April 2008 - Posts

Organization and Conflict: Free Association vs. Politics

Free association and competition resolves conflict while politics, especially democratic politics, enables and ultimately depends on conflict. All disagreements between people about how to organize can theoretically be resolved through free association, as they have the choice to either disassociate/secede or come to a mutual agreement (in short, to voluntarily intregrate). The result is inherently polycentric/pluralist. Free association essentially leads to increased complexity and smaller social units.

In contrast, in a political atmosphere everyone within an arbitrarily and unjustly claimed and controlled territory battles eachother over which particular interest group imposes their preferantial type of organization onto everyone. The result is inherently monocentric or monopolistic. Politics essentially leads to imposed uniformity and very haphazard and blockish social units. It's inherently a "one size fits all" approach to organization that eliminates competition, and hence all meaningful alternatives.

In an atmosphere of free association, noone may legitimately impose their preferential form of organization on anyone else, either directly (through rulership itself) or indirectly (through democracy). Instead, a diverse array of types of organization and an intricate pattern emerges precisely as a consequence of the lack of a singular imposed power monopoly. An atmosphere of free association could be thought of as being more conductive to favorable social evolution than politics because the increased complexity involved allows for more possibilities, while politics limits the possibilities and therefore creates stagnation.

There would be no reason, in an apolitical society, for there to be conflicts over matters such as what should be taught in schools, gay marriage, the ten commandments on the court house steps, who should be allowed in or out of political borders, who will build the roads, who should own the means of production, what goods and services are allowed and not allowed, and so on. For people would be free to associate and disassociate in order to each get what they prefer for themselves without anyone else being forced into it, and therefore they compete on a voluntary basis.

From the perspective of someone who accepts the principle of free association, they cannot rule anyone else and noone else can rule them. There is no need for them to institutionalize their preferances, for they can persue their preferances by associating with likeminded people, persuasion and intregrating their ideas with that of others. But in the democratic political mindset, one's preferances must be binding upon everyone and institutionalized. From the perspective of politics, it is legitimate and necessary for there to be a monopolistic standard, and the only alternative would allegedly be complete chaos and destruction.

So long as someone consistantly accepts the principle of free association, it should become rather clear that everyone's personal and cultural preferences do not necessarily have to lead to conflict and violence, but may instead be rendered rather neutral if not meaningless by merely taking a "live and let live" approach. Socialists, capitalists, primitivists, racists, multiculturalists, feminists, religionists, atheists and any other group among the endless slew of groups out there can all mutually win through free association without any need for coercion.

It is only when politics enters the picture that conflict is institutionalized and enabled on a large scale. Since the alternatives of free association are disincentivized in a political atmosphere, the individual has little choice but to either engage in civil disobedience or asquiesce to the political process and consequentially take a more active role in the conflict. Endless conflict takes place over who will control the reigns of institutional power and what they should impose onto everyone. Political means are inherently opposed to the voluntary or social or economic means of free association.

The Myth of "The Rule of Law"

The theory of a republic is essentially that, in contrast to democracy in which there is tyranny of the majority and in contrast to monarchy in which there is the rule of a single man or oligarchy, the law itself is what rules rather than men. In essence, a republic is supposed to be a model for government that avoids being both both democracy and monarchy, and allegedly replaces the adminstration of men over men with the adminstration of the law itself over men. In a republic, the law is supposed to restrain the lay public from creating tyranny of the majority (I.E. a democracy) and simultaneously restrain the institutional agents of the state from functioning as an elite of rulers imposing their will on the lay public (I.E. an oligarchy).

But a basic understanding of how human beings work and a rational analysis of how the state functions as an institution, including so-called republics, renders this theory of government as a rather blatant absurdity. How can a law be self-enforcing? By definition, a governmental law is drafted by men and must be enforced by men. No political system can escape the rule of men, for all political systems are created and run by men. At the same time, no political system is the result of the decisions of everyone within a society, for at a fundamental level all political systems are oligarchies in which a small percentage of the overall population are those with direct control over the state apparatus, those who actually make and enforce the laws.

The absurdity of the notion that a piece of paper with words on it in and of itself will fatalistically or pre-emptively stop human beings (including those within the state apparatus itself) from engaging in certain actions should be rather obvious. In terms of the lay public, they may theoretically engage in such actions anyways and their actions may be rather unpredictable. A piece of paper isn't going to restrain a mob. And in terms of those within the state apparatus themselves, they have most leeway of all in the matter, for it is ultimately they who make the laws and may choose to enforce or not enforce them. Since they are not really bound by any higher external 3rd party institution, they may theoretically function in a lawless manner. The law maker is effectively and seemingly paradoxically "above the law". For since they have a monopoly on law, they may theoretically interpret it and defy it as they please. The law is not binding on them. Rather, the law's content and applicability is actually bound to their whims as the ones with power.

So it would seem that an attempt at a republic will always reduce to some kind of oligarchy, most likely a representative democracy with a constitution. The constitution is merely an additional feature of the democracy that is meant to restrain both the people and the government. Except a constitution cannot really be effective in any consistant or long-term sense. It will not fatalistically restrain institutional agents of the state from using power and the lay public from engaging in majoritarian or mob behavior. As the decades and centuries pass, it becomes less and less meaningful and effective as a society evolves (or devolves). At best, it functions as a lame rationale to provide legitimacy to the state while its alleged function as a restraint is rendered meaningless by the ability of the state's institutional agents to exercise their power. A constitution does nothing to actually restrain or take away the oppurtunity or ability for institutional agents of the state to use power.

The notion of the rule of law would only make sense if the state was an entity external to human interaction, as if it were not made up of human beings but was enforced through some natural or supernatural mechanism. But the state is quite clearly created and administered by acting human beings. It is not some sort of intrinsic mechanism of nature that functions independantly of human action, or the result of the will of some deity. The only laws that can be said to rule all on their own irrespective of men are natural laws. But natural law is not something that political systems are based on, as political systems are the synthetic creations of men. At best, natural law is an independant standard of justice that currently existing political systems may be held up to and discredited with. While some early natural law theories were used to legitimize states, a properly formed and applied natural law theory can only be used to delegitimize states.

There is good reason to be quite skeptical towards the effectiveness of governmentally created laws to begin with. Not only is it absurd to propose that laws can rule on on their own, but the ability of human beings to enforce them is quite limited due to a certain factor of unpredictability in the behavior of human beings. That is, the mere existance of a law illegalizing certain actions and even the existance of an institutional apparatus that attempts to have humans enforce such a law and threatens punishment for defying it does not gaurantee that people will not in fact defy the law and that people will not in fact get away with defying the law. While this has obvious implications with respect to laws prohibiting economic interactions (which are miserable failures in light of their own alleged goals), it is even true with respect to laws against basics that everyone pretty much agrees are wrong like murder, rape and theft.

The notion that most people generally don't murder, rape and steal either solely or primarily because there is a governmental law against them is rather absurd if one accepts the premise of free will (at least some kind of compatibalism). The existance of a governmental law in and of itself is not the cause of good or ethical behavior, and some people do engage in the shunned actions in question despite the existance of a law against it. If someone is truly determined to engage in such an action, they are going to do it regaurdless of whether or not there is a governmental law against it. Criminals are criminals precisely because they have an extremely high time preferance, I.E. they want what they want now regaurdless of potential negative consequences that may come about in the future. If someone does not engage in such an action, it is mostly likely primarily because they themselves find it ethically impermissable. Social convention itself, combined with the natural incentives towards social cooperation, is the primary reason why most people tend to generally be peaceful in interpersonal relations.

