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Sunni's picture

Do You Hate the State? Are You Sure?

My friend the SaltyPig has been emphasizing the importance of consistency in one's words and actions with respect to liberty. A brief example from a recent post:

liberty! never forget it; it's the cornerstone of everything we cherish, and makes arguments much easier. does a proposal dishonor liberty? is it coercive in any way? then fuck it.

Much appreciated by me right now, but it wasn't until I read Murray Rothbard's essay from 1977, Do You Hate the State?, republished by Lew Rockwell yesterday, that I fully grasped that more self-proclaimed liberty lovers are really leashitarians. An excerpt from the Rothbard piece (the entire piece is well worth reading):

Far better one Albert Nock than a hundred anarcho-capitalists who are all too comfortable with the existing status quo.

Where are the Paines and Cobdens and Nocks of today? Why are almost all of our laissez-faire limited governmentalists plonky conservatives and patriots? If the opposite of "radical" is "conservative," where are our radical laissez-fairists? If our limited statists were truly radical, there would be virtually no splits between us. What divides the movement now, the true division, is not anarchist vs. minarchist, but radical vs. conservative. Lord, give us radicals, be they anarchists or no.

Every bit as true today, I'm sad to say. A good reminder to regularly check one's thoughts, feelings, and motivations, to see if there's any area where one's doing the Jedi hand-wave to oneself [There's no pro-state thinking here] ...

Cat Farmer's picture

Butler does it again...

Yay! Another Butler Shaffer essay at LRC today, What Is To Become of the State? - Sunni might think me remiss in my conspiratorial duties if I didn't post a link to it. ;)

If I had to choose a favorite passage from the essay, it might be this one:

"The only role I could see for members of the judiciary in a stateless world would be to become private arbitrators or mediators. By offering their services in the marketplace – where men and women would be free to accept or reject them – judges could get a realistic sense of their value to others. They could then get back to the mindset of earlier judges who spoke of "discovering" the customs and usages of society that were the basis of the "common law" system. Those who saw their roles as being to impose standards of conduct upon an unwilling society, would probably find themselves without a clientele."

Lew Rockwell's Which Way for Liberty? is also well worth a read. I appreciate much of what Lew has to say in regard to leftists, as in this statement:

"What the Bush regime has taught us is that there is a difference between being anti-leftist and being pro-liberty. They have demonstrated that the threats to liberty emanate not only from leftist thought but also rightist thought in which the state is used to impose a particular view of the good at home and abroad. I don't think the US has ever had a left-wing president as convinced as the Bush administration of the ability of government to work miracles."

As Lew points out, a lot of freedom minded people still seem to equate "being anti-leftist and being pro-liberty," sort of like the rabid anti-smokers who equate stamping out smoking with a "healthier society." Well, the problem with rabid activists is it's only a matter of time until they get around to biting each other, but perhaps only after they've gnawed away at everyone else. Rabid anti-leftists seem more intent on gnawing at leftists than noticing any freedom-loving ground on which to break bread with them. A terrible habit, this instinct to break bread with people... #@&?!

Lately I've noticed that violence results in society as a reaction to interference; people who want something bad enough may kill for it, even if only in a moment of blind rage. Increasing levels of interference lead to more deeply entrenched problems, as with drugs. The more people choose to interfere with each other's lives, and the more people rely on coercion, the more intractable social problems become. Laws just aren't a civil way of dealing with other people; unless violence is a tactic of last resort it breeds more violence - relentless attempts at hen-pecking legislation on all sides ensure increasing incidences of violence by considering coercion a tactic of first resort via forcible interventions in individual people's daily lives.

Banning particular behaviors seems absurd, for example, absent willingness to adhere to a system of private property rights. "Public property" works in theory as long as anyone will tolerate anything, and no questions of ownership arise, perhaps. In practice, public property never works that way - sooner or later it ends up looking like a no-man's land, where even women may not be welcome if they smoke, own a gun, take the 'pro-life' stance on abortion rights, or abstain from voting...

Granted, political leftists present a daunting obstacle to a free society, but so do political rightists. Lew has the right idea, IMO. If people could only talk to each other as human beings, and ditch the political ways of not-talking yet ever arguing... aargh.

Sunni's picture

Another Fine Example of 'Service' from the State

I heard from a friend yesterday; that's usually a pleasant thing but this chap was about to go postal on his state's DMV. Instead, he vented to me about it. Now I need to vent, too.

In the typical fashion of transpocrats, they "upgraded" to a new computer system at the end of last year, and are having problems with it. The Wisconsin DMV web site whines about how many people are bugging them about getting their permission slips, and notes that the delay is currently over 2 months. Of course, there's no recourse ... nothing but "Oh, poor put-upon us, we're trying so hard, give us some slack!" Somehow I doubt they'd be as forgiving of an individual not transferring a vehicle title after a sale -- Wisconsin generously [that's sarcasm, folks] allows individuals two business days to do that. Bleah ... I honestly do not understand how a fairly intelligent person can think that all this crap is beneficial to peaceable individuals.

Sunni's picture

Filling in for Morpheus ...

Morpheus at the Statrix seems to have gotten really busy this month; it seems unlikely that he'd choose to take the blue pill a la Mike Wasdin. (I've some things to say regarding Mr. Wasdin's choice, but that needs to wait a bit longer.)

Anyway, Skeptical Man and I had a very interesting exchange the other day, which leads me to formulate my own libertarian brain teaser:

If each individual's self-ownership is absolute, who has the authority to decide whether or not an individual may contract him- or herself into slavery?

Sunni's picture

Butler Shaffer Fest!

