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Why I am not specifically a voluntaryist

17 September 2009 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in philosophy, war | 97 Comments »

Maybe it’s nothing more than a definitional quibble, but…

Carl Watner, who has operated voluntyarist.com for long years, provides a definition of what a voluntaryist is, front and center:

Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society.

Carl has done amazing work in collecting and promulgating anarchist literature. The amount of learning I have obtained and that others have benefited from via his work — as writer and archiver — is incalculable. Carl’s one of the good guys. One of the guys, indeed, who I can count on to wind up on the right side of the barricades, come the revolution. I heart Carl Watner.

Image from headsonpikes.blogspot.com -- that guy's dead. Sorry.

Image from headsonpikes.blogspot.com -- that guy's dead. Sorry.

However, I can’t but quibble with this definition. I might well prefer non-violent strategies for the attainment of a free society (and the political will certainly never be acceptable). But I am not going to rule out violent, bloody, homicidal strategies to get there, if such turn out to seem essential.

Perhaps this is not what Carl means with his definition. Perhaps the preference, the advocacy for such does not preclude other paths. But I read this definition, and the words of many other self-proclaimed voluntaryists, and see a commitment to non-violence above all other things.

I am not so committed.

I don’t really advocate the strategies as such. I want the end results. Of course I am keenly aware that ends do not justify means. But when one recognizes that the world is ruled by criminal gangs, one ought take into account all legitimate actions for the elimination of crime and criminals.

If the achievement of a free society is to require that a million bleeding heads of torturing tyrants, damnable dictators, pandering politicians, sadistic generals, privileged policemen, criminal soldiers and psychotic, irresponsible “servants” be hoisted on pikes to surround the palisades of the free cities, count me in for the headsman’s role, for I will not dwell in my ice-cream-and-flying-ponies fantasies so long as to preclude my own action toward the attainment thereof.

Would that neither you nor I ever face such choices. But we should be ready, should our realities eventuate as such, to know what we will do.

Do you?

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  1. 97 Responses to “Why I am not specifically a voluntaryist”

  2. By J Nick Puglia on 17 September 2009

    If I thought that my heirs would live free if all I had to do was a bit of violence against bad people… Well, I think I would do it.

  3. By Seth on 17 September 2009

    I think about this issue *quite* a bit, and I’m glad that Mike has the stones to talk openly about it, as it must be addressed.

    First off, once a person becomes free of democratic slave-think, and sees the people who comprise governments for the murdering, lying, thieving piece-of-shit criminals that they really are, it’s hard not to fantasize about striking back against your oppressors.

    I certainly don’t like to be stolen from, bullied, threatened, or pushed around, and I sure as hell don’t like to take abuse “lying down”. However, as I’ve often pointed out to like minded friends, the minute you started acting as if you are truly a free man, the clock starts ticking down on the inevitable violent encounter with government predators. (Assuming you would bring whatever force to bear you could in defending your property and person.)

    I fully support the moral right of a free person to defend themselves from government predators using whatever violence necessary. Of course that would be suicidal, but I openly support their right to resist violent criminals with violence.

    The problem however, is that government criminals are experts in violence, and now you’re playing their game. And since they ARE amoral murderous piece of shit criminals, they’re probably going to find it easier to play this “game” than decent people like you or myself, who have a natural aversion to using violence.

    Also when discussing revolutionary violence we run into the paradox that as radical libertarian, market anarchists, agorists, whatever, we constantly condemn the use of violence to achieve social change. So to employ any *aggressive* violence to achieve social change would be hypocritical.

    Yet using violence purely self-defensive violence against government predators seems like a losing strategy, since they can always bring overwhelming force to bear, they choose the time and location of attack, in short they have every advantage, and the freedom fighter is once again involved in a suicide mission.

    The only way that the weaker side in an asymmetrical warfare situation can hope to win is via guerrilla warfare, offensive violence against know government facilities and personnel. But is it really offensive violence when these people have century or longer track record of armed robbery and mass murder?

    And what then of the inevitable innocent loss of life by people caught in the crossfire? What of the government agents that are not wearing clown suits and go underground to abduct and torture and kill even more innocent people in an attempt to ferret out the guerrilla? By provoking the beast with attacks, is not the guerrilla also condemning more innocents to horrible “collateral damage” suffering in some counter revolutionary “dirty war”?

    Bob Higgs, recently wrote an outstanding column on the futility of protesting and in the comments someone mentioned Gene Sharp, the so-called “Machiavelli of nonviolence”. Don’t know if you are familiar with his writings, but just the few snippets I’ve read of his about meeting violence with non-violence have been very thought provoking. His analysis of these issue is probably worth a read.

    So to summarize, from a dispassionate logical and strategic perspective, it would seem that outright revolutionary warfare style violence against the state, will not achieve the stateless society that I assume is the end goal.

    On the other hand, I fully support the moral right of people everywhere to defend their person and property from government (and freelance) criminals using sufficient *defensive* violence to deter or physically fight off the attack.

    If things got really bad, I wonder how much abuse and violence I could tolerate without wanting to strike back violently, even with the knowledge that it would be counterproductive in the long run.

    (Sorry for the book length post)

  4. By Chris Blizzard on 17 September 2009

    A quick thought on revolution. If it requires the use of coercive force against those who do not want anarchy, then it is surely immoral, no?

    On the other hand, it doesn’t seem impossible that given enough time, all of the people who are not PART of the state apparatus could become desirous of anarchy and so it would be more of a ‘velvet revolution’ – like the final overthrow of Milosevic.

    But I would still assert two things to the anarchists who seek to bring this about. Firstly, whatever transition strategy you have (and there don’t seem to me, no offence, to be that many well-thought-out ones) for bringing about the revolution, I think it will take too long, and the fascists will out manoeuvre, out resource and out-propagandise you. You could hope for a collapse, but that seems to me far more likely to result in a more authoritarian takeover.

    Even then, I think that unless near unanimity of support for anarchy could be achieved, the condition will be unstable, and collapse once again.

    I’m not shilling for big government, just wanted to offer those thoughts. Sorry to be doom and gloom but I think the fascists are winning and that gets me down.

    Any support for gulching amongst this readership?

  5. By George Donnelly on 17 September 2009

    Carl says voluntaryists are “advocates of” non-violent strategies. IOW, that’s what our first preference is, that’s what we’re pushing, urging.

    But I feel entirely comfortable being a voluntaryist and reserving my right to violent self-defense. There is no conflict.

    But I read this definition, and the words of many other self-proclaimed voluntaryists, and see a commitment to non-violence above all other things.

    So voluntaryists are pacifists? We know that is most certainly untrue.

    Would that neither you nor I ever face such choices. But we should be ready, should our realities eventuate as such, to know what we will do.

    This is my perspective exactly. This is why I have developed a firearms hobby. But I feel entirely comfortable within the voluntaryist tradition, because I’m not seeking the violence. I’m simply preparing to self-defend – and never to aggress.

    Chris, it’s not about forcing anarchy on people, it’s about defending yourself from people who won’t let you live in liberty.

  6. By John on 17 September 2009

    I agree with George Donnelly: self-defense is perfectly compatible with voluntarism. Carl
    Watner’s definition that you quoted strikes me as more pacifist, if taken literally, than anything. I am also a great admirer of Watner. For the record, I tend to think violence, even if solely in self-defense and completely justified, might be very ineffective as a means to societal change in the libertarian direction.

  7. By Teresa on 17 September 2009

    You say the primary result you seek is a “free society”.

    As means to accomplish this result…
    -would you use pre-emptive force?
    -would you indulge in vengeance?
    -would you attack a different person from the one who attacked you or peaceful people?

    If your answers to any of these questions is yes, how will I be able to tell you apart from the politicians and soldiers you claim to oppose?

  8. By Mike Gogulski on 17 September 2009

    The unwritten assumption here is that those to be given the pike treatment are guilty of crimes.

    @Teresa: No, no and no.

  9. By George Donnelly on 17 September 2009

    Teresa’s question are too lacking in context for me to answer. You answered too soon, Mike. Let’s hear some more detailed scenarios before anyone starts answering.

  10. By Chris Blizzard on 17 September 2009

    There is a lot of branding people as criminals in these debates. Most of it is definitely justified, don’t get me wrong.

    On a philosophical note, it seems to me that unless one builds up an argument from first principles as to what constitutes a crime, then one is no better than the collectivists throughout history – first the religious, then the Marxians and socialists who talk about crime and sin as if they are god-given.

    Therefore to brand everyone who is part of any state as criminals is somewhat missing the most important part of the debate in my opinion – which is ethics.

    Surely someone like Peter Schiff is a positive influence because of his net output and effect. He broadcasts the benefits of the free market, and criticises centralised banking, fiat currency, corporatism and all those other evils. Why is he suddenly a criminal if he was elected (unlikely as it is)? His aims are still to vastly reduce the fascist power of government. This helps free market anarchists as well as minarchists because it reduces the weight of opposition, surely?

    Or am I wrong on all counts? (Sorry Mike if my comments are too off-topic)

  11. By Noor on 17 September 2009

    I’m not a voluntaryist either, but mostly for different reasons.

    Voluntaryism assumes that any action is just as long as it’s non-coercive, and that’s the flaw. Voluntary is a necessary, but *not sufficient* condition for justice or morality.

