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The Objectivity of Language

Send him mail. “The Self Owner” is an original column appearing every Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Spencer W. Morgan. Spencer is a husband and father, and has studied History and Philosophy at the University of Utah. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. In this week’s brief column I want to take a few minutes to address something that should have been dealt with in my very first entry. In “Foundations of A Philosophic Conversation” we examined the context of conversation and some of the inescapable implications of the very act. One thing that seems to keep popping up in articles and attacks on the ideas of liberty that I’ve encountered this week, is the notion of the subjectivity of language. This notion is most often, I’ve found, a confusion based on the fact that words in a given language can have more than one specific definition, and this definition often has to be derived or presumed from context. Yes, it leads to mistaken assumptions of meaning… but that does not demonstrate that language itself is subjective. The fact that a word can have multiple, objectively understandable meanings does not mean language is subjective. It just means more specificity or reasoning from context is required to determine which objective meaning is being conveyed. The fact that language conveys objective meaning is evident by virtue of what language is. It’s entire communicative purpose is to do so. And to the extent that your statement “language is subjective” succeeds with the hearer understanding that statement, you have proven your assertion wrong. A conversation might go like this: Person A: “Language is subjective!” Person B: “Interesting… and how have you chosen to convey that conclusion to me?”Person A: “I’m telling you right now”Person B: “Why did you think I would understand this statement?” Person A: “Because you can read the English language”Person B: “Yes, I can. So by saying this to me, you assumed that I could assign meanings to the words you were speaking, based on a set of mutually understood defintions?” We can see here that in the very act of stating “Language is subjective,” the proponent of this assertion has affirmed, and depended upon, his conclusion being incorrect. Read the full thing

