by Louis E. Carabini
The following includes three sequential parts: first is my Individual Anarchist statement, followed by Don’s response to it, and lastly my response to Don. The Individual Anarchist statement is at the very end, which I suggest reading first. Don and I audited philosophy classes at the University of California, Irvine, and the mention of Martin and Ermanno refers to the first names of two of our professors. At the time, Don was associate clinical professor of psychiatry at UCI and is also in private practice. My mention of Anna is a reference to my wife, currently of 59 years.
June 23, 2007
Thank you for your response to my “Individual Anarchist” position statement. The points you make and questions you’ve asked have given me an excellent opportunity to evaluate, reconsider and memorialize some of my views. I’ve responded to each of your questions and statements in sequential order as they appear in your e-mail letter. I’ve included some responses to conversations we’ve had in which the subject matter relates to those in your e-mail. Additionally, there are tangential items that came to mind while addressing your letter that I thought should be included in my response. In many cases, I have asked questions, some are rhetorical, while others may give you an inclination to respond. Of course, your comments and criticisms are always welcome and instructive.
The full text of your letter immediately follows, and my Individual Anarchist statement is at the end. Your letter is restated in segments before each of my responses; they are indented and in italics. I have underlined the key points of each segment to which my responses are directed.
No attacks. As always, I find myself identifying with much in the spirit of your comments. I find elements very existential at times, particularly your emphasis on personal responsibility. But I still have the same question I asked you at lunch, “Do you owe anything to the government?” I know you’re law abiding. I need no assurance of that fact, but I usually get the impression that it is only a matter of pragmatics and a gentleman’s temperament. I further have the impression that you basically consider all taxes as theft and feel that it is unjust that the government take any at all; at the end of the day, you don’t rightly owe anything.
Some of your notions of personal responsibility resonate with me. During my college experience in the early 60’s (in the S.F. Bay area of all places) the first philosophic theories to move me were Plato and then Existentialism (I’ve probably never had a strong need for consistency!) Existentialism was then very in vogue and seemed to fit in with our freedom of speech, civil rights, and anti-war movements and I was moderately involved in all of that. Existential notions of personal responsibility are also an essential part of how I conduct my psychoanalytic practice. I approach the people I see as much from an existential psychoanalytic viewpoint, articulated by Binswanger and others, as I do from the formal Freudian psychoanalytic tradition in which I was trained.
What I find missing from your account, which the existentialists seem to have (unless I misread them, in which case Martin will then correct me, I hope) is the idea of “thrownness”, especially Heidegger and Sartre, and I don’t cite these fellows as any appeal to authority, just my lack of originality. We are thrown into a particular time and place. A particular family, country, and other particular situations, say war (fascism for them and perhaps a “post 9/11 world” for us.) We didn’t choose these situations into which we were thrown, but we need to choose them, be responsible for them, in order to more truly exercise our freedom. Because of our thrownness, existential guilt is unavoidable and in that sense it is not at all a neurotic guilt, but a realistic guilt that is only exacerbated by not stepping up to it.
So I want to repeat my question in this context. You were thrown into a family that took good care of you. What did you owe them? You were thrown into a country that offered you tremendous opportunities. Not just roads and safety, but a crucial public education, a stable financial system and enough rule of law (perhaps relatively exceptional in human history) upon which you could build a wonderful life. What do you owe the government into which you were thrown and within whose advantages you have flourished? I would suggest that the fact of our existential thrownness refutes such a radical “individual anarchism”? But, I suspect you won’t agree.
I would also question some of what you say as too black and white. Surely, not all bad consequences are the result of bad judgments. And self-reliance is surely a good, but not “the good”…..neither do I see how free markets and maximum efficiency in getting products to consumers can be “the good” that trumps all others (though I would immediately grant that these are also generally good things deserving some pragmatic consideration.) Our argument on the latter is probably getting tiresome, so respond, if you it pleases you, to the new question puzzling me “What do you owe?”.
Looking forward to hearing from you more.
A. “No attacks. As always, I find myself identifying with much in the spirit of your comments. I find elements very existential at times, particularly your emphasis on personal responsibility. But I still have the same question I asked you at lunch, “Do you owe anything to the government?” I know you’re law abiding. I need no assurance of that fact, but I usually get the impression that it is only a matter of pragmatics and a gentleman’s temperament.”
A1. “Do you owe anything to government?”
A1. Response: To owe can mean indebtedness to someone for having caused or being the source of a good thing or it may be an obligation to compensate another for the receipt of a good or service. The first is a mental obligation of appreciation and gratitude, while the second is a material obligation, such as money.
Relative to a mental obligation, I have much gratitude to government (sometime “state”) for a number of reasons having to do with Thrownness, as you mention later in your letter. There are many events that are responsible for bringing me to where I am, and one of them is certainly government – the U.S. and others. Without governments I would not have had the joy of being in the Navy and “seeing the world” at 23, of moving to California, of going to UCLA, of meeting Anna, of being in this business, of making money, etc. Without government and its monopoly, manipulation and inflation of money, who would invest in gold! But this gratitude to governments includes the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt and their henchmen. Every despicable event in history played a part in my being here. Since life is great, and I’m here to experience it, I can’t help but be thankful for all those events and to those who brought them about. If any single major event, and even some very minor ones, had been missing, so would I. In the same vein, the living American Blacks should be grateful for slavery and the living Jews grateful for the ghettos. I imagine we would both classify this form of gratitude as weird. Weird indeed, since more hardship, divisiveness, fear, killings and ugliness in the world have been caused under the guise of legitimized rulers (kings, statesmen and the like) than by all the individual murderers and thieves by manyfold. We survivors may be thankful for these despicable events, but those who were not so lucky are not here to weigh-in. I guess my gratitude to government for the good life is in the sense of being one of the very lucky ones whose ancestors didn’t get culled out in the process.
But now that we are here, do we owe gratitude to governments for the lives they have destroyed while making ours possible? Do we become advocates or adversaries of those entities that represent the inhuman acts that got us here? I leave that question with you; you know where I stand.
Now as to whether or not I have any material debt to government. I would guess that my payments to the U.S. Government far exceed the services I have received on both an absolute and relative bases. But why should anyone have to guess the amount owed? In the marketplace, there are buyers and sellers of goods and services. If I desire a given good or service, I determine if the asking price is less than the value I perceive in its acquisition. If such is the case, the seller and I transact a mutually beneficial exchange. A voluntary exchange is always made to each participant’s perceived benefit. But most importantly, one only transacts an exchange when each party in the exchange chooses to do so. The bookkeeping in a volitional exchange is simple: if the exchange is complete, the debt is extinguished and the books are closed. If one or the other has a future obligation, the books remain open until all obligations are satisfied according to the agreed terms.
