted maximum freedom, and it very nearly dissolved into anarchy. then Napoleoon stepped in. a dictator rose to power.

    government arose in one of 2 ways: either some people decided to turn over power to a centralised body because it was in their best interests, and i suggest we agree with these people as they experienced anarchy first hand and wanted out, or a dictator rose to power and the suggested security measures were inadequate

  • 4 years ago


    OMan86, I admit I don't know what the video meant by "the power to rule is diametrically opposed to the power of being human". It's not a statement I would try to defend.

    "Think about your officially unstructured relationships; family, and amongst friends. Is there a power imbalance despite the fact no-one has an OFFICIAL position of power?"

    The term "power" has been used in this post in multiple senses. For one sense I would answer yes to your question, but for the "government power" sense of "power" used in the video and in the post question ("what is one good thing that you could do with your power if you were King...?") I believe the answer is no. Why? Because in everyday personal relationships in one's family and with friends people typically always interact in a voluntary and consensual manner. People don't use violence against each other or try to control each other. If you don't like someone you stop being friends with them or ostracize them. If you don't want to associate with them you stop. It's generally only when it comes to the political/government sphere that most people support using aggressive violence against others. They don't use violence in their personal lives yet they support threatening others with aggressive violence through the government and support having government agents actually use aggressive violence against others if the threats aren't obeyed.

    "Considering that, the goal should be to make sure the ABUSE of this power to harm others is minimised."

    "Abuse of [government] power" is redundant (unless there is an answer to this post's challenge, of course, in which case I would love to hear what it is from you), just like "abusive rape" or "abusive murder." All exercises of government power are unjust, so all are "abuse" and thus the phrase is redundant.

    "How? Government and (enforceable) laws (read Thomas Hobbes Leviathan) to protect citizens from each other. The best we've come up with so far to acheive this is democracy."

    This "solution" fails because it does not protect citizens from the citizens in government. (Note: It also fails because the leviathan's incentives to protect citizens from violating each other's rights are not very good, but the main point is the one before the parentheses.)


    What's this for? You haven't give an example of one good (just) thing that you could do with your power if you were king.

  • 4 years ago


    rtc3, 1. Yes, I did claim that all democratic governments are unjust. I thought you were going to disagree with this claim in your paragraph marked "1," but you never did, at least not explicitly. You made a few claims, such of which I disagree with and some of which I disagree with, but none of them challenged my claim that all democratic governments are unjust, so I am not sure how to respond to you. If you would like to elaborate on your point and actually make the argument that I am sure you intended to make it would be helpful to me if you said something like "Not all democratic governments are unjust because X, Y, Z" or if you gave an example description of a hypothetical just democratic goverment.

    2. "how could an anarchy adequately protect its citizens? the movie suggested something like body-guards, but what about the threat from larger groups, such as other nations?" I do not believe that this question can be adequately answered in a short response so I will refer you to a couple resources that will help you begin to grasp an understanding of how people could be protected in a stateless society. First, as I mentioned in the original post, I recommend Gustave de Molinari's essay "The Production of Security". While the whole essay is recommended, the portion titled "The Free Market for Security" is directly applicable to your question. If you would rather watch a video than read an essay, Robert Murphy's "The Market for Security" provides a decent summary of the issue. There are of course a lot of other information on this question, just a Google search a way, or I can direct you to other sources that I have found valuable in the past if you would like.

    "power will always be exerted"

    I should note that you are (presumably) using the term "power" in a different sense than the "government power" sense in which I have been using. I agree with you that power will always exist in this different sense. My view is just that this power ought to be decentalized so that alternative security/justice firms compete with one another in a single geographic region for the voluntary patronage of customers. In other words, no single firm should have a territorial monopoly on power as the states you see today do (and as all states necessarily do by definition).

    The government formed by the Articles of Confederation wasn't as bad as the government formed by the Constitution, but was still unjust.

Back to Top

Post your reply: