Posts tagged Smash the State

Re: Why We Need the Nonaggression Axiom

@Alex Peak: “The problem with the whole it’s-okay-to-initiate-force-against-nonviolent-assholes idea is problematic because of the slippery slope.”

I suppose that there is a slope, and maybe the slope is slippery, but is that really what you see as the problem with the judgment that “it’s Ok to use violence against people who are being major assholes”? I mean, when I read something like that, my main problem with it is that it’s a despicable sentiment, which praises thuggishness and the use of violence with the explicit purpose of domination and control. It may also have downstream consequences on other people’s behaviors in different situations which also suck, but even if it does not have those downstream consequences, it’s still a pretty sucky attempt when it comes to being a human being.

@Alex Peak: “None of this ought to be taken as a rejection of what Charles Johnson calls thick libertarianism. My understanding of (certain approaches to) thick libertarianism is that it is the view that liberty would be most easily achieved or maintained if society also adopted certain norms—e.g., rejecting racism, sexism, and homophobia—but that an embrace of these norms needs not, and ought not, be coupled with a rejection of the nonaggression axiom.”

Thanks for the nod; you’re certainly right that the thick conceptions of libertarianism that I would defend are not conceptions where the idea is to provide loopholes for justified aggressive force or fraud, or where the “thickness” erases the content of the “libertarianism” in select cases. The idea is that there are forms of oppression, abuse, social evils, etc. which are acted out by means other than physical force or fraud, and it’s important to recognize these where they exist. Not so that you can respond to them with aggression, but rather so that non-aggressive forms of oppression or abuse can be met with serious, confrontational, nonviolent resistance.

@Alex Peak: “And libertarianism, very simply, is the belief that people should be free from aggression”

@Alex Gleason: “Apparently you have cast Egoists out of the libertarian movement, Mr. Peak.”

I’m not sure how. There is nothing in most versions of philosophical egoism which require the egoist to be in favor of aggression (as Alex defines it). Indeed, egoists have generally been against that, and thought that people should be free from it; although they suggest that it’s instrumentally or strategically valuable, rather than being valuable for its own sake. That’s rather the point of Stirner’s Union of Egoists — the claim that there are egoistic reasons for free selves to abandon aggression in favor of mutual alliance.

@Jacob Vardy: “are you familiar with the Spanish term ‘acracia?'”

There is a cognate term in English-language philosophical writing, usually spelled “akrasia.” Unfortunately it already has another, mostly unrelated meaning It got picked up because the Greek moral philosophers wrote about the problem of ἀκρασία, which used to be translated “incontinence” but now is more commonly just transliterated to “akrasia.” The Greeks (and hence now English-speaking philosophers commenting on the problem) used it to refer to the predicament of people who believed in a moral principle but didn’t live up to it — who acted contrary to it. Thus Socrates seems to have argued that akrasia was impossible (if you acted contrary to the principle, he held that you must not really have believed in it in the end); Aristotle thought that it was possible but had something nuanced to say about the best way to describe the predicament; etc. Anyway, that usage also came about because of the literal meaning of “without command”; but the English-language use is meant torefer to a lack of control over yourself (the Greeks’ idea being that akratics were enslaved by their own passions or appetites), rather than a lack of control over others.

@Drew: “How about this – the state is antithetical …to individual liberty”

Isn’t that what a libertarian (at least, the kind of libertarian who would refer to the State as a criminal gang) usually means by the statement that the State is criminal?

@Anok Kropotkin: “Oh, and ‘crime’ is a general term used to define what governing bodies consider undesirable behavior.”

I don’t think that’s the only meaning of the word “crime.”

Certainly, sometimes people use “crime” just to mean “whatever the government has forbidden.” But when someone describes, say, Donald Rumsfeld as a “war criminal,” or when someone describes the Holocaust or other examples of state mass-murder as “crimes against humanity,” that they mean to claim that Pinochet or the Nazis or whoever were somehow doing something illegal. What they did was perfectly legal, according to government law, and authorized by the governing bodies (since these criminals were in charge of the governing bodies). So to describe it as “criminal” must mean something other than simply disapproval from governing bodies.

