The 'Solution' of the Statists Is Actually a Non Sequitur

People frequently accept the state-sponsored 'solution' to a perceived problem as the logical course of action. However, this 'solution' is a non sequitur.

A non sequitur is a simple but common logical mistake in which a presumed conclusion does not necessarily follow from the preceding discussion. The phrase "non sequitur" means "it does not follow" in Latin. Simply said, a non sequitur is an unfounded assumption. There is an assumption that there is a connection between the points of argument and the conclusion when there isn't.


This type of thinking error is more widespread than we may realize. Something that appears to be clearly related to our argument might not be. The non sequitur is a subset of the question-begging fallacy, which occurs when an argument or statement arbitrarily presupposes what it is trying to establish. The logical fallacy in question-begging, including non sequiturs, is that something is unjustified, not invalid or inconsistent.

What Is the Statist Non Sequitur?

The statist non sequitur is when there is a problem and then statism is said to be the solution. In most cases, it is made up of a statement or a loaded question, and it assumes that the state has to come up with a "solution" for everyone.

The first and most important example of this is the way the state justifies itself in general. "If men were angels, there would be no need for government." Isn't this a clever idea? It just moves the problem to a new place. Given that humans can make mistakes and be dishonest, an outside source of accountability is needed. The unjustified assumption is that this accountability must come from the political state, which is run by humans with power. He thinks that if Madison is right about humans, his conclusion is a little worse than it should be. This is the core of the statist non sequitur, which can be used in a lot of different ways.

Madison did not know. He agreed that there was a problem with a government where "men rule over men." Madison thought that the government could control the people it was supposed to be in charge of, then control itself. People don't have self-control, which is why there is a state in the first place, but that doesn't change when political power is added.

Government and Monopoly

The next example of this fallacy is about monopoly. This is a very similar fallacy. The problem is that there is a monopoly, and the "solution" is to use state power. Again, the problem hasn't been solved, but it has been moved. In this case, government is a monopoly, so what they're trying to do is the root of the problem. This shows that the argument itself isn't valid, but the question-begging part is the illogical step from the problem of monopoly to the solution of the state. Civil government does not mean a monopolistic political state. This doesn't mean that a state monopoly is the best way to stop monopoly.

This shows how common the mistake of elementary circular reasoning is in general, and how common the statist non sequitur is in particular. There are many examples. I say that the statist non sequitur, in all its different forms, is the most common fallacy argument that libertarians use. If we can recognize it, we can then more easily see it for what it is. Because question-begging is so common, and because the Hobbesian modern nation-state model has been the standard way to think about government for centuries, the statist non sequitur is very easy to understand.

Reverse Statist Non Sequitur

"Without government, who would build the roads?" "It is amazing that it has been easier to get people to send their kids to fight and die in wars, pay a lot of taxes, shoulder a lot of debt from the government, and watch politicians be bad than it has been to get people to believe that roads could be built without the state."

It goes even further because when someone says something about the state that has nothing to do with roads, they often use that as a reason for the state. Why are roads important in the Iraq War? People often ask, "What has the Federal Reserve to do with the fire department in my town?" Because we are taxed to pay for all of these government services and actions, and because we use the roads, this doesn't mean that we agree with the state's illegal actions. Without government, there would also be no roads.

Frédéric Bastiat recognized the statist non sequitur in the French socialists of his time,

Socialism, like the old policy from which it emanates, confounds Government and society. And so, every time we object to a thing being done by Government, it concludes that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of education by the State—then we are against education altogether. We object to a State religion—then we would have no religion at all. We object to an equality which is brought about by the State then we are against equality, etc., etc. They might as well accuse us of wishing men not to eat, because we object to the cultivation of corn by the State. (emphasis added)

Bastiat found a lot of mistakes in this way of thinking. He said that "government" and "state" are not the same thing as "society," and they don't make up "society." Assuming so, people can borrow money from the concept of "society," which is free and peaceful human social interaction and cooperation, in order to justify the state, because they think of them as the same thing. As Murray N. Rothbard said, "The great non sequitur committed by supporters of the State is to jump from the need for society to the need for the State." 187: (Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, page 187).

