There is a tendency among some minarchists in the libertarian movement (seemingly those living in and around the beltway) to claim anarchism just isn’t practical or pragmatic. Even if anarchism is theoretically correct, it’s of no use because anarchism will never be politically tenable. Since it will never be implemented, we need to give up on the pipe dream, live in reality, and work to get more Ted Cruzs and Rand Pauls elected.
It’s worth noting that the same thing could have been said about democracy a thousand years ago. Democrats from that period were probably denounced by their peers for failing to be “pragmatic”. For advocating a system that will never happen. Yet here we are today and the planet is covered with democracies. Sure it took a long time, but social progress just doesn’t happen quickly.
This leads me to another problem with minarchism. Minarchists seem to be forgetting just how radical their philosophy is compared to the status quo. Minarchism is really only a step behind anarchism in terms of radicalism. What makes minarchists think that anarchism is so unpractical that it will never be implemented, but minarchism will be?
Of course I hold out hope that we will see a free society in my lifetime (be it minarchist or anarchist), but the pragmatist in me understands that the possibility is remote. This is partially why I can’t take the arguments dismissing anarchism on grounds of practicality very seriously.
I suspect what is really going on is that minarchists who make this argument have extremely high time preferences. They want to believe that they will see liberty in their lifetimes and see electoral politics as the only way of making that happen.
I think a more sober assessment of the political landscape would lead one to conclude that isn’t likely. Before any major political change can take place, there must be a massive change in public opinion. Without such a change, any resources devoted to electoral politics will likely go to waste. If anything could be labeled as impractical, it’s trying to change the government without first changing public opinion.
The good news is society is making progress in the right direction, albeit slow progress. We will get there eventually. In the mean time, it’s hard to see why we should consider minarchism more politically realistic than anarchism given the reality of the task in front of us. The way I see it is if we’re in it for the long haul, we may as well pursue truth along the way.