This will be a reply article to Steve Kerbel’s article entitled “Libertarians Must Learn To Welcome Newcomers” which can be read here.
Steve Kerbel is a former presidential candidate for the libertarian nomination, and a person for which this author has great respect for.
In an article published the other day Steve Kerbel announced what he thought was a good way to grow the liberty movement, and though I agree with some of his points I feel I either disagree or simply see a lack of information regarding his opinion. In this article I’ll break down what Steve has to say and give my thoughts and opinions.
What is a Libertarian? This is the key question that can spur intense and sometimes vitriolic debate among those who call themselves Libertarians. According to Webster, the following is the definition of a Libertarian:
an advocate of the doctrine of free will
a person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action
capitalized : a member of a political party advocating libertarian principles
I think it’s important to note Steve intentionally capitalizes the word libertarian, which most people note as a sign one is talking about a Libertarian party member and not necessarily an adherent of the libertarian philosophy. He then lists three separate definitions of the word libertarian.
The first being the definition coined by William Belsham as a pejorative for those who believed in free will. This definition is really rather irrelevant to the context of the libertarian philosophy or Libertarian party. The second and third definition properly, if vaguely, describe what a libertarian is. The second describes ( again vaguely) the philosophy, and third the party that was born from it.
Personally I’ve always found it helpful to generally describe the philosophy, but I think all of these definitions fall short. I think the best definition of who a libertarian is in the context of the Libertarian party and philosophy, is simply:
A person who generally advocates against government intervention in life, liberty, and property.
This definition I think gives the most inclusive answer, and while vague enough to be inclusive adheres closely to the values of the libertarian philosophy without contradicting them.
Mr.Kerbel goes on to say:
Within the Libertarian community, there is a very real concern of infiltration which would result in a change in the principles of Libertarianism, thereby negating the purpose of the formation and growth of the party. Why would people have this concern? For good reason… The Libertarian Party has built a formidable organization that has the skeletal structure in place to allow for the movement to actually be implemented. There is no other third party in the USA that is in this position, so others may look to the Libertarian Party as a potential of a “hostile takeover” of sorts.
It is this sensitivity to the reality of this threat that keeps the “so and so is not a Libertarian” argument alive and well ad nauseum.
What Mr.Kerbel is describing is the tactic of entryism. A political strategy employed by the communist Leon Trotsky in which people enter a political party or philosophical movement and attempt to change it slowly from within by advocating or growing generally opposing elements of a group until it’s actual adherents can be denounced and removed. This is what happened with the word liberal in the 1920s and 1930’s. FDR and many progressives infiltrated and basically stole the word. Actual liberals from then on came to call themselves “classical liberals” or “libertarians.” So you can see why libertarians are wary of an influx of new people who aren’t properly vetted, especially when the party has been so closely linked with the philosophy for so long. So I’d say there is quite a good possibility that with the combination of people who are looking for advancement inside the party and the ever growing threat of entryists that the claim “so and so is not a libertarian” could be correct. However, at the same rate it’s just as likely to be abused by those same individuals. It’s a rather tough dilemma.
To me, this situation has created a problem for the party… Growth is improbable when the first question a person is asked is: “How long have you been a Libertarian?” This question itself seems innocent enough, but the inevitable follow up is the damaging part. That follow up manifests itself in the form of a put down or insult. When we fail to welcome new members (and many times alienate them), our growth is restricted. One by-product of that restriction is that it keeps us small enough to be a viable take-over target from one of the old parties.
I completely agree here with Steve, as a party we have to be inclusive and we can’t denigrate people’s opinions or motives because they are new, or more new to the movement or party than you are. This is a great way, as Steve said, to make sure we can’t grow as a party but I think entryism can happen no matter how large you are. Look at what happened to the Republican party.
On the other hand we can’t be openly hostile to our own values just to be inclusive. We should vigorously defend libertarian ideals even against people in our own party. You should never kowtow to popular opinion if you don’t think it’s libertarian. If we throw away key tenants of the philosophy just to gain a foothold, we’ve already lost before we’ve started. If we wanted to appeal to the mainstream with populism we already had that chance in Rand Paul and libertarians saw fit to let that option fall by the way side, stupidly so in my opinion.
So how do we balance a need for inclusivity and retain our values?
I think a good general rule is that if someone can argue from a particularly reasoned position that something isn’t necessarily libertarian we should be open to at least discussing it. If they can’t and instead use tired cliches or classic leftist or rightist argument in favor of something clearly not libertarian I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that we must entertain such behaviour.
A simpler definition of the basics of Libertarianism should be all the requisite “glue” that is required to hold us together. In essence, our own bickering and posturing, put downs and insults, lack of finite definition of Libertarian from within our party, willingness of some to support candidates from other parties, and cannibalistic tendencies of some of us… result in a group of people that agree on 80% – 90% of all pertinent issues that is perfectly willing to publicly impugn others based on a small minority of a person’s platform. After all, we are very different from the old parties and even an 80% agreement with a Libertarian will far outweigh supporting a Republican or Democrat which may share our views 20% of the time.
I completely agree and my definition, as stated above, does this quite well. At least it does, in my estimation. Libertarians have a penchant for holding other libertarians to a higher standard than they hold Republicans or Democrats for the simple reason that it’s what we’ve come to expect from them, to be traitorous awful human beings and rightfully so we’ve rejected them. However, what we have to get away from this idea, that if we disagree with someone 10% of the time, that we can’t or shouldn’t support them. It is foolish and will ensure we remain irrelevant and more oppressed than if we had simply came together.
This drove even the founder of anarcho-capitalism, Murray Rothbard up a wall. He and I both can not understand this:
We aren’t talking about electing a lesser of two evils here. Someone with whom we agree with 90% of the time is decidedly not evil, we just disagree. There are degrees of disagreement, there must be. Just as the United States isn’t North Korea, a libertarian who wants a government court system, isn’t a totalitarian. The all or nothing style of libertarian thought must come to an end less we become totally and irrevocably irrelevant. I think even the most hardcore anarcho-capitalists would agree that they wouldn’t have many complaints under a solidly constitutional or articles of confederation type government. We have to realize we’re on the same train, some people just want to get off sooner than Ancapistan, and we should be ok with that for now, as long as it gets the damn train moving up hill instead of continuing to roll down it.
In 2016, the eyes of the nation are upon us. In our attacks of our own candidates, we provide fodder to the Republicans and Democrats in the constant attacks against them, many of which are on finer points or impossible realities. In essence, we give the impression to others that we would rather not see the Liberty movement successful at all unless it is precisely on all of our own terms. The damage in that position is that we never overtake the Republicans or Democrats because we are too busy discrediting our own members and candidates over some trivial detail (it may not seem like a trivial detail to whoever is repeatedly espousing it, but in the reality of our nation today, it is trivial or likely to never be addressed in the first 20 years of Libertarian administrations.) I believe that there is a solution to this.
While I understand Steve’s point here, I have to say I disagree with the premise that as libertarians we shouldn’t be vetting our candidates with criticism. It happens in all party structures and it’s a very good thing. It allows us to see the candidates for who they are and what they believe and allows us to make a better, more informed decision as to who we want to represent us on the main stage. If your preferred primary candidate can’t handle the heat of a bunch of small time libertarian critics how on Earth can they take the criticisms of the mainstream? This process is important and must continue, less we become exactly what Steve here is alluding to, a party totally engulfed by another ideology.
In conclusion, I’ll just say that while Steve is right that if we ever want to change anything we must be willing to welcome new people, we must also be reasonably wary about losing who we are.
Yesterday, a Donald Trump rally was called off for fears that violence would erupt after a large protest turned into a riot, with people blocking traffic and threatening violence. Stemming from that arguments about free speech and the first amendment have erupted onto social media. Included in that discourse is even someone I have deep respect for, Representative from Michigan, Justin Amash.
Let’s back track a minute and look at where this stems from.
The tweets headline says nothing inherently wrong. Threats of violence toward an individual in order to prevent them from speaking is a clear violation of the natural right to free speech. Here’s how a lot of people responded though.
As you might be able to deduce, Amash’s response and the meme are non-sequiturs. The 1st amendment is not free speech. The 1st amendment merely protects the government from infringing upon the natural right of freedom of speech. This could be written off if it was just a temporary lapse in relation to the commonality of people to use the term interchangeably. I mean honestly you’re taught in grammar school that the 1st amendment “is the freedom of speech.” Though this, as stated above, is not accurate it fits well for an elementary understanding of natural rights. Similarly claims of “constitutional rights” are wrong, they are “constitutionally protected rights.” A subtle phrasing difference conveys a completely different idea.
From there Amash received many unflattering responses from Trump supporters asking just “why isn’t this a 1st amendment issue?” One such user posed the question this way:
@justinamash Shall we make a visit to your house and prevent you from speaking? Because I wouldn't see the difference with the Trump rally.
A fair question, but one possibly steeped in ignorance, as this isn’t a first amendment issue, as he had stated, yet still an issue of free speech.
Amash chose to respond and doubled down on his conflation of the terms.
That would not be a violation of my freedom of speech. That would be trespassing and perhaps assault and battery. https://t.co/qMnM954hZ2
I’m afraid it would be a violation of your freedom of speech Mr.Amash. Natural rights can be violated by anyone but only the government can violate the constitution, as the document pertains to restrictions on government alone. As such, this laid out scenario wouldn’t be violation of the 1st amendment, as only the government can do that, but would be a violation of the natural right which the 1st amendment protects you from government infringement of. Perhaps Justin should review his Locke.
Following this, trump also doubled down and made an equally incorrect tweet to wrap up the dialogue.
The organized group of people, many of them thugs, who shut down our First Amendment rights in Chicago, have totally energized America!
The “right to travel” is a common appeal to authority used in debates among libertarians and non libertarians alike. I think this stems from a lack of information regarding the subject or the “sovereign citizen” types in the larger libertarian community who have been known to invoke this in discussions about licensing. It has in essence become a functional misnomer, even to the extent people are saying that violating this supposed natural right is a violation of the Non-aggression Principle.
Let’s break down the phrase “right to travel” by looking directly at the terms.
First, let’s look at what rights are. Essentially, rights are nothing more than ethical principles, which are entitlements to be left alone, that we derive from our existence. For instance, we have a right to not be killed by others, we have a right to not have our property taken away by others, and we have a right to not have our speech quelled by others. However, we do not have a right to other people’s property or labor. This is the difference between a state granted privilege and contracted or natural right. A state granted privilege or a contracted right can only come from the state or another person through force or a contract. For instance, a “right” to a cheese burger can only ever exist under a contract, or by the state forcibly taking that cheese burger from the producer and giving it to you.
