Peace Requires Anarchy


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Roderick T. Long – An Open Letter to the Peace Movement

Ten years ago today, on March 7, 2003, Professor Roderick T. Long wrote the following open letter to the peace movement urging  peace activists who opposed the Iraq War to be more consistent in their support of peace by opposing domestic as well as foreign aggression.

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Dear Peace Activists:

All honour to you. In your opposition to the United States’ impending war on Iraq, you represent a welcome voice for sanity and civilisation, lifted up against the incessant baying of the dogs of war.

But I want to urge you to follow the logic of your position just a bit further.

Much has been said, and eloquently so, about the need, in dealings between nation and nation, to choose persuasion over violence whenever possible. Hear, hear!

But why this qualification: between nation and nation?

If persuasion is preferable to violence between nations, must it not also be preferable to violence within nations?

Suppose my neighbour runs a business out of his home, and I’d rather he didn’t. If I call the zoning board and ask them to shut his business down by force, am I acting like a peace activist? Or am I acting like George Bush?

Suppose I go to the polls and vote to maintain or increase income taxation, or gun control, or mandatory licensing, or compulsory education. Am I not calling upon the state to invade people’s lives and properties? To impose my will, by legalised force, on those who have done me no harm? To choose violence over persuasion? Am I acting like a peace activist, or am I acting like George Bush?

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.

To the extent that government initiates force against its people – and every government qua government must do so, since a government that maintained neither coercive taxation nor a coercive territorial monopoly of authority would no longer be a government, but something a good deal more wholesome – every government is waging a war of aggression against its own people. A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist.

It may be objected that in democratic countries, the government represents the will of the citizens; since the citizens are understood to consent to the government’s actions, those actions cannot count as “aggression” against the citizenry. Volenti non fit injuria.

The notion that voting counts in any meaningful sense as “consent” was subjected to devastating criticisms in the 19th century by the English classical liberal Herbert Spencer, in his essay The Right to Ignore the State, as well as by the American abolitionist Lysander Spooner, in his pamphlet No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority. Both works are available online; those tempted to regard majority rule as a form of self-government are invited to consult them.

As peace activists, we understand that aggressive warfare between nations is neither moral nor practical. If violence is to be employed, it must be defensive in nature, and it must be the last resort, not the first. Why would this principle hold good at the international level, but fail at the intranational?

Fellow peace activists: I invite you to join me in the work of the Molinari Institute. The state is the cause and sustainer of war, because the state by its nature is warfare incarnate. Its imperialist aggression beyond its borders is simply an extension of its inherent modus operandi within its borders. There is a peaceful, consensual alternative: Market Anarchism. The object of the Molinari Institute is to see that alternative implemented.

If you love peace, work for anarchy.

Yours in liberty,

Roderick T. Long, President
Molinari Institute

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Originally Posted on March 7th, 2003.

Also published here: peacemovement.wordpress.com

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First Anniversary of “Peace Requires Anarchy Blog”

A year ago today I wrote Peace Is The Purpose, the first post on this blog. In that post I said that the purpose of this blog was to advocate peace, but I have found that I have mainly used this blog to help improve my own understanding of what peace is and what it means to be “pro-peace” on various issues.

On the About page of this blog, I have clarified that being “pro-peace” means supporting peoples’ libertarian rights by abiding by the Non-Aggression Principle and by advocating that others do as well. Being pro-peace thus means more than simply advocating a situation in which physical violence is not used. As Gene Sharp says in his long essay From Dictatorship to Democracy:

What kind of peace?

If dictators and democrats are to talk about peace at all, extremely clear thinking is needed because of the dangers involved. Not everyone who uses the word “peace” wants peace with freedom and justice. Submission to cruel oppression and passive acquiescence to ruthless dictators who have perpetrated atrocities on hundreds of thousands of people is no real peace. Hitler often called for peace, by which he meant submission to his will. A dictators’ peace is often no more than the peace of the prison or of the grave. [page 14]

Being pro-peace thus also means advocating a situation in which there are no standing threats of aggressive violence. Advocating that people submit to Hitler’s will rather than use defensive force against him or disobey him nonviolently is thus not a pro-peace position. Further, a situation in which people do submit to Hitler’s will is not a peaceful situation, even if no violence actually occurs, due to the fact that if people have to submit themselves to Hitler’s demands then it must be the case that Hitler is threatening them with aggressive violence.

