Taking Responsibility

George W. Bush has taken responsibility for the failures of the federal government's response to Hurrican Katrina.

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do it's job right, I take responsibility," Bush said.

A couple of months ago, I asked my local Kinkos to separate out and bind individual chapters of a large textbook. They accidently destroyed the book. So they paid me back for the book and on top of that gave me a gift certificate for the inconvenience. They took responsibility. When someone is found guilty of violent crime, he is made to take responsibility by doing hard time. "Taking responsibility" usually means, in part, facing some negative consequences for one's actions.

What does it mean when a politician "takes responsibility"? Janet Reno took "full responsibility" for Waco which meant that nothing of consequence happened to her. Similarly, Bush has "taken responsibility" for the federal response to Katrina. But as Patri said below,

He is a second-term president. The rest of his life will consist of $25,000 speeches, bestselling memoirs, and spending the loot he accumulated as head thug. He is not accountable to the voters, or to anyone else for his performance.

There's no responsibility of any sort being taken by Bush.

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Charlie said: "Michael: if,

Charlie said: "Michael: if, at this point, with the number of times Bush has outmaneuvered his critics, you’re still recycling the old “Bush is dumb” trope, I don’t think it’s his intellectual capacity that’s at issue."

My intellectual capacity would be the issue if I was trying to effectively rule the US. But I'm not, and one of the reasons I'm not is that I know I'm not smart enough. The critics Bush has outmaneuvered aren't that smart either. What they all seem to have in common, though, is something Hayek called "The Fatal Conceit". I'm smart enough to avoid that.

Charlie (CO) From

Charlie (CO)

From dictionary.com:

Responsiblity: 1) The state, quality, or fact of being responsible.

Responsible: 1) Liable to be required to give account, as of one's actions or of the discharge of a duty or trust.
2) Involving personal accountability or ability to act without guidance or superior authority: a responsible position within the firm.

So you're saying that when you hold someone accountable for an action/event which they have claimed responsibility for, you aren't imposing consequences on a failure to uphold your responsibility? And if you don't hold them accountable via consequences, taking responsibility means what, exactly?

Charlie, It would seem that

Charlie,

It would seem that you are seriously confused. I have not argued (at any point) that FEMA had the lead role and failed, or that it should have a greater role because of this.

Rad, Of course you can. If I

Rad,

Of course you can. If I put a knife to your throat and demand the money in your wallet, then I am robbing you of your money, even if it is true that you would have given the money willingly (say I’m homeless and desperate, and you’re a generous sort).

This begs enough questions that I’m hardly sure where to get started. Your objection here is that a choice cannot be free as long as there is some implicit threat to your well-being hanging over your head. I can’t resist pointing out that this is precisely the Marxist critique of laissez-faire capitalism. None of your choices can possibly be free as long as you know that failure to participate in the market results in starvation. Real consent to, say, the lowest paying jobs is possible only when there is no proverbial knife to my throat, eh? I’d submit that if you don’t find the argument compelling against laissez-faire, then you lack a really good reason for finding it compelling against taxes. Though of course there is always the, “But I like this kind of coercion” defense.

More to the point, though, it’s simply false to say that the mere existence of a threat undermines real consent. I can, after all, consent to systems and not just to individual transactions. I consent to pay my taxes but only on the condition that we all pay them. That’s what pretty much all non-libertarians say, as well. And even some libertarians (see Nozick and Hayek again). Knowing that some will likely cheat, though, I consent to some outside authority to enforce the agreement. You might check out, say, Locke’s Second Treatise on this score.

Even if you don’t buy any of that, your claim still doesn’t follow. There is quite a lot of literature on overdetermined causes. My choices can still be free even if I cannot possibly do otherwise. The most famous case here has you implanting a device in my head that, when activated, forces me to shoot a particular person. The device is activated only if I decide not to shoot that person. In other words, whatever I decide, I will still shoot the person in question. But if the device never activates, I still killed the person in question freely. If I had planned to give you money anyway, and you then put a knife to my throat, you’ve simply overdetermined the action. Your knife isn’t what motivated my action. The fact that it was there doesn’t itself imply anything about freedom. My act is unfree only if I acted because the knife was there.