With government, the goods or services are undefined, the price is not divulged, the exchange is not volitional and the terms are capricious. So, at the end of the day, what do I owe government for services rendered? I can certainly say not a dime for any services that they offer that I choose not to use! Not a dime for any service they grant only to others! Not a dime for the services that coerce, regulate and plunder! Not a dime for any agency that prohibits or restricts others and me from cooperative exchanges of goods and services! Not a dime for the war in Iraq or any other war I oppose! Not a dime for the livelihood of any politician, bureaucrat or welfare recipient! Not a dime for any subsidies! Not a dime for the judicial system where the rule of law has become a mockery of justice! Not a dime for bailing out the farm credit system, the savings and loan institutions, the City of New York and whoever else in America and abroad needs bailing out! And when one argues that services are to be paid by everyone, irrespective of whether one needs, desires or uses them, then why should anyone pay any more than anyone else? Shouldn’t a “just tax” be so much “a head”? Or, if that’s “too just,” then why not the same percentage of earnings per head? Government is in the taking business, and any logic and rationale to justify a tax code is irrelevant. Ermanno is right when he quipped at dinner, “Governments tax the rich because that’s where the money is.”
Are there any services for which I do owe something? Well, it depends if the price of the service is specified and if I have the freedom to pay only for that which I decide to use. Even if I were to use a tax-subsidized service based on an incremental cost, such as gasoline tax for the use of roads, what do I owe, knowing that the state’s involvement in such a service is an affront to free market providers? What would the cost and quality of such services be in a free market? Imagine what the real cost (all seen and unseen) and quality of any given government service, such as roads, education, judicial, mail, defense, etc., would be in a free market?
The state public school system is an excellent example of a state run service where costs continually rise and the quality by some standards has measurably decreased. Additionally, there is constant conflict and bitterness over what should or should not be taught. Adjusted for inflation, according to one study, it costs 4 times more per K-12 student than just 25 years ago and 25 times more than a hundred years ago. Another study, also adjusted for inflation, shows the cost per student increasing at 40% every 10 years. In the past few decades, there isn’t a single commodity in the free market that has not decreased in price in real terms (except possibly lumber). Granted, in a free market of education, some would not go to school or attain a formal education by choice, but those who choose to go to school or attain an education would easily find a school or service that their parents, benefactors or they themselves would volitionally pay for. Even today with tax supported state schools, there are parochial and other private schools (28,000-25%) that people (11%) choose to use in spite of their additional cost. But even these private schools are regulated by the state, as are the students who attend. No one knows the best way to learn, but only in a fully free market will education continually evolve to become better and cheaper. The market will meet the demands of the consumers who value education. If the government got out of the education business, it seems unlikely that future K-12 education would be limited to the brick and mortar classroom style, a one-size-fits-all system, or would even retain such grade designations. The education market is no different than any other market where entrepreneurs and customers come together in numerous and unimaginable ways.
An education market run by the state becomes a breeding ground where young people are indoctrinated with ideas that make a sham out of the code of conduct encapsulated in the golden rule and the moral imperatives that parents try to instill in their children. Kids are taught that government people can operate by a code of conduct that, if done by others, would result in incarceration or death. They are led to believe that without government there would be few schools, and without making attendance compulsory few would attend. As an entitlement, state education must avoid teaching the destructiveness and immorality of theft, and while making school attendance compulsory, it cannot teach liberty and the detrimental effects of coercion. Any child who can reason will be confused between what is proper and improper conduct in leading a prosperous and good life. Imagine what these kids must try to unravel in their minds when they continually see the corrupt and disgusting mud-slinging political campaigns that will bring them a new leader of their land. And then they are taught that wars, edifices and entitlement programs are the benchmarks of political greatness. Consider Lincoln, Wilson and F. D. Roosevelt, three of the most destructive, yet highly honored, presidents.
The kids that go to parochial schools are taught the same nonsense about government, with the added notion that our government is special because of its Judeo-Christian founding. Moral teachings must be even more confusing to these kids who are taught the Ten Commandments on Saturday and Sunday and that which flies in the face of such teachings the rest of the week.
Without a firm foundation upon which to guide one’s life, there is little wonder why so many entering adulthood are unable to discern right from wrong. Those who lack this ability are easily hoodwinked by every sweet sounding political plea. Aside from moral teachings, imagine trying to teach kids the benefits of freedom and the free enterprise system – the so-called American way. How can students consider free enterprise to be so great if their schools don’t even operate by that system? The benefits of freedom and morality are not difficult matters to teach and understand, but such teachings are virtually impossible in a state run school. It seems that some of this confusion about and glory for government fades with age. Maybe common sense and real life experiences simply wear away at one’s earlier indoctrination.
A2. “You should be thankful for government since it has allowed you to prosper.” This was not in your letter, but it was a statement you made to me at the same luncheon to which you refer.
A2. Response: “To allow” connotes authority and expresses the very essence of what government and mastery is all about. Total mastery or enslavement is not possible. A slave is free to the extent that he can do that which his master allows. If a master allows his slave a greater degree of freedom than that allowed by a neighboring master, one may consider it fortunate to have the “kinder” of the two, but he is still enslaved. There will always be those who claim to be another’s master. I find such notions nonsensical in a practical sense, in an economic sense, in a moral sense and in a personal sense. Liberty is the essence of life, and that essence comes from within. Granting or allowing one the right to live or prosper implies a grantor. Freedom subject to a grantor’s will is mastery. You can’t consider yourself free and at the same time idolize a master. When governments limit what they disallow, some may feel that which is not disallowed is a special privilege deserving of gratitude. Goethe said, “None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free.”
There is one sense of gratitude for me and countless others who prosper because of the existence of government. By this I mean those engaged in a line of work that would not exist or would be greatly reduced if government did not exist or was limited to protecting private property. For me it includes our government’s manipulation and printing of unimaginable quantities of fiat money, which has created an interest in gold and silver speculation that would otherwise not exist. The instability and devaluation of government financial instruments opens a door of opportunity for many speculative markets. Some of the other non-productive government-induced jobs are those involving taxes, wars, tariffs, prohibitions, and regulations. Drug lords only pray for continued drug prohibition, accountants and lawyers only pray for a continuing undecipherable tax code. The list goes on and on. Without government, those currently involved in government-induced activities, including my employees and me, would be doing something productive in the world and improving the real welfare of society. So, those of us who are prospering because of government may be thankful, but society must suffer because of the horrendous waste of human energy, the loss of human lives and the continuing fear of a capricious and heavy-handed government.
However, this may not be your point about being thankful. You probably have in mind that the U.S. Government has allowed me greater liberty to prosper than I would have experienced under another rulership. You are quite right. Most rulerships in the world have had a history of less tolerance for liberty. This country has had many years of semi-free markets. This has allowed an unparalleled growth in wealth. In that respect, it is certainly better to be here than most other places. Unfortunately, over the last hundred years we have seen a steady and rapid restriction of individual liberty and an increasing attack on private property and peaceful activity in this country. If the U.S. Government had been as intrusive in its beginning as it is now, there would be little wealth and few people here. Those who came here from countries with fewer liberties would not have found the move so attractive.
