How To Talk To A Statist

Lately I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out ways to reach people with the messages of personal responsibility and liberty. The more involved I get in the liberty movement, the more I see like-minded people discussing ideas among themselves. Often the theme of the discussion is either negative observations of evil in the world, or they are asking the question of how we might one day live in a truly free society. I know many good people who are genuinely looking for solutions to the problem of world-wide tyranny. I’m convinced that in order to achieve freedom, we must bring more people to an understanding of the philosophy involved in the Non Aggression Principle and related concepts. This brings me to the point of this article:

How (not) To Talk With A Statist…

I see two primary problems with the above discussions:

1. They are usually negative in tone. I realize it is important to point out evil where it exists, and I know too, that it is an easy rut to fall into. The quest for liberty can be a frustrating one when you look around and see violence thrust upon individuals every day. However, the constant barrage of negative speech coming out of the liberty movement does not seem to be an attractive trait. Who wants to know the truth, if the truth turns you into a bitter, antagonistic crank? Also, it seems a fairly easy psychological concept to grasp, that if you sound offensive to someone they are likely to respond in a defensive way. Again- not a great way to attract people to the movement!

2. The other problem I see is that many great communicators in the liberty movement are primarily talking to others within the movement. I know…birds of a feather flock together and all, but I really believe that if we are going to achieve a free society, we need many more people who have the skills to think from a rational set of first principles. We need an outreach program of sorts. We need effective tools for getting our message out to statists in a way that is not antagonistic or demeaning. Methods that attempt to help people think, not ones that try to shut them down.

I loved the first Matrix movie, I thought it was a work of genius as an analogy of our current societies, but I think they got this part wrong…

She may be a distraction, but she is not your enemy!
She may be a distraction, but she is not your enemy!

“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.”

This idea that anyone who disagrees with you being your enemy is the same concept that has been used to slaughter countless people in wars.

On one hand, it is difficult to tolerate someone who is supporting ideas that you believe to be the cause of great evil in the world. On the other hand, how are they ever going to change if we treat them as enemies to be destroyed (even if only verbally beaten)?

A couple of ideas for sharing ideas…

1. Let’s start with the second issue first- the problem of reaching out to people outside of the liberty movement and bringing them into the discussions. Let’s find some unrelated common ground. By “unrelated” I mean to find something besides the big issues to talk about as a starting point. Here on LiveAllYourLife.com, I offer cigar and whiskey reviews, lifestyle writing, business tips, scientific progress and art to enjoy. By finding people who share in these interests, I hope to introduce the philosophy of freedom to many people who might otherwise never get exposure to these great ideas. Instead of baiting people into a hostile environment, I hope to set up a sort of online whiskey lounge, where we feel comfortable kicking up our feet, having a laugh, learning something new, and- oh by the way…have you ever heard of the N.A.P.?

2. Now as far as those disagreements are concerned… In my experience, many people want the same results, but differ in how to obtain them. Many times when I see a statist arguing in favor of violence, it is done unwittingly. They are usually fighting in favor of what they feel is justice, without realizing their own inconsistency. The conservative in favor of the drug war thinks they are helping people stay safer and healthier. The liberal in favor of the welfare state thinks they are being charitable and empathetic. Both assume that if you are against those programs, then you must be in favor of rampant drug use, gang violence, poverty and other human suffering. Even as I write that, my knee jerk reaction is to point out how those programs are actually promoting the very suffering that they claim to address. But before we begin defending our views on these state programs, perhaps we could gain more ground if we first acknowledge that we want some of the same things.

bastiat meme
The internet is an awesome tool for communication, and I believe, the single greatest advancement of freedom in the history of mankind. But in our world of tweets and posts and likes, we might find better connections if we are willing to take the time to back up onto some common ground before heading straight down into the depths of disagreement.

40 Comments

  1. Maybe you could start by considering that the people you call ‘statists’ probably aren’t statists, and that ‘the liberty movement’ isn’t the same thing as the US Libertarian movement, which isn’t the same thing as the actual Libertarian movement.

    1. You bring up an excellent point. Even as I was writing this post I was considering the importance of definitions in society. Unfortunately, language has become vague and loose, and that often leads to poor communication. For any constructive dialogue to take place we should establish some clear definitions. So let me clarify a couple of terms, as I intended in this piece:

      State: Any person or persons claiming a legitimate monopoly on the use of force.
      Statist: Any person who claims that the State as described above should exist in any form.
      “Liberty Movement”: This I admit, is an intentionally broad term, one that I used to try to convey the increasing recognition by individuals on a global level, that the existence of the state is illegitimate and tyrannical. There seems to be a growing awareness that the State is violence.

