Category Archives: Voluntaryism

Thought Police?

The dynamic between liberals and conservatives is more like sibling rivalry than anything remotely resembling adult discourse. It seems they are simply not happy unless they are fighting over some new outrage du jour. And as with most childhood spats it’s never really clear who started it. Such is the case with the whole brouhaha over these “bathroom laws”. It is unclear if the Charlotte, NC ordinance permitting transgender individuals to use the bathroom of the gender for which they “identify” was in response to some specific case or was merely part of the liberal agenda of memorializing into “law” a panoply of perceived “rights”. The liberal worldview: anyone who disagrees with us is a bigot and should be thrown in a cage for not sharing our enlightened views. Of course conservatives are no better; they are well known to adopt new “laws” to prevent things they find distasteful even if they have never happened. The rich irony, or perhaps it is hypocrisy, is that the normal narrative is that we of course need a strong central authority to ensure small little enclaves of people won’t do bad things. Of course the states must submit to the Feds, we’re one country after all! But when the only way to push a progressive goal is from the bottom up at the small local (city) level, such as these pro-transgender statutes, suddenly they will triumphantly tout the important role of decentralized authority. And now what a crime it is if the central authority overrides the smaller group. But if the small group were doing something “bad” then we of course need the large group to overrule them. So basically the approach to governance is that we should rely on the wisdom of whichever authority happens to be doing the thing I agree with. Here’s a novel idea – why don’t people just be allowed to live their lives as they see fit without some outside “authority” forcing them to conform to some standard.

Now, on the subject of this whole notion of transgender rights: it is all utter nonsense – in the same way that gay, women’s, worker’s and every other adjectival “rights” are nonsense. There is only one set of rights: human rights. And those rights do not necessitate the initiation of violence or the threat of violence to be upheld. If you want to “identify” as something other than what your chromosomes say you are, more power to you, I really couldn’t care less how you or anybody else lives their lives. That’s what freedom means, living your life as you see fit and leaving me to do the same. And leaving me to do the same means you do not have the right to make me “accept” you as whatever gender you think you are, you do not have the right to make me call you “zie” or “zim” or whatever silly neologism that was concocted to satisfy tender sensibilities. The possibility that someone somewhere might experience hurt feelings is insufficient cause to initiate violence in order to prevent such hurt feelings. If a business wants to permit non-gendered bathroom access that is their right and no one should force them to not permit it. And if another business wants to maintain more “traditional” bathrooms that is their right as well. If you don’t like either, then go somewhere else otherwise comply with their rules. That’s what private property means; your house, your rules and my house, my rules. Just because a business has a so-called “public” face does not change the nature of private property. “Public” is merely that adjective government apples to an activity in order that they may justify their intrusion into said activity, nothing more.

This whole trans-gender rights thing is not vey well thought out though. It is quite unlike “traditional” anti-discrimination laws which related to objective outward appearance. Transgenderism is a function of thought, not biology. So if gender exists only in one’s mind, how is one to distinguish between authentic transgenderism vs someone merely pretending in order to gain some advantage they wouldn’t normally have, like in sports perhaps? If you set the precedent that one’s gender is defined by thought then upon what basis will you keep men off of women’s’ teams or vice versa? So if Bruce Jenner decided he’s really a women I guess he could compete against other women runners, right? Oh, wait a minute…

In the end both sides will “win” as these pro or con laws will be about as effective as “Gun free zone” signs.

Earning Freedom

With each election cycle the people grow wearier of politicians who can’t get anything “done” – perennial gridlock maintains a perpetual status quo that breeds disdain for all things political. History teaches that as a community grows into a nation, then a country and finally an empire, the ensuing proliferation of voices brings action to a standstill. This sets the stage for a strong leader with a message of salvation. Finally! Someone who will do something! People get so frustrated they almost don’t care what is done as long as someone is changing things. At least with change there is at a chance their lot might improve. Witness the broad popularity of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders; they both tell the people exactly what they want to hear, namely that their problems are not their fault and that if you only give either one the power he’ll make their lives great again.