No, Virgina, There is no Santa Claus

Send him mail. “The Self Owner” is an original column appearing every Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Spencer W. Morgan. Spencer is a husband and father, and has studied History and Philosophy at the University of Utah. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. Every‭ ‬Holiday‭ ‬season,‭ ‬Francis‭ ‬Church‭’‬s‭ ‬famous‭ ‬editorial‭ ‬reply‭ ‬to‭ ‬a‭ ‬question‭ ‬asked‭ ‬by‭ ‬8-year‭ ‬old‭ ‬Virginia‭ ‬Hanlon‭ ‬in‭ ‬1897‭ ‬makes‭ ‬it‭’‬s‭ ‬way‭ ‬through‭ ‬the‭ ‬popular‭ ‬culture.‭ ‬Although‭ ‬generally‭ ‬upheld‭ ‬as‭ an ‬icon‭ ‬of‭ ‬holiday‭ ‬sentiment,‭ ‬and‭ ‬the‭ “‬giving‭ ‬spirit‭,”‬ ‬I‭ ‬find‭ ‬the‭ ‬editorial‭ ‬to‭ ‬be‭ ‬deeply‭ ‬disturbing.‭ ‬I‭ ‬can‭’‬t‭ ‬recall‭ ‬a‭ ‬time‭ ‬in‭ ‬my‭ ‬childhood‭ ‬when‭ ‬I‭ ‬did‭ ‬not‭ ‬at‭ ‬least‭ ‬suspect‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus‭ ‬to‭ ‬be‭ ‬a‭ ‬falsehood.‭ ‬Ever‭ ‬since‭ ‬the‭ ‬reality‭ ‬was‭ ‬confirmed‭ ‬for‭ ‬me‭ ‬as‭ ‬a‭ ‬child,‭ ‬I‭ ‬have‭ ‬been‭ ‬disturbed‭ ‬by‭ ‬this‭ ‬famous‭ ‬editorial‭ ‬both‭ ‬because‭ ‬of‭ ‬its‭ ‬efforts‭ ‬to‭ ‬substitute‭ ‬the‭ ‬believed‭ ‬for‭ ‬the‭ ‬real,‭ ‬and‭ ‬for‭ ‬it‭’‬s‭ ‬callous‭ ‬failure‭ ‬to‭ ‬simply‭ ‬give‭ ‬a‭ ‬child‭ ‬the‭ ‬truth‭ ‬about‭ ‬reality‭ ‬they‭ ‬are‭ ‬seeking.‭ Children‭ ‬are‭ ‬trusting‭ ‬by‭ ‬nature,‭ ‬and‭ ‬highly‭ ‬dependent‭ ‬on‭ ‬those‭ ‬around‭ ‬them‭ ‬as‭ ‬a‭ ‬barometer‭ ‬about‭ ‬reality.‭ ‬Conflicting‭ ‬messages‭ ‬can‭ ‬lead‭ ‬to‭ ‬a‭ ‬deep‭ ‬mistrust,‭ ‬especially‭ ‬when‭ ‬asserted‭ ‬as‭ ‬a‭ ‬matter‭ ‬of‭ ‬authority‭ ‬or‭ ‬on‭ ‬the‭ ‬basis‭ ‬of‭ ‬fear‭ ‬of‭ ‬punishment‭ ‬as‭ ‬psychologist‭ ‬James‭ ‬Kimmell‭ ‬has‭ ‬explained.‭ Rather‭ ‬than‭ ‬dissect‭ ‬the‭ ‬problems‭ ‬with‭ ‬this‭ ‬editorial‭ ‬line-by-line,‭ ‬or‭ ‬take‭ ‬a‭ ‬systematic‭ ‬look‭ ‬at‭ ‬the‭ ‬metaphysically‭ ‬and‭ ‬epistemologically‭ ‬monstrous‭ ‬assertions‭ ‬it‭ ‬makes,‭ ‬I‭ ‬have‭ ‬chosen‭ ‬to‭ ‬write‭ ‬the‭ ‬reply‭ ‬Virginia‭ ‬should‭ ‬have‭ ‬received.‭ ‬A‭ ‬careful‭ ‬contrast‭ ‬between‭ ‬my‭ ‬reply‭ ‬and‭ ‬the‭ ‬original‭ ‬should‭ ‬reveal‭ ‬my‭ ‬specific‭ ‬concerns. ‭”‬DEAR‭ ‬EDITOR:‭ ‬I‭ ‬am‭ ‬8‭ ‬years‭ ‬old.‭ ‬Some‭ ‬of‭ ‬my‭ ‬little‭ ‬friends‭ ‬say‭ ‬there‭ ‬is‭ ‬no‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus.‭ Papa‭ ‬says,‭ ‘‬If‭ ‬you‭ ‬see‭ ‬it‭ ‬in‭ ‬THE‭ ‬SUN‭ ‬it‭’‬s‭ ‬so.‭’ ‬Please‭ ‬tell‭ ‬me‭ ‬the‭ ‬truth‭; ‬is‭ ‬there‭ ‬a‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus‭?” Virginia,‭ ‬your‭ ‬friends‭ ‬are‭ ‬correct.‭ ‬They‭ ‬probably‭ ‬have‭ ‬done‭ ‬a‭ ‬lot‭ ‬of‭ ‬thinking‭ ‬about‭ ‬the‭ ‬parts‭ ‬of‭ ‬the‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus‭ ‬story‭ ‬that‭ ‬seem,‭ ‬and‭ ‬are‭ ‬indeed,‭ ‬impossible.‭ ‬They‭ ‬may‭ ‬have‭ ‬even‭ ‬seen‭ ‬their‭ ‬parents‭ ‬hiding‭ ‬presents‭ ‬or‭ ‬laying‭ ‬them‭ ‬out‭ ‬on‭ ‬Christmas‭ ‬Eve‭ ‬instead‭ ‬of‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus.‭ ‬You‭ ‬are‭ ‬old‭ ‬enough‭ ‬now,‭ ‬being‭ ‬8‭ ‬years‭ ‬old,‭ ‬that‭ ‬you‭ ‬have‭ ‬probably‭ ‬thought‭ ‬of‭ ‬some‭ ‬of‭ ‬these‭ ‬things‭ ‬yourself‭ ‬and‭ ‬would‭ ‬have‭ ‬figured‭ ‬this‭ ‬out‭ ‬on‭ ‬your‭ ‬own‭ ‬soon.‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus‭ ‬is‭ ‬not‭ ‬real.‭ ‬Your‭ ‬mind‭ ‬is‭ ‬strong,‭ ‬and‭ ‬it‭ ‬is‭ ‬the‭ ‬only‭ ‬tool‭ ‬you‭ ‬have‭ ‬for‭ ‬deciding‭ ‬things‭ ‬about‭ ‬the‭ ‬world.‭ ‬Don‭’‬t‭ ‬ever‭ ‬let‭ ‬anyone‭ ‬tell‭ ‬you‭ ‬that‭ ‬your‭ ‬mind‭ ‬is‭ ‬something‭ ‬that‭ ‬is‭ ‬broken,‭ ‬or‭ ‬that‭ ‬you‭ ‬should‭ ‬set‭ ‬it‭ ‬aside‭ ‬in‭ ‬favor‭ ‬of‭ ‬what‭ ‬others‭ ‬have‭ ‬decided‭ ‬for‭ ‬you.‭ I‭’‬m‭ ‬not‭ ‬going‭ ‬to‭ ‬tell‭ ‬you‭ ‬that‭ ‬your‭ ‬parents‭ ‬didn‭’‬t‭ ‬lie‭ ‬to‭ ‬you‭ ‬when‭ ‬they‭ ‬told‭ ‬you‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬was‭ ‬real,‭ ‬because‭ ‬they‭ ‬did.‭ ‬But‭ ‬I‭ ‬want‭ ‬to‭ ‬help‭ ‬you‭ ‬understand‭ ‬some‭ ‬of‭ ‬the‭ ‬reasons‭ ‬why‭ ‬most‭ ‬parents‭ ‬tell‭ ‬this‭ ‬lie‭ ‬to‭ ‬their‭ ‬children.‭ ‬You‭ ‬should‭ ‬also‭ ‬ask‭ ‬them‭ ‬about‭ ‬it.‭ ‬I‭ ‬am‭ ‬sure‭ ‬your‭ ‬parents‭ ‬want‭ ‬you‭ ‬to‭ ‬trust‭ ‬them,‭ ‬and‭ ‬once‭ ‬they‭ ‬realize‭ ‬that‭ ‬you‭ ‬know‭ ‬the‭ ‬truth‭ ‬about‭ ‬Santa‭ ‬Claus,‭... Read the full thing

