[V]iolence by proxy – via the flim-flam of the ballot box and by having other people do the actual dirty work on our behalf – allows us to blank out the true knowledge of what’s going on. It is very hard – for most people – to contemplate threatening to assault their next-door neighbor for almost any reason. Even if your own wife or mother desperately needed food, obtaining it by kicking in your neighbor’s door and forcibly taking it at gunpoint is something very few psychologically normal people could do without experiencing extreme pangs of moral guilt. Particularly if the their victim attempted to defend himself and it became “necessary” to actually harm – or kill – him in order to obtain their “help.”
But when people use the ballot box or other mechanisms of “democracy” to do the same thing, they feel ok about it because they are not forced to confront the reality they have victimized other human beings.
Very bad, indeed. It normalizes moral obscenity.
Moreover, a principle has been established – and a precedent set – when one accepts blood money for whatever purpose. …
My “good” – my financial security – and my peace of mind – is undermined. For the sake of some other person’s “good.”
Over the past ten years, the total taken from me to “help” the local schools [through property taxes] amounts to almost $20,000. Over the next twenty, it’ll be another $40,000 – assuming the annual rate does not increase (which is about as likely as my rooster reciting Shakespeare). It will be said I can “afford” this. That it is necessary for the good of the children. Other people’s children. As opposed to the good of my own family.
How nice it must be to glibly dispose of other people’s money.
My physical security is threatened, too.
Because if I ever decline to “help,” eventually, men with guns will come and physically remove me from “my” home. These men will try to kill me if I attempt to defend myself.
You may say I am selfish and mean-spirited for not wanting to “help” finance “the children’s” education.
But here’s the broader point: If it is ethically ok to insist I hand over my money – and threaten to cage/kill me if I say no – for the sake of one thing, then logically, it is ok to do so for another thing.
In fact, for almost any thing.
“Good” is a subjective. You may believe it’s taxpayer-financed public (government) schools or libraries. I may believe it is a new shopping mall – created via eminent domain seizures of people’s homes and land to make way for it. Another person might believe it would be good to send a manned mission to Mars. No doubt some of these things are good – at least, in the eyes of some, and in terms of those who benefit. But they also entail and necessarily create victims. Winners – and losers. A potentially limitless pool of them. Indeed, we all become one another’s victims – for the sake of one another’s conceptions of “good.”
And – presto – we get to where we are: A system of plunder on a vast scale, in which you’re grateful to be “allowed” to keep anything, but in which nothing you have isn’t, in principle, off limits.
“We as a society” or “we as a nation” is generally used as an incantation with no scientific meaning. If it has any ascertainable meaning, it means “we who want to impose our current and perhaps changing whims on others.”
The simplest interpretation of “we as a society” is that it represents what a majority votes for. It would simply mean, we as a majority of 51 percent (or 60 percent, or 30 percent if we are talking of a mere plurality). But how is the majority representative of society? What tells us that another majority wouldn’t vote differently if the issues were presented differently? Whose preferences exactly does the majority represent?
Good, short piece. Read it in its entirety.
Related: On the Illegitimacy of Democracy
Kathryn Jean Lopez seeks to remind everyone that reads National Review, that "political disengagement is not an option". In other words, you were born into a system where robbing your neighbor, and using force against your neighbor, is your only option. Seeking to live peacefully by not taking part is simply not a choice for you to make.
Lopez writes:If we start thinking that we are above politics, we need to remember that if we don’t get our hands dirty paying attention to who it is we are electing, and to policy and pending decisions, we are shirking a responsibility. Disengagement is dangerous. Engagement is our civic duty.
Peace and non-aggression is ”above politics”. Standing in line (like cattle) at a voting booth does not mean that you’re paying attention to anything. The person that you are electing is not bound to anything. They do not have to (nor do they) tell the truth in order to get your vote. This should be obvious by now. It’s not like this charade started yesterday.