Next, we should define travel. Travel is merely the journey from your current location to another over private, unowned, or state controlled property. Now allow me to break off into a tangent on this by saying in a completely private society, there would be no state property. All property would be privately controlled or unowned. With the population as it currently sits the non-existence of unowned property, at least on this planet and especially within the united states, is a forgone conclusion in a practical sense. Meaning unowned land simply does not exist today, it either comes under the purview of the state or is controlled by private interests.
So, the phrase “right to travel” implies we have a right (legal or ethical principle to be left alone) to travel across (state or privately owned) property. So do we have a right to do that? I don’t think we do. Let’s break this down to the three areas of property we can traverse, as mentioned above.
I don’t think it’s ethical to say you have an exclusive right to travel across state owned property, because that property was appropriated with money that was taken from people unjustly. So therefore that right to travel across that state controlled property would not exist if not for the state, because in a free society that property would be privately owned. Therefore, the “right to travel” across state controlled property can not be a natural right, because it can only exist as a privilege from the state.
Similarly to state controlled property, I don’t believe it would be ethical to claim and exclusive right to travel across someone else’s private property. As this would violate basic property rights which are derived from self ownership and are directly related to the Non-aggression Principle. That is unless you have a contract and since this “right to travel” across private property is a contracted right, it therefore can not be a natural right, and thus refutes the idea that the “right to travel” is a natural right in the context of private property.
Furthermore, the existence of state property naturally and continually interferes with private property. As the right to private property would naturally include the existence of privacy and exclusivity. However, under a state this does not exist because public property such as roads and “public” thoroughfares infringe upon that. Forcing, by monopoly, the travel of others along a road that was not agreed upon by a property owner to run through, over, or adjacent to private property. This simply could not happen in a free society.
Lastly, we come to unowned property, which as described above does not currently exist on Earth. This, in contrast with the other two, I do believe to be ethical to traverse across without a contract. This unowned property constitutes an unowned resource and can be used by anyone crossing it for whatever means they feel are justifiable, as long as they are not harming anyone else in the process. So we can deduce that the only true and natural “right to travel” is across unowned property. Thus it becomes obvious that the “right to travel” can only ever exist in the context of unowned property. And the implication or enforcement of a “right to travel” across private or state controlled property, and not its inverse, is the violation of the Non-aggression Principle.
So the next time a libertarian, or anyone for that matter, says they or others have a “right to travel” ask them what kind of property they are traveling across. Since we know, for now, the answer is either going to state controlled property or private property, their argument that a natural “right to travel” exists, is now easily proven false.
I consider such a bullet to be an act of self-defense in a manner that a ballot could never be. A bullet can be narrowly aimed at a deserving target; a ballot attacks innocent third parties who must endure the consequences of the politician I have assisted into a position of power over their lives. Whoever puts a man into a position of unjust power – that is, a position of political power – must share responsibility for every right he violates thereafter.
It’s hard to know where to start. Let’s look at the broadest aspect of this first, the environment. This argument must assume that we are within a situation of consent that has lead to the voluntary interaction and thus to a non coercive decision, that has, in turn, lead to the responsibility of my vote and how it affects other people. This is of course completely false. I do not live in a free society. The environment I find myself situated within is coercive, it is threatening, it is an environment that is unjust and one that I have not consented to.
Let’s look a little “parable of the voter” I worked up.
A man with a gun has taken 10 people hostage, and for the sake of this exercise the man can not be killed in anyway. He takes the 10 people in to a room. In the middle of this room sits a lever. The lever in the middle position, means no one is harmed, but everyone remains the man’s slave. The lever in the left position kills 3 members, by stripping years of their life away for every degree the lever moves in that direction but frees the rest immediately, while giving them riches and fame. The lever in the right position frees everyone but they must remain on the island for one year away from their families and loved ones. Quickly 5 men rush to push the lever to left to escape the island immediately and be rewarded with riches and fame. The 3 men who will die rush to counter the men who want the lever pushed to the left and proceed to push the lever to the right. Two undecided men remain. Of the two remaining, 1 man joins the three pushing the others right. The final man condemns the 4 men who are trying to push the lever right because they acquiescing to the demands of their captor and trying to enslave the other 5 trying to push the lever left. The final man demands that argument and education must be used to convince the other 5 men that they are wrong and any use of the lever is aggression. The 5 men who are pushing right are talked to by the fifth man, while the other 3 men are slowly having their life stripped from them. Eventually the final man convinces one of the 5 men to stop pushing on the lever and not exert any force at all. The captor merely introduces another person who he has convinced that pushing the lever left will set him free and the process begins again. This is the state’s torment of Tantalus.
This parable I think aptly demonstrates the situation in which the state has encapsulated us all. It has, as a matter of fact, taken us hostage without our consent and afforded us only one means to preserve our lives and liberties. I do not, and would not deny that voting is force but I do deny that it is aggression in any form. What does it say about the man who refuses to help the dying men at least recapture some of their life? Is he an immoral actor? I think he is immoral, but i do not think what he has done violates anyone’s rights, the state is solely responsible for that.