Even if you believe (as you should not) that robbery stops being robbery when the victim would have consented to pay had she been asked, it is still quite safe to assume that there is a very large portion of tax “revenues” that would not have been turned over without the threat of force, and thus a substantial portion (taken from non-libertarians as well as libertarians) that is robbed.

This again begs the question, though maybe you’re not aware that there is a question here to be begged. You essentially dismiss, without argument, the relevance of hypothetical consent and argue (or assert at any rate) for explicit or actual consent. There are, however, all sorts of problems with actual consent as a sole consent model, one of the most obvious being that for all sorts of actions, it is simply impossible to get actual consent. When I break a lunch date with you in order to assist in an emergency, I can do so morally because I know that you would have consented had you been in possession of all the facts and had you been behaving rationally. Actual consent leaves me hostage to my ability to actually get your consent when I need it.

Hypothetical consent, on the other hand, has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. I need not actually run around taking polls before I act, so that’s a pretty serious plus. OTOH, it does imply that I might ignore your actual dissent when your dissent is irrational or based on an incomplete set of facts. Personally, I don’t find that to be so terribly distasteful. I’m not all that convinced that your bad decisions have so much worth that I must respect all of them. Actually, let me be clear here. I think that your self-regarding bad decisions are yours alone. If you want to smoke crack while eating sheep brains and fucking strangers without a condom, then go right ahead and have a great time. Your other-regarding bad decisions, though, are fair game.

Again, too, the fact that lots of revenues would not have been turned over without the threat of force strikes me as pretty much irrelevant, since once again, it’s possible to consent to systems and not just to individual acts. Plenty of libertarians think that I can consent to, say, police who then force me to, say, keep my contracts. Perhaps I wouldn’t have kept the contract without the threat of force, but that hardly undermines the legitimacy of the contract.

Maybe some subset of those acts of violence were justified by the ends that were achieved, and maybe they weren’t; but when the policies you have in mind were accomplished by means of (among other things) the draft, an active military alliance with Stalin’s terror-empire, the incineration of millions of people and hundreds of cities with napalm and atomic bombing, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the threat of global nuclear holocaust prolonged over decades, et cetera, et cetera, it is frankly grotesque to describe the consequentialist case for the policies, without any qualification and without any supporting evidence, as “sure.”

Recall that your initial suggestion was that governments don’t do anything that is, on balance, worthwhile. If that really is your position, then this particular complaint is unfair. All that I’d really have to show is that there are some actions that are, on balance, a net positive. I’m not sure why I’d need to defend all of the particular methods used to achieve those ends (many of which I agree were terrible). The bar that you set was to show that on balance, government had done good things. Personally, I’m pretty skeptical that a whole series of PDAs really could have won WWII or prevented Soviet takeover. Not, at any rate, without positing that unrestricted capitalism would have created the necessary supply of magic wands.

Because terrorism is wrong. Other people’s lives are theirs, not yours, and you have no right at all to use them as bargaining chips.

I would be interested in hearing your strategy for nuclear deterrence. And it has to be a real strategy for the world in which we find ourselves, not some strategy that calls for step one to be “everyone becomes a liberal pluralist.” Certainly that would work, but I suspect that you’d need your magic wand again. How, exactly, would you have expected PDAs to prevent nuclear war?

Incidentally, I’m not so sure that all terrorism is always wrong. I don’t object to the French Resistance, despite it being essentially a band of terrorists. Nor do I think that the British bombing of German cities before the U.S. entered WWII is actually problematic, though it certainly was after Americans entered the war.

Also because being willing to carry out a threat of a massacre is vicious, and being unwilling to carry out a threat of a massacre makes the threat empty.