Talismans and Tiger Repellent, the Religion of the State

Send him mail. “The Self Owner” is an original column appearing every Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Spencer W. Morgan. Spencer is a husband and father, and has studied History and Philosophy at the University of Utah. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. As adult humans, we hold a lot of beliefs that we bring to bear on our day-to-day actions. Many of these beliefs, assumptions and expectations come from our cumulative knowledge of the operations of the physical world in which we live. We have extracted them as larger principles from an observation of these principles operating in the world around us (induction). In other cases, we have arrived at truths or eliminated falsehoods by their contradictions of one another, or contradictions of observed reality (deduction). These type of “beliefs” or determinations are the rational ones. That is not to say, necessarily, that an idea arrived at through other processes is inherently wrong, or necessarily contradicts reason, but merely that it was not adopted because of its conformity to reason and evidence. The other area of human beliefs is one which I would refer to as “faith-based”. These beliefs, are those that are handed down to us by our surrounding society as presumptions or divine bestowals. Presumptions which we have not formed on the basis of evidence or logic, but which are given to us on the basis of the fear of what will happen if we do not accept them. Perhaps a systematic examination of religion in general, and the typical tactics by which religious determinations are transmitted in early childhood would be merited in a later article. For the moment, however, I wish merely to describe the nature of religious determinations in general, in order to properly categorize faith in the institution of the state as being religious and not rational in its basis for adoption. Anyone who has advocated for the absence of the state has noticed that when a person is confronted with that idea, the “disaster scenario” immediately comes forward. When you get the response “what about the roads” or “what about the murderers” you are not getting a logical argument. What you are getting is a glimpse into the inner psychological turmoil of the person to whom you are speaking, and a glimpse into the basis for their belief in the state. They have accepted this belief in the state on the basis of faith and societal indoctrination, and on the basis of fear of the disaster presented to them. Philosopher / novelist Ayn Rand referred to this practice as “social metaphysics”. Metaphysics, in philosophical terminology, simply means the study of the material world around us and its nature. In short, “social metaphysics” is the practice of reaching determinations about the nature of reality through social means, instead of on the basis of our individual observations and reasoning. So when a belief reached through these means is threatened, naturally the fear scenario which motivated the acceptance of the belief... Read the full thing

