Category Archives: Libertarian Theory

Can a Voluntaryist Vote?

voting_stations

This presidential election has found me pensive on the matter of voting. There is something of a debate within voluntaryism as to whether voting is an immoral activity, or one strategy to be used in the fight for liberty. The anti-voters claim that voting is “supporting the system” and provides legitimacy to The State. The pro-voters assert that voting for whatever policy or candidate that results in the least amount of aggression is a positive (although not very effective) way of bringing about a more free world.

The most serious objection to voting is that it qualifies as an act of aggression. The reason the objectors believe this is that voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil, and that voting is authorizing immoral and horrible government power. This is patently false because the government exists, whether people vote or not! The State is just giving it’s slaves the option to choose between evils — it will force evil on the populace even if no one votes! If you have an option to vote on a ballot that  will legalize marijuana even if with high taxes and regulations, that clearly isn’t authorizing aggression (which is impossible by definition), but only a selection for the reduction of government power. The same would go for voting for a Libertarian candidate, voting for a reduction in taxation, voting to reduce regulations, etc., etc.

The far more convincing argument against voting is the one which states that voting is a complete waste of time, is irrational behavior, and is focused more on exercising your “civic duty” and partaking in the sacraments of the State than it is on achieving libertarian goals. Notice that this is not so much about the morality of voting as it is about the effectiveness or strategic value of doing so.  While it is absolutely true that a person has a greater chance of getting into a fatal car accident on the way to the booth than influencing the outcome, voting is still a way of reducing government power. Even if the odds are small that you will affect just a little amount of good, why wouldn’t you take advantage of every opportunity to oppose the State and minimize the amount of aggression in the world? After all, filling out an absentee ballot is positively easy and takes virtually no time or hassle — you’re not even  herded into a little enclosure or made to stand in line!

Then there is the argument from those concerned with libertarian strategy that voting results in greater perceived legitimacy. However, voter turnout doesn’t have anything to do with “legitimacy”, and no one really cares how many people voted or pays any attention to those numbers, they show up to the polls because they’re passionate about what’s being voted on, not because of perceived legitimacy! I think the results of a vote matter more to people than which people didn’t vote (or why). If a Libertarian candidate gets elected, doesn’t that expose the libertarian philosophy to a large number of people, as opposed to only having the Republicans and Democrats in office? Doesn’t a Libertarian or a libertarian (non-Libertarian Party libertarian) getting lots of votes gather interest in what it is that they stand for? Besides, these people/ballot measure getting elected/passed really do make a difference – all those states that passed marijuana legalization measures are perfect examples of libertarian voting making a freer society.

In conclusion, voting is perfectly moral, doesn’t (necessarily) support the State, and can even be a somewhat effective tool to combat it. As a voluntaryist you should be doing everything you can to make a voluntary society — so go ahead, register as a Libertarian and vote without feeling like you’re doing something wrong! And, in case you were wondering, I supported Gary Johnson in the election, with Donald Trump ranking second on my preference scale, Jill Stein third, and Killary Clinton ranking last.

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Animal Rights and Voluntaryism

goat_wearing_clothes

One of the most controversial and unstudied aspects of voluntaryism is on the subject of animals and the proper relationship between them and humans. Some have put animals in the same moral realm as humans, others have put them as something between humans and inanimate objects, and still others reject the notion that animals have any rights at all.

The fundamental question to be asked is this: are animals persons? Hans-Hermann Hoppe has defined persons as rational beings, and rational beings as beings capable of argumentation. According to Argumentation Ethics, only those capable of argumentation (persons) are capable of property ownership and subject to the Non-Aggression Principle. It is, therefore, obvious that no animal known to man qualifies as a person. Perhaps in the future an alien race will be discovered which does qualify for personhood, but that day has not yet come. Animals must be seen as scarce means to satisfy a person’s wants, not as persons themselves. Personhood being ascribed to animals is a product man’s empathy: we see that animals have wills, experience pain and pleasure, suffer losses and enjoy gains, so we feel for them because we too experience these things, and by this make the mistake of thinking they are more like us than they are. Simply being able to feel hurt or happiness does not grant rights or qualify one for personhood — only rationality can do that.

