Friday, March 25, 2005

". . . like she finished her drink and started chewing on my ice"

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
Lysander Spooner

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

Patrick says:
"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.
[. . . .]
For this reason, whoever desires liberty, should understand these vital facts, viz.: 1. That every man who puts money into the hands of a "government" (so called), puts into its hands a sword which will be used against him, to extort more money from him, and also to keep him in subjection to its arbitrary will. 2. That those who will take him money, without his consent, in the first place, will use it for his further robbery and enslavement, if he presumes to resist their demands in the future. 3. That it is a perfect absurdity to suppose that any body of men would ever take a man's money without his consent, for any such object as they profess to take it for, viz., that of protecting him; for why should they wish to protect him if he does not wish they to do so? To suppose that they would do so, is just as absurd as it would be to suppose that they would take his money without his consent, for the purpose of buying food or clothing for him, when he did not want it.
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.
The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.
The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a "protector," and that he takes men's money against their will, merely to enable him to "protect" those infatuated travelers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful "sovereign," on account of the "protection" he affords you. He does not keep "protecting" you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.
Lysander Spooner - excerpt from No Treason -
The Constitution of No Authority


Shamrocks! said...


Once you start in on the personal insults "You don't seem to understand...." you've pretty much lost my attention. I never disrespected you and there is no reason for that.

I never said that people in general or libertarians are barbaric and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous. In fact, I specifically pointed to small violent elements of any society that would seek to control a nation through coercion or violence.

Go ahead and believe whatever you want and disagree with me all you like stop print fabrications of my viewpoint on your site.

Ian Scott said...

"What you don't seem to understand" (which is not an insult, but a statement of fact - to me - and possibly to Lisa, you DON'T SEEM to understand) is that your emotional projections get in the way of your ability to think clearly.

What you don't SEEM TO UNDERSTAND is basic logic, and that your conclusions SEEM TO STEM from irrational premises, and the inability to be able to understand anything about false equivocations, fallacies of dichotomy, and a number of other things.

You've pointed out to me you "no longer respect me." That's fine, that's your fact. Personally, I have no "feelings" about your choice of what or what you don't wish to respect, and I also don't give a shit.

What you don't seem to understand is that as far as FACTS go, what you respect or do not respect, or what your "feelings" tell you about insults, does NOT CHANGE facts or logical reasoning.

Your slur on Jay Jardine's blog points this out - when you changed words in order to change the IDEAS I had written.

Your silly statement about me "barely making it through college" further points out your lack of both reasoning abilities and understanding of semantics.

You have not one iota knowledge about my education, but you chose to use a story I told on Mike Brock's blog regarding WHY it took me three years to go through college (because I worked full time) and then turn around and suggest "I barely made it.."

You have a very long way to go in understanding the difference between words and ideas, Patrick, and ability to reason.

That's NOT an insult. It's just fact. Take it as you will.

Your comments to Lisa are showing your inabilities here. Lisa is totally unable to insult you. ONLY YOU can project your own thoughts onto Lisa's words, and "feel insulted."

Are you a teacher, Patrick?

Lisa said...

Patrick! I did not at all intend to insult you personally. By saying you don't seem to understand something is not to insult you. Far from it! I don't understand a great many things myself, but being told so only encourages me to make myself understood or perhaps change my mind.

I by no means meant my comments to be taken as a sign of disrespect toward you! Good gosh - apparently we don't understand each other!

I am disappointed that our discussion has been cut short with accusations of slander and insults!

Please do reconsider your thoughts here! I was very much looking forward to continued discussion.

I'll address your other comments later.

Mike said...

"What we need to do to really make this city competitive is build a machine that produces more energy than goes in. Jeff, what do you think?"

"Well, Ann Marie, I think that's a super idea that exemplifies what we're striving for as a creative city that competes. Maybe that good-looking scientist guy over there can help us out? He's a real cutie alright."