A3. “I know you are law abiding.“
A3. Response: Am I law abiding? Impossible! There are many thousands of laws (more accurately, legislation) of which I’m not even aware, and it would not surprise me if I’m breaking a few of them every hour of the day. They (the state) say ignorance is no excuse when it comes to the violation of a law, and yet the smartest lawyers (including the lawmakers) only know a fraction of them, and they can’t even agree on the interpretation of the ones they know.
I am told that there are some 12,000 new federal, state and local legislative laws a year in this country. That’s an average of 50 every business day! Granted, many may not affect you and me, but which ones do and which ones don’t? Who is law abiding? No one! The many legislative edicts that you and I undoubtedly break every day without knowing it would probably not move us to change our ways if they all of a sudden became known. This is aside from the ones we knowingly break, but couldn’t care less.
A4 “I usually get the impression that it is only a matter of pragmatics and gentleman’s temperament.“
A4. Response: Yes, I would partially agree. There are laws that punish acts that need no government, and laws (legislation) that exist only for the perpetuation of government. Those that need no government deal with matters of conflicts, such as property disputes, breach of contracts, injuries, etc. These laws evolved spontaneously as a matter of custom without government. Legislative statues almost exclusively deal with regulatory issues that give credence to and perpetuate the existence and growth of government. These so-called laws intrude into the private dealings of peaceful individuals and, as such, reduce the efficacy of markets to solve problems and increase well-being. Markets are no different than natural selection, where a feedback system supports the survival and proliferation of more effective solutions over less effective ones. The way future markets will solve problems and make life better is no more predictable than predicting the structure of a new species. Since no one can predict future markets, regulators (central planners) who intervene force markets to bear a greater cost (time and energy) in their natural heuristic evolution to solve problems. Markets need rules, but those rules evolve naturally as a matter of choice by those who find them to be personally beneficial and pragmatic. Anarchy is not a society without governance or rules, but one without government.
Laws that evolve by customary means (arbiters resolving disputes) are adopted based on a pragmatic feedback system providing members of the community new and innovative ways to resolve disputes. These types of laws help stabilize society, increasing the planning horizon for its members. Law markets compete, and those that gain a good reputation, gain revenue and profits. You and I would probably comply with these laws, irrespective of government’s role. In regard to legislative statues that exist for government’s sake, I will comply when I find the cost of compliance less than the cost of non-compliance. I would imagine this is your guide as well, since it is pragmatic. In regard to these types of “laws,” the gentleman part of my temperament, as you see it, is only superficial and, for the most part, kept that way because full disclosure would be detrimental to my health. Martyrdom is not my cup of tea! However, maybe the gentleman part is that I love life and try to make the best of whatever becomes part of it. I make choices, and those choices include the payment of taxes and compliance with many intrusive laws. Whatever I choose is within the framework of the world around me. You may see laws and legislation differently than I, but then that is the main theme of my individualist position. You guide your life by what makes sense to you, and I by what makes sense to me. While we each go about life adopting what makes sense and rejecting what doesn’t, we also are trying to convince the other of why. I don’t see conflict when ideas are adopted, be they different for different folks. However, conflict and confusion are inevitable when “laws” are enacted that physically prohibit or restrict the peaceful exercise of adverse views.
Those who condone the use of physical force against pacifists (including individual anarchists) endorse the notion that those who wield that force have a position of superiority and privilege over the lives of others. That superiority must be of a divine source, because there is nothing in the observable world where such a notion has a moral, logical or factual standing. I find the proclamation of my subordination to the state to make about as much sense as if I were to proclaim it to be subordinate to me. There is no life to which mine is subordinate, nor is there a life subordinate to mine. That is what the idea of individualism is all about … it is that simple.
B. “I further have the impression that you basically consider all taxes as theft and feel that it is unjust that the government take any at all; at the end of the day, you don’t rightly owe anything”.
B1. …”you basically consider all taxes as theft“
B1. Response: Your impression is correct. I do basically consider all government tax as theft, but if you consider that which they get from you personally in taxes as a volitional act on your part, then you are certainly free to consider it what you wish. However, those of us who do not see the payment as volitional prefer to call it what it is: theft. It is taking from us involuntarily that which we consider ours. If I consider that which I have produced and acquired as mine and do not agree to the takings, to call it other than theft or plunder or looting or confiscation or extortion or the like is misleading. Some take the position that nothing is owned, and that which we claim as ours is being rented; making tax payments simply rent obligations. What nonsense! If I don’t own the house I live in and the property upon which it sits, or the fruits of my labor, then how does it follow that someone else does? If someone else does, then how did his or her claim become superior to mine? Kings used this reasoning by claiming a divine right to such takings. Governments continue this divine-like privileged position.
When the imaginary concept of the divine right of kings lost sway to the imaginary concept of individual natural rights, philosophers devised a new imaginary concept to retrieve the very same privileges for rulers that were being threatened, to wit: the social contract. This so-called social contract is neither a contract nor is it social. A contract is a consentual agreement that presupposes a right for parties to opt out. Without the right to opt out, it is not a contract. “Social” is a friendly relationship, the antithesis of force. The “social contract” is simply a proclamation backed by physical force that all who reside within the geographical boundaries claimed by a ruler are by that fact consenting subjects to his edict. In principle, the effect is no different than that of a divine right; however, in practice the concept seems to yield far more plunder.
Governments could not acquire the amount of their takings by brute force; the cost of doing so would simply be too great. Propaganda about the righteousness of their takings obviates the need for costly combat. The state is only able to continually plunder such enormous amounts by declaring that taxing is not theft and portraying its payment as one’s patriotic duty, by scaring the hell out of most everyone with their heavy-handed reputation, by forcing every employer to become a tax collector and by offering rewards to informants of tax “cheaters.”
Why not avoid the sophistry and call taxes what they are, and simply say theft (takings, if you prefer) by government people is good, moral, pragmatic and productive, while theft by non-government people is bad, immoral and non-productive. How does one reconcile that an act done by a person wearing a government badge is good for society, while the same act by a person without a badge is bad for society? The Mafia doesn’t use the word “theft” either when it extorts money from its “patrons.” Why? Because that would remove the “dignity” of it all, (paraphrasing Diego Gambetta).
From a definitional standpoint, theft by another name or conducted by another entity is still theft. From an economic standpoint, what evidence or reasoning is there that the economy is better (more prosperous, just and peaceful) with the coercive arm of takings than without it? Would you agree that if every bit of one’s production were confiscated the very moment it is produced that it would be a detriment to the general welfare? If your answer is yes, then I would ask why it is a detriment. Upon what reasoning or economic principle would you base your conclusion that immediate theft (or whatever name one wishes to assign the act) of everything is detrimental? In short, why is theft bad? If you consider complete confiscation to be bad (however you wish to define bad), but not partial confiscation, then I would ask, “How much do you have to reduce the level of confiscation before it becomes good, and why?”