In a fundamental sense, a society truly cannot be planned or socially engineered in the long-run, even by laws. A society is the sum total of interactions between the individuals that make it up, and such interpersonal relations are so complex and diverse that it would be impossible for a single individual or organization to truly predict and absolutely control their behavior. No human being or group of human beings has the mental capacity, let alone the physical ability, to deterministically control and pre-empt the behavior of everyone within a society. They would have to be omniscient to do so. The mere fact that one can only be at one place at one time renders any attempt to efficiently exercise such control ridiculous and pointless. So it could be said that all government is fortunately limited by definition, limited by the natural limits of human ability and the unpredictability and diversity of human behavior.

Quite clearly, the law is not something worthy of putting much of one's faith in, even with good intentions.

The Nail in the Coffin of "The Right"

It is common for many libertarians, especially those in America, to assume that they have a natural alliance with "the right". This is based on certain assumptions, such as the notion that contemporary libertarianism grew out of the old American conservative movement and that "the right" is generally supportive of less government and more free markets in comparison to "the left". In short, the libertarian who makes such assumptions is at least partially buying into the way in which the political spectrum is typically framed in contemporary public discourse, with "the right" standing for less and less government control and "the left" standing for more and more government control, with "the left" standing for collectivism and communism and "the right" standing for individualism and capitalism. One would think that the libertarian should know better than to buy into this false dichotomy. It eradicates all nuances.

I find such assumptions to be mistaken for a number of reasons. In historical terms, libertarianism predates the existance of contemporary American conservatism altogether and the term "libertarian" itself actually derives from certain socialists from the 19th century. And, the term libertarian itself aside, the bulk of those who are considered to be the forefathers of libertarian ideas were originally considered to be on "the left", including free market proponents. Furthermore, it seems to me to be the case that the bulk of self-identified "rightists" do not actually support a free market or any consistant philosophy of individualism. I see no serious compelling reason to assume that "the right" necessarily supports state power any less than "the left". Conservative devotion to individualism and free markets is largely rhetorical, not substantive. These are campaign slogans, not seriously or consistantly held philosophical positions.

If viewed in terms of the original meaning of the left-right political spectrum, the meaning that it had centuries ago, libertarians are actually on the "far left" while the conservatives are on "the far right". For the left originally was supposed to represent anti-authoritarianism, anti-statism and revolution,  while the right was supposed to represent the status quo, the oligarchy and reactionaries. Taken in its original context, conservatism has always been the polar opposite of libertarianism or liberalism. Libertarians are often mislead by the modern assumption that "the left" is necessarily in favor of statism and opposed to free economic interaction. Since this is assumed about "the left", the libertarian may make the mistake of then concluding that "the right" is therefore their natural home on the political spectrum.

But what does "the right" of today really stand for? Not to make too hasty of a generalization, as a "rightist" may not necessarily support all of these things, but here's what immediately comes to mind: corporatism, protectionism, monarchy, theocracy, traditionalism, militarism, nationalism and racism. It is important to note that all of these things were strongly opposed by historical libertarians and classical liberals to varying degrees. Classical liberals tended to be cosmopolitans in their worldview, and therefore nationalism does not jibe very well with such a philosophy. They also respresented a radical divergence from past political traditions, which implies an opposition to monarchy and theocracy. And there was always a strong opposition to war and imperialism within the old libertarian "left". Furthermore, obviously any sensible understanding of free market economics would lead one to oppose protectionism and corporatism.

Why do I identify "the right" with these traits? Because as far as I can tell such traits are implicit in their own rhetoric and in the substantive content of their policy positions. Obviously I do not mean to lump all "rightists" together into one arbitrary camp, as there are different factions within the contemporary conservative movement. But each faction represents some selection among the listed traits. Neoconservatives tend to support corporatism and militarism. Paleoconservatives tend to support protectionism, nationalism and traditionalism. The Christian right tends to support theocracy. Furthermore, despite quibbles among different factions of conservatives, they all are united by an irrationalist opposition to anything that is considered to be part of "the left". When it comes down to it, many conservatives are willing to set aside their differences to function as reactionaries to what they commonly oppose. Therefore anti-communism, anti-Islam, anti-multiculturalism and anti-secular sentiments prevail.

The problem is that in the name of opposing such things, the conservative tends to enter into a desperate state in which they will support just about any means in the name of defeating their common enemies. Thus, whatever disposition they may have had towards restraint in political affairs is at least temporarily set aside. The communists, radical Islam, the secularists and multiculturalists must be defeated at all costs first - then, only when the enemies have been defeated, we can worry about restraining the government, freeing up the economy and adhering to a non-interventionist foreign policy. But even when one boogeyman is defeated, it usually is replaced with another one. Thus, when the Soviet Union fell and left a void of rationales for foreign policy interventions, radical Islam was then used as the new rationale.

Even if the conservative is somewhat or even entirely correct in opposing something, such as a communism, they may tend to make the mistake of going on to form or join equally dangerous reactionary movements and end up supporting other things that should merit opposition as well. In short, they fall into the trap of thinking that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". But it does not logically follow that since one opposes communism, one must join forces with the fascists. It does not logically follow that since one opposes social democracy, one must join forces with the monarchists. It does not logically follow that since one opposes the state's discrimination laws, one must join forces with white nationalists. It does not logically follow that since one opposes government ownership of the means of production, one must indiscriminately support corporations.

The economic views of contemporary conservatism are also very warped. For the modern conservative does not support laissez-faire, but some form of a mixed economy or corporate state. Sure, the conservative's rhetoric is often devoted to laissez-faire, but their support for "capitalism" is more often than not merely a knee-jerk apologia for current economic conditions, corporations and the rich, irrespective of wether or not it has anything to do with laissez-faire. In short, the contemporary conservative often ends up using the term "free market" to describe and legitimize what we currently have. But we do not currently have a free market. The average conservative has not read Ludwig Von Mises or Frederic Bastiat. Their support for "capitalism" is more or less merely cultural, not an informed and substantive position. All they know is that they oppose "socialism" and "communism", and "capitalism" is the opposite of those things, therefore they must support whatever "capitalism" is. But their "capitalism" happens to be either the status quo (or elements of it at least) or some romantisized past utopia.

Since the conservative tends to conflate laissez-faire with corporatism or the effects of a mixed corporatist economy with "the free market", actual consistant proponents of laissez-faire may actually be demonized and brushed aside as being "socialists", since a consistant adherance to laissez-faire would naturally lead one to oppose corporatism. The conservative loves to see red where it does not really exist, therefore going on red-baiting witch hunts. The conservative may see red in positions that don't necessarily have anything to do with being a communist, such as opposition to political borders and support for multiculturalism. They accept an absurd false dichotomy: either you support the conservative agenda or you are a "far leftist". A "far leftist" is defined quite simply as anyone who disagrees with the conservative to any significant extent.

While there certainly are conservative intellectuals, the average conservative does not derive their position from any serious study of philosophy, economics or history. They derive their position from the media, their parents and cultural cliches. They are brought up to believe that whatever the conservative establishment happens to be supporting equates to small government, free markets and individualism - and that everyone and everything else is more or less a representation of big bad communism and "big government". In contemporary politics, conservatism has more to do with one's cultural preferances than any half-seriously thought out political philosophy. Dimwitted talkings heads such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter determines the conservative's views rather than anything remotely resembling a rational thought process.

What does the libertarian truly have in common with the contemporary right? In my estimation, very little. What they have in common is a matter of rhetoric and to some limited degree over what they are opposed to. But the libertarian ultimately has no compelling reason to support what the contemporary right does. For the contemporary right is largely a reactionary statist movement. Figures such as Ronald Reagen and Pat Buchannan are not particularly libertarian, despite any correct positions they may hold to on certain individual issues. Contemporary conservatism is just another brand of statism.