Morality can not be defined by rights alone. Take for instance, a man with immense wealth eating at an outside restaurant, when a starving child crawls to him, he need only lower his food to the child but refuses. Has this man violated anyone’s rights? No, and the thought of punishing him is repugnant. However, he is immoral, and I would not wish to live in any community with such a man. Would you?
There is no doubt in my mind the quoted section above is a veiled attack on Lysander Spooner. So let’s see what he actually had to say about voting.
Spooner states, that we can look at votes as bullets on a battlefield of coercion. I have not consented to tyranny I have found myself situated within, just as the drafted soldier doesn’t. However, others will use votes against me. So if other people are going to shoot votes at me, I’m going to shoot votes back at them. I’d be pretty stupid not to do so. I have a limited choice Slave or Master, the dichotomy the state has created. I refuse to be a slave to another person’s will, so I must choose to be a master.
The thing the author misses is that the person firing the round (vote) is just as much a victim as the other innocents. There is no collateral damage because all the damage is collateral damage. Coercion absolves us of complete responsibility in a coercive environment. The tools the state gives you to defend yourself aren’t your problem or responsibility, they’re what you have.
There isn’t a rational person in the world who thinks a hostage is in any way responsible for the actions a hostage taker. That’s why they’re called HOSTAGES. They’re forced to be there, making themselves heard is an act of self-defense. Not voting, not saying anything, the hostage taker always takes as tacit approval or at the very least compliance.
I can address only the reality in which I live and, in a world replete with alternatives, I would not vote for or against Hitler. Let me address a more fundamental question: What is the nature of the state? According to Max Weber, a state is an institution that claims a monopoly of force over a geographical area. It is a form of institutionalized power, and the first step in dissecting its essence is to analyze the defining terms “power” and “institution.”
Albert Jay Nock wrote of two sorts of power: social and state. By social power, he meant the amount of freedom individuals actually exercise over their lives – that is, the extent to which they can freely make such choices as where and how to live. By state power, he meant the actual amount of control the government exercises over its subjects’ lives – that is, the extent to which it determines such choices as where and how people live. There is an inverse and antagonistic relationship between social and state power. One expands only at the expense of the other.
I stress the word “actual” because the power of the state does not rest on its size – the number of laws on the books or the extent of the territory it claims. A state’s power rests on social conditions, such as whether people will obey its laws and how many resources it can command to enforce obedience. A key social condition is how legitimate the state is seen to be. For without the veil of legitimate authority, the people will not obey the state, and it will not long command the resources, such as taxes and manpower, that it needs to live.
In other words, freedom does not depend so much on repealing laws as weakening the state’s authority. It does not depend – as political strategists expediently claim on persuading enough people to vote “properly” so that libertarians can occupy seats of political power and roll back legislation. Unfortunately, this process strengthens the institutional framework that produced the unjust laws in the first place: it strengthens the structure of state power by accepting its authority as a tool of change. But state authority can never strengthen social power.
Does it really posit an unrealistic fantasy world? What options do you have to use against the state? Education, legitimacy denial, and counter economics are the only three that come to mind. The only three I can imagine have been put forth other than political action. So let’s look at those quickly as viable options. Since we don’t live in fantasy world let us dispense with hypotheticals and deal directly with realities.
Education. For every one person you educate the state educates one hundred thousand. No contest, you lose. It’s as simple as that. If you want to make education work for you, guess what you have to do? Yep, vote for people who want to return education back to communities and away from the state. Even wonderful things like Tom Woods’ liberty classroom can’t compete with the state and its’ compulsory education.
legitimacy denial. The state doesn’t care if it’s legitimate and never has. Its existence is illegitimate and it knows this. Do you think the people in North Korea think the state is legitimate? Do you think the people in the Cambodian killing fields thought the state was legitimate? Showing other people the state isn’t legitimate is nothing other than education, dressed up as a moral position. Stopping people from voting obviously would have little effect as over 50% of eligible voters in the population don’t vote as it is, and the state is still here. It would be here if, 75% or 80% or 90% of people didn’t vote. The state takes this silence as consent, whether you like it or not. Most people don’t care about the state, even if they realized it was illegitimate. They’re too caught up in their lives and as long as the state doesn’t take drastic measures it knows it can maintain its’ hold over society and culture. Even in extreme circumstances like rounding up Japanese citizens and putting them in camps still isn’t wholly recognized by everyone as illegitimate.
Does anyone think not voting or convincing people not to vote in North Korea would change the state there? Obviously not, so why would it change it here? Clearly though, if North Korea did have the legitimate possibility of replacing its dictator that would be an avenue that they could pursue change. However, even that considers the people of Korea would do such a thing. The state’s education system would seemingly always outweigh any counter efforts. Unfortunately, the state in North Korea is under absolute control, we must recognize the distinction between dictatorship and systems in which we can have influence. Denying there is a difference between these ideas is absurd. Waco, Ruby Ridge, Eric Garner, Gulf of Tonkin, Iraq War, I could go on for hours of examples of state illegitimacy. This strategy is not based in reality.
The internet was probably the greatest innovation help to freedom that could have ever have been created and today the state is hell-bent on regulating and controlling it. Many would have us let them do it and abstain from trying to prevent it. This is a horrible idea.