However, there is an alternative to resigned acceptance of a dictator in chief. To uncover the alternative we must first be brave enough to ask: why is nothing getting done? Is it because a handful is maliciously plotting to undermine good ideas? Quite the contrary. It is our greatest strength, our ideas, our freedom of thought, that is the “downfall” here. Too many ideas all competing brings about not gridlock but equilibrium. No one idea can dominate because so many are equally appealing. But this will not stand! How can one rule without dominance? Perhaps dominance is not needed because human societies require no rulers to maintain order. Witness the “anarchy” among Protestant denominations. There are over 30,000 of them and without a single Protestant “ruler” somehow it all works just fine. Is this religious anarchy a thing to be feared? Quite the contrary, we universally welcome it as part of fundamental human liberty. Odd then that political free association is not likewise permitted and is instead smeared with fear-tinged epithets such as “anarchy”.

The real enemy is the notion that government can only “work” as long as unwilling people are forced to participate. It is like if a hundred people went into a McDonalds to order but food could not be served until at least 51 of them agreed on what to eat, and then all 100 would have to have the same meal. Let’s instead go to Burger King where everyone can have it their way. If I can order a hamburger while you order chicken nuggets then why is it so hard to let me opt out of Social Security even while you voluntarily choose to opt in? Life insurance doesn’t require participation of the entire country to “work”, so then why should a simple income insurance policy need it.

What if we just let each group implement their ideas as they desired, holding only those who voluntarily consent to such rules to be subject to them. If the progressive democrats want to have a single payer, massive minimum wage, cradle-to-grave-social security system then let them. Likewise if the social conservative republicans want to have drug, alcohol, gay-marriage, abortion-rejecting set of standards then let them. Nothing is stopping them from forming voluntary associations where all like-minded people agree to abide by such rules. If either side does not want to live among those who disagree with them then each is free to form private communities (á la the Amish) where no outside ideas will intrude upon their peace. If your ideas can only work if others are forced to participate in them then it’s time to examine the morality of your ideas.

A carriage goes nowhere if some horses refuse to move, some wish to go left, and some right. Better to release those with their own ideas and move forward rather than employing brutal force to bring all in line. In order to receive freedom, you must first be willing to give it.

Free Market Gun Control?

In the wake of the horrific Oregon shooting a few weeks ago each side in the pro-gun/anti-gun debate engaged in a kind of holiday-esque ritual: unbox one’s standard talking points, adorn social media and the press with said arguments for a week or two, and then when the furor has died down quietly pack them back up for the next gun-related incident. The problem with the standard talking points is that although they may resonate with the owner, they do little to sway the opinion of the opposing side. They have become stale and useless.

Government prohibitions of market transactions do nothing to eliminate those transactions. Prohibition raises their costs and consequently the profit potential. This induces more, not fewer, people to ply that trade. Decentralized markets are the most efficient means of delivering to people the goods and services they want. People do not want themselves or anyone else to die a violent death. Let’s see if the market can provide this good. Since it is the left’s position that our government has been ineffective at stopping gun violence and it is the right’s position that the government has no business stopping gun violence, then let’s just pretend for a moment there is no government at all. How could this problem be solved absent any sort of bully running around threatening and intimidating people? Insurance. Yes, that’s right, insurance. Insurance companies are in the business of providing financial protection for unforeseen events. Consequently insurance companies are in the business of mitigating risk. If someone owns (or rents) a home they will, if they are smart, carry a liability policy. This protects the policy owner from financial ruin if they are found guilty of causing some sort of harm to another. In order to minimize such claims involving guns each insurance agency could impose their own (varying) set of regulations on gun ownership for their policyholders. Depending on the level of policy owner regulation some insurers would see more losses related to gun incidents and some fewer. Those that had fewer would find their policies and regulations being copied. The market would soon converge on the most efficient and set of regulations that allow people to own guns while still preventing gun related incidents.