    I’ve also seen voluntaryists equivocate between two different usages of the term. One usage is “simply non-aggressive”, and the other is “fitting in with people’s values.”

  12. By The New Anarchist on 17 September 2009

    A lot of this assumes that justice and morality are an issue at all. Let’s assume for a moment that everyone’s goal is a world without government (which it’s not) and that this goal is achieve, either through violent or non-violent means.

    Does that mean we suddenly live in a just world? No. It just means we live in a world that operates differently from the one we have now. If that difference is achieved through violence, it would only make hypocrites of those that don’t advocate violence as a means since that symbolizes the world they want to get rid of.

    But these are value judgments. They have no effect on the reality that, using force of arms, you just ushered in a new world. It doesn’t mean you ushered in a better one.

    Anyway, hi.

  13. By Alex Ryan on 17 September 2009

    Violence has lead to many successful revolutions.

    Certainly the current collection of tyrants can be removed by such means but how do you prevent a new group from arising in their place?

    It is when it comes to *sustaining* the gains achieved that a strategy of violence fails.

    IMHO we must be patient and persistent and focus on winning hearts and minds one by one.

    Each individual we win erodes the power of the tyrants.

    When we win enough there will be no NEED for violence.

    The drive to use coercion that we feel when we are attracted to solutions like this is the same drive to coercion that *creates* tyranny to begin with.

    To create an enduring society of freedom we must seek not to control others but rather to control ourselves. :)

  14. By George Donnelly on 18 September 2009


    Voluntary is a necessary, but *not sufficient* condition for justice or morality.

    Why? Please present your argument.

    I’ve also seen voluntaryists equivocate between two different usages of the term. One usage is “simply non-aggressive”, and the other is “fitting in with people’s values.”

    Who are these other voluntaryists and where can I find them? (ie the latter ones)

    Alex, nicely said.

  15. By Noor on 18 September 2009

    Why? Please present your argument.

    Morality is about what we *ought* to do, and coercion in general is not the only thing we ought not to do.

    An example is the “man in a well” scenario. Let’s say you fall into a well accidentally, and I get a bullhorn and tell you that I won’t let you out because you deserved it, but I’ll throw down food and water for you, until I think you’re fit to be freed. You accept voluntarily, and I now control you.

    There is no NAP violation here, since I did not push you into the well. I am simply taking advantage of your bad situation. This is a case of exploitation and hierarchy– it’s voluntary as in there’s no coercion at all, but it is in no way just.

    Who are these other voluntaryists and where can I find them? (ie the latter ones)

    I think almost all voluntaryists make that mistake, but it’s more implicit. For example, many voluntaryists would describe my “man in a well” scenario as involuntary because you had no viable alternative.

    But now the definition of “voluntary” has been changed to mean “free to achieve values” which implies you have viable alternatives. And there lies the equivocation– the well scenario is perfectly voluntary as in there’s no coercion or NAP violation, but it’s in no way freedom or just.

    I believe in a society where people are free to achieve their values, and coercion is only one way to repress that. Exploitation, taking advantage of the situation, is different.

  16. By George Donnelly on 18 September 2009

    What does this person mean by “I won’t let you out”? Does it mean that if the man in the well tries to climb out that the other one will interfere with his escape?

    Your scenario is incomplete until you explain this.

  17. By Noor on 18 September 2009

    Does it mean that if the man in the well tries to climb out that the other one will interfere with his escape?

    No, not necessarily. I meant not helping him out, supposing the well is deep enough that no one can climb out without a ladder or external help.

  18. By George Donnelly on 18 September 2009

    So you mean the man just refuses to help the trapped man out, for whatever reason.

    But he’s feeding him.

    How is this exploitation? The non-trapped man is helping as best he can.

    Ok, so now all voluntaryists seem to fall into this mistake in thinking? And the man in the well scenario exemplifies this?

    Sorry, can you explain it further? I don’t understand what is wrong with the scenario or what the mistake in thinking actually is.

    Can you define ‘exploitation’? ‘Taking advantage of the situation’? Give examples?

  19. By anon on 18 September 2009

    Not to mention the flaw it has involving defensive actions for consideration Tibet’s situation in respect to China. I’m not a history buff but anyway the dalai lamma was said to have been at the head of a resistance movement that failed he fled and they pretty much relied on the nonviolent approach or largely so from what I understand. China just sent it’s ample amount of citizens into Tibet thus wiping out the tibetans ability to resist non-violently with any real results seeing as how Tibet is still under control of China.

  20. By anon on 18 September 2009

    In response to Voluntaryists methods of defense if/when an anarchist society is established.

  21. By Noor on 18 September 2009

    But he’s feeding him.

    How is this exploitation? The non-trapped man is helping as best he can.

    I believe I specified that the non-trapped man refused to help him out.

    Ok, so now all voluntaryists seem to fall into this mistake in thinking?

    I didn’t say “all.” I specifically used “almost all” and “many.” (I suppose there are people who use the label voluntaryist, but do not adhere to that exact thinking.)

    Sorry, can you explain it further? I don’t understand what is wrong with the scenario or what the mistake in thinking actually is.

    It’s very simple. The immorality of the non-trapped man is his control-hierarchy over the trapped man due to the latter’s unfortunate situation, even though there is no aggression on either end.

    To make it more clear, suppose the non-trapped guy orders the trapped guy to do work for him, or else the trapped guy won’t get any food, and the latter consents because he wants to survive.

    The fantasy that non-aggression is sufficient for justice, would rule this situation as fine and dandy because there’s no NAP violation.

    Can you define ‘exploitation’? ‘Taking advantage of the situation’? Give examples?

    Exploitation is slightly hard to define, but basically it’s restricting someone’s freedom to achieve their values by using their situations, such as in the well scenario.

  22. By Noor on 18 September 2009

    Oh fuck, I meant to bold only the no aggression part, but I ended up bolding the whole rest of it. D’oh.

  23. By Chris Blizzard on 18 September 2009

    Could the reason why leaving the guy in the well is immoral, be because philosophically, there are principles that come before the NAP? Just a thought ;)

  24. By John and Dagny Galt on 18 September 2009

    Dear Brothers and Sisters, Sons and Daughters of Liberty,

    There are only two types of human beings.

    One type just wants everyone to leave everyone else alone and these humans are students and advocates of the Philosophically Mature Non-Aggression Principle.

    The other type refuses to leave others alone and these humans are the Mobocracy Looter Minions with their hords of bureaucrats, jackboots, and mercenaries that perpetuate the perpetration of the loot and booty gravy-train. Rob-peter-to-buy-paul’s-vote bread and circuses of the doomed Amerikan Empire.

    You are either the one…or the other.

    The John Galt Solution of Starving The Monkeys is the only solution. Stop funding and forging your own chains and shackles. What are you leaving for your children and grandchildren and prodigy!?!

    The Mobocracy Looter Minions must be allowed to consume everything around them, then each other, and finally themselves. There is no other way. Ayn Rand wrote about it over fifty years ago and it rings as soundly today as it did then.

    Get your copy of Starving The Monkeys by Tom Baugh today, before the book is banned and the author is hunted down and Vince Fostered!

    Sincerely,
    John and Dagny Galt
    Atlas Shrugged, Owner’s Manual For The Universe!(tm)

    http://www.starvingthemonkeys.com/

    http://voluntaryist.com/fundamentals/introduction.php

    .

  25. By Mike Gogulski on 18 September 2009

    Well that’s definitely plenty of Rand boosterism. My eyes are bleeding now.

  26. By Freedom on 18 September 2009

    The guy in the well scenario is terrible.

    The argument that could be made is that any person that does not own the land and necessary tools and resources to live without support is the “guy in the well”.

    So if you need food, but don’t own a farm, you are the “guy in the well” to the guy on the farm.

    So, if you are starving and have no money, is the farmer required to give you food?

    If the farmer makes you pay, is he exploiting you because he has food and you don’t?

    The guy in the well scenario is way too communist “exploitation” philosophy for my liking as it seems to imply that you should be required to help anyone in need regardless of how they got there, so as to make your labor and property community property for those without.

    If you are required, who enforces that and how? How would that be a libertarian, voluntarism or anarchical type of philosophy?

  27. By Jason on 18 September 2009

    Can we please get back to discussing the morality of the various ways to achieve an anarchist society through violence?

  28. By WageSlave on 18 September 2009

    From my POV, the definition is very simplisitic and designed to be fundamental, maybe to some degree to keep quibbles like this from breaking out. Didn’t work I see. LOL! The idea (again MO)of Carl is to introduce a basic concept, cause people to think before delving into specifics. His definition as I read it would be to some degree how a newcomer would be treated in dealing with individual and therefore a larger voluntaryist world. If you tell them in the definition, “and you’ll be required for fitting with an M-16″ or some such, then why waste time and just not go straight to a militia type website?

    I believe in the Non-Agression axiom and when asked I mostly answer with the basic response of “I believe in all human actions that there be no force or fraud.” Now I’ll stipulate that is a way to simplistic answer, especially here but when dealing with the masses, the moment you move beyond simplistic, you lose a ton of them and some might argue (valid point) if they are that stupid are they worth the time? LOL! Point taken.

    Mike’s assertion that he will not avail himself of “other means” if he sees or the needs fit are his own and he’s free to make those claims, publically or privately. I neither condemn nor condone other than to say you will be heavily outgunned but it’s still his life and choice.