Note that the title of this blog, Peace Requires Anarchy, was inspired by a statement made by Professor Roderick T. Long in his brief letter, An Open Letter to the Peace Movement: “A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist.”

When I created this blog a year ago I did not realize that February 4th was Roderick Long’s birthday, but it turns out that that is the case–an interesting coincidence!

Some other works by Roderick Long that I recommend include:

Happy 49th birthday to Roderick Long and thanks for helping to inspire this blog!

Lastly, a note on the subtitle of this blog: “Advocating peace in all situations, at all times, without exception” means advocating peace consistently, which, as Roderick Long points out, necessarily entails advocating anarchism.

Check out the Works page to see some of what I’ve read and written about this past year regarding peace and libertarian anarchism.

And look at all of the people (3750 views according to WordPress; 4530 according to RevolverMaps) around the world (80 countries according to WordPress; 85 countries according to RevolverMaps) who have found this site in the past year! Amazing. The market will bring peace.

Static February 4, 2013 map followed by current map:

4Feb2013BlogVisitorMap

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There Is No Right to Education

I wrote this blog post in response to the views expressed in the article “Chicago teachers escalate toward historic strike” at the news website Waging Nonviolence. I have been subscribed to the weekly mailing list of the website since May 18, 2012 when I read the article “Thoreau’s gift that keeps on giving – even for gay marriage in Texas.” I disagreed with the article’s view on marriage (the government part of marriage, not the gay part—my view is that government marriage privileges should be abolished, as I explained in my comment on the article), yet I enjoyed the news story enough to sign up for the site’s mailing list. I am a big fan of civil disobedience and non-violent social change, so I could not resist. Since that first article I have found that I disagree with many of the views published on the website—including the view on government schools that will soon be discussed here—despite the fact that both the website and I put our principles of non-violence above all else.

My goal here is to appeal to your support of non-violence to persuade you to put in the mental effort to carefully think through the issues I am about to discuss to make sure that you are not accidentally supporting the violence that you oppose on principle. It is my sincere belief that by supporting more government you are supporting such violence, even when you are supporting government to try to advance the cause of the wonderfully charitable service of education. Let it be known that this is not an unimportant matter and that the position I am about to argue here is not to be brushed aside lightly, especially by those who value peace, non-violence, and voluntary consensual interactions between loving, caring people.

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Everyone who considers themselves pro-peace who supports increasing taxes to pay teachers higher salaries or to higher more teachers ought to reconsider their view.

There are many people who believe in a “right to public education,” but what is this right and do people really have it?

Note that I fully agree that every child, whether rich or poor or whatever, deserves the opportunity to receive an education. But, this does not mean that people have a right to said education.

To see why, let’s imagine a small society of three people (A, B, and C) living on an isolated island. Person A wants to be educated and claims that she has a “right to public education.”

Imagine there is the following problem. Neither B nor C wants to teach A for free and A is completely broke so she has nothing to offer B or C to get either of them to teach her voluntarily. Also note that neither B nor C is willing to voluntarily give anything to the other to get the other to teach A voluntarily.

So how can A have her “right to public education” respected? There are two ways:

(1) She can force one of them (e.g. C) to educate her against their will, or

(2) She can force one of them (e.g. B) to pay the other person (C) so as to get the other person (C) to educate her voluntarily.

The first option is clearly a form of slavery. Person C is being forced to work for A against her will and therefore is being enslaved.

The second option is clearly theft. Person B is having her money taken from her and given to C without her consent.

Therefore, no consistent person can be opposed to slavery and theft while at the same time believe in such a “right to public education.”

Now you might say, “Wait a minute, isn’t there a third option? What about what we are doing now?”

The answer is that the current way of providing people with their “right to public education” is the second option. People are taxed; the money is given to teachers; the teachers educate people voluntarily.

You might object, this time probably with several reasons jumbled together: “Hold on, taxation isn’t theft. It’s true that when we tax someone we are taking their money and giving it to teachers, but we are doing this with the taxpayer’s consent so it is not theft. Taxation without consent may be theft, but we have a democratic government in which we are all given the equal right to vote and collectively decide how to spend a certain portion of our money on matters of public concern, such as education. Further, it’s not as though one group of people is being taxed while another is receiving the money. We all pay taxes and we all receive the benefits of public education, so nothing is being stolen from anybody.”