Okay, so maybe I'm bordering on idiotically fannish with my Butler posts; I'll simply say in my own defense that I read each of Butler's articles before deciding whether to feature it in a post here -- it isn't a reflex, nor is he paying me for plumping for him. Butler doesn't need it, anyway -- his ideas and the way he communicates them speak powerfully enough for themselves.

His latest essay at Lew Rockwell, titled The Sociopathic Cult, is evidence aplenty. Here's a brief sample:

This [Saving] Remnant may remind our children and grandchildren of a truth known to our ancestors: individual "freedom" expresses itself as harmonious, integrated social behavior. If you refer to an etymological dictionary, you will discover – as I did many years ago – that the words "peace," "freedom," "love," and "friend" have interconnected origins. Our allegedly "primitive" predecessors understood what our college-indoctrinated minds have long since forgotten, namely, that a peaceful society is one in which free men and women live as friends with genuine love for one another.

Are you part of the Saving Remnant? I am ... and I may be naive or overly sentimental (but certainly not a utopian), but I still hold hope of living in the kind of society Butler describes above. Failing that, I hope that my voice and actions help bring it to life for my children.

Sunni's picture

Individualism and Extremism (and More)

I imagine many visitors here have already seen Butler Shaffer's latest essay, Extremism in Defense of the Status Quo. Not surprisingly, he's hit another one out of the park; here's a sample from this excellent piece:

Each of us is biologically and experientially unique. There is probably no one else on earth who thinks, acts, and dreams exactly as you and I do. In this sense, each of us is an "extremist," and our individual uniqueness is what we have in common with one another. And yet, we have been conditioned to deny this shared quality; to imagine – as the political establishment must have us believe if it is to survive – that mankind is some collective monolith, and that "we" are outsiders, while all "others" naturally fit into the common mould. We buy into this collective mindset so that we will not feel alone in the world, ending up as members of what David Riesman termed "the lonely crowd."

What is a mild surprise to me is how often the subject of his essays parallels my own thoughts (it isn't more of a surprise because we're both American-born anarchists, observing and commenting on the sicknesses of the society).

Before reading Butler's piece, I had just sent off an email to a good friend, commenting briefly on one of the more frustrating elements (for me) of human nature: the competing elements of our individualist nature, yoked to our social needs. It makes for awkward dances throughout one's life, trying to balance the pushes and pulls they exert. In some ways, it can be (perhaps paradoxically) even worse for individualists, especially those who see themselves as creating their own ways, when in reality they're (to varying degrees) riding on the coattails of some pro-freedom "guru". Here's part of what I wrote on that in my email:

Too many supposedly pro-freedom individuals have simply chosen a darker horse to follow than most do. Since the human genome seems to contain a very odd blend of individualist and social critter genes, it's hard to criticize simply on that basis ... we all take turns leading and learning from others at varying points in our lives. But ... it is disconcerting. And you're right in that such things do not bode well for liberty.

To be clear, I know that I too have done my share of following when I should have been hacking through the underbrush -- I'm not exempt from my observation. As I said, leading and following are both important elements of our existence -- but it's extremely important to recognize when one is choosing to follow another, and for what reasons.

For example, it's terrific that my friend Boston T Party has written a number of excellent books, including several on firearms. He is extremely knowledgeable on the subject, and related subjects (ancillary equipment, training, and the psychology of self-defense, for starters), and is a worthy resource for someone who's getting started, or who wants to expand his or her range of self-defense options. Capitalizing on his expertise is appropriate "following" -- slavishly buying whatever you can afford (or going into debt to acquire what you cannot afford) simply because "Boston sez" is not. Sometimes individuals slip over that line without recognizing it -- been there, done that too. [FTR, I'm not intending to pick on Boston -- he's made it clear he doesn't want to be anybody's guru. He's simply a good example of someone I know well who attracts followers for both good and bad reasons.]

The only method I've found that's successful at countering that tendency to slide too far into following is to question myself. And I do that a lot. What are my thoughts, feelings, and most importantly, motivations? From whence do they come, and when they change, how and why have they changed? Have I gotten new information that sufficiently demonstrates my prior thinking was somehow flawed or incomplete? Or is someone's persuasive power (especially heady in new friendships) getting more weight than it should? I know that sometimes I'm much too hard on myself, to the detriment of myself and relationships, but so far I've not found a way to maintain this crucial self-awareness without being my own harshest critic.

Anyway, back to Butler ... I had the pleasure of meeting him in person last summer. It was a delight, too, because he's even better in person than he is in his essays. This essay helped highlight just why I respect him so much: he seems to understand human nature and social systems -- their foibles and possible glories -- better than any other essayist I know. And he communicates his ideas in wonderful prose. He may be my favorite pro-freedom nonfiction writer ... My favorite pro-freedom fiction author? F. Paul Wilson. Another splendid human being, who's also better in person than one dares hope. But I'd best save my Paul story for another time ...

Sunni's picture

Good Spontaneous Order News Under a Bad Title

Another busy day cooking, with good results thus far: I believe I have my wheat-free cheese cracker recipe perfected enough to share (now to find the time to write it out); and a huge turkey is roasting in the oven. (That's what happens 'round here; I tell the gents, "You bring it home and I'll cook it," and they've taken me up on it in spades.)

Just had a couple of minutes to glance at some news headlines, and found a very interesting Wired story on making roads safer. Turns out the way isn't more law, nor more signage, but less "regulation". Here's the idea in a nutshell:

The approach is radically counterintuitive: Build roads that seem dangerous, and they'll be safer.

A longer, more telling extended quote, and more follows ...