      “The Liberty Movement” is a nebulous term, but until I discover a better way to describe this growing awareness and social movement toward freeing the individual, I’m afraid it will have to do.

      Now, I’m interested to know of your meanings for the three terms you seem to have delineated:

      “‘the liberty movement’ isn’t the same thing as the US Libertarian movement, which isn’t the same thing as the actual Libertarian movement.”

      Would you care to elaborate and define the differences?

      Thanks for taking the time to comment- I appreciate it!

      1. The only definition of state that makes any sense to me is centralisation of power (usually over a corresponding geographic area). By that definition there are very few statists, really only those who wield the control are real statists. Real democrats aren’t statists because democracy contradicts central power. Nor are socialists, or even communists. State socialism implies a state (given whatever they defined state to mean), but such a system has to be democratic else it’s not socialism, it’s just tyranny. To be honest I’m not really sure what state socialism could actually mean because socialism means decrentralised control. The only instances of state socialism I know of are actually state capitalist. Words like these aren’t designed to facilitate conversation, they’re designed to obscure it. ‘Statist’, as far as I can tell just means ‘someone who disagrees with me’. Words like ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’ are just words that Americans are trained to dislike. ‘Left’ and ‘right’ are now meaningless… state socialism would be right wing not left wing, and all current political parties are right of the populous. The use of the word ‘liberal’ is a joke, anyone in favour of deregulation is by definition a liberal, yet it’s used to describe people who are in favour of firearm or economic regulation. US democrats are no more or less democratic than republicans and are, on many issues, LESS liberal. And ‘conservatives’ have no interest in conserving any traditional values unless they make them rich.

        The US Libertarian movement is a political movement created in the 60s or 70s. It’s just a brand that took a name it liked. The term Libertarian goes back far further and was used to refer to libertarian socialism, which is anti-statist socialism. It was the name of a socialist journal. Anarchism goes back to france, early 1900s, in which it referred to a group of people who wanted the government to implement measures to stop profiteering.

        1. You and I agree that all of these terms have changed in meaning over the course of time, some to such a degree that they are virtually meaningless at this point. Words can only be useful as a means of communication so let’s try to agree on the premise and meaning that is currently in use and intended (rather than an historic dissertation of the various usages). Can we start with only one word for the sake of clarity?

          I defined The State as: “Any person or persons claiming a legitimate monopoly on the use of force.”
          You defined The State as ” …centralization of power (usually over a corresponding geographic area).”

          I think we are close to agreement here, but let us clarify. Does’t the “centralization of power” as you mean it, require a monopoly on the use of force?

          1. Got it. Ok then. Please explain how there could be a centralization of power without the use of force, and if so, how is this “centralization of power” unethical and/or undesirable (or ethical and desirable)?

          2. Maybe holding power requires force though I doubt it does. I think the idea that without force systems of power aren’t possible shows a naivety of just about all aspects of human history and human nature. Either way, personally, it’s beside the point because if you limit power / authority you intrinsically limit use of force. Some powers can’t be transfered, corresponding to rights e.g. you can’t give someone the power to kill you. Systems of authority or power aren’t intrinsically right or wrong, but they have a burden to justify themselves. If they can’t they should be dismantled. Powers that can be transfered can be centralised to a monopoly on condition that everyone agrees i.e. everyone accepts its justification. This is the basis of anarchism as I understand it.

          3. Any power that is held without the use of force then, is consensual and therefore, not a State by either of our definitions. (Democracy is not consent, it is only a majority. The state must still maintain a monopoly on force in order to subject the minority and/or individuals in the society that did not agree with the majority to the whims of the majority.)

        2. Marc, I think that “socialism” technically refers to a centrally planned economy, where government owns the means of production and distribution of goods, and decides what cars will be produced, what housing will be built, etc.

          This is different from “social programs” which a democratic society may employ for everyone’s mutual benefit, like public roads, law and order, social insurance, etc.

          “Socialism” as central planning as used in the USSR proved a failure. There were long lines to get daily necessities like toilet paper. Both quantity and quality suffered. The evidence was in the difference between West Berlin and East Berlin before the wall was torn down.

          F. A. Hayek’s book, “The Road to Serfdom”, separates the two concepts. He consistently attacked central planning, but had no problem endorsing social insurance in Chapter 9, “Security and Freedom”.

          But, I’m an American, and I suspect “socialism” may be defined differently in England.

          1. I disagree. What you’re talking about is one branch of socialism, or more a specifically one idea about how to implement socialism. The fundamental principal that underpins all socialist theory is that workers control capital. There are different ideas about how to implement that in reality. Centralised planning is one. There’s a whole other idea, traditionally called Libertarian Socialism that uses democratic processes and free association.

            Socialism in the US (but also more and more in the UK) is used to refer to, basically, the ‘enemy’. Which was the USSR. They were a threat and therefor needed to be discredited. IMO it’s only a matter of time before the word begins to mean ‘muslim’ as people realise sharia is intrinsically socialist.

            If you judge the USSR by it’s propaganda, then it was a socialist utopia, just like the US is a democratic freedom loving perfection, and North Korea is a democratic people’s republic. On the other hand if you look at the reality of the things they did (like actively destroying socialist organisations like workers councils etc.) you’ll see no connection to any socialist theories. Lenin and Stalin wanted to turn Russia into, essentially, a big factory i.e. totalitarian capitalism.

            Now if you look at the critiques that come from a lot of economists you see the same naivety. ‘They were socialist because they said they were and that goes well with my ideology so I’ll go along with it’.

          2. It’s not necessary to judge the United Soviet Socialist Republics by its propaganda. It’s experiment in socialism simply collapsed, and the USSR no longer exists. The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of “socialism” is “any of various theories or social and political movements advocating or aiming at collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and control of the distribution of goods”.

            “Libertarian socialism” is mentioned in Wikipedia, but I could make neither heads nor tails of its definition there. So I’m going to make the presumption that, like many other Libertarian concepts, it simply does not exist in any coherent or meaningful fashion.

          3. Dictionaries don’t define words they just describe usage. There’s not a lot to be gained by bringing them into a discussion I don’t think.

  2. Are you defining force as ‘getting someone to do something they didn’t consent to’? If so there is no example of a state by your definition as no-one has a monopoly of force. Also I don’t understand the need for the word ‘monopoly’, I mean are you OK with a duopoly of force? Or an Oligarchy of force? The private sector having access to force is fine? Surely you should be simply against all use of force regardless of it’s configuration. What’s so special about the state configuration of force?

    1. I am against the initiation of the use of force by anyone! That is precisely why I am against all forms of the State.

      Every State in existence has claimed legitimacy and monopoly on the initiation of the use of force. They may differ in how they claim legitimacy, but all use force.

      I use the term monopoly because that is what defines the State. For example: An individual that steals the property of another individual is initiating force against that person. The State claims a legitimate and monopolistic use of the same force and calls it taxing. I do not endorse theft of any kind, therefore creating a monopoly that uses theft and calls it “taxes”, is no more legitimate than any other armed thief. One common justification for the State is that it exists to protect against and provide justice for the use of force from one individual to another, yet it retains the authority to commit the same acts of force on any individual , that is why it is a monopoly on the initiation of the use of force.

      1. We, the people who constituted the government, did not give it arbitrary power and we do not permit it to act as a “thief” or “murderer”. When you make such patently false statements you are not accusing some abstract “state”. You are calling me and the rest of us “thieves”. And, frankly, I’m pretty fed up with that.

        It is not possible for everyone to agree on everything. Therefore it cannot be a condition of democracy that you must agree with everything before the rest of us can do anything. Therefore it cannot be a “theft” when the rest of us require you to pay your fair share of the expenses incurred to maintain public services, even though you would prefer not to.

        You are here either as a citizen, in which case you are a party to the agreement to be taxed. Or you are here as a resident alien, in which case you are a guest, here at our pleasure, and should behave as anyone would behave in someone else’s house. In either case, you are as ethically and legally required to pay taxes as if you were paying the rent for being here.

        Calling taxes “theft” is bad manners. Insisting that you ought to be exempt from rules that apply to everyone else just “because you don’t want to” is unreasonable and childish.

        1. Marvin- First off, thank you for joining the conversation. I appreciate you taking the time. Pull up a chair, pour that glass of wine and light up a stogie! Welcome!

          Calling me unreasonable and childish does not negate my line of reasoning. I’m not throwing a tantrum because I don’t like the rules of a game. I am attempting to illustrate sound principles.

          A is A. 2 + 2 = 4. Theft is theft.

          If one or more individuals takes property away from another one or more individuals through the use of force, that act is theft.

          No amount of services rendered can turn the initiation of force into automatic consent. By your argument’s standards, if I sent you a gift in the mail, I should have the right to demand payment from you at gunpoint as long as most people in society agreed with me that the gift was a good and useful thing, even though you didn’t ask for it. Even if you use this gift, you have not consented to my sending it to you in the first place. Perhaps, if given the choice, you would rather have purchased this item from another provider that had a superior product. Perhaps you would rather have not purchased the item at all, valuing your money (property) more than you valued the new item.

