Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Using Government To Demonstrate Voluntary Action

In Issue 7 The Voluntaryist continues to interview Carl about his ongoing experiment with the truth. You can read my post about the first interview here. This issue’s interview is titled “From the Bowels of the Beast,” and before I even made it through his answer to the very first question posed, I was already into ideas and philosophy that directly correlated with experiences I had this past week.

Last week in my newspaper column I decided to use the local mayors to make a positive point about voluntary actions.

Soon after posting a link on Facebook, I received a letter from an online Voluntaryist friend of mine. He took me to task on several points. You can read the column as well as excerpts of what he wrote in response to it here.

I was reminded of this when reading Carl’s interview. He wanted to differentiate his view of taxation from those who object only to specific ways some taxes are spent, for example someone who objects to taxation being spent on war. Carl’s objection goes deeper and to contrast his view, Carl says this:
“Government employees are the only group of people in society that regularly and consistently use physical force or its threat to collect funds to sustain themselves. It makes absolutely no difference to me how this group of people spends the money it coercively collects; my conscientious objection is opposed to their initiation of coercion or its threat.”

This is of course the argument my friend made and why he objected so strongly to my attempt to use government employee’s actions to demonstrate voluntary efforts.

I completely understand this point. Really I do. But the vast, vast majority of people out there simply do not get it. Or maybe more to the truth, they refuse to admit they get it. So, the question is, will it help people understand, or admit they understand, if someone makes correlations as I attempted to do in this column?

Don’t we need to just take people where they are and hope that by drawing such comparisons, perhaps some will start to think about things differently and perhaps gain an insight? Are we better off downgrading voluntary actions by government employees or should we say, "hey that’s a good start?"

We must begin the conversation somewhere. So is it valid to find an angle to a story that moves the conversation towards voluntary actions, even if there are issues with it?

Plus, in this instance, we are talking about the actions of individuals and these individuals are acting in a voluntary manner when they donate money, so is that a good start? Is that a difference worth using the pound the point of voluntary action?

Yesterday I would have finished this post here and said yes. But last night I read an essay in Creative Nonfiction magazine that sent my mind down a whole other road. The essay was written by a woman who was badly abused throughout her childhood by her father. At one point in the essay she goes into detail about how he beat her and then took care of her wounds afterward.

As I read this, I did not feel better about his actions. I felt even angrier at him, at the idea that he not only damaged her physically and psychologically with the beating, but he created even more psychological damage because he connected the two disparate actions in her developing mind.

I didn’t think anything he did after the beating, no matter how kind it looks made any difference at all.

So I had to wonder - Could I ignore the beatings and use his kind actions to point out how wonderful it is to take care of someone who is hurt?

I have to say, when I think of it that way, it makes me cringe.

So the next time I think it might be possible to put a positive spin on something someone does within government, I think I'll stop and consider the Voluntaryist insight that the end does not justify the means.


Paul said...

Funny how the cosmos works to bring things to our attention sometimes, isn't it? Jung called it synchronicity.

Ned Netterville said...

Debbie, You are new to Voluntaryism. I doubt if there is any Voluntaryist who has not said or written something that conflicts with the principles of Voluntaryism, especially early on. I know I have, and I don't regret doing so. Indeed, one of my published misstatements brought me into contact with Carl, who refined my knowledge of Voluntaryism, when he wrote a gentle objection (letter to the editor) to what I had written in a libertarian publication.

On another pertinent subject, but really along the same line (making lemonade when life hands you a lemon), I have spent 134 days in jail for various acts of "civil disobedience," mostly, believe it or not, for refusing to seek the states permission (license) to travel by car. In every instance (I think some 7 to 10 different times), I benefited in one way or another from the experience. My longest sentence (for No Operator's License), resulted in me losing almost 50 pounds and getting myself into the best physical condition I'd been in since college wrestling while in jail. That in turn gave me confidence to take up mountain-bike racing, and for the next six years I spent 30 to 36 Sundays racing my bike and loving everything associated with it.

I also gained this advantage for all future dealing with the State: they can't scare me with the threat of jail. Been there, done that.

Albert said...

I have to agree with the person who objected to your column. If you give your money to the United Way, that is commendable. But if you take $10 from me and then give it to the United Way, that is unethical. So is pressuring your employees to give money to the United Way, which I have also experienced.

For the same reason, I also object to any government giving any money to any charitable or private organization. Theft is theft, and it doesn't matter what you do with the money afterward.

On a personal note, I think it's great that you can learn and grow from criticism, and that your readers respectfully submit their objections to your blog. We can all learn from a polite discussion of ideas, rather than the vitriol that passes for public discourse in online media that polarizes people and groups.

I look forward to your next blog.

Debbie H. said...

Ned, I wish I could say I was new enough not to make the mistake I made, but I'm not sure I can use that excuse. At any rate I appreciate the understanding. And your experience certainly puts jail time in a new perspective!

Albert, you said it all: theft is theft.