Another way to demonstrate the validity of my position is like this: if animals have rights, that means that they also have the duty to observe others’ rights. Therefore, animals must be taken to court and take other animals to court for infractions of others’ rights. The wildebeest must take the lion to court for eating their brethren, all the animals must take mosquitoes to court for violating their self-ownership, the mice should take the cats to court for attacking them, the birds should take the snakes to court for eating their eggs, the dogs should sue the fleas for biting them, etc., etc. The absurdity of this makes the answer quite clear: animals are not persons.

Animal rights, conservationism, and environmentalism are all destructive, anti-human ideologies. On their surface, this is not readily perceivable. Nonetheless, it is absolutely true. If we are to treat (non-human) animals, the environment, and “Mother Nature” as people, where does that leave us humans? If animals are people too, we mustn’t aggress against their property, their air, or their environment. Everywhere humans try to live, move to, or develop, animals live or used to live. Chop down a tree? How dare you, an eagle used to live there! Built a house? You just destroyed many animals’ habitat! Drain a swamp in your backyard? You annihilated thousands of species entire ecosystem! Nearly every time someone homesteads or uses their property, they are invading animals’ living space. Nearly every industry uses natural resources which animals used to possess, or at least made use of the land (or sea) from which the resources were extracted. According to the animal rights advocates, conservationists, and environmentalists, animals would be better off if people just did………NOTHING! Don’t shower, don’t eat meat, don’t drive a car, don’t build that new factory or resort, don’t mine or drill for resources, don’t turn your lights on, don’t bag your groceries, don’t spray hairspray, don’t behave as if you’re actually alive. These people, deep down, wish that they (and everyone else) didn’t exist.

On the other hand, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care about animals, or that animal abuse is fine and dandy, I’m just saying that it doesn’t qualify as aggression. All this article is trying to validate is that force cannot morally be used against the animal-harmer; it says nothing as to how animals should be treated other than as non-persons. Personally, I abhor the mistreatment of animals and am a volunteer at a local Humane Society, but I respect the right of control by owners over their animals.

This is a tricky subject, and I know that many will be made uncomfortable with these conclusions, but these insights are important to the libertarian theory of justice, and are needed to combat the progressive and anti-human nature of the animal rights position.

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~Ethan from TheLibertyAdvocate.com

 

 

But What About…?

The ideas of voluntaryism are sometimes criticized as utopian fantasy because “it just won’t work”. These people come up with difficult questions and hard problems that a voluntary society would face, and because the person they are asking doesn’t have the answers (or no one does), they assume that the status quo of statism is the only workable system simply because it actually exists. The problem with this kind of thinking is that it will agree that voluntaryism may be the only moral society, meaning that it agrees that it is the only system that should exist, it just denies that voluntaryism can exist or that it will function well, therefore it should not exist and not be the libertarian end-goal. It is pretty obvious that this line of thought is contradictory because it believes that a voluntary society should both exist and not exist at the same time, and it is a non-sequitor that because you cannot comprehend a voluntary society existing in reality that it should not exist.

So regardless if you can’t imagine a voluntary way of solving a technical problem, it doesn’t magically justify aggression. Minarchists in particular are guilty of committing this fallacy. The only consistent position to take is the anarchist, or voluntaryist, position. It is not possible to know in advance how people will live and thrive without initiating force against each other, but it is possible to speculate on the likely free market methods for provision of things like defense, justice, roads, and protection. This has been the subject of many excellent books, some of which I will do here (all of these are free on Mises.org):

The Market for Liberty

The Myth of National Defense: Essays on the Theory and History of Security Production

The Private Production of Defense

The Privatization of Roads and Highways

 

Bitcoin: My Evolution

Bitcoin Goldcoin

     When I first heard about BitCoin, I thought it was an interesting experiment that would never pan out. I pretty much ignored it for a couple of years, until I came across an article explaining why BitCoin couldn’t possibly be money. The article stated that because BitCoin doesn’t have value outside of being money, it cannot be money according to the Austrian Regression Theorem. It made sense to me, so I became anti-BitCoin, because I believed that BitCoin would eventually collapse, leaving those who were bullish on it devastated.

