The State IS War

The State IS War

A few months ago, I briefly described a “state of war”. The main focus was on the state of war as pertains to interactions between individuals, but it could be considered a prerequisite to this post on the nature of the state of war as pertains to states.

Hearkening back to “Towards a Definition of Anarchy”, I denounce any institution predicated on or constructed for the sake of coercion, murder, or theft. For now, we will simply define “government” as the very same. Between laws enforced by men with guns threatening murder or imprisonment and theft in the form of taxes, fines, and regulations, it is clear that the common conception of government fits the bill. What are the differences between an individual criminal engaging his victim in a state of war and an institution of thousands of individuals doing so?

The first difference, as will be apparent from readers’ gut reaction to the above statement, is one of public opinion. A random individual pointing a gun in someone’s face because “Smoking is bad for you” would be publicly reviled and may even be stopped by a third party. However, a man in a blue shirt and a shiny badge pointing a gun at someone for smoking is hailed as a hero and many would likely come to his aid if the victim were to defend himself. Admittedly, public opinions on weed are shifting (and the opinion on tobacco is shifting the opposite direction), but public opinion on law enforcement is not. The same holds true for taxation (because you live within an arbitrary cartographic boundary, the state owns your property), laws (those within said boundary are subject to the opinion of the state with regards to morality), standing militaries, etc. So, where one could easily find support in protecting oneself from an individual criminal, the same is not true with institutionalized crime.

Secondly, due to the nature of institutions and collectivist ideologies, the guilt of the crime is distributed across a great many people. For example, one’s intuition is typically such that the grouchy lady making $10 behind the counter at the DMV is not guilty of theft or murder due to her job. Many people, even, do not find the soldiers stationed around the globe or the local cops who are shooting children to be guilty of murder. This intuition can find its root in many claims; “It’s just self-defense”, “it’s for the greater good”, “they’re just doing their job”, and “if you just follow the law, nobody gets hurt”, come to mind. At the end of the day, though, by participating in an institution, one is de-facto endorsing the core beliefs and activities of that institution. If I work for planned parenthood, I endorse eugenics and infanticide. If I work for Starbucks I endorse pseudo-socialist fair trade coffee. If I join the Boy Scouts or the Knights of Columbus, I am endorsing a pseudo-paramilitary organization dedicated to nationalism.

The aforementioned grouchy lady at the DMV, many cops, soldiers, and politicians, etc. are not murdering children or stealing property with their own hands and I am not about to advocate the wholesale slaughter of social workers… but the guilt of these crimes rests more heavily on their heads than the average voter or on those that do not execute their duty outlined in “What is the State of War?”.

Thirdly, related to the first two differences, is the efficacy or success rate of institutional states of war. Between public support, the apparently clean hands of the individuals operating on behalf of the institution, and the sheer difference in tactical assets available to the state versus the individual, the odds are forever in favor of the state. The tragedy of the commons rears its ugly head when MLK and Eric Frein are murdered by the state, the Confederacy is invaded by the United States, the government massacres native Americans and innocent citizens at Ruby Ridge, Waco, Kent State, the list goes on and on. This ignores, of course, the firebombing, drone striking, and nuclear annihilation of civilian targets on the other side of the world and imperial occupation of the globe.

Closer to home, though, one-third of my wages are stolen from my paycheck before it is even printed, due to the institutional efficiency of compliant victims. Across the continent, arbitrary laws and fines are written, levied, and enforced by a legion of bureaucrats and armed enforcers with the public support and consent of their subjects. Driving 76 on the “free”way is a deadly prospect, not because of mechanical or skill limitations, but because doing so legally grants authority to state enforcers to explicitly engage the driver in a state of war between individuals.

So, what is the cash value of these differences? Well, with regards to “What Is the State of War?” not much. If someone, anyone, attempts to force someone else into a state of war, the victim has a moral obligation to kill or permanently incapacitate them. It matters not whether they are a back-alley crackhead, a law enforcer, a mob racketeer (but, I repeat myself), a Nazi, or a Marine. Does this mean we should all start crucifying social workers or killing cops sitting in a Dunkin’ Donuts? Not necessarily. The difference between individual states of war and institutional ones hinges on the difference between individual interactions and institutional interactions; I will write more about this distinction later, but for now I will simply show the result of this difference as applies here.