A decentralized system is superior to any one-size-fits-all top down approach because it is self-regulating through an alignment of incentives. In other words it is a “carrot” and not a “stick” approach. Gun owners don’t want to be sued into poverty if despite their best efforts something unexpected happens. Insurers prefer fewer claims over more, so they will make sure their policy owners do indeed make good on those best efforts.

Would this system have prevented Sandy Hook or the Oregon shooting? Maybe, maybe not. Since both shooters got their guns from relatives perhaps those relatives would not have be able to afford the higher premiums (due to other risk factors), or perhaps they would have been compelled to have kept the guns better secured, or perhaps other policy rules would have given them second thoughts about allowing others to access to their guns. We can’t know for certain what might have happened, but the point is that there are at least several possible barriers under this system. Not a single “sensible” new law would have imposed the tiniest of impediment had they been in place prior to those incidents.

So at this point the obvious question might be, “We have insurance today, why don’t insurance companies enact these sort of regulations today?” That is actually such a good question that rather than speculate I called my insurance agent at State Farm and asked him. The reason is simple: gun related incidents not involving an actual criminal (i.e. criminals shooting other criminals) are so few in number they can’t actuarially determine the risk level for them. It’s like trying to calculate the risk of blindness caused by a snowflake injury.

Despite media hype to the contrary, these events, as horrific as they are, are so few and far between that we each have a better chance of being struck by lightning than becoming a shooting victim. Other inanimate objects controlled or used by humans cause far more harm than guns each year (cars, pools, trampolines, etc.)  and yet there is no call to ban those things. Quite odd. Insurance acts as a guide to mitigating risk. Risky things are expensive to insure (be that poor drivers or unguarded pools) and so that tends to minimize those things.

Rather than lamenting violence in this country we should be astounded that in a country with over 300 million guns the murder rate is a mere 4.7 per 100,000 per year.  That is lower than 110 other countries with more stringent gun control or outright bans. We should always strive to do better but since there seems to be no correlation between murder rates and gun control then perhaps the answer is not more gun control but rather to follow the market’s lead and see what works and copy that. Laws shackle us from trying alternative approaches and limit choice. Only the free choice of millions in the market can guide us to the best solution.

* Answers to some obvious objections:

Question: “Well what if someone just chooses to get a policy that doesn’t cover guns or they just don’t get insurance, i.e. they simply take the risk that all will be fine?”

Answer: They are of course free to do so, however, the complete lack of any protection means those they have harmed (or their agents) as a result of their negligence are without any limitation whatsoever permitted to take all that they possess in the world, up to and including their life. In other words there is no limitation of liability if you don’t have insurance or have insufficient coverage. That is a pretty big motivator for 99.9999% of all people to have the peace of mind of being protected by insurance coverage.

Question: “Well what if it is just some homicidal loner who buys a gun and is planning on dying, so they don’t care about insurance or liability?

Answer: Liability laws would need to be eliminated so that one could sue the person that sold them the gun and likewise the person that sold that person the gun, all the way up to the manufacturer of the gun. This would ensure that each person in the chain has an incentive to exercise some level of due diligence to ensure whoever they are selling the gun to represents little risk and is qualified to operate it.

Question: “But wouldn’t that just put gun manufacturers out of business if they got sued every time someone got shot?”

Answer: No, because gun manufacturers would perform whatever actions their insurer said they must do in order to remain protected under their own insurance. As long as they do what the insurer says (i.e. voluntary regulation), they are protected from any such claims. Likewise each person down the chain of sale then has an incentive to be protected by insurance and thus to have their actions regulated by their own insurer. The end result is the final seller then has the greatest incentive to ask for certification of the buyer from some other independent certifying body that has “okayed” the buyer for the seller. That certifying agency takes on the risk and you can be certain they will investigate the heck of the background of each person applying for certification. The certifying agency has their own insurance and their insurer will drive the level of due diligence they must engage in order to approve or deny gun buying permits.

Question: “So gun buyers would be in some sort of database and if they did not possess the purchasing permit they would not be able to buy a gun?”

