Making others aware the evil of the State

Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied. ~ Arthur Miller

Butler Shaffer once wrote about an encounter he had at the grocery store with two college-age women who were working for Greenpeace. They asked him for his support and a conversation ensued. It is a great example of how to teach others about liberty and the State. His essay was called; “Conversation at a Grocery Store.” It is a wonderful short essay and you should read it in full. I promise you will enjoy it.

The essay ended with:

“But don’t you see that this is the problem? Political systems divide people into exclusive groups, making their coercive powers available to those who control the state’s machinery. This can only produce conflict, anger, and, ultimately, the violent and destructive world in which we now live. The corporations you fight today can so easily become the people the government kills in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere.”

Our conversation came to an end, and I could see the look of complete bewilderment on the face of the woman who had been the most vocal. I knew two things: (1) I had not convinced her of my point of view, nor had I sought to do so, and (2) she had heard ideas that were unfamiliar to her. Having heard them, they will remain in her mind; she cannot unhear them. At some point she will hear them from someone else and they will not be so unfamiliar. When she hears these ideas a third or fourth time from others, she may be inclined to think to herself: “I’ve always known that.”

I often get into discussions (is that the right word?) with “progressives” in a comments section at a progressive newspaper. Most of the time the progressives are so ignorant of the real issues involved that there is no real debate or discussion at all; just a little shouting of standard government worship and personal attack. Are these conversations of any benefit? Mostly I doubt it, but Dr. Shaffer has a good point in that we need to make sure the people who grow up in the propaganda cesspool here in the Empire hear the ideas of liberty and freedom even if they don’t understand them or even if they hate you for bringing the ideas to their attention. Someday they may have an epiphany due to the seed you sowed long before.

Libertarians of all kinds have been arguing for generations about the best strategy to convince the masses that individual cooperation and not State coercion is the best way to go for all of mankind. Some say that we should just give up and wait till the government falls to have a chance to see our ideas given a chance. I disagree with that — we need to educate the people in liberty and real economics (which informs our world view) before any collapse. Revolutions often turn out much different than the original revolutionaries thought it would. Besides, I am not hoping for an apocalypse anyway: I am hoping for a peaceful revolution like the one that took down the USSR.

To help the masses understand how political systems work and what is the essence of the State we must help dispel the illusions they have about what the entity called The Government really is. Even students of government define the State as the agency “enjoying a monopoly on the use of violence within a given territory.” The ordinary people need to be made to understand that this definition is used by students of government even in our State funded universities. This definition is an acknowledged truth. And so; there is nothing that the State ever does which does not flow from the the presumed authority to use whatever amount of deadly force that the officials deem necessary or convenient to achieve the desired results.

Government employees are not  “public servants”, an odious lie which they like to use to cloak themselves, government employees insist upon their power to demand obedience by force. As the Red Chinese communist dictator Mao Dedong famously explained, “all government flows from the barrel of a gun”.

In the end, we must somehow educate the masses that their ancestors the Classical Liberals who built a relatively free country in the US were on the right trail.

Can anarchy “work”?

As an anarchist I have been told countless times that anarchy just can’t work. It is a pipe dream and you would come closer to catching unicorns than finding any anarchy working in the “real world”. I have been told that I am just a Utopian dreamer. I have even been told by progressives that market anarchy would be a tyranny worse than Stalin!

Can anarchy work?

One of my favorite writers is Butler Shaffer. I have read every article he ever posted at LRC as far as I know. I have read many of them over again, and one that I have read many times is called, “What Is Anarchy?” Professor Shaffer writes with such a gentle and warm style while nailing the truth that he is utterly amazing. He must be a wonderful father and husband. To me; he is a source of inspiration when I get angry at the situation I see around me caused by the irrational faith in government that the majority seem to be unable to drop.

In his article he wrote:

… Nor can we ignore the history of the state in visiting upon humanity the very death and destruction that its defenders insist upon as a rationale for political power. Those who condemn anarchy should engage in some quantitative analysis. In the twentieth century alone, governments managed to kill — through wars, genocides, and other deadly practices — some 200,000,000 men, women, and children. How many people were killed by anarchists during this period? Governments, not anarchists, have been the deadly “bomb-throwers” of human history!

