By Insula Qui
For those who don't know, Front Range Voluntaryist was a print and online publication that mostly focused on variety libertarian content. Although my site recently became a year old and has thus outlived FRV, the publication still was a major inspiration for me creating the Libertarchy Blog. As the articles I submitted to FRV now only exist as steemit posts, I thought it would be a good idea to repost them. And as I only had the pleasure of submitting four, they can fit into one long blog post.
Tradition as Spontaneous Order
When we think about libertarianism it is easy to conceptualize libertarians as people who have no care for anything higher than themselves and are even individualistic to a fault. If you have talked to a sufficient amount of libertarians, chances are that you have come across someone who makes arguments that go completely against common decency.
This is one of the greatest problems in libertarianism, there is a streak of refusing to properly explain the importance of tradition when it comes to liberty. This is not to say that we need a war on drugs or that we need to stone adulterers. But rather libertarians tend to completely ignore everything related to expected social norms, even when they are not imposed violently. And it is easy to conceptualize norms as a sort of restriction upon the independent will and personal liberty of someone. But to know why libertarians are wrong on this, we need to apply methodological individualism to history.
Basic libertarian theory establishes that society is formed out of a spontaneous order. The interests of individuals form co-operative bonds which then create society as a concept. This view is useful because it helps us see society as something co-operative and personal. The problem with libertarians is when they deviate from this view. And that is often the case when we come to the subject of tradition.
We tend to ignore that tradition is similarly formed out of co-operative individual bonds. It’s never as if a king decreed that everyone ought to hold one another to certain moral standards and to shun behaviors that go against accepted morality. Obviously kings on occasion enforced the customs of the land, but the customs emerged spontaneously first. Not only is society co-operative, past societies which created tradition were similarly co-operative, this means that the view of society as a spontaneous order should also apply to inter-generational exchange and past societies.
And tradition is just inter-generational exchange, morals and standards passed down from the older generation to the younger generation. Tradition is a similarly spontaneously emerging order, it is in no way lesser than the order of our current era, it would be very unwise to assume that only the current society is correct. And because tradition embodies the inter-generational transfer of countless generations, we can even call tradition the spontaneous order of civilization. Tradition is outside the state, formed by the people and it should be one of the most libertarian things.
But even though tradition is best characterized as the spontaneous order of civilization, it’s so often rejected by libertarians as we tend to think that we know better than anyone before us could. Since we live now and not in the past, we are better at absolutely everything and have no need for tradition, but to do so would be to ignore the origins of tradition. The societies we live in were built by those people from whom the traditions that we have in our societies originate from.
The entire process of replacing the uncivilized man with something much better and something much greater is facilitated by the same people who created this tradition. Without the wisdom of the people who created tradition, we would not even have a society or a civilization. These millions of people who have lived through hardships that we can’t even imagine have come up with ways to deal with relationships, the self, purpose in life and every existential question there is.
This tradition was not born out of some baseless desire to repress people and not let them be themselves and it certainly is not something that we have grown out of. Our social progress and knowledge may be unparalleled and we may be at the farthest point in history where anyone has ever been, but this does not erase the necessity to answer fundamental existential questions. And if there is one thing that modern society has a problem with, it is those existential questions.
We may have the best medicine, we may have the best economies, we may live in times where everyone can access all information from home. But that does not make us any wiser, we can’t learn wisdom simply from thinking about it hard enough or using scientific formulas. We have disrupted the process of civilization by rejecting tradition. When we come face to face with strife and when we are challenged towards ourselves, maybe the right thing to do is look backward.
Why You Should Become a Libertarian Right Now
Would you be a libertarian if you knew how to build roads without the state? Would you be a libertarian if you only knew how to provide for the poor? Would you be a libertarian if it weren’t for one issue or another that you cannot wrap your head around? If so, you already are a libertarian in all of your principles. You already support liberty, but you just don’t know how it works. Since you support liberty you already know that people are able to figure things out.
Because people can figure things out, they can figure out roads, charity and everything else that you might not. It’s not your job to be the person who figures everything out. There are thousands of people who are better at building roads. There are millions who want to know how to provide for the poor. Among these great mass of people, there is bound to be someone who finds a solution.
But this may not be enough to become a libertarian. We could do everything that we want to do, but there are still things we don’t want others to do. Couldn’t people decide to do things that we find repugnant? This is a huge issue for many people. But it’s important to realize that whether people are sinful or problematic, that’s their own burden. You are not supposed to ensure that everyone is perfect. Free people are allowed to be wrong.