So I put together some relatively witty definitions of my terms. If you're not offended by at least one of these, then you are awesome!

Constitutionalism - The belief that a piece of paper drafted and signed by a tiny aristocracy of men is a legitimate perpetual contract that makes the government voluntary on the part of those within a society that did not sign the document and limits the powers of governmental agents for all of eternity.

Minarchism - The belief that there can be a government limited to the protection of rights without violating rights in and of itself; the belief that all goods and services should be provided by the free market yet somehow the principle magically doesn't apply to the defense and arbitration industry.

Democracy - The belief that the government is controled by the people simply because every few years they get to punch a hole in a piece of paper with the names of a few rich and powerful men on it.

Nationalism - The belief that imaginary lines on a map constitute real and meaningful property boundaries; the belief that territories have human traits or personalities of their own; the belief that immigration is the spawn of satan.

Objectivism - The belief that the initation of force is wrong yet somehow it is permissible to arbitrarily invade Iran and Venezuela because "we" have oil interests there; the belief that only romanticism is real art; the belief that you can eliminate taxation and still have a "government".

Political Libertarianism - The belief that the state is inefficient and immoral yet for some strange reason the state is the only viable means by which we can bring about liberty; the belief that democracy is tyrannical yet we must use it to our advantage.

Paleoconservatism - The belief that conservatism was hijacked by leftists and communists and that the "true conservatives" are those who support protectionism and white nationalism; the belief that you're more conservative than those creepy neocons yet somehow you support just about as powerful of a government as they do.

Christianity - The belief that the path to salvation lies with devotion of one's life to a Jewish zombie hippie who is his own father.

Satanism (Laveyan) - The belief in the writtings of a former carnie con artist who haphazardly threw together the ideas of Ayn Rand and Aleister Crowley, incoherant ramblings on the Enochian key and rhetoric to drawn in rebelious teenagers.

Zionism - The belief that because your people were nearly liquidated once, you have an inherent right to liquidate others and forcibly remove them from their own territory.

Religion - The belief that fairy tales from centuries or millenia ago passed down through shaky oral tradition and written down by fallable men are actually absolutely true and codes to live one's life by.

Collectivism - The strange belief that groups have a mind of their own yet their component parts don't.

Altruism - The belief that self-destructive servitude for the sake of others is the greatest virtue; the belief that everyone should mutually be slaves to eachother.

Epistemological Subjectivism - The belief that all truth claims can be reduced to mere personal opinion or preferance, yet somehow this view isn't a mere opinion in and of itself.

Epistemological Nihilism - The belief that there is no such thing as truth, yet somehow it is true that there is no such thing as truth.

Statism - The belief that it is not only moral but necessary for a particular group of individuals to do that which is openly aknowledged as being immoral and not necessary for everyone else to do; moral hypocrisy at the institutional level.

Primitivism - The strange belief that living in a cave or mud-brick hut or as a hermit in the woods is preferable to modern industrial society; the romantisization of long gone tribal and hunter-gatherer societies (in which life was nasty, brutish and short) as peaceful and prosperous utopias.

Welfarism - The belief that the poor can be helped by giving them back a tiny chunk of what was originally stolen from them and keeping them in a state of dependancy on the government; the bribery of the lower classes.

Inflationism - The belief that all problems can be solved by simply printing up more money, despite overwhelming evidence that the arbitrary creation of new money creates problems in and of itself.

Monetarism - The belief held by a bunch of Chicago School economists who think that they are free market proponents but really are quasi-Keynsians.

Anarcho-Syndicalism - The belief that corporations are evil yet somehow corporate dominated, government chartered and cartelized unions are the path towards a free and stateless society.

Hobbesianism - The belief that a highly pessemistic view of human nature that entails war of all against all justifies absolute control by the state, despite the fact that the state is made up of *gasp* human beings.

Radical Environmentalism - The belief that the planet itself has intrinsic value and that human beings are inherently evil parasites on the face of the planet; the modern religion of nature-worshop.  

Globalism - The strange belief that large-scale conflict and war would end if only we put all political power in the hands of a singular oligarchal institution with control over everyone in the entire world.

Animal Rights - The belief that non-human entities deserve human rights; the belief that chickens and bumble bees should be equal before the law; the attempt to liberate the unliberatable.

Marxism - The belief that some crazy rich German guy has predicted an inevitable egalitarian future and has mapped out the path towards the liberation of all poor and working people through the work of a benevolent dictatorship.

Racism - The strange belief that a particular roll of the genetic dice entitles and requires one to completely separate themselves from others with another particular roll of the genetic dice; the collectivism of bubble-headed bigots.

The Anarcho-Statists

For quite some time now, Kevin Carson has critisized what he calls "vulgar libertarianism". Vulgar libertarian is a tendency of some libertarians, particularly those with an affinity for "the right", to function as apologists for currently existing economic conditions and corporations as if they came about as the result of "the free market" and even outright advocate statist policies in the name of "the free market". In short, they defend the effects of corporatism in the name of "the free market". For the most part, I find Carson's criticisms in this regaurd to be fairly spot on. Vulgar libertarianism is indeed a considerable problem.

However, there is another tendency displayed by some of the libertarian "left" that sort of runs in the other direction. If the vulgar libertarian could be said to concentrate on anti-statism and anti-socialism while ignoring the problems of corporatism and non-governmental forms of exploitation (or making apologetics for the results of the corporatist economy), a significant portion of social anarchists would appear to display the opposite problem: they concentrate so much on anti-capitalism that they start to neglect the problem of statism and function as a apologists for state-socialism. In short, they underemphasize and seem blind to the degree of power that the state has and how it effects matters.

While the vulgar libertarian functions as an apologist for gigantic corporations, the virtuently anti-capitalist libertarian functions as an apologist for state bereaucracies and coercive labor unions. Indeed, much of the valid complaints that the libertarian left makes about the modern chartered corporation applies just as much so to modern chartered unions. For the most part, modern unions are by no means free associations. They are cartels with government privileges and they function much like corporations (even with mergers). This is a problem that particularly applies to anarcho-syndicalists, who envision unions as their main strategic means to bringing about a free society.

But the problem cuts much deeper than coercive unions. For while the virulent social anarchist opposes what they see as being "private tyrannies", a temptation arises to view the state as a more benevolent alternative. The prospect that the state's intervention itself brought about such "private tyrannies" to begin with seems dim or unfathomable to some social anarchists. Instead, they tend to see it as an inevitable result of the market itself. Consequentially, it would appear that they can only turn to the state to crack down on the allegedly private sector created problems. The state appears to be a balancing force that can potentially help alleviate "private tyranny". To these people, government provided goods and services is seen as preferable in comparison to private or corporate provision.

Due to this confusion, some social anarchists are actually functioning as state-socialists in disguise. I have seen this myself first-hand. They will defend blatantly statist ideas and policies such as national healthcare, the minimum wage, anti-trust and personal welfare. They are essentially duped by the populist rhetoric behind such policies that panders to sentiments of empathy towards the poor and needy (and derision towards the wealthy and powerful). They fail to see how, if anything, these policies are substantively more corporatist than not. And they fail to see how such interventions would blatantly contradict anarchism. Such policies are supported in the name of alleviating conditions that are thought of as being the inevitable result of private property and the market economy.

If all of the problems in society are blamed entirely on private property and the profit motive, it is easy to see why one would tend to view state intervention (backed up by egalitarian rhetoric) as a solution or "lesser evil". But an informed social anarchist should know better than to overlook the institutional role of the state in such problems, let alone see the state as a solution. They should not accept the false choice between state tyranny and private tyranny, or between state-socialism and corporatism. Opposition to corporatism should not blind one to the evils of the state apparatus itself.