Applying Obamacare Complaints Consistently

Send him mail. “The Self Owner” is an original column appearing every Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Spencer W. Morgan. Spencer is a husband and father, and has studied History and Philosophy at the University of Utah. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. Lately much of the political landscape, and consequently much of the dialogue among philosophical libertarians and the “libertarian” wing of the Republican party, has been focused on opposition to President Obama’s health care program. Once all of the partisan name-calling and complaints about failing websites is stripped away, there is one core argument to which Republicans keep referring that actually has some philosophical merit. In the words of Sean Hannity on his Fox-hosted television show, “How can government force me to buy a product that I don’t want to buy? The arrogance of this is amazing!” Mr. Hannity is, of course, absolutely correct in his application of the principles of self-ownership and rights, to the legislative exercise in question. It is morally invalid, because it proposes to force people to buy a service against their will, even though it claims to do so for their safety and best interest. What Mr. Hannity is mistaken about, is the blindly selective approach he is taking to apply this important principle. Isn’t the idea of Obamacare just a natural extension of the basic idea of government itself, and the same basic arguments any conservative republican would offer if you challenged the legitimacy of a government forcing all taxpayers to buy its own services? What is government, supposedly, if not a “protection” service which we are all forced to buy? How is being forced to buy an insurance company’s product for planning for my health, substantially different in principle from my being forced to buy the United States’military’s plan for protecting me from terrorists? The spectacle of partisan politics is such that it can’t help but demonstrate the inherent hypocrisy and selective implementation of any valid argument either side might assert. If Mr. Hannity honestly believes it is wrong in principle to force someone to buy a product that they don’t wish to buy, he must reject the very core idea of government itself. Read the full thing

Making the Most of the Shutdown

Send him mail. “The Self Owner” is an original column appearing every Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Spencer W. Morgan. Spencer is a husband and father, and has studied History and Philosophy at the University of Utah. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. We are now a couple weeks now into the supposed “government shutdown” and, of course, the horrific chaos and societal meltdown that was presumed to ensue. We are starting to see the ways this strategy has backfired. By forcing the shutdown, both parties seem to have expected that the people would blame the other and clamor for a return of the budget and programs that they, respectively, see as essential. It is critical that proponents of liberty not align on either partisan side here, as they both have based their positions on philosophically anti-liberty presumptions. The association with the “tea party” as being a partially “libertarian” movement has already severely damaged the perception about the philosophy of liberty… and these Republicans are not acting on that philosophy. What both parties seem to have failed to anticipate was that, by going through this supposed “shutdown” we would see that life goes on. People have witnessed the ridiculous spectacle of government agents being paid to “shut down” and prevent access to national parks, even though the park service is independently profitable and needs no tax funding. Faced with the outrage and unashamed defiance of these edicts, the agents of the state have backed down and allowed access to many of these sites. How were they going to pay people to keep people out anyway? As an anarchist I see this as a huge opportunity, and one that should not be missed by anyone who desires to significantly reduce the operations of any level of government. Point out to people that their life is still going on. With every private or volunteer solution that steps in to fill the void of an unavailable Federal service, point out to people that the free market will accomplish those things that are important to people. No activism, or bitter tirades are necessary. Those tend to turn people off. This is a battle for a perception, and humor is the best weapon here. Use every opportunity to expose the absurdity of the situation, and expose the contradictions involved to ridicule it. Read the full thing