As is the case for an individual state of war, institutional war ought to be avoided if possible. If one finds themselves living in an institutionalized state of war, whether by way of accident of birth, invasion, or an aristocracy signing some document in a nearby colony at the behest of the French monarch, one ought to take all reasonable action to avoid and opt-out of the state and its inherent war. Anonymity, disruptive technologies, the agora, and perceived compliance are all options which do not require one to abandon their right to live where they may. An option which has greater cost and risk associated with it but with tremendously greater payout is to simply move away. Not to Somalia, of course, but to a more free place; as compared to North America and a majority of Europe, a great many exist. One does not have a moral obligation to leave, but the ought to do what they can to cease support and compliance with regards to the state while also avoiding individual states of war. One such method is to simply leave.

As is the case with individual state of war, one ought to properly equip themselves and conduct themselves so as to be prepared to defend oneself. This requires the formation of a geographically local community centered on the principles of anarchy, with equipment designed to obtain a tactical advantage, an environment of self-sufficiency, and outside the purview of the law. Insofar as these attributes are lacking, such a community must make it as costly and dangerous as possible for the state to operate in said locality, thus discouraging direct acts of war.

One also must try to de-escalate the state of war they find themselves in. This may sound contrary to the preceding prescription, but it is not. In the case of institutionalized war, it is closely tied to the second method of avoidance. If one is self-sufficient and living outside the purview of the state, the state will have little public support in engaging one in a state of war. Additionally, in disseminating the truth of the state and its inherently misanthropic nature, one can garner additional public support, thereby starving the state of its authority. As MLK and Malcolm X’s cultural revolution demonstrates, good PR is key.

Ultimately, when individual agents of the state engage one in a state of war, they are no different than any other man, morally speaking. When a master is beating his slave or a rapist is raping or a murderer is murdering, they ought to be stopped at any cost. What about the interim? When a slave owner is drinking tea, a rapist is at Starbucks, or a murderer is at church, ought one stop them from being able to continue such crimes? In 1940’s Paris, could a citizen of France be justified in shooting a man in an SS uniform who is simply drinking wine? I do not have an answer as of yet.

I do know, however, that that is the basis on which police arrest people after a crime is committed. In which case, if one supports arresting criminals after the fact, they must also support the execution of professional criminals after the fact as well. Additionally, if you believe that, for any reason whatsoever, that the US soldiers shooting SS officers across the European countryside were justified, then the french resistance is as well and those that wish to kill cops in the name of freedom most certainly are as well. If any war in known history (identified by numbers of individuals in uniform killing numbers of other individuals in uniform) can be justified, a freedom-minded individual is equally justified in killing individuals wearing the uniform of their oppressor.

TL;DR: The state, as an institution predicated on the crimes of coercion, theft, and murder, is itself a state of war. This raises serious moral concerns with regards to the relationship between a free individual and individual members of the state. Much discussion is required, especially taking into account statist justifications for war and how they apply to such relationships. A further investigation into the tragedy of enforcement is also required.

Also, for your viewing pleasure:

Do You Hate The State?

This article, by Murray Rothbard, was originally published in the Libertarian Forum, Vol. 10, No. 7, July 1977.

I have been ruminating recently on what are the crucial questions that divide libertarians. Some that have received a lot of attention in the last few years are: anarcho-capitalism vs. limited government, abolitionism vs. gradualism, natural rights vs. utilitarianism, and war vs. peace. But I have concluded that as important as these questions are, they don’t really cut to the nub of the issue, of the crucial dividing line between us.

Let us take, for example, two of the leading anarcho-capitalist works of the last few years: my own For a New Liberty and David Friedman’s Machinery of Freedom. Superficially, the major differences between them are my own stand for natural rights and for a rational libertarian law code, in contrast to Friedman’s amoralist utilitarianism and call for logrolling and trade-offs between nonlibertarian private police agencies. But the difference really cuts far deeper. There runs through For a New Liberty (and most of the rest of my work as well) a deep and pervasive hatred of the State and all of its works, based on the conviction that the State is the enemy of mankind. In contrast, it is evident that David does not hate the State at all; that he has merely arrived at the conviction that anarchism and competing private police forces are a better social and economic system than any other alternative. Or, more fully, that anarchism would be better than laissez-faire, which in turn is better than the current system. Amidst the entire spectrum of political alternatives, David Friedman has decided that anarcho-capitalism is superior. But superior to an existing political structure which is pretty good too. In short, there is no sign that David Friedman in any sense hates the existing American State or the State per se, hates it deep in his belly as a predatory gang of robbers, enslavers, and murderers. No, there is simply the cool conviction that anarchism would be the best of all possible worlds, but that our current set-up is pretty far up with it in desirability. For there is no sense in Friedman that the State — any State — is a predatory gang of criminals.