The person you vote for has no idea that you specifically voted for him/her. How on Earth can you possibly be “responsible” for what the politician does? As hard as it is for many to come to grips with, you are responsible for your actions.
Disengagement is dangerous?
Lopez doesn’t say.
Her job is to make sure people keep believing. The fact that she’s writing on this subject means that the believers must be going through a phase where their faith is being tested. That darn Internet must be making them second guess a few things.Cynicism about politics can be seductive, too. The media thrive on conflict and scandal, and so it’s often the worst of political life that we focus on. But politics is necessary. “Politics is,” [Charles] Krauthammer explains, “the moat, the walls, beyond which lie the barbarians. Fail to keep them at bay, and everything burns.
Oh sure it’s the media’s fault. They just focus on the worst.
Politics is the worst. For it the use of violence and force to settle your disputes. It’s a never-ending struggle to gain control of the monopolistic use of violence. If you don’t control it, someone else will, and they’ll beat you over the head with it.
And Lopez wants us to believe that "politics is necessary"?
One can see why those who control The State would want you to think its necessary; and why they would want to keep everyone “Rocking The Vote”. But mankind’s long history of failed governments has proven that for 99.999% of everyone who has ever lived, politics is poison.
Finally, is Lopez really trotting out a quote for Charles Krauthammer? This is a man who never saw a bomb that he didn’t want dropped on some non-American. And he’s the voice who is to tell us that without politics “barbarians” will take over and “everything burns”?
Governments have killed so many hundreds of millions that it’s impossible to keep count anymore. No other group of organized individuals could possibly accomplish such a feat.
It’s time to stop buying into the stories of the real barbarians. It’s imperative to celebrate when people “politically disengage”. For it can possibly a sign that people are becoming more virtuous.
Gut feelings are sometimes better guides than reasoning for making consumer choices and interpersonal judgments, but they are often disastrous as a basis for public policy, science, and law. Rather, … we must be wary of any individual’s ability to reason. We should see each individual as being limited, like a neuron. A neuron is really good at one thing: summing up the situation coming into its dendrites to “decide” whether to fire a pulse along its axon. A neuron by itself isn’t very smart. But if you put neurons together in the right way you get a brain; you get an emergent system that is much smarter and more flexible than a single neuron.
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind
It is the individual who reasons, but he does not exist in a vacuum. Don Boudreaux expands:
The system is smarter than the sum of the intelligence of its individual parts – as in an economy and society in which individual persons are put “together in the right way.” But what is the right way?
Modern “Progressive liberalism” believes that the right way is largely unlimited majoritarian democracy, often leavened by disproportionately powerful and charismatic “leaders.” People ‘choosing’ consciously together on each of many proposals across a wide range of issues. Modern “Progressive liberals,” though, remain surprisingly innocent of even basic public-choice insights. The fact thatpolitical settings, institutions, and arrangements typically shield each individual decision-maker from the direct material costs and benefits of his or her choices is a deeply serious flaw of this decision-making arrangement. It’s an arrangement that encourages each decision-making unit to be irrational.
True liberalism (or libertarianism) believes that the right way is largely unobstructed private decision-making by adults within a thick system of private property rights and freedom of contract. In this setting the consequences – good and bad – of each choice fall heavily on the particular person who made that choice and are not socialized across the entire polity. People are thereby lead to make more informed and more considered choices - and each person is freed much more than in the collectivized setting from having to bend to the desires, whims, and misinformation of others. The overall result is a highly complex and highly functional order, one that is “the result of human action but not of human design,” in which each individual has maximum possible scope to pursue his or her own life’s plan according to his or her own lights.
I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way: I don’t vote. On Election Day, I stay home. … I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, ‘If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain,’ but where’s the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent people, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote — who, in fact, did not even leave the house on Election Day — am in no way responsible for what these [politicians] have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created that I had nothing to do with.