In order to have a more sound view of matters, the social anarchist should temper or modify their position in certain ways. For one thing, they should aschew the Marxist class analysis, which largely neglects the role of the state in class conflict (as well as the role of the enterprenuer in an economy). Furthermore, they should have a better understanding of how modern welfare states formed on the behalf of big buisiness with the purpose of cartelizing economies. They need to understand how government intervention in an economy creates the conditions they abhor and benefits the private groups that they despise. Otherwise, there will be an overwhelming tendency to drift towards state-socialism.

Two Philosophies of History

Political philosophies often involve views of history. There seems to be two fundamental views of history, as I have touched on in "Traditionalism as Stagnation" and "Radicalism and Moderation". These two views are what I would call the "conservative" and "progressive" views of history. I would like to elaborate on the ups and downs of both of these views of history and to explain why I ultimately side with a progressive view of history and consider it to be compatible with and perhaps even essential to libertarianism.

The conservative view of history may be summed as either the desire to keep things the same or the romantization of the past. The progressive view of history may be summed up as a desire to see things change or the idea that things progress and evolve over time. By definition, the progressive view is more foreward looking, and as a consequence it is quick to abandon traditions. It easily leads to notions of social evolution. In contrast, the conservative view is pessemstic towards the future and consequentially clings to tradition and even aims at reversing history in some respects. The progressive view could be said to be comparatively optimistic because there is something to possibly look foreward to, and therefore it would seem like it has the potential to be radical and revolutionary, while the conservative view easily becomes reactionary and counter-revolutionary.

The marxist view of history, in which communism is proclaimed without proof as being an inevitable future stage of history, is an example of progressivism. On the other hand, progressivism of a quite different sort was espoused by Herbert Spencer, in which social evolution necessitates adaptation to man's environment through increased individual freedom in accordance with the laws of nature. An example of the conservative view would be rigid religious or cultural traditionalism, in which changes that have occured in recent times, such as the move towards secularism and cultural tolerance, are radically opposed while systems of the past are held up as the ideal.

When understood in their proper context, both views have lead to both erroneous and correct conclusions. The conservative view always faces the danger of becoming primitivism or ludditism, in which more simple, agrarian and tribal living of the past is considered the ideal. And progressivism always faces the danger of becoming unenthusiastic and desensitized to the present, or of becoming overly utopian by basing the allegedly "inevitable" future on false notions about human nature. Hence, the social evolutionist faces a danger of becoming more gradualist. Such was Murray Rothbard's diagnosis of what happened to the social evolutionist Herbert Spencer as he aged.

But there have also been some good tendencies on both sides. The wise progressive possesses the insight that it is possible to improve conditions through both social evolution and revolution. They are aware that there things that have not been tried yet, at least fully. The progressive has reason for optimism toward the future. The wise conservative possesses the insight that there are certain basic principles or laws which are necessary for order to flourish. They are aware that there is much to be learned from the thinkers and writters of the past, and that there are some things that will never go away.

Where the progressive may err is over the question of how to go about changing things and what to change to, and in exessive optimism. Change for its own sake, divorced from context, is not rational. Neither is a utopian view of the future. Where the conservative may err is in the inability to aknowledge the changes and extensions that have been made upon the basic principles and laws of the past, and in their exessive pessemism toward the future. Tradition for its own sake, divorced from context and new information, is not rational. Neither is a utopian view of the past.

However, despite such a neutral comparative analysis, ultimately the progressive view has certain benefits that is lacking in the conservative view. For as Frank Zappa once stated, "progress is not possible without deviation from the norm". All innovations had to result from deviations from, modifications on and the total abandonment or replacement of past traditions. The conservative ends up functioning as an apologist for the status quo in the name of a false sense of realism, while inaccurately demonizing all progressive forces as idealist or utopian. The more successful progressive forces are, the more the conservative enters a state of desperation. At best, the conservative can only be a moderate, while the progressive at least has the potential to be a libertarian. The only thing that the strict conservative could concieve of abolishing is modernity, for when driven to their extremes the conservative effectively becomes anti-modern.

Allow me to apply these two basic views via historical example. When there was slavery in America, there were three basic positions with respect to chattel slavery. There were the slavery abolitionists, the slavery reformists and the outright slavery supporters. In the context of the times, the application of the conservative view of history inevitably would lead one to be a slavery supporter or a mild reformist at best, for this view would treat slavery as if it were virtually an inevitable law of nature that always has been and always must be. In this view surely the abolitionists were far too radical and utopian. Consequentially, the conservative view could only lead to a passive acceptance of the existance of the institution of slavery while possibly trying to minimize its effects if one is slightly generous. Only the progressive radicalism of the abolitionists could truly represent a principled opposition to slavery.

The same principle applies to any other institution or tradition, such as the state. By their own logic, the conservative has no choice but to conclude that because the state currently exists and has prevailed in the past, it inevitably must exist by necessity of human nature. Indeed, the conservative view easily leads to extremely pessemistic notions about human nature that are used to legitimize current conditions and institutions. All inequities can be brushed off as mere inadequacies of nature, and all positions of power can be legitimized as the consequence of inexorable laws of nature. Libertarianism and anarchism, in contrast, questions the alleged legitimacy of the state and consistantly applies the same human principles to state agents as they would to any other individual. It questions whether or not existing institutions and traditions are particularly necessary or ethical or logical at all.

The level-headed progressive does not necessarily have to be a starry-eyed utopian. For the progressive may very well grant that there will always be some degree of inadequacy and suffering in life. What they seek to abolish is not reality itself but the synthetic institutional framework that allows such things to be expanded and traditionalized. The constant charge of utopianism thrown at the progressive by the moderate or conservative thus becomes a mischaracterization. The progressive libertarian is neither a utopian or a conservative. Rather, they are radical bastions of vigilance and certainty. The libertarian stands on the side of social power rather than political power, and they do not cave in to moderate and conservative pressure. Neither would it be accurate to blame the libertarian of being only against things and for nothing, for while they certainly may wish to deconstruct certain things they also propose the construction of new things.

The conservative is ultimately a mere apologist or shill for power, while the libertarian is a delegitimizer of power. While the libertarian has a possible future to look foreward to, the conservative is ultimately doomed because they are attempting the impossible: a static society. Despite their sense of being realistic, the conservative refuses to accept the dynamic nature of reality. The future lies with the libertarians.

An Apolitical Approach To Libertarianism

In the discussion and debate that goes on among libertarians, it is disputed as to wether or not libertarians should vote and participate in party politics. Some see voting as the only practical option, some think that there should be a multi-pronged approach that includes voting, some are die-hard supporters of the Republican politician Ron Paul, some are adamantly opposed to the Libertarian Party, some think that voting is immoral and some think that voting is impractical and strategically counterproductive or suicidal.

In a fundamental sense, however, perhaps in this context libertarians could be broken up into two basic camps: political libertarians and apolitical libertarians or anti-political libertarians. Quite simply, it breaks down to a matter of those who support some kind of active participation in the political process, as well as engage in it themselves, and those who do not support such activity. It is important to realize, however, that this dychotomy does not entirely mirror the divide between libertarian minarchists and anarchists, for there are some anarchists who fall on the political side and there are some minarchists who surprisingly fall more on the apolitical side. Even free market anarchists do not have a particularly unanimous consensus among themselves on the question of voting and participation in the political process. And opinions among libertarians on figures such as Ron Paul may vary from the highly enthusiastic to the downright hostile.

