I have noticed a sizable debate and contention between two factions of anarchists beginning 9 months or so ago on YouTube. A debate of ethics and moral nihilism peppered with colorful words and total frustration. One of the core principles of anarchism both parties agree on is the notion that one size does not, can not and should not fit all. The Moral Nihilists extend this idea or principles into ethics.
And I agree to an extent qualified such that Ethics and Politics are to be separated as concepts. Ethics very much is centered toward the question of how a person ought to behave in relation to his or her own self. An ethical or moral guideline saying that one should count backwards from ten when one is angered may be an invaluable tool for a person of a volatile character but a waste of time for someone of a more passive character. Ethics may and even must vary because the values, preferences, and characteristics of each individual are just that; individual and unlike any other.
However in the domain of politics the assertion of one-size fits all is far more plausible and grounded in empirical fact. Many who disagree would say this opinion, especially if arrived at by a Rothbardian natural law, is a remnant of the gross superstation and lazy religiosity. I can follow the logic of the conclusion easily. Gods commanded a unified and collective code of conduct that was right without regard to the individuals own uniqueness. A law based on an apriority natural law would seem to be guilty of this imposition, but given a few more minutes I will demonstrate why this is not the case at all.
To do this I will draw from the philosophy of another anarchist philosopher as illuminated by yet another anarchist philosopher. Roderick Long analyzed the legal philosophy and came up with a conclusion I find interesting and hope that it is capable of bridging the gap between the more emergent and moral nihilist version of anarchy with the more ethics based approach; that is to show once again a priori approaches to issues based on human nature have no conflict with a more directly empirical approach.
Spooner also has a natural law approach, but one that differs from Rothbard. Spooner defines his natural law as those conditions whose rough application lead to or ought to lead to peace. What Long has implied from this is that all legal codes incorporate these conditions in a significant manner and not by accident, but as an essential element of law. Any society, even one ruled by tyrants requires that most people are at peace with one another most of the time. Law if interpreted merely by the words is liable to mean as many different things as there are possible denotations and combination of denotation of the words used. Such a state of affairs is unlikely to create peace and once again it is found universally necessary to any legal system to adopt of natural law or libertarian methodology of interpreting the meaning of the words found in the positive legal codes.
In brief it is that law cannot be known or understood without knowing what law ought to be. Spooner unlike Rothbard does not base his natural law philosophy on the nature of what man is, but what the essential nature of what Law is a it emerges times and time again in society after society both statist and stateless alike. He bases his system on the empirical observation of what the essence of law as a revealed time and again in every system of law man has ever known.
Why exactly Spooner's approach studying the emergent essence of law to closely match the conclusion of Rothbard’s political philosophy based on the nature of man as a ration creature is unclear to me. Perhaps it is a human drive for empathy or reciprocation. Perhaps some complex game theory or study of utility is necessary to fully explain it. Whatever the cause for congruence it demonstrates that Rothbard’s one size fits all to natural law and political rules should not be rejected on that basis because the empirical facts back up the notion that any legal institution must incorporate principle of natural law. Just as the Misesian a priori approach was verified by extensive empirical data, Rothbard’s approach is supported by those elements are always present in substantial parts of any legal system.