Every once in a while, it is important to go back and look over some of the stances and arguments you’ve used to see if they still hold up with the knowledge you’ve gained over time. It’s key to ensure that when you find an argument that doesn’t quite stand up anymore that you toss it away and adjust accordingly. Arguing for things “while the state exists” is one of them for me.
We’ve seen this argument in dozens of different ways in the liberty movement, and the results are always a little strange. This argument leads to anarchists supporting government-enforced borders, free-market capitalists backing UBI or other forms of welfare, and even communists supporting government interference into the wages and conditions of the common laborer.
The reasons this particular argument is a bad one are. To start, there is the Appeal to Tradition fallacy that is at play with it. By saying, for example, “we need to maintain the border while the state still exists, and keep funding I.C.E so they can do their job as well” we are staking a claim on the status quo. We are, in effect, saying that until we achieve absolute anarchy that things should stay as they are. If we are, at our cores, against the status quo of the state, then, we need to advocate to that effect.
Another issue with this argument is how open-ended it is. If the state existing is the only qualifier that we are using to endorse a particular policy, tax, or form of government action we are, in turn, leaving the doors open to practically any form of government action. One could just as easily say “while we have a state they should protect the citizens and enact red flag laws.” “While the state exists they should be using that power to restrict what businesses can do to the rest of us.” “While the state exists it should be proactive in protecting us through active use of military force abroad.” The list of how this weak qualifier can be used goes on, and it puts these arguments on even ground with each other; which is shaky, to say the least.
I am an incrementalist as far as anarchy is concerned. I do believe that a complete and full repeal of absolutely everything all at once would cause far more harm than good and that there are better/more strategic ways to go about reducing the state. I also believe that, when arguing with people that are pro-state, that immediately jumping to the end result of fully abolishing everything rarely is effective in changing the opposition’s mind. That all said, using the particular phrase as part of your argumentation puts you on weak grounds for the positions you might have. By all means, you can support keeping borders up until we reduce other aspects of the state (or other such positions). When we’re arguing about it though, change the approach. Don’t fall back on “while the state exists” when you could be shifting the argument towards the things you believe need to be repealed first for removing borders to work.