Because of the disingenuous manner in which this word has been employed, I endeavor to be as precise in my use of the term as possible. I employ the word “anarchy” not as a noun, but as a verb. I envision no utopian community, no “Galt’s Gulch” to which free men and women can repair. I prefer to think of anarchy as a way in which people deal with one another in a peaceful, cooperative manner; respectful of the inviolability of each other’s lives and property interests; resorting to contract and voluntary transactions rather than coercion and expropriation as a way of functioning in society.

I am often asked if anarchy has ever existed in our world, to which I answer: almost all of your daily behavior is an anarchistic expression. How you deal with your neighbors, coworkers, fellow customers in shopping malls or grocery stores, is often determined by subtle processes of negotiation and cooperation. Social pressures, unrelated to statutory enactments, influence our behavior on crowded freeways or grocery checkout lines. If we dealt with our colleagues at work in the same coercive and threatening manner by which the state insists on dealing with us, our employment would be immediately terminated. We would soon be without friends were we to demand that they adhere to specific behavioral standards that we had mandated for their lives.

Should you come over to our home for a visit, you will not be taxed, searched, required to show a passport or driver’s license, fined, jailed, threatened, handcuffed, or prohibited from leaving. I suspect that your relationships with your friends are conducted on the same basis of mutual respect. In short, virtually all of our dealings with friends and strangers alike are grounded in practices that are peaceful, voluntary, and devoid of coercion.

I would normally answer the question “has anarchy ever existed in our world” with reference to the Anarchy in the Aachen or the anarchy of ancient Ireland (here or here) but Butler Shaffer has an excellent point about everyday anarchy. One should read his entire post and I encourage everyone to do so. (link to it is here)

Stephan Kinsella wrote that the Butler Shaffer article referenced above set off a long discussion on Reason Magazine’s Blog and I remember that but unfortunately I don’t have a link to that discussion thread anymore and the link in Kinsella’s article is broken. But the discussion prompted Dr. Kinsella to pen a wonderful post on objections to anarchy called “What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist”.

I really liked this part of Stephan Kinsella’s post:

Libertarian opponents of anarchy are attacking a straw man. Their arguments are usually utilitarian in nature and amount to “but anarchy won’t work” or “we need the (things provided by the) state.” But these attacks are confused at best, if not disingenuous. To be an anarchist does not mean you think anarchy will “work” (whatever that means); nor that you predict it will or “can” be achieved. It is possible to be a pessimistic anarchist, after all. To be an anarchist only means that you believe that aggression is not justified, and that states necessarily employ aggression. And, therefore, that states, and the aggression they necessarily employ, are unjustified. It’s quite simple, really. It’s an ethical view, so no surprise it confuses utilitarians.

Accordingly, anyone who is not an anarchist must maintain either: (a) aggression is justified; or (b) states (in particular, minimal states) do not necessarily employ aggression.

Proposition (b) is plainly false. States always tax their citizens, which is a form of aggression. They always outlaw competing defense agencies, which also amounts to aggression. (Not to mention the countless victimless crime laws that they inevitably, and without a single exception in history, enforce on the populace. Why minarchists think minarchy is even possible boggles the mind.)

As for (a), well, socialists and criminals also feel aggression is justified. This does not make it so. Criminals, socialists, and anti-anarchists have yet to show how aggression — the initiation of force against innocent victims — is justified. No surprise; it is not possible to show this. But criminals don’t feel compelled to justify aggression; why should advocates of the state feel compelled to do so?

Criticism of my position as an anarchist on the grounds that it won’t “work” is something I hear all the time. I read people who claim that only a world full of angels could live without the iron fist of government pounding the people every time they did anything that the government deemed “illegal”. This argument is ridiculous on its face of course. The record of the nation-State is so horrific that no one could seriously claim that the foul and odious States are better than mankind cooperating voluntarily with one another. If some competitive private defense agency went over the line at some point in an anarchy — how in the world could they equal the foul record of the abuses of power that our own State police forces have committed over the decades? How could private defense agencies possibly equal the horrors that the nation Stated poured out on their own citizens in the 20th century when States murdered over 200 million of their own citizens? (see Democide)

When someone tells me that anarchy as a goal is just not practical he usually means that I will not live to see a state-less society so I should just give up. But I don’t have to believe that I will live to see a stateless society to preach the fact that the State is evil incarnate. I don’t have to come up with all the answers that the market will provide in the future in an anarchy to know that it will beat hell out of what we have now. Just knowledge of the results of the Austrian School of Economics tells me that the closer we get to anarchy the better for the masses.

