Peace Requires Anarchy


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The Definition Of Theft

In this article I will not be attempting to offer a full definition of theft. Rather, I will assume a background of libertarian property rights and will examine just one disputed aspect of the definition of theft. This aspect is raised by YouTube user Orygyn in his YouTube video Taxation Is Not Theft embedded below:

Note that my view is that taxation is theft.

Allow me to begin by explaining what I believe that Orygyn’s argument is by considering two scenarios:

Scenario A: I could go up to you and say, “give me your money or else I will use violence against you to try to seize your money.”

Regardless of whether you submitted to my threat and handed over your money, or whether you attempted to resist and failed, I think we would all agree that this would constitute theft.

If you managed to fend me off, we might call it attempted theft, but this is irrelevant to the discussion of the definition of theft. Therefore, assume for the sake of this article that the aggressor (me in this scenario) is always successful at seizing peoples’ money (or other property) whenever (s)he attempts to seize the money with physical force.

Scenario B: You want to buy a product from Bob. I tell Bob that if he does not give a certain percentage of the money he receives from you when you buy his product (a sales tax) to me, then I will use violence against him to seize the money from him.

In this scenario, you are not the victim of an act of theft as Orygyn rightly points out in his video (from 2:20 to 2:40). You are not the victim because nobody is threatening you with force. I am threatening Bob with force, however, and so he is a candidate theft victim.

Suppose Bob does end up selling the product to you for some money. Regardless of whether Bob submits to my threat of violence and hands over the money to me or whether he attempts to resist me and fails, I would say that this scenario would constitute theft. It would be theft for the same reason that Scenario A is theft.

Suppose Bob chooses not to sell you the product, however. If he chose not to sell the product then I would not take any money from him. Would he be the victim of an act of theft then? No, I do not believe he would. Instead he would be the victim of a bully threatening to steal from him if he acted in a specific way. But, as I would not have any of his money in the end, this situation clearly would not be theft. (Note, however, that because Bob has the freedom to sell his property to you my threat of force against him would still be immoral even though it is not “theft.”)

But, suppose that Bob does choose to sell the product to you, even though he knows that I threatened to take a certain percentage of the money he made from you if he sold it. Would it be theft then? As I said above, I would consider it theft, yes. But, Orygyn, apparently would not. “It’s not stealing if you agree to it,” says Orygyn in his video (3:28) referring to the fact that Bob (well not “Bob” in the video) choose to sell the product to you despite being able to choose not to sell it to you.

I think the presence of this choice in the matter is irrelevant as I will explain shortly with some examples. Before doing that, though, let me make sure that this picture of the difference between Scenario A and scenarios like Scenario B is completely clear to all of us.

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Frederic Bastiat’s “What Is Seen And What Is Not Seen”

Despite knowing that Frederic Bastiat was not an anarchist [UPDATE: Bastiat may actually have been an anarchist], there was a point in his 1850 essay What Is Seen And What Is Not Seen at which I was convinced for a moment that he was about to espouse the anarchist position.

Bastiat wrote:

It is not within the province of this essay to evaluate the intrinsic worth of the public expenditures devoted to Algeria.

But I cannot refrain from making one general observation. It is that a presumption of economic benefit is never appropriate for expenditures made by way of taxation. Why? Here is the reason.

In the first place, justice always suffers from it somewhat. Since James Goodfellow has sweated to earn his hundred-sou piece with some satisfaction in view, he is irritated, to say the least, that the tax intervenes to take this satisfaction away from him and give it to someone else. Now, certainly it is up to those who levy the tax to give some good reasons for it. We have seen that the state gives a detestable reason when it says: “With these hundred sous I am going to put some men to work,” for James Goodfellow (as soon as he has seen the light) will not fail to respond: “Good Lord! With a hundred sous I could have put them to work myself.”

Once this argument on the part of the state has been disposed of, the others present themselves in all their nakedness, and the debate between the public treasury and poor James is very much simplified. If the state says to him: “I shall take a hundred sous from you to pay the policemen who relieve you of the necessity for guarding your own security, to pave the street you traverse every day, to pay the magistrate who sees to it that your property and your liberty are respected, to feed the soldier who defends our frontiers,” James Goodfellow will pay without saying a word, or I am greatly mistaken.

I thought that Bastiat was going to say that James Goodfellow would be irritated yet again and would say that he should be allowed to retain his right to choose which police, security, road, property protection, and soldier services he wishes to purchase and which he wishes not to purchase.