          You also have described the “social contract” concept. This is based on the false premise that because I am a member of society, I have automatically given consent for that society to own me and/or a portion of my property/labor. The reason this is a false premise, is that:
          1) I did not choose my birth location
          2) As a sentient being with free will, I own myself
          3) All property extends from self-ownership
          4) I have not given explicit consent to have my property taken and redistributed to any other individual or group of individuals

          To say that we have given consent because we are a part of the society, while also saying that we are not responsible for the rape, murder and theft of the state is a contradiction.

          Another theme I’m picking up in this thread is this “love-it or leave-it” attitude. This would imply that I am just bitching about the U.S. government or that I dislike the services I am receiving from some chosen entity, when in fact, I am attempting to illuminate the true nature of the very concept of government. I do not wish to leave society, nor do I wish to dismantle civilization. I simply want to live in a world where we can be allowed to own ourselves and progress together through free association and mutually beneficial exchange rather than the use of violence. (see the Bastiat quote above)

          Again, this all comes back around to the fact that you and I probably want many of the same things for our selves and for each other (and our world in general). I am only suggesting you entertain the idea of trying to achieve a society that finds other solutions besides the inherent violent nature of the state.

          1. “If one or more individuals takes property away from another one or more individuals through the use of force, that act is theft. ”

            Unless it’s not. Obviously, if your landlord demands the rent and you refuse because the faucet is leaking, then he make take you to court, and the judge may say you do owe the rent, and you may be forced to pay. That is certainly not theft.

            In the same fashion, if you live within our country and we require everyone who lives here to pay taxes, and you refuse, then we may take you to court, and the judge may say you do owe the tax, and you may be forced to pay. That is certainly not theft either.

            Theft is indeed theft. But the rent is not theft and the tax is not theft.

            Obviously, Mises, Rothbard, Hoppe and those other dudes have gotten this wrong and have left you in error.

            “No amount of services rendered can turn the initiation of force into automatic consent.”

            That’s quite alright. Your consent is unnecessary. You ethically and legally owe the rent and the tax, therefore that portion of your money was never yours to do with as you pleased.

            “1) I did not choose my birth location”

            Irrelevant. You are now an adult and are here in our territory by your own free will.

            “2) As a sentient being with free will, I own myself ”

            Whether you choose to view yourself as property or not is irrelevant to the discussion, because:

            ” 3) All property extends from self-ownership”

            Nothing relevant thing derives from “self-ownership”. All the claims of this or that deriving from “self-ownership” are simply presumptions supported only by rhetorical claims.

            “4) I have not given explicit consent to have my property taken and redistributed to any other individual or group of individuals”

            As mentioned above, your consent is irrelevant to what you ethically and legally owe. And, by the way, there is not a single government program that intentionally redistributes income. But perhaps you refer to the national defense.

            “,,,the inherent violent nature of the state.”

            And the bit about murder, rape, etc. is slander, based on nothing more than your presumptive redefinition of those terms to suit your own viewpoint. After all, you claim that taxes are “theft”. You carelessly sling accusation of murder, theft and rape against the rest of us. You should know better.

            And for that matter, I don’t call myself a “statist”. I am an individual in a voluntary contract with other individuals to maintain a democratic government to aid cooperation and establish a working set of laws so that conflicts may be resolved peacefully.

          2. Marvin, I sincerely hope you will be open to a re-examination of your philosophy, as I am constantly testing my own. I truly believe you intend to be a peaceful person, but your telling me that consent doesn’t matter is perhaps the most violent statement I have ever had directed toward me.

          3. “your telling me that consent doesn’t matter is perhaps the most violent statement I have ever had directed toward me.”

            If I understand the NAP correctly, force may justly be applied to constrain the thief, whether he consents or not. Otherwise, the thief is beyond your control, and may operate among us at will. However, how shall we constrain the thief if he argues like the anarchist:
            1) The thief may claim that he never signed the constitution, and is therefore immune to the rule of government.
            2) The thief may claim that his moral beliefs are in the minority, and that the majority may not enforce its morals upon him.
            3) The thief may claim that he has mixed his skill and labor with the product to convert it from its current state (in your possession) into its new state (in his possession).
            4) The thief may claim that he is a pickpocket who follows the non-aggression principle. So long as he uses only stealth, and never uses force or the threat of force, then the first use of any real force is when you come to arrest him and send him to jail. Therefore, he may use whatever force is required to resist whatever force you use to constrain him or to take his property by force.