States can not be justified unless you believe that raw aggression against the innocent can be justified. Do you believe that aggression is justified or don’t you? I reject aggression.

Is restoration of the old US Republic the first step?

It is my belief that the US Empire is on the verge of collapse much like the USSR did in 1991 and for many of the same reasons. The US Empire has become tyrannical at home, is engaged in losing occupations overseas, and is financially bankrupt. I see a total collapse coming or a move back towards the Republic that the US once was. I hold that going to the Old Republic would not be the ultimate political goal for liberty lovers as the original Republic devolved into the tyrannical mess we have today — but it would be a great first step. Market anarchy is our goal — voluntary cooperation among people — but we need to have some path toward more liberty.

Is restoration of the old US Republic the first step towards a free land? Can it be done? Can we get to market anarchy by steps rather than by a total collapse? Would having much more freedom be a good thing even if we were still subjects of a government? I believe that restoring the ideas and laissez-faire government of the old Republic would be a good first step on the road towards ending the State. If we can move toward the Restoration of the Old Republic, what would it take? What would that look like?

The restoration of American liberty and of the Old Republic would be a multi-faceted task. Murray Rothbard touched on that topic once just after the collapse of the USSR. He wrote:

It requires excising the cancer of the Leviathan State from our midst. It requires removing Washington, D.C., as the power center of the country. It requires restoring the ethics and virtues of the nineteenth century, the taking back of our culture from nihilism and victimology, and restoring that culture to health and sanity. In the long run, politics, culture, and the economy are indivisible. The restoration of the Old Republic requires an economic system built solidly on the inviolable rights of private property, on the right of every person to keep what he earns, and to exchange the products of his labor. To accomplish that task, we must once again have money that is produced on the market, that is gold rather than paper, with the monetary unit a weight of gold rather than the name of a paper ticket issued ad lib by the government. We must have investment determined by voluntary savings on the market, and not by counterfeit money and credit issued by a knavish and State-privileged banking system. In short, we must abolish central banking, and force the banks to meet their obligations as promptly as anyone else. Money and banking have been made to appear as mysterious and arcane processes that must be guided and operated by a technocratic elite. They are nothing of the sort. In money, even more than the rest of our affairs, we have been tricked by a malignant Wizard of Oz. In money, as in other areas of our lives, restoring common sense and the Old Republic go hand in hand.

Ron Paul has convinced millions of people that the US must gain control over the Fed at the very least and that many of our problems comes from having a central bank. So we could gain a lot of support from the citizens on that front. We would also have to renounce the Federal debt and the 250 Trillion in unfunded liabilities and start again. A national bankruptcy would free us to return to the small government of our beginnings.

To return to the old Republic would require a new Constitution. We have far too many horrible Supreme Court rulings on the present document to return to a free society using the old Constitution. We need a Constitutional Convention to re-write the document and the main thing it would have to contain is the provision that any state of the union may leave the union at anytime. A second main goal would have to be limiting the powers of the central government to nothing more than national defense against an invasion by a hostile power. That would be its only function. There would be no committing troops overseas for a war without the Congress approving by 3/4 vote at least and then only after the other nation has tried to invade our shores.

Since government throughout history have debased the currency, we would have to make sure that the central government did not issue currency at all but let the market handle the creation of money. Or if that were not possible, at least make sure that private money was to be always legal so that private money could compete with any government issued money.

A system of firm rights of private property, with everyone secure in the property that he earns is fundamental to liberty. It leads to mutual cooperation, thrift, hard work, prosperity, and the development of the character traits that liberty demands of the citizens. As Rothbard and a host of others have pointed out, property rights is the very basis of “human rights”.

But the most important thing that we need to do is inform the masses what Classical Liberalism really was and why if freed mankind in the first place. This information is no longer taught in schools and the majority of citizens could not tell you what the Classical Liberals believed in. No new Constitution or other system of law is going to help if the people themselves are ignorant of the benefits of liberty. We must inform them of how freedom produced the greatest expansion of wealth the world has ever seen.

War and the State

I want to talk a bit today about the State and war. In my lifetime the US Empire has always been at war. Sometimes the wars were “hot” and sometimes “cold”; sometimes covert and sometimes overt; sometimes brutal occupations and sometimes brutal bombing campaigns. But whatever form the war took; we have always been at war.