In other words, is there a magic level of theft (takings) that produces a positive sum game? If so, how is it determined and who determines it? Even if a level of a sort were determined, why would that level not apply to the Mafia or other non-institutionalized forms of theft?
The answer to the negative effects of theft does not require an examination of historical evidence (although much is available); simple reasoning can refute the idea of theft as a “social good.” I covered this in “Inclined to Liberty.”
B2 “…you basically consider all taxes as theft) and feel that it is unjust that the government take any at all.”
B2. Response: While government tax is an act of theft, I would hesitate to call the takings unfair or unjust. “Theft” defines an act, where as “just” or “fair” implies a judgment of an actor or act. To judge a thief as unfair gives his act of theft a possible sense of fairness. To say a tax is unfair connotes that such tax could be fair if only it were lower, higher or not applicable. It could be unfairly low in the eyes of recipients or unfairly high in the eyes of the plundered or claimed to be unfair because of its purported reason, e.g., cigarette tax to subsidize healthcare.
Since one should expect government to do what governments do, it would be meaningless to judge them or their acts on the basis of fairness. Governments are in the taking and coercing business. How can a thief or a state act unjustly without implying that such acts are somehow dependent on who it is and the outcome of the act? If a bank robber gives half the loot to the poor, does he now become a Good Samaritan instead of a thief? If someone breaks into my house, I may shoot him, but I would find it foolish to accuse him of being unjust; that’s what thieves do.
Another reason I hesitate to use the words “fair” and “just” is because they seem so trite. To say something or someone isn’t fair or just often connotes the playing of a sympathy card, when one doesn’t get what he wants or feels he deserves. Also, the words have lost their sense of meaning. We are constantly bombarded with the words “just” and “fair” as meaningless slogans to moralize the affairs of state and the words “unjust” and “unfair” to demoralize those who are too well-off. The legislative laws that are forced upon people are always packaged as “just,” since those who proclaim them as such are the same ones who impose them. The list of such acts includes a just war, a just tax, a just rule, a just prohibition, a just confiscation, a just condemnation, etc. You name it; they’re all “just” – just ask them! As mentioned above, state propaganda reduces resistance to their chicanery by mentally conditioning the populace into accepting such acts as just and necessary.
Those who consider the government tax on them to be voluntary, just and fair, so be it. That is between them and their tax collector, the same as it would be between a merchant and me. Would you not consider me forcing you to pay my merchant as nonsensical as you forcing me to pay yours? The use of force exemplifies the very essence of what the state is all about. Advocates of the state as an exalted master see mastery as a better, fairer and more just system of human interaction than one based on volitional interaction. Those who accept the state as their master are certainly at liberty to do so, since those who find it otherwise do not deny them that choice. The slave who wishes to be free does not stand in the way of those who wish to serve a master. Well, you may say, the state can’t allow freedom to those who wish it; otherwise, the next thing you know everyone will want to be free, and then where would we be?
This is the very crux of my individual anarchist position. The reason some see government as making good sense where I don’t is simply because I’m not them, and vice versa. I do not impose upon others the definitions I use to describe taxes nor stand in their way of paying them. Individualism means making the most out of one’s own life and not that of others. Well, you may say that my life would be better, as would the lives of others, if we were not allowed to make choices based on our preferences or to run our lives as we see fit; that what we see fit is not in our best interest. In other words, what a statist sees fit is what everyone must see fit.
I know you don’t approve of everything the government does, since you’ve expressed several of them to me. Your opposition to the Vietnam War was admirable in my eyes. So, since you don’t agree with all that the government does, are we only at odds because I approve of none and you approve of some? If the government were to stop doing all the things of which you approve, leaving only those things of which you disapprove, would you then become an anarchist? Would you then consider your tax payment as a tacit approval of all they do, or would you find such payments repugnant?
B2a. Disapproved government action: This relates to the comment you made after one of our classes (5-29-07) in which you took issue with the government’s support of the Religious Right in their quest to promulgate their beliefs. You see such action to be in violation of the Constitution and the principle “separation of church and state.” You implied that you did not want religion to be forced upon you, and the government had neither the right nor the business in assisting them to do so.
I agree with you that helping believers in Christ and the Bible to force their way into the lives and at the expense of non-believers is downright wrong. But is it any more wrong in principle than helping believers in the state (Bush being the current prophet) and the Constitution to force their way into the lives and at the expense of non-believers (anarchists)?
Can the teaching of creationism (intelligent design) in state schools, as Bush is proposing, be anywhere near as damaging as the preaching of the state’s miraculous creation of wealth by changing paper into money, the miracle of free lunches, the miraculous creation of fairness and justice out of coercion and the miraculous conception of peace and righteousness out of war and theft? Of course not! It is irrational to prevent the teaching of one myth, while endorsing a litany of far more damaging ones.
If you don’t like Christians (particularly creationist) beating down your door with their spiel of moral values and creationism, how do you find solace in having politicians beating down the doors of non-statists (mine in particular) with their spiel of so-called values and righteousness? I’d rather they both stay away from mine, but if I had to take one, let the Christians knock.
If you support the Constitution, there is much in it that would make almost all federal intrusions, prohibitions and subsidies of today, well, unconstitutional. But there are those who say it’s a living constitution, and what is in vogue is in vogue constitutionally. Well if that’s the case, then privileges and concessions to churches, farmers, businesses and anyone else are up for grabs, and if the powers-that-be find it advantageous to their livelihood and re-election, then so be it. Oh yes, there will be sides taken and battles fought, but in principle, those who fight for the imposition of one belief are no different than those who fight for the imposition of another. Over ten thousand newly endorsed state beliefs surface from these battles every year that force you and me to comply accordingly, as well as to pay for their enforcement.
In principle, does the person who points to the words of a document written by a few people some two hundred years ago as his authority to tell us what to do have any greater position of authority to do so than someone who points to the words of a book written by a few people some two thousand years ago?
The state is a religion with believers claiming to be superior to and more privileged than those who don’t believe (anarchists). As idolatries go, which is the more vicious and the more forceful in making others comply with their beliefs: the state or the Christians? Both require allegiance and subservience to an idol, be it ruler or prophet, and rely on scriptures of a sort as their authorizing source. However, the state religion demands unanimity of allegiance and employs physical force to attain it, whereas Christianity solicits concurrence with its beliefs without the need for unanimity (at least in recent years). The tenets of the Decalogue spell out some damn good imperatives that we generally consider quintessential in human affairs. Many Christians unfortunately go beyond those tenets and, in fact, even violate them, particularly when it comes to their involvement with politics. While Christianity can be lived and taught without coercion, the state, instead, cannot avoid coercion, since its very nature requires it.