Yes, but the point here is that you have to know that I’m unwilling to carry out a threat of a massacre. I can be unwilling to carry it out (and thus avoid being vicious) while at the same time convincing you that I am willing to carry it out, which makes the threat effective. MAD is just game theory. It works because both sides are unsure what the other will do. Nothing about the game turns on my actually being willing to make one move or the other. All turns on the fact that you never really know whether I’m willing to make one move or the other.

One more note. The

One more note. The following:

Again, not to be too picky, but actually, you didn’t say this earlier. Your post simply says that the work that the federal government does is not beneficial without actually specifying whether or not you thought that none of it was beneficial or that it was on balance not beneficial. That’s why I prefaced the claim you quote with 'if'. It was an invitation to, you know, clarify your position.

is disingenuous. Firstly, because putting an "if" in front of an uncharitable reading of an interlocutor's position is still setting up a strawman if you at no point mention obvious and more charitable alternative readings of the claim. But secondly, and more directly, because you flatly stated, shortly thereafter: "Your claim was that none of the work of the federal government is morally legitimate," asserting a reading of my claim which was not only uncharitable but in fact incorrect.

Joe: I, for instance, pay

Joe:

I, for instance, pay some of those dollars, and I'm happy to do so. I can hardly be robbed when I pay up willingly, no?

Of course you can. If I put a knife to your throat and demand the money in your wallet, then I am robbing you of your money, even if it is true that you would have given the money willingly (say I'm homeless and desperate, and you're a generous sort). Similarly the background threat of violence exists in every dollar that the government lays its hands on, and whether or not you would willingly give the same amount of money in some remote possible world where the agency you're giving money to doesn't have the power to take it against your will.

Even if this counterfactual test were a good test for whether robbery is going on or not, though, the following would still be a non sequitur:

There really aren't that many people who think that governments are illegitimate and that all taxes are theft. That means that much of the money spent isn't stolen at all. So the issue is not whether good things are being done with stolen money. The issue really is whether good things are being done at all.

... since "the issue" of robbery and the use of stolen funds would remain if there were anyone who was forced to pay more money in taxes than they would have given voluntarily in a possible world where the government could not force them to pay up. If there were not a substantial mismatch between the amount that people were willing to pay voluntarily and the amount that can be extracted by confiscatory taxation, then there would hardly be any reason for the government to engage in it, would there? Even if you believe (as you should not) that robbery stops being robbery when the victim would have consented to pay had she been asked, it is still quite safe to assume that there is a very large portion of tax "revenues" that would not have been turned over without the threat of force, and thus a substantial portion (taken from non-libertarians as well as libertarians) that is robbed.

In either case there is no justification in trying to morally evaluate government "services" in abstraction from the robbery that is their necessary condition.

I must admit that I'm pretty surprised that you would think that preventing Soviet (or for that matter Nazi) domination of the West isn't really all that good a thing.

You're changing the target here. What you mentioned earlier was "active opposition to the Soviets" and "Winning WWII" (among several other martial feats), both of which are far more complex phenomena, in terms of both ends and means than simply "preventing Soviet domination of the West" and "preventing Nazi domination of the West." They were at the most one among many goals that people in the federal government wanted to achieve, some of them noble and others quite obviously not; and, since the federal government does not have a supply of magic wands with which to achieve its goals, they were necessarily tied to specific and brutal acts of violence in order to achieve them. Maybe some subset of those acts of violence were justified by the ends that were achieved, and maybe they weren't; but when the policies you have in mind were accomplished by means of (among other things) the draft, an active military alliance with Stalin's terror-empire, the incineration of millions of people and hundreds of cities with napalm and atomic bombing, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the threat of global nuclear holocaust prolonged over decades, et cetera, et cetera, it is frankly grotesque to describe the consequentialist case for the policies, without any qualification and without any supporting evidence, as "sure."

I'm not especially opposed to nuclear deterrence, though. I fail to see anything all that immoral about threatening to launch nuclear weapons in the event that you do it first. Actually launching them might be immoral, but the threat? Why is that so terrible?