Libertarianism is the opposite of the State and its many wars. The entire body of libertarian law, philosophy, system of ethics, and our beliefs begins with the non-aggression axiom.

Murray Rothbard wrote:

The fundamental axiom of libertarian theory is that no one may threaten or commit violence (“aggress”) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a non-aggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.

On an individual level, if I find that my property is being stolen by X, I have the right to use force to prevent the robbery or to apprehend the criminal. I don’t have the right to bomb a house that I suspect he is hiding in or to kill innocent bystanders by shooting at him into a crowd of people. Mr. X may have started the situation and I may use force against Mr. X to apprehend him, but I would be a bigger criminal than he is if I murder innocent bystanders. This situation should be about as non-controversial as any one could come up with. I know of no religion, system of ethics, or system of law that provides for the wanton killing of innocent bystanders just so some man may recover his property.

When one then looks at the bigger picture and sees that nation-States go to war with each other we see that the reality is that groups of people, real humans, go to war with each other in the name of their State. War then is just open violence between groups of people.

An individual may repel an attack by some person or group but he has no right of any kind to draft me into his violent confrontation no matter how righteous his cause. By the same logic we see that the State has no moral right to draft me into one of its violent confrontations — no matter how “righteous” the minions of the State claim it to be.

If an individual is engaged in repelling a violent attack on his person or property he may defend himself but he has no right to make me pay for any of that defense. I hope no one really thinks he does have any financial claim on innocent bystanders. And so it is with the State: it has no right at all to force me to pay for one of its aggressions.

If an individual is engaged in a war against the person or group that attacked his person or property we will freely admit his moral and legal right to conduct the violence against the aggressors. But if he kills any innocents in the process, no claim of “the other party started it” will excuse his murders.

As it is with the individual, so it is with the State. The state may not do other than defend itself against aggressors else it violates libertarian law, morality, and human decency. Rothbard put it this way:

The libertarian’s basic attitude toward war must then be: it is legitimate to use violence against criminals in defense of one’s rights of person and property; it is completely impermissible to violate the rights of other innocent people. War, then, is only proper when the exercise of violence is rigorously limited to the individual criminals. We may judge for ourselves how many wars or conflicts in history have met this criterion.

Following this logic one must conclude that a State has no right to bomb whole cities of innocent people even if those cities contain warriors of the other side.

Old fashioned “international law” had the concept of the “laws of war” and the “laws of neutrality” which held that a nation could not bomb any city that was not on the front line of the conflict. A nation could not use aggression to involve other neutral nations in the conflict. A nation could not block free trade by neutral nations even with a combatant nation in the conflict. The prohibition of the bombardment of all cities not in the front line was a rule of war that held in Western European wars in recent centuries.  That is it held until Britain launched the strategic bombing of civilians in World War II. Now the nations of the world accept the bombing not only of cities but wedding parties, funerals, private homes, and anything the president of the US decides to destroy with his drones or with his other military might.

International law in times past also prevented one nation from using “sanctions” against another nation by threatening the world community if they trade with the sanctioned nation. This well established rule was overturned, again, by the British embargoes against Germany in both world wars but has been taken to new and far reaching extremes by the USA in the last half century.

The State has no right to force me to pay for one of its violent, and illegal, aggressions against some other people — usually on the other side of the globe. This is on top of the fact the State does not have the moral right to use violence to make me pay for anything.

And finally, the US Empire has now reached the point where the government asserts the right to aggress against anyone on the planet using nuclear weapons, drones, economic sanctions, threats, or any other means deemed useful. We have reached a point where the USA sees no law or moral principle as an constraint upon its own actions.

With the rise of the nation-State we have seen war rise to levels of carnage and brutality worthy of a dystopian novel. It is time to recognize that the very concept of the State is at the heart of war. “War is the health of the state.”  If you love God, or the gods, or your children then you have to hate the State and its destruction of human happiness, peace, prosperity, and life.

The reaction to Ron Paul’s Congressional farewell address: what does it mean?

Congressman Ron Paul gave a farewell speech to Congress on November 14th, 2012 and I encourage you to watch it in full or read the transcript at the link. If the US Empire were to follow his advice it would truly be a passing from the old age to a new one and would thus prove the Mayan Calendar theorists right. It would be a return to freedom and liberty and a renunciation of war.