Counter economics. The state doesn’t care about your counter economics, it will hunt you down and throw you in a cage if you start to threaten its hold over the economy. It has the absolute power of the monopoly on force. For all intents and purposes un-permitted lemonade stands are “counter economics” but amount to little more than simple civil disobedience. Let’s look at two of the largest examples of counter economics to ever exist.
First we’ll look at the Silk Road and its creator Ross Ulbricht. The silk road was shut down by the government, its creator put in a cage for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, this has given the state a political platform to trash Hayek, Mises, and Rothbard. During the trial they took that opportunity. What did the silk road accomplish? It brought libertarianism a bad name and created a private murder market, that would in any free society be denounced by even the most radical libertarians. It is a qualified failure. The dark net continues to be raided constantly by government agents, including Dark0de, considered one of the best dark net black markets.
Second, we’ll look at Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed’s 3D printed firearm. Let me say I have immense respect for Mr.Wilson and his projects. I hope to purchase a ghost gunner myself soon. That being said, while Mr.Wilson has met with some success by introducing a file that can basically never be erased from the internet, what effect has that had on the state? It may have changed the way people see firearms but what could be the state’s response, what was the state’s response? The state shut down Mr.Wilson and required him to go through a an extensive FFL licensing process.The state shut down his site so no more innovation in the 3D gun printing market can occur. Much to his credit Mr.Wilson is taking this to court and using the only means available to him to resolve this and attempt to fight for all of our freedom however he can. Some would call him a statist for this. I call him an intelligent strategist who knows his options and knows how to pick his fights.
Beyond this, many people state Cuba’s black market as another success of counter economics. That’s nice, people aren’t starving because they do what they have to do in order to survive. You call that a success though? No, success is abolishing the state or reducing its size so far down you can barely see it. Internal counter econ has done little more than keep people alive in Cuba, and has done basically nothing to stop Castro’s tyrannical hold. What will free Cuba? External trade and the global economy. Completely different from internal anti state counter economics. No doubt, some will still champion Cuba’s coming market upheaval as a success of counter econ. Despite the fact that after 50 years of isolation and a basically failed black market nothing has changed. I wouldn’t be so foolish as to claim this as a victory if I were you agorists.
I see no other conceivable strategy for the achievement of liberty than political action. Religious or philosophical conversion of each man and woman is simply not going to work; that strategy ignores the problem of power, the fact that millions of people have a vested interest in statism and are not likely to give it up. Violent revolution will not work in a democratic political system. Konkinian agorism is no answer…
Rothbard, as always, nails it. Power, it is absolute in its supremacy. As shown every strategy above fails to address it. With it you can control vast swaths of humanity, without it you are doomed to slavery. It is the very much the grail of human existence. The state will always have power and the only way to conceivably reduce that power is to wield it upon itself.
This brings up the issue of institutional analysis. People apply the word “institution” to such wide-ranging concepts as “the family,” “the free market,” “the church,” and “the state.” An institution is any stable and widely-accepted mechanism for achieving social and political goals. To a great extent, these institutions function independently of the good or bad intentions of those who use them. For example, as long as everyone respects the rules of the free market, it functions as a mechanism of exchange. The same is true of the state. As long as everyone respects its rules – voting, going through state channels, obeying the law – it functions as a mechanism of social control.
The differences between the state and the market are obvious and numerous. The state forces you to take part in its system under threat of death. The market invites you participate at your own risk and at to no threat to your personal well-being, only your capital. The market is not a tool for political and social change, political change is merely a byproduct of the market not its intent. The market itself may influence political upheaval toward a more market friendly system but it won’t change people’s opinion of the state, because the state will use the change as a justification for its own existence.
The market is self reinforcing because it brings wealth and prosperity to those who embrace it. The state brings death and destruction of personal liberties. So seemingly this is counter intuitive. If people see voting has no effect or a bad effect, if the comparison holds, the people would move away from the state, not towards it. As reality holds though, this is not the case.
F.A. Hayek popularized the notion of unintended consequences, observing that conscious acts often produce unforeseen results. This explains why good men who act through bad institutions will produce bad results. Good men acting through the state will strengthen its legitimacy and its institutional framework. They will weaken social power. Ultimately, whether or not they repeal any particular law becomes as irrelevant to producing freedom as their intentions.
This is the law of unintended consequences but this example posits something rather odd. Seemingly “good men” legitimize the state by acting in moral ways. What is moral about the state’s actions? The state is wholly immoral in its nature, its controllers morality make no difference to the outcome if they don’t wish to use the state against itself. So called “good men” would advocate lessening the state or abolishing it, thus preventing its reinforcement not encouraging it. Voting for men who will reinforce the state by using it for “good”, whatever that is, isn’t a good idea. This seems like a very well crafted straw man.
So, returning to the question of voting for Hitler: purely for the sake of argument, I’ll grant the possibility that I could morally cast a ballot. Yet even then, I would still refuse to vote against him. Why? Because the essential problem is not Hitler, but the institutional framework that allows a Hitler to grasp a monopoly on power.
This is tantamount to arguing the state is the source of all things bad about the state. Well yeah, so end the state! Yet this posits nothing to accomplish the goal other than asking other people not participate in the only semi effective means the state has provided as a counter against its’ power. Other than the fact that merely ignoring state power could sink us into more and more tyrannical government in which finally people would be being killed and would be forced to actively fight the the state. If this is the argument it is not a moral argument and I will not entertain it. I find, more often than not, the people who advocate for collapse have no idea what that collapse would entail. Not to mention nearly all of human history has seen fallen democracies replaced with absolute tyrannies.