— George Carlin
All government is an exercise in larceny. All governments take things away from some people — power, money, dignity, freedom — to bestow favors on the ruling elite and its clients. The masses willingly and eagerly comply as long as they think they can get something out of it — that is, someone else’s property. … The beauty of democracy is that it defrauds the average person into believing that he has been taken into the ruling elite. He thinks that ultimately, he decides what government does. Naturally, he deserves a share in the spoils.
All government is an exercise in larceny. All governments take things away from some people — power, money, dignity, freedom — to bestow favors on the ruling elite and its clients. The masses willingly and eagerly comply as long as they think they can get something out of it — that is, someone else’s property. …
The beauty of democracy is that it defrauds the average person into believing that he has been taken into the ruling elite. He thinks that ultimately, he decides what government does. Naturally, he deserves a share in the spoils.
How do we know individuals are willing to pay enough to cover the cost of a supposed public good? When we do not see a good being produced, it need not be that transaction costs or free-rider problems are blocking something that ought to be done. It could be that the good in question is not really worth producing in the eyes of those who would bear the cost. We do not know which it is, and by the inbuilt logic of the construct we cannot know.
— Larry White, The Clash of Economic Ideas
The fact that the outcome is chosen collectively rather than individually guarantees that a wedge is inserted between the act of choice and its consequences. Individuals do not really choose in the meaningful sense of the term, at least not among outcomes of the process. And the disjuncture here means that no identified individual is responsible for whatever emerges from the selection process. The straightforward logic of opportunity cost does not apply. That which is forgone by the individual’s act of participating in the process, of voting, is not the opportunity loss of one outcome or another. In this setting, it becomes much less costly for the individual to act in accordance with unexamined ideological persuasions rather than any comparisons of outcome by criteria of measurable interest.
The fact that the outcome is chosen collectively rather than individually guarantees that a wedge is inserted between the act of choice and its consequences. Individuals do not really choose in the meaningful sense of the term, at least not among outcomes of the process. And the disjuncture here means that no identified individual is responsible for whatever emerges from the selection process. The straightforward logic of opportunity cost does not apply. That which is forgone by the individual’s act of participating in the process, of voting, is not the opportunity loss of one outcome or another.
In this setting, it becomes much less costly for the individual to act in accordance with unexamined ideological persuasions rather than any comparisons of outcome by criteria of measurable interest.
I challenge the idea, sometimes referred to as “popular sovereignty,” that the Constitution of the United States was or is legitimate because it was established by “We the People” or the “consent of the governed.” I deny that the conditions needed to make this claim valid existed at the time the Constitution was adopted or ever could exist. Though “the People” can surely be bound by their consent, this consent must be real, not fictional – unanimous, not majoritarian. Anything less that unanimous consent simply cannot bind nonconsenting persons.
Consent is paramount in a civilized society, a notion some find difficult to acknowledge.
Related: On the Illegitimacy of Democracy
On general principles of law and reason, debts contracted in the name of ‘the United States,’ or of ‘the people of the United States,’ are of no validity. … It is utterly absurd to pretend that debts to the amount of twenty-five hundred millions of dollars are binding upon thirty-five or forty millions of people, when there is not a particle of legitimate evidence — such as would be required to prove a private debt — that can be produced against any one of them, that either he, or his properly authorized attorney, ever contracted to pay one cent. Certainly, neither the whole people of the United States, nor any number of them, ever separately or individually contracted to pay a cent of these debts. … How, then, is it possible, on any general principle of law or reason, that debts that are binding upon nobody individually, can be binding upon forty millions of people collectively, when, on general and legitimate principles of law and reason, these forty millions of people neither have, nor ever had, any corporate property? never made any corporate or individual contract? and neither have, nor ever had, any corporate existence? Why, at most, only a few persons, calling themselves “members of Congress,” etc., who pretended to represent “the people of the United States,” but who really represented only a secret band of robbers and murderers, who wanted money to carry on the robberies and murders in which they were then engaged; and who intended to extort from the future people of the United States, by robbery and threats of murder (and real murder, if that should prove necessary), the means to pay these debts.