Imagine the level of divisiveness in this country if we were to decide whose idolatry would rule the land based on a democratic vote: that of Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, etc. Those representing the most favored idolatry during the prescribed period would have the right to force all others to comply with their programs and to obtain by force the financial support for their promulgation. Depending on the ideology in power, everyone would be forced to adjust his or her life accordingly; even atheists could be forced to attend church. I think you would agree that such a concept is crazy and, if adopted, would lead to disharmony and chaos. Political democracy, like a religious democracy, is a recipe for disharmony and chaos too, because it forces everyone to take sides in a battle for the ruling idolatry. The one-idolatry-fits-all concept of the political state encourages corruption on all sides at everyone’s expense. Daily, in virtually every newspaper and news broadcast there are reports on the chaotic and corrupt world of politics. Routinely, some political idol is being deified, while another is being demonized. Around election time there’s little news other than the D idols and R idols trying to crucify each other, the people of red and the people of blue lambasting each other and the people of green trying to snooker all the above. The freedom for each person to choose his own idol, or none at all, is the least divisive, because there are no requirements for unanimity.
B3. “at the end of the day, you don’t rightly owe anything [to government]”
B3. Response: Your observation is correct, but behind that I sense that you believe I should feel otherwise. To reinforce your observation and give you a more vivid sense of my feelings about what I owe government, let me try the following:
Imagine you and I were living in Germany during WWII and were taxed knowing that the funds collected were being used to exterminate millions of innocent Jews and those who opposed the regime. Would you consider the tax to be fair, just or right? If this image turns your stomach, as I imagine it does, then imagine how mine turns when I see untold lives being lost in whole or in part by the very government to whom I “contribute” funds, knowing that those funds will help them continue what I see to be despotic, cruel and inhuman. (The so-called wars on poverty and drugs are just two examples of the government’s perniciousness.) If I were braver or smarter, I would not contribute a dime. How brave would you or I have been in this imaginary Germany? For myself, while it would make me sick to my stomach to pay, I would probably do so in the same vein as I am doing now.
C. “Some of your notions of personal responsibility resonate with me. During my college experience in the early 60’s (in the S.F. Bay area of all places) the first philosophic theories to move me were Plato and then Existentialism (I’ve probably never had a strong need for consistency!) Existentialism was then very in vogue and seemed to fit in with our freedom of speech, civil rights, and anti-war movements and I was moderately involved in all of that. Existential notions of personal responsibility are also an essential part of how I conduct my psychoanalytic practice. I approach the people I see as much from an existential psychoanalytic viewpoint, articulated by Binswanger and others, as I do from the formal Freudian psychoanalytic tradition in which I was trained.”
C1. “Some of your notions of personal responsibility resonate with me” “Existential notions of personal responsibility are also an essential part of how I conduct my psychoanalytic practice.“
C1. Response: Since encouraging personal responsibility for one’s life is a beneficial tool in psychiatry, are there times when one should be encouraged to take less responsibility for some aspect of his life? Can one who takes responsibility for his life take other than every last bit of it? In other words, can we be responsible for some but not for other parts of our lives? It would seem that an endorsement of personal responsibility as a benefit could not at the same time include an endorsement of entitlements that others are forced to provide. In this respect, an egalitarian state (probably all democratic states) would only thwart the potential benefits of personal responsibility, since it imposes economic equality based on the notion that one man’s need is another man’s responsibility.
From a strictly biological point of view, self-reliance and personal responsibility are a fact of life. One must rely on his own means or resources to acquire his needs. Whether one relies on work, skill, charm, deceit or force, the means to acquisition reside with him. However, the self-reliance we admire in a person is not merely his ability to acquire needs, but the way he conducts himself in acquiring them. We encourage our children to be self-reliant in an industrious and responsible way. One can acquire his needs vis-à-vis another person volitionally or non-volitionally. In a non-volitional acquisition, one will resort to physical force, the threat of physical force, deceit or stealth. Those who employ such means of acquisition, while self-reliant in a strict sense, are generally not worthy of our admiration in a virtuous sense.
D. What I find missing from your account, which the existentialists seem to have (unless I misread them, in which case Martin will then correct me, I hope) is the idea of “thrownness”, especially Heidegger and Sartre, and I don’t cite these fellows as any appeal to authority, just my lack of originality. We are thrown into a particular time and place. A particular family, country, and other particular situations, say war (fascism for them and perhaps a “post 9/11 world” for us.) We didn’t choose these situations into which we were thrown, but we need to choose them, be responsible for them, in order to more truly exercise our freedom. Because of our thrownness, existential guilt is unavoidable and in that sense it is not at all a neurotic guilt, but a realistic guilt that is only exacerbated by not stepping up to it.
D1. “What I find missing from your account… is the idea of “Thrownness.”
D1. Response: You’re right. I didn’t mention Thrownness specifically. I’m not versed on Thrownness and have garnered only a sense of its philosophical meaning by way of Wikipedia.
We find ourselves in a body not of our making and a world not of our choice. This may mean that we are not responsible for much of what we are, but the part for which we are responsible is the life we are here to live. I can only start where and into which I have been thrown. The odds that I was even born are beyond calculation. The odds that my life is now, that I had wonderful parents, that I live in California, etc., ad infinitum, are not without astonishment and gratitude. But to whom is it owed? If Thrownness is something we must take into account, what do we do in order to account for it? Is there an obligation of tribute to nature for throwing me in the here and now? I have debts of gratitude in that regard that cannot be repaid in any way other than to make the best of what I am in the here and now. One is fortunate who is able to make a meaningful life out of whatever life he has been thrown into. It seems that if a life is to be meaningful, the person living it must do its making. This would leave the truly rewarding life to those who accept its full responsibility and consider entitlements a threat to its full realization.
Making the best of your life is the best way for others to make the best of theirs. It is not a debt to others; it is an understanding that doing what is best for you is indirectly doing what is best for others. This is the essence of individual freedom and free markets, where one’s acquisition of happiness is more easily realized when others are free to acquire theirs.
D2. “We are thrown into a particular time and place. A particular family, country, and other particular situations, say war (fascism for them and perhaps a “post 9/11 world” for us.). We didn’t choose these situations into which we were thrown, but we need to choose them, be responsible for them, in order to more truly exercise our freedom.
D2. Response: If we didn’t choose the time and place into which we were thrown, then how can it follow that we must choose them? Maybe you mean make the best of it, accept them or live with them. Events such as war or 9/11 are the works of certain people, but not all people. To live in the same neighborhood as a thief does not make one responsible for his acts. That idea would open the door to thievery by making the bank clerk responsible for the bank robber’s act of shooting her.