And yes, voting has been effective in many instances from state and local repealing of bad laws and the expansion of things like medical cannabis and concealed carry to what may be a single senator preventing a war in Syria. These things can not be denied.
Without the state to back him up and an election to give him legitimized power, Hitler would have been, at most, the leader of some ragged thugs who mugged people in back alleys. Voting for or against Hitler would only strengthen the institutional framework that produced him – a framework that would produce another of his ilk in two seconds.
I find it hard to compare Hitler and even Barrack Obama. There is a disconnect here that is blatantly obvious in its’ hyperbolic nature. That is especially true if the end game is collapse.
Killing Hitler does less damage. But it – like voting – is an admission of utter defeat. Resorting to brute force means that all avenues of social power have been destroyed and I have been reduced to adopting the tactics of the state. Under tyranny, such violence might be justified as long as I could avoid harming innocent third parties. In these circumstances, however, voting could not be justified, because there is a third party. No one has the right to place one human being in a position of political power over another. A consistent libertarian can never authorize one human being to tax and control peaceful activities. And the state is no more than the institutionalized embodiment of this authorization.
You cannot help freedom or social power by bowing your head to Leviathan.
I admit, voting is absolutely an admission of immediate defeat, it is recognizing the reality of the situation in which we find ourselves compelled by the state to use force against others in self defense. However, it is not a proclamation of surrender. Only a person who admits they’ve lost a battle can win a war. Denial will see more people needlessly die for the sake of a moral victory. A consistent libertarian can not look to condemn the actions of others under duress, who want to further the goals of reducing or removing that state, as a mere moral justification for their own strategy. It is indeed the consistent libertarian who seeks realistic solutions to uncompromising questions about state power.
You cannot further the cause of liberty by ignoring the state.
Intellectual property (IP) is a subject of some disagreement among people today, let me lay out why I think IP is unjust and an actual infringement upon liberty.
First, let us examine the underlying suppositions of property itself. Classically, property is derived from self ownership, the idea that we own ourselves. Ownership itself, simply meaning the right of possessing something. Self-Ownership can be derived from a simple deductive exercise, stemming from Descartes’ existence statement:
Cogito ergo sum
I think, therefore I am.
So If I am, because I think, my thoughts must exist and I must own them. And as I control my thoughts, my thoughts control my actions. So I must own my actions as well, since they are the consequence of my thoughts. From that we can also gather my actions must exist as well. Now, if I own my actions and thoughts, logic dictates, that I must own my self, as I am nothing more than action and thought. So again from that, we must conclude, I exist as well.
As you can see, these are reciprocal ideas.
As that follows, it must as well, that if I own myself, the products of that thought and action must be mine as well. Now let’s call “the use of thought and action”, something simpler. I find the word labor fits here quite well. So If I own my labor, as shown, and I mix that labor with unclaimed resources the product of that labor, what we call property, should justifiably be mine. And as a result, property must exist.
Now that we’ve established where property is derived from, and how it is justified, let’s take a look at IP. From where does a person gather the right to use government force to stop another person from doing something that isn’t harming anyone? IP is the adult equivalent to a child saying “stop copying me” and justified with force. Let’s reduce the argument down. If you’re sitting under a tree in the forest whittling a wooden horse when another traveler happens upon you and begins doing the same, using his own material, thought, actions, and time. He watches you carefully and comes to a rough approximation of your work.
A) Scream “PATENT INFRINGER” and proceed to beat him mercilessly until he pays you a royalty.
B) Be flattered that someone appreciated your work so much they wanted to try it for themselves.
Beyond the obvious false dichotomy, the moral here is obvious, using force to stop a person from approximating a work that you freely and openly decided to produce is unjustified. Obviously, if you hadn’t wanted anyone to imitate your work or view your process you would have hidden yourself away in a workshop. Then if someone had violated your property rights by trespassing to see your process or imitate your work you would have justifiable recourse against them.
IP restricts people from participating in the market and kills competition, it doesn’t drive innovation but it does slow the economy for the sake of “fairness” it is in essence a redistribution of wealth from the person imitating the work, to the person who had produced something similar first.
An obvious objection here would be:
“He did not perform the intellectual labor to produce the work.“
Notice that the ‘idea of the property’ is not, of itself, property. It can only become property as a mixture of thought, actions, and resources. As previously shown, labor is a mixture of thought and action. Therefore, an object missing thought or action can not be labor and certainly not “intellectual labor.” So as “intellectual labor” can not be labor without physical action, so to can we conclude there is no such thing as “intellectual property” without action or resources.
So would a book with ideas be property? Yes, of course but the ideas alone within that book are not. So to steal that book, would be theft. However, to copy it once owned or shared, can not be theft. This is not to say thought, and the development of it, is not intensive or worthwhile, it just does not meet the definition we have put forth of labor or property.
As Stephen Kinsella notes:
The mistake is the notion that creation is an independent source of ownership — independent, that is, from homesteading and contracting. However, it is easy to see that it is not, that “creation” is neither necessary nor sufficient as a source of ownership.