I was thus expecting a parallelism like this:

If the state says to him: “I shall take a hundred sous from you to pay the policemen who relieve you of the necessity for guarding your own security, to pave the street you traverse every day, to pay the magistrate who sees to it that your property and your liberty are respected, to feed the soldier who defends our frontiers,” James Goodfellow would not fail to respond: “Good Lord! With a hundred sous I could hire them for their services myself.”

Bastiat also could have mentioned the possibility that James Goodfellow may think that an army of soldiers is not needed to defend his property and thus may not not want to hire any such soldiers. Bastiat breezed over this possibility when he wrote, “James Goodfellow will pay without saying a word, or I am greatly mistaken.”

Perhaps some James Goodfellows would pay without a word, but certainly not all, so Bastiat is indeed mistaken in some sense. Further, I do not think that this was an unimportant point to just not mention. Rather, it is an important point because it raises questions about the nature of the government that Bastiat supports.

How would the government respond to such a person’s refusal to pay for the soldiers or police? Would the government force James Goodfellow to pay? In other words, is the government coercively taxing James Goodfellow to pay for these police and soldiers? If this is the case, then Bastiat’s limited government is not justified in its actions. Or is the government simply asking James Goodfellow if he would like to voluntarily purchase its police protection services? Perhaps the government would reply, “Okay, James Goodfellow. If you do not wish to purchase our police protection services then you do not have to.” If this is the case, then, as I argued in my post on Bastiat’s essay “The Law,” such a “government” would actually not be a government at all.

Despite a few details like this one that I disagreed with, I thought What Is Seen And What Is Not Seen was a very good essay. I recommend it to anyone interested in the subject as it is both entertaining and educational.


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Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law”

In his 1850 essay, The Law, classical liberal economist Frederic Bastiat wrote:

Law is justice. In this proposition a simple and enduring government can be conceived. And I defy anyone to say how even the thought of revolution, of insurrection, of the slightest uprising could arise against a government whose organized force was confined only to suppressing injustice.

Well, Mr. Bastiat, like you I would much prefer to live under such a limited government than to live under the government that I currently live under or the government that you lived under. The fact is, however, that such a government still amounts to tyranny as all governments necessarily do.

I will thus answer your challenge: “the thought of revolution, of insurrection, of the slightest uprising… against a government whose organized force was confined only to suppressing injustice” could arise from almost anywhere.

For example, imagine someone wants to purchase better quality or less expensive injustice-suppressing services from a different person or business wishing to sell such services. Your ideal government would violently prevent this competition from occurring by forcing its citizens to continue to pay taxes to fund its own injustice-suppressing services, would it not? If not, then is your ideal “government” really a government?

For a second example, imagine someone thinks that your government’s police force spends an unnecessary amount of money repressing injustice. Perhaps a bodyguard is hired for each family to make sure that no family gets attacked. I am sure that many people would deem this unnecessary and would not wish to purchase such expensive injustice-repressing services. Again, your government would tax these people against their will to take their money by force to fund its injustice-suppressing services, would it not? If it would not then I contend that what you advocate is not a government at all.

As a third example, imagine that your ideal government decides that the consumption of certain substances, such as marijuana or alcohol, is a crime. I could imagine it repressing these “injustices” despite how some of its citizens disagree that such acts are criminal. I could thus imagine someone wishing not to purchase your government’s injustice-repressing services for the simple reason that some of the acts that get suppressed are peaceful acts that people are free to make, not crimes. Once again, are people free to choose not to purchase the injustice-suppressing services of your ideal government? If they are, then what you propose is not a government at all. And if they are not, then this is the answer to your challenge.

Many years after your time philosopher Roderick T. Long wrote, “A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist.” He was right.

Your phrase “legal plunder” applies to taxation used to fund any goods and services, even the service of law itself.


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Peace Is The Purpose

As this is my first blog post, I think it is best that I share the reasons why I am starting this blog.

In a nut shell, I am creating this blog to advocate peace.

At first this may sound rather dull, but once you realize that the vast majority of people in today’s world do not consistently support peace, I think it’s likely that you will become just as passionate about this cause as I am.

In fact, it may be the case that you will realize that many of your own beliefs are inconsistent with peace. This may inspire you not only to change your own views, but also to passionately advocate peace to others as well.

The purpose of this blog is thus to enlighten people about the various beliefs that people hold that are inconsistent with peace and to advocate that they change these beliefs to favor peace.

My YouTube channel PeaceRequiresAnarchy is dedicated to this same purpose.

I also have a Twitter account PeaceReqAnarchy which will notify you of my new blog posts and occasionally other articles that I find interesting.