A DISCUSSION ABOUT VOLUNTARYISM
FUTURE PODCAST MATTERIAL
by Darrell Becker
An conversation of email covering the basics of ethics, property, abundance and scarcity….
The following is a small conversation I have had with a friend. I’ve been attempting to increase my own empathy when communicating ideas such as the topics covered on Voluntary Visions. We’ll see if there is any improvement over my previous attempts to convey these concepts and to point out particular perceptions that lend support to some of my own conclusions.
My friend wrote:
“I’m all about with the fundamental moral principals of voluntaryism. I believe that with voluntaryism-capatalism is fatally flawed, especially with the rhetoric of Stefan Molyneux and friends. His categorical dismissal of the “state” or “collective”, assertng they have no “real” existence is wanting. Then if any and ALL collectives do not exist then a “market,” the action of a “collective,” and “corporation,” is an arbitrarily defined private totalitarian ownership of a “collective” of workers. There is a serious inconsistency there.
I prefer Noam Chomsky’s assessment better”:
I responded, as best I could, with:
I ran into [a mutual friend of ours] today. I think philosophically I conveyed to him that you and I are 100% ready to conclude— that there is much corruption in the highest levels of government, military, corporate, industrial and financial systems that are presently in various levels of control of things. What do you think, do you still have this conclusion?
I wanted to understand more of what you just wrote in the last email, so I’m afraid I must copy/paste and ask questions. My questions are usually requiring far too much effort and time to respond to, so if you want, just nod your head or shake it as appropriate and get back to me when you can.
“I’m all about with the fundamental moral principals of voluntaryism.”
OK, seems to be about moral principles and ethics, so far as my research on voluntaryism goes. In fact, it only seems to be a philosophical stance of the Non-Aggression Principle and property rights as an extension of owning ones own body and ones labor and ones labor-made items and labor-improved land parcels (homesteading). So, this seem to be the fundament that voluntaryists build on, far as I can tell…
“I believe that with voluntaryism-capatalism is fatally flawed, especially with the rhetoric of Stefan Molyneux and friends.”
The “fatal flaws” are not clear to me, but I am open to understanding. Maybe we should start with real examples. Stefan seems to be a big hate-magnet with those who advocate for justifying the initiation of State violence for the end purposes of a “common good”. His rhetoric is highly hyperbolic, and he does not seem to be overly concerned with creating bridges of empathy, but usually he seems to appeal to logic and reason and ethics as the guiding principles. This has not endeared him to many. Same with some of his friends. Others, however, are much better in conveying a bridge of empathy, in my opinion…Richard Grove, for example, part of the Cognitive Liberty group at
“His categorical dismissal that the “state” or “collective” has no “real” existence is wanting.”
Yes, this is his hyperbolic method of leaning on abstractions to try and convey ideas. This is an unclear example. Combing through Stef’s material will find much use of metaphor, hyperbole and the hasty generalization fallacy, though he seems to avoid the ad hominem attack, usually.
“Then if any and ALL collectives do not exist then a “market,” the action of a “collective,” and “corporation,” is an arbitrarily defined private totalitarian ownership of a “collective” of workers. There is a serious inconsistency there.”
I think if a clear conversation with some other, perhaps less flowery-tongued voluntaryist occurred, there would be an affirmation with you that indeed, collectives exist, and are actually encouraged…as long as these collectives are voluntary, and can be unsubscribed to without drastic penalties like having to leave one’s home. For example: The Free State Project, 1000 people who moved to New Hampshire to live in proximity to each other and trade voluntarily, support each other to various degrees, do various levels of activism (filming cops, trading and doing business and keeping the fruits of “one’s labor”, alternative currencies, mutual support of those in financial/medical need, etc.) and this is essentially a collective.
In sum, Molyneux has not apparently been able to clearly convey the ideas of liberty to you, in such a way as to be free of contradictions.