There are a few different arguments here. From experience I know that it is quite difficult for people to be persuaded that they are all flawed, probably due to their fear of what “anarchy” would be like.*

While I could take the time and effort to meticulously lay out several pages of counter-arguments here explaining why the above objections** do not succeed in justifying taxation, nor in proving the claim that taxation is not theft, I believe that I can accomplish nearly as much with far less effort by replying to the central theme of the objections.

The arguments that taxation represents a third way—distinct from the theft or extortion of option (2)—to have someone’s “right to public education” respected rely on the claim that representative governments, voting, or other democratic processes manage to introduce some sort of consent into the system making taxation something other than extortion. This is wrong. Remember, you personally may be fine with paying taxes, but this does not mean that everyone else has consented. You personally may enjoy your one-in-a-million voice in deciding how the government spends your money, but this does not mean that everyone else has consented to the process. To quote philosophy Professor Roderick Long:

It may be objected that in democratic countries, the government represents the will of the citizens; since the citizens are understood to consent to the government’s actions, those actions cannot count as “aggression” against the citizenry. Volenti non fit injuria.

The notion that voting counts in any meaningful sense as “consent” was subjected to devastating criticisms in the 19th century by the English classical liberal Herbert Spencer, in his essay The Right to Ignore the State, as well as by the American abolitionist Lysander Spooner, in his pamphlet No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority. Both works are available online; those tempted to regard majority rule as a form of self-government are invited to consult them.

The above quote is from Roderick Long’s short yet inspiring article An Open Letter to the Peace Movement. The letter, written shortly before the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003, addresses those in the peace movement, who although correct in their opposition to violence between nations, often fail to see that they support certain forms of violence within nations. I highly encourage everyone reading this (and all of your friends and family not reading this) to read his letter—now if you have three or four minutes and now if you don’t. It’s that good.

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A Reply to Orygyn’s “A Society Without Mandatory Tax”

The following is my reply to Orygn’s blog post A Society Without Mandatory Tax:

This is great to see. Far too many people just say “Society wouldn’t be able to function without government,” and then go on to continue supporting immoral initiations of force (taxation, etc) rather than put in the effort to learn about voluntary solutions to societal problems.

While Orygyn did say, “…if you posit that mandatory taxation is immoral, it falls to you to posit a society that can function well without it,” he also made a good effort to try to think of ways that various problems might be solved without coercive taxation, so I give him credit. Before I provide some information on this topic, however, I would like to correct what Orygyn said (quoted previously). Anarchists, libertarians, or other opponents of coercive taxation, do not have the burden to provide voluntary solutions to every societal problem that people hand them (see this brief article). You are right, however, that until voluntary solutions to social problems are widespread (and if they are not spread by lovers of peace, who will they be spread by?), there will be little chance that people will, on a large scale, stop supporting things like coercive taxation.

Note that I do not have answers to every question you might have about how people will be able to provide solutions to every societal problem without resorting to aggression. Before I became an anarchist I had a long debate with my friend for several months on this issue of how to solve certain social problems without government force. I was confident that certainly some aggression was “necessary” to deal with at least some problems. My friend, an anarchist, disagreed and he persevered for an unbelievable long time in our debate. I don’t think that I would have had the patience or dedication to make the intellectual journey myself. I only managed because I did not want to let my friend down by stopping answering his arguments, so I argued against him for months.

It wasn’t until I one day decided to go back and read some of our discussion from months earlier that I realized that many of the problems that I had previously believed to be unsolvable without government coercion, I now had answers to. Soon after that I decided that despite still having many unanswered questions, I knew enough that I could let go of my support of violence. Since that day I have learned a great deal more about ways in which problems can be solved peacefully rather than violently, but I still am far from having all of the answers. You can’t expect any one person to have answers to every problem that society faces. In reality, everyone in a free society would be working to come up with the best solutions to particular problems. No one person or small group of people can design a whole society. Once you become aware of voluntary solutions to a certain number of problems that you previously believed to be unsolvable without coercion, however, then I think you (Orygyn as well as anyone else reading this), like me, will be able to drop your belief that violence is necessary to solve problems. Government is not a necessary evil.

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