The same impression shines through the writing, say, of political philosopher Eric Mack. Mack is an anarcho-capitalist who believes in individual rights; but there is no sense in his writings of any passionate hatred of the State, or, a fortiori, of any sense that the State is a plundering and bestial enemy.

Perhaps the word that best defines our distinction is “radical.” Radical in the sense of being in total, root-and-branch opposition to the existing political system and to the State itself. Radical in the sense of having integrated intellectual opposition to the State with a gut hatred of its pervasive and organized system of crime and injustice. Radical in the sense of a deep commitment to the spirit of liberty and antistatism that integrates reason and emotion, heart and soul.

Furthermore, in contrast to what seems to be true nowadays, you don’t have to be an anarchist to be radical in our sense, just as you can be an anarchist while missing the radical spark. I can think of hardly a single limited governmentalist of the present day who is radical — a truly amazing phenomenon, when we think of our classical-liberal forbears who were genuinely radical, who hated statism and the States of their day with a beautifully integrated passion: the Levellers, Patrick Henry, Tom Paine, Joseph Priestley, the Jacksonians, Richard Cobden, and on and on, a veritable roll call of the greats of the past. Tom Paine’s radical hatred of the State and statism was and is far more important to the cause of liberty than the fact that he never crossed the divide between laissez-faire and anarchism.

And closer to our own day, such early influences on me as Albert Jay Nock, H.L. Mencken, and Frank Chodorov were magnificently and superbly radical. Hatred of “Our Enemy, the State” (Nock’s title) and all of its works shone through all of their writings like a beacon star. So what if they never quite made it all the way to explicit anarchism? Far better one Albert Nock than a hundred anarcho-capitalists who are all too comfortable with the existing status quo.

Where are the Paines and Cobdens and Nocks of today? Why are almost all of our laissez-faire limited governmentalists, plonky conservatives, and patriots? If the opposite of “radical” is “conservative,” where are our radical laissez-fairists? If our limited statists were truly radical, there would be virtually no splits between us. What divides the movement now, the true division, is not anarchist vs. minarchist, but radical vs. conservative. Lord, give us radicals, be they anarchists or no.

To carry our analysis further, radical anti-statists are extremely valuable even if they could scarcely be considered libertarians in any comprehensive sense. Thus, many people admire the work of columnists Mike Royko and Nick von Hoffman because they consider these men libertarian sympathizers and fellow-travelers. That they are, but this does not begin to comprehend their true importance. For throughout the writings of Royko and von Hoffman, as inconsistent as they undoubtedly are, there runs an all-pervasive hatred of the State, of all politicians, bureaucrats, and their clients which, in its genuine radicalism, is far truer to the underlying spirit of liberty than someone who will coolly go along with the letter of every syllogism and every lemma down to the “model” of competing courts.

Taking the concept of radical vs. conservative in our new sense, let us analyze the now famous “abolitionism” vs. “gradualism” debate. The latter jab comes in the August issue of Reason (a magazine every fiber of whose being exudes “conservatism”), in which editor Bob Poole asks Milton Friedman where he stands on this debate. Freidman takes the opportunity of denouncing the “intellectual cowardice” of failing to set forth “feasible” methods of getting “from here to there.” Poole and Friedman have between them managed to obfuscate the true issues. There is not a single abolitionist who would not grab a feasible method, or a gradual gain, if it came his way. The difference is that the abolitionist always holds high the banner of his ultimate goal, never hides his basic principles, and wishes to get to his goal as fast as humanly possible. Hence, while the abolitionist will accept a gradual step in the right direction if that is all that he can achieve, he always accepts it grudgingly, as merely a first step toward a goal which he always keeps blazingly clear. The abolitionist is a “button pusher” who would blister his thumb pushing a button that would abolish the State immediately, if such a button existed. But the abolitionist also knows that alas, such a button does not exist, and that he will take a bit of the loaf if necessary — while always preferring the whole loaf if he can achieve it.

It should be noted here that many of Milton’s most famous “gradual” programs such as the voucher plan, the negative income tax, the withholding tax, fiat paper money — are gradual (or even not so gradual) steps in thewrong direction, away from liberty, and hence the militance of much libertarian opposition to these schemes.