Re: huffpost on the naacp’s report on the tea party

Crispy: “the very fact that a group would have ‘diffuse, locally based structures’ is extremely troubling to the naacp. i suppose now they will be attacking … the civil rights movement of the 1960s, for being too local and diffuse.”

Well, hell, why not? That basically was their criticism of the civil rights movement of the 1960s back during the 1960s — when the NAACP was constantly ragging on sit-in groups and then SNCC for not having “structure” (meaning unitary centralized chain of command) and for being too locally-driven, which supposedly led to adventurism and getting local movements into all kinds of messes that NAACP chapters and the Legal Defense Fund would then have to clean up after. (Hence, e.g., the recriminations over the fizzle-out in Albany, efforts to shut SNCC reps out of civil rights “unified leadership” summits and fundraising events, etc.) To abandon this proud tradition of pissing and moaning about diffuse, locally based movements, and those factions of the civil rights movement of the 1960s that actually got some shit done here and there, would mean abandoning all kinds of time-honored NAACP traditions. (Of course I refer here to the NAACP central command. NAACP local chapters did all kinds of courageous work alongside the direct-action movement, and generally didn’t waste time wagging fingers at SNCC’s lack of “structure.”)

Re: Don’t Count on Anything This Election Cycle

You write: “Rand Paul pushes this neo-anarchist belief that the government should get out of everything,”

We anarchists don’t believe that “government should get out of everything.” We believe that government should cease to exist, and take capitalism, racism, patriarchy, and all other forms of class oppression straight to hell with it. Rand Paul is as much of an anarchist as any other “limited government” conservative Republican, which is to say, not at all: he wants to trim some parts of government here and there, while leaving in place all the violent functions of government that prop up existing forms of oppression (in particular government militaries, government police, government prisons, and government borders; he is especially fond of government border laws and using government to attack Latino immigrants). Anarchism is an entirely different, far more radical proposition.

You write: “… including mine safety because ‘who would work at an unsafe mine?’ Well, the people who have two choices- an unsafe mine or starvation.”

I certainly have no wish to speak for Rand Paul. But speaking on behalf of anarchists, (“neo-” or otherwise), I will say that the traditional anarchist approach to this question is to give people more choices — in particular, not setting up a political apparatus and hope that workers will somehow be able to control it more effectively than corporate lobbyists; but rather organizing grassroots mutual aid networks and fighting, rank-and-file unions that allow mine-workers to effectively stand up to the bosses — so that they do not have to depend on the mercy of the bosses or the solicitude of politically-appointed bureaucrats to gain a safe and humane livelihood for themselves.

Re: Nick Hogan jailed for 6 months

[Google Reader comment on shared article Nick Hogan Jailed for 6 Months.]

It is certainly evil to imprison a man for allowing smoking on his own damn property. However, I certainly don’t know why I am supposed to wax indignant at either of the following cases in which people who did real damage were acquitted:

“Two anti-nuclear protesters who entered a dockyard planning to disarm one of Britain’s Trident submarines with an axe were yesterday cleared of conspiracy to cause criminal damage.”

“Four women walked free from Liverpool Crown Court yesterday after a jury found them not guilty of criminal charges despite their admission that they did more than pounds 1.5m worth of damage to a Hawk warplane.”

Well. Good for them. I’m glad they are free. Nobody should be imprisoned for damaging the war machines of government militaries. Those war machines are used to threaten or inflict death on innocent people throughout the world, and the government militaries that purchase and maintain them are hyperviolent criminal organizations, funded by coercion and habitually dealing out destruction. Government militaries have no legitimate property rights to anything, and where there’s no property rights there are no identifiable victims. Where there’s no victim, there’s no crime.

The people who engaged in these direct actions against government “property” (property in name only, derived entirely from coercive taxation) — these people, I say, are heroes, not criminals, and shouldn’t be locked up for even a minute. The more people can get away with disabling or destroying the State’s hideous war machines, the better.

Re: @Gary Chartier squares off against Lee Doren at last weekend’s Liberty Forum.

