Easy Arguments for Liberty – Part II
In the first post of this series, the point was made that discussions about Liberty often devolve into an endless series of “but what about…?” questions. A method to effectively respond to these questions without having to have exhaustive knowledge on the topic was discussed. This method is decidedly reactionary; it is most effective when one finds himself having to answer questions.
In this post, I will explain another method of arguing for Liberty, a method which is much more pro-active. It can be used to respond to those who advocate Statism, but it can be used just as effectively as a way to begin a discussion about Liberty. This method draws on questions asked by several prominent Liberty-oriented speakers, philosophers, and writers as far back as the 18th century.
This method of advocating for Liberty requires the one advocating Statism to confront the violence of the State, and to either admit that they want violence to be used against peaceful people, or to reject Statism in whichever specific area of life around which the discussion is centered.
Simply put, when one proposes some State solution to social problems, or some increase in State power, or additional State bureaucracy, the Liberty advocate simply asks, “What are you willing to do to those who don’t wish to participate [in whichever program is under consideration]?” If you ask this question, you will very likely find that your discussion partner may try to maneuver out of answering directly. Don’t allow this. You can rephrase the question, in order to make it easier to answer, “What are you willing to tell the government people do to those who don’t wish to participate…”
You can add additional clauses or clarifications in the question, as well. You might ask about those who don’t wish to participate for moral reasons, or for reasons of protest.
This line of questioning will force the State apologist to either agree that the State shouldn’t be forcing its will upon others, or to say out loud to your face that they would have you caged, beaten or killed for non-participation. Most people find this admission very difficult to make.
Here is a real-life example of this technique in action. From a Facebook discussion about the UK National Health System:
Mr. Libertarian: Ms. Leftist, what are you willing to do to people who don’t wish to participate in programs like the NHS?
Ms. Leftist: I’m not sure what you’re asking, but I think we need to work with our government to make things better, not just say we don’t want anything to do with it.
Mr. Libertarian: As an example, let’s say that I do not wish to participate in some government program – like the NHS or the incarceration of non-violent drug offenders. If I withhold my money and do not give it to the government people to pay for these programs, I will get a stern letter from the government. Then , if I continue to not participate, men with guns will come to my house and try to kidnap me and put me in a cage (remember, I believe that what they are going to do with the money is immoral). If I resist, they will beat me, electrocute me, use chemical weapons on me, or shoot me down.
Ms. Statist: Well, Mr. Libertarian… I would advise people such as yourself that you should work with organisations such as Amnesty on changing particular government funding… but our taxes pay for lots of different things so you can’t really say, “I won’t pay my taxes because I don’t like what you spend some of it on, but I do want to have the benefits of other things in our society.” Do you really think you benefit from none of it?
Mr. Libertarian: So you believe that I should be beaten, electrocuted, kidnapped, and/or put in a cage where I will probably be raped just because I do not wish to participate in things which I think are wrong?
Ms. Leftist: I’m just wondering what you would be willing to do to someone who didn’t want to live by the laws that we all generally agree on, such as non-discrimination laws and human rights, etc. Should we not impose laws on people at all?
Mr. Libertarian: You haven’t answered my question.
Ms. Leftist: I propose you emigrate or live a money-free life.
Mr. Libertarian: I’m afraid you are really missing it here. It looks to me like you are really bending over backward to avoid having to admit that taxes are enforced with threats of violence. You are dancing all around my question but never answering it. What should be done to people who decline to pay taxes on ethical grounds?
Ms. Leftist: If you decided you didn’t want to pay taxes on moral grounds, I would expect that you would write a detailed letter to the government explaining yourself and that a tax inspector would come visit you and tell you all the good things your taxes go toward and that you should pay them. If you still refused, I would expect the tax inspector to warn others that you do not want to be part of society and shouldn’t be offered services that are paid for by others in society. I would not actually expect an individual to be put in prison or be beaten for not paying their taxes.
Mr. Libertarian: I’m glad that you and I agree that personal taxes should be completely voluntary. Currently, governments put people who don’t wish to participate in taxes in prison. Will you agree that this is wrong and must be stopped?
She of course ended the conversation. But the point was made – she saw the violence of the state and agreed that such violence was bad. It’s also interesting to see her idea of how taxation could be handled – through the use of social ostracism and persuasion rather than by force. Those techniques are compatible with libertarianism and are non-state solutions to the problem of funding various programs.
Also evident was her discomfort with really taking responsibility for her desire for more government programs – she did not want to explicitly state how non-participation should be punished. People tend not to like violence when they see it. That’s one of the cunning properties of the State; it tends to hide its violence. That’s why people often call for the State to do things which they themselves would never do. They would be repulsed by having to physically overpower a drug user to put him in a cage, yet can achieve the same result without seeing any violence through the use of the State.
By bringing the violence into full view, we can help people begin to recognize the State for what it is – an organization of brutes who are willing to dominate and oppress.