            So my question to you is this: How do you justly constrain the thief?

            And, by the way, the tax evader, by forcing us to pay his share as well as our own, has initiated an aggression upon the rest of us. Therefore we have a right to defend our property by recovering it from him, with precisely the amount of force that he makes us use to recover what is ours.

          4. You are missing a critical word that delineates moral use of force from immoral. It is the initiation of the use of force that cannot be defended by any rational means.

            The NAP allows for the use of force to defend against an aggressor. In the case of your thief, he is obviously the one INITIATING the use of force. Your words reveal a lot about how you view the sovereignty of the individual. Apparently, according to your philosophy, the use of force is not force as long as it is done covertly (as in your pick-pocket analogy). This fits nicely with your statist views, where the state can and aught to initiate force without appearing to do so on the surface.

            If I am to take you at your word and carry your philosophy through to consistent ends, then you are advocating the right for a group of men to vote and elect a representative to rape a woman if they feel that it is in their best interest, that is if as you indicate, consent of the individual is subjugated to the needs of the group.

            Keeping one’s own property can not be theft. By saying that the tax payer’s money is yours to take as group, you are denying the existence of property at all.

            Of course you would assume that Hoppe is incorrect. Because you are proceeding from the premise that a majority decision is more moral and therefore trumps any individual. You are denying that any individual has supreme right to his own body and production.

            If your philosophy states that any man does not have complete possession of his own person, then you are advocating for slavery, rape, theft and murder. As you are offended by these terms, I am sure that you do not intend to be advocating for such things, so please don’t mistake my arguments for antagonism. I hope to shed light on the premises of these concepts and help us all come closer to consistency in our philosophy. I believe we will all be better for it.

          5. I believe you are missing two very important words in your theory: “right” and “wrong”. There are times when it is “right” to use force: like preventing someone from stepping in front of traffic or removing a dangerous object from a child. And there are times when it is “wrong” to use force, like mugging a guy on the street to steal his wallet.

            The rightness and wrongness has nothing to do with “initiation”, but with the rightness or wrongness of the behavior in context.

            The rules of right and wrong serve moral intent. Moral intent seeks the best possible good for everyone. That may seem idealistic as a general statement, but everyone is familiar with moral judgment in specific cases.

            It is okay to interfere with the person about to step into traffic, because that preserves her life. It is okay to remove the knife from the child, because it presents a clear danger of injury. It is not okay to mug the guy on the street, because if everyone were allowed to do that then none could live in safety.

            “If I am to take you at your word and carry your philosophy through to consistent ends…”

            Then you’d best understand what I am saying at the start. All rules, all rights, all principles, all laws are judged by how well they accomplish good and/or preventing unnecessary harm for everyone, not just for oneself.

            When any “right” is claimed that falls short of this goal, such as a restaurant owner’s supposed “right” to post a “Whites Only” sign and refuse to serve anyone but white customers, then that “right” ought not to be granted by people of moral intent.

            Now. Are we clear yet on what I am advocating?

  3. As an aside I can give you my theory about why the LIbertarian movement is so fixated on state force rather than force in general: because it’s a propaganda movement sponsored by industry to get public support for removing any final restraint to corporate tyranny posed by the public via the government.

    1. The problem I see with this theory is that all of the power granted to a corporation is granted by the government. No government = no corporations, only individuals.

      1. In a sense I agree with you. In a sense I don’t. Public trusts moved to force the government to give them individual rights because they had to to get those powers. If there was no government they would have those powers by default or just wouldn’t need them. Corporations moved first to remove limitations on their activities; how much profit they could take, what things they could buy and sell, but without a government they wouldn’t need to. They wouldn’t need freedom of expression rights to allow corporate lobbying because their would be no rules for them to get around. They would have no responsibility to share any internal information and so would have no need for stop and seizure amendment rights. They would have no need to subvert labour laws as there would be none.
        The sense in which I agree with you is that without public sector funding none of this would exist. There’d be no industry. Contrary to the fairy-tales told by economists there is no example in any human history of market systems without central authority. The same is true of currency and coinage systems.

  4. I still see no examples of a monopoly of force anywhere. No ‘state’ has a monopoly of force within it’s borders and there are plenty of other states to move to. There is no clear monopoly. And consent is far form a simple objective thing. As for taxation, it’s all a matter of arbitrary semantics. You can leave the country if you don’t like it’s membership fee. Or to change the semantics again we could say that not contributing to the combined resources of society you are threatening it by exploiting it without paying your way. As far as I can tell the only tweak needed to make the world ‘Libertarian’ is open borders. Even then the borders wouldn’t be that open because they’d be a free market. There is nothing in any Libertarian principal that says living should be free.