With that said, if you are the inventor of something there are ways to prevent people from copying your work without using a government granted monopoly. Contracts, secrecy, leases, non-discolure agreements etc
Let’s extrapolate a little to the real world and look at practicality. If IP exists, therefore it should ALWAYS exist in perpetuity to the heirs of the inventors estate unless otherwise traded or contracted away. So when I build a birdhouse or build a car or a rifle, I would be subject to IP infringement. Should all things men build be subjected to the rule of its originator, subject to merely the first person to think of it? For what justification can there be, or difference thereof, for a man to prevent me these things? Why do ideas in a book constitute something more precious than my wooden horse? From a purely consequentialist or practical point of view IP, if consistent, is a completely untenable idea.
The blatant irony here of course is that those often against the ideas of self ownership and private property, are the most ardent defenders of IP.
The next most common objection is constituted similar to this:
“The imitator can use superior personal capital or resources to take, market, and make billions from something he did not originally produce from poor man. He is exploiting another man.“
This happens everyday in the market and its a great thing. I build my wooden horse, and the “exploiter” copies him and mass produces him. I neither had the means nor the capital to capitalize on my horse but the “exploiter” did, as a result everyone wins. I won less but that’s my own fault. If I was smart I would have gone to the “exploiter” before I was so stupid as to let him see it without an NDA (contract) and asked him to produce my horse so we could both benefit. That’s an incredibly beautiful thing to me. Contracts are just wonderful.
I also think these people are attributing parts of the “exploiters” labor to the first man. Is name recognition, notoriety, and fame not directly a result of good publishing, marketing, and serving customers? As well as the ability to meet demand? Also the first man can still draw on public criticism from the second mans success in order to develop his ideas. In fact, some would say his ideas could benefit more because of his increased exposure. Could that not be seen as an I’ll gotten gain as well?
In conclusion, I think property is well defined, it’s opponents will always deny it exists, but I think I’ve made a good case for it’s existence and thus the non-existence and unjustifiability of intellectual property.
In arguing in favor of Hoppe’s notion of a completely privatized society I’ve come across a lot of derision as well as a lot of acceptance among libertarians.
Recently, I had a chat with Stephen Kinsella by proxy of another person, on this very subject. I think his position was a little weak when he reduced the argument away from the philosophical merits and devolved the argument into consequentialism. There are of course, numerous counter examples being evident to disprove him in Europe at the moment. That being said I recognize anecdotal evidence does not disprove a theory but I can say with some certainty these examples in Europe are, by and large, the norm. We can also say the examples listed are relevant and some of the only ones we really have. That’s where this conversation stems from.
I think we can look at reddit (an online social community based around direct democracy) and specifically /r/libertarian as a good example of the problems of immigration. Let me explain.
When /r/libertarian began it looked a lot like most libertarian communities, good discussions, well thought out posts, and very a very libertarian vibe overall. Lately, I don’t think anyone can deny the /r/libertarian subreddit has been overrun by non-libertarians. (let’s posit that as a fact so we’re not arguing trivialities here) Who or what they support is irrelevant and I’d like to keep this article clear of that kind of discussion as well.
When this topic is broached, a lot, if not most of these non-libertarians say they visit the subreddit for discussion because/r/politics (the established political discussion subreddit) and other subs are mostly echo chambers revolving around liberal attitudes and opinions. When moderation is asked for, the argument for a style of “open borders” is put forward in order to prevent hard language or seemingly hypocritical behaviour.This isn’t really the point I’m getting at and I’m not calling out said moderators at all, in fact, they’re all quite nice people to talk with.
Before anyone proposes that I’m “free to leave”, realize you’re about to use the same argumentas those that say “If u don like ‘merica git owet” and also that this discussion is limited to the scope of reddit. While others have their communities to discuss their ideas and develop them they have effectively not only ruled over their own communities but seemingly public ones like /r/politics and now want to move on to our community. This is effectively entryism but that’s a different topic for a later date. Anyway, I don’t think the “you can always leave” argument is in anyway valid when we are talking about private entities, at least until we can colonize and expand into the infinity of space as the planet is 99% covered by states.
What I am getting at is that /r/libertarian seems to be another limited example of how a democratic system (their voting system) forces people associate to extraordinarily destructive ends. Without private property and control of said property it thus ends up completely devolving communities as Hoppe, Rothbard, and Rockwell proposed would probably happen. This is essence turns an otherwise private community into a common space.
Not always overtly, but covertly. While the subreddit’s primary posts contain libertarian view points, the discussion sections are anything but libertarian a lot of the time. I think this is a pretty good example of how even a largely libertarian society can develop enclaves of anti-libertarian sentiment and help grow that sentiment from within using what is thought of as libertarianism against libertarians. (open immigration and shame) This should not be possible if libertarian theory is sound in my opinion. Libertarian theory should not be self destructive or it can not be correct and should be re-evaluated. That’s where I think Hoppe has it completely correct that disassociation from these communities and people is absolutely libertarian and absolutely necessary to maintain a libertarian social order.
In a covenant concluded among proprietor and community tenants for the purpose of protecting their private property, no such thing as a right to free (unlimited) speech exists, not even to unlimited speech on one’s own tenant-property. One may say innumerable things and promote almost any idea under the sun, but naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary to the very covenant of preserving and protecting private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and removed from society.