On general principles of law and reason, debts contracted in the name of ‘the United States,’ or of ‘the people of the United States,’ are of no validity. …
It is utterly absurd to pretend that debts to the amount of twenty-five hundred millions of dollars are binding upon thirty-five or forty millions of people, when there is not a particle of legitimate evidence — such as would be required to prove a private debt — that can be produced against any one of them, that either he, or his properly authorized attorney, ever contracted to pay one cent.
Certainly, neither the whole people of the United States, nor any number of them, ever separately or individually contracted to pay a cent of these debts. …
How, then, is it possible, on any general principle of law or reason, that debts that are binding upon nobody individually, can be binding upon forty millions of people collectively, when, on general and legitimate principles of law and reason, these forty millions of people neither have, nor ever had, any corporate property? never made any corporate or individual contract? and neither have, nor ever had, any corporate existence?
Why, at most, only a few persons, calling themselves “members of Congress,” etc., who pretended to represent “the people of the United States,” but who really represented only a secret band of robbers and murderers, who wanted money to carry on the robberies and murders in which they were then engaged; and who intended to extort from the future people of the United States, by robbery and threats of murder (and real murder, if that should prove necessary), the means to pay these debts.
— Lysander Spooner, “The Constitution of No Authority” (1870)
The always intelligent Bonnie Kristian has published an insightful post this morning; a snippet:
In the wake of the government shutdown, I’ve noticed many libertarian types cracking jokes about how we’d love it if the shutdown were permanent — if the “non-essential” employees stayed permanently furloughed.
And there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. Politics creates some of the most absurd situations we ever encounter in real life, and sometimes you just have to make fun of stuff. I’ve even engaged in a little of this myself (but then, who wouldn’t when it involves Ron Swanson, amirite?). Plus, we do actually want the government to be a whole lot smaller, and on a gut level, this feels like a step in the right direction.
But an unintended consequence of all this joking is how off-putting it can be to those who are actually, you know, furloughed. By most estimates there are about 800,000 government employees temporarily out of work right now — only about 20% of the federal government’s total payroll. And, given that they possess natural human feelings of wanting a livelihood, they don’t really like it when we say we want their jobs to disappear.
This is understandable. If I said, “I’m worried that I might not be able to keep my job,” and you replied, “Hahah, good, I hope your job disappears forever,” I would probably not be your biggest fan.
So that’s why I think it’s so important for us (libertarians, conservatives, civil libertarians of all stripes — anyone who wants a significant cut in any part of government activity) to stop a second and say:
We don’t want you to be unemployed.
We want you to have a job you like which will take care of your family.
We just think that your current job does things which would be better done by the private sector, not the government. You might even make more money if it were, and we’re 100% in favor of that.
So when we post memes and quotes and commentary apparently rejoicing in the government shutdown, it’s not because we think you aren’t valuable. It’s a rough, political-humor way of saying, “We think there are better ways for you to use your skills and expertise than working for the government, and we’d like to have a national debate about that.”
A few points I’d like to offer in response.
First, it’s not just a joke when we say “we’d love it if the shutdown were permanent.” Some of us take the concepts of libertarianism to their logical conclusion. We believe in the concept of self-ownership and we understand that the more free a society, the more peaceful and prosperous it becomes.
Second, our primary goal - or, rather, my goal which many others share - is not necessarily to have a “national debate.” I appreciate that such a sentiment is well-regarded by precisely those who would be offended at our stance on the government “shutdown,” but that’s not at all what many of us want - particularly as bracketed by giant arbitrary geographical borders. What is a debate but democracy, and political democracy is illegitimate. A debate presumes there’s some winner, some loser, and/or some compromise - but what we want is justice, and there isn’t likely to be much compromise to be had there. If one side wants to stab me a lot, another side wants to stab me a little, and I don’t want to be stabbed at all, what reasonable compromise would result from a debate?