     However, BitCoin didn’t go away, but grew, and more and more voluntaryists were coming out in favor of it. This astonished me, leading me to think that there was some kind of “BitCoin Bubble” going on. I eventually decided that I had to look more into the arguments in favor of BitCoin. Jeffrey Tucker is/was my go-to man on the subject. The more I learned, the more I found that BitCoin can be considered money (even in the eyes of the Regression Theorem), and offers a wonderful alternative to Federal Reserve Notes, and when that money system fails, may possibly become the most accepted medium of exchange.

     I will now attempt to address the Austrian Economic critique of BitCoin and put forward my theory as to why BitCoin may become in the (perhaps distant) future the most commonly used money.

     The criticism of BitCoin goes something like this: BitCoin has no value prior to being money. In order for something to become a true money, it must have a commodity value previous to becoming a medium of exchange. BitCoin is used only as a money, and has always been used purely as a money. Therefore, BitCoin cannot be considered a real money, and when faced with the competition of a true money like gold and/or silver, will be discarded as worthless.

     This is a powerful argument. However, this argument is wrong because BitCoin does have value prior to being money — just not as a commodity. The value of BitCoin independent of being money is derived from the fact that it is information (code) that is infinitely divisible, decentralized, anonymous, scarce, and instantly and directly transferable. The code, by itself, is worthless. It is the qualities that this code possesses that has value. These code qualities give the BitCoin value, but only for use as a money — prior to being used as money! Thus, there is nothing wrong with BitCoin, and there is nothing wrong with the Regression Theorem — the only thing that is wrong is some people’s application of the Theorem, and their incomplete knowledge of BitCoin.

     Now, you may be thinking, so what? Even if BitCoin could become a money, what makes you think that it actually will? Gold has already been proven to be the most prevalent money in history, so why won’t it be the same way in the future, after the collapse? The answer is that gold was money when most commerce was physical, taking place in person, as opposed to the mostly digital commerce that takes place today, and will take place to a greater extent in the future. The exact features that make BitCoin money are the precise features that characterize the perfect form of money — that’s the whole reason BitCoin is a money in the first place! This, and the fact that money gets value from its being used as money means that BitCoin will have affn advantage over other forms of money because it is already being used as such. Gold, on the other hand, is not the perfect form of money, it has just been the most perfect form of money in history — until now. Gold also does not have the advantage of currently being used as money. BitCoin already being used as money will add value to it as such.

     This is not to say that gold will not be used as money, although there is a tendency for there to be only one money in existence (although I wonder if that would only come to be in an evenly rotating economy), but rather that BitCoin is the preferable money. I believe that gold will be used as money, because it does have many favorable qualities, along with having a “tried and true” status. After the collapse of fiat currency, I believe that their will be many different monies, all competing with each other, with a small handful winning out. My bet is on gold, silver, and BitCoin. I think that it is unlikely, but there is a possibility that a new crypto-currency will come about that will outdo or match BitCoin, but as of right now, the only one that I can think of as even plausible is a crypto-currency called Steemit, which is something like pieces of ownership of popular content (like articles).

     In any case, be sure to get your cash out of Federal Reserve Notes and into a real money before it’s too late and your Notes become worthless!

How Courts and Police Could Exist and Function Under Anarcho-Capitalism

A powerful objection to anarcho-capitalism is that judges, acting in their self-interest, will simply rule in favor of the highest bidder. This is the objection I will attempt to address, and in so doing, come up with a theory of how and why justice will be served and property protected in an anarcho-capitalist country.