My purpose will be to argue for an apolitical approach to libertarianism. I intend to back up the premise that libertarians, especially anarchists, should not vote or run for office or contribute so much as a penny of their money to a political campaign. This includes the official Liberty Party. My argument will primarily be a practical or strategic one, although I also intend to explore the question in terms of ethics. The arguments will particularly apply to those who hold a stateless society as an ultimate goal. It must be shown precisely why a sensible libertarian institutional analysis of modern representative democracy leads to the conclusion that active participation in the political process is not a reasonable or efficient means at obtaining that goal and that it may even violate some fundamental principles. Furthermore, I intend to demonstrate that the market itself is the proper means to substitute for the political process and that there are a plethora of non-violent alternative strategies for libertarians to persue.

Voting as a Lack of Consumer Choice

David Friedman once made an analogy between voting for politicians and the way that we "vote" for cars as consumers on the market. Imagine if we voted for cars in the same way that we voted for politicians or governments. No matter which car you vote for, or wether or not you vote for one at all, every single person gets the same car. No matter how you vote, or even if you don't vote at all, the results are the same for everyone. This is true even if only a small numerical majority of a given population "wins" in the rat-race. In short, there is no individual consumer choice in political democracy. As a voter, you cannot truly boycott the "product" or sell it off as if it were truly yours. You must bear the costs of and patronize or make use of the "product" or "service" (I.E. the government) regaurdless of wether or not you voted for it. There is no genuine option to opt out as a consumer of the state's "services". The entire thing is a great big package deal that one has no option to refuse. Even many currently existing unfree markets could be seen as at least have some degree of consumer sovereignty in comparison to states.

This is all aside from the fact that for the most part one's voting options are restricted from the get go to the "choice" between one Democrat and one Republican, or Labor and Tory. Throughout the primary process, the options are usually whittled down to two canidates. In most contemporary democracies, there is often only two or three main parties that have any significant influence over the state apparatus. Since these parties make up the same overall institution, they end up "colluding" and compromising with eachother to some degree in order to maintain the status quo. While there may be some degree of disagreement and competition between the parties, combined, they ultimately end up still constituting one ultimate party or group of individuals who are directly in control of the state apparatus. Whatever it is that such state agents end up doing, it still ends up effecting every citezen, regaurdless of their vote or lack thereof.

Representative Democracy: Oligarchy In Disguise

The very idea of representative democracy is a sham in that the control is not direct. It inherently creates a significant gulf between "the people" and the government. An exclusive elite still directly controls the state, only the citezenry is given the illusion of control by being given the option every few years to select among a handful of prepackaged people who already are from this elite to have further or continued or new access to direct control over the state. As an individual, the citezen has no real say in decision-making internal to the institution. Once the politician makes it into power it is they who have that control and they may basically defy your wishes at will. They have no real legal or institutional obligation to live up to their campaign promises. Even if you manage to vote them out of office the damage has already been done and they are legally shielded from owning up to the consequences of their actions. In effect, they are above the law. They do not have to compensate their victims and quite likely will go on to live a fairly comfortable and privileged life. 

There is also an application of the calculation problem, or more broadly the information problem, to the political process in a representative democracy in that it is simply impossible for one individual or representative body to accurately or adequately represent the diverse and often conflicting desires of an entire society even if they genuinely tried to. In short, it is impossible for such an exclusive and centralized body to appease the demands of the citezentry. Furthermore, the very nature of the state as an institution cannot be a genuine case of participatory democracy. A state that fits the criteria for truly being controled by "the people" is an impossibility because the only way for the criteria to even remotely be met would be for every single citezen to literally be members of the state apparatus themselves and directly control and vote on all matters. This is a utopian impossibility due to the fundamentally exclusive and oligarchal nature of the state as an institution. But even granting such a possibility, it still would not work out in the absence of unanimous consent because the majoritarianism problem would arise and hence it could not be said that "the people" as a whole have proportional or equal control over matters. "The people" are highly conflicting in their desires and personal preferances to begin with.

The classic definition of democracy, as being "government of the people" or "government by the people", can be seen as anarchistic in that it could easily be interpreted to imply a self-governing society, as if government is literally absorbed by civil society itself. However, the concept of democracy has historically been abused by rulers and the intellectuals who weave apologia for them as to manipulate people into thinking that the current state of affairs truly is consentual and under the control of "the people". The ideal of democracy is invoked by those who truly control the state as a way to try to legitimize their power. Politicians want people to vote for them so that they can trumpet themselves as being freely chosen agents of the people, as to effectively disguise their power. Statist intellectuals try to convince the public to accept outrageous notions such as "we are the government". Democracy has thus ended up being the greatest propaganda tool a state could possibly have in modern times, as it is a convenient way of presenting the illusion that the emperor has clothes. Participation in the political process and the impression that it can lead to significant change is encouraged as a way of allowing the status quo to continue running smooth.

Checks and Balances

The problem at hand could be thought of in terms of institutional analysis and checks and balances. When working within the framework of a single institution, you cannot really have real checks and balances, even if you break that single institution up into different sections while still having these sections within the same institution. This is because real checks and balances requires external competition, that is, the existance of independant or separate institutions. So long as it’s all within one institution, it is just a vein attempt to simulate competition. You can’t break up a monopoly by creating more bereaucracies within it. You break it up through competition from other institutions. The political process in a democracy is fake competition because it is all within the framework of one monopolistic institution. At best, one is only changing which bereaucracy within the monopoly has ultimate control over the monopoly. If one truly wants to outcompete the monopoly, one must exit its framework and work within the framework of other institutions outside of it.

Unless the state actually presented everyone with the option to "vote" to dissolve the state or at least opt out of it as an individual, which seems like an absurdity, how can voting ever be a strategy for eliminating the institution itself? Voting only gives one the option to play a game of musical chairs by switching who heads the bereaucracy or which bereaucracy dominates within the institution. It could concievably lead to moderate changes in the organizational structure of the institution, but it does not present any real option to do away with the institution itself. The purpose of anarchism is not to change the organizational structure of the state but to ultimately eliminate the state. Even a libertarian political party merely presents the prospect of another group, perhaps a more benevolent one, controlling the state. The institutional framework remains. As a consequence of libertarian political participation, the libertarian movement is merely absorbed into the institution itself rather than genuinely being in competition with it.

Quite simply, voting can never lead to a stateless society because it is within the institutional framework of a state. It does not and cannot lead to the destruction of that institutional framework. As Stefan Molyneux has analogized, it’s analogous to joining the KKK with the purpose of anti-racism. The institutional framework of the KKK is for the purposes of racism, so voting for who will be grand wizard doesn’t seem like a very logical thing for an anti-racist to do. Likewise, the institutional framework of the state is for the purposes of statism. Voting for who will control the state doesn’t seem like a very logical thing to do from the standpoint of someone who wants noone to be in control of it and for the institution to cease to exist altogether. The vested interests within the institution want to keep it going and keep recieving their paychecks. Their very livelyhood depends on it. There is internal institutional inertia towards maintaining the system. A single individual or small group infiltrating the institution is not likely to have a significant impact on the overall institution. Even if people in positions of political power attempt to reduce the institution's power, they are met with a resistance from inside of the institution as well as certain segments of the population.

The Empirical Record

For a number of centuries, classical liberals and libertarians have been trying to reduce the power of the state through the political process and use of the state apparatus itself. This attempt, while perhaps noble in its intentions, must be soberly diagnosed as a total failure. Neither constitutions or voting has lead to any net decrease in the state's power, let alone the abolition of the institution itself. Instead, state power has steadily increased over time, moreso than any of the 18th and 19th century radicals could have imagined in their worst nightmares. In playing the game of politics, libertarians have had to compromise their principles and make questionable alliances. Some aquiesce to state-socialism, while others move towards conservatism. Out of desperation, many libertarians started to resort to means that are intrinsically opposed to their ends. And libertarian sentiments were effectively co-opted into the state apparatus itself as rhetorical devices. In America, this is particularly true in the case of the conservative wing of the establishment.