    However, taking Carl as promoting pacifism if you will, he’s still promoting the idea of not cooperating with the State and does that not still aid those whose choose a more forceful route? Let people choose to play to their strengths. Some people like the direct route of tax protesting for example, others burn the SS Card on YouTube. Still others maintain their condition and yet educate others and themselves which in truth the State fears even more because it represents an unknown which in itself drives the State crazy. The larger the unknown, the greater the threat or inability to predict that causes the unintended consequences that spoils their Statist outcomes. I see neither Carl’s defintion or the non-agression axiom as preventing or precluding actions of individual self defense if it’s deemd necessary.

    In 1971′ a Jethro Tull roadie turned me on to a band called Genesis and a specific song called The Knife. It’s about violent revolution and how often turning to violence even for the grand sake and in the name of freedom ends in it’s own form of tyranny in the power of the all knowing “ONE”.

    We humans often start out with the greatest of intentions and believe we have our natures in check but the ole’ adage is still so true. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It’s not this power we seek but what happens to us if the conditions of our own hands place it in our laps. Our unintended consequences.

    I leave you with “The Knife” and you can see several live versions from back in the day on YouTube if you like.

    “Tell me my life is about to begin,
    Tell me that i’m a hero,
    Promise me all of you violent dreams,
    I guarantee all you will need them
    Now, in this ugly world,
    Get ready to fight for your freedom
    Now, when i give the word,
    Get ready to destroy all this evil
    Now –

    Stand up and fight, for you know we are right
    We will strike at the lies
    That have spread like disease through our minds.
    Soon we’ll have won and we’ll treasure this worth
    With our winnings and kindness
    To all who our love now deserve
    Some of you are going to die –
    Martyrs, of course, to the freedom i will provide.

    I’ll give you the names of those you must kill
    Then have all burned and quickly
    Cover them up in trafalgar square
    Hurry to see, you’ll see them dead
    In this ugly world,
    Ready to fight for your freedom
    Now, when i give a word
    Hang ‘em on high, let the blood flow
    Now –

    Stand up and fight, for you know we are right
    We must strike at the lies
    That have spread like disease through our minds
    Soon we’ll have won and we’ll treasure this worth
    With our winnings and kindness
    To all who our love now deserve
    Some of you are going to die –
    Martyrs of course, to the freedom i will provide

    We are only wanting freedom…

    — we have won —

    Some of you are going to die,
    Martyrs, of course, to the freedom i will provide”

    The above is JMO and I enjoy NoState and it’s thought provoking very much.
    Thanks Mike

  29. By Chris Blizzard on 18 September 2009

    Pacifism is a morally-bankrupt elite. Until such a time as there is no fascism in the world (a long way off, if ever), expecting other people to fight on your behalf, like Gandhi, reveals only that your convictions don’t sit that deeply. Fighting for a cause doesn’t necessitate killing the other guy to force your view on him, it means defending yourself against his force – it’s counter-coercion. That being said, I think that in practical terms fascism cannot only be defeated intellectually initially, and then by a velvet revolution. Little or no activity will be required which could arguably be described as ‘coercive’. When the Yugoslavs stormed threw Milosevic out of office in late 2000, I would assert that this was not ‘violent’.

  30. By Noor on 18 September 2009

    Could the reason why leaving the guy in the well is immoral, be because philosophically, there are principles that come before the NAP? Just a thought ;)

    Perhaps so, but if they override the principle that “a situation is just as long as it’s simply voluntary”, then voluntaryism fails and becomes just a tendency.

    The argument that could be made is that any person that does not own the land and necessary tools and resources to live without support is the “guy in the well”.

    In some cases, yes, that’s correct. Absentee propertarian landlordship allows for one guy to own all the land without ever using it, and thus depriving others of the chance to homestead the land when they actually use it.

    And I don’t know why “an”caps have an allergy to the word “exploitation”, even though I usually try avoiding using it.

    The guy in the well scenario is way too communist “exploitation” philosophy for my liking as it seems to imply that you should be required to help anyone in need regardless of how they got there, so as to make your labor and property community property for those without.

    I’m not a communist (anarchist or otherwise), but I am a socialist anarchist. In the well scenario, I personally do not believe there is a moral obligation to help the trapped guy, but if the other guy doesn’t help, that does reflect on his character. And he becomes morally reprehensible when he attempts to take advantage of the others’ unfortunate situation.

    If you are required, who enforces that and how? How would that be a libertarian, voluntarism or anarchical type of philosophy?

    I don’t necessarily believe you’re required to (depends on the context), but even if you were, there is no enforcement needed. Get the idea that anything to be advocated or opposed, needs to be violently enforced, out of your thick head.

    Can we please get back to discussing the morality of the various ways to achieve an anarchist society through violence?

    Feel free to continue with that, but I believe my comments are relevant to the original post as I’m explaining why voluntaryism is a vacuous ideology.

  31. By anonymous on 18 September 2009

    I don’t understand how withholding something that rightfully belongs to someone else, for no just cause, is not an act of aggression. In the well scenario, by not helping the man, you are withholding his freedom from him for no just cause. You may not be taking direct or physical action against him, but you are acting. Assuming that helping him out does not endanger your own life, by not helping him you are holding him captive. You are stealing from him. Theft is aggression is it not? Am i missing something here?

  32. By Noor on 18 September 2009

    Aggression is defined as a violation of the NAP by the “an”caps– basically an initiation of violence or coercion.

    If the victim was actively pushed into the well, then that would be considered aggression by the ancaps.

    Aggression/NAP-violations is not the only way to restrict freedom. I totally agree with the rest of your post, thank you for explaining it.

  33. By Brian Drake on 18 September 2009

    Noor,

    You insist that the situation in your example is “unjust” and I think the burden of proof is on you to describe why it is unjust, not just assert it.

    The man-out-of-the-hole has no obligation to the man-in-the-hole. Nor does the hole man have any claim to the assistance of the non-hole man. If the non-hole man proposes a situation (food for compliance), and the hole-man accepts it, there is no injustice. You are a third party declaring the ability to replace the subjective values of both parties with your own subjective values. Though you may personally not like the deal they’ve struck, you have no basis to call it unjust.

    Immoral? Maybe, depending on your standard of morality. As a Bible-believer myself, I would have to obey God by “loving my neighbor as myself”. So not helping the man to get free would be a moral failing for me. But it would not be unjust.

    Morality and justice are not the same. Most people would consider adultery immoral, but it is not unjust (unless there is an actual contract violation). The NAP is not a moral philosophy, it is a philosophy of justice.

    The man-in-the-hole illustration may be immoral to you, but not unjust.

    As you’ve already admitted, the situation is completely different if the non-hole man had an active part in entrapping the hole-man (digging the hole and booby-trapping it, pushing the man, etc…)

  34. By Joel Laramee on 18 September 2009

    I believe that the line of argument that Noor is presenting, and the reason that she calls voluntaryism “vacuous” (literally, “empty-headed”) is that some people look at arriving at a “good” society as a “pull” problem, others as a “push” problem. Or to put it another way, some people focus on the need to remove evil from the world, others on the need to introduce good into the world.

    Using the relatively small, but by no means insignificant sample data at my disposal, so far it seems to me that men are more interested in “remove evil”, and women challenge those men to show how that will lead to the “introduction of good”. It’s a legitimate challenge, and one that I don’t see anarchist men address anywhere near often enough.

    And to put in a plug for Carl, on a tack that no one else has taken yet– he quotes Gandhi: “if one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself” (page 16 of Carl’s “I Must Speak Out”). I see many people without faith that strategies that are self-consciously non-violent, but which actively oppose the evil of a group that wields overwhelmingly larger force, can work.

    Our western minds focus on “getting things done”. We need an eastern re-balancing of “be true to yourself, no matter what– do not initiate violence”.

    What are we arguing about here? Why did you bring this up, Mike? I ask that cordially, not as an accusation. Carl Watner never claims to be a revolutionary strategist. And he never says that force should not be employed in self-defense. So where is the problem with voluntaryism? Ever since I became a voluntaryist, people who I’ve debated with have said, “So– where’s your plan??? How are you going to get to this lovely la-la land of yours, where all interactions between humans are voluntary?” Are you one of those people, Mike?

    The answer is, “by consistently living out my principles, and urging everyone I talk to do the same”. I believe that people who truly, deeply, completely believe in the ZAP, also believe in helping others when it is in their power to do so. If you believe otherwise, Noor, please show me a direct examle, rather than a hypothetical situation (man in the well) involving a guy who we can’t query regarding his motives.

  35. By Joel Laramee on 18 September 2009

    I just realized one more thing, as I was mulling over Mike’s whole “heads on pikes” thing that he presented in the first place.

    I am new to anarchism, but it seems to me that there is some disagreement (perhaps?) about how “criminal justice” would work in a stateless society. You’d have protection companies, sure, and you’d have arbitration companies of some kind, great, but… if someone were “tried” and found guilty of murder… what would happen?

    Mike seems to be saying– if they are guilty of murdering a lot of non-aggressive people, by say… ordering an invasion of a country that wasn’t engaged in aggression against the invading country, well, then, we may just want to kill them (after trying them and finding them guilty) and put their head up on a pike. Then we can look at W’s head, and say, “Ahhhh! That feels so good. I’m glad he’s dead, that son of a bitch. Justice has been served, and I’m happy about that.”

