Peace Requires Anarchy

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RE: What do you mean I could be “more radical”?

Hello Tom,

I commented on your video:

2:25 Rand: “I will support [endorse] the nominee.” Ugh. Shame on him. Rand Paul is a statist. Good commentary at the end. You can still be way more radical though, Mr. Woods.

And you replied with a Tweet:

What do you mean I could be “more radical”? This isn’t good enough?

First of all, I know you’re already aware of this, but I just want to say that it’s really great that you take the time to interact with your audience. The liberty movement can definitely benefit from more scholars willing to have conversations with average people. Your recent conversation with Greg in the comment section of your blog post on drip pans, for example, is worth noting.

It’s a very powerful gesture to actually reply to such comments rather than just ignore them. Many scholars would and do ignore such comments, including arguments a great deal more substantive than Greg’s. For example, Paul Krugman won’t even debate Robert Murphy. Who does he think he is? I think it’s clear that your approach is far better.

When I made my comment saying that you can be “more radical” I already knew that you were an anarchist. To be honest, though, that fact can be easy to forget when watching some of your videos.  It’s true that sometimes you make it clear that you are an anarchist, as you did in the clip of the video “Is Limited Government an Oxymoron?” (posted at the bottom of this blog post), but at other times it seems that everything you say is compatible with a small government conservative Republican’s beliefs.

What I meant to say with my comment was thus not that you can be more radical, but rather that you can act more radical. By this I mean you can challenge your audience’s beliefs more often. I think I am correct in saying that a majority of your audience supports government to some degree. Not all Ron Paul supporters are anarchists either, of course.

To be fair, the video that I commented on was one in which you were the interviewer and thus it probably wouldn’t have been appropriate for you to interject with your own views. You did state your own views in the commentary at the end though, but even then everything that you said could have been said by a small government conservative fed up with the rapid growth of the federal government.

So basically I often find myself urging you to say something to challenge your non-anarchist audience’s views and make them confront their support of government on a fundamental level. There’s a featured quote on your website that says:

“During these times that challenge our freedoms there is no one more qualified to make U.S. history relevant to the fight against big government than Thomas Woods.”
-Barry Goldwater Jr.
Former Member of Congress

Why the qualification “big”? I agree that you are very good at arguing against “big government.” The problem (if it is a problem) is that that this seems to be almost exclusively what you argue against. It’s rare that I see you argue against all government. I understand that you are opposed to all government and that you can argue well against all government, but you often choose not to at times when I wish you would.

You have managed to gather a large audience, however, so I will leave it to you to determine what you think the best strategy is for educating people about liberty. Should you mainly preach to the choir–argue for the liberties that your audience already believes in–or should you argue for the remaining few liberties that many in your audience do not currently support?

If you agree with my intuition that bringing up the more “radical” subjects more often is a good thing, then perhaps a good time to begin is when Obama is re-elected in a few months. There are probably many non-anarchists in your audience still hoping that Ron Paul will save the day. Once they see that politically he has failed, perhaps they will realize how successful he has been at what really matters–educating people and spreading the ideas of liberty–and thus will possibly be more open to learning about the “radical” notion of consistent support of peace.

Thanks for reading this, Tom. I appreciate what you do.

Will Kiely

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If You Were King

Not the chess piece, but a king in real life. Tongue Out This thought-provoking video presents a thought experiment that challenges you to come up with just one good thing that you could do with your power if you were King–or President or Prime Minister or Senator, etc.

At first the task seems easy. Yes we are all aware that there are many examples of government officials who abuse their power, but this does not mean that all exercises of power are bad. It just means that some people are corrupted by power. But certainly good politicians–good Kings and Presidents and others–can use government power for good, right?

Upon more closely examining various possible uses of power we realize that many of our plans to do good with government power fail. We realize that every time we use government power we are using brute physical force against others. While it is true that there are times when using physical force is justified, such as in self-defense or defense of others, we find that government never only uses force defensively.

For example, while a police officer may justly use force against someone with a gun who is threatening another person in order to defend that person, we find that that police officer’s salary is obtained from taxpayers using threats of force. Rather than ask people if they wish to voluntarily purchase the police’s protection and justice services, the government forces everyone in a particular geographic region to pay for their services regardless of whether they want the services or not.

Maybe some people wish to purchase similar protection and justice services from other a different organization rather than from the particular government that employs the aforementioned police officer. When a government uses its power to force everyone in a particular geographic region to pay it for its own security and justice services, however, the people who would prefer to purchase the services of an alternative provider instead find themselves the victims of government power.

We see the same problem with our plans to use government power to help feed the poor or provide them with housing. While charities accomplish these noble goals by asking people to make voluntary contributions to the causes, we find that governments always end up threatening people with physical force who do not not wish to help out–or wish to help out by donating to another organization instead.

As Ludwig von Mises writes:

It is important to remember that government interference always means either violent action or the threat of such action. The funds that a government spends for whatever purposes are levied by taxation. And taxes are paid because the taxpayers are afraid of offering resistance to the tax gatherers. They know that any disobedience or resistance is hopeless. As long as this is the state of affairs, the government is able to collect the money that it wants to spend. Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

If this is your first time considering this point of view it is likely that you will reject it. Government exists in so many aspects of society and is filled with so many kind, well-intentioned individuals, that the thought that all government action may be unjust and harmful may seem absurd. We are all tempted to believe that surely some government action must be good or, at the very least, a necessary evil to prevent civilization from degenerating into a chaotic Hobbesian war of all-against-all.

But if you are honest with yourself and put in the effort to examine your reasons for believing that the government action that you support is just, as well as put in the effort to learn what a society without a coercive monopolistic government might look like, then perhaps you will not dismiss this view as absurd. You may surprise yourself and conclude that there is nothing good you could do with your power If You Were King.

As Roderick T. Long says it so simply in An Open Letter to the Peace Movement, “A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist.”

I recommend reading Gustave de Molinari’s “The Production of Security” for an introduction to what a society might look like without a monopoly on security, i.e. a government.

For more information on all of this, check out the featured videos on my YouTube Channel or the resources at my blog.

As always, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to mention them below. Thank you.