The Free Society, by Laurence Vance
Most Americans think they live in a free society.
So writes Laurence Vance as the opening sentence in the introduction to this book, a compilation of 127 essays on the topic of a free society. Americans think they are free because of the variety of choices on the grocery store shelf, channels on the television, access to the world via the internet, and the ability to play video games in mom and dad’s basement.
While we should not discount such features of American society (well, I might discount a couple of these), these are not the only measures of freedom, and Vance demonstrates this through more than 400 pages.
It is an insightful introduction. If we are to measure “freedom” solely via measures of economy and market, there is little to complain about in American society – certainly when compared to many other places in the world and most certainly when compared to past times.
Further, globally, more people have such “freedoms” than at any time in history. Other than the abject poor in third-world countries, we all live better than the royalty of even two-hundred years ago.
But this isn’t “freedom,” although many libertarians use this as their yardstick. “The market” comes out quite strongly in the debate regarding immigration, but not solely here. Yet freedom, as Vance demonstrates, is much more than “the market.”
The essays are divided into seven chapters:
· Libertarianism: Theory
· Libertarianism: Practice
· Libertarianism vs. Liberalism / Conservatism
· Discrimination and Free Association
· Victimless Crimes
· The Free Market
· The Free Society
There are several intriguing essays within these chapters. I will touch on a few of these:
The Morality of Libertarianism
Violence is justified only in defense of person or property against violence.
While not a statement of morality as extensive to that offered in the Bible, it seems rather foundational. I wonder what people mean when they say something like “I used to be a libertarian, but….” Like what – “I used to think it was wrong to come upon a stranger and punch him in the nose, but now I think it is OK”?
Perhaps the most foundational morality is to be found in the non-aggression principle – not the only morality, but it is impossible to imagine a moral society that doesn’t embrace this at its foundation.
Libertarianism and Abortion
Because a child in the womb is helpless, not initiating violence, not committing aggression, and not there of its own accord, I believe, that to be consistent, libertarians should not only be opposed to abortion, but in favor of making it a criminal act…
Vance offers that the type of penalty to be imposed is a separate question; the primary issue is the violence initiated against the unborn child.
I know libertarians such as Rothbard and Block deem the unwanted unborn child to be trespassing, hence committing a violation of the woman’s property in her body. I disagree, and I have dealt with this here.
But from a moral standpoint: it is difficult to find any consistency in a non-aggression principle that demands the right to aggress against the most vulnerable and most innocent humans on the planet. If libertarians can make this aggression fit within the NAP, there really is no room to complain about taxes or regulations or drug laws or pretty much anything else.
The Right to Refuse Service
Every individual and business should have the right to refuse service. In a free society, every individual and business owner would have the right to refuse service. It is part and parcel of the inviolability of private property…
We are lectured – even by many libertarians – to be tolerant. But without tolerance for the property owner’s right to discriminate as inviolable, I have no idea what libertarianism even means.
I personally find Vance’s work on the hypocrisy of Christians on the topic of war as his most valuable, and he has done significant work on this topic. Yet he does not come up short on the topics covered in this book. For anyone interested in gaining an understanding of the meaning of freedom and liberty and its breadth and depth, The Free Society, by Laurence Vance, offers a wide-ranging examination.