Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Greatest Benefit of Not Voting

In Issue 17, a short piece titled “Living Slavery and All That,” written by Alan P. Koontz discusses Murray Rothbard’s “slavery analogy” and whether or not this analogy is useful to determine the morality of voting.

Here is an excerpt from Rothbard’s book The Ethics of Liberty, Chapter 24, (The Moral Status of Relations to the State) which helps explain Rothbard’s view:
“Many anarchist libertarians claim it immoral to vote or to engage in political action–the argument being that by participating in this way in State activity, the libertarian places his moral imprimatur upon the State apparatus itself. But a moral decision must be a free decision, and the State has placed individuals in society in an unfree environment, in a general matrix of coercion. The State—unfortunately—exists, and people must necessarily begin with this matrix to try to remedy their condition. As Lysander Spooner pointed out, in an environment of State coercion, voting does not imply voluntary consent.3 Indeed, if the State allows us a periodic choice of rulers, limited though that choice may be, it surely cannot be considered immoral to make use of that limited choice to try to reduce or get rid of State power.4”

Koontz disagrees with Rothbard and gives several compelling reasons why this analogy is insufficient. One I find particularly interesting is the idea that voting does not just affect the individual voter, voting also affects others.

However, I’m not too concerned about convincing people of the morality of voting or not voting based on the idea of whether or not it is affecting (and thereby possibly harming) others, I’m more about non-voting as an individual act of defiance.

Not voting is the easiest way to start withdrawing your consent and removing yourself from state control. Oh sure, your individual refusal to vote will not do anything to change how the state treats you. They won’t suddenly leave you alone because you do not consent by voting.

But there is one major positive result when not voting is done as a conscious, principled act of defiance against the state: you begin to free your mind.

This is where all change begins. A free mind thinks more creatively. A free mind is open to investigating and critically examining ideas which can lead to fresh alternatives. A free mind is more at peace and naturally compassionate towards others.

So why continue to do what the master wants you to do? Free your mind. Don’t vote, and do it as a conscious, principled act of defiance to the state.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Voluntaryism is Simply a Free and Unhampered Market

Issue 17’s article “Unlimited Voluntary Exchanges” gives us a nice appetizer of the thoughts and philosophy of R. C. Hoiles. Hoiles is another person who is now deceased that I wish I could have met. He founded a chain of newspapers that continues to this day, although there has been some restructuring and changes like most newspapers in our electronic age.

Three items I discovered while investigating Hoiles’ Freedom Newspaper chain connected with me personally. The first is that one newspaper currently a part of this chain is in a city less than 50 miles from me in Seymour Indiana.

The second is that Hoiles thought the editorial and opinion page of a newspaper was its heart and soul. I found this quote on in a Jeff Riggenbach piece on Hoiles:
“What this country needs as much as anything else, are newspapers that believe in moral principles and have enough courage to express these principles and point out practices and beliefs that violate moral principles. A newspaper that only tries to run editorials and columnists and news items that are popular is of mighty little value to its readers.”

Yeah, what he said. I have been very fortunate to write for a daily paper that gives me a lot of freedom to speak my mind and so I can really relate to this.

The third item I discovered is that an online friend, Kent McManigal, writes for another paper in this chain, The Clovis News Journal. Interestingly, Kent has not been as fortunate as I have and has occasionally struggled with this paper’s publisher to get his opinions printed, which are always very hard-hitting and root-striking. I find this ironic, considering Kent seems to be exactly like the type of person Hoiles would have loved to see contributing on any of his editorial pages.

Besides his views on newspaper editorial pages, another reason I feel a close affinity to Hoiles revolves around his feelings about education. I learned he was a strong believer in the separation of school and state and also that he had a policy at his papers to refer to public schools by the more specific name, “government schools.” I made a personal decision to do that on my own several years ago. Maybe I was channeling Hoiles.

Hoiles also had a standing offer of $500 to any school official in the areas where his papers were published if he or she could explain how government schools were in harmony with the Golden Rule. According to Carl, he was never seriously taken up on this offer. I’m thinking this would be a fun thing to do in one of my newspaper columns someday.

But enough about my new love for Hoiles, let me give you a little explanation about this particular article which was originally published in 1959. It is basically Hoiles giving a report of sorts about a recent visit to The Exchange Club of Santa Ana where he spoke on voluntaryism.

