Libertarians living off tax money is unethical, but it’s an even bigger practical problem. It shows that living without the government teat is impossible, that living on theft is the only way. It is philosophically damaging to the idea of a voluntary society. It is also bad marketing to people who ask questions like “who will build the roads?”
There will never be a day when we simply “get rid of government”, such that everything is perfectly free. This is because no one wants to be the first to give up their government goodies. Just as unilateral free trade is better than mutual protectionism, unilateral voluntarism is better than mutual theft. We can only ever get rid of government by showing, in practical terms, how to make a living without it.
Is it difficult? Extremely! Will it mean less money and fewer opportunities than working for the government? Yes! That is the price of advancing liberty. Many people are not up to the task. But then don’t blow hot air about liberty, if you are unwilling to do what is required to bring it about. It reeks of hypocrisy. The pioneers of liberty are the ones who show how to make a living, or even be rich, without stolen tax money. If they show the way, others will follow, simply because it’s in their self-interest. And isn’t that what we say motivates people, rather than abstract principles that contradict their daily reality?
I had a couple of objections to my argument that living off the government is unethical.
First, if accepting a government wage is unethical, then using the roads must also be unethical.
But this is not the case if one uses the net tax payer vs. net tax taker standard. Using the roads is simply redeeming what was stolen from me. Earning a government wage is 100% theft.
What about using the roads without having paid any taxes? Should the government compel this person to pay taxes in order to justify using the roads?
If one looks at the road as just a pile of stolen money, the ethical way to remedy a theft is to split the money proportionally to what was stolen, and return the money to the victims. Since the road cannot be split physically, its use may be split, effectively as usage vouchers, for the expected lifetime of the road that was built from that theft. In other words, privatized.
The person who infringes on the use of the road without having had anything stolen in the first place, is infringing on the usage of the people who were stolen from. He would be responsible for compensating those privatized owners, not for paying new taxes, i.e. new thefts committed against him.
This standard is consistent with not accepting any of the government’s stolen loot, unless, and only in the amount that, one was stolen from.
A corollary objection is, doesn’t this imply a need for government borders, since illegals use roads without having paid taxes?
Punishing people collectively is not justified, just because they are foreigners. Furthermore, no one has commited any violations prior to crossing the border, so no a priori punishment is justified. Many end up working and having money stolen from them. However, any who do receive more from the government than was stolen from, are also stealing, the same as Americans who do so. So, there is no categorical difference between Americans and foreigners. No national border is justified, any more than any arbitrary border within the country.
The second objection is, while it may be unethical to provide services to the government in exchange for stolen money, it is okay to simply receive the money, as in Social Security payments.
If someone steals your car, you can justly recover your car, since you hold the rightful title. If they steal your car and give it to a friend, you can also justly recover your car from their friend, since they do not have any rightful claim on it. It is unethical for the robber’s friend to receive the stolen car.
Similarly, it is unethical to accept stolen money, since the victims have a right to have their money returned, from the money handed out by the government.
If liberty is human nature, then we should see humanity in a state of liberty. It is not in a state of liberty, but one of tyranny, or one of mixed liberty and tyranny. Either tyranny must be an aberration or human nature is not purely suited to liberty.
If tyranny is an aberration, a result of historical circumstance, or a particular person or institution, then eliminating the aberrant factor should let humanity resume liberty. History has shown eliminating the source of tyranny usually leads to a replacement tyranny, oftentimes greater than the original.
Any state, or center of power, gravitates towards greater tyranny over time, until a crisis, and rearrangement of affairs.
Outside the scope of the state, humans gravitate towards liberty, by the pursuit of their desires, by the creation of new forms and methods, by the discovery of new places and avenues.
As groups, humans vacillate between tyranny and liberty, often advancing both at once.
As individuals, humans pursue their own liberty, yet accept tyranny over others, and over themselves, as a price of liberty.
Lowering the price of liberty, easing the pursuit of one’s own ends, makes the individual less accepting of tyranny.
Increasing the price of tyranny makes the individual want to escape, and accept liberty, even if costly.
Liberty is the pursuit of one’s own ends. Tyranny is opposing another’s pursuit of their own ends.
Liberty and tyranny are attitudes. The more one is concerned with their own pursuits, the less they are likely to tyrannize. The more one is concerned with others’ pursuits, the more likely they are to tyrannize.
The key to pursuing liberty as an end in itself is to shift people’s focus to themselves rather than others.
Humans look to control others for some end they value. Their own end, or that of another’s: a god, a king, a state.
If all humans wanted to control others for their own ends, no control would be possible, since it would be nullified in its symmetric pursuit among all humans. Tyranny can only arise by the desire to control for the sake of another.