It seems to me that either one advocates ethics for one and all, and therefor cannot condone any form of initiation of violence (whether by decree of king, president, legislature, lawyer, judge or just a mob of open tyrants) or one is just making apologies for being unethical or advocating unethical behavior. It also seems to me that “liberty” requires one and all to shift over to the level of ethics. Any who remain back in the violence/threat camp are indeed frequently seen as dangerous by many voluntaryists, but if those who do want to live their life by threatening/being threatened (in the form of a democracy) will just leave alone all those who wish to be ethical and free, this sounds like some form of harmony to me. Live and let live. But this is all academic. You and I do not possess the power of the State, we only discuss it. I will not “scramble for the gun of representation/legislation” but I will work behind the scenes for better and more effective healthcare, as well as other endeavors.
My friend wrote back (and be prepared for a lack of any specific addressing of many of my observations):
“I’m with you almost all the way. BUT, there is no escape from a need to provide for the “Common Good”.
Inherent to capitalism: if left to be “unregulated” it results in feudalism. The bigger an individuals pool of money the more powerful is that persons ability to leverage economic, therefore political, power. If you have more money, you have more say, The more say you have on how the rules are written the more freedom you will make for yourself. The less money you have the less say you have about the way things are run. The less money you have the more you are forced to do what those who have money ask of you, therefore you are less free. Poor people don’t pay good wages.When you have no money you have no freedom, you are going to go hungry and homeless. Poverty is destructive, especially to children. Living in sheds and shacks with not enough to eat destroys lives and destroys the natural environment. Poverty is a force of enslavement.
No one should be too rich or too poor!!
For me the ultimate collective is the planets ecology which is an interdependent ecosystems. At every level from individual organism to the Earth’s biosphere is the Big Collective, the Ultimate Commons. We as individuals are embedded in this living Web of existence.
Just by wishing away collectives will not solve the inherent dangers and benefits they present. The Common Good is inherent to our dependence on healthy communities that are supported by healthy ecosystems, they are inseparable and interdependent. Human ecology is the Commons.”
It is at this point in the “discussion” that I must pause and reflect upon these last comments of my friend, and the other topics that were just touched upon.
Too many of my friends who would self-describe as voluntaryist would be asking right now: Darrell, is your friend a statist? Is he a socialist, a communist? Wait…I would contend that labels are not conducive to creating bridges of empathy, in my experience. Even with the label happening in your mind, somewhat silently. Body language, intonation, eyecontact, word choices, all these things can give away internal judgements and diagnoses. Even typed words reflect elements of a priori conclusions, and if you do not possess a working knowledge of applying the informal logical fallacy lists, any fallacies that mistakenly come from your own hand or mouth will also give away any incriminating conclusions.
What other friends, self-described philosophers, might posit is: “Darrell, why are you bothering to talk to someone who does not take the time to address things you have said, or to accurately quote Molyneux or others and cite specific examples? It does not appear you can have a rational discussion with such a person.” Again, wait. I do agree with some of those observations as being verifiable, personally. But to address the feelings and values and desires, that is my goal of this particular typed conversation. To show the violence inherent in unethical authorities, to myself, to my listeners and readers, that is another goal. I don’t really know if I will ever truely convey (to my friend) the ethical question of the ballancing of the means and the ends without coercion, because I think it may be likely that he has concluded that the “world” works as a “zero-sum game” of win-lose relationships. The feelings and values of my friend are in no way unique, as my friends in the Liberty Movement well know by now. Speaking to such feelings and values in such a way as to continue discourse and promote knowledge, understanding and viable practical applications is also descriptive of some of my goal list with this particular conversation.
Ahhh, how to convey this to my friend….
I began by saying I needed some more clarification on some of his last message:
“Inherent to capitalism: if left to be “unregulated” it results in feudalism. The bigger an individuals pool of money the more powerful is that persons ability to leverage economic, therefore political, power. If you have more money, you have more say, The more say you have on how the rules are written the more freedom you will make for yourself. The less money you have the less say you have about the way things are run. The less money you have the more you are forced to do what those who have money ask of you, therefore you are less free.”