    But maybe that’s not what you’re saying, Mike. Anyway, remember Luke Skywalker, in the dark tree, on Dagobah. Beware the Dark Side, my friend. :-)

  36. By DixieFlatline on 18 September 2009

    Noor, exploitation is hard to define because it is a bullshit concept.

  37. By Brian Drake on 18 September 2009

    Dixie,

    “Noor, exploitation is hard to define because it is a bullshit concept.”

    In the context of non-aggression, I agree. Exploitation is simply the whining of “that’s not fair”. I don’t care about what is “fair”, only what is just.

    But in the context of initiated aggression, exploitation takes on real meaning. The State sure as hell exploits its subjects.

  38. By DixieFlatline on 18 September 2009

    So, it’s spit on our hands, hoist the black flag and start slitting throats is it? ;)

    I’ll pass. Violence begets violence.

    From your least favourite Dune book, which is my favourite…

    Social law develops its own power structure, creating more wounds and new injustices. Such trauma can be healed by cooperation, not by confrontation. The summons to cooperate identifies the healer.

  39. By DixieFlatline on 18 September 2009

    Brian, we agree on misuse of the term “exploitation” in a situation where aggression is not being employed.

    It’s a problem particularly evident in the anarchist left, where economic understanding suffers at the expense of revolutionary rhetoric and class war fantasy.

  40. By Brian Drake on 18 September 2009

    Even though I disagree with what I know of the anarchist left, I don’t have a problem with them. If they’re truly against initiated-aggression (i.e., really anarchists), then they pose no threat to me. In a free society, they can go live in voluntary communes if they choose. Without “legitimate” institutions of initiated aggression, the market is the only “democracy” and if a “legal” system company can maintain profitability by catering to the (voluntary) socialists, great for them. I certainly won’t be a customer but that’s fine too.

  41. By Noor on 18 September 2009

    @BrianDrake
    You insist that the situation in your example is “unjust” and I think the burden of proof is on you to describe why it is unjust, not just assert it.

    If the non-hole man proposes a situation (food for compliance), and the hole-man accepts it, there is no injustice. You are a third party declaring the ability to replace the subjective values of both parties with your own subjective values. Though you may personally not like the deal they’ve struck, you have no basis to call it unjust.

    Fine, I just thought some of you might have some common sense and see that the trapped man is not free, but apparently not. Which is why I had to add in the element of the trapped guy having to work for the non-trapped one if he wants to survive.

    It’s unjust because the non-trapped guy is intentionally using the trapped guy’s situation in order to restrict the trapped guy’s alternatives, i.e. restricting his freedom.

    Initiation of coercion is another way to restrict someone’s alternatives, but it’s not the only one.

    Morality and justice are not the same. Most people would consider adultery immoral, but it is not unjust (unless there is an actual contract violation). The NAP is not a moral philosophy, it is a philosophy of justice.

    You’re denying that you present a moral claim? The whole principle that “interpersonal relations *should* be voluntary” is a moral claim about what people ought to do and ought not to do.

    @Joel
    That’s an interesting analysis, and I’m inclined to agree. I’m opposed to coercion generally, but that’s not the only thing I oppose.

    @Dixie
    Noor, exploitation is hard to define because it is a bullshit concept.

    Replace “exploitation” with “liberty”, and the same thing applies.

    And in that case, I’ll wait until you fall into a well, and make you do all my work for me or else you won’t get any food or water. And if I hear you whining about being exploited, you don’t get any food for that week.

    You are a complete moron if you think I’m advocating the murder of anyone who exploits, just because I’m against exploitation.

    Exploitation is simply the whining of “that’s not fair”. I don’t care about what is “fair”, only what is just.

    What the fuck is the difference between “fair” and “just”?

    @BrianDrake again
    If they’re truly against initiated-aggression (i.e., really anarchists)

    Anarchism is anti-rulers, anti-authority. Being anti-State is only a part of that. The problem with that is that you also appear to implicitly redefine “aggression” to mean “aggression against *my* favored property system”, so you’re essentially asking for the ansocs to work within your ancap framework, which makes your “pluralism” mostly an illusion.

    And in lifeboat situations, I do accept initiation of aggression, although you later owe restitution to the “victim” depending on the context. And also, take this quote from anarchist communist Kropotkin:
    “In a society developed on [anarchistic] lines, the voluntary associations which already now begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all its functions.”

    Almost all anarchists emphasize voluntary interactions, but left-anarchists simply do not view it as the sole basis of a just society.

  42. By Big Whale on 19 September 2009

    If one begins with the true observation that one has already been aggressed against, then the NAP position is still valid if one responds with violence. Jim Bell wrote an interesting piece about ten years ago (hence a ten year sentence), called Assassination Politics. Mike, what are your views on this?

  43. By Mike Gogulski on 19 September 2009

    @Big Whale: My views on that are the subject of an upcoming post, though rather unsurprising. In short: AP’s going to happen, in our lifetimes, and that’s a good thing.

  44. By Brian Drake on 19 September 2009

    The man in the well is not free in what sense? Because of the facts of reality. He can’t levitate out of the hole (for example). I am also not free to turn lead into gold, as much as I’d like to. That is simply because reality restricts my “freedom”. There is no human responsible for this (through aggression) so there is no injustice.

    It is only unjust when that restriction is due to the aggression of others. Assuming the out man had no part in causing the in man’s predicament, he has not contributed to the in man’s lack of freedom (of mobility) and therefore it is not unjust for him to propose a mutually beneficial arrangement that falls short of helping the other man out of the hole. The in man is not “free” (capable) to get out of the hole, but he is “free” (capable) to refuse the arrangement if he does not prefer it to the alternative.

    I am not free to live without food. So I must either grow/gather it myself, or trade with others for it. How is this different than being stuck in a hole? If I starve because I choose not to do some form of work in order to trade with the food producers, is that their fault?

    “Fair” is wanting everyone to get an equal outcome. Assuming the in man didn’t deliberately put himself in the hole (or knowingly engage in risky behavior, such as dancing around the edge), but stumbled into it by chance, it’s not “fair” that he’s in a hole and the other man is not. But it is certainly not unjust since there is no human actor who has aggressed against the in man.

    It’s not “fair” that some people are born with deformities and others have above-average intelligence/strength/beauty/etc… When I whined about that as a kid, my parents rightly corrected me that “life isn’t fair”. That’s reality.

    “Just” is an objective restoring of value taken through aggression (which can include neglect or unintentional destruction, like crashing my car into yours). Since we cannot always know exactly the objective value to be restored (made more complex since all value is subjective), a competitive justice system would be motivated by profit to find the level of restitution most closely approaching that objective (and probably unknowable) level. It’s utopian to think infallible justice can be achieved by fallible men. But economics and study of human action inform us that competition will always be the best way to achieve the closest we can realistically come to true justice.

    You’ve repeated that you don’t insist violence be used against the out man, so again, I have no problem with you. I may disagree with your evaluations of things, but as long as you’re not promoting violence, it’s fine to disagree.

    I misspoke when I said the NAP is not a moral philosophy. It is not a comprehensive moral philosophy. It only deals with the moral use of force. It doesn’t deal with what is nice, pleases God, helps people, etc… As long as you’re on the right side of the NAP issue, the rest will fall into categories of morality you’re only willing to “enforce” through non-violent means (like shunning/boycott, vocal protest).

    “Liberty” is the recognition of each person’s self-ownership. In the context of non-aggression, “exploitation” is an invalid concept since all interactions are voluntary. “Need” doesn’t negate the voluntary nature of trade.

    “left-anarchists simply do not view it as the sole basis of a just society.”

    That’s fine. On your property, you can construct whatever “just society” you want.

    As far as forcing my favored property system, without a State, the market will determine the “favored” property system. And a beautiful aspect of the market is the ability for multiple options to co-exist. If I choose to do business with you, I may have to contractually submit to whatever justice-provision firm you employ that recognizes however you define property. But then, I may choose to not do business with you solely because of that.

  45. By DixieFlatline on 19 September 2009

    Noor,

    Replace “exploitation” with “liberty”, and the same thing applies.

    Only if you are an ethical nihilist.

    And in that case, I’ll wait until you fall into a well, and make you do all my work for me or else you won’t get any food or water. And if I hear you whining about being exploited, you don’t get any food for that week.

    Why would you assume that I would have to rely on you? Why would you assume that I would have a problem with trading my labour for your care? And why would it be exploitation, if done of my own free will? Sure, my circumstances might not be ideal, but someone in need of life saving surgery also is under less than ideal circumstances, that doesn’t mean a surgeon who charges them for treatment is exploiting them.

    This is juvenile marxian class theory bullshit, the entitlement of the proletariat and all that pap.

    You are a complete moron if you think I’m advocating the murder of anyone who exploits, just because I’m against exploitation.

    And you are a complete moron for proposing a strawman.

    And in lifeboat situations, I do accept initiation of aggression, although you later owe restitution to the “victim” depending on the context.

    Which means it is ok to violate someone elses life or liberty as long as you are willing to pay the price. I thought you were opposed to exploitation based on an (natural) imbalance of negotiating power?

    Almost all anarchists emphasize voluntary interactions, but left-anarchists simply do not view it as the sole basis of a just society.