    1. “There is nothing in any Libertarian principal that says living should be free.”
      I agree!

      “Even then the borders wouldn’t be that open because they’d be a free market.”
      That makes no sense to me.

      “As far as I can tell the only tweak needed to make the world ‘Libertarian’ is open borders.”
      I agree that this would be an awesome start! A world without borders would allow people to make free associations and live where they feel they are able to live best. This would create a free market of social systems and the various societies would compete to attract people. There would be far less war and violence and there would be many innovations as a result of the need to compete for citizens.

      “consent is far form a simple objective thing.”
      How can consent not be simple and objective? Either an individual consents to an action regarding their self and property or they don’t.

      I’m sorry I must not be making myself clear in my attempt to define the State. This is why I appreciate this dialog, it helps me to learn more and grow in my abilities to communicate. So thanks for that!

      To try to clarify one more time:
      The State claims a legitimate monopoly on the use of force. Of course anyone can use force, so there is no real monopoly. My point in defining the State this way, is that those who advocate for any form of government, claim that it should hold a moral right to use force. I simply do not believe that any such moral right to initiate force exists. (for example- I have never heard anyone advocate for the moral authority of any individual to be able to hold a gun to my head and take my money, but if you call this person a government and call the theft taxation, suddenly it changes the moral basis for this act of violence in the eyes of the person advocating for a State)

  5. It’s interesting that the primary disagreement, in practice, often comes down to ‘tax is theft’. Note that this seems unique to US Libertarians. We could just rephrase things: The government is a company that you pay a membership fee to, if you don’t like it you can leave the country. Leaving will be expensive but that’s your problem. Companies have the right to refuse commerce to whoever so you will have trouble finding somewhere to go to but, again, thats not the government’s problem. This is all already Libertarian.
    What I meant about the borders is that in a Libertarian world border crossing would be a free market and a commercial activity. It wouldn’t be free. The government inc. could even buy up border capital, it’s a free market. Government is a more solid concept than state but it is also misleading for similar reasons: it implies that ‘The’ Government is the only form of government. We are all and will always be governed.
    The fixation on taxation, which is unique to US Libertarians, is interesting. I think it shows a misguided idea of what modern taxation and money are. Money is a social construct. It only means anything in a society. If that society demands some of it paid as tax you are contradicting yourself by refusing. You are saying “I want to be part of the group but I want to be exempt from some the rules I don’t like”. By using money you are already part of that society. Again, you can leave.
    It’s also pretty funny to hear people talk about ‘fiat’ currencies and want rid of government control of it. If this happened then firms would do what they have always done: create their own currency which they could issue however they please and even disband it if they feel like it. That’s how banknotes came about! The idea that government control the money supply is a straight forward fallacy.

    1. Hmmm…. The only reason I bring up taxation being theft was not to open that can of worms. I was only using it as one of many examples of the State using force, but using some moral justification for it. I could just as easily said that being a arrested for a victim-less crime is kidnapping, war is murder etc…

      Changing the name of an action does not change the nature of an action, just as putting on a uniform doesn’t give someone moral authority.

      The problem with your analogy of a government being a company is precisely the point I’m trying to convey. No private business uses force against an individual to buy it’s goods or services. If my dad works for Honda and drives a Honda, I will not be forced at gunpoint to pay for a Honda when I become of age to drive. However with government, If I am born in a specific geographic region (something I had no choice in) I am required to submit to the “goods and services” provided by that government and pay for them. Refusing to do so will result in my being kidnapped (arrested), held hostage (imprisoned) and if I refuse or attempt to defend my life and property I will be shot and killed.

      By the way, I would not label myself a Libertarian. I agree with much of the philosophical foundations of Libertarian-ism as a philosophy, but I don’t agree that a State can exist in any form that is moral. (just to avoid confusion such as the border issue we discussed. I don’t think there should be such a thing a borders. Only property held by individuals or associations by contract.)

      I would be happy to voluntarily leave the Sate as you suggest, but choosing one violent system over another is not rational and currently there is no other option.

      I am not advocating to give up living in a society. I just believe that we can use peaceful interactions to achieve societal progress, rather than rely on a violent State. This brings us back to the exact intention of my article. I think you and I can agree that there are good and useful things about our modern society, such as roads and infrastructure, education, emergency medical help, etc… I am simply asking you to consider that there may be ways to achieve these great aspects to society that are peaceful and voluntary, instead of the violent use of force.