So, I suppose I was wondering, did you mean by “capitalism”, as you wrote it, being defined by “no monopoly of aggressive force initiating rules constraining any exchanges of goods and services, besides the ethics that people individually care to apply to their own businesses”? In other words, did you mean: free trade, or more specifically, just “people being free”, doing what they wish, exchanging when and with whomever they wish? In your above observation, you may be speculating that the mega-wealthy, the comfortably wealthy, the middleclass and the poor will all enter such a “market”, and then the zero-sum game of win-lose will occur. Perhaps you would conclude that everyone will be trying to out-do everyone else, and a form of tyrannical feudalism (such as what exists now or potentially much worse) will occur. Perhaps you would also conclude that if there is freedom to exchange voluntarily, and no one has a monopoly on the use of force, someone will rise up to become that monopoly. If this is assumed to be true, then it is common to assume that it isn’t worth trying to have such freedom anyway. Basically, due to the underlying, internalized win/lose nature in all people (except you and I, naturally) most individuals cannot be trusted to have freedom from a coercive monopoly that is always prepared to issue a threat in order to make sure that everyone gets along and “does their share”. All for a scarcity of a very precious resource, apparently: ethical behavior that people hold in “common”.
Naturally, there are other theories of how people can relate to each other, such as in win/win relationships, for example. It seems that when I analyze all of the interactions with people in my own life, and in the lives of those who are close to me, I see most of us having lots of enjoyable, coercion-free interactions with most people, and having a few forced interactions (bureaucracies, permitting offices, being detained by “law enforcement” for “victimless crimes”, being compelled to pay “taxes”) that are not so conducive to making a wonderful life. I contend that it is the coercive nature of those interactions that make the interaction so much less beneficial to people’s lives, and that the voluntary relationships experienced by a person, free from coercion, will often be far more beneficial to the individual, and simultaneously it will be less tragic than the obedience to a monopoly provider of a good or service.
It is the obedience to tyranny in its many forms that gives such immense power to these methods of control used by the ruling class, as they use well-meaning people to enforce tyranny upon other, similarly enslaved individuals. A major rise in ethics could be therapeutic to this situation.
A conclusion I have heard told to me many times (with the conviction of those telling it that it was gospel truth) is that “we” should all just use the system (of monopolies of initiation of aggression such as governments, legislatures, magistrates, military authorities, etc.), and we should justify this system as a valid a theory of how to form and order a society, but unfortunately … things have become corrupted and gone wrong due to too many bad apples in the barrel. Furthermore, it is claimed we have no alternative but to keep trying to use governments, states, bureaucracies, legislation, regulation, and monopolies of enforcement and arbitration. Some people even seem to think it is original when they tell me:
“If you want to change the system you have to work within the system.” “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”
I prefer: “If you want to change the system, work to create many superior and competing systems that make any particular undesirable system impossible to fund and compete, and make it die an obsolete death like Betamax.”
And also: “If you don’t outsource coercive decision making processes to people who are provable to be unethical (a.k.a. “voting”), you can use your time more fruitfully by innovating competing systems of goods and services that make monopolies obsolete.”
There is the idea, suggested by many modern tyrants, of everyone being “strongly encouraged” (read this as – forced) to pool together resources into a commons, and these tyrants would claim that only in the commons could we experience the freedom from want, by virtue of all of us sharing resources. Rarely would modern tyrants wish to suggest that everything become locally and privately owned, because, even though most modern tyrants are in the Mega-Wealthy camp, they enjoy the veil of legitimacy they employ with their crimes by using terms like “government resources” or that they are doing things “for the common good” as an excuse for their theft, aggression and threats. I contend that most modern tyrants prefer hidden tyranny, where resources around the world have been collected in the name of the “common good” and used by either head of the dragon: I am referring to both the private, corporate conglomerates or the governments that own controlling stock in them.