    Because they don’t understand economics, which is the study of incentives on human action.

    We live in a world with scarce resources. As long as resources are scarce, it is necessary to have a conception of ownership, in order to resolve disputes WITHOUT VIOLENCE.

    That doesn’t mean we need only one conception of ownership, but when we couple polycentric property ideals, with a commitment to non-aggression, we get cooperation and negotiation as phases of the dispute resolution system.

    By the way, the lifeboat question is the test, and you flunked. If you can justify aggression under a lifeboat situation, then you can justify it under any situation.

    Which means not only do you see property as arbitrary, but you also see aggression as arbitrary.

  46. By Nitroadict on 19 September 2009


    What the fuck is the difference between “fair” and “just”?

    There is possible circular logic in “equality”.

    Justice in the context Dixie was referring to was not employing rationalizations of theft & coercion against some that one or others are jealous of, or against people that have more than others, methinks.

  47. By AleG on 19 September 2009

    I agree that this is a very important issue. I strongly suggest defining its scope as the first step. The essence of the question as posed, as I understand it, is whether it is acceptable to Voluntaryism, and (secondarily) to other related non-aggression schools of thought, to preemptively slit the throats of politicians and their thugs. Is the scope of the question purely theoretical, or is it pragmatic? Regarding the theoretical analysis, please answer to your perceived morality of the following scenario (this assumes the absence of a “police force”, imposed or otherwise). A known criminal boss sends his employees to your house every month to coerce $1,000 from you, and they regularly commit various acts of violence against your family on these visits. This has been going on for several years. There is no question that the thugs are committing this violence on the orders of this boss. Does your right to self defense morally restrict you to shooting the thugs after they have invaded your home, while they are in one of the acts depicted, or are you entitled by that right to ultimately seek out and kill the boss? As you may have guessed, I answer the theoretical question in the affirmative. How would Carl Watner (or another self-proclaimed Voluntaryist) answer it? How would you? Regarding the practical question, I acknowledge only my rational self-interest as a moral imperative. I may determine my self-interest to include the welfare of certain other individuals, but that is solely my prerogative. That makes the pragmatic (action) decision here fairly easy. It is a matter of analyzing the cost and benefit of violent action against the parties mentioned above. In other words, once I have determined to my satisfaction that I have a moral right to act in self defense, I’ll commit violence against such criminals (shame on the poster you quibbled about that term, given the examples in play here) only if and only when circumstance favors a significant and more-or-less permanent reduction against the violence perpetrated against me (not for vengeance, as was asked, but as a direct remedy to prevent a repetition of attacks against me). However, that has zero bearing on whether or not the right to do so exists.

    An aside to “John and Dagny”: feel free to shill for books wherever you like, but do not presume to tell me what I must and may and must not and may not do to live. Don’t even presume to tell me what Rand would tell me to do, because I have zero confidence in your ability to do that.

    -AleG

  48. By steve on 20 September 2009

    “I acknowledge only my rational self-interest as a moral imperative”

    Would you acknowledge the rational self-interest of the mob boss as his only moral imperative, also? Could this constitute carte blanche moral approval of aggression?

    I am not sure how I would personally feel about your scenario; you make some great points.

  49. By Joel Laramee on 20 September 2009

    To initiate violence is not to act in one’s rational self-interest.

    I think Molyneux has done a decent job of proving morality using only the scientific method, in “Universally Preferable Behaviour: A Rational Theory of Secular Ethics”. It’s available free on PDF on freedomainradio.com.

  50. By steve on 20 September 2009

    “To initiate violence is not to act in one’s rational self-interest.”

    Is that a fact? Does violent action not have means, ends, choice, etc? Can you explain in a bit more detail?

    I’ll check out Molyneux’s take, sounds interesting.

  51. By Wes Bertrand on 20 September 2009

    Mike,

    I understand the depth of your hatred for the unjust actions of governmental “officials” who daily aggress against (and threaten) people and their property with impunity (all for their supposed “common good”). However, I have to also agree with Jimbo (comment on fr33agents) that “War is hell, and actual combat is a motherfucker.” And the aftermath is indeed permanent.

    Ideas, not guns, rule the world. After all, what gives the use of the policeman’s gun (or taser) perceived legitimacy, if not the set of ideas in people’s minds about the role he is playing by wearing the uniform (and their role as “law-abiding citizens”)?

    Ideas, both good and bad ones, are bulletproof (hat tip to V). No amount of violence in retaliation against rights-violating statists will alter that fact.

    Given the present ideological climate that practically worships obedience to “authority,” any orchestrated acts of self-defensive violence against political initiators of force would assuredly backfire (just as all individual defensive acts against violent statists are suicidal, as Seth eloquently noted (comment
    on nostate

    )), not to mention cause untold death and suffering to innocents. Members of the presently institutionalized and corporate mainstream media seem to be in love with those who coerce peaceful people on a daily basis (i.e., “government”). And, so, they will report their typical fear-mongering statist propaganda to protect their perceived “masters.” Given how much of their ethical souls they’ve sold, most would rather side ideologically and psychologically with governmental evildoers than part ways with them based on a rational code of morality and thus actual principles of justice.

    Slavespeak predominates our worldwide authoritarian culture, after all:
    http://www.buildfreedom.com/tl/tl07a.shtml
    The parental command “Do this because I said so–or else!” that’s infused in the child’s psyche early on is merely carried into adulthood. “You must comply–or else!” is the statist’s command. Thus, obedience to authority is taken as the given by nearly all people (including most liberty lovers), based on fears of what will happen if one is disobedient.

    So, it’s these statist memes that we must relentlessly counter in our personal and public affairs, keeping in mind their origin. Essentially, me must encourage people to abandon their aggressive and obedient ideologies–ideologies that perpetuate the premises that “might makes right,” “ends justify (rights-violating) means,” and that individuals must be sacrificed to the “collective.” Principled education and non-compliance remain the moral means to do this.

    W

  52. By Mike Gogulski on 21 September 2009

    Thanks for all the response and reaction to this. Great food for thought and discussion.

    I’ve posted a brief followup, in the form of a wee question, here.

  53. By George Donnelly on 21 September 2009


    To make it more clear, suppose the non-trapped guy orders the trapped guy to do work for him, or else the trapped guy won’t get any food, and the latter consents because he wants to survive.

    Exploitation is slightly hard to define, but basically it’s restricting someone’s freedom to achieve their values by using their situations, such as in the well scenario.

    Non-trapped man is not restricting trapped man’s freedom.

    He is simply refusing to offer help. Perhaps he is unable?

    No one is obligated to expend their own resources to help you if you fall into trouble (unless they caused you to do so). If you think they are, prove it.

    In the well scenario, I personally do not believe there is a moral obligation to help the trapped guy

    You’ve defeated your own argument.

    Voluntaryism is NOT pacifism!

    Joel +10 !

    re/ Assassination Politics, I agree, it will be. Since we can’t seem to muster the Gandhian soul-force necessary, there is no other choice.

    whether it is acceptable to Voluntaryism, and (secondarily) to other related non-aggression schools of thought, to preemptively slit the throats of politicians and their thugs.

    But it is not pre-emptive, AleG. It is always self-defense because politicians are by definition aggressors.

    AleG, as a voluntaryist, I consider myself morally justified in exercising violent self-defense against aggressors at any time. The question is just if it is tactically smart to do it or not.

  54. By Noor on 22 September 2009

    @Brian Drake

    You completely missed the point in your whole post. I was arguing that if a guy in the well has someone else near by that has the power to take control of the situation to his ends, then the trapped guy is not free.

    It’s about people limiting others’ choices by some means or the other, and coercion is only one of those means.

    The State does not send people to your house to coerce you into file taxes. You file them because the State gives you no alternative other than be kidnapped. You can either file your taxes, or allow yourself to be kidnapped. The people in the State exploit you by limiting your alternatives to achieve your values.

    Technically, you file taxes voluntarily because the State doesn’t give you an alternative other than allow yourself to be kidnapped. If you’re going to argue that this situation is not voluntary, then you’re changing the definition of voluntary from “simply non-coercive” to “free to achieve values.”

  55. By Noor on 22 September 2009

    @DixieFlatline
    Why would you assume that I would have to rely on you? Why would you assume that I would have a problem with trading my labour for your care? And why would it be exploitation, if done of my own free will? Sure, my circumstances might not be ideal, but someone in need of life saving surgery also is under less than ideal circumstances, that doesn’t mean a surgeon who charges them for treatment is exploiting them.

    I am not assuming it. I am presenting a situation where you are in a 50-foot deep well, and I can now gain control over you.

    This is juvenile marxian class theory bullshit, the entitlement of the proletariat and all that pap.

    I am not a Marxist, so stop with the red-name-calling.

    And you are a complete moron for proposing a strawman.

    There is no strawman here. I am proposing a simple situation where I can restrict your alternatives, and consequently your freedom, by other means that do not involve coercion.

    Which means it is ok to violate someone elses life or liberty as long as you are willing to pay the price. I thought you were opposed to exploitation based on an (natural) imbalance of negotiating power?

    They’re not mutually exclusive.

    We live in a world with scarce resources. As long as resources are scarce, it is necessary to have a conception of ownership, in order to resolve disputes WITHOUT VIOLENCE.