Because terrorism is wrong. Other people's lives are theirs, not yours, and you have no right at all to use them as bargaining chips.

Also because being willing to carry out a threat of a massacre is vicious, and being unwilling to carry out a threat of a massacre makes the threat empty.

I'm pulling out of the

I'm pulling out of the conversation due to time constraints, not because I surrender anything I've said.

Also, Joe is cool.

Also, Joe is cool.

In some ways, I agree with

In some ways, I agree with Charlie that the amount of federal responsibility is not as great as it seems. On the other hand, I certainly disagree with his position that federal authorities did all that they could do or that they were in any way prepared for a disaster like this.

GWB has proven himself to be a very smart politician but a rather clueless leader. Which may be why so many people consider him a fraud. I have often opined he should be the poster child for intelligence failure.

MP: you need to buy a

MP: you need to buy a dictionary.

"responsibility |ri?späns??bil?t?| noun ( pl. -ties) the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone : women bear children and take responsibility for child care."

Michael: if, at this point, with the number of times Bush has outmaneuvered his critics, you're still recycling the old "Bush is dumb" trope, I don't think it's his intellectual capacity that's at issue.

Charlie (CO), Taking

Charlie (CO),

Taking responsibility, by definition, means accepting the consequences of failure. If all GWB is saying is "I will work to make the Federal government do better next time", this is NOT taking responsibility. You may think that FEMA did what it could and GWB is doing the right things in response to this tragedy. I disagree, but the argument is in the use of the phrase "I take responsibility", not who is to blame. Save the blame argument for another thread.

Charlie: "If every president

Charlie: "If every president had to resign every time the federal government wasn’t as effective at something as its critics think it should have been, they’d have to take official portraits with a polaroid camera."

You are mischaracterizing the situation. In this instance, it was the President himself, not his critics, that has said that the government didn't fully do it's job, and that he personally was responsible. That's not an instance of "the federal government wasn't as effective at something as its critics think it should have been." It wasn't as effective as Bush thinks it should have been. Now, should there be consequences associated with taking responsibility or not? If not, then taking responsibility is not praise-worthy or even meaningful really. If anything, it's fraudulent.

Contrary to your assertion, Bush did not take responsibility in the most effective way. The most effective way for Bush to take responsibility would be for him to resign. Recognizing his own incompetency. and removing himself from power in order to protect those he rules over, is really the only effective thing Bush can do.

Of course, he's neither smart enough, nor well-intentioned enough to care.

I reject your

I reject your characterization of the facts at hand- FEMA’s failure has been its collection of power & authority that it did not wield, and further in its denial of 3rd parties’ efforts to mitigate the disaster in New Orleans.

No, you reject the facts at hand in favor of your characterization.

There's a lengthy discussion at www.proteinwisdom.com, but in the very short form, FEMA had no authority to order evacuation, it was the Governor and the Mayor; FEMA didn't obstruct the Red Cross, it was the Governor and the mayor; FEMA is still not in charge of the response, as the Governor has, even yet, not allowed the effort to be fully federalized.

But let's assume for argument's sake that you were right: then your complaint would be that FEMA actually had the power to federalize the rescue effort over the Governor's objections, could have forced people to evacuate against their wishes, and would have military force to ensure its dictates were followed.

As I say, be careful what you wish for; as long as the complaint is still that FEMA did too little and didn't take control, you're setting up the political background for FEMA to get new powers that will permit it to take dictatorial control on the basis of an emergency declaration.

Oh, bullshit. He took

Oh, bullshit. He took responsibility in the most effective way: he said that he'll try to fix the failings of the federal government. You're falling into the same trap that the morons who said he had to resign now fell into. If every president had to resign every time the federal government wasn't as effective at something as its critics think it should have been, they'd have to take official portraits with a polaroid camera.