As I just mentioned, it is my contention that the modern ruling class prefer to hide their coercion using the alleged legitimacy of democratic and representative processes. I also contend this same ruling class would wish to abolish all private property (as the concept is generally understood by voluntaryists) with the exception of the private property owned by most of the wealthy members of the ruling class, naturally. (By the way, most voluntaryists I know would never condone obscene land holdings, such as one million acres, wherein property improvement by one man [the Homestead Principle in action] could never be supported with evidence, nor would it be likely that adjecent landowners of small parcels would wish to help support the claims of their neighbor who alleges gigantic ownership.) There are many people who voluntarily collect together, and they pool some resources together for mutual purposes. This is still widely encouraged by the voluntaryists I have studied, some of whom have even attempted to form mutual aid societies more recently.
Next, you wrote:
“Poor people don’t pay good wages.When you have no money you have no freedom, you are going to go hungry and homeless.Poverty is destructive, especially to children. Living in sheds and shacks with not enough to eat destroys lives and destroys the natural environment. Poverty is a force of enslavement.
No one should be too rich or too poor!!”
I agree, I think the desperately poor individual just isn’t hiring at all. Is this fair? More accurately, it seems it is just extremely unfortunate. This is a problem, a symptom of greater tyranny, and remedying the causes of this problem is important. It is the method of remedying this situation that is important to not loose sight of. Also important is to trace down the causal vectors, rather than assuming poverty exists on its own, and assuming “redistribution of wealth” is the solution. The fact of what is fair is important, but please indulge a bit of attention to a choice word that can imply so many different things: Responsible. One of the breakdowns of the word “responsible” is “the ability to respond.” Those who are desperately poor often cannot (intellectually, financially, and sometimes even morally) effectively respond to predatory attacks upon their person and property, at least, not nearly as adequately as the ruling class can (who appear to be able to endlessly repel any effective attack upon most of their persons and property). This is obviously not only unfair, it is unethical. Ah, but what to “do” about it?
Should we advocate that we can use unethical means (such as voting to take from the wealthy) as long as these unethical methods are being used on unethical people? I caution that advocating unethical actions, whether of your own action or of those you lend legitimacy to (such as representatives) leads to tragedy, every time.
Also you wrote:
“For me the ultimate collective is the planets ecology which is an interdependent ecosystem. At every level from individual organism to the Earth’s biosphere is the Big Collective, the Ultimate Commons. We as individuals are embedded in this living Web of existence.
Just by wishing away collectives will not solve the inherent dangers and benefits they present. The Common Good is inherent to our dependence on healthy communities that are supported by healthy ecosystems, they are inseparable and interdependent. Human ecology is the Commons.”
Again, it seems that is easy to take away from choice bits of Molyneux and certain others that they want to “do away with the collective”, or wish it away. It seems from my research that there is, amongst many voluntaryists, a desire to aggregate into more appropriate, local, voluntary collectives that work to promote the individuals involved rather than subjugate them to arbitrary forms of coercion “for their own good”. Most voluntaryists do not seem to advocate for the dissolving of all collectives, they are just wishing for the forming of much better, smaller collectives that respect individuals in a more effective way. Also, I think that there are many self-described voluntaryists who like to envision the inseparable web connecting them to all other living things and all other people. Again, these are people who are big on ethics and responsibility, so there are many voluntary-minded folk who are as committed to treating local ecosystems with the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) in a similar way as they are with human interactions.