Answer: Yes and no. Those that want to prove to the world they are low risk and not crazy would voluntarily do so. Once they have their seal of approval they could purchase whatever firearms they wanted and remain protected by insurance. But, being a free system, if someone does not want insurance they can buy guns from others who also don’t want to be part of the system – and this would all be legal. There would be no “black market” per se of people without permits buying guns. There would simply be a small market of some people doing this but the inherent risk of selling to someone like that would be so great it would make the cost of the guns so high this alone would act as a natural barrier to most. Most crazed loners are not financially well off. But given the enormous downsides very few would engage in this sort of activity. Basically the same people that are criminals today and can’t legally buy guns would remain similarly verboten under this system. But the point of gun control has never been to stop criminals from getting guns – everyone knows mere laws won’t stop that. The point has always been to minimize accidental shootings or the mentally unbalanced from obtaining weapons and this approach would accomplish this in an entirely voluntary approach. It would also foster an environment of fewer accidents since today anyone can buy a gun without any training at all. Under this approach one would have to demonstrate competency. We demonstrate competency to drive a car with a license, so why not demonstrate competency to handle a gun with a license? I’d rather have a private system doing this rather than a one size fits all government approach that is immune to improvements from new information.

Rape culture, no. Theft culture, yes.

There are a number of word-couplet slogans that aim to pithily define some societal ill that is widely ignored but which demands immediate rectification (white (or male) privilege, social justice, rape culture). The proof of said societal ill? The mere Jehovah-like utterance of said phrases brings them into existence before a credulous audience who only need hear the words to accept the implied truth. Their refutation, on the other hand, requires pages of discourse and facts and who has time for that? Mindless emotion trumps facts and reasoned discourse every time.

Sound bite slogans engage in semantic slight of hand, mixing words and their meaning into a soup of inscrutability. As the great sage Inigo Montoya would say, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  Perhaps the worst offender among these is “rape culture.” This term is particularly sinister as it establishes its own legitimacy in tautological fashion by claiming that proof of rape culture is found in the very denial of its existence.  Witches must exist because anyone denying their existence is only doing so to cover up their allegiance to said witches.

Users of this term apparently are unaware of what “culture” actually means. The dictionary definition is “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.” Hmmmm… so it seems if we had a “rape culture” that would mean we would find positive depictions of rape in our literature, movies and television. Our political leaders would extol the virtues of rape whenever possible. We would erect monuments to the greatest and most prolific rapists. Our schools would teach boys and girls the virtues of rape. Nope, I don’t see any of that, do you?

Yes, rape is a horrible crime and the perpetrators should be severely punished, but to suggest that 3% of the population who commits 90% of the rapes (on college campuses) suggests an endemic problem in the very fabric of a society is ludicrous. It ironically mimics the very thing proponents of this term decry – victim blaming – by shifting the blame from the perpetrator to society. “Society” should teach men not to rape and thus to the extent rape exists it is tacit proof of the failure of society to teach that. See, the perpetrators are the victims here as well; it’s not their fault, they never got the “don’t rape” memo from society. Honestly, is there anyone alive who thinks rape is “ok”? Even thieves and murders know their crimes are wrong – and yet they do it anyway. Does this then signify we have a “murder culture” or “theft culture”?

Actually, on that last question I would answer in the affirmative. We do have a “theft culture.” How so? Imagine the following: in order to eliminate the scourge of rape from society the government created an incentive system to stop potential rapists. Whenever someone thought about raping they could instead go to the government Department of Gender Relations and receive a payment to not rape. To make this system work all potential rape victims would be required to pay an annual fee into this system. If they did not pay up, then the government would publish a list of their names and anyone could rape them without consequence. Naturally nobody wants to be on that list so everyone pays – just the threat of what might happen for not paying is enough to ensure all continue to pay “voluntarily.”

Does that seem shocking and crazy? Well it should, but unfortunately this exact system exists today in order to prevent a different crime: theft. Government agents who would otherwise violently rob people in order to extract the proper “tribute” payment to the state’s coffers have convinced everyone it is better if we all just pay them “voluntarily.” If we don’t then they can rob us without consequence. So if we all pay our taxes in a “civilized” fashion then there will never be a need to resort to base barbarism. And it’s all “voluntary”, so that makes it legitimate.