Barry Goldwater attempted to get into the white house using quasi-libertarian sentiments. He never made it into office and was demonized as a nutbag. Ronald Reagan ran for office and made it in using quasi-libertarian rhetoric. Once in office, he actively expanded the state in some cases and was unable to adequately resist institutional inertia against any attempts at reductionism. Ron Paul has been a congressman for decades and has deliberately tried to get reductionist measures through and for the most part he has ended up merely being a reoccuring singular no vote against a nearly unanimous consensus. Almost none of those no votes ultimately made a difference. And by even functioning within the institutional framework of the state he inevitably has to act in certain ways that may defy libertarian principles, even if they are his own cherished principles. As an individual, Ron Paul may be a very kind and ethical fellow, but as an institutional agent he cannot function without aquiescing to some degree to the fundamentally corrupt nature of the system.

The Libertarian Party

As far as the Libertarian Party goes, while it could be argued that it has brought more people towards libertarianism, it could conversely be put forth that it has brought libertarianism as a movement closer to people's already existing notions. In other words, the creed itself has been watered down to appease the ideological climate of the populace. The Libertarian Party's public relations campaign has created a misleading picture of libertarianism in public discourse. On one hand, the use of slogans such as "socially liberal, fiscally conservative" are far too vague and seems to paint libertarians as mere "moderates" on the political spectrum. On the other hand, The Libertarian Party has also engaged in rhetoric that is along the lines of traditional conservative platitudes such as "limited government" and "personal responsibility". This has lead many to view the libertarian movement has just another brand of conservatism, or "conservatives who like to smoke pot".

As a result of all of this, the libertarian movement itself has become partially infiltrated by bad tendencies on both the so-called "left" and "right", although in America it would appear to be the case that there is more of a so-called "right-wing" deviation tendency in the movement. It could be argued that the libertarian movement has experienced both paleoconservative and neoconservative infiltrations, along with various left-liberal infiltrations. Apparently many Objectivists have soaked up neoconservative notions with respect to foreign policy. Other segments of the libertarian movement have soaked up protectionist and nationalistic sentiments from the paleoconservatives. Still yet others have significant caviats in their positions on economic matters which would place them closer to the contemporary left-liberal paradime. The libertarian movement seems very confused about where it stands on the political spectrum relative to others. There clearly has been a process of ideological disorientation. The "open tent" approach has perhaps been too open to be safe.

In either case, if the Libertarian Party is viewed in light of its alleged goals it clearly must be diagnosed as a complete failure even by minarchist standards. It certainly may have made the term libertarian more visible to the public eye but it has not truly made libertarian ideas significantly more acceptable to most people. The primary concern of the party, as is the case for all political parties, is to get elected. In turn, this neglects the actual philosophy of libertarianism, which takes a back seat to institutional and pragmatic considerations. Instead of time and resources being used to educate people about libertarian ideas, it seems that the political approach to libertarianism has squandered it in the name of political acceptance and playing the game. In effect, it has lead to the de-radicalization of the overall libertarian movement. The Libertarian Party in and of itself is part of "beltway libertarianism".

The Oppurtunity Costs of Electoral Politics

Participation in the political process has an oppurtunity cost. In terms of resource allocation, in order for the process to take place, resources must be diverted away from the market. What is not seen is how those same resources would have or could have bee otherwise used on the market. And the time spent organizing for elections, campaining, researching the positions of canidates, voting and setting up poles could have otherwise been used in more productive ways. It could have been used to build private and alternative institutions to the state, private commerence, philothranpic efforts, direct education, acts of civil disobedience and valuable time with family and friends. All of the time spent trying to figure out who should govern us could have been used to make us less governable in the first place. There is no rational reason to assume that the only alternative to voting is either inaction or violent revolution. Characterizing non-voters as lazy or apathetic is nothing but a way to shame or guilt people into voting.

Some libertarians may argue that voting may sometimes have short-term benefits that at least marginally advance the cause of liberty. But when one weighs the long-term vs. short-term benefits, it should become clear that there really are no long-term benefits to voting, particularly if one's goal is to ultimately do away with the entire state apparatus. A proper understanding of the nature of the state as an institution would reveal that the long-term drawbacks outweigh any possible short-term benefits that may come about from participation in the political process. To use a Frederic Bastiat analogy: What is seen is a short-term or marginal gain in liberty for some people. What is not seen is that the productivity of the marginal liberty is then used to take liberty away elsewhere. What is not seen is the inherent negation of liberty necessary for the process to take place to begin with and that the institution of plunder is reinforced in the long-run. The political process forces its participants into a dangerous state of pragmatism that inherently leads one to sacrifice one principle or application thereof in order to protect another one. Since the individual voter does not have an option to entirely be free, they are put into a submissive position in which they beg their masters for a little bit of leeway in this, that or the other respect.

But while a slave may certainly prefer a policy of a few less beatings a day or slightly increased food rations, the implementation of such policies would not negate the fundamental ethical wrong of the situation, nor would it be a path towards the abolition of the institution of slavery itself. A more lenient policy does not mean that the slave should henceforth be content in their servitude. It could easily be argued that the slavery reformists only legitimized the institution by merely trying to soften its effects while still passively accepting its existance. Only the abolitionists had the correct position on the matter. Libertarianism is abolitionist rather than gradualist or reformist. While a more moderate or lenient policy might be preferable to a more harsh one, this does not mean that the libertarian should enthusiastically endorse the lenient policy as if it were the ideal and then go no further. All of the precious time wasted on reformism could have otherwise been used to more directly oppose the institutional problem itself. In short, politics is a high time preferance process. The greater value of the ultimate goal of abolition is sacrificed when one concentrates too much on the comparatively lesser value of moderately alleviating present ills to make them a bit more bearable. Perhaps a certain degree of patience and vigilance is called for.

Voting As Self-Defense?

Some libertarians have tried to defend the act of voting by referencing to Lysander Spooner's notion that it is possible for there to be certain situations where one could vote as an act of self-defense. But even if one grants the premise of voting as self-defense, this merely begs the question: is voting an efficient means of self-defense? When was the last time an individual was able to defend themselves against whatever the government happens to be doing by voting? Quite clearly, we have already established that voting does not gaurantee representation and that the whole representative structure is inherently removed from the decision-making power of the individual citezen. An agent of the state cannot be said to be defending someone against the overall institutional effects of the state, for an agent of the state must use the institutional means that cause such effects in the first place. Even if an agent of the state genuinely attempted to defend the rights of an individual or group who voted for them, it would require some kind of aggression towards or grievance imposed on innocent bystanders or 3rd parties of people, and it may also require new or continued violations of the liberty of the very people who are supposed to be defended. It's analagous to a game of russian roulette that everyone must play, and the gun is loaded in the same pattern for everyone.

The premise itself should be questioned. The effects of the institution of voting does not reflect that of self-defense. Clearly, the individual voter is not directly defending themselves. They still are effectively participating in a process that is meant to delegate such power to a master or bereaucrat. An individual is free to voluntarily choose a leader for themselves, but they do not have the legitimate decision-making power to choose a leader for other people. The individual voter cannot be said to be engaging in a free association for the purpose of self-defense. Voting isn't an act of self-defense, at best it is an act of aquiescance. While a vote for a politician does not imply consent on the part of the voter to whatever that politician goes on to do, it does imply aquiescance to one's own plunder and that of others. There is an important distinction between explicit consent and aquiescance. So while voting might not necessarily be unethical in any strict sense, it could be said to represent a certain lack of virtue or as an act of desperation. The voter cannot entirely escape the charge of complicty at least in a limited and somewhat passive sense, as they are aquiescing to the process by which institutional plunder sustains itself.