    Property-ownership (as opposed to possession-ownership) gives a monopoly of violence to the proprietor. When you monopolize a scarce good and keep it to yourself entirely, you restrict others from having a chance at using it even when you could be said to abandon it. If something is not scarce in our world, such as sunlight, it doesn’t hurt anyone if you monopolize a beam of sunlight for yourself.

    If you can justify aggression under a lifeboat situation, then you can justify it under any situation.

    Learn something called CONTEXT.

    @George
    Non-trapped man is not restricting trapped man’s freedom.

    He is simply refusing to offer help. Perhaps he is unable?

    Refusing to offer help is restricting freedom.

    You’ve defeated your own argument.

    I don’t believe there’s an obligation that can be enforced in a court case, but I would judge him as unethical for leaving the trapped man in the well. The trapped man is a part of society, unless you hate society or something.

  56. By Noor on 22 September 2009

    @George
    Non-trapped man is not restricting trapped man’s freedom.

    Again, you assume that the only way to restrict someone’s freedom is using coercion. It’s not, which is what I’ve been explaining over and over.

    He is simply refusing to offer help. Perhaps he is unable?

    If he’s unable, that changes the context significantly.

  57. By Noor on 22 September 2009

    Clarification, because most of you probably won’t be able to grasp my point:

    “Technically, you file taxes voluntarily because the State doesn’t give you an alternative other than allow yourself to be kidnapped.”

    Better worded as:
    “Technically, you voluntarily file taxes– the State doesn’t actually send people to your house to make you grab a pen. They threaten you, so you have to consent because they don’t give you an alternative other than allow yourself to be kidnapped (which is immoral on the State’s part).”

  58. By George Donnelly on 22 September 2009

    So your premise, Noor, is to maximize freedom (incl positive rights). Mine is to maximize liberty (only negative rights). Agree?

  59. By Noor on 22 September 2009

    No. I differentiate between basic moral necessities, ethical decencies, rights, enforceable obligations,

    When you fail to realize that reality is far more complex, you end up throwing out a lot of important aspects and parameters.

  60. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    Noor,

    The problem with your arguments is that you either can’t or won’t distinguish between human actors and non-human forces/situations.

    “people limiting others’ choices by some means or the other, and coercion is only one of those means.”

    The out man is not the one limiting the in man’s choices. Being stuck in a hole (a non-human entity) is limiting the in man’s choices.

    Actually, the out man is expanding the in man’s choices. Before the out man came along, the in man could 1) bite through his tongue and die quickly 2) slowly starve/dehyrdate to death (assuming there’s no ability to tunnel out).

    So when the out man comes along he offers an additional choice, 3) work for me and I’ll feed you.

    If the in man chooses to work for the out man (doing what exactly? He is in a hole.), he is demonstrating that of his 3 options, HE prefers the 3rd option.

    You can condemn the out man for not offering more options, but every person has scarce resources (time, energy, property) and must decide how they will allocate them. Unless you personally spend 100% of your resources freely giving to others, criticizing someone else seems fairly arbitrary and hypocritical. The in man’s productivity is severely limited (he’s in a hole), so the out man would most undoubtedly find more profitable use of his trading food employing someone more productive (i.e., not in a hole), leaving us even reason to infer that his proposal, while falling short of idealized charity, is still charitable in nature.

    Re: taxes
    Though we use abstractions like “the State” and “the Government”, we are really referring to a group of individual humans. These individual humans tell me “pay us taxes, or we will use force against you.” These are humans who make decisions, not non-human forces. So to compare being in a hole (the hole is not a human actor) to being threatened with force is seriously confused.

  61. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    I meant “each person has limited resources” not “scarce resources”.

  62. By DixieFlatline on 22 September 2009

    Clarification, because most of you probably won’t be able to grasp my point:

    We get it. It’s simply bullshit.

  63. By DixieFlatline on 22 September 2009

    @Brian, you’re wasting your time. Noor doesn’t distinguish between nature and rational human action.

    You’re not going to get anywhere explaining yourself to her, because she doesn’t use methodological individualism. She sees humans as social creatures with collective ends. Arbitrary collective ends at that.

  64. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    Noor,

    Everything we do regarding scarce entities “limits other’s choices”. There is nothing inherently wrong with this.

    When I eat food, I’ve removed the option for you to eat that same food. When I put on a pair of pants, you can no longer wear those pants at the same time. When I move my hand to scratch my nose, I’ve removed the option for you to control my hand to do something else at that moment.

    That’s the defining property of scarce resources. When someone uses them, they exclude (at least at that moment in time) their alternative use by someone else.

    So to avoid eternal conflict, someone has to have final say over how a scarce resource is used. This is where the idea of ownership (the right to control a scarce resource) comes in.

    It seems logically, morally, and intuitively satisfying to recognize the first appropriator of an unowned scarce resource as the owner if it.

    Are you proposing a late comer has a superior claim of ownership?

    Or are you proposing that an individual may not have ownership and that collectively, all humans are co-owners of all scarce resources? If that’s the case, I don’t remember giving you permission to think that. Upon what theory of property do you presume to think for yourself or operate your physical body without our approval?

    You certainly cannot refute the idea of scarcity, so how are you proposing scarce resources are justly controlled?

  65. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    Dixie,

    I’m actually interested in hearing Noor out because as I’ve said, anyone who rejects the State has already disarmed themselves from “legitimately” imposing their views on me. Though I suspect her views will fair poorly in the free market (I, for one, won’t be hiring a DRO that subscribes to them), I’m only familiar with her ideas in the context of institutional coercion (Statist Socialists/Communists), so hearing them in a different context is at least fascinating to me.

  66. By DixieFlatline on 22 September 2009

    Brian,

    I’m actually interested in hearing Noor out because as I’ve said, anyone who rejects the State has already disarmed themselves from “legitimately” imposing their views on me.

    You haven’t debated with many hardcore commies have you? The state is just a monopoly on violence, it’s not the end of violence. Everyone who uses force, thinks they are legitimate.

    There is no ancap utopia. Only the decentralization of force.

  67. By Mike Gogulski on 22 September 2009

    No utopia? But I want a flying pony! And a leprechaun! And free ice cream for everyone, forever!

  68. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    Dixie,

    “Everyone who uses force, thinks they are legitimate.”

    The difference though, is that without a State, no one else thinks they are legitimate. Yes, there will still be violence in a free society, but people will recognize it as such and feel morally liberated to oppose it.

    And those who resist will find public support, which is a big factor. With a State, most people are Uncle Toms, licking the boot of their masters, and actually condemn those who resist State violence. Without a State, people recognize criminals as criminals and cheer those who fight back.

    In an ancap society, initiated force is not only decentralized, but it is naturally de-legitimized since without a mystical State, people already know that what’s wrong for Peter is also wrong for Paul (e.g., theft, murder, enslavement).

    Anyone who voluntarily subscribes to anarchist-Communism is perfectly free to start a voluntary commune on their own property without imposing violence on the rest of us.

    No, haven’t debated hardcore Commies. I don’t see how Communism can be instituted (economics proves it cannot work, but it can be instituted) wide-scale without a State, but I’m willing to entertain arguments to the contrary.

  69. By DixieFlatline on 22 September 2009

    The difference though, is that without a State, no one else thinks they are legitimate. Yes, there will still be violence in a free society, but people will recognize it as such and feel morally liberated to oppose it.

    You don’t know what other people do think or will think.

    You can only speak for yourself.

  70. By kristian cantens on 22 September 2009

    @NOOR
    (i hope no ones said this yet)
    voluntaryism is a ethically grounded philosophy, in other words, concerning itself only with actions. the situation you described about the well deals with morality (intentions, and all that other intangible shit), which would have no bearing to voluntaryism.
    at the end of the day, the man in that scenario could not be held reprehensible for any illegal activity

  71. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    Dixie,

    “You don’t know what other people do think or will think.”

    Actually, I do know. The same way I know what a consumer thinks about all his available options (or rather, his valuation of them) when he makes a trade. He is demonstrating by his action his preference. I don’t have to guess (or second-guess as most people do) his values, he has demonstrated them.

    As de la Bouette and others have pointed out, the State only exists because people accept it (i.e., it rules by opinion, not simply by force). So in a Stateless society, it’s safe to say I know that enough people (a majority? I’m not sure) don’t buy into Statism, otherwise, there would be a State. The lack of the State (in a sustainable way, not a collapsed State transition) proves that there is a large enough number of people who reject the idea of the State.

    I feel I’m in safe-territory to claim that currently the majority of people think stealing, killing, and enslaving are wrong. They demonstrate this in the fact that individual criminality is a minority undertaking. Yet the vast majority of these same people do not make the connection to the wrong-doing of the State and essentially allow a separate standard of morality to emerge. One for individuals, one for the State.

    If there were ever enough people that rejected the idea of Statism that the State actually withered away and ceased in an area, that would be sound grounds to conclude that the two-standards myth had been rejected (as it is a key foundation to Statism).

    “Private” criminality is already perceived as illegitimate by the majority. Without a State, there is no longer the false distinction and therefore I conclude, all criminality would be perceived as illegitimate.

    I’m speaking in generalizations. Of course not “everyone”. There are perverse individuals now who cheer on private crime. But again, they’re in the minority as demonstrated by the lack of widespread, non-stop (non-State) crime.