The really scary part is that this culture is not unique to America; it is global. People will universally agree that taxes are bad, but quickly pivot to extol their virtues. The parallel to an actual rape culture would be if society would extol the virtues of all the children born as the result of rape and told women they should just accept being raped because yes it is bad, but look at all the good it brings about. One parallel that does exist today between rape victims and tax victims is the odious practice of “victim blaming” – rape victims “deserved” it because of how they dressed and tax dodgers “deserved” jail because they refused to be robbed; both have the right to exist in the world without being victimized on account of the lens through which others view them.

That is the way of the state, instead of standing as a bulwark against rights violations it institutionalizes those very violations and whitewashes them into a sanitized bureaucratic system that like a virus then infects all cultures, transforming them into the “war is peace” and “theft is good” upside down culture of the state.


A US District Court judge recently ruled that the NCAA can not prohibit student athletes from receiving remuneration that goes beyond scholarships and related costs. The ruling was based on the argument that the NCAA was violating antitrust laws (trust = a small group of individuals conspiring to limit options of its customers or members). That such antitrust pronouncements emanated from a federal court (itself a monopoly) is no less ludicrous than if the KKK were to condemn the racism of the Aryan Brotherhood. Perhaps the people should file an antitrust lawsuit against the Federal Government. The executive, judicial, and legislative branches regularly conspire in trust-like behavior in order to deprive us of our rights. If we were permitted to choose from whom we will rely on for governance (without imaginary border constraints), then, and only then, could we live freely.

Apropos voluntary governance; the NCAA is a non-geographically constrained, self-governing, voluntary organization whose existence is based on the concept that those with common goals and interests can better achieve those goals through cooperation. In many respects the NCAA operates like any government. It has a legislative body that passes “laws” that its members must adhere to, it has a dispute resolution process (judiciary), and it has a chief executive (president). There is, however, one crucial difference; it relies on voluntary membership and voluntary dues payments. It cannot force schools to join merely because other member colleges happen to be nearby. All schools voluntarily join and in so doing agree to abide by its rules. Also, unlike state governments, it has competition (NAIA, NCCAA, USCAA, etc) in its metaphorical backyard. But unlike state governments, they cannot and do not use violence to inhibit such competition. Somehow this crazy, anarchical voluntary system has worked for over one hundred years! Imagine that, anarchy does work!

Or rather it works until the top gang (the Federal Government) decides it has a say concerning what the serfs do on its “turf”. You see the Crips, err, I mean the Feds decided monopolies/trusts are bad and must be stopped (even though monopolies cannot exist in a free market – only in one that suffers state interference). In order to stop them they pass “laws” that they interpret to arrive at whatever outcome supports their ideological stance du jour. Today’s seems to be “fairness.” It is only “fair” after all to allow student players to be paid. Only a troglodyte would oppose fairness. The substance of this conflict is the usual sort of economic interventionism (e.g. minimum wage, worker’s “rights”, etc) one can expect of the state. The actors may change but the narrative is always the same: Party A and Party B came to a mutually agreeable relationship, however Party C thinks that Party B is too stupid or weak to know what is best for them.

Whether students should be paid or not is irrelevant. This is not a moral issue; there is no right or wrong answer because there is no rights violation. All relationships are voluntary (NCAA, schools, students). The only ones that get to decide what is best are the students and the schools. If a school wants to pay an athlete, then they must weigh the costs and benefits of leaving the NCAA. If enough students demanded pay, then the rules would change. The fact that the rules have not changed (other than this recent external one) suggests that the vast majority values the free education and experience more than they value the other things they could be doing. In other words, if someone offers you $10 for something that you value only at $5, then it is ill advised to demand $50.