Disengagement is the only true means of self-defense against the state. The gun in the room is certainly not in the hands of the voters. It's in the hands of the state apparatus. At best, the voter is only choosing which bullet that both them and innocent 3rd parties of people will be shot with, or wether they are going to get their arm or leg broken. When the smoke clears, everyone is going to be plundered somehow. Nonetheless, the voters continue to participate in the ritualistic charade of the political process anyways. Every few years they are effectively either duped or self-deluded into thinking that this time around or next time around there will be significant changes for the better, while in reality it never seems to actually work out that way.  

Apolitical Alternatives

The apolitical libertarian may often be accused of having no suggested alternatives. However, there are many alternatives to political libertarianism.

Agorism is one of the primary alternative theories that has been developed. Agorism fundamentally involves the idea that the means towards reaching a voluntary society should be persued through the market itself, especially those sections of the market that are most shunned by and far removed from the state (I.E. black and grey markets). It would seem to logically follow that if the market competition is the most efficient means towards the provision of goods and services, it is also the most efficient means towards the end of political freedom. And what better way to do that then to compete with the state by disengaging from it as much as possible and forming private and underground alternatives, I.E. economic secession? Agorism is supposed to involve a multiple staged process in which a critical mass is built until eventually the market itself essentially outcompetes or absorbs the government. The risk factor is obviously high in the early stages and perpetually lowers as critical mass is built up. Agorism is not an overnight strategy, it is actually long-term. It places emphasis on use of black and grey markets. Considering that the very existance of such black and grey markets is a product of the failure of the state to stamp out those activies and services in the first place, it isn't really possible for them to truly stamp them out in a complex and dynamic society. The more complex it becomes, the harder it is for a central institution to truly control (think the calculation problem).

Education and the spread of information is also very important. The illusory ideological cloak of the state must be removed, and it cannot be done by directly participating in the political process and as a member of the institution of the state itself. If there are statist intellectuals who attempt to ideologically legitimize political power then there must also be what Hans Herman Hoppe has called "anti-intellectual intellectuals" with the purpose of functioning as deligitimizers of political power. Except the "anti-intellectual intellectuals" should function outside of the political process and as counter-economic and market oriented agents. Organizations such as the Ludwig Von Mises Institute do a decent job at serving this function, although perhaps not necessarily in a counter-economic or agorist sense. Other strictly non-governmental organizations could be erected that serve a similar function.

Mass civil disobedience in general is a very underestimated tactic. This could include secession, which is an act of mass civil disobedience in and of itself. An entire political system could theoretically be grinded to a hault within days if the correct routes of mass civil disobedience are persued. There is much truth to Ettiene La Boetie's observations about the mystery of voluntary servitude, and it could be said that it has implications favorable towards an apolitical and anti-voting approach that substitutes civil disobedience for political means. If the people actively engaged in civil disobedience and bluntly refused to grant any legitimacy to their masters, the power of the rulers would instantly have no real weight anymore. They would be forced to either give up or resort to brute force and consequentially reveal the inherently corrupt and violent nature of their power. The masses at large outnumber the rulers by far. But so long as the people aquiesce to their own enslavement, the power of the rulers is secured despite their rather extreme numerical inferiority.

A Left-Rothbardian Approach To "Privatization"

What exactly does it mean to "privatize" a service or industry? As I have argued before, there is a lot of confusion over the precise meaning of the terms "public" and "private" to begin with. The fact that state-controled property is called "public" is misleading because it obviously is not actually controled by the public in any real sense. The public bears the costs for its maintance, but they do not actually have any control over it in a way that a real owner would. The public is of course nothing but a term representing the accumulation of private individuals. Fundamentally, the purpose of "privatization" is to transfer ownership or control over a given piece of property or service from the state to private individuals.

The question inevitably arises over how exactly to go about doing this. The typical proposal for privatization is more or less to sell it to the highest bidder, which predictably is going to be a large corporation, probably one that already is in bed with the state to begin with. From a libertarian perspective, this is problematic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the state is not a legitimate owner of the property to begin with, so how can it sell "its" property? The state, at least by Rothbardian standards of property ownership, is a criminal organization because state controlled property is stolen property. Proposing that the state sell off the property it controls would be no different than proposing that a thief sell off the property that they stole. But this would be to propose that the thief deserves compensation rather than their victims. To ignore this analogy would be to treat the state as if it were a legitimate private property owner, which it isn’t according to any sensible libertarian understanding of the institution.

Furthermore, the ability to buy property off of the state in this scenario would be quite an exclusive privilege only available to a select set of private interests that already are in patronage with the state. The masses at large do not have the ability to be in patronage with the state in this way, nor could they afford it even if they had such access to the institution. This could be seen as constituting a barrier to entry for most people, as only a handful of private elites are allowed to have access to such patronage. In selling an entire industry or swath of property to one particular private group or corporation, power has merely been transfered from one singular central institution to another. While this might not necessarily qualify as a monopoly under the Austrian definition of a monopoly, it most certainly is centralized and the institution or private group in question most certainly is privileged.

That wild eyed communist Murray Rothbard once suggested a very radical alternative to this method. While Rothbard grew more conservative as he aged, in my view he was in his prime in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It is well known that he was more closely allied with the libertarian "left" during this period. It is also well known that he later abandoned this alliance due to the increasingly irrationalist tendencies in organizations such as Students For A Democratic Society. Nonetheless, the position he advocated at the time amounts to the idea that state controlled property and state run services are homesteadable as if they currently have no legitimate owner. In particular, Rothbard outlined this position in a 1969 issue of "The Libertarian Forum" titled "Confiscation and the Homestead Principle". In the article, Rothbard states the following:

"Let us now apply our libertarian theory of property to the case of property in the hands of, or derived from, the State apparatus. The libertarian sees the State as a giant gang of organized criminals, who live off the theft called "taxation" and use the proceeds to kill, enslave, and generally push people around. Therefore, any property in the hands of the State is in the hands of thieves, and should be liberated as quickly as possible. Any person or group who liberates such property, who confiscates or appropriates it from the State, is performing a virtuous act and a signal service to the cause of liberty. In the case of the State, furthermore, the victim is not readily identifiable as B, the horse-owner. All taxpayers, all draftees, all victims of the State have been mulcted. How to go about returning all this property to the taxpayers? What proportions should be used in this terrific tangle of robbery and injustice that we have all suffered at the hands of the State? Often, the most practical method of de-statizing is simply to grant the moral right of ownership on the person or group who seizes the property from the State. Of this group, the most morally deserving are the ones who are already using the property but who have no moral complicity in the State’s act of aggression. These people then become the homesteaders of the stolen property and hence the rightful owners."

It is no wonder why he was red baited by conservatives. Rothbard goes on to illustrate an example in the case of state run universities:

"Take, for example, the State universities. This is property built on funds stolen from the taxpayers. Since the State has not found or put into effect a way of returning ownership of this property to the taxpaying public, the proper owners of this university are the "homesteaders", those who have already been using and therefore "mixing their labor" with the facilities. The prime consideration is to deprive the thief, in this case the State, as quickly as possible of the ownership and control of its ill-gotten gains, to return the property to the innocent, private sector. This means student and/or faculty ownership of the universities. As between the two groups, the students have a prior claim, for the students have been paying at least some amount to support the university whereas the faculty suffer from the moral taint of living off State funds and thereby becoming to some extent a part of the State apparatus."