I speculate that there is another form of the “common good” that voluntaryists would actually wish to promote, and this is the common good of the resources of community-wide ethics, made up of voluntarily-associating individuals who practice the NAP and respect property rights as their a priori conclusion. This “common good of the resources of local ethics” is what many voluntaryists would place as more important than the socialist idea of the “common good of shared physical resources”, which has become, in most practical instances, an excellent format for applied tyranny. The socialist fears the scarcity of physical resources, and seeks the wealth and security they wish to have by insisting on joining a collective that forces everyone to share everything that is a resourse. The voluntaryist fears any tyrannical control of their lives (such as being forced to join a monopolized collective by virtue of geographic location, or being forced to relinquish any of their property, for any ostensible reason). The voluntaryist fears this aggression and theft whether they are rich or poor, and they wish to associate entirely with those who privately own their own self and property and use it with NAP ethics intact. In the vision of the voluntaryist – everyone keeps a check and balance upon how well everyone else keeps to the NAP, approximately how generous everyone is (or not) and how dependable they are, etc. This, among any group of voluntaryists, creates a “commons of local ethics”, where all material resources are indeed privately owned … but … aggression is highly and actively discouraged by being so disadantageous and expensive to employ. This discouragement can be due to ostracism, loss of trade/income, bad ratings with various goods and service providers that can be traced, and even retaliatory action by those who would deem they are seeking redress of injury or damage.
It is a common conception that the “zero-sum game” or “game theory” method of human interaction is promoted by liberty-loving voluntaryists. By this, I mean that it is concieved that voluntaryists (and libertarians that they are confused for) promote win/lose interactions as a necessary component of interaction.
It seems that this is not true in practice, however. From my research, most voluntaryists are individuals who promote win/win interactions in as many areas of their lives as they can. Extend this ethical behavior to ownership of all land and water and you have people who are clear on being responsible for the effects of their actions, and who know all too well what happens to those who misuse their property (meaning the punishment of decreased trade, ostracism, and adjacent property owners seeking redress of damages).
I again realize this is all academic. The world population is still lacking an adequate number of consciously-ethical voluntaryists, and it seems very common for people I meet, or read about, or watch in video form, to be just plodding along to a silent tune played by the ruling class – “Go to work, produce, collect what benefits you are ‘entitled to’ from the collective, obey the legislation and regulation imposed by your ‘chosen’ representatives, trust your doctor, and die.”
The purpose of writing all of this is to help envision more ways to reduce various tyrannical control methods, as well as to cast doubt on the veracity and ethics of using the methods of coercion and initiating aggressive violence to compel ethical behavior or to effectively promote mutually beneficial interactions. Rather than “using the weapons of the ruling class against the ruling class” I would suggest looking at methods that are superior in ethical structure, essentially promoting win-win situations in as many areas of our lives as we can. If this sounds simplistic, I wish to point out that it is counter to much of what has been taught to us, and thus it becomes necessary to “un-learn” win/lose behaviors. I would say that like any art it takes practice to effectively apply ethical behavior, starting with self-analysis to identify any internal tyranny left over from our indoctrination in the government school systems, of which we have both been subject to, to the tune of about 15,000 hours (K – 12) in addition to our own experiences with “higher education”.
When it comes to the coercive methods of the ruling class,
I would contend: “We can do better than this.” Let us work to innovate more solutions, starting within our own spheres of direct influence and then slowly moving outward to those further from us. Sure beats advocating for everyone being forced to “do the right thing”, wouldn’t you say? I look forward to your response.
I look forward to the reply, but I feel the previous piece conveyed what I wanted without need of further clarification. But here is something to keep in mind, in my opinion:
“Socialist, statist, … Whoa, there, put down those labels before someone get’s hurt, ok? Those words are loaded, and it is dangerous to muzzelsweep the room with those.” I mention this to draw attention to differentiate between labels that are self-described and putting labels on other people. It is my opinion that both are limiting in intellectual scope of vision, and putting labels on people who do not wish to wear them is just unethical and bound to make barriers between individuals.
My friend responded with the following:
“Some definitions (as I see them)
- 〉 Dollars/Money: documents of ownership ALL measurements of modern economy markets are measured by them.