  6. “No private business uses force against an individual to buy it’s goods or services.”

    Er… yes they do. And you have said that they do because you said the government gives them that ability.

    “I would be happy to voluntarily leave the Sate as you suggest, but choosing one violent system over another is not rational and currently there is no other option.”

    Thats a shame but its not relevant. If land can be privately owned and the market is free then all land will ultimately be owned by someone. That means occupying any land, for the vast majority of people, would require arbitrary payments to someone for the service. Which is true of all capital, which is everything and anything. Failure to pay that means the owner has the right to deny service, else its not a free market. Same with arresting people for anything. If you have signed a contract in which you say you won’t do something and then do it the service provider has the right to limit your services to… say.. being in a prison. In fact under Libertarian principals they have the right to refuse service completely. As for war, well most people are against that, but if two companies have access to private militaries then saying they don’t have the right to hurt people wont stop them using them.

    And as you say changing the name of things doesn’t change the ontology of them… that’s kinda my point.

    1. (“No private business uses force against an individual to buy it’s goods or services.”

      Er… yes they do. And you have said that they do because you said the government gives them that ability.)

      Note that I said PRIVATE BUSINESS. I don’t consider any government protected corporation a private business. I did mistakenly use Honda as an example but only for ease of use. A more appropriate example might be Buck-the-barber down the street. He isn’t going to come lock me in a cage for not using his service (if I had any hair that is!)

      As for the rest of your last post- you are spot on! We agree! (yay!)
      I believe what you just described would be a more peaceful and just society. Not a utopia by any stretch of the imagination, but less violent for sure.

  7. The NAP cannot be the primary principle. The correct primary principle is to “love Good, and love it for others as you love it for yourself”. This is a humanist translation of Matthew 22:35-40.

    But there’s one more insight that Jesus imparts, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” In other words, all subsequent rules and rights are derived from and judged by these two.

    And that would include the NAP, property rights, and all attempts to apply such principles to real world scenarios.

    For example, the Libertarian Ron Paul attempts to use property rights or the rights of free association to defend a restaurant owner’s choice to refuse to serve black customers, and to use his restaurant as a tool of racial subjugation by posting a “Whites Only” sign in the window.

    That is an immoral result. The harms of allowing this form of racial discrimination are much larger than the “benefit” of allowing the restaurant to express his prejudice at the expense of others. Therefore the claim of a “right” of the owner to discriminate must not prevail over the right of a person to be treated the same as anyone else in commerce.

    So the problem is not that you haven’t offered me a cigar and a glass of wine (though that would be nice), but rather that your premises are faulty.

    1. Saying that my premise is false doesn’t make it so. The NAP extends from the concept of self-ownership, not a bible verse. After all, what is “good”? What may be good for one person, may not be good for another. With your premise, the initiation of force could be a moral act against someone as long as you feel that person is not doing “good”. (A great illustration of this is the modern drug war. Where otherwise peaceful people are shot and killed in their own home for smoking weed. Some feel that smoking weed is not good or is immoral, which gives them some sort of moral authority to initiate violence on those who don’t agree.) If we instead begin with the premise of self-ownership, then initiating force against someone else is a moral contradiction.

      Also- “Because god said so” is not a rational position of argument.

      1. We call something “good” if it meets a real need we have as an individual, a society, or as a species. As a humanist, I view Jesus as an ethical philosopher, quite radical for his time. And I consider his principles that I quoted to be superior to any of your authors.

        But it is not the author, but the validity of the insight that should be examined.

  8. “No private business uses force against an individual to buy it’s goods or services.”

    Of course they do! You’re being naive. This is what monarchies were. Private enterprises. Big companies can get away with it because they are more powerful than governments. The idea that the government is some overarching evil shifting company pawns around a chess board is nonsense.

    If the government didn’t exist all the expertise and motivation necessary to do all the things you blame the government for would still exist, they could just hire them directly instead of via lobbying. If a company wants to get someone to sign a contract by pointing a gun at their head they will if they can get away with it. Emailing them a link to a Mises.org isn’t going to stop them nor is the threat of customer flight.

    And the guy down the road cutting people’s hair is not disconnected from the public sector, they use all the public services too. Just like the public service that stops them putting a gun to your head to buy their stuff.

