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More Power, Less Liberty

Send him mail. “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing sporadically at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. (Originally written in May of 2012.) I had some thoughts on something that I thought I’d put down here. Though people, especially young people, are becoming libertarians in great numbers, it seems that most people are quite comfortable with the size and scope of the myriad levels of government they are subjects of. And I think this has to do with a confusion people have between power and liberty. Let me explain.Since the secession from Great Britain and the founding of the United States, the US federal government has usurped all sorts of powers and grown to never before seen or imagined size and complexity. In other words, liberty has slowly, and at times very quickly, declined. But I don’t think it’s commonly felt. And I think the reason is because of the growth in power that the average America has. What I mean by power is personal power. Power to move, to do, to be what someone wants to be. We can travel anywhere in the world in hours, send a message anywhere in seconds, and meet someone in real-time thousands of miles a way. The power we have in these regards is a million times greater than even the generation before us had when they were our age. It’s almost unbelievable until you understand how the technology works. Most people don’t try to start their own business, so they don’t now how onerous and costly government requirements can be. Most people budget themselves based on after-tax paycheck, so they don’t see and feel the sting of income and payroll taxation. Most people don’t care to consume illegal drugs. And a growing number of people don’t even produce anything of real value to others, as they work for the administration and maintenance of government. But what they all have in common is the greater and greater power they wield in their day to day lives, thanks to the growing technology industry. So long as living and their pursuit of happiness continues to get easier and easier, I don’t think people will truly realize all of the freedoms and liberties they have lost. I’m not bemoaning technological progress. I love it, as anyone does. What I’m bemoaning is the lack of understanding in society to our politically depressing state. However, there is a silver lining. That silver lining is what power that technological progress gives to someone to ignore or bypass their government. The Internet is a wonderful example. People can trade on the Internet for all sorts of legal and illegal products and services, with legal and illegal currencies, and many aren’t forced to pay tax. They can even trade “dangerous” ideas, the biggest threat to government. This is technological progress usurping government power. So while technological progress may be blinding people to the liberties they’ve... continue reading

We All Acknowledge Rights

Send him mail. “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing sporadically at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. I wanted to provide some more clarification on my recent writings on the concept of rights. I wrote in “On Rights II” that it has become fashionable among libertarians, et al, to proclaim that rights don’t actually exist – as if it were some sort of great advancement in thinking –  and that such libertarians contradicted their proclamation in their very behavior. In “Rights Don’t Exist? Bitch, Please” I expanded on that idea by first explaining the two perceptions of rights, followed by how our behavior shouts a belief in rights from either perspective. (And further, but unrelated to the rest of this essay, that rights exist as a mental construction with effects in the physical world.) But what I didn’t really do was define the concept of rights. Some of the push back I received focused on this. I realized at the time that defining “rights” was very difficult if one wanted to avoid presupposing a universal conception of either morality or justice. But I think I’ve solved this problem and in doing so have found a way to make my argument, as linked in the two essays above, more clear, and maybe more defensible.So what are rights? First we should distinguish between certain types of rights. Some rights are explicitly agreed to by the relevant parties. These I would call contractual rights. We each agree to do or to give something to each other, and so based on the conditions to the agreement being met, we each obtain certain rights to each other’s stuff. Other rights are one-sided, as in my giving my children permission to use my tech and to eat my food. Some would call these privileges, and they are, but while the privilege is in effect, my children have been granted the right to use or consume my stuff. Other rights are those which people simply claim out of thin air, however defensible they are, such as the right to life or to work or to keep your stuff or to take the stuff of others. And still other rights are those granted by ones calling themselves “authority” in a given area, ie. legal rights. Many are the types of rights that have been claimed on one basis or another throughout the history of not only mankind, but of most life, I’d say. (Animals defend their territories, too, after all. As do some plants.) Those are types of rights, and there may be more that I didn’t mention, but the question remains, what are rights? What every type of right above has in common is the limiting or liberating of the behavior of people. So I think that’s the best way to define rights, keeping in mind that every right can be viewed from two perspectives, positive and negative. “Rights,” therefore, is shorthand, as... continue reading