Government Shutdown, Too Good to be True

Send him mail. “The Self Owner” is an original column appearing every Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Spencer W. Morgan. Spencer is a husband and father, and has studied History and Philosophy at the University of Utah. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. Being an outspoken anarchist (advocate for the absence of the state) is quite an interesting vantage point during a public spectacle such as the recent “government shutdown.” While many react with fear, outrage and accusations, mine is one of restrained jubilation. Part of me, like a kid anticipating Christmas, wants to believe it might actually happen… but it’s too good to be true. Although the leaders of the competing gangs of rulers (political parties) have painted themselves into a corner with a public game of “chicken,” a real shutdown is not happening. Their threats and fear-mongering remind me of the classic empty threat of a father on a family road trip: “Don’t make me turn this car around! I’ll do it! I mean it!” Everyone in the car knows he’s not going to turn around halfway through a road trip. There is too much invested in terms of effort and expectations. It is the same with our supposed “government shutdown.” All of the individual office holders have too much at stake to actually shut down the apparatus of their own power and sense of self-importance. They would never actually do so, and risk the rest of us seeing first-hand that life goes on without them. In a real government shutdown, especially of prolonged length, we’d find that the “critical services” they provide can and would be accomplished in other ways. One very real example of this dynamic is the way residents of Detroit have responded with private alternatives after desired government services shut down. For those of us who would be happy at the prospect of real government shutdowns, don’t be too disappointed. Even though government will continue for now, there is a lot that we can do to take advantage of this situation. Use every opportunity to ask questions and highlight the nature of the charade we are witnessing. Two examples: If they’re only shutting down “non-essential” services, why haven’t they done that already since they’re billions of dollars in debt? Why are they shutting down national parks and other things that many people enjoy, but not shutting down tax collection and the IRS? Let’s use this opportunity to help people realize that their lives continue to go on, and to illustrate the absurdity and irrelevance of the political charade occurring hundreds of miles away. Read the full thing

Politics is LARPing

Send him mail. “The Self Owner” is an original column appearing every Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Spencer W. Morgan. Spencer is a husband and father, and has studied History and Philosophy at the University of Utah. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. Many have reached the conclusion that the state and its political processes amount to nothing more, in reality, than an organized criminal gang. The oft-repeated cry against anarchism that, without government, ruling gangs would battle for power until one controlled everything, is rendered uniquely ironic by this realization. Congratulations! The state itself is the criminal gang that took over. The very penultimate fear you expressed as being the result of the absence of the state is… the state! What is it, however, that obscures this reality from most people’s realization? Like any ruling gang that has accomplished total rule, the state can not simply operate by crude tactics that smaller criminal gangs use. Governments have met their need to convince entire populations of their validity with a very effective public relations scheme. Unlike a street gang which is incredibly exclusive (of necessity) to participation, modern governments have adapted to the reality of their situation by preserving (and refining) a unique version of LARPing. For those unfamiliar with the vernacular, “Larpers” are those who participate in Live-Action Role Playing. They are the nerdy people who dress up like they’re going to a renaissance fair and go out into the woods to do battle based on a system of damage point with assumed characters. By assuming this shared system of combat rules, and donning their character roles, they create a fantasy world within which they spend huge amounts of time and which becomes very important to them. I certainly have no desire to poke fun at Larping. I have my own nerdy pursuits, which include the electronic variations of such “role-playing” games. The Larpers’ unique tendency to bring classic role-playing games out of the digital realm and act them out in reality has earned them a place of “nerdiness” even among nerds, but it is growing in popularity. This video trailer for the film “Knights of Badassdom” provides an entertaining glimpse into the world of LARPing. It is this same desire to assume fictional roles and immerse oneself in an arena of exclusive rules and knowledge that the state has come to depend upon, and to which it appeals. After all, the state itself is nothing more that a giant fiction that provides roles for certain individuals (government) to assume when taking actions. It provides a framework of complex rules and rituals by which one can become absorbed, and the application of which obscure obvious morality surrounding individual actions, such as violence. Participation is also encouraged by the availability of jobs, contracts and by the generally accepted notion that one’s obsession in this political fiction is a “noble duty.” Thus the political hobbyists reinforce their obsession with a healthy derision for all of those who... Read the full thing