That may sound horrible to someone out of context but in the context of this discussion it makes perfect sense. Should a troll or a subversive non-libertarian be allowed to subvert the ideas of libertarianism and grow an enclave of anti-libertarian sentiment in a private community devoted to the ideas of libertarianism, toward the goal of a non-libertarian society that will no doubt be based on abject force? Of course not! That’s like someone moving into your home and teaching your kids communism, you have every right to physically remove them, so to speak.
From this, I think we can draw the conclusion that discussion in an open forum is at the consent of both parties and the lack of moderation (border control) in /r/libertarian is tantamount to an agreement the moderators made with others, without the subscribers consent, a social contract of no authority. In this, I think we can see exactly what libertarian theorists have been probing at for some time, that forcing communities to associate without consent can only lead to their inevitable destruction.
I find this trend pervasive online lately, not just on reddit. Twitter and facebook are other examples of where seemingly positive online libertarian communities have been over run by the anti intellectual right and left wing.
I’ll leave with the caveat that obviously online communities neither face the troubles associated with normal migration nor the opportunity costs, but I do think this is a fair observation of a microcosm of potential libertarian and non-libertarian communities interacting.
If Hoppe isn’t right, he sure has a funny way of showing it.
Let’s first talk about what etymology is in case some people don’t know. Most simply, etymology is the study of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history. How today the word “gay” means something entirely different than it did in the 1920’s.
That being understood one can see how the manipulation of history can lead to control and thus the domination of arguments and as a result philosophy. I find it apparent the ideological left is most guilty of manipulating words so they can be disassociated with the past, associate others with a false history, or even force people into argument that detracts from the subject matter. I’d like to look at some obvious cases of this now.
First, the most obvious case I think we’re all familiar with is the the term liberal, which for centuries was associated with what is now called “classical liberalism”, but is today associated closely and nearly inseparably with the ideological left. This happened as a result of a slow co-option by progressives in the FDR era. This is pretty commonly known so I’m not going to delve very deeply here, but this is when Mencken and Nock first began to call themselves libertarians.
Next most famously, and connected with the following example, is the term isolationism to refer to non-interventionism. This purposeful misuse began by neo-conservatives and most notably Bill Kristol. Seeking to associate the nation of North Korea with a more reserved foreign policy, Kristol intentionally misused and continues to mis-use the term “isolationist” to refer to non-interventionists much to the displeasure of a great many people, and to his advantage of pushing a failed Wilsonian foreign policy.
Now let’s take a quick look at “neoconservative.” The term has it’s roots in the ideological left with Irving Kristol, a trotskyist who seeking to capitalize and form a movement based around trotskyism, but who found resistance following the rise of the USSR. As you can tell with even cursory research the conservative movement was taken over by neoconservative thought not 20 years later that eventually lead to both Bush presidencies, where Kristol was awarded the medal of freedom by George W Bush. George W Bush , being completely antithetical to the ideas of what was widely considered conservatism at the time prior to the rise of Kristol. Most notably the ideas of gun control, expanding government education to the point of creating no child left behind, and the troubled asset relief program.
The people now called “paleoconservatives” should rightly be enraged by this. However, few “paleoconservatives” remain and that itself should serve as a clarion call to libertarians.
Fourth, let’s talk about the term “State Capitalism” to associate communist countries like the USSR and China with capitalism and the free market. This has been done as far back as the USSR. This phrase has been used by everyone from trotskyists and Maoists to Anarcho-communists. It’s use is mostly in deference to the argument “it’s not true communism”, as a defense of communist ideas, and as a false “cooperation” with capitalist ideals.
Ludwig Von Mises himself commented on this phenomena saying:
“The socialist movement takes great pains to circulate frequently new labels for its ideally constructed state. Each worn-out label is replaced by another which raises hopes of an ultimate solution of the insoluble basic problem of Socialism—until it becomes obvious that nothing has been changed but the name. The most recent slogan is “State Capitalism.”
The last and final example(though there are a great many more) is closer to home, “classical libertarian” is on the rise among communists on the internet to conflate libertarianism with the 19th century political movement started by the communist Joseph Dejacque. Dejacque himself appropriated this term from William Belsham, a left leaning determinist who labeled those who believed in free will as libertarians. Dejacque never used the term libertarian to describe a philosophy, yet still the ideological left seems hell bent on doing to libertarianism what they did to what is now “classical” liberalism and “paleo” conservatism. This is no doubt a method of co-opting the the ideas and discussions around libertarianism into a platform for the ideological left, not to mention a basic logical fallacy called the etymological fallacy.
This is somewhat related to what Orwell described as “double speak.” That term unfortunately, thanks to conspiracy theorists, is seen to have negative “tin foil hat” connotations and doesn’t relate to the intentional use of this language to further political agendas or co-opt ideas. Though the idea is frighteningly prescient.
I’d instead like to posit the phrase “Etymological terrorism.” While some may see this as a bit sensationalist, or even guilty of double speak itself, i think it’s important to fight fire with fire. I’m being careful to not choose a word that’s already in use to avoid doing the same thing here that I’m accusing others of doing, but in essence double speak used as a tool for political gain is Etymological terrorism.
Terrorism itself is defined as the use of violent acts to frighten the people as a way of trying to further a political agenda. While etymological terrorism is the intentional misuse or appropriation of term to confuse people as a way to further a political agenda.