In order to discover the functioning of judges in anarcho-capitalism, one must start from the beginning. Some, if not most, people desire their property to be protected. These people will be willing to exchange their goods or services for this protection, leading to the formation of private defense agencies, which would act as a private police force. We already have a situation where government police have gotten so bad that people are turning to various forms of private policing: bodyguards, security systems, and security guards. These private defense agencies (from here on referenced as PDAs) will tend to provide the most security at the least cost (the exact opposite of government police), and their reputation will be of the utmost importance; if they got a reputation for either protecting criminals or poorly defending their customers, the customers would patronize a different agency. It is also in their interest not to protect criminals from prosecution because doing so would lead to more crime — something that would drive up their costs and lose them customers to agencies that actually protect people. A PDA will not only be wanted to defend people while an act of aggression is occurring, but will also be desired to exact restitution, which means that an equal amount of force that the aggressor used against his victim can be justified by the victim against the aggressor. Take, for example, the case of a theft. A takes $5 from B. According to libertarian theory, B can defend his property by taking his $5 back from A and he is justified in taking an additional $5 of A’s money, along with the cost of the time it took to get this money and the expense it took to get it. In order for a PDA to maintain an excellent reputation and to ensure that it will not get into any battles with other defense agencies (which would be very costly), the PDA would make sure that a person accused of a crime actually committed that crime, and that the amount of restitution to be exacted is just. This is the role of judges — the difficult job of proving to everyone that either a person accused of a crime is guilty or innocent, and what a just compensation to the victim (if there is one) is. Judges would compete with each other in terms of their reputation for producing thorough and convincing judgements, and would lose customers for providing poor or corrupt judgements (which, if obvious that the judge was corrupt, or had judged wrong, would be considered invalid and ignored). The purpose of judges is not to provide justification for the use of force, but only to demonstrate that a use of force is, in fact, justified (or not). Whether a judge worked for a PDA or had a private practice or belonged to a judging company (private court) would be immaterial. In order to demonstrate fairness, a process of appeals could exist and may work like this: A accuses B of committing a crime, then the judge of A’s choosing either rules B innocent, in which case the process ends, or the judge rules B guilty, in which case B could appeal to a second judge. If the second judge rules B guilty, the process ends, but if the second judge rules B innocent, A could appeal to a third and final judge that is agreed upon by both the first and second judge, or both A and B. The cost of the judging service would go to the loser of the court case, which would mean that if someone is obviously guilty or innocent, the person who is going to lose the case would not want to increase his or her costs by appealing a judge’s (clearly correct) decision. Of course, if someone was undisputedly guilty and the restitution owed was undeniable, a judge would not be necessary. I have thus sketched a rough outline of how anarcho-captialistic police and courts could work, and will go on to address a few objections.

A common objection to anarcho-capitalisim made by minarchists (small-state libertarians) is that “justice” is some kind of a public good and no one has a desire to produce it while everyone wants it, so it must be provided by a government. This assumes that public goods exist, and that they should be provided by a legitimized institution with a monopoly on the use of force, or, in other words, a state. The theory of public goods have been demonstrated false in this article by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, this article by Walter Block, and this article by Randall G. Holcombe. Furthermore, as I demonstrated above, it is in everyone’s self-interest to both enforce and obey the non-aggression principle, and both police and courts could be provided on the free market.

Another objection goes like this: all this is well and good for customers of PDAs, but what about the provision of justice between individuals not belonging to PDAs? Wouldn’t conflicts between non-customers of PDAs simply devolve into fights to the death? I can answer this in two different ways; first, I could say that if you don’t pay for justice, why would you expect to receive it — it’s like any other service! Second, I don’t think that this would be the case because 1) anyone who wanted to could arm themselves with weapons, discouraging anyone from committing acts of aggression against each other, and would allow for individuals to enforce justice even without a PDA, and 2) people who were criminals or were thought to be criminals would be ostracized; in the interest of keeping themselves and their friends/family/customers safe, people would forbid those whom they thought were criminals from entering their property. As a side note, there would probably be very expensive and very secure stores and housing that would be specifically for blacklisted criminals. Therefore, if you don’t belong to a PDA and someone aggresses against you, you still would charge the aggressor in a court instead of just showing up at his house with guns, taking back your property and taking some of his money, because you wouldn’t want the public to believe that when you were enforcing justice you were acting as an aggressor. So yes, in an anarcho-capitalist country, you could provide your own protection, but would still usually make use of courts. Also, I think that the wide availability of weapons, ostracism, and the relative absence of poverty under anacho-capitalism would be very effective at discouraging crime from occurring.