Rights Don’t Exist? Bitch, Please

Send him mail. “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing sporadically at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. There are two ways to perceive rights, two perspectives, like looking at the concept from one direction and then another: positive and negative. Both are essentially limits on behavior. The positive: I have a right to life. The negative: Others have no right to kill me. Both perspectives are inseparable from the right in question. When one uses the language of one perspective, they are simultaneously using the language of the other. This language is not limited to the verbal. Our behavior also has language. What we do with ourselves, our actions, our behavior, says something to the world about who we are and what we believe. Our verbal language may contradict our behavioral language, though. In the case of saying “Rights don’t exist,” those who say this are contradicted by their behavior.How? Because their behavior shouts “I have these rights!” If they defend themselves in an attack, their behavior is shouting, “I have a right to be left alone!” and “You don’t have the right to attack me!” and “I have the right to enforce my subjective preference of avoiding harmful interactions!” and probably countless other claims. If the person truly did not believe in rights, then he would not defend himself from attack. That he does proves that he believes he may justifiably limit the behavior of his attacker. Other behaviors, I think all behaviors, likewise shout “I have these rights!” To go deeper, as I hope is obvious, rights are a mental construct. When they are rights that we claim either verbally or behaviorally, they are an individual mental construct. When they are rights that we agree on with other people, they are a social mental construct. Either way, to Acting Man, they exist in the mind and guide and limit his behavior. Even Acting Wolf claims rights when he defends himself, his pups, his territory. Rights are a mental construct, yes, but they are very real in the sense that they guide real people and real actions, even of those who verbally deny them. I see no point in shouting or arguing “Rights don’t exist!” Not only is it to contradict one’s behavioral language, but it serves no purpose. Rights do exist in the way explained above. It is far more effective to tease out what people verbally or behaviorally claim are their rights. Show people both perspectives, positive and negative. Usually when seeing what they claim is a right from the negative perspective, its true colors as something insidious like slavery or murder are revealed. Then they change their minds because slavery or murder are contrary to the values they hold. Their belief in rights is too deeply ingrained in who they are as a human being to be persuaded with a verbal claim that contradicts theirs and everyone else’s behavior. But... continue reading

Consent Under Deceit, or Why Fraud is Aggression

Send him mail. “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing sporadically at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. My last column titled “Why Adultery is Rape and Robbery” created a lively and enlightening debate across Facebook, reddit, and Liberty.me. After so much back and forth I believe the central area of contention is on what constitutes valid consent. And because this blows major crosswinds into the general area of fraud, I thought I’d look at these things together. Keep in mind that what I write is never permanent and I am constantly changing my mind about things as I learn new information and hear new perspectives. Let us proceed in that spirit.Consent Under Duress I don’t think anyone would consider consent under duress as a valid form of consent. If I threaten to kill you or harm you in some way if you don’t consent to something, then the integrity of your consent has been compromised in a major way. That you meet my demand willfully and with volition cannot translate into legitimate permission because I have taken away your ability to choose freely. That you meet my demand can only show that you value whatever I’m threatening more than what I’m demanding, not that I have your genuine consent. The result is a form of aggression. You’ve taken or used my property or that of another without consent. Your trespass is illegitimate, and so is an act of aggression. Consent Under Deceit The validity of consent as a result of deceit is not so clear cut, but I consider it the basis for any argument that fraud is a form of aggression. Fraud is the intentional withholding of material facts in order to gain something of value. I want to sell you my car, but I withhold the material fact that the car has been in several major accidents and repaired again and again. I give you my word that the car has never been in any accident. It’s integrity has been severely compromised, and if you knew that you would rescind your offer to buy it. That you are unaware of this material fact means we proceed with the title transfer. You willfully and with volition give me your money. You have seemingly consented to my receiving it. But have you? Your consent for me to receive your money (your property) was conditional. That condition being that what I am giving to you is what you believe it is (an accident-free car). Since I am not giving you an accident-free car, I have failed to meet the condition of your consent. Therefore, I don’t really have your consent to take your money. That I have taken your money not only makes me a fraudster, but also a thief. I have trespassed onto your property without your permission. That is precisely why fraud is a form of aggression. Types of Fraud That fraud is... continue reading