    1. Calling me naive does not discredit my position. Are we not all naive in some regards?

      “If the government didn’t exist all the expertise and motivation necessary to do all the things you blame the government for would still exist, they could just hire them directly instead of via lobbying. If a company wants to get someone to sign a contract by pointing a gun at their head they will if they can get away with it. Emailing them a link to a Mises.org isn’t going to stop them nor is the threat of customer flight.”

      I totally agree with you on this! The key phrase you used here is “if they can get away with it”. I suggest that it would be easier for a society to deal with this type of direct violence than with the obfuscation of the violence perpetrated by use of the state. And while emails and customer flight might have little impact for protection, I would refer you to “The Private Production Of Defense” by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. it is one of many essays that examine how a society might function without the use of the state as a violent tool. :

      http://mises.org/journals/jls/14_1/14_1_2.pdf

      Again I would refer you to the Bastiat quote in my article above.

      1. Wow. I didn’t have to read very far into Hoppe to detect the fraud. Perhaps if Hoppe had read John Locke instead of Hobbes he would have gotten the facts straight.

        Hans-Hermann created a straw-man by asserting the State was acting totally on its own without respect to Citizen A and Citizen B. The fact is that the State, and all its laws, are produced by a representative legislature controlled entirely by Citizens A, B, C, etc.

        It is not an arbitrary “sovereign”, but an instrument of legislation and courts by which Citizen A and B may resolve their differences without resorting to force.

        And there is NO MONOPOLY, either. Citizen A and Citizen B are free to resolve their differences between themselves, or by hiring private arbitrators, rather than taking the matter to court. In fact, you’ll find arbitration specified in many contracts today. As I recall, our auto insurance had such a clause.

        So I’m hesitant to waste time reading Hoppe. But if you think I’m prejudging the article too much, perhaps you’d give a go at expressing and defending what you believe is a reasonable argument from Hoppe. However, if you find no such reasonable argument, then we’ve made the point.

        1. Well I found the source of “self-ownership” and “appropriating property to oneself by applying one’s labor”. Turns out it’s John Locke in his “Second Treatise…”, Chapter 5 “Of Property”.

          Locke’s first assumption is that all of nature, prior to the division of the land as property, belongs to man in common. And in this original state, the man who picks apples or acorns fallen from a tree must either obtain the consent of every other man that these are his or must reasonably assume that they are his for having picked them up and carried them off.

          Since getting permission from everyone is impossible and all would starve if this were required, Locke asserts that simply applying himself to the task of gathering them up makes the apples and acorns his private property. Locke posits a theory, that his labor “added something to them more than nature” and that made them his property. And that explains where some of this “self-ownership” and “mixing one’s labor” nonsense originated.

          A simpler theory is that, since it is impossible for anyone to obtain everyone’s explicit agreement, it is reasonable to assume everyone else must agree that the food each person gathers in this fashion from nature becomes one’s own property.

          All practical rights arise by agreement. The evidence of the agreement is our willingness to allow our neighbor to keep what he hunts and gathers so long as he respects a similar right for us.

          Locke had no need to go mystical on this. And look at the confusion he passed down to others!

      2. A private company that is capable of obfuscated violence would be the state by your definition. So saying no private company can do that is just a language trick, not an empirically useful statement.

        It’s like saying ‘no human is evil because evil is defined as inhuman’.

  9. One cannot derive other ethical principles from the non-aggression principle without destroying semantic reasoning.

    (1) Aggression is wrong by definition. Aggression is an unnecessary harm deliberately inflicted upon another by force or the threat of force. An aggressor harms or threatens harm to get what he wants by force.

    But the pickpocket, the con man, the swindler, the card shark, and many other wrongdoers profit at the expense of others without aggression or force of any kind. Therefore, aggression cannot cover all ethical situations.

    You cannot simply throw in “deception” as an example of “aggression” without changing the meaning of “aggression” into something that is simply not “aggression”.

    (2) “Force” is not aggression. Force is not wrong by definition. Force may be used for a good purpose, such as stopping someone from stepping in front of a bus. Or it may be used for a bad purpose, such as pushing someone in front of a bus. You cannot use “force” and “aggression” interchangeably without confusing right and wrong.

    (3) Because “force” is not aggression, the “Initiation of force” is also neutral until you know the ethical context: did we initiate force to prevent the old lady from getting run over or to push her in front of the bus?

    Therefore, the broad claims made for the non-aggression principle are false.

    (4) The actual semantic content of the non-aggression principle is this, “it is wrong for you to make me do anything, whether it is the right thing or the wrong thing”. And it is primarily used to rationalize tax evasion and non-compliance with other laws the person has an issue with. Buy it is useless to determine what is right and what is wrong.

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