To take a man's property without his consent, and then to infer his consent because he attempts, by voting, to prevent that property from being used to his injury, is a very insufficient proof of his consent to support the Constitution. It is, in fact, no proof at all
A recent article by Robert Locke on Libertarianism has been the catalyst for an ongoing discussion between Patrick McClarty, Ian, Mike and myself, among others. Patrick has left a comment to my latest defense which has inspired yet another long-winded response on my part. This post is an attempt to elaborate on basic principles, with the help of Lysander Spooner. Besides, it's Easter Friday and I'm bored.
The main objections from Patrick and others against libertarians seem to boil down to the following: People are essentially brutes, who cannot be trusted to make wise decisions; without the state, we would have a lawless society made up of roaming armed hordes. Further, without state charity and services, society would be poorer and the misfortunate neglected. Thus, taxation, checks on the free market and state laws to protect us are desirable and necessary for prosperity and peace. Essentially, a kind of utilitarian, the ends justifies the means approach.
The inherent nature of man that emerges from such reasoning is that people are essentially brutes, at best illogical, who cannot be trusted to make wise decisions, although they can somehow be trusted to elect just governments.
Libertarians do not view people in this way, although they do not deny that there are bad and stupid people in the world. But from the fact that there are bad and stupid people in the world, it does not follow that we need government. Further, from the fact that there is good, it does not follow that it is the result of government.
In fact, the presence of bad people in the world is all the more reason to get rid of governments, which tend to be made up of leeches and nannies, with the apparent sanction of voters. As I have asked before, if most people need 'guidance', then how can they be trusted to make sound decisions on election day? And even if the legislators have the best will in the world, how can they be said to be endowed with the godlike ability to choose for us all, including the ones who did not vote for the popular regime? How can my neighbour's needs or desires be said to justly trump mine? By what standard and by what right?
. . . the act of voting cannot properly be called a voluntary one on the part of any very large number of those who do vote. It is rather a measure of necessity imposed upon them by others, than one of their own choice [. . . .] In truth, in the case of individuals, their actual voting is not to be taken as proof of consent, even for the time being. On the contrary, it is to be considered that, without his consent having even been asked a man finds himself environed by a government that he cannot resist; a government that forces him to pay money, render service, and forego the exercise of many of his natural rights, under peril of weighty punishments. He sees, too, that other men practice this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further, that, if he will but use the ballot himself, he has some chance of relieving himself from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own. In short, he finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot, he may become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he has no other alternative than these two. In self- defense, he attempts the former. His case is analogous to that of a man who has been forced into battle, where he must either kill others, or be killed himself. Because, to save his own life in battle, a man takes the lives of his opponents, it is not to be inferred that the battle is one of his own choosing.Lysander Spooner - excerpt from No Treason -
The Constitution of No Authority
"Lisa, if all people were reasonable beings like yourself, I have no doubt that libertarianism would take off, but you aren't representative of the most deadly members that exist in any society . . . in a libertarian society, there will be ample opportunity to take advantage of a power vacuum that will emerge."Again, the assumption here is that most people are unreasonable and irrational. Indeed, Patrick seems to be saying that a society of libertarians would be a society of terrorists. Libertarians oppose the use of force except in the act of self-defense. Is it really true that most people get along in society simply because of the presence of the state and its police force? Is it not in people's 'best interest' to get along, which is the only means to a peaceable, just and prosperous society? The real checks and balances in a society come about when people must accept personal responsibility for their actions and thus learn to comport themselves accordingly. Theft and slothfulness should not be encouraged or rewarded. In a libertarian society, peaceful people will have the means available to defend themselves against wrong-doers - i.e. property violators. In a state run society, force is sanctioned by governmental law and the means of defense and the ability to make laws and contracts are concentrated in the hands of a few. Democracy in the form that we know it frightens me for that reason. The will of 'the collective' results in a tyranny. Exactly no one is responsible, for it is not clear who voted for the government in the first place and the government being the abstract entity that it is results in the further diffusion of responsibility and makes it possible for evil-doers to justify their actions behind the curtain of the state - the familiar refrain: 'I was merely following orders and it is in your best interest besides. It is the will of the people.'
There can be no compromise when it comes to governments, for no matter the size and degree of power, the state must necessary use force to attain its goals. Unless membership is voluntary, there can be no justification for taking money from another against their will. There is no way to limit government except by refusing to comply completely - and the market will never be truly free until individuals are entrusted to make their own decisions and exchanges. What are the 'proper checks and limitations'? How are these determined? Once again, if the electorate is unfit to make their own decisions free from force, then how can they be trusted to 'choose' just legislators whose very existence depends on the use of force?
All political power, so called, rests practically upon this matter of money. Any number of scoundrels, having money enough to start with, can establish themselves as a "government"; because, with money, they can hire soldiers, and with soldiers, and with soldiers extort more money; and also compel general obedience to their will.Lysander Spooner - excerpt from No Treason
The Constitution of No Authority
Which brings me to another common argument put forth by many that oppose libertarianism: a society without government would be grim, limited and lacking in charity. I see plenty of voluntary charity going on right now - it cannot properly be said that I wouldn't donate to cancer research if it wasn't for government and state education. There is plenty and love and caring too, also not a result of government. Society, far from being poorer without the state, would be more prosperous. Think of the wasted revenue and capital, effected through government spending, with money unjustly appropriated, that could have been spent elsewhere. My neighbour might be better off if I had more money to support his particular endeavour. As it is, in Canada, we have an excess of flags and golf balls and a serious lack of doctors and common sense. Such unjustified waste makes us all poorer. The state would like to create a great big collective family, but the 'will of the collective' is an abstraction that necessarily ends in tyranny, despite the appearance of stability in a given nation. If I wasn't forced to pay for other people's children and health via the monopoly of public health care and the universal day care program, maybe I could afford to have children myself and have some left over for charity besides.
I may want to help my neighbour, as many others might wish to do too, but it is not required of me. The only obligations I have are to respect the property rights of others and the conditions of any contracts freely entered into. Yes, the world can be a sad place, and no matter what kind of society we have, people will always suffer. But believing that governments are the only way to bring about a prosperous society is utopian and indeed just plain illogical.
Taxation is theft. If it isn't' right to steal, than it's not right to take someone's else's money in the name of 'effecting good'. Does this not reek of the Robin Hood Scenario, where the people who are to receive the spoils are determined by the thief? The majority of people wouldn't pay taxes to the state if they weren't staring into the barrel of a gun with an iron cell looming in the background. Sure, I may 'benefit' from services paid for through appropriated funds, but it does not follow that I am acting in a just manner. Instead, it could be said that I have a moral responsibility to avoid paying taxes - through my compliance, I encourage and consent to the plunder of others. I repeat a point I made in my last post: "The burden of labour might be heavier on those that remain in a concentration camp if I escape, but should I thereby remain a prisoner?" I'm not asking for a 'free lunch' as Patrick seems to think, nor do I avoid paying my taxes. Most importantly, I am not allowed the option of hiring private contractors for many goods and services. Dismantling the government monopoly would prevent others from having a 'free lunch' at my expense. I don't ask other people to look after me for free, and I demand the same respect in return.
The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: "Your money, or your life." And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.Lysander Spooner - excerpt from No Treason -
The Constitution of No Authority
Friday, March 25, 2005
Posted by Lisa Turner on Friday, March 25, 2005