What is achieved by making one feel responsible for another person’s act? Does it change the world or anyone for the better? If all of a sudden I felt responsible for 9/11, have I improved matters? If so, where would I look to find the improvement? To me, you may say. Well, where in myself does such a feeling give me a better life, and what would I do about all the other despicable events in the world of which I am not even aware? Do I spend my life looking for despicable acts in the world so I can feel better by taking on more responsibility for the acts of others? This view would seem to give the individual little sense of accomplishment, by making his life and his acts the responsibility of someone else.
D3. “…in order to more truly exercise our freedom.”
D3. Response: Human action is not an exercise of freedom; it is an exercise of preferences. Freedom to act cannot be allowed; it can only be restricted.
D4. Because of our thrownness, existential guilt is unavoidable and in that sense it is not at all a neurotic guilt, but a realistic guilt that is only exacerbated by not stepping up to it.
D4. Response: I’m not clear about the guilt to which you refer. Does it mean that there is a natural guilt that lurks behind the normal guilt we feel when we violate our own code of values? There is an emotion that emerges when others conduct themselves in ways that are in conflict with our own set of values. The feeling doesn’t seem to match that of guilt, but then maybe it does. How does one step up to such guilt? How do I step up to 9/11?
I find stepping up to guilt as a means to reduce its pain to make little sense when one is not responsible for an event, but then I’m not trained in such matters. Going to confession for the remorse of one’s sins may be stepping up to and getting rid of guilt, but to do so for all the rest of humanity is a circular and never satisfying process. If I’m responsible for someone else’s despicable act, then they become responsible for mine. If I were to kill someone, should all society suffer the guilt, because everyone needs to be responsible for it? When others assume the guilt of my despicable act, will I feel better and will those who assume the guilt also feel better?
Should I assume that my guilt for acts such as 9/11 would only emerge if I were aware of them? And when I do become aware and try to step up to it, what do I actually do?
I’m not sure this is what you mean, but if it is, then the entire notion of self-reliance and individual responsibility would go out the window. Facing up to a despicable act of one’s own doing may be a means to reduce one’s guilt or shame, but doing so for acts by others with whom one has little or no discernable connection, I find difficult to fathom, but I‘m open to an education. If I understand you correctly (I suspect I don’t), there’s a lot of stepping up to do, particularly for an anarchist who should feel guilty for all those despicable acts perpetrated by those in government who use their coercive arm to destroy untold lives and livelihoods. For that matter, even non-anarchists should be stepping up to those acts, which are routinely far more devastating than those of 9/11.
In conclusion, I fear that I have either misread or misunderstood your comment and, if so, I apologize for the answers and questions that my misinterpretation triggered.
E. “So I want to repeat my question in this context. You were thrown into a family that took good care of you. What did you owe them? You were thrown into a country that offered you tremendous opportunities. Not just roads and safety, but a crucial public education, a stable financial system and enough rule of law (perhaps relatively exceptional in human history) upon which you could build a wonderful life. What do you owe the government into which you were thrown and within whose advantages you have flourished? I would suggest that the fact of our existential thrownness refutes such a radical “individual anarchism”? But, I suspect you won’t agree”.
E1. “You were thrown into a family that took good care of you. What did you owe them?”
E1. Response: I hope that my anarchist statement that no one owes me anything wasn’t mistakenly taken to mean that I owe nothing to others as well. I’m obligated to others only as I am so inclined, and others are obligated to me only as they are so inclined. Yes, I am grateful for my heritage and have been more fortunate than I deserve. The debt of gratitude to my parents is not a payable debt – it is ongoing. Self-reliance and responsibility were the key lessons of my father, and as lessons go, I find none more rewarding.
A debt of gratitude can’t be satisfied, it can only be felt, and when no longer felt, it is no longer owed. We use the term “a debt of gratitude” as though we can repay it, and yet we can’t. As a debtor to those who have made my life such a pleasure, I can only feel and express my deepest gratitude. My debt can never be repaid in whole or in part. I refer mainly to the inventors, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, risk takers, entertainers, philosophers, visionaries and the like.
This feeling of gratitude is a mental state that has zero bearing on the person to whom it is owed. One can express his feeling to the person owed or to others, but the feeling itself remains with the one experiencing it. If one fails to have a feeling of gratitude where another thinks such feeling is due, what can be done? It could be brought to the realization of a would-be debtor, but it doesn’t make sense (to me) that a benefit is gained by compelling one to fill the void with a feeling of guilt or shame. There may well be benefits gained when one comes to the realization that a debt of gratitude is owed, but those benefits can’t be gained by force or shame.
E2. “You were thrown into a country that offered you tremendous opportunities. Not just roads and safety, but a crucial public education, a stable financial system and enough rule of law (perhaps relatively exceptional in human history) upon which you could build a wonderful life. What do you owe the government into which you were thrown and within whose advantages you have flourished?
E2. Response: You make a major assumption that without X, Y would not exist. How is it that without government, justice, property, education, roads, financial systems and laws would not exist? None of these things originated with government. They all existed and were developed before or outside of government. There is not a single item you mention that has some mysterious need for coercion in order to cause its happening, or for that matter to cause happenings that are superior to those attainable by volitional means. While government can force the production of that which is visible, the unseen effects of such force are the goods and services that do not exist because the time and energy required for their production was diverted to the production of that which is seen.
Governments plunder and coerce people to produce things that many view as miraculous. We see edifices, systems and services that involve government activity and assume that the human activity that brought them about would not have occurred had it not been for government’s ability to plunder and coerce. Will a government person have more insight to what people really desire than a free market person? Almost never!
If the Mafia used extorted money to build a church, some may reason that without the Mafia there would be no church. Another may argue that a church is not what is needed, and that the money should have been used to build a school or hospital. Others may argue that the building of houses and roads would be a better use of the money. How should the money be used and who should decide – you, me, those being extorted or the extortionist? Human time, ingenuity and energy build roads, schools, churches and hospitals and, if such use of that energy is more efficient by way of coercion, then we should use coercion in all endeavors. Yes, with coercion cotton gets picked and roads get built, but the use of human resources to do so in such a manner is pitifully inefficient, not to mention inhuman as well.
Evaluating events without taking into account the unseen, i.e., the preempted effects that would have otherwise come about if the seen events had not occurred is how kings and presidents are often measured for greatness. The Flavian emperors are admired for having caused the building of the coliseum with ten thousand slaves. Today we see this spectacular edifice and imagine how much it would be missed if they had not caused it. But we can’t see what does not exist, i.e., the things that would have been produced, but were not allowed to come about. Yes, there may not have been a coliseum or other such edifices to admire today, but maybe there would; we can’t say. We can’t deny that the human time and energy devoted towards the building of such “wonders” by force were diverted from the production of something that people would have otherwise brought about.