Since Dr. Ron Paul was known in congress as “Dr. No” and never had any real power or prestige in congress; why have so many people taken note of the speech and still want to know what this retiring politician has to say? I got almost four million hits with a Google search on Ron Paul’s farewell address just now. That is amazing.

Dr. Gary North wrote:

In the history of American politics, I can think of only four farewell addresses that ever got into the textbooks, and one of them was a fake. The most famous one was George Washington’s 1796 farewell address, and it was not an address. It was a newspaper article. The second came in 1961, which was Dwight Eisenhower’s famous military-industrial complex speech. The third one was Richard Nixon’s announcement after his defeat in 1962 when he ran for governor of California against Edmund G. “Pat” Brown. I’m not sure that it should be regarded an address; it was more of a press conference, but it counted as a farewell address . . . for six years. In it, he uttered the immortal words, “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” It was aimed at the media. Then, a dozen years later, he gave a real farewell address, the day before he resigned in disgrace from the presidency.

Ron Paul’s farewell address was the fifth. This is extraordinary. The media did not ridicule him as arrogant for having delivered such an address. On the whole, the media seemed interested in what he had to say. Yet his speech began with a statement of the fact, namely, that he had never had any measurable political influence in the House in his entire 22 years. He had never had one of his bills passed into law.

His farewell address was taken seriously as a statement of principles, precisely because he never had any direct political influence in passing legislation. He stood as a representative of a constitutional tradition that has had only two other representatives at the national level ever since the end of the Civil War: President Grover Cleveland and Congressman Howard Buffett, who served in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Virtually nobody remembers Buffett, although almost everybody in the financial world has heard of his son Warren.

Whatever the impact of Ron Paul’s farewell address, it is safe to say that no other congressman has ever delivered such an address at his retirement, at least not where the media took him seriously. It is unheard of that any Congressman would deliver such an address, and especially a Congressman who had no political power or the ability to spread election money around to his colleagues.

The media tried to marginalize Dr. Paul as a “kook” for over 30 years. Why would the media all of a sudden be interested in the words of a retiring Texas Congressman that the media has labeled with almost every smear known to man at one point or the other? Why do even his political enemies even pay attention to Ron Paul’s words?

Until his run for GOP nomination in 2007, Ron Paul was so obscure a figure that the best way for a media representative to reach him was by his home number, and now he leaves office having introduced more ideas into the national debate than any man in memory.

On foreign policy, Dr. Paul, forced the nation to look at the fact that the many wars and policing the whole world has bankrupted the nation financially. He has mentioned at times that the wars have bankrupted us morally and ethically as well, but the financial woes of America due to these massive military aggressions was something that everyone from the far left to the far right knew instinctively that we must talk about as a nation. Dr. Paul made many people aware of this pressing issue.

Dr. Paul Ron showed the nation a way out of wedge issues like abortion or same-sex marriage. He argues, like the Rothbardians have for decades, that we should leave the question of abortion up to the states. Let the people decide state by state. On gay marriage he called for getting the Government totally out of marriage and leaving it up to the people.

Dr. Paul also made very credible pleas to end the failed drug war that is putting millions of peaceful Americans in cages and ruining families over private behaviors. Madness, it is simply madness to try to control what the people ingest into their own bodies. And it costs billions upon billions to pay for the police, the courts, the prisons, and the failed lives of the men and women convicted of the victim-less crime of smoking a little weed or swallowing a pill the government did not approve. The drug war is a total failure.

Ron Paul’s ideas are winning on the financial mess. His “Audit the Fed” message resonates and he made a real call to trim a trillion or more from the budget next year during the campaign. That, of course, scared hell out of both parties. He talked about cutting a Trillion Dollars from the budget in the first year if he won and not ten years down the road after he had left office. Cut spending now was the message.

Ron Paul set the debate and this column by George Will proves it even though Will doesn’t have the decency to mention Ron Paul by name even as he presents many of Dr. Paul’s ideas.

Ron Paul’s ideas are just starting to work. He may be one of the most important “nobodies” ever to be in American politics. I think the reaction to Ron Paul signals that the nation is starting to wake up to the message of peace, prosperity, and liberty that the laissez-faire Classical Liberals have been preaching for generations. Ron Paul got a national platform in the nomination race to be able to tell the masses the truth.

I believe that in the end Ron Paul and the truth will prove to be the real winer of the last election.