@Paul, I think that most libertarian discussion on “equality before the law,” “equality of opportunity,” “equality of outcomes,” etc. tends to be pretty confused and unproductive, for the reasons that Roderick Long talks about in “Equality: The Unknown Ideal” ( For what it’s worth, while I think (as Gary says) that the really important issue is equality of political authority (equality before the law is valuable only a special case of that, and worthless in the absence of equality of authority), I also think that libertarians who rag on the ideal of equality of outcomes are missing something politically and socially important. Obviously, coercion should not be used, Harrison Bergeron-style, to somehow guarantee equality of outcomes. But I think that there is an important question, not about how to guarantee equality of outcomes, but rather where most of the actually-existing inequalities of outcomes come from. Do they largely come from free market processes? Or do they largely come from government intervention? I would argue the latter — that we don’t have free labor markets, capital markets, or land markets right now, and that most of the extent, intensity, and durability of socioeconomic inequality can be traced either to the direct effects of government coercion, or the indirect ripple effects of the rigidified and rigged markets that government coercion creates. So if you want less socioeconomic inequality, I’d say the best way to get it is through individual liberty and free markets; in any case, the inequalities of outcome that we have today are to a very large extent the result of the inequalities of authority (invasions against individual liberty) that we face.

@Gary, thanks for the kind words and for the mention. The bit about Lee’s picture of the electoral left and the electoral right’s views on majority rule was one of the more … interesting moments of the conversation. (Along with being informed that Anarchistic socialism actually started with the CNT.) I didn’t spend any time responding to it because, really, it’s just bewildering, and what can you say at that point?

For what it’s worth, the conversation was arranged on request from Mark Edge at Free Talk Live. We’d done separate interviews for FTL the previous night and Mark thought it would be interesting to get some cross-talk going.

@Angela, I don’t know precisely what he calls himself, but Doren is head of CEI’s Bureaucrash these days. (Which is a whole story in itself.) So, there’s some broad, upper-quadrant-of-the-Nolan-Chart sort of sense in which you could probably call him a “libertarian.” But that’s about as far as it goes. Which did cause some problems for figuring out how the conversation ought to go — since the debate was nominally about left and right, but really also was about a number of cross-cutting issues (e.g. anarchism vs. small-statism, radicalism vs. reformism, anti-electoralism vs. conventional political participation, revisionist vs. establishment views of history, etc. etc. etc.).

Also, thank you for the reminder of B-1 Bob. I used to watch him all the time back when I was in high school — the most entertaining act on C-SPAN this side of Minister’s Questions.

Re: @Nick Ford

Really? That sounds like an oddly restrictive picture of “free market practices” to me. Let’s say that, in a non-communal, commercially-oriented market, I decide to go into business selling pizza with a partner. I’ll do the cooking (I like to cook); she’ll do the delivery (I hate delivery driving; she likes that kind of thing). We’ll split up the administrative and bookkeeping tasks. Under the heading of the partnership, we buy a store, an oven, a delivery van, and some other equipment. Using the equipment that we bought jointly with our pooled capital, I make pizzas; she delivers them to customers.

Now, if we have in fact formed a partnership, then I cannot just individually turn around and sell the store or the oven out from under her. I can’t set prices to be just anything I want, either, even though the pizzas I cook are the product of my individual labor. That’s a business decision which needs to be made jointly, unless we agreed to give me unilateral control over pricing, which we might well not do.

Does that make our pizza partnership something other than a “free market practices”? If so, it would seem like your conception of the free market allows for almost none of the commercial (let alone communal!) activity practiced in any modern market to be counted as “free market practice.” Which seems odd. If not, then what’s the relevant difference between the joint ownership and joint decision-making involved in my partnership, and the joint ownership and joint decision-making involved in a voluntary commune, where the members of the commune agree to joint ownership of land, shops or large-scale capital goods — with similar obligations of joint decision-making?

Re: @Nick Ford

On majorities and moving forward:

  1. I agree that anti-statists are in the minority. But, perhaps unlike you, my primary goal isn’t to convince a majority of people to believe something like what I believe. Of course, it’d be nice if more people believed in some form of antistatism, but achieving anarchistic goals is not generally a matter of winning an election, and so does not necessarily depend on winning majority support.