Governments don’t produce – people do! Teachers educate, engineers build roads, financiers create financial markets, arbiters resolve disputes, guards provide safety and doctors supply healthcare; these are very real people. But these same people do not become more brilliant, energetic, efficient, creative or superhuman at the hands of government. The facts are overly abundant that the very opposite is engendered in people when at the hands of government.
Our views of government education, financial systems and the rule of law differ greatly. You (and probably most others) see them as crucial, stable and just, respectively. I see state education as one of the most destructive ventures into the marketplace, the central banking financial system as chaotic and the state rule of law a circus. Oh yes, it could be much worse here and it is much worse in other places, but a preference of one government over another is not an endorsement of the system.
And, yes, I am very happy to have been thrown here rather than some other place or at some other time. But that happiness does not desensitize my feelings of disgust when I see the destructive and inhuman activity of the state.
E3. I would suggest that the fact of our existential thrownness refutes such a radical “individual anarchism”? But, I suspect you won’t agree.”
Response: You say “radical” as though it is a bad or negative view. Radical views are those that are considered too extreme by those who represent the norm. And those holding such views are considered radicals. Does it not seem strange that an individual anarchist whose philosophy is simply one of living one’s own life as he sees fit, who assumes full responsibility for his life, who seeks no entitlements from or the indulgences of others, who holds no man’s life subordinate to another’s, who encourages voluntarism and abhors coercion is seen as fanatical and somehow threatening? Radical it may be, but not because it is dangerous, but simply because it is in extreme contrast to the views of those who condone a social structure that abhors individual freedom. What is the concern or fear about someone who simply says, “You live your life as you wish and I’ll live mine as I wish”? I’m reminded of H.L. Mencken’s famous statement, “A Puritan is one who lies awake at night with the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is having fun.”
If the state is so necessary, so marvelous, so attractive and so just, why do its advocates need to force people to adopt it? Is that not peculiar? The need for force exemplifies the weakness of the argument that governments and rulers represent a superior social structure. Those who don’t endorse the state are not preventing those who wish to from doing so. What is so sacrosanct about government that those who do not wish to participate in the skullduggery as they see it must be forced to see it as glamorous? Isn’t it strange that those who condone theft at unimaginable levels, who force men to fight and kill those with whom they have no quarrel, who incarcerate those who volitionally share their wares and bodies, who punish those who retain their earnings and who force persons out of their homes as somehow good and sane…and yes, non-radical. Doesn’t that position or reasoning sound a bit strange? So if one wants to be accepted into society as a non-radical, he must condone all those despicable activities that are considered social norms and the state of affairs that many find endearing. Does it not ring of insanity? My God, why it doesn’t ring that way for everyone is what astounds me. Of course if it did ring that way, then those suggesting coercion, thievery and killing as a better social framework would be the radicals. (For a taste of a really radical view of the state, try Nietzsche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra: On the New Idol” (chapter 11).)
Now to your Existential Thrownness point: According to Wikipedia: “Existentialism is a philosophical movement in which individual human beings are understood as having full responsibility for creating the meanings of their own lives.” Doesn’t that sound like individual anarchism? Also in Wikipedia: “Thrownness is a concept by Heidegger used to describe the interactions with our surroundings in the everyday life.” That too exemplifies individualism. Existential Thrownness does not refute individual anarchism; it epitomizes it.
Existentialism recognizes the individual as sacrosanct, living to the fullest the life into which he has been thrown and giving meaning to that life without requiring the same meaning for others. Individuals make decisions based on what has meaning to them, and those meanings can’t be democratized.
To say that one is thrown into a world not of his choice does not mean that once you arrive, there are no further choices. The choices (preferences) begin where you find yourself. I don’t see how those choices can be other than individualistic. Granted, those choices are influenced by all the other individual choices being made and one operates in a network of acting agents, but each agent acts based on his unique knowledge, instincts, intuitions and beliefs. I see no refutation of anarchism with existentialism or Thrownness, but instead I see in them the very essence of individual anarchism.
F. “I would also question some of what you say as too black and white. Surely, not all bad consequences are the result of bad judgments. And self-reliance is surely a good, but not “the good”..…neither do I see how free markets and maximum efficiency in getting products to consumers can be “the good” that trumps all others (though I would immediately grant that these are also generally good things deserving some pragmatic consideration.) Our argument on the latter is probably getting tiresome, so respond, if you it pleases you, to the new question puzzling me, “What do you owe?”. ”
F1. “I would also question some of what you say as too black and white.”
F1. Response: This is a very thought provoking observation and one that I’m sure many others share. Should one express views about politics, government and ethics that others find appealing, or should one express the views held? “Too black and white” connotes a stubborn application of a principle of broad applicability that does not allow for moderation. My views on politics and ethics stem from the application of some very simple basic principles that are not viable if moderated. With a view (belief) that no man is entitled to the life of another, I can’t help but be inflexible when applying this view to politics and ethics. If the view is wrong, it is simply wrong, but I can’t temper the view without voiding it. Of course my views on politics and ethics will seem too black and white; they seem that way because the principles from which they stem are black and white.
We hold beliefs for the sake of something else, but the “for the sake of something else” ends at the point where we find ourselves saying, “Just because that’s what I believe.” For example: One may believe in taxes for the sake of aid, and believe in aid for the sake of equality, and believe in equality for the sake of justice, and believe in justice for the sake of fairness, and believe in fairness for the sake of humanity, and believe in humanity for the sake of God and believe in God just because ….period!
Some libertarians believe in liberty for its moral sake and/or its economic sake, and/or its natural sake and/or simply for its own sake. We may not be able to articulate the most basic reasons as to why we hold beliefs, but whatever they are is who we are.
What we are is that which gives meaning to our own life, whether or not it is rational. It seems to me that any belief is better than no belief at all. Beliefs bring meaning to life; without them we would wander about directionless, simply regurgitating what others tell us and saying whatever others want to hear. Yes, to do so may be politically correct in today’s world, but it would reflect a senseless and robotic life. The beliefs that bring you satisfaction and fulfillment are as unique to you as mine are to me. So if my views seem too black and white to you and your’s too inconsistent to me, what do we do? We do exactly what we are doing here; you question, I respond, I question, you respond. And in the process our beliefs are changed or confirmed accordingly. Life is a never-ending search for its meaning, and different views by different folks can’t help but facilitate that search.
What is enlightenment other than the freedom to use one’s knowledge and reason to understand the world and not to simply accept or echo the understanding of others: to paraphrase Immanuel Kant (I hope correctly)?
F2. …“not all bad consequences are the result of bad judgments.”
F2. Response: The statement I made was “Good judgments result in favorable consequences, while poor judgments result in unfavorable consequences.” Your quote is in reverse order, and uses “bad” instead of “unfavorable.” The word “bad” can connote a universal nature to consequences and judgments, while the words “favorable” and “unfavorable” can only be relegated to the perception of the acting agent. The words “favorable” and “unfavorable” in this respect would be similar to “desirable” and “undesirable.” What is deemed favorable to one may be unfavorable to another. Also, a bad consequence, as you state it, can occur from other than one’s judgment. You may be hit by an airplane part while standing in your front yard, which is the consequence of a malfunction, gravity and inertia. This may have nothing to do with poor judgment. If, however, you stand in your front yard during an overhead air battle and get hit by a falling plane part, you might consider it due, at least in part, to poor judgment.