Although this issue is often cast under an egalitarian light, this ruling will result in a rather perversely inegalitarian outcome. The 1% (of athletes) will attract the lion’s share of money to themselves leaving that much less for others. On the margins fewer athletic scholarships will be given, thus harming those most in need. To paraphrase H.L. Menken, “[the student athletes] know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”


In the words of Bob King, President of the United Autoworkers Union (UAW), the UAW has no long-term future if they cannot expand their membership into Southern auto plants. And it looks like that day may come sooner than anyone expected: workers at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee recently voted by a margin of 53-47% against joining the UAW. The loss is even more stunning considering that VW welcomed and actively encouraged the UAW with open arms. Why were they so welcoming? Not only do labor interests make up half of the Germany based VW board, but VW was also keen to establish a German-style “works council” in their American plants. However, American labor law barred them from doing so – unless workers were unionized. Oh the irony; anti-union laws actually induced a company to invite unionization. Talk about unintended consequences!

But all is not lost. Perhaps if Bob King and the rest of the UAW were to adopt a more libertarian stance toward labor laws and thus began a push to have all such laws repealed, the UAW might actually have a fighting chance. Why do I say this? Consider the vote; 47% of the workers actually WANTED union representation, but, as with union voting and democracy the “majority rules” so the desires of the minority are simply squashed and ignored. But what if the 47% that wanted to join were simply allowed to join and the 53% that didn’t want to join did not? Would the sky fall? VW could deal with the 53% just the way they always have and then also deal with the newly unionized 47% however the union wished to proceed. If the union could accomplish those things it claimed for the workers then more workers would join of their own free will. And if the union failed to deliver, then workers would be free to leave as well. If VW wants to establish a “workers council” then let them. Why should some law stand in their way? But this law slashing cuts both ways. If the UAW approached say a Toyota plant but Toyota wanted nothing to do with the union then that is also their right. There should be no law forcing Toyota to negotiate with a union just as there should be no law forcing an employer to hire certain people. Freedom to choose with whom you associate is a fundamental natural right and it should not be abridged for wholly arbitrary and misguided notions of “fairness” implemented by sore losers that didn’t get their way.

Now some might say “oh that could never work, the non-unionized would “free-ride” off the non-exclusionary benefits of union backed negotiations.” Beyond better candy in the vending machine or more comfortable climate control settings I’m not really sure what these benefits could be, but even if that were the case, surely the value of the exclusionary benefits should vastly outweigh the trivial non-exclusionary fringe benefits of union proximity. One may derive some personal enjoyment benefit from viewing the country club’s grounds but such benefits pale in comparison to the amenities that the paying members may enjoy. If that is not the same situation with a union then that is one pathetic union.

In order for everyone to exercise their right of free association all laws relating to unions and labor must be repealed. Laws that compel union membership are as injurious to liberty as laws prohibiting it.

A Model for Freedom… in Detroit?

If you could distill the essence of the morning hangover and turn it into a city, that city would be Detroit. Everything seems “ok” during the party as both booze and money are consumed in excess. But as with all such excesses we are eventually (and often unceremoniously) awoken to the consequences of the cold hard reality we have wrought. Not quite the “morning in America” Ronald Reagan envisioned, but it is indeed now “morning” in Detroit.

Detroit is not alone in its profligate tax and spend policies that have slowly destroyed cities like a silent cancer. Stockton, California. Jefferson County, Alabama. Pontiac, Michigan. And the list goes on. Municipal debt has nearly doubled since 2000 from $1.5 trillion to $2.8 trillion as of 2011. Since municipalities can’t print their own money like Uncle Sam can there is a municipal debt bubble getting ready to burst that will make the housing bubble look like a hiccup. But there is a bright side to all of this, and Detroit is it. How so? For sure Detroit is in the condition it is in (abandoned homes, cars, factories, etc.) because of the actions of its overlords (city council). However, the response of its citizens to those actions has yielded the city we see today. Those citizens left. Those businesses left. And the fact that they were free to do so reveals the glimmer of hope for us all. We can at least (still) leave any relationship that is injurious. If the city had erected a wall and made it illegal to leave the city, illegal to close down a business, illegal to quit a job, it would no longer be a city but a prison (or any Ayn Rand novel, take your pick).

