What is Voluntaryism?

Voluntaryist Symbol

What is Voluntaryism?

The definition of voluntaryism is fairly straightforward: a philosophy that holds that all human interaction should be voluntary, and holds the creation of a completely voluntary society the highest political goal. A question that is immediately apparent is this: what is voluntary and what isn’t? Well, something is voluntary if it is brought about without the use of force, force being the control of owned property by a nonowner. It is now clear that in order to both fully understand what voluntaryism is and why it is justified, one must first justify a theory of property ownership. Hans-Hermann Hoppe does this in depth in his excellent book The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, with a theory called Argumentation Ethics. In it, Hoppe justifies first-user first-owner original appropriation, a title-transfer theory of contract, and self-ownership. What about defense and restitution? Are these justified? Furthermore, if they are, how can they be considered voluntary? These have been justified by many libertarian theorists, among them Murray Rothbard, Bruce Benson, Lysander Spooner, Carl Watner, and so on and so forth. However, Stephan Kinsella’s Estoppel theory of punishment demonstrates that defense and restitution is both justified and voluntary.

All this is well and good, but what are the consequences of this? Isn’t this philosophy just spelling out the most basic tenets of morality? Voluntaryism may be founded on the most basic of moral principles (the non-aggression principle), but the results of consistently applying those principles are radical. First of all, the state is inherently immoral because even the best, most minimal state prevents others from competing with it, which is involuntary, and it funds itself through taxation, which is involuntary. Furthermore, the state is not just content with that, but also wants to regulate others behavior, property, and businesses, all of which is involuntary. All victimless crimes are the result of involuntary government decrees. Wars fought by governments are usually aggressive and interventionist, always involves mass murder of innocent people and destruction of their property, usually fought involuntarily by conscripts, and always funded involuntarily through taxation and/or the printing of money (theft and fraud), which is the exact opposite of a just, voluntary war: one that is purely defensive, involves no “collateral damage”, and one that is both fought and funded by voluntary means. In other words, voluntaryism rejects the state, and so, in that respect, may be considered a form of anarchism. In fact, voluntaryism is considered synonymous to anarcho-capitalism, free-market anarchism, and libertarian anarchism.

In the voluntaryist ideal of a voluntary society, there would be no need for defense and restitution, for the simple reason that all interactions would be voluntary — but this ideal, I am afraid, is not able to be achieved in this life. But what voluntaryists can do is always work in the direction of this ideal by always attempting to eradicate involuntary interactions and only participate in and support voluntary ones. Without a state, how will defense and restitution be provided? After all, the state does provide at least some amount of protection. The only moral answer, the only moral method of providing these services, the voluntaryist answers, is a voluntary way of providing them. The exact details of how this would be accomplished are not possible to deduce because different people may prefer and/or invent different methods of security production, or some may not desire any protection at all if they’re pacifists. However, it is possible to speculate likely ways that voluntary defense, security, and restitution would be provided, and I have done so in this article.

To conclude, voluntaryism advocates the abolition of the state, is antiwar/non-interventionist, and, overall, desires and works to achieve a society in which all human interaction is voluntary: the voluntary society.

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