We infer from life’s experiences that there is causality or conjunction in the world. We observe and learn about relationships between events, and form beliefs accordingly. Based on those beliefs (assumptions), we act with the expectation of achieving goals. Additionally, from our beliefs we predict outcomes of given theoretical or actual events. Since our beliefs stem from imperfect knowledge, we intuitively assign degrees of confidence or probability to them. The more correctly we understand nature’s relationships, the more successful our actions. “Happy is the man who knows the causes of things.” (Virgil, Eclogues, I.)
As we experience the consequences of our actions, we cultivate those judgments and actions that lead to desirable consequences and cull out those that lead to undesirable consequences. What I said was not any major departure from the norm; I simply said that good choices are better than poor choices. But the point of this rather mundane base was to posit that, if the effects of poor choices by one are offset (made less onerous) by the transfer of effects of good choices by another, the incentive for being prudent in making future choices is diminished. In sum, offsetting the effects of good and poor choices hinders the efficacy of cultivating and culling choices. State entitlement programs greatly hinder this process, as can indiscriminate private programs that simply provide continuous and expected handouts.
The natural cultivation of better choices is the essence of natural selection, which is a feedback system where positive feedback from a given behavior results in its proliferation, and a negative (or less positive) feedback results in its diminution.
As a thought experiment, name any political leader who has a greater understanding than you of the nature and causality of things that are near and dear to you. We can compare names!
F3. …”self-reliance is surely a good, but not “the good.”
F3. Response: Self-reliance is a state of mind that assumes the full responsibility for one’s life. Self-reliance in this sense is in contrast to self-entitlement, i.e., forcing someone else to become responsible for your life. I didn’t claim self-reliance to be “the good,” but since you claim it as surely not “the good,” I ask why not? If you don’t consider self-reliance as “the good,” would you accept self-entitlement to be a candidate for one of opposites of that which would qualify as “the good”? It would seem to me that whatever qualifies as “the good” would have to first not violate individual liberty.
Aristotle boiled-down “the good” to be “happiness,” and I doubt he meant other than individual happiness, since happiness can only be judged by the one living the life that is striving to achieve it.
F4. “neither do I see how free markets and maximum efficiency in getting products to consumers can be “the good” that trumps all others.” (though I would immediately grant that these are also generally good things deserving some pragmatic consideration.)
F4. Response: Free markets involve volitional exchanges between people expressing what they believe and want to do. Of course the market includes more than physical products; it includes education, advice, religious services, art, charity, entertainment, yoga and ideas. Physical interference with this process prevents some people from doing what they want to do, while forcing others to do what they don’t want to do. Such interference denies the ethics underlying the free expression of beliefs and the freedom to accept or reject the beliefs of others.
A free market is not severable into products and ideas; both relate to subjective preferences. A seeker of truth cannot at the same time suppress the free expression of those with beliefs and preferences that are contrary to his. A statist (socialist) cannot be a seeker of truth, since his very nature requires the suppression of freedom. Socialistic programs will always fail, because the human action they suppress will naturally and eventually find their way to market. Socialistic programs don’t succeed; they just get replaced with new ones. Lessons may not get learned, but the market will nevertheless prevail (although at greater expense) to express man’s nature. In that respect, the market will trump those who claim and plan “the good” to be other than what the market does.
Efficiency of free markets is not a goal, nor is it “the good,” but the individual freedom to participate in or to abstain from that market may well be. A free market cannot force nor prevent participation. You imply by your question that there are better things in the world than consumer goods. You are certainly right, but who should choose which things in life are better or qualify as “the good” – the ones living that life or someone else?
F5. “Our argument on the latter is probably getting tiresome, so respond, if you it pleases you, to the new question puzzling me, “What do you owe?”
F5. Response: Your questions are never more tiresome than my responses. To respond to your question directly, I could simply say, “Nothing other than what I consider owed,” and leave it at that, but it would miss the point of your question. “What do you owe?” implies “Don’t you believe you owe something?” For you to ask why I should owe something when I don’t considered it owed would be the same as for me to ask you why you should owe something when you consider it owed. Should I feel an obligation that I don’t feel and you not feel an obligation that you do feel? Behind your question lurks the insinuation that my lack of feeling for an obligation to government is inconsiderate, considering all the things it does for me. Well, I hope by this time I have reached the point where your question about what I owe government is no longer puzzling. Of course a bigger hope would be for you to reach the point where your obligation to government is on par with mine. But then what would we do, just sit around and talk about girls?
All respects for the good life and friends to give it spirit! Thanks for the friendship, without you I would have missed too much. My debt to you is a debt I will always cherish.
I have no right to freedom and have as much as I deserve. Neither a state nor anyone else is obligated to provide me freedom. The exercise of my will and any resulting consequences are matters of judgment for which I hold no other responsible. If I had freedom to exercise my will without interference, I would fly. Gravity owes me no more freedom to fly than my neighbor owes me the freedom to paint my house green. I am aware that actions and inactions have consequences, and some consequences are preferred over others. Good judgments result in favorable consequences, while poor judgments result in unfavorable consequences. To make one person responsible for another’s poor judgment is conducive to making haphazard judgments, since critical consideration of one’s actions becomes less consequential. When states get out of the way of equalizing consequences, people will take greater care in the judgments they make relative to their acts and perceived consequences. Self-reliance is a better tool to peace and prosperity within a societal structure than is the tool of state-reliance, because it promotes a greater perceived value of prudence. My motivation as an individual anarchist is to seek an understanding of my life and attempt to structure it based on what makes sense to me. I do not seek a universal societal structure that serves my beliefs. My opposition to those who represent the state or other forms of institutionalized coercion is their claim of eminent domain over the lives of their subjects. I find their claim of domain over my life to be invalid and false. For me to believe their claim would be to mentally enslave myself. How others view such claims over their lives is their business. Some may feel it necessary and rewarding to partake in the selection of a new claimant periodically; I find such participation for myself degrading. The idea that freedom to vote makes one free is false. It is no less slavery when one is allowed to select their master every few years. To be free is to believe your life is of your creation and domain and not the creation or domain of a demagogue. Demagogues and their advocates lure their victims by demeaning self-reliance. Without self-reliance someone else becomes responsible for your life – a very attractive, hypnotic notion. “Why become responsible for anything? Just sit back and enjoy the ride through life at the expense and obligation of someone else.” I find the notion of giving up my life too great a price to pay for such a ride.
Lou Carabini, 2004
July 13, 2012
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