Regardless of what Bush

Regardless of what Bush thinks or says, libertarians ought to recognize that he and the state have no positive responsibilities to anyone. They bear no responsiblity for protecting you, regardless of what they claim.

Charlie, CO- Talk is cheap.

Charlie, CO-

Talk is cheap. As Jonathan pointed out, Reno "accepted responsibility" for Waco and yet nothing happened- she kept her job, nobody was fired, nothing was changed, lawsuits were denied, stonewalling remained the orders of the day, etc.

The ATF is still around, despite the debacle at Waco. I imagine that FEMA, after having screwed the pooch (and DHS in a larger sense) will also remain, and get a much bigger budget.

This is the usual problem to which Patri alluded- when things go bad in the government, the failures get more money and perks. When things go really bad in the marketplace, the company shuts down and its assets dispersed to other uses.

In what sense will Bush "make government better"? Will Chertoff lose his job? Will DHS be radically overhauled if not dismantled? Will FEMA's mission be radically overhauled?

THe answers are: (a) In no sense, (b) no, (c) no, and (d) no. DHS & FEMA will get more money, some minor figures will fall on their swords (best case scenario!), and we'll get a lot of extra legislation/regulation to "ensure this doesn't happen again", despite the fact that the disastrous response happened because of extra legislation/regulation.

Didn't Donald Rumsfeld "take

Didn't Donald Rumsfeld "take responsibility" for this or that Iraq debacle a couple years back?

Yeah, you're right: taking

Yeah, you're right: taking responsibility in this context means they're gonna do something.

Sadly, Calvin Coolidge is dead.

But if you're gonna bitch about the faiings of FEMA and DHS, you'd best remember that those "failings" have all been about not pushing the federal government into the equation, letting the states handle state responsibilities, and limiting FEMA's response to what FEMA does, ie, write checks.

If you think these failings ought to be dealt with, you're wishing for the feds to do more, not less.

You sure that's what you want to wish for?

Charlie, CO- I reject your

Charlie, CO-

I reject your characterization of the facts at hand- FEMA's failure has been its collection of power & authority that it did not wield, and further in its denial of 3rd parties' efforts to mitigate the disaster in New Orleans. I want them (FEMA/DHS) to not have that power/responsibility in the first place, in fact it would be a *good* thing if they were simply a call center to coordinate information, write checks, etc.

Secondly, assuming the counterfactual that there somehow was a push to "defederalize" disaster management and push it all down to the states, it still does not follow that if I think they failed they should do more. If they failed at being on the sidelines, they should be eliminated because they're essentially appendices with no function, not that I think there should be a greater federal role in all of this. Again, it's the fact that people expected a federal role (and only a federal role) in saving local & state bacon that we had the humanitarian disaster afterwards. Had state police not blocked relief from coming in, nor blocked the survivors from leaving on foot (or by boat, etc), a great deal of suffering would have been avoided (as well as the breakdown in civil order & society). That failure is squarely at the foot of government of all levels & stripes in this case.

Rad, _the fact, as an

Rad,

_the fact, as an ongoing condition, that every single dollar that goes into government work must be robbed, gives very good reason to say that the work the government does is, as an ongoing condition, morally illegitimate._

Again, I think that you're overstating the case here, pretty considerably, in fact. It's just false to say that "every single dollar" is robbed. I, for instance, pay some of those dollars, and I'm happy to do so. I can hardly be robbed when I pay up willingly, no? I suspect that there may be one or two other people out there who hold the same view. Indeed, I submit that there are probably a whole lot of people out there who agree that they ought to pay at least some taxes. There are even some libertarians who hold that view. I think they're called minarchists. This guy Nozick writes something about it, I think. Some Hayek dude seems okay with some taxes, too. Your claim manages at once to be both empirically false and theoretically pretty shaky.

So the fact is that lots of the money that the federal government spends isn't really stolen at all. There really aren't that many people who think that governments are illegitimate and that all taxes are theft. That means that much of the money spent isn't stolen at all. So the issue is not whether good things are being done with stolen money. The issue really is whether good things are being done at all.

