Tag Archives: voluntarism

Liberty pioneers, showing the way through the economic wilderness

Liberty pioneers: showing the world how to live without government

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?

Receiving tax money is theft

Ethics of receiving government money

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.

Trade by barter

How do we achieve a voluntary society?

How might we bring about a voluntary society, one in which individuals are free to do as they wish as long as they do not initiate physical violence against another’s person or property?  What specific actions can we take, instead of just spending time criticizing the status quo?  There are many possibilities, some of which I have outlined below, along with reasons why they would be suited or not suited to producing this society.


Why it might work

A revolution has the appeal of immediate action.  You don’t have to play the game of an unethical system and it can appear as the only way to make any substantial change due to status quo inertia.  It is also a way to bring high-ranking criminals to justice.

Why it might not work

The government has the best weapons, training, and money.  Coordinating a large revolution would be detected and neutralized in the modern surveillance state.  Furthermore, violent revolutions are essentially war, the suspension of law and morality, so they are unethical since they inevitably result in the deaths of innocent people.  Revolutions are uncontrollable.  Just because you start a revolution doesn’t mean you are the one who ends it.  It can lead to a worse regime than the one it is replacing.  A regime built on violence to achieve power must also rely on violence to maintain power.


Why it might work

Secession allows a community of like-minded individuals to bypass trying to reform the existing corrupt system and go straight to creating an independent state.  Secession also has the advantage of using pre-existing state structures, so that there is reduced uncertainty in whether the new system will function.

Why it might not work

It would be easy to repeat the mistakes of the past if today’s issues aren’t dealt with.  You might simply end up with a smaller tyranny, or an even worse tyranny on a smaller scale.


Why it might work

You can withdraw from society individually, according to your individual tastes and preferences.  Just go into the wilderness or even stay secluded within the geographic boundaries of a society, but with the ready option of escaping if things go sideways.  In either case, you are self-sufficient and ignore politics..

Why it might not work

This doesn’t really answer the question of how to bring about a voluntary society – it is a kind of defeat.  it also is not very pleasant and foregoes the benefits of division of labor in a society.


Why it might work

Voting is available to us here and now – we don’t have to wait.  Social change has been achieved with voting before, such as the civil rights movement.

Why it might not work

Unfortunately, the public doesn’t support a free society.  The public wants goodies from the government.  In any case, the real power is not in congress, so we are playing a rigged game even if we do have some victories at the voting booth.


Why it might work

It is necessary to prepare people for any social change.  Before you can win at either the voting booth or in a revolutionary struggle, people must be mentally prepared for it.  In fact, education in itself may ultimately be the most effective means of social change, since whatever form such a change takes, it will inevitable reflect the prevailing sentiment of the people.

Why it might not work

Most people don’t have the time, mental bandwidth, or motivation to get educated about complex topics like politics and economics.  Only a small handful of people have the free time, money, and curiosity to sustain that kind of effort.  So, there either has to be a change in educational tactics that can influence the masses instead of just a few intellectuals, or there has to be a way for a few educated intellectuals to effect social change in an ethical manner.


Why it might work

Technology can empower individuals and free a society.  You don’t have to convince people of complex theories.  You just have to convince them that a particular technology helps them advance their own interests.  One idea, one new way of doing things, can affect millions of people.  That is enormous leverage that is difficult to achieve with education or force.

Why it might not work

Technology is a double-edged sword.  The internet can break down barriers to communication and facilitate an alternative media to shine a light on corruption.  It can also lead to a surveillance and control grid with NSA-style spying.

Voluntary coordination

Why it might work

Systems of voluntary coordination enable large-scale collective action with the consent of each individual involved, without any coercion.  Markets in general are an example of this.  Recent technologies open up new possibilities such as crowdfunding, which enables projects to get funded quickly by many people.

Why it might not work

There is not enough research and development yet on systems of voluntary coordination that are now possible with new technologies.  Even so, such systems can still be used to oppress and ostracize, if not structured correctly, such as cyber-bullying.

This list is just a start.  What other methods can you think of?  Let’s talk about concrete action we can take to actually bring about the world we want to live in.