ANN MARIE and JEFF approach SCIENTIST and begin to discuss waterwheel-based implementations. SCIENTIST listens to their plans, growing increasingly concerned about fundamental conceptual misunderstandings.

"Look, you don't understand thermodynamics..."

"Don't get personal with ME little man. I'll find a scientist with some manners who knows how to discuss community issues scientifically and reasonably. Good day to you Sir."

ANNE MARIE turns on her heels and strides away. JEFF tags along, looking back apologetically at the hot scientist.

Lisa said...


I see you have removed the London Fog from your blogroll. Why do you keep 'censoring' those that do not agree with you? You may not agree with me Patrick, but that is all the more reason to keep discussion going. Indeed, if we are as rabid as you seem to suggest, then let us speak and make fools of ourselves. Instead, you fail to address my particular concerns and stomp off saying your feelings are hurt.

Like I said in my previous comment, I never at meant any ill-will toward you and indeed, you should take it as a sign of respect that I have spent as much time responding to your arguments as I have. And I will say it again, with all due respect, you do not at all seem to understand what I am trying to say - clearly I don't understand what you are trying to say either.

Perhaps if you settled down a little and were not so quick to take offense, we might perhaps get to the root of the disagreement and thus have a meaningful discussion. As it is right now, you're talking about oranges and I, apples.

You say that the majority of people don't support libertarianism, and that we need a central government to prevent chaos. I say then that the majority of people do not respect my property and freedom if they support government.

You also say that libertarians and people in general are not barbaric, but your reasoning is such that you are committed to that exact view. Afterall, if people are generally peaceful, then why is government needed? Cannot people be trusted to organize their themselves, through voluntary and binding contracts, which includes setting up effective security measures to deal with thieves and murderers?

As for these small violent elements, well, we're talking about centralized government here as far as I am concerned. The state is a favorite haven for criminals; through organized coercion and violence, they rule the people.

The ballot box is also no indication that most people support the government. In fact, more power is given to fools than would otherwise be possible. And your post citing Kyrgyzstan does nothing to prove that libertarianism would result in chaos and also does nothing to prove your point that the "absence of a centralized government always results in chaos." Further, there is no indication that the majority of people there supported the regime change or indeed centralized government. Perhaps the majority, over time, would support a free society - we're so used to government intervention and rule that we have become complacent. We also have little means to protect and organize ourselves against the mighty state which has the monopoly over defense. This is another reason I fear governments, which are made up of self-proclaimed guardians of the 'collective interest', whatever the hell that is.

And as for my comment about 'enlightenment', I clearly was not suggesting we set up 're education camps.' If you have considered my previous posts and comments, this should have been clear. I only meant that people cannot change their views overnight and that if they value peace and want a good life, they will learn by example and reference to reality and logic - further, if crooks are prevented from getting a free ride, then they will have to play fair or suffer the consequences of their actions. If people were to understand that government makes us all poorer, then most of us would prefer a libertarian society. However, this is all really besides the point - governments are inherently unjust and for that reason, I do not support the state. I don't support legalized plunder. Social custom and majority preference is not morality. People are free to think and prefer what they will, but not at the expense of another's well being.

I brought up the fascist example in the context of your Kyrgyzstan post for two reasons. First, I doubt you would say that Nazi's were right because they had the support of 'the majority.' However, at the same time, you keep bringing up the will of the people as the sanction of government. Well, if people can be entrusted to choose their government, then clearly they should be able to govern themselves, through voluntary membership, without the might arm of the state. A power vacuum exists because people are not given the right to govern themselves - power should not be centralized, but dispersed throughout. That is to say, give power back to the individual - free him from the shackles of government.

Centralized governments are made up of the very people that you and I would find a threat. Please read my post again and address some of my particular concerns. Better yet, read some of the authors I recommended - they say it so much better than I.

Anonymous said...

heh...nice post.
but i dont now what are u doing.
and i go to bed.