  72. By DixieFlatline on 22 September 2009

    Actually, I do know.

    No, you don’t. Respect the limits of your knowledge. No one knows how individuals will react in a free society, if they did, that would be an argument in favour of central planning.

    He is demonstrating by his action his preference.

    Preferences are not fixed. My preference now, may not be my preference in half an hour.

    I don’t have to guess (or second-guess as most people do) his values, he has demonstrated them.

    Correlation is not causation.

    This argument is incredibly boring. I yield the last word. I am sure you have much more to say.

  73. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    “This argument is incredibly boring. I yield the last word. I am sure you have much more to say.”

    Wow, way to hit and run. You’re no fun.

  74. By Kevin Dean on 22 September 2009

    I’ve very much got to disagree with you. If the cornerstone and foundation of one’s liberty is that they’ve killed or beaten all those who would be oppressors into submission, that’s not really liberty according to my definition. That’s not what I’m looking for. I want freedom from aggression, and when I must be an aggressor I’m by no means free from aggression.

    I agree with self-defense, but that opening leads FAR to many people to accept aggression for me. I’ve seen people make “Kill the King” comments about Obama, but that itself has too much collectivism and shirking of responsibility in my eyes. Obama might be the figurehead for an oppressive state, but he HIMSELF is not a tyrant. He himself just states opinions and signs papers. It’s the BUREACRATS who enact the violence. One is being aggressive, not defensive, by advocating the murder of someone who talks and signs.

    I firmly believe that violence can NOT bring about a free society, they are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. States REQUIRE violence, it is violence itself that is the hallmark of “the state”. If I ever believed that violence was a NECESSITY to achieve my ends, I would begin re-evaluating my goals.

  75. By George Donnelly on 22 September 2009

    Obama is not a tyrant? That’s outrageous. He’s the one who gives a veneer of legitimacy to all the bureaucrat’s orders.

  76. By Chris Blizzard on 22 September 2009

    1. Obama is a tyrant.
    2. There is no such thing as a sustainable stateless condition, IMO
    3. People’s ethical mindsets are in a feedback loop with the environment they are living in. If they are living in a world where there is no state, aggression will not disappear, and it’s very existence will breed more aggression.

  77. By George Donnelly on 22 September 2009

    I look forward to seeing your argument in support of your assertion in #3 on your blog perhaps, where it can be discussed fully.

  78. By Mike Gogulski on 22 September 2009

    @Kevin: If Obama’s talking and signing causes thousands to die via the bureaucratic/military chain of command, is that not aggression?

    Sure seems like it to me.

  79. By Kevin Dean on 22 September 2009

    George, that exact line is why I oppose violence. I agree there’s something inherent in all acts that legitimize the state but the fact is, without de-legitimizng it, bureaucrats are STILL responsible for their actions.

    My question, frankly is this. Is the act of legitimizing the system AGGRESSIVE itself. Does that act constitute a breach of the NAP, and given the chance would YOU use violence on Obama for his role in legitimizing the state?

    It’s not a question I want an answer to because admittedly, it’s really close to a trap question. But there ARE folks who, in a libertarian utopia, execute him summarily. There’s something dangerous, if not actually wrong itself, in removing ourselves from the collective actions of government and at the same time, holding an individual responsible for the actions of that same government. Obama can make all of the proclamations he wants, just as you’re proclaiming that people should be free. What matters on both sides is the actions PEOPLE take. If Obama said “Jump off a bridge”, I’d blame the people who decided to do that. I’d not call him a murderer for it. To do so absolves people of responsibility and that’s a bad thing.

  80. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    Chris Blizzard,

    “There is no such thing as a sustainable stateless condition, IMO”

    We’re looking at a horse. It is a very healthy, powerful animal. Someone has tethered it to weights, attached by chains to its legs. Yet, even with those chains and weight encumbering it, the horse is still able to run faster than you or I, a testament to its strength.

    Even in its chained state, we can study the horse. Its physiology, how its muscles work, how its skeletal structure works, how it converts energy into locomotive power, how its cells cooperate with each other to form organs that perform certain necessary functions, etc… We can learn how a horse “works”.

    Then we can study the weights and the chains. We can learn how they contribute nothing to the locomotion of the horse, and how they serve only to slow it down. They’re a completely negative force in regards to the horse running to its potential, a potential we can only guess at but are confident in because in spite of its encumberance, the horse is still an impressively mobile animal.

    Is it an arrogant and presumptuous claim when I confidently state “the horse will run faster without the chains”? I hardly think so, since we know how the horse works, we know the effect of the chains, and I can simply deduce that without chains, the horse will have its full potential realized. I realize the horse may run in directions I can’t anticipate, and maybe in directions or at speeds I don’t personally desire, but I know it will be capable of running faster than with the chains on. Yes, I know this. I don’t believe it, or say it’s my opinion. It’s simply the rational conclusion I’ve reached (perhaps in error, and I’d be open to hearing how).

    Yet, upon the same investigation into the nature of the horse and the chains (I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt in assuming you’re making an educated statement), you assert very definitively, “there can be no such thing as a horse without chains”. Or perhaps by that you mean, “without the chains, the horse will destroy itself. It is because of the chains that all the organs and cells of the horse work together. Without the chains, the trillions of cells in the horse will stop cooperating and begin to cannabalize the horse from within until nothing is left. The horse needs the chains.”

    At this point, I’d say the burden of proof is on you. Horses are built to run, chains are built to constrain. Asserting the horse is incapable of functioning without chains is a bold claim that requires bold evidence. That you’ve never seen a horse that wasn’t chained does not provide the cause-and-effect support for your claim.

    If you haven’t studied the horse, or the chains, that’s fine, but then you shouldn’t be proffering opinions about them. If you have studied them, and have reached a different conclusion, please enlighten us.

  81. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    Kevin,

    I’m on the fence. Part of me agrees with you that the only person truly responsible for aggression is the person that carries it out.

    I condemn the soldier who fires his gun at an Iraqi, regardless if he was ordered to do so. Moral responsibility is not something you can delegate. I’m also convinced libel and slander are non-crimes (since they “aggress” against your reputation, something you do not own), so that makes me sympathetic at least to the idea that just shooting your mouth off isn’t criminal.

    The reason I’m not 100% sold that the “buck stops there” (at the henchman), is that I think the (real, not imagined) threat of aggression is morally and “legally” comparable to actual aggression.

    “If you don’t give me your wallet, I will shoot you” says the mugger.

    If I give him my wallet, and he doesn’t shoot me, has he not still committed aggression? He did not reach his hand in my pocket and physically take my wallet, I handed it to him (under duress). All he’s done is say things (and possibly point a gun, though maybe not). But I only complied because he threatened to harm me. Was not his threat an aggression against me?

    I admit, it’s not a straight line from “threats are aggression”
    to “politicians/generals/beuracrats who only give orders are aggressors”, but I think there is a connection. The assertion about threats (if it’s correct) is proof that “words are not aggression” is not true. There is also the issue of (real, not imagined) fraud, which I also think is an aggression.

    If fraud and threats are aggression (I’m genuinely intersted to hear an explanation to the contrary), then I think the case could be made that those who give orders in the State are morally and “legally” culpable.

    If a mugger demands your wallet, you have the right of self-defense against him. What if the mugger is shy, so he has a friend come up to you and say “my friend over there has a gun and will shoot you unless you give me your wallet to take to him”. Is not the mugger still an aggressor? And since he’s promised a cut to the messenger, is not the messenger now also responsible for the aggression?

    If you percieve the threat as legitimate, are you not justified in acting in self-defense by retaliating against the mugger (man with the gun)?

    But what if the messenger was committing fraud? “That man over there told me he will kill you if you don’t comply.” You act in self-defense and shoot the gunman. But then you learn that the man never had a gun or had never made any threats, the messenger used you as his dupe to take out a rival. Is not the messenger an aggressor?

    Again, I don’t think moral responsibility can be delegated, so you’d still be responsible for killing an innocent man. But that’s where context could determine the level of your guilt. “But the President said that unless I traveled thousands of miles to kill some brown people, they’d travel thousands of miles to kill me” is a weak defense for the imperial soldier and I consider him guilty. But is the President’s cuplability related to the shabbiness of his lies? I don’t think so.

  82. By Chris Blizzard on 22 September 2009

    @Brian

    Your analogy does not relate to it’s subject matter, and what the horse and chains are appear to change depending on what point you are choosing to make.

    Furthermore, I am not arguing that a stateless condition is impossible due to such a thing never having existed, rather than the very large number of occasions that such a condition has existed fleetingly, and then disappeared. And yes, it was a state that caused the stateless condition’s disappearance, both by definition, and functionally.

    My point, though, is this: whatever your definition of a state is, agencies with the exact same attributes will always emerge whatever is done to the incumbent state. The DROs/PDAs which are often discussed, take on state-like properties, and would necessarily grow by the very competitive forces which minarchists and anarchists argue for, but which I personally feel anarchists misunderstand (as they feel I misunderstand).

    If sufficient people become informed and educated about the evils of the (incumbent) states, you might argue, then the possible bad effects of competition will not arise, and anarchy could work.

    I am not opposed to this unproven hypothesis being tested, provided those that wish to carry out the experiment do not coerce me into being a participant OR a spectator; and I will at the same time be advocating minarchy. What happens where these two experiments meet is what you and I would most benefit from discussing, in my opinion.