Third, ridiculing the state truly is one of the most important things a citizen can do. Fundamental and lasting political change does not come from voting, petitions, protests, or town hall meetings. What must come first is education and understanding - and the most effective way to push back against a leviathan state is to marginalize those who presume to run our lives: mock them, disobey them, and ultimately ignore them (all, of course, peacefully and without harming our fellow man).
I often quote Étienne de La Boétie, and it’s worth quoting him again:
"Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces."
So with regards to Bonnie’s soft finger-wagging at our gleeful mockery of the state - I respectfully disagree. The more we belittle and jeer and scoff and mock and laugh at the state, the less seriously others will revere it - and in turn, fewer will support Colossus.
However, Bonnie is right that we should be mindful to not alienate others too much if we wish for our ideas, which we value, to find greater acceptance. We attract more flies with honey and all that. And her post serves that end well: much of it is clarification to preemptively undercut the inevitable non-sequitur that the media and other state-allies use to caricature our position. We’ve never advocated that these people should be jobless and starving in the street - but she’s right that that’s exactly the narrative state-sympathizers (usually on the left) use against us.
So, yes, we would love for those who find employ with the country’s largest employer, the federal government, to relinquish their status as societal parasites and instead find productive jobs in the private (i.e. voluntary) sector.
I know that sounds scandalous, but it’s true: government jobs are characteristically not productive and as such government workers qua government workers are societal parasites.
Of course, there are government workers who perform important and valued work. But these are exactly the type of “essential” jobs would still exist in a free society - absent the threat of violence to demand funding. Who doubts that there would be demand for firefighters or civil engineers or weather analysts or medical researchers in a voluntary society? But so long as these jobs are funneled through the inherently corrupt and inefficient state, they are not - and can not be - productive.
If you work in the private (i.e. voluntary) sector, you know that your job is a productive one because people have subjectively determined it as such and proven such determination through the act of voluntarily asking you (and paying you) to perform said job.
I work in television. The producers pay me because they value my work. The producers, in turn, are funded because the studio likes the product we produce. The studio funds the show because the network values the product. The network values the product because the viewers watch the product, which in turn allows the network to sell ads. The advertisers buy ads because they value the viewers’ attention and have determined such expenditures help lead to future sales. The consumers buy the advertisers’ products because they have determined, ex ante, that they would be better off with the product than with the money. Money which said consumers earned most likely by selling their time, talents, or property to willing buyers.
This complex patchwork of voluntary interactions is part of what we refer to as the free market. It is the foundation of a peaceful and productive society.
Note how, unlike with governments, there’s no threat of violence compelling people to make exchanges. This is how we can determine that government workers - even those who perform important functions that would nonetheless be fulfilled absent state coercion - are societal parasites. Their employment is predicated on the forced extraction of wealth of others - wealth that is mostly the result of time and labor. Which means that the non-government workers are indentured servants: portions of their lives are spent laboring for others without compensation. If 30% of my income is taken away without my consent, and that income represents the portion of my life that I labored to earn it, then that much of my life is in effect also taken away. I am, to that degree, a slave.
Still, as a matter of political strategy, Bonnie is right: if we revel at the disemployment of certain people (however temporary and simply meant for political posturing), they are not likely going to be interested in much else we say. But if they’re unwilling to shoulder the truth of what exactly they are relative to the rest of us, we aren’t likely reaching them anyway.
Ultimately, their disemployment from government is indeed something worth celebrating, but I would agree that their reintroduction to the voluntary sector of society and finding productive employment outside the state merits even greater celebration.
In regards to the last post, I just wanted to point out this passage right here from the New York Times link: →
Even so, House Republicans on Saturday appeared ready to let the government shut down, at least for “a very brief” time, said Representative Doug Lambron, Republican of Colorado.
Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, shrugged off the drama. “The federal government has shut down 17 times before, sometimes when the Democrats were in control, sometimes with divided government,” she said. “What are we doing on our side of the aisle? We’re fighting for the American people.”
