Defining Libertarianism (was Defining Terrorism)

Russel Caldwell caldr704 at
Wed Jun 26 18:18:01 MDT 2013

On Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 3:43 PM, Daniel C. <dcrookston at> wrote:

> On Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 5:01 PM, Russel Caldwell <caldr704 at>
> wrote:
> > What makes government force so legitimate?
>  - Governments are (at least ostensibly) accountable.  This is part of
> why agents of the government who are authorized to use force (e.g.
> police officers and soldiers) wear uniforms with identification on
> them.  The uniforms identify the person wearing it as someone who is
> acting on behalf of the government.  It establishes accountability for
> the actions of the person wearing the uniform.  If you don't like what
> someone in uniform does, you can go to the person that he or she is
> accountable to and complain.  Ultimately, in the United States, the
> government is accountable to the citizens.  (In practice we know that
> this is not 100% true, but it is what we strive for.)  This has all
> kinds of ramifications when it comes to wars, the ability of police to
> make arrests (an arrest being a use of force,) etc.

Ostensibly is the key word isn't it? Is it too much for me to expect that
our police force act more like Andy Griffith and less like S.W.A.T. and the
police state it's becoming? We've got the blunt instrument of force called
the IRS that is supposed to level the playing field of the classes. Is it
naive of me to think that people who carry signs that say "Tax the rich"
have no clue how wealth is produced? Am I a lunatic for thinking that this
latest IRS scandal is simply a showing of its true colors as an oppressor
of anybody who doesn't agree with the "principle" of redistributing wealth?

> - Governments are (again, ostensibly) an extension of a social
> contract.  (See Hobbes's Leviathan.)  If I'm remembering my readings
> correctly, Hobbes posits that humans enter into a society and grant
> our governments the sole authority for force in exchange for the
> increased freedoms and protection that joining the society give us.
> The alternative, he claims, is for us to live in a state of nature, of
> a constant and continual war of all against all.  Obviously this is
> more of a philosophical enterprise than a statement of historical
> fact, but it does make for a good thought experiment.  So, to bring it
> back to the question of what makes government force legitimate: it's
> legitimate because everyone who participates in a society implicitly
> (or explicitly, in some cases) cedes the right to use force to their
> government.
> How do we implicitly cede our rights to use force to the government by
participating in society? Exactly what are my options if I decide not to
participate? Exactly how would I not participate in society? This whole
thing would be a moot point to me if the government wasn't so egregiously
encroaching on my rights to do what I think is in my own best interests as
long as I don't infringe on the rights of others do likewise. Exactly what
fundamental principle allows the government to take my property and do with
it what it will without my consent? Isn't this a fundamental question that
should be treated more circumspectly than it is by the political elite?
More specifically, what allows a government to appropriate property from
one and give it to another to build a mall? That's just one of the more
egregious examples in recent years. You'd think the political class would
have a little more reticence to commit such an act of aggression, but no,
we're getting more and more of this kind of behavior and frankly it's not
really surprising if you understand one basic principle of human action
which is that a person will act in accord with what he perceives as his
best interests whether that is in the political sphere or in the market.
The difference is that in the political sphere force is used while in the
market persuasion is used.

> As was pointed out earlier most
> > people are disillusioned with the system to the point that there are more
> > and more of us that see no point in participating in the political
> process.
> This does bring into question the legitimacy of our current
> government, but that doesn't necessarily intersect with the question
> of whether governments are the sole legitimate wielders of force in a
> society.

But isn't this a salient point in this conversation? Isn't the current
government ceding its legitimacy as a wielder of force by the very way it
exercises that power?

> > In a free market every transaction is freely entered into by both
> parties.
> This is probably a good time to mention the tyranny of violence.  It
> is often proposed that we should all "just get along" or that humans
> should work toward an end of violence.  These ideas are fantastic in
> both meanings of the word.  They are fantastic ideas that I agree with
> and which I hope we can bring to fruition, but they are also fantastic
> in that they pretty much come from the realm of fantasy.  This isn't a
> statement about the fallen nature of man or anything.  (I personally
> think that the human future is bright and that we can overcome our
> darker nature, but that's a separate topic.)  It's just the nature of
> violence: there is no room for consent when violence gets involved.
> In this fantasy world where we all live without violence, all it takes
> is for one person to decide that they're going to be violent and
> suddenly everyone else loses their agency.  The choice to live in
> peace no longer exists: you can either be violently subjugated, or you
> can try to stop the violence... which ironically requires being
> violent in return.  And of course you didn't choose violence -
> somebody else did, and when they chose it your ability to live in
> peace disappeared.
> Without a government (which is the sole authorized proprietor of
> violence) in place, a free market is only free so long as everyone
> plays nice.  Alternatively you could create a free market in which
> mercenary protection is available to those who can afford it, but you
> probably didn't even finish reading that statement before you realized
> how wrong that situation would go.
> I am painfully aware of the possible weaknesses of the anarcho-capitalist
view in a "what if" kind of way (not that we've tried anything that comes
remotely close to know one way or another), but I'm also more presently
aware of the catastrophe we've got in the present "democratic" system. In
an election much less than 50% of us get what we want. In the end nobody
actually gets what he wants. In a free market transaction 100% of the
participants get what they want. Obviously, there will be buyer's remorse
but I for one am much happier with that than with what we get in the
present political process. In the market my liberty is not infringed upon.
Winston Churchill said, "The best argument against democracy is a
five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Unfortunately, I'm afraid
there is a lot of truth in that.

I don't advocate a total dismantling of the system. That wouldn't work. I
do think this country has gone way off course. The natural rights of the
individual are no longer respected, and that to me is not only a total
shame but also a roadmap to disaster. Also, IMHO most people in this
country do not have a fundamental understanding of how an economy works.
Bernanke's manipulation of interest rates is arrogance at its finest. For
that reason I support people like Ron Paul who stand for more than just
getting reelected.

> When the government does something most of us have no idea what
> transpired,
> > and we cannot possibly know. There is not enough time in the day to keep
> > track of what these jokers are doing. Just look at the Obamacare mess.
> How
> > many, even in congress, really know what is in that bill, much less what
> > the consequences will be.
> Our current American government, yes, absolutely.  It's a damn mess.
> But that doesn't mean that all governments everywhere must be a damn
> mess.
> >In my mind, destructive monopoly power is derived from the government.
> A government (which, as defined in this email, is the sole arbiter of
> force / violence) can certainly create monopolies.  But free
> capitalism, with no government, will also result in monopolies.  As is
> typical, the truth and the best option both lie somewhere between the
> extremes.
> Isn't that that the fundamental definition of government, an institution
that has a monopoly on the use of force? Isn't that what the founding
fathers of this country feared the most?

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-- Michael Polanyi

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