  2. What I am interested in doing is radicalizing and working together with a smaller, somewhat self-selected group of people and encouraging them to act on the beliefs that they mostly already have. As a matter of strategy, I am interested in equipping and organizing the minority so that we will become ungovernable by the majority, not in convincing the majority to stop supporting government. But in order to radicalize you need to be radical and consistent; dropping out the critique of monopoly policing or government war or government borders just as such, and redirecting my outreach towards praising smaller-government candidates, or talking about only the subset of issues where I can agree with an LP voter or an Oath Keeper or Ron Paul’s presidential platform, hobbles my ability to actually communicate what I’m trying to communicate to the folks I’m trying to communicate it to.

  3. As a teacher, setting aside questions of political strategy, I would of course like to educate more people about the right views. But to the extent that I’m not talking about strategy anymore, and just talking about education, I think that the core principles are the most important for people to learn, and I’d rather someone who really understands what freedom is and rejects it, than have someone who thinks they believe in freedom, but only because they continue to be confused about what it entails, and to believe in myths like “limited government,” or to believe that police and taxation are compatible with individual liberty. My goal here is not to jump into the debate just as it is and try and nudge them towards some confused approximation of libertarian ideals; rather, it’s to change the terms of the debate, and reorient it towards the fundamental issues at stake.

Re: Against Fiscal Conservatism: On Inpropriating the Expropriators


Yes, Ron Paul gives his money back to the Government, because he’s demonstrating he’s fiscally responsible.

How does returning money back to the thief who stole it demonstrate fiscal responsibility?

It seems to me that if you want to demonstrate fiscal responsibility with stolen money, the way to demonstrate it would be to return it to the owner it was stolen from. Not to spend a bit off the top and return the rest to the thief.

By returning money to the treasury that is superfluous in his budget, is he actively contributing towards the excesses of Government vis a via his actions

Sure: he’s providing them with more money to use in violating innocent people’s rights. So am I, through taxation. But I don’t have a choice in the matter; I get taxed whether I want to be taxed or not. Ron Paul does have a choice in the matter: he has a budget, and he could do everything he can to make sure that the money gets returned to the tax victims it was extracted from, or at least gets spent on things which, while wasteful, do not involve committing violence against innocent people. Or he could turn it back over to Treasury, which will use it to commit violence against innocent people. Doing the latter doesn’t make the violence his fault, exactly — it’s the fault of the people who commit it. But he would be doing more good for the world if he piled up all the surplus money on the National Mall and set it on fire than he does by returning it to the federal government for their future use.

Ron Paul believes the same thing, which is essentially why he does it? I get what you’re saying, I really do, but I just don’t think this is a valid reason to be opposed fiscal conservatism, because fiscal conservatism isn’t causing the problem, it’s actually the opposite–it’s antithetical to out of control government spending

If you think that “out of control government spending” is my primary concern here, then I don’t think you’ve really gotten what I’m saying. My point is that government spending is a secondary issue. The primary issue is government violence.

what’s the alternative?


I’m not really interested in figuring out a way for Dr. Paul to keep his government job. If there isn’t any way for him to honestly handle the loot that he’s been allocated, then he ought to resign. That said:

Give it away? Keep it?

I’d prefer he give it away to a randomized selection of the tax victims it was stolen from. (Returning the money is the only honest thing to do when you come into some money that you know to have been stolen from living victims who you could identify and return the money to.) But, failing that, keeping it and using the surplus to buy beer and pizza for his office staff would still be preferable to returning it to the Treasury.

Re: @Andrew Taranto: To all the would-be secessionists out there

@Jason: The contradiction is “anti-federal statist.” In for a penny, in for a pound.

Any argument that could justify a nonconsensual state the size of a mid-sized European country can just as easily justify a nonconsensual federation of states the size of a continent. Any argument that could justify state secession from the federation is just as good an argument, if carried through logically, for justifying community secession from the state, or individual secession from any and all levels of government everywhere.

Re: @Jeremy Weiland: Is there any liberal argument for #hcr that even acknowledges we have a Constitution?

You have a Constitution? Sorry to hear it. But you must’ve known that this is the kind of shit you end up with when you have Constitutions. That’s why I got rid of all mine years ago. Liberty is a social relationship, not a paper document.

(For what it’s worth, the official party line is that it’s authorized under the Interstate Commerce Clause. Is it really? Who cares? Either the Interstate Commerce Clause does authorize this massive corporatist screwjob, or else it has proven that it can do nothing effectual to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.)