Why Adultery is Rape and Robbery

Send him mail. “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing sporadically at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. In my experience, when voluntaryists talk about adultery, it’s usually classified as a type of contract violation. One party broke the marriage contract, or covenant, and whatever the contract says about what should happen to either party in the case of adultery is all that needs to happen (divorce, restitution, etc.). But is adultery merely the violation of the marriage contract? Or is it something far more insidious? Let’s see.Adultery Defined But first, the obligatory defining of my terms. For my analysis, adultery is a bit more than simply having an extra-marital affair. Rather, adultery is the prolonged attempt at having both an extra-marital affair and maintaining one’s marriage through lies and deceit. In other words, adultery is continuing the affair or affairs while at the same time hiding that fact from your spouse. Fraud Defined Fraud is typically lumped in with force as a violation of the libertarian “non-aggression principle,” and for good reason. Fraud occurs when one party fails to meet the conditions of trade but is able to fool the other party, at least for a time. For example, I propose to sell you my apple for $1. Your expectation is that its a good apple, as is customary. You may ask, and I may tell you that it is. I give you the apple, and you give me your dollar. We leave each other’s company and as you bite into the apple you quickly learn that it is a bad apple. You have been defrauded out of your dollar. Why is fraud an act of aggression? Because your consenting to my receiving your dollar was conditional to my giving you a good apple. If I fail to meet that condition, I have taken your dollar without your consent. I have robbed you of your property. And there it is, fraud is robbery, and robbery is aggression (uninvited property border crossing, ie. property trespass). Rape and Robbery And now we return to the contention at hand. When one commits adultery as defined above, they are taking from and “sharing the bed” of their spouse without meeting the necessary conditions to assure spousal consent. As the adulterous partner continues to take their spouses property, they are doing so without consent, and so committing robbery. Likewise, and arguably worse, as the adulterous partner continues to share the bed of their spouse, they are doing so without consent, and so committing rape. Yes, rape. Having sex with someone without their consent is the textbook definition of rape. It doesn’t need to be violent. Slipping someone a rufie and then having sex with them isn’t violent, but is still rightly considered rape. Adultery is no different. Both the roofied partner and the spouse seem like willing sexual partners, but had either been cognizant of what was really happening, they... continue reading

The Voluntaryist Vision

Send him mail. “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing sporadically at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. What does the voluntaryist see when his values and principles have been realized in larger society? What does the voluntaryist paradise look like? Here is my version of the voluntaryist vision, beginning in the home with the family.Home and Family Looking into the typical home of a voluntaryist paradise on weekday morning, one would see a baby suckling her mother’s breast as they lay next to each other in the same bed. Mother keeps baby next to her all night long, meeting her every need. Two other children asleep nearby, next to father, who’s now getting up to begin his day, quietly so as not to wake anyone else. Leaving the family to continue their slumber, not needing to wake anyone before they’re ready, he does his morning business and routine, preparing for a day of applying his skills and labor toward the creation of value for others, as well as for himself. One by one the children wake up peacefully, and decide what to do with their mornings. Perhaps they’ll play a little on the computer, or watch some morning cartoons, or offer to help mother with breakfast. Mother focuses on meeting everyone’s needs and when there’s conflict, she uses the arts of active listening and no-lose negotiation to see it through to resolution. She feels no inclination to ever raise her voice or get angry with those who are still learning to navigate the world, for she herself was never raised that way. Her parents, like her grandparents, understood the needs and capabilities of growing children, and always employed peaceful tools for conflict resolution. The children continue their day, week, month, year, finding new and interesting things to do, sometimes with an adult’s help, sometimes not. Learning is a matter of interest, and every day brings new ideas that spark new interests that may eventually transform into passions. Every child around is raised this way, through free inquiry and free play, either alone or with each other. There are no limits nor controls on the pursuits of children. Neighborhood Family bonds are strong due to the children being raised with compassion, connection, love, and reason, in peace, and so in your typical neighborhood you would find groups of extended families living in close proximity, probably in duplexes and four-plexes, owned by the families themselves, having either built them or bought them at some point in the past, and expanding likewise into the future. Since everyone knows each other intimately, no one ever locks their door, and rarely knocks before entering another’s house. Most resources are shared among close friends and family. Everyone is concerned with the well-being of everyone else, and so there’s no need to lock up resources due to the very unlikely possibility of an unknown thief sneaking by so many concerned and... continue reading

