Libertarians often get caught up in internet debates which test both their knowledge and their rhetoric. An unfortunate truth is that the task of proving liberty is volumetrically larger than that of defend the state – you have to show in-depth knowledge on why all the different government interventions have to be stripped away, while the opponent can wave a magic wand and claim that government will solve a problem. The libertarian, then, has to be well-versed in economics, history, and philosophy, while the opposition can say that we just need to “elect the right people into power.” I’d like to let you in on a public secret: The Socratic Method.
Monthly Archives: December 2012
Perhaps you wrote a letter to Santa Claus when you were a child. “Dear Santa”, you wrote. You poured your energies into it in the expectation of receiving many blessings. When you finished, you mailed it away to be read by the magical man who can deliver all the world’s toys in a single night. But, alas, you never heard back from him. You are to rest assured that he got your letter – he reads all the letters of all the little girls and boys. Of course, your parents will have read it and taken upon themselves the costs of providing the real toys that you actually received on Christmas day.
Santa, in many ways, is an excellent metaphor of the popular conception of government. It’s how government wants to be perceived. All-capable and hyper-competent, government accomplishes feats that surpass the ability of the individual to even conceive of doing through non-governmental means. Governments build eternal, awe-inspiring pyramids. They launch men to the Moon. They build massive dams. They implement vaccination regimes affecting vast, uncountable populations. A touch of the nose and a wink, and it’s done.
Herbert identifies the common ground between religious and non-religious voluntaryists: principled opposition to the substitution of force for reason. He then goes on to show the futility of suppressing opinion with force. It stunts the progress of thought by denying to those on the correct side of a question the opportunity to air out the arguments against those on the wrong side of a question. Thus, even when force happens – by accident – to be employed in the “correct” direction, that is, to the suppression of an incorrect view, it still cannot help but obstruct human progress.
There are some who reject the doctrine of soul and would not, therefore, base their resistance to State power on any religious ground. But apart from this great difference that may exist between us, we are united by the same detestation of State power, and by the same perception of the evils that flow from it.
We both see alike that placing unlimited power — as we do now — in the hands of the State means degrading men from their true rank. It means the narrowing of their intelligence, the encouragement of intolerance and contempt for each other, and therefore the encouragement of sullen, bitter strife, the tricks of the clever tongue, practised on both the poor and rich crowd, and the evil arts of flattery and self-abasement in order to conciliate votes and possess power. It means the excessive and dangerous power of a very able press, which keeps parties together, and too often thinks for most of us, the repression of all those healthy individual differences that make the life and vigour of a nation, the blind following of blind leaders, the reckless rushing into national follies, like the unnecessary Boer War–that might have been avoided, as many of us believe, with a moderate amount of prudence, patience and good temper–just because the individuals of the nation have lost the habit of thinking and acting for themselves, have lost control over their own actions, and are bound together by party-ties into two great child-like crowds. It means also the piling up of intolerable burdens of debt and taxation — the constant and rather mean endeavour to place the heaviest of these burdens on others, whoever the others may be — the carelessness, the high-handedness, the insolence of those who spend money compulsorily taken, the flocking together of the evil vultures of many kinds where the feast is spread, the deep poisonous corruption, such as is written in broad characters over the government of some of the large towns in the United States–a country bound to us by so many ties of friendship and affection, and in which there is so much to admire; a corruption, that in a lesser degree has soiled the reputation of some of the large cities of the Continent, and is already to be found here and there sporadically existing amongst us in our own country. And it only too surely means at the end of it all the setting up of some absolute form of government, to which men fly in their despair, as a refuge from the intolerable evils they have brought upon themselves; a refuge that after a short while is found to be wholly useless and impotent, and is then violently broken up, perhaps amidst storm and bloodshed, to be once more succeeded by the long train of returning evils, from which men had sought to escape in the vain hope that more power would heal the evils that power had brought upon them.
Or, “why a misformulation of Constitutional rights has restricted, rather than liberated, the natural rights of man”
Initially, the Founders formulated the Constitution not to delineate the rights of the individual, but to restrict the powers of government. Soon thereafter, it was decided that the Constitution indeed needed to list some individual rights, so greedy was government for power. Hence, the Bill of Rights promised the American public a certain set of rights. Unfortunately, this was a hodge-podge solution that failed to address the fundamental reasons behind those rights – the right to your body and property . Moreover, the misunderstanding of these rights has led to supposedly pro-liberty people taking on some very strange positions. I address a few of these rights here and hope the reader can apply the logic elsewhere.
by Michael Eliot
With all the (nauseating) discussion I have seen on the interwebs and in real life, back and forth, about what could be done, should be done, will be done in response to yet another horrific school massacre, I would like to paint a picture of possible responses were we living in a free society. And the interesting thing is that everyone gets to have their own way.
A free society means the end of politics as we know it, because ‘politics’ means the majority choosing a policy to force on the minority, which the latter must then endure. By contrast, in a free society, which would be marked by the sovereignty of individual decision-making more than any other factor, each family would be free to pursue whichever strategy they felt the most efficacious in achieving their desired goal.
In response to this most recent shooting, several policy prescriptions have been put forth from all quarters. There are those who want to further restrict gun ownership and availability. Some feel that only on-site protection along the lines of armed guards in schools can prevent further tragedies. And there are those who want to focus on improving mental-health-care availability. I’m sure there are others, but let’s focus on these three main responses.
We at the Voluntaryist Reader have begun a series giving weekly installments of Auberon Herbert’s A Plea for Voluntaryism (part one) to the end of presenting to the world what, exactly, voluntaryism is. But there are those on the blogosphere and elsewhere who attack voluntaryism and I want to give an answer to Francois Tremblay, in particular, who has regularly criticized voluntaryism. His latest post on the subject is here. Tremblay immediately states that not only is voluntaryism a target, it is among “the roots that support the institutionalized evils around us.”
This is puzzling since – as voluntaryists – we not only see voluntaryism as precisely the opposite, we actually define it as such. Voluntaryism is the opposition to aggression in any form, whether institutionalized or not. The only possibilities are that either a) we are terribly confused or b) we are devious liars.
In a very primitive society, the situation where one person is significantly stronger than another creates the potential for bullying. The bully enjoys a surfeit of rights vis-à-vis others weaker than himself. Simple verbal dispute in a primitive society does not provide any means to solve this problem. Other, more sophisticated social structures – such as the division-of-labor and specialization in the production of security – must emerge before the bully problem can be solved.
However, it is important to note that the bully problem is not solved by government, contrary to common belief. Hoppe ridicules the State:
Moreover, as ultimate judge the state is also a monopolist of taxation, i.e., it can unilaterally, without the consent of everyone affected, determine the price that its subjects must pay for the state’s provision of (perverted) law. However, a tax-funded life-and-property protection agency is a contradiction in terms: an expropriating property protector. [Emphasis added]
Hans Hoppe – State or Private Law Society