  83. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    Chris,

    What are “the possible bad effects of competition”? Serious question.

    As to your last paragraph, it’s all about property. You’re free to do whatever you want on your property, as I am on mine. If you want to institute “minarchy” on your (and your friends’) property, God bless. The moment you decide the jurisdiction of your minarchy extends to my property, regardless of my consent, you have initiated aggression (and formed a State).

    That is the property of the State that is objectionable. Jurisdiction by fiat. Can you explain how competing DROs/PDAs share this property?

    In a stateless society, communism can exist, limited constitutional republics can exist, voluntary “slavery” (indentured servitude) can exist, etc…. There is nothing wrong with you instituting whatever “government” you like, as long as the jurisdiction of said government only extends to the property of those who consent.

  84. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    though technically correct, the usage of “property” in both meanings can be confusing so I’ll reword:

    That is the feature of the State that is objectionable. Jurisdiction by fiat. Can you explain how competing DROs/PDAs share this feature?

  85. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    As far as the validity of my analogy:

    To state the obvious, the horse is the market. The organic, voluntary interactions of billions of individuals. The spontaneous order of human cooperation.

    The chains are the State.

    Even in its current bondage to the State, we can study economics (true economics, not Statist apologetics) and realize the market is completely capable of sustaining itself.

    In this study, we can examine the nature of the State and realize that all State action is destructive.

    I know this simply by definition. The “market” is the voluntary trading of people. People trade because they prefer a specific trade to not trading (or else they wouldn’t trade). Therefore, the market always demonstrates the (legitimate) desires of its participants. The market can never “fail” because it has no goal imposed upon it.

    All State intervention is a distortion because it is an institution of coercion. When you force a man to do something, you are, by definition, preventing him from doing what he wants to do. Even if you force him to take the same course he intended, the addition of forceful coercion is a negative transaction cost and thus a net loss.

    These are simple facts of reality. The market provides the goods and services people desire and the State impedes this. Any legitimate “good or service” the State “provides”, can be provided in a just and more superior way on the market. The arguments for “public goods” have been demolished by more capable minds than mine and anyone who clings to them demonstrates his motivation, justify the State at any cost.

    To further elaborate on my last post, it is not we, the anarchists, who want to impose our “experiment” upon you. It is you, the Statist, who insists upon imposing your experiment upon us.

  86. By Brian Drake on 22 September 2009

    “I am not opposed to this unproven hypothesis being tested”

    That’s also the point of my analogy. It’s not an unproven hypothesis. It’s proven every single day in almost every human interaction. We have anarchy in selecting a mate, in choosing what to eat, in showing “common” courtesy, in selecting a philosophy, etc… etc… etc…

    To paraphrase Molyneux, “we love the anarchy we live, we fear the anarchy we imagine.”

    Though the realm of theory (study of human action, markets, the nature of the State) is sufficient, we have endless examples of emperical illustration.

    None of the benefits of society are due to the State. None of them. If the State provides any legitimate function, we know with absolute certainty that the market will provide it at less cost and at higher quality and therefore we know with absolute certainty that the State is reducing utility rather than adding to it.

    In the grand scheme of things, the vast majority of human interactions are already operating in anarchy. It’s not an “unproven hypothesis” to assert with confidence that with the removal of the State (so that all human interactions will be operating in anarchy), beneficial human society will not only continue, but will undoubtedly improve.

  87. By Chris Blizzard on 23 September 2009

    @Brian: I shall respond only to the points you have made which I haven’t already addressed, otherwise the amount of text we both have to write each time will snowball. Also, I don’t want to clog up Mike’s comments area and there are other ways we can have this debate. If you are interested in an ooVoo debate, or further discussion of minarchy vs anarcho-capitalism at my blog, then I would be happy to do either. This goes for others too.

    “What are “the possible bad effects of competition”? Serious question.”

    The absence of non-objective laws, the ability of agencies to aggress, the tendency of agencies to become state-like, etc

    Can you explain how competing DROs/PDAs share this property?

    By exerting power over those who did not give them a mandate to do so. And if they do NOT have this power, then there really can be no justice whatsoever.

    In market terms, the market can sustain itself economically, this is true. But ethically and demographically, it is unsustainable because it cannot (on its own) enforce objective law and protect liberty.

    “All State intervention is a distortion because it is an institution of coercion.”

    The incumbent states are, yes. But you are making a false assumption if you cannot imagine states which are voluntary by near-unanimity.

    “Any legitimate “good or service” the State “provides”, can be provided in a just and more superior way on the market.”

    Except for ethical justice by means of objective law.

    I am not justifying the state at any cost. You show me an articulation of a stateless condition which can be sustained (first of all) and one where objective law can flourish, and I’ll renounce the state instantly.

    “To further elaborate on my last post, it is not we, the anarchists, who want to impose our “experiment” upon you. It is you, the Statist, who insists upon imposing your experiment upon us.”

    I didn’t accuse you of wanting to impose your experiment. However, 90% of anarchists are closet commies (not saying you are one of these since I don’t know you) and the other 10% are in disagreement over whether murder is justified in bringing about their aims. Yet all use the word “anarchist”. And I am not a ‘statist’, since the definition of that is “concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government often extending to government ownership of industry” – i.e. fascism.

    “It’s not an unproven hypothesis.”

    In overall terms yes it is. None of the anarchies that ever existed have sustained themselves. Ever.

    “We have anarchy in selecting a mate, in choosing what to eat, in showing “common” courtesy, in selecting a philosophy, etc… etc… etc…”

    I would call that freedom, not anarchy. And I would argue, as I hope you would, that the fascist incumbent states intrude into all of the above areas.

    Fancy an ooVoo debate?

  88. By Noor on 23 September 2009

    @BrianDrake
    The problem with your arguments is that you either can’t or won’t distinguish between human actors and non-human forces/situations.

    You do realize that I used to be a valiant ancap defender that would have argued exactly the way you are now? And my answer is no. The situations can be caused by either nature or human beings. With nature you can’t hold anyone responsible, but you can call a human immoral if he attempts to take advantage of a natural situation. Cut the strawmanning.

    The out man is not the one limiting the in man’s choices. Being stuck in a hole (a non-human entity) is limiting the in man’s choices

    If the out man doesn’t help when he can, he’s anti-social, and when he takes advantage of the situation, then he is immoral.

    Actually, the out man is expanding the in man’s choices.

    Compared to the in man’s present situation, yes. But the out man can expand the in man’s choices vastly by justing help the in man out, which would be the decent thing to do, and it would reflect upon his character as a moral person, unless you hate people or something.

    To your second comment:

    The difference between possession and property is about time, basically with property you permanently deny someone a right over it even when you are not using it. I don’t really want to go further into this, because I’d rather keep this comments section ontopic (which is going into why voluntaryism is bankrupt). Email me at hernoor08 at gmail if you want me to explain further.

    I’m only familiar with her ideas in the context of institutional coercion (Statist Socialists/Communists), so hearing them in a different context is at least fascinating to me.

    Well, I used to be a valiant apologetic for ancap for one or two years (it took me a long, slow process to fully abandon it), and these days I’m more in line with the traditional European anarchism, but I’m usually better at framing things for ancaps since I understand the worldview and reasonings very well.

    @DixieFlatline
    Communists are against monetary systems, I’m not. Ancoms are completely for mutual aid/cooperation taking the place of market competition, I still think competition can be a part although I do tend to prefer the former. So your assertions that I’m a communist are nothing but red-baiting.

    @kristian
    @NOOR
    (i hope no ones said this yet)
    voluntaryism is a ethically grounded philosophy, in other words, concerning itself only with actions.

    Yep. It completely forgets about the situation you’re stuck in.

    the situation you described about the well deals with morality (intentions, and all that other intangible shit), which would have no bearing to voluntaryism.

    Of course it’s intangible to your extremely simplistic worldview. I grew out of that.

    at the end of the day, the man in that scenario could not be held reprehensible for any illegal activity

    Basic social decencies and ethics do not always translate to enforceable obligations.

  89. By kristian cantens on 1 January 2010

    @NOOR
    voluntaryism is not supposed to be an all encompassing philosophy. it merely concerns itself with justice, where only ethics (or ones actions) come in to play.

  90. By Roger Young on 2 January 2010

    “I might well prefer non-violent strategies for the attainment of a free society (and the political will certainly never be acceptable). But I am not going to rule out violent, bloody, homicidal strategies to get there, if such turn out to seem essential.”

    You certainly had the opportunity to pursue such retribution (after being beaten by a state agent) but instead, you ran off to another country like a scared kitten.

    Not necessarily an unwise action (voting with your feet) but certainly not consistent with your stated belief.
    When is there a more appropriate use of this “strategy” than in the case of personal self-defense?

  91. By Mike Gogulski on 2 January 2010

    @Roger: Yup, that’s me, the scared kitten. In a better world, retribution or compensation might be possible. They aren’t possible right now.

  92. By George Donnelly on 4 January 2010

    Roger is a troll. Pay him no mind.

  93. By cclodfe on 29 March 2010

    Actually, voluntaryist hold constant to the non-aggression principle. This does not mean they are pacifists. Self-defense is a justifiable action. The means must be consistent with the ends. You can not force people into freedom.

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