You can “shrug off” the basic functioning of the federal government?!? Like, that’s not a big deal? I’m not sure what to say about that.
That’s heartless, Nate.
Do you not recognize the countless politicians, bureaucrats, corporations, and other special interests whose livelihoods are wholly dependent on the state’s largesse? Do you expect them to simply engage in voluntary, mutually beneficial behavior? Who will be there to suppress their competition, force us to pay them, punish us for non-violent behavior to their financial benefit, give them cheap loans by devaluing our own savings, subsidize their businesses, manufacture unnecessary wars for their gain, and - ultimately - protect them from their failures?
And what about the rest of us? Who will make the decisions for us on what to ingest, where to go, how to get there, what do buy, who to employ, what to think, how to learn, what we’re worth, and who to marry? Furthermore, do you simply expect that we’d be able to come up with ways to protect ourselves from the unsavory and unscrupulous among us without those select few hundreds to thousands of miles away who won popularity contests funded by the rich and powerful to force certain behaviors for “our own good”?
Completely irresponsible of you to suggest such a thing, Nate. You should be ashamed. What do you think we are - free-thinking individuals with subjective preferences and discrete priorities over our own lives?
Anonymous asked: Do you really think because someone supports Obama they'd root for a child being chained up and forced to watch execution? You're a complete fucking retard. I support Obama and never in a million fucking years would I be okay with this. I'm not all in or all out. I agree more with him than I do others thus I will support him. Somethings I would not ever agree with. Like the that poor child.
This is one of many anonymous messages I received in response to this post.
Actions have consequences, and like I noted in the post I linked to: a vote for a candidate is not a line-item veto. You can’t just help place someone in power and absolve yourself of liability when he or she inevitably does something evil.
It’s bad enough to vote for Obama in 2008, deluding yourself that he was going to be less of a warmonger than Bush. I mean, it was clear even then that he wouldn’t exactly be Gandhi. But I suppose it is understandable - to those less familiar with history and politics - to get caught up in the rhetoric and allow naïve notions overtake reality. But to vote for him in 2012? After he’s drone-bombed children in the middle-east and already revealed himself to be a tyrant? Shown himself capable of spying on Americans, detaining without due process, and countless other violations of liberty. No way around that. You voted for him then, you support him today? Might as well start signing your name on gravestones.
The source of government’s power, ultimately, is not in gold or gunpowder, it is in obedience. Without the willing support of the people, the tyrants in power and their cronies could never get away with what they do.
One can either support evil or oppose it. There is no middle ground.
An obvious alternative is to have the government produce the [public] good and pay for it out of taxes. This may or may not be an improvement. The mechanism we rely on to make the government act in our interest – voting – itself involves the private production of a public good. When you spend time and energy deciding which candidate best serves the general interest and voting accordingly, most of the benefit of your expenditure goes to other people. You are producing a public good: a vote for the better candidate. That is a very hard public good to produce privately, since the public is a very large one: the whole population of the country. Hence it is very badly underproduced. The underproduction of that public good means that people do not find it in their interest to spend much effort deciding who is the best candidate – which in turn means that democracy does not work very well, so we cannot rely on the government to act in our interest.
— David Friedman, Hidden Order
In contrast to the competitive economic sphere, where adjustments are marginal, that is, each individual is able to evaluate each transaction separately, adjustments in the political sphere are holistic. All individuals residing within the jurisdiction of the same political unit must deal with the same agent, namely the government. A very important but too often overlooked issue is not so much how decisions are made or even who is consulted in the decision-making process, but the scope of the decision, once made. The democratic process must ultimately result in the selection of one alternative from an indeterminate number of possible alternatives and adopt it in the name of, and impose it upon, the entire society. Whether that alternative reflects the interests of an intense minority, and intense majority, or even an authentic majority is immaterial. Those whose preferences are not incorporated into government policy cannot, as is generally the case with the market, satisfy their preferences by taking their business elsewhere.
— David Osterfeld, Prosperity Versus Planning