A further objection is that a PDA would simply take over and become the government. Even if this were the case, and I think that this would be very unlikely to happen, then we would be in the exact same situation that we’re in now, so we have nothing to lose! The thing to keep in mind here is that under anarcho-captialism, there is no legitimized institution with a monopoly on force, and that any prospective government would inevitably have to convince the populace that it is in their interest to have a government. The reason for this is not readily apparent, but is the case; if the government is not legitimate in the eyes of most of the people, then people will tend to defend themselves from that government because it is in their interest to do so. The government can only use the resources that come from the populace, but if the source of those resources, the productive citizenry, are mobilizing those resources to defend against that state, then that government will not be able to continue in its existence. It can either kill everyone, and lose all its funding, or it can battle everyone and eventually lose, expending all of its remaining resources to survive. The reason for this is as follows: the state expends resources on suppressing a revolt, but can’t get those resources back because the very resources they want to take are being utilized to resist them. This leads to the state having decreasing funds which are consumed in its bureaucracy and in the course of fighting a war on its people, while the productive populace keeps on producing funds and resources with which to defeat the state. Note that this only works if the vast majority reject the state in favor of anarcho-capitalism. This is the reason that it would be unlikely but not impossible for a state to arise out of anarcho-capitalism; only if someone were to come along and convince the bulk of the people that they would benefit from a government, which, under anarcho-capitalism, would be almost impossible to do for the obvious reason that a state is not beneficial, and the people would be experiencing that fact first-hand.

In conclusion, the state is not necessary for the provision of justice, and, being the monopoly that it is, has no reason to  provide the best service at the lowest cost like the private courts and PDAs in anarcho-captialism, but to provide the least service at the highest cost. Furthermore, the state is inherently immoral, and therefore should not exist. Any question as to how a society would function without one is a purely technical question and is not relevent to the question of whether or not the state should exist. However, as I have written above, society would (surprise surprise) be much better off (and have a better provision of justice) without a state and with a purely voluntary method of protection.

Further Reading

The Market for Liberty

For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto

 

Are Human Shields a Problem for Libertarians?

A common problem libertarians are faced with is the application of the non-aggression principle in the case of human shields. Walter Block attempted to come up with a solution through his “negative homesteading” theory, with which I respectfully disagree. The problem is this: if A is aggressing against C while using B to shield himself from all defensive force from C, can C use force against B to stop A, and can B use force against C in order to stop C from using force against him? I posit that the libertarian approach is this: It is legitimate for C to use force against aggressor A, and if A aggresses against B to put B in a position to receive the force against him from C, than the one responsible for the harm done to B is A, that the one initiating force against B is A, not C, and that therefore B cannot legitimately use force against C because that would be aggression, as C is not initiating force against B, but simply having his defensive force blocked by A with an innocent person. As an example situation, imagine that someone attacks you by punching you, and you punch back, but as you are throwing your punch, he grabs a person next to him and places that person in front of him, causing this innocent person to receive the blow. Obviously (because your force was directed at the aggressor) you did not aggress against the innocent person, and, therefore should not be stopped from punching by the innocent, as that would be an initiation of force against you. The analysis is the same in a hostage situation in which the hostage is taken not at the last moment but well before, and one in which fatal force is used instead of a punch.

“Collateral damage” is still aggression because it is not a case of an aggressor using an innocent or innocents as a shield against defensive force, but aggression by a person in the course of using or attempting to use defensive force against an aggressor. For example, a store owner who has been robbed would be an aggressor, in fact a worse aggressor than the robber, if the robber ran into a crowd of people and the store owner sprayed machine gun fire into the crowd. This theory is not a justification for aggression against third parties when using force against an aggressor.

In conclusion, I hope this answer to a common objection will help people put an end to one of their doubts regarding libertarianism.