The mysteries of existence and creation are fashioned into religion. Human virtue and honor are fashioned into a king. Organization and security are fashioned into a state.
The very things that humans value are fashioned into the means of their enslavement. Tyranny is the pursuit of goodness by evil means.
Liberty is the pursuit of one’s ends by one’s own means.
Jeff Deist, president of the Mises Institute, gave a talk this week, pushing libertarians into alt-right nationalism. His talk is a confused mess and is a reminder that statism will always threaten to infect the liberty movement.
First, he sets up the necessity for political action by attacking technology development as a means of liberation. He says technology doesn’t advance liberty on balance. According to Jeff, only political power can result in libertarianism. Peaceful development of technology, and its voluntary adoption, is politically useless, because it will end up being used by governments to oppress people.
Of course, this is contradicted by hundreds of years of technological progress. Capital markets didn’t arise from a political process. They were a technological innovation, that promoted social liberty regardless of the understanding of the participants. Jeff actually says that the printing press had no net liberating effect on humanity! Do I really need to spell out the massive liberating effect from thousands of years of ignorance and lies, the massive new opportunities available to commoners? But, because it didn’t eliminate government altogether, it doesn’t count. Yet later he says “Better, not perfect, ought to be our motto.” Confused!
This isn’t his only confusion. He poo poos technological optimism as “historical determinism”. Yet in the same paragraph he says technology is useless because globalism is inevitable! Which is it Jeff? Are we to believe we can thwart determinism with politics, but not technology? Talk about naive. Then he calls libertarians “utopian” – confused!
Let’s take a look at Jeff’s mess of confusion and translate it into plain English.
“libertarians have a bad tendency to fall into utopianism”
“[Libertarians want to] give up their outdated ethnic or nationalist or cultural alliances.”
Translation: Libertarians are so silly to believe freedom is the highest political ideal. Actually, it is about “nationalist or cultural alliances”.
“liberty as a deeply pragmatic approach to organizing society”
Translation: Society needs to be “organized” (centrally planned). We need to be “pragmatic”, not principled, meaning we should use state power to achieve our desired ends.
“Better, not perfect, ought to be our motto.”
Translation: Dump liberty principles in the trash so we can use the state to defend “muh culture”.
“Human beings want to be part of something larger than themselves. Why do libertarians fail to grasp this?”
“There is a word for people who believe in nothing: not government, family, God, society, morality, or civilization. And that word is nihilist, not libertarian.”
Translation: Libertarianism isn’t about freedom from coercion. It’s about being part of a collective and believing specific things about society and theology.
“My final point is about the stubborn tendency of libertarians to advocate some of sort of universal political arrangement.”
“Universalism provides the philosophical underpinnings for globalism, but globalism is not liberty: instead it threatens to create whole new levels of government. And universalism is not natural law; in fact it is often directly at odds with human nature and (true) human diversity.”
Translation: Libertarianism doesn’t apply to all humans. It isn’t derived from human nature. It is only suited to white Europeans in the United States.
“Nationalism is on the rise throughout Europe,”
“We should seize on this.”
Translation: Nationalist collectivism is en vogue right now, let’s abandon libertarian principles to ride this momentary popularity. [Wait, I thought the world is moving inevitably towards globalism??]
“Mecca is not Paris, an Irishman is not an Aboriginal, a Buddhist is not a Rastafarian, a soccer mom is not a Russian.”
Translation: Humans are defined by their birthplace and race, as units of a collective identity. Humans are not self-interested individuals who strive to pursue their own happiness.
“self-determination is the ultimate political goal.”
Translation: Self-determination of a national collective, not of the individual. Remember, libertarianism is not accessible to other races or cultures, only white European America.
Note: The breakup of large superstates can be cheered without resorting to national collectivism. The bureaucratization and monopolization of these superstates act to diminish individual freedom. We want competing tax rates and regulatory environments, to allow people alternatives.
But just as technology is not a panacea, neither are national governments. A national breakaway state may impose protectionist tarrifs, whereas a superstate guarantees free trade. A smaller state may also be more tyrannical than the superstate it broke away from, reducing its citizens’ liberty. The sword cuts both ways.
“In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.”
This one takes the cake. Jeff goes with an unambiguous Nazi reference “Blood and Soil” (“Blut und Boden”) to describe his new libertarian values. Not sure if he’s trolling, or just careless, but ultimately it means collectivism, whether based on genetics or the geography of one’s birth. Apparently, libertarian ideas about individual freedom are not as important as we thought. We should not strive to live and promote these values, no matter how difficult. What matters is political “relevance” (power). Sorry Jeff, I’m not interested in this version of “libertarianism”.