The State is an Illusion, Ignore It

Send him mail. “The Self Owner” is an original column appearing every Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Spencer W. Morgan. Spencer is a husband and father, and has studied History and Philosophy at the University of Utah. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. Why should we ignore the government? Because ignoring is the proper way to avoid perpetuating a perception. As we have identified in earlier columns, the power of the state ultimately lies in a mere perception. A passage I read recently in George R. R. Martin’s popular “A Song of Ice and Fire” series illustrates this very well: “If it is the swordsmen who rule us in truth, why do we pretend our kings hold the power? Why should a strong man with a sword ever obey a child king like Joffrey, or a wine-sodden oaf like his father?” “Because these child kings and drunken oafs can call other strong men, with other swords.” “Then these other swordsmen have the true power. Or do they? Whence came their swords? Why do they obey?” Varys smiled. “Some say knowledge is power. Some tell us that all power comes from the gods. Others say it derives from law. Yet that day on the steps of Baelor’s Sept, our godly High Septon and the lawful Queen Regent and your ever-so-knowledgeable servant were as powerless as any cobbler or cooper in the crowd. Who truly killed Eddard Stark, do you think? Joffrey, who gave the command? Ser Ilyn Payne, who swung the sword? Or . . . another?” Tyrion cocked his head sideways. “Did you mean to answer your damned riddle, or only to make my headache worse?” Varys smiled. “Here, then. Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.” “So power is a mummer’s trick?” “A shadow on the wall,” Varys murmured, “yet shadows can kill. And ofttimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow.” My point here is not that we should ignore any aspect of reality, or act based on an unrealistic assessment of potential dangers. My point is that we need to be devoted and stubborn about ignoring what does not, in fact, exist… the contradictory conceptual umbrella under which all “government” action is taken. This conceptual characterization which is applied by most people to what are really just individual actions, invokes the application of a moral double standard based on nothing more than a widespread fictional conception. Another very illustrative illustration of this is in the movie “Labyrinth” with David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. Jennifer Connelly’s character gets sucked into a trap of trying to navigate a labyrinth to recover her baby brother from the Goblin King by midnight, otherwise the baby would belong to him forever. In the end, she realizes that all she needed to do was to say “you have no power over me” and he didn’t. His power was all an illusion, and lost all viability once she no longer acknowledged it.... Read the full thing