Hoiles describes how simple voluntary exchange between individuals is all that’s really needed for a peaceful and prosperous society. He tells us that everyone benefits when two people exchange with each other because both of them are better off than they were before the exchange and the benefits will move towards other individuals in a wide variety of ways.

During this speech, Hoiles left time for questions and he also describes his responses. Here are some of the questions he reportedly received:
  • How would you raise money to defend the nation?
  • How would the Civil War have been handled?
  • What about having to compete with the cheap labor in India and China? (Remember, this was written in 1959!)

You can go to the article and see how he answered these questions.

I know that there are more articles upcoming in The Voluntaryist that either refer to Hoiles or are reprints of Hoile’s writings and I for one am looking forward to reading them because anyone who thinks the same way I do about government schools and loves the editorial page of the newspaper is certainly my kind of guy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Freedom for All is the Product of Self-Control

In the article in Issue 17 titled, “The Decision is Always Yours – Freedom as Self-Control,” Carl Watner discusses various aspects of self-control.

One point made in this article is that the government can’t force you to do anything; you are ultimately the only one who can control yourself.

This can be hard to understand at first. Many people hear this and think, “That’s not right! The government (or anyone else who uses violence or threats of violence) is forcing me to do x. I don’t want to do x, they are forcing me.”

But this is not true. You always have choices. It’s just that those who threaten violence against you can limit your choices. Severely. But only you can act on those choices and you make your choice by weighing the consequences. Many of us don’t want to go to jail or get killed of course and we accept another choice.

So in the end, if you do what the people with guns tell you to do you are still the one acting, the one making the choice, and yes, the one voluntarily consenting.

Carl discusses many implications to this insight but for me, this is important because of the problems that come when limiting choices. Limiting choices prevents people from developing the ability to make decisions and take responsibility for their actions.

And as mentioned in the article, limiting choices also limits the power of human creative energy. Energy that is needed to move society forward, to solve problems in a respectful and peaceful manner.

Another aspect of realizing you have control over your actions is that you begin to look inward and evaluate why you made certain choices and whether those choices added value to your life or not. You end up creating your own methods of self-government, self-discipline, and self-evaluation.

You focus on yourself rather than on others because it’s all about self-control, not ‘others-control.’ This is why self-control can lead to freedom for everyone.

Here is a nice ends-means comment at the end of this piece that I’ll close with here:
“…It is immoral in itself for the moral person to impose morality upon others. The moral person does not resort to force, does not compel others to accept his or her morality. The means would be inconsistent with the ends of morality. If the moral person gives due consideration to the means (the inculcation of character and self-control), the end (a group of people who are moral and respect property rights) will take care of itself. Thus another proof of "freedom is self-control." "One does not have to labor to compel others to accept freedom. One has, rather, to control himself, so that he does not interfere with the freedom of others. Freedom for all is the product of self-control. This means that we will be free when we stop preventing the freedom of others." (Bob LeFevre, G.7., September 13, 1959.)”

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Button-Pushing Dilemma

Issue 17 has two items on the topic of “button-pushing.” The discussion generally revolves around what you would do if given a chance to remove the state by pushing a button.

Carl’s article “Button Pushing or Abdication” discusses what Leonard Read, Robert Lefevre and Ludwig Von Mises said they would do. As you read the article you can see that Carl’s intent in bringing up the situation is to show that, from a Voluntaryist perspective, pushing the button makes little sense because you can’t force people to be free.

Simply pushing a button changes no one’s mind and is in essence trying only to force people to be free. So it’s contradictory to the Voluntaryist philosophy.

This issue also contains a response from Samuel Edward Konkin III (also known as SEK3), who sets up and imagines more parameters. In particular, he focuses on how the situation came to be in the first place and thereby gives an agorist perspective to the dilemma.

I’m not too big on these types of imaginary intellectual dilemmas and it’s mostly because of what Konkin points out, even if the situation could ever happen, there are far too many possibilities in how the situation comes to be in the first place.

So I find it hard to stay focused on the deeper philosophical issues involved and end up just thinking about it in a completely different way.

If I was in a situation to push a button, I might have to do it just because I’d be curious to see what happens if I pushed it. I think I’d be like Dennis the Menace, in the 1993 movie, I’d just have to push the button, because well, it’s there.

What would you do?