In most cases, when one is dealing with the statist non sequitur, one is left trying to explain a complicated set of ideas about how, in the absence of the state, something could be provided (e.g., roads and security services; police and courts; money; care for children; etc.) rather than pointing out that the statist non sequitur is a fallacy. As long as there are creative ways to solve the question of how these goods and services can be provided without the state, the unjustified presuppositions should not be forgotten. Before going on a long apologetic about how something might still work without the state, it's important to point out the logical leap.

That statist non sequitur also limits what can happen to the imaginations of the people who are involved. Because someone couldn't think of how something could or would be provided, it doesn't mean that it isn't possible. "I can't think of how there could be any kind of space program without NASA." Whether or not someone can imagine this has nothing to do with whether or not it is possible. In most cases, people are OK with this, but they don't always do it when it comes to the state. "I can't think of how..." doesn't make sense with "Therefore, the state must..." The statist non sequitur goes a step further than simply assuming that something is impossible without the help of the state. When someone can't think of how something would work without the state, they think that the state has to do it.

This is a bad thing to think. People who don't know something are not guilty of anything. It's fine to say that we don't know how a lot of things work or how something that hasn't been made or used yet would work. Suppose that something that hasn't been done is impossible even though it hasn't been done yet (e.g., man landing on the moon in the 1800s). The danger of the statist non sequitur is that it admits that it doesn't know or hasn't thought of all the possibilities, but then says that the state should use some kind of coercive violence to solve the problem.

Examples—Spot the Statist Non Sequitur

Whether the first statement or premise is correct or not, the non sequitur fallacy involves an unjustified or arbitrary inference from the premise. In a non sequitur fallacy the premise, true or otherwise, has no necessary connection to the conclusion. The problem is usually in the “therefore.” Below are several examples (many more could be added) whose premise or concern may illicit more or less sympathy but which all involve a form of the statist non sequitur. See if you can spot the error of question-begging in each example that assumes statism as the solution.

“I care about kids and poor people. [Therefore, the welfare state.]”

“But don’t we have an obligation to help the poor?”

“Healthcare is a right. [Therefore, it is to be managed by the state.]”

Free speech has limits; for example, you can’t yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.”

“Don’t want to pay taxes? Move to Somalia.”

“There has to be someone to regulate safety and quality standards.”

“Capitalism is inherently unstable. [Therefore, a central banking monopoly].”

“[Assad, Saddam Hussein, Dictator X] gassed his own people. [Therefore, war and the warfare state].”

“So, we should just do nothing?”

“What about America’s allies?”

“How else would Hitler have been stopped if not by war? [Therefore, since the current situation corresponds to Hitler’s military adventurism, the United States must intervene militarily.]”

“I want to live in a society where people are educated, and a lot of parents do not have access to alternatives. [Therefore, the state must tax to provide mandatory public school systems].”

“[Loaded question:] So you don’t want people to be educated?”

“We live in a society!”

“America is systemically racist. [Therefore, political elites must be granted greater power in order to address this problem.]”

“How else would we have parks?”

“The existence of billionaires is a policy failure.”

“We need government to regulate capitalism, maintain safety and quality standards, prevent monopolies.”

“Follow the science.”

“If you don’t like it, leave!”

“You pay taxes!”

“You use government services!”

“You follow the laws!”

“I don’t condone people doing X.”

“There should be a law against X!”

Conclusion

One would expect that it is self-evident how frequently individuals accept the default of statism or the necessity of it as an implicit presupposition. Arguably, question-begging—of which the non sequitur is a subcategory—is the most prevalent logical error, and given that the Hobbesian modern nation-state model has been the default for nearly four centuries, it is natural that this logical error would combine with statism to produce the statist non sequitur. Having said that, it should be challenged for the fallacy and even danger that it is.

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