NCAA Football and the Attack on Self-Ownership

Send him mail. “The Self Owner” is an original column appearing every Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Spencer W. Morgan. Spencer is a husband and father, and has studied History and Philosophy at the University of Utah. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. Normally my column is devoted to deeper philosophy and general principles, rather than commentary on news and current events. Every so often, however, an issue in the news comes up which is so illustrative of the philosophical ideas I am articulating in an area of my own personal interest, that it presents an irresistible opportunity to apply these ideas. Over the past year or so the controversy over the restrictions and practices of collegiate football players, and the NCAA’s regulations preventing them from profiting from their role as highly-visible “student-athletes” has grown to a steady chorus of regular arguments among sports commentators and sports talk radio call-in segments. The controversy began to grow when legendary coach Steve Spurrier raised the issue in the 2012 spring meetings of the South Eastern Conference, suggesting that players should get some sort of pay for their efforts. Though his proposals were modest, suggesting stipends of $3,500 – $4,000 per year, they have served to raise the larger issue and brought into question the core principle of whether a player competing at such a high level of athletic performance and profitable entertainment should be entitled to benefit monetarily from their efforts. More recently, star Texas A&M quarterback, and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has come under suspicion of soliciting cash payments in exchange for autographs. This is yet another example of the NCAA and our larger culture’s attack on the application of a basic principle: the idea that a player should be able to profit from the value created by his own abilities and reputation. Spurrier’s exact terminology when questioned by reporters is very illustrative of the deeper problem: “We as coaches believe they’re entitled to a little more than room, books, board and tuition,” Spurrier said. “Again, we as coaches would be willing to pay it if they were to approve it to where our guys could get approximately three-, four-thousand bucks a year. It wouldn’t be that much, but enough to allow them to live like normal student-athletes. We think they need more and deserve more. It’s as simple as that.” (Edward Aschoff, ESPN.com) What this statement seems to accept as a presumption, is that the argument for players being paid must be need-based. Instead of accepting the anti-profit presumption inherent to such an argument, the second part of Spurrier’s statement should be asserted and examined. They deserve more, it’s as simple as that. Or at least they, like any of the rest of us does, deserve to choose to sell their efforts as a player to a buyer whose willingness to compensate them monetarily is not restrained by regulations and misguided altruistic notions. It’s not that they “deserve” it because of their need, but because... Read the full thing

False Burdens of Voluntaryism: The Utopian Presumption

Send him mail. “The Self Owner” is an original column appearing every Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Spencer W. Morgan. Spencer is a husband and father, and has studied History and Philosophy at the University of Utah. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. In this week’s column I’d like to address the criticism that anarchism (voluntaryism) implies or requires a Utopian or overly optimistic view of man’s nature and tendencies. To an extent, this is a variation of the fallacy we laid to rest last week… the utilitarian burden of anarchism. It presupposes an overall utilitarian net analysis, and calculation of collective “good” as abstracted apart from the “good” for any specific individual (the only determination of “good” which can really be held as operative and assessable in any given situation). This variation holds that because anarchism must be presupposing such a net analysis, and that overall conditions would be an improved or perfect society of individuals governing each other without harming one another, that anarchism thus fails in light of any demonstration of humans behaving coercively or harmfully to one another. This false burden should be rejected, instead of accepted in a line of discussion that might be intended to demonstrate the many ways in which people do in fact cooperate peacefully. What is Anarchism? We have to remember what anarchism is, at it’s core. It isn’t all of the leftist baggage that got tacked on to anarchism through a couple of centuries of its being extolled primarily by anti-property socialist anarchists. It isn’t a managerial counter-plan for all of society to be plugged in and switched on via already-existing, and a presumptively-operative apparatus for rule. In its strictest, definitive sense, anarchism is not a systematic philosophy, but a singular conclusion about government. It is nothing more, nor less, than the conclusion that the state is morally invalid and that every instance of its operation therefore warrants reduction. That conclusion has been reached from a variety of ethical foundations, that are often completely contradictory. The anarchism for which I argue, and anarcho-capitalism and voluntaryism as I understand them, contend this on the basis of the non-aggression principle. Therefore anarchism in this context means nothing more than the idea that using aggression against rights to accomplish something is wrong, and thus government must, for moral reasons, be “off the table” as an option for accomplishing anything. Anarchism as Non-Utopianism Part of the “Utopian” criticism comes from a failure in understanding what a “stateless society” would be, and what is being asserted as attainable at the societal level by an anarchist. Anarchism isn’t the idea that the total absence of aggressive force is possible, it’s the idea that institutionalizing it and legitimizing it for a select few (government) is wrong. When people engage therein, they should face the same risk of reprisals as any non-governmental individual would for doing so. Anarchism is properly seen as the least Utopian of all approaches to the state. This is because it... Read the full thing