- 〉 Corporation: a form of government or chartered organization “owned” by “private” person(s); the “Private Sector”. If the “state” is collectivism them the “corporation” is collectivism also.
- 〉 Property: is ownership protected by governmental sanctioned authority and force of law.
- 〉 Value: something of “worth”
- 〉 Monopoly: there are natural monopolies, where government must seek to serve the Common Welfare such as clean air, healthy food, a “Free Press” opinions have “value”.
- 〉 Collective: the natural collection of individuals; “We the People”
The process of the exchange of money as the only measure of value does not work over the long term or [for] a majority of people. It works in the short term for the benefit of a few.
And property ownership, valued in dollars, is not absolute, and should not be the ONLY measure of value. If protecting the Rights of property ownership is the only, or even the primary, duty of any government then only those with property will have Rights. People and the living ecosystems we depend on have “value” that is not considered in the exchange of money. There is clearly a greater economic advantage to people with more money. A poorer person is naturally less powerful than a rich person. If you lack the basic elements necessary for a dignified existence you are not free. And, if you have enough money that you are a threat to civil government, the State, what results is a “private” government. The “Private Sector” becomes the only “Sector” or feudalism.
A government that approximate[s] “Anarchy” or “voluntaryism” is indeed what is needed. But unregulated capitalism and so called “free markets” are not the way to ensure “liberty” will survive. When someone owns everything you need to survive that person owns you.
There are different inherent, interwoven, levels of natural organization with ALL living organisms. From single individual organism to a collection of related individuals organism and all the way to Global biosphere of interdependent organisms. Each level has an MEASURABLE effect on all the other levels. We often when discussing and study the dynamics of the relationships of these different levels we make arbitrary distinctions. Is a family a collective? A family should be certainly be govern[ed] differently than a community. But, what if it is a small community where 99% are related, [how do you define] the exact line between what is a family and community? Even we as individuals can be defined a collections of autonomous cells that “decided” to co-operate for the benefit of the whole. In fact, we are a collection of interdependent organisms. We have billions of individual organisms vital to our existence like nematode worms, or E. coli bacteria. We even have viruses that have found a way to integrate their DNA into our parents DNA that we in turn pass on to our kids. In a real sense we as “individuals” can be seen as a “community” of interdependent organisms at the microscopic level.
Having two degrees in biology related sciences, [it is generally known that] All aspects of biology and ecology speaks to interdependence not selfishness individualism. If one your cells decides to rapidly reproduce itself and consume every available resource we call it cancer. We [are] now consuming this planet at a cancerous rate. There is a way Nature deals with an organism that can not live with[in] the limits of it[s] environment, it’s called extinction.” [I added a few words in brackets to aid clarification. Actually, my own emails that I had sent my friend had typos too, and you are hearing or reading the edited versions of each of the correspondences.]
Again, it is time for me to pause. And once again, I was expecting that many of my cogent observations would not be responded to. What I always pay attention to is which observations or statements I made were responded to. I was expecting a continuation of conflation of the definitions of some words to be “redefined” by my friend, though the “friend-tionary” he was apparently using for his definitions had some interesting choices of meanings for those words. Keeping to the point, what is the purpose of my discourse with this person? As mentioned before, it is still to draw attention to the consistency of ethics and logic, and to encourage empathetic consistency as well as keeping perspectives wide when it comes to historical and objectively verifyiable studies.
This time, as I am nearly at a loss as to where to begin in my reply, I am going to ask my other friends with help in isolating key observations, feelings, values and desires that could be fruitful to respond to.
This is the point of “Oy….” If you don’t understand what I mean, this is the point where I must simply say “Oy vey, this is going nowhere, and I’m gonna have to ask my audience for a response that is empathetic, NVC-ish, Trivium turned on, Fallacy List active, and intellectually and ethically consistent.”
You, the reader, are encouraged to take your time, craft a response. I promise I will send it off if it meets my above criteria, and I will post my friend’s response to your post.
Aloha readers and listeners.