Might Makes Rights

Send him mail. “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing sporadically at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. All rights are property rights, so says libertarian philosopher Murray Rothbard. And property rights are the result of the use of either force or reason eventually leading to the emergence of customary law (norms and conventions), so says amateur voluntaryist philosopher me. In other words, might makes rights. Let me explain.Equivocation Now before you make an equivocation and accuse me of the Argumentum ad Baculum fallacy, read what I actually wrote. I did not write “might makes right” but rather “might makes rights.” I do not believe that idea “might makes right” as in “my gun justifies my taking your stuff.” Heavens no! I see no logical evidence that might could ever justify right. Of course, if by “right” we mean “correct” and we’re talking about how much might is needed to, say, split a boulder, then the more might the better. But I digress. Rights People claim rights for all sorts of things these days, as if rights are something tangible, something that “exists.” In “Evidence of Jurisdiction” I took the state to task for claiming the authority to enforce its laws but unable to provide any evidence for it. The same line of questioning to discredit the state’s supposed jurisdiction is also effective in discrediting anyone’s supposed property rights. At some point, the property rights-holder must appeal either to the state’s jurisdiction (his state-produced and -backed title) or to customary law. Appeal to Might Both the appeal to the state’s jurisdiction and the appeal to customary law is an appeal to might. Law, whether state-made or the result of the emergence of norms and conventions in a free society, is a form of might. What good is a law if its not enforced? That doesn’t mean that enforcement must always occur through the use of arms. The state always acts as if it does, but many customary laws are enforced through the use of ostracism, for example. Either way, enforcement must pack a punch, must be “mighty” if it is to be effective. Therefore, the only way to secure property rights is through the the use of might (of force or reason). Final Thoughts The more mighty among us are best able to secure their property rights, an obvious point. How many of us view the state as the mightiest group in society? Most, methinks. This is unfortunate, because the state is always a minority. What a con it’s pulled to convince everyone else that it is right to use its might to secure its property rights. And I mean “con” as both a scam and as a conquest. No, the state is not right to use its might to secure its property rights. The sooner we all understand and accept that, the sooner we can be rid of the state. Read more from “One... continue reading

Persuasion, Reason, and Markets

Send him mail. “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing sporadically at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. Those who desire to see the grip of statism released from our world, the abolition of coercive monopoly government, to be replaced by a peaceful and rulerless social and legal order, must decide for themselves how best to achieve it. Unless we are to be discovered as hypocrites, it is my opinion that we anarchists must embrace tools and strategies consistent with our ends, a peaceful and rulerless social and legal order. That is, we must embrace persuasion over force, reason over aggression, and free markets over control.Persuasion or Force Should we force others to accept our anarchism? I don’t see how that is even possible. First, anarchism is a philosophy, and like all philosophies, if it will be understood and appreciated, it must be discovered and accepted gradually and voluntarily. You can’t make others accept your ideas, no matter how good they are. All you can do is make them wish they had. If one is truly committed to the ideals of anarchism, then one does not go around acting like a ruler over the minds and actions of others. Rather, they find times peacefully to use the tool of persuasion. They probe into opposing views and find common ground, and then build toward anarchism from there, peacefully, persuasively, voluntarily. Reason or Aggression Any argument worth its salt shouldn’t need to be forced through aggressive actions. Those who embrace statism already claim the monopoly on the use of aggression to force others into their fold. Reason is my weapon of choice. I teach my children, my family, my friends, and anyone who cares to listen through the use of reason, not aggression. Admittedly, reason only goes so far. If someone is bent on using aggression toward others, then those who value their lives and property have every incentive to match force with force. At some point, that is the only reasonable thing to do. But it seems to me that this is only true for small time aggressors, not the state. The state always has bigger and better tools of aggression. And these tools are wielded by our fellow human beings, human beings that can adopt new ideas after hearing them in a peaceful, persuasive, and voluntary way. Free Markets or Control Many of the anarchist tradition are more focused on forcing their vision of the free society onto others than in appreciating the fact that the free society can only come about through the peaceful exchange of ideas and things. Free markets, rather than control, are a prerequisite to anarchy. People must be free to negotiate their claims on property, justice, laws, and rights if we are to claim the presence of a peaceful and rulerless social and legal order. Controlling these things via physical or social coercion does not a peaceful and rulerless society... continue reading