_I claimed that the “work” the federal government does is, on the whole, not beneficial (which is after all all I need claim to justify the claim that a paralyzed federal government wouldn’t be a bad thing)._

Again, not to be too picky, but actually, you didn't say this earlier. Your post simply says that the work that the federal government does is not beneficial without actually specifying whether or not you thought that none of it was beneficial or that it was on balance not beneficial. That's why I prefaced the claim you quote with 'if'. It was an invitation to, you know, clarify your position.

I must admit that I'm pretty surprised that you would think that preventing Soviet (or for that matter Nazi) domination of the West isn't really all that good a thing. I'm not really sure what the argument for such a position would look like.

I do, however, resent the suggestion that I'm sanguine about napalming people. I'm pretty sure that I haven't at any point sanctioned killing hundreds of thousands of people via napalm or nuclear weapons. I'm not especially opposed to nuclear deterrence, though. I fail to see anything all that immoral about _threatening_ to launch nuclear weapons in the event that you do it first. Actually launching them might be immoral, but the threat? Why is that so terrible?

Scott: I disagree. I believe

Scott:

I disagree. I believe it was Mancur Olson who showed that government is preferable to roving bandit gangs. Something to do with the security of property rights, tragedies of the commons, et al, I imagine.

Even if this claim is true, it is not an answer to my objection. The AIDS pandemic is not, as of yet, as bad as the Black Death of the 14th century; that does not, by itself, make an argument in favor of a stable AIDS pandemic. Your claim compares two different types of rights-violations; that comparison may be accurate, but my original claim was not comparative in the first place.

An appeal to comparative benefits only cuts ice against my consequentialist objections, and in favor of a "stable" federal government, if you have some further lemmas to demonstrate that (1) the nearest possible worlds in which there isn't a stable federal government have a corresponding increase in "roving bandit gangs," and (2) the increase would be destructive enough to outweigh the benefits of a paralyzed federal government. But why the hell would you believe either (1) or (2)?

Further, an appeal to comparative benefits cuts no ice at all against the moral argument unless you have some further lemma to demonstrate that all moral arguments reduce to consequentialist arguments. Of course, that is no doubt a debate that lies beyond the scope of this comments thread, but it's there nevertheless.

Joe Miller:

Not to be overly picky, but nothing that you say here actually provides any evidence for the claim that the work of the federal government is morally illegitimate. You assert that the existence of the federal government is morally illegitimate (that's what the 'founded in naked usurpation, funded by massive robbery' part is doing). But that, if true, shows only that the federal government ought not exist. That, however, is a very different claim from the one that says that the work the federal government does is illegitimate.

There are two separate claims here: (1) that the federal government was founded in naked usurpation (cf. Spooner), and (2) that the federal government's work is all funded by massive robbery (cf. any libertarian at all, really). You're right to distinguish (a) the legitimacy of the federal government's existencefrom (b) the legitimacy of the work it does, and to point out that (1) bears mainly on (a) rather than (b). But I think you're quite wrong to suggest that (2) bears mainly on (a) rather than (b); the fact, as an ongoing condition, that every single dollar that goes into government work must be robbed, gives very good reason to say that the work the government does is, as an ongoing condition, morally illegitimate. (Why? Because giving people stolen loot is morally different from giving people stuff that you or they have a legitimate claim to. The latter is either generous or just; the former is predatory, and any "charity" or "generosity" involved is amoral sentimentality at best. I'll add that I think this is exactly the right understanding of your mafia case; the syndicate's "charitable" contributions are morally illegitimate, for precisely this reason. Whether they're "beneficial" on balance or not depends on whether or not you think morally illegitimate actions can ever be beneficial, and -- if you do -- whether the effects of the charity actually outweigh the effects of the robbery that is its necessary condition.)

It strikes me as pretty much just false if your claim is that the federal government has never done anything beneficial.

