Tag Archives: taxation

Liberty and Property: Two Sides of the Same Coin

This is part 3 of a multi-part reproduction of Auberon Herbert’s A Plea for Voluntaryism. Part 2 is here.

Herbert discusses the intimate link between liberty and property. You cannot love liberty and undermine property rights. He says, “property is … the crystallized form of free faculties.” Without liberty, the individual is reduced to a slave, a robot, an automaton, a mere cog in a machine. Happiness and flourishing are impossible under conditions of containment that deprive the individual of the full expression of his higher faculties. But it is property that preserves for the individual the fruits of this expression. Thus, without property, these expressions are fruitless; which is the same as to say the individual really has no freedom at all.

Delacroix – Liberty leading the people

Nothing can be well and rightly done, nothing can bear the true fruit, until you become deeply and devotedly in love with personal liberty, consecrating in your hearts the great and sacred principle of self-ownership and self-direction. That great principle must be our guiding star through the whole of this life’s pilgrimage.

Away from its guiding we shall only continue to wander, as of old, hopelessly in the wilderness. For its sake we must be ready to make any and every sacrifice. It is worth them all–many times worth them all. For its sake you must steadily refuse all the glittering gifts and bribes which many politicians of both parties eagerly press upon you, if you will but accept them as your leaders, and lend them the power which your numbers can give.

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The Futility of Quashing Dissent

This is part 2 of a multi-part reproduction of Auberon Herbert’s A Plea for Voluntaryism. Part 1 is here.

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.

Dore – Destruction of Leviathan

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.

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Viet Cong’s Libertarian Appeal

Reading Vietnam at War by Mark Bradley, which is a brief but excellent survey of the period of Vietnamese decolonization (1945-1975) from the point of view of the Vietnamese, I encountered a particularly interesting passage:

“By some estimates the NLF controlled as much as half the population in southern Vietnam by 1963.

The reasons so many people came to support the Front so rapidly varied. For many peasants, the Diem government failed to assure a minimal level of well being and safety for their families while the NLF appeared to do so. Middle, poor, and landless peasants (trung, ban, and co nong) found little to like in Diem’s land reform efforts. In deference to the regime’s landlord (dia chu) base of support, it only redistributed land when holdings exceeded 250 acres, forced those who received land to pay for it, and tolerated land rents at 25 to 40 per cent of output. By contrast the NLF’s land reform programme avoided the excesses of the northern land reform in the mid 1950s and returned to the moderate DRV policies of the 1940s. It set maximum rents at 15 per cent, limited total landholding to 15 acres, and redistributed land at a nominal cost. Similarly, the Diem government’s regressive tax policy protected wealthy interests while the NLF’s more progressive taxation, a return to earlier norms based on the ability to pay, eased the burden on rural peasants.”

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