The Monopoly on Crime

Send him mail. “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing sporadically at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. The difference between the state and an owner of private property is often made fuzzy by anarchists of the collectivist tradition. They see those who claim private property beyond what they personally occupy and use as a form of statism, and on that ground incompatible with anarchism. I think the difference can be explained as the state claiming and enforcing a monopoly on the provision of law and order, and by extension, a monopoly on crime. Let me explain.Private Property In a free, anarchistic, voluntary society, property title isn’t assigned and maintained on the basis of state privilege, and so the costs of claiming and maintaining one’s property can’t be pushed onto unwilling others (taxpayers). This means that property, in order to be considered legitimate, must be defended by either force or reason, both of which inform the developing customs of a given society. And this defense is paid for by those who have an interest in keeping for themselves said property. The State Contrasting the concept of private property as explained above, the state is the institution (of people) in society that has managed, through the violent conquest of others, to claim the exclusive right to provide law and order within their supposed jurisdiction. Every state in history was born this way, and no state in history has ever managed to provide any actual evidence, besides it’s arsenal of weapons, that its jurisdiction applies to anyone. Therefore, every state, both in theory and in practice, is an institution of aggression. The Monopoly on Crime Because the state claims a monopoly on the provision of law and order, the state decides what and what does not constitute crime. In order to maintain its position, the state requires that its subjects provide for it the necessary funds, liberties, and lives. What would be called theft, trespass, and murder in a free society, the state calls taxation, regulation, and conscription. As the state decides what is and what is not crime, it follows that the state not only claims a monopoly on the provision of law and order, but it also claims a monopoly on the provision of crime. It uses this monopoly power to allow itself to commit just enough crime for its own maintenance, but forcefully prevents anyone else from attempting likewise. Final Thoughts The differences between the state and the owner of private property are obvious to any thinking individual. Property owners don’t monopolize the provisions of law, order, and crime, nor do they claim sovereign immunity over their subjects, of which they have none. While certain amounts of property for a single individual might seem unfair, it is up to them personally to bear the costs of maintaining it. If they can, good for them. If they can’t, then they’ll be forced by economic realities... continue reading

Monopoly and the Free Society

Send him mail. “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing sporadically at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here. One of the criticisms that voluntaryists receive is that in a free society, what’s to stop someone from obtaining a monopoly on the provision of a good or service? If there’s no central anti-trust regulator, a business could use all sorts of tactics and schemes to secure for themselves a monopoly in the market. Is this a valid criticism? Not really.Monopoly I might as well start with the tautological argument. By definition, monopolies cannot occur without either a central authority limiting who may provide what good or service, or an explicit contract outlining who may provide what good or service between the parties involved. The latter is completely justified in my book, while the former is not. Of course, the former begs the question: what is the central authority if not itself an illicit monopoly? Should our fear of monopoly cause us to establish a monopoly, and on the most important and dangerous functions in society, law and order? That seems a bit inconsistent. Free Society If there’s one thing for certain, whenever a person begins producing value for consumers, others quickly imitate them and the industry becomes saturated with competing providers of said value. Like flies to shit, no person or business is safe from competition so long as there isn’t a central authority using their more powerful guns to limit who may provide what. Given the hypothetical of a free society, there is not central authority with more powerful guns. Getting to a free society is a much bigger challenge then keeping it, in my opinion. Read my booklet Toward a Free Society: A Short Guide on Building a Culture of Liberty for my view on getting to a free society. Once achieved, every good or service imaginable will have countless producers vying for market share. Outside of explicit contract, I’m quite skeptical that any person or business could ever obtain sole producer status for any significant period of time. There’s just too many cutthroats ready and willing to offer a better value, and that’s a wonderful thing. Final Thoughts Monopoly is a major concern of mine, particular the entity that monopolizes the provision of law and order, ie. the state. This monopoly secures every other potential monopoly. Abolish the state, and you abolish monopoly. Start by abolishing statist practices in your home, such as punitive, authoritarian parenting and schooling. Raising your kids as autonomous individuals builds the requisite culture of liberty to achieving the free society. Read more from “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective”: continue reading