Where did those citizens go? To other cities. Detroit, just like any other city, county or state must compete for citizens on the open market. Create an environment that is conducive to freedom (low taxes, low regulations, civil liberties) and you will attract citizens. Create an environment opposed to those principals and the opposite occurs. Government decentralization is the reason we still enjoy some measure of freedom today. When government competes with government they all (mostly) behave. It is no accident that those states with the highest tax rates have been steadily losing citizens and those with the lowest gaining citizens.

However, there is a movement afoot from both the left and the right to set us on a path of complete nationalization. Each side falls sway to the delusion that they’ll be the ones “in control” and thus there is nothing to worry about. Under this “one nation” path the Federal government’s judgment will reign supreme in all areas, not just the annoying few outlined by the Constitution. But this reality is not new; we started down this path long ago. For those things controlled by the Feds there is no escape in moving. Don’t like paying into a bankrupt Social Security system? or Obamacare? Or funding endless wars (on terror and drugs)? Too bad, there is nowhere to go to opt out. Removing the Federal government would not necessarily mean an end to these programs however – it would simply mean that those programs could only exist in those areas where 100% of the citizens desired them. Anyone opposed would leave for cities with different policies.

But even such a geographically decentralized system of governance is but a mere compromise on the road toward true freedom. The dream is that someday humanity will evolve beyond our territorially driven reptilian brains to the point where geographical boundaries are irrelevant in defining political allegiances. Just as religious allegiances are blind to geographical boundaries so too should political allegiances be likewise blind to such boundaries. Although we can move to escape tyranny we shouldn’t have to.

On Voluntaryism, Stateless Societies and Contract Slavery

Recently I got involved an interesting philosophical discussion on Facebook (where else!) concerning taxation and the proposition that if you don’t pay your taxes men with guns will come and take you to jail or kill you (all true). One participant brought some focus to the conversation by distilling down the core argument to one of a) should we have government (b) how shall we pay for it (c) constitutions are like contracts. All good points, however embedded in each one is either a false choice or a fallacious assumption. So below I will reproduce his post and then my follow up as I address some of the main fallacies. 

here is the quoted content from the post I will be responding to:

This conversation, and every conversation about the scope of govt comes back to the same place. The first division is you are either an anarchist or you want some kind of law. The moment you say you want some kind of law, you are agreeing that at some point in the process of enforcing the law, a dude from the govt with a gun will come take you away. And I am okay with that – no point in pretending we have laws if they are not going to be enforced.I am willing to listen to discussion, but anarchy is probably not for me, or most of us. So then it’s like the old joke about the prostitute – we’ve already established what you are (pro-govt of some kind), now we’re just haggling over price. Where is the line in the sand as far as your philosophy of the proper scope of the law?I would suggest that the only useful argument by a libertarian about government is that it ought only exist to prevent one adult from using force or fraud to gain from another adult – whether that gain is via money or to forward an agenda. Situations involving children and the mentally impaired are naturally given to tighter governance.So to me, the idea that we’re arguing over whether or not you must / ought pay federal taxes so the govt can fund its activities is a little pointless. The only real argument for strict Constitutionalists or libertarians ought to be about the USE of the money, not the government’s right to take it. The law of tooth and claw was used to appropriate the land upon which I sit and afterward to create the govt that exists here – the RIGHT is almost irrelevant. Were I to be successful in dissolving this (formerly) useful govt, it is most likely a worse govt would take its place. There is no perfect freedom on this side of heaven, so the notion that no entity can curb my inclinations or bind my freedom is almost childish.We can get into a lot of philosophical discussions about man being created free and whatnot, but the fact is that there will be some govt, and we enter into “contracts” (the Constitution, say) with other free people to create these govts that will enforce our individual rights to property and to secure freedom from invasion, etc. With our ancestors having agreed to some form of these contracts, and most of us agreeing that they ought to exist in one form or another, we should be focused on the quality of the contracts, not the terms of enforcement.

