Saturday, February 17, 2018

When the State is the Only Option

The Libertarian Forum, edited by Murray N. Rothbard; May 1, 1970

When we last left Rothbard’s bi-weekly dialogue through this periodical, he concluded that the New Left was dead, having abandoned any connection to true libertarian objectives such as its anti-war stand.  I remind you of this because the story continues with this edition.

Rothbard identifies several instances of the New Left attacking, occupying, or destroying private property, for example:

Recently, hooliganesses of the Women’s Liberation Movement seized the offices of Grove Press, and issued numerous “demands.”

Grove Press called in the police to carry those female invaders out, and proceeded to charge them with criminal trespass.

This seems to me a reasonable response to the trespass; yet, I know that there is a libertarian objection – one which Rothbard addresses (emphasis added):

But, it might be asked, isn’t it a terrible thing to call in the state police for self-defense?  Certainly not.  While no libertarian enjoys calling on the State for defense, the fact remains that the State had arrogated to itself a compulsory monopoly of the function of police protection.

Let me get this straight: if the State has a “compulsory monopoly” on what would otherwise be a perfectly libertarian-consistent function, Rothbard does not believe that anyone who suggests it is acceptable for a libertarian to utilize the State to carry out that function somehow loses his NAP membership card.

For example, say your house is on fire; it seems it is OK to call the county fire department (thank God).  Or, say you want to get to the department store; it is not a capital offense to drive on public roads (too bad, now I have to go to work next week).  How about if you want to buy a candy bar?  Sure, go ahead and spend those Federal Reserve Notes (there goes the paleo diet). 

So…I have this problem…me and a bunch of my neighbors decide we like the make-up of our neighborhood.  In fact, everyone in the county feels about the same.  We don’t want Commies moving in – not anywhere near us, not anywhere that they can get a foothold in our neighborhood, in our city hall – even in our state capital.

For goodness’ sakes, they are Commies!

Now, if all property was private, it is perfectly consistent with the non-aggression principle for us to agree to such a thing and enforce it.  But I don’t even need to say “if all property was private.”  Any polity can decide such a thing: no Commies allowed within the geographic area that incorporates all of our homes and businesses and schools (and the roads and parks that we have paid for through taxes).

But…but…but…we have no means to enforce this voluntarily, through private means.  You know why that is; actually, let me allow Rothbard to remind you why:

“…the fact remains that the State had arrogated to itself a compulsory monopoly of the function of police border protection.”

So, I ask…if it is OK to utilize the State for the purpose of protecting private property when the State has taken a monopoly in the function of protecting private property, why is it not OK to utilize the State for the purpose of protecting the private property of me and a few thousand of my neighbors when the State has taken a monopoly in the function of protecting the private property of me and a few thousand of my neighbors?

I’m just asking.

Bonus Coverage

There is more.  Remember those “hooliganesses of the Women’s Liberation Movement” mentioned by Rothbard earlier?

And it is not only the current means employed by the Left that I am attacking; it is also their newfound ends as well.  Of what relevance to libertarianism, for example, are the demands of the Women’s Liberationists?  In what way is it “libertarian” to foist their perverted values upon the general culture and upon society?

One can think of many “perverted values” foisted on society during and since the inception of the Women’s Liberation Movement.  These “perverted values” seem to be foisted at an ever-increasing rate.  Many so-called libertarians delight in these “perverted values” being foisted on society.

Rothbard asks: in what way is this “libertarian”?  Rothbard leaves the rhetorical question unanswered, but Rothbard is clearly leading a horse to water.  He is quite clear – it is in no way “libertarian.”

Now I suppose that Rothbard could mean that libertarianism is indifferent to such matters.  Technically, this rings true to my ears.  But take his tone.  He is not writing in a manner of indifference.  He is placing some value in the “culture”; he identifies these New Left values as “perverted” toward this culture. 

If one could ask Rothbard today, do you think that he would suggest that these “perverted values” would be helpful or harmful toward achieving and maintaining a libertarian order?  Or would he be indifferent?

I will leave these rhetorical questions unanswered…but the water is right in front of you.  Care to take a drink?


  1. I can certainly think of a great many perverted values foisted on society during and since the inception of the Women's Liberation Movement. I can also think of some even more perverted values that seem to have arisen naturally within "Western" civilization, sufficiently perverted as to make the most rabid shrieking hair-pulling SJW seem to be a positively reasonable and thoughtful person. Slavery comes most prominently to mind -- both the slavery of one "dirt person" owning another (traditional slavery), and also the slavery of the State claiming ownership of adult males' lives through conscription.

    Again, I do appreciate the way that you, through blogging and open discussion, are addressing and encouraging the development of thought of how to create and sustain practical libertarian life. I believe that you have an excellent point in the idea that we do need something more than "Thou shalt not" in order for there to be a cohesive and lasting libertarian society.