Money is a dirty word in the liberty movement. Ironic, for a pro-free-market and free trade ideology. But when theory becomes reality, many recoil at the idea of bloggers doing sales or advertising. Why?
Spending time to make content or technology means taking time away from other activities, whether business or leisure. That time has to be compensated. Yet some act like entitled socialists, expecting this work to be provided for free!
To be fair, some monetization strategies are obnoxious or spammy. But all that means is we need better monetization options. Better technologies. Better feedback and suggestion from audiences of what works and what doesn’t.
For the liberty movement to survive, much less thrive and change the world, it must be economically self-sufficient. If you can’t feed yourself, you can’t change the world. If our activities in pursuit of liberty are not profitable, but only financial drains, we will never grow and advance.
We need more business models around advancing liberty. We need more content, more media platforms, more technologies. With the fake news media collapsing before our eyes, there has never been a better opportunity than now. There is so much pent up demand and very little supply.
We need more liberty entrepreneurs.
Not just from an economic perspective, but from a psychological one as well. It can get depressing focusing only on what the poweful are doing to us. Who wants to be on a constantly losing team, with a victim mentality? It’s time we recognize our own power, take responsibility, and become agents of change.
I am working on several media technology projects with a group of liberty-minded developers and creators. Want to join the effort? Email me at apollo at apolloslater dot com and let’s get to work!
1. Philosophy – Your foundational ideology should be coherent and correspond to political reality; these are contradictory aims. Yet the dialectical process between these two requirements is what produces your reason for acting, your reason for being. Acting without it leaves you to the mercy of “some defunct economist“.
2. Education – This is not just the propagation of your ideology to others. It is the application of it to the particular backgrounds and historical circumstances of your target audience. Communication is a task in itself, yet the act of it also affects the thing being communicated.
3. Economy – You cannot change the world if you are scraping by. To effect change, your community of ideology must be economically vibrant. It must not only get by, but it must have a surplus of resources, time, and energy. It must also do so in a way that retains independence from the very power structure it is attempting to subvert.
4. Power – A self-sufficient and well-organized group is unstoppable, regardless of numbers. The challenge for a group propounding liberty is overcoming the history of such groups creating a tyranny, often worse than the one they replaced. For the old revolutionaries, the end justifies the means, for the end is the revolution, and it justifies all. The new revolutionaries must overturn the cycle between tyranny and revolution; therefore, the means can only be justified by their ideological ethics; therefore, the means is the revolution; therefore, the means is the end.
Explain the difference.
#TaxationIsTheft #TaxationIsExtortion #TaxesAreTheft
I was floored by the sheer inanity of Walter Block going back on his word to disband “Libertarians for Trump” after the convention. This nonsensical shilling for a would-be tyrant by a smart, prominent libertarian, based on nothing more than a willful naivete around a politician’s lies, is very discouraging.
Remember candidate George W. Bush’s claim to be against nation-building? Boy, did that work out well. Now we are supposed to believe Trump is a non-interventionist, even though his psychology and history clearly do not point to that conclusion. It’s like the last 16 years never happened and no lessons were learned about believing presidential candidates’ words.
Walter Block isn’t the only libertarian with googly-eyes for Trump; Lew Rockwell, Justin Raimondo, and others as well. Maybe they are more paleocons than libertarians after all? Who can tell. But if these libertarian leaders can be so taken in by the emotional con game, what hope is there for the masses? Can education and spreading ideas really result in a voluntary society? Do we not have the right ideas yet and that’s why we’re falling into error? What are we missing?
Here are a few suggestions of what I think we need, that we’re missing.
#1, devise ways to measure how much progress we’re making toward the goal of a voluntary society. We need to be able to tell which tactics work and which don’t, which are more effective and less effective. We clearly don’t have a good handle on this, judging by the constant debates on the merits of voting.
#2, create an institutional alternative to the Libertarian Party, focused on non-political means of achieving a voluntary society. There are plenty of options already on the table; they should be catalogued, nurtured, promoted, and funded at an institutional level. Right now, most people assume that electoral politics is the only way to effect change. A non-political action organization would help break this paradigm.
#3, develop self-reinforcing systems of advancing liberty. The problem with relying on education to advance liberty is that it’s a constant struggle, and only a few will have the motivation, time, patience, curiosity, resources, etc. to understand the issues and go against their emotional instincts. Even with this education, as we’ve seen with “Libertarians for Trump”, it’s easy to go off the rails.
Just as the market functions regardless of the personal opinions of its participants, we need to devise systems that inherently advance liberty by their very nature. Ideally, such systems would align people’s financial interests with advancing liberty. It’s hard to stay in the fight if you have to scrape by to survive. A focus on systems of coordination, not just the ideas of liberty per se, is needed to make the liberty movement an effective social force.