In his comment that the state has not found or put into effect a way of returning ownersip of this property to the taxpayers, Rothbard briefly touches on an interesting practical problem. While we have clearly identified some problems with treating the state as if it were the legitimate private property of those who make it up, one could also put foreward the notion that the state is the common property of the tax-payers. But while the taxpayers have clearly been stolen from, there is no sensible way to proportionally redistribute this property back to them, especially considering that it has been redistributed in an endless web so many times over and over such a long period of time that original ownership would be virtually impossible to precisely identify. If anything, the attempt to redistribute in this way would probably end up being a great big welfare scheme, and in practise certain special interests would win out over others.

So we return to the glaring fact that there currently is no discernable just owner of the property. The state obviously must be ruled out as being a just owner because it constitutes nothing more than a band of criminals who stole it to begin with. And while the hapless tax-payers were the original just owners, it is practically impossible to reallocate it back to them in proportion to what was originally stolen from them. So if the state can neither be treated as if it were the private property of its members or as if it were the common property of the tax-payer, it would seem that the only logical option left is to treat it as currently having no legitimate owner and being open to appropriation by either those non-criminals who exercise their labor over it or the first people to appropriate it for themselves.

This has rather profound implications relating to the question of how to transition to a stateless society. At least for the market anarchist, the point is to "privatize" literally everything that the state controls, from the mundane to the fundamentals of the provision of defense and arbitration. But instead of the idea of the state "selling" itself to the highest bidder or a singular private entity, which would seem to be a potential recipe for disaster if not the formation of another state, the idea should be to effectively "homestead the state". This would obviously include government claimed land, and of course the state is defined by its territorial dominion. The portions that are currently entirely unused or vacant would either remain that way or start to be homesteaded by original appropriators, and the portions that are directly controled by the state would be appropriated by those non-criminals who labor upon it and the first users. The state would essentially be absorbed by the economic organism.

Secular Deities and the Problem of Humanism

An atheist criticism of contemporary secularism

Most atheists and agnostics still have a religious mindset, only they have replaced the formal concept of a god with other concepts. In the absence of faith in an all-knowing and all-loving god outside of the universe, they have substituted faith in other artificial constructs that are considered to be inside of the universe. They rely on faith in an abstraction to be confident in the existance of order and morality. They act as if the non-existance of such abstractions, or at least the lack of them as a rationale, would lead to chaos and immorality. The abstraction worshiped may be the state, the nation, humanity, the planet or environment. These things are treated as if they were spirits or geists and are used as an appeal to authority.

To be sure, abstractions can be sensible and useful insofar as they are derived from reality by reason. But most secular people either do not derive their abstractions from reality or treat certain things that exist in reality as if they were deities. Collective concepts such as nations are treated holistically as if they were sentient entities in and of themselves and are used as an authority for justification of goals and actions. But strictly speaking a nation does not exist, at least in the manner it is being viewed by the nationalist, as an individual entity or actor. And for an example of the adoption of things in reality as deities, radical environmentalists tend to treat the planet itself as if it were a diety with intrinsic value. The planet most certainly does exist in reality, but it does not have intrinsic value and is not a sensible source of morality.

The vast majority of contemporary secularists still believe in things that do not exist, particularly collective constructs. They refer to specific groups of people, such as races and economic classes, as if they existed as singular concious actors. But realistically speaking, there is no race or economic class as a whole that one can point to as being responsible for anything. Nor can an individual reasonably claim to be acting on the behalf of such collective abstractions. "The white race" or "the proletariet class" cannot rationally be used as a reason justifying one’s actions. Racists merely use the abstraction of a race as a diety. Classists merely use the abstraction of a class as a diety. Statists merely use the abstraction of a state as a diety. In all cases, the functionality is the same as a diety. All deities in formal religions, of course, originated from the anthropromorphisization of elements that people interpreted from around them in the world. The contemporary atheist, while they may have abandoned the formal concept of a god, is merely repeating this process in reverse.

It is unfortunate but most atheists are statists, and usually of the "left" variety. I think this is partially due to the cliche way in which contemporary cultural politics is framed in public discourse. Since it is assumed that the "right" is for religious people, the secularist has more of a tendency to flock to the "left". Of course, I reject the notion that the "right" is necessarily any less statist then the "right", but that’s beside the point. The overall point is that while many atheists don’t worshop a god external to the universe, they nonetheless still worshop human beings or leaders or rulers. They treat certain human beings in positions of power as if they were a god anyways. But in my view atheists should reject the state and other such worldly "geists" for some of the exact same reasons that they reject the concept of a god. If you reject the concept of a god, you should have no more reason to treat humans as a god. Human beings should not be treated as gods. Noone deserves to be worshoped. Noone deserves to be a ruler. You have no more reason to consider rulers worthy of your respect then any non-existant deity. While the rulers might actually exist in reality, they nonetheless don’t necessarily deserve your respect any more then a deity.

While I’m not the biggest fan of Max Stirner and I think that he uses very odd language to get his point across, in his writting "The Ego and His Own" he pointed out the problem of secular people deifying either humanity as a whole as an abstraction or certain other human beings in general. Allow me to leave you off with a quote from "The Ego and His Own" that touches on this:

Atheists keep up their scoffing at the higher being, which was also honored under the name of the " highest " or être suprême, and trample in the dust one " proof of his existence " after another, without noticing that they themselves, out of need for a higher being, only annihilate the old to make room for a new. Is " Man " perchance not a higher essence than an individual man, and must not the truths, rights, and ideas which result from the concept of him be honored and—counted sacred, as revelations of this very concept ? For, even though we should abrogate again many a truth that seemed to be made manifest by this concept, yet this would only evince a misunderstanding on our part, without in the least degree harming the sacred concept itself or taking their sacredness from those truths that must " rightly " be looked upon as its revelations. Man reaches beyond every individual man, and yet—though he be " his essence "—is not in fact his essence (which rather would be as single* as he the individual himself), but a general and "higher," yes, for atheists "the highest essence."† And, as the divine revelations were not written down by God with his own hand, but made public through " the Lord’s instruments," so also the new highest essence does not write out its revelations itself, but lets them come to our knowledge through " true men." Only the new essence betrays, in fact, a more spiritual style of conception than the old God, because the latter was still represented in a sort of embodiedness or form, while the undimmed spirituality of the new is retained, and no special material body is fancied for it. And withal it does not lack corporeity, which even takes on a yet more seductive appearance because it looks more natural and mundane and consists in nothing less than in every bodily man,—yes, or outright in " humanity " or " all men." Thereby the spectralness of the spirit in a seemingbody has once again become really solid and popular.

Sacred, then, is the highest essence and everything in which this highest essence reveals or will reveal itself; but hallowed are they who recognize this highest essence together with its own, i. e. together with its revelations. The sacred hallows in turn its reverer, who by his worship becomes himself a saint, as likewise what he does is saintly, a saintly walk, saintly thoughts and actions, imaginations and aspirations, etc.

It is easily understood that the conflict over what is revered as the highest essence can be significant only so long as even the most embittered opponents concede to each other the main point,—that there is a highest essence to which worship or service is due. If one should smile compassionately at the whole struggle over a highest essence, as a Christian might at the war of words between a Shiite and a Sunnite or between a Brahman and a Buddhist, then the hypothesis of a highest essence would be null in his eyes, and the conflict on this basis an idle play. Whether then the one God or the three in one, whether the Lutheran God or the être suprême or not God at all, but "Man," may represent the highest essence, that makes no difference at all for him who denies the highest essence itself, for in his eyes those servants of a highest essence are one and all—pious people, the most raging atheist not less than the most faith-filled Christian.

In the foremost place of the sacred,* then, stands the highest essence and the faith in this essence, our "holy† faith."

-- Max Stirner, The Ego and His Own, Pages 48-50