But I didn't claim that. I claimed that the "work" the federal government does is, on the whole, not beneficial (which is after all all I need claim to justify the claim that a paralyzed federal government wouldn't be a bad thing). There are many destructive enterprises that also do some little good or another, and many beneficial enterprises that also do some little harm or another, but all the same the destructive enterprises should be halted and the beneficial ones encouraged. On the other hand, I'm not nearly as sure as you are that the paradigm cases you cite are actually good examples of the federal government having done some good. (When evaluating consequences, for example, you seem much more sanguine than I am about the threat and practice of incinerating hundreds of thousands or millions of people with napalm and nuclear weapons. In any case the "Surely" in your conclusion has not by any means been earned.)

Perhaps I should have

Perhaps I should have modified my comment:

I assume stability is generally, ceteris paribus, a positive thing.

Rad, _A “stable” federal

Rad,

_A “stable” federal government is only a positive thing if the work that the federal government is doing is both (1) morally legitimate and (2) beneficial. Since the “work” that the federal government does is, in fact, neither – it is founded in naked usurpation, funded by massive robbery, and consists in senseless cruelty and destruction, there’s precious little reason to hold out for the virtues of stability in the post of capo di tutti capi._

Not to be overly picky, but nothing that you say here actually provides any evidence for the claim that the _work_ of the federal government is morally illegitimate. You assert that the _existence_ of the federal government is morally illegitimate (that's what the 'founded in naked usurpation, funded by massive robbery' part is doing). But that, if true, shows only that the federal government ought not exist. That, however, is a very different claim from the one that says that the work the federal government does is illegitimate.

Consider: my organized crime syndicate might very well donate large portions of its gains to helping orphans and the very poor in my community. That would make my crime syndicate illegitimate, but (at least part of) its work morally legitimate (and beneficial).

It strikes me as pretty much just false if your claim is that the federal government has _never_ done anything beneficial. I would think that, say, active opposition to the Soviets counts for something. Or maybe providing incentives to make it irrational for launching nuclear weapons. Or winning WWII. Or the Civil War, for that matter. Even the first Gulf War. Surely these are all both morally legitimate and beneficial.

Perhaps other entities could have accomplished those things, and perhaps they could have done so more efficiently. That, however, is a different question entirely. Your claim was that _none_ of the _work_ of the federal government is morally legitimate. That just ain't so.

"I assume stability to be

"I assume stability to be generally a positive thing."

A world government would enhance "stability", too.

Rad Geek referred to the

Rad Geek referred to the work done by the federal government, not all government. Realistically, the feds don't have much to do with repelling "roving gangs". That's a job for local police departments, whether of the competitive or noncompetitive varieties.

I disagree. I believe it

I disagree. I believe it was Mancur Olson who showed that government is preferable to roving bandit gangs. Something to do with the security of property rights, tragedies of the commons, et al, I imagine.

Scott: That position may

Scott:

That position may well be absurd. It, arguably, does not bode well for the stability of the system. I assume stability to be generally a positive thing.

A "stable" federal government is only a positive thing if the work that the federal government is doing is both (1) morally legitimate and (2) beneficial. Since the "work" that the federal government does is, in fact, neither -- it is founded in naked usurpation, funded by massive robbery, and consists in senseless cruelty and destruction, there's precious little reason to hold out for the virtues of stability in the post of capo di tutti capi.

That position may well be

That position may well be absurd. It, arguably, does not bode well for the stability of the system. I assume stability to be generally a positive thing.

Charlie (Colorado): If every

Charlie (Colorado):

If every president had to resign every time the federal government wasn't as effective at something as its critics think it should have been, they'd have to take official portraits with a polaroid camera.

You say that as if it were a bad thing.

So some scheme or another means that Presidents would have to resign often. This means that we wouldn't have any one President for a very long period of time. And then... what?

(In order to have a successful reductio ad absurdum, you have to point out at least one consequence of a position that is actually absurd...)