    I do have a question for you, and for others contemplating this: What precisely constitutes "perverted values", in your eyes? I think most (or at least many) of us of a libertarian mindset can agree that things which violate the NAP, such as slavery, are perverted. And my perception is that a similar number of us can agree that things which violate basic reality -- such as being able to choose your gender at will, regardless of your actual DNA -- are also perverted, if perhaps to a lesser degree. If Brad wants to get surgically mutilated and call himself Chickadee, well, I mean, okay, that's his choice. I can even, in the interest of maintaining peaceful coexistence, work on calling him "her" -- though I draw the line at "zhe" and "hir". As for use of the bathrooms, well, in my eyes that's up to the individual property owner, and incumbent upon the sexually-confused person to behave in a manner which is respectful of the rights and dignity of the other people in that bathroom. In other words, if he/she/it is trying to get a good look at the genitalia of someone else there, he/she/it deserves the punch in the nose they get as a result, and have no standing to complain (it is also, of course, incumbent on the person whose privacy was violated to respond with no more force than the violation merited -- which can be debated, but I think we can agree that Peeping Toms and Tammies don't really deserve death or crippling).

    (To be continued below, due to the superhuman incompetence of the designers of this software platform.)

  2. Now to open the can of worms I've been saving. How about gay marriage? When the Supreme Court handed down its ruling, there was a great deal of outrage expressed on libertarian outlets, such as LRC, and rightly so. I do recognize the fact that the State has no legitimate function in being involved in marriage, beyond acting as a record keeper (and, IMO, a Justice of the Peace [please hold your snort of derision at the oxymoron inherent in that title as it is employed in the modern state] can also act as an officiator if the two people getting married desire it). In my eyes, the marriage of two people is between those two people, and God, even if neither of the people believe in God (I mean, a blind man may not necessarily believe in the sun, but the sun's existence, and effects on the space/time around it is not affected one way or another by anyone's belief). But the grousing and teeth-gnashing that I saw expressed was not predominantly over the issue of the State being involved in marriage in the first place (that issue *was* raised, but not in the majority). Most of the complaining that I saw was 'how dare these high holy potentates force gay marriage on me!'. I have yet to see a single instance of gay marriage being forced on a single person on the entire planet throughout the entire history of mankind. Perhaps it *has* happened, and I have just never heard of it, but all of the shotgun weddings that I have ever heard of (apocryphal though such stories were) involved a man and a woman. But it seems to me that a lot of people, even many who consider themselves to be libertarian, see the allowance of two consenting adults getting married to be somehow FORCED upon THEMSELVES. In your eyes, is this an issue that can make or break approving them to live in your neighborhood association? Even if they keep all nuptials to behind closed doors and blinds, as one would expect of all people, married or not?


    1. Regarding slavery, yes it was one of many catastrophes brought on by Western Civilization; communism is another. The time that I most appreciate is during the Middle Ages, when slavery was virtually eliminated and rights in property (at least in the law) were more secure than we have today.

      “What precisely constitutes "perverted values", in your eyes?”

      Perverted: changed to or being of an unnatural or abnormal kind.

      Apply this to humans, given their nature (whether you believe this nature is God-given or a result of a few billion years of evolution), and there you have it.

      Now, on to the “can of worms.”

      “In your eyes, is this an issue that can make or break approving them to live in your neighborhood association?”

      Private property owners have the right to discriminate on whatever basis they choose, it seems to me.

      “Even if they keep all nuptials to behind closed doors and blinds, as one would expect of all people, married or not?”

      So the terms of the association explicitly state “no gay couples,” yet this gay couple wants to live in the neighborhood anyway? I wonder why a gay couple would want to live in a neighborhood that expressly did not want gay couples in the neighborhood. I guess if they want to live there badly enough, they could just say that they are brothers or roommates or something.

    2. Just to clarify, slavery wasn't brought on by Western Civilization, but existed long before. This from 'history of slavery' on Wikipedia: "Slavery was known in the very first civilizations such as Sumer in Mesopotamia which dates back as far as 3500 BC, as well as in almost every other civilization." Peg in Oregon

    3. Contrary to public opinion, no white man went into the African bush to capture slaves. Europeans, when they landed in Africa, found a thriving slave trade.

    4. Bionic -- Not quite what I meant, perhaps I could have phrased it more accurately. What I was asking was: presupposing an ideal condition of no State, with private neighborhood associations that are free to discriminate, would a married gay couple be something that you would seek to exclude, even if you agreed with them on everything else in life?

      Peg -- That only reinforces my hypothesis that humanity is a failed species. :/

    5. Slavery is a "catastrophy"?

      I know of doctrinaire libertarians that advocate for slavery, and indeed assert that the prevention of slavery by state action is a violation of the Non Aggression Principle. Accordingly, we must have open borders and slavery.

    6. Anonymous, are you asking me...personally? What I would do?

      Ha. That's funny.

      As to humanity being a failed species, speak for yourself.

    7. The issue with gay marriage is, obviously, the force of the state. Without that, individuals can decide whether or not to embrace it. With that, it's forced upon everyone, whether or not it is against conscience.

      I have read some articles where "justices of the peace" were dismissed because they refused to marry people of the same sex so, in that case, I guess you could say that gay marriage was forced upon someone.

    8. Not exactly slavery, but close enough from the
      "villein's" point of view I should think. From Wikipedia: Villein, or villain, was a term used in the feudal era to denote a peasant (tenant farmer) who was legally tied to a lord of the manor – a villein in gross – or in the case of a villein regardant to a manor. Villeins occupied the social space between a free peasant (or "freeman") and a slave. Peg in Oregon