Here is my response:

Your points I think have helped to focus the discussion, however the underlying assumptions simply reinforce the false dichotomous choice that is beaten into us from day one (by our educators, our literature and the state media) – namely that one has a choice of either being ruled by others (in the form of this thing we call government) OR absolute and total chaos with no laws or order whatsoever. Obviously with a choice like that who would pick the latter? And to an extent I think part of the failure for the proper alternative being made understood falls at the feat of us libertarians – we (or some of us) throw the word “anarchy” around and do not explain at all what is intended by the use of that phrase. I personally prefer “voluntaryism” – it’s enough of a neologism that it carries none of the associated emotional baggage of “anarchy”. We want the freedom of choice. Not the freedom to state our choice and have it vetoed by a “majority”, but to actually be allowed to execute our choice.

When we libertarians speak of “freedom from government” we do not intend a lawless, chaotic, anything goes sort of wild west world. Far from it. We want government. We want order. It’s just that we want to pick our own government to associate with. And we do not believe that simply because I happen to live next door to you and you want to associate with a government that establishes rules that promote Ideology A and I want to associate with one that promotes Ideology B, your choice should have any bearing on my choice. 

Think about it for a minute. I’m proposing something no more controversial than what we currently practice today – freedom of religion. If I’m Catholic and I live in a town full of Baptists it would seem ludicrous to anyone to suggest that “well since a majority of people who live here are Baptist, well, you have to be Baptist too, or at the least you have to do all the things the Baptists require” – and that if I didn’t comply I would be throw in jail. That’s insane – and rightly so, and everyone would agree that that would be insane. And so it is no different with government. This type of governance is not unknown. It is sometimes referred to as a “clan” system. In more “primitive” stateless societies families had a self-interest in protecting each other. They came to each other’s defense and helped each other in times of need. In time it became customary for non-family members to join a family or clan for such protection purposes (voluntarily paying or contributing something in return – i.e. truly voluntary “taxation”). However all members of the clan were responsible for the behavior of its members. If one member injured someone in another clan then all members must make restitution. They then obviously had a self-interest in preventing such behavior from those they knew to be the most troublesome. Eventually if a member behaved badly enough consistently enough they were thrown out of the clan and thus had no protection of any kind from any group. They were an “outlaw” – which meant that anyone could kill them, rob them whatever without any consequence whatsoever. That’s a pretty big incentive to not become an outlaw and behave as directed by the customs and laws of your clan. (For a brief discussion of this system in Ireland please see this interview with Gerard Casey by Tom Woods ). In order for all clans to get along they tended to adopt the same basic “common laws” against violence, theft, rape, etc. So in this way we can see how “law” can exist without an over arching state. Everybody is against rape and murder. But not everyone might be for space exploration, or green energy, etc. Essentially each clan is a government, the only difference being they did not have specific geographical boundaries. Members of multiple clans could all live in the same city and get along just fine. There is no reason such a system could not operate today on a larger scale, one where entities very similar to insurance carriers took the place of the role of government in dispute resolution, restitution, crime mitigation (less crime, less to pay out in losses). If such an entity does not provide what people want, they will go elsewhere. Without a barrier to entry imposed by outside regulations no one could ever “take over” such an industry, the market would always be providing those that could do it better, faster, cheaper, etc.

This has gotten a lot longer than I intended, but let me just touch on another point you made. The one of contracts is germane, however you again accept the “party line” that the fact that our ancestors freely entered into a contract (the Constitution) somehow morally binds us to that same contractual obligation in perpetuity. How can it? Are we bound by the contracts our parents sign? If your parents had a huge amount of debt and then died would you want to suddenly be saddled with that? What if I could vote myself out of the contract, but my siblings wanted to remain party to it, and thus I was then bound by their vote – why should I be bound by their choice? There really is no difference between that and the idea that we are all still adhering (or pretending to adhere) to a contractual document signed by people that have all been dead for nearly 200 years. I talk about this idea of contractual slavery more here