His button-pushing position stems from the abolitionist’s deep and abiding hatred of the State and its vast engine of crime and oppression. With such an integrated worldview, the radical libertarian could never dream of confronting either a magic button or any real-life problem with some arid cost-benefit calculation. He knows that the State must be diminished as fast and as completely as possible. Period.

And that is why the radical libertarian is not only an abolitionist, but also refuses to think in such terms as a Four Year Plan for some sort of stately and measured procedure for reducing the State. The radical — whether he be anarchist or laissez-faire — cannot think in such terms as, e.g., “Well, the first year, we’ll cut the income tax by 2 percent, abolish the ICC, and cut the minimum wage; the second year we’ll abolish the minimum wage, cut the income tax by another 2 percent, and reduce welfare payments by 3 percent, etc.” The radical cannot think in such terms, because the radical regards the State as our mortal enemy, which must be hacked away at wherever and whenever we can. To the radical libertarian, we must take any and every opportunity to chop away at the State, whether it’s to reduce or abolish a tax, a budget appropriation, or a regulatory power. And the radical libertarian is insatiable in this appetite until the State has been abolished, or — for minarchists — dwindled down to a tiny, laissez-faire role.

Many people have wondered: Why should there be any important political disputes between anarcho-capitalists and minarchists now? In this world of statism, where there is so much common ground, why can’t the two groups work in complete harmony until we shall have reached a Cobdenite world, after which we can air our disagreements? Why quarrel over courts, etc. now? The answer to this excellent question is that we could and would march hand-in-hand in this way if the minarchists were radicals, as they were from the birth of classical liberalism down to the 1940s. Give us back the antistatist radicals, and harmony would indeed reign triumphant within the movement.

The Dark Side: Crime, Vice, Sin

Today, we explore the dark side of humanity: crime, vice, and sin.

As readers of previous posts and my facebook page are well aware, I use these terms quite frequently. I have come to realize that, despite my best efforts to contextualize the use of these terms, many people are either unable or unwilling to understand what I mean by crime, vice, and sin. Today, I plan on setting things straight such that I don’t have to explain it quite as frequently.

As can easily be guessed, being a philosopher and an anarchist, I do not believe the contemporary and common use of the term “crime” is valid. As I have expressed already, the laws of man are inherently unjust; as such, the term “criminal” cannot apply to an identical class of things as the term “illegal”, as is commonly assumed in our culture. Instead, I define a crime as any action intentionally or negligently directed at the invasion or destruction of another’s life, liberty, or property. In other words, it is an action which violates someone’s rights or duties.

Easy examples consist of incidents of murder, coercion, and theft. Some such instances of these crimes are difficult to discern outright, as would be the case of unreasonable bank fees, protection rackets, systematic coercion, or deprivation of life essentials. There exist any number of examples that could be presented. It is crucial to have a clearly defined set of necessary and sufficient conditions for what is to be considered a crime for reference in these more veiled instances of crime, given the dire consequences.

I doubt anyone is reading this, let alone anyone accepts or wishes to help me refine these conditions, but I am compelled to attempt a definition. The result should be intuitive, but still analytically sound such as to justify one’s response. I believe that if one demonstrates resolve with regards to performing an action, has a demonstrable ability to perform such an action, and the action in question is an immediate or direct and demonstrable causal violation of someone else’s life, liberty or property, the action in question is a crime. In this way, holding a gun to someone’s head and demanding a particular behavior or taking someone else’s property without consent is a crime. Conversely, making idle threats, wishing cancer at people, and using incandescent light bulbs are not crimes as they do not meet the conditions I have outlined to be necessary and sufficient.

Now is a good time to point out why my definition of a crime possesses more

A handy flowchart I found that explains this reasoning

utility than the non-aggression principle (NAP). The most commonly accepted iteration of the NAP can be and is used to justify coercing, stealing from, and even murdering people for things like using incandescent light bulbs, belonging to a different community, smoking tobacco, driving a car, refusing vaccines, and just about any other non-criminal action that could be considered a nuisance by some. These justifications are logically consistent when using the NAP as one’s initial premise. Of course, attempting to do such things to someone for using the wrong light bulb is, itself, aggression. The issue hinges on people’s definition of “aggression”, and any definition which does not result in counter-intuitive or absurd claims will be equivalent to my definition of crime. A similar issue arises with the less popular objectivist “non-initiation of force” principle.

If I were to simply claim that my definition of crime and prescription as to how to handle it were the extent of moral and ethical reasoning required, we may very well witness a conservative’s nightmare: legions of communist, polygamist, sodomites freebasing coke and praying to Allah simply because it isn’t a crime to do so. Of course, it’s equally likely that we would see a liberal’s nightmare emerge: mobs of tobacco-chewing, corporatist, racist, fundamentalist Christians chugging liters of soda while deforesting the amazon. What I am alluding to, obviously, is that there are courses of action which are not crimes but are not conducive to human flourishing. The main focus of this portion of the post is vice. A vice is any non-criminal activity which would prevent or inhibit the participant from pursuing their telos.

Again, I am guilty of referencing my still-unfinished book. A quick primer is in order. “Telos”, a Greek term which has been at the center of philosophical discourse since Aristotle, essentially means “end” or “purpose”. I argue that any individual is beholden to a certain hierarchy of teloi (plural of “telos”), but that is a discussion best left to my book or later posts. For now, we can simply say that eudaimonia is any individual’s ultimate goal. Another Greek word: “eudaimonia” is a very technical and precise term which, for our current uses, can be reduced to “free and productive flourishing”.

Any activity which would limit one’s freedom, productivity, or well-being can be considered a vice. Addiction, mind-altering substances, dependency, time-wasting activities, body-harming practices, character-undermining activities, prophylactics… essentially the traditional list of vices are good examples of what can be considered a vice.  Now, am I a tee-totaling puritan hellbent on avoiding anything fun? I play video games, drink alcohol, smoke cigars, stay up late, work a 40-hour wage-slave job, and so much more. I am still dependent on others’ skills and resources. I still rely on less-than-perfect activities to sublimate my aggression and discomfort. I still use Google, Facebook, and Windows. In other words, I still have my vices.

As I will likely discuss in an upcoming post, the virtues of prudence and temperance are paramount in flourishing. With regards to handling vice, prudence and temperance are also key. While it would be ideal for people to simply commit to being a taoist or stoic sage, an ascetic monk, or whatever and eschew all vice outright, it is not entirely possible and may, itself, be a vice of sorts. Instead of abandoning the real world for some gnostic exercise in death, most people may flourish best by approaching their own vice from the perspective of a responsible cost/benefit analysis. There is a reason I smoke cigars rarely as opposed to mainlining heroin daily.

Whereas “How do I deal with criminals?” warrants a near-infinite number of discussions, “How do I deal with a vicious person?” is pretty straightforward. If one’s vices are, in fact, vices and not crimes, they ought to be free from coercion, murder, or theft, like any other human being. If their vices are beyond the realm of tolerance, such as someone vigorously masturbating in public, they can be refused service, reprimanded, shunned, etc. The social norm can be enforced without resorting to criminal actions against someone. Social norms, tolerance, and exile are ideas that will be more thoroughly explored when I get around to talking about cities, the Dunbar number, and intentional communities.

If any of my nine readers are Christians, they are likely pulling out their hair and screaming, “SMOKING WEED WILL LAND YOU IN HELL!” I jest. In all seriousness, though, a great many vices and all crimes are sins. If a crime is someone violating another’s rights and a vice is someone preventing their own flourishing, where is sin in this whole mess? I’m going to try to keep this short and sweet. So far, I’ve written very little on relationships. There are a handful of reasons this is the case, but now I’m compelled to do so.

Sin is relational. I can pretend that I have a relationship with you, my anonymous, silent reader. If I start hiding pictures of my manhood in my posts or if every post were to gradually devolve into senseless diatribes against Ronald McDonald and the lizard Jews, I would be damaging my relationship with those of you who expect philosophy from me. I would be sinning against you.

If I am in relationship with an omnipotent, omniscient, omnivalent, omnibenevolent, omni-omni, being… especially one that created me personally for the sake of us coming into full communion with each other… any action which would make me less omni-omni and therefore less able to come into communion with Him would be a sin against Him. The same applies to any action which would otherwise damage our relationship.

TL;DR: If someone is intentionally and willfully acting in direct violation of another’s rights, they are committing a crime. If someone is doing something which prevents or inhibits human flourishing but isn’t a crime, they are committing a vicious act. Sin is any activity which damages a relationship. In this way, sins against God would be actions which damage one’s relationship with God. As always: you ought to defend yourself from criminals, reprimand and ignore vicious people, and avoid sin.