You gain absolutely nothing from trying either. You obviously should convince people who matter to be better. But this does not mean that strangers are your responsibility. This does not even come close to implying that you should use the state so the strangers can be more virtuous. Your only responsibility is you and the people close to you. You need to focus on yourself and your community.
People who are hundreds of miles away should not matter. The people who you see at the store and in your house should. This is not to say that you should be a busy-body. Rather you should care for the people who affect you. It’s much more important that your children have a safe neighborhood and a good upbringing than that some other children far away do. This may be cruel, but it’s the truth.
Instead of thinking within the statist mind frame, we should look at things in the libertarian way. We can see that individuals are responsible for their own lives. We can see that social organization is formed by individuals. The state should not take care of everything and everyone. And this is why you should too be a libertarian. Libertarianism is not being self-obsessed. Libertarianism is realizing that the things that matter to you are your responsibility.
We all have a fundamental urge to take care of others. We all have a fundamental urge to make large decisions. But we all need to realize that we need to first take care of ourselves. We can’t look at the world and think of how it could be better, we need to make ourselves better. If we make ourselves better, we can then try to make the world better. Libertarianism isn’t about higher profits, it’s about being able to personally make a difference.
You may still be teetering on the edge of libertarianism and statism. It’s hard to shake off the notion that everything is your responsibility. It’s hard to realize that letting others be is a valid solution. Because maybe you’re a Christian who is appalled at people having to bake gay wedding cakes. This started with just letting people be. Maybe you’re a progressive who is appalled at the spread of hate. This too might be the result of leaving people alone. Letting people be could cause them to not let you be.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Neither hate or forced acceptance have any power without the state. The one thing that doesn’t let you be is the state. If there were nazis with no chance of there being a nazi government, they wouldn’t be a problem. They may be nasty and evil, but they pose no threat. When gays cannot force you to bake their wedding cakes, they likewise are not a problem.
Your children will not be subject to propaganda if they’re not in government schools. You won’t be subject to violence if violence is not tolerated. You will not have to fear if there is no institutional force for you to fear. And what is to fear is the intrusion of the state and others into your life. The threat of force is the largest rational fear.
But if you want to be allowed to do your thing, you must allow others to do theirs. If you want to keep your principles, you must let everyone keep their own. If you want to raise your children so they would be good people, others must be able to raise their children in their personal way. If you want to live among people who agree with you, you need to let everyone separate. You cannot force an entire society to be on your side at all times.
It could be that you do not agree with libertarianism. It could be that you want to interfere in the lives of others. It could be that you need this validation and power. You can’t put your personal preferences aside because you prefer control. But why? What do you gain from controlling? Why do you need to force others to be more like you want them to be? Most likely you have some problems in your life. You may be depressed. You may lack meaning. But if this is the case then having control over others is no substitute for self-improvement.
It could be that there is no hole you have to fill, it could be that you just love the idea of control. If this is the case then there’s something seriously wrong with you. If the only reason why you’re not a libertarian is that you enjoy controlling the lives of others, you should never be in a position to control their lives. It’s fine if you’re not a libertarian. I still think that you should become one right now.
A Market in Governance
In a market system, you buy what you want. This means that prices are determined by the aggregate of all purchases. In a political system, the government decides what you buy and how much everyone collectively pays for that purchase. The government decides how much money will be put into its functions and what the rate of taxation will be.
This is the fundamental antagonism between the market and politics. The market is ruled entirely by the choices of the buyer; politics, to the contrary, is ruled by the choices of the government. Even if there is wise and just governance, it can never be governance in accordance to the wishes of the public as governance by nature ignores the public.
But it is theoretically possible that there is a combination of markets and governance. There could be libertarians that do not want to give up government for a private law society and non-libertarians who don’t think any non-governmental alternative is a sufficient replacement to the government. If there has to be a government, and if that government has to govern, how could it do so according to the principles of the market?
Democracy is obviously insufficient as it is both collective in the determination of producing goods and the purchase of those goods. Democracy could hypothetically be superior to autocracy or oligarchy, but it is in no way similar to the market system. When faced with this question most people will give up and concede that the two real options are laissez-faire anarchism or minarchism. The government ought to be reduced to the smallest role it can possibly play and the market system ought to do everything it can do.
But is there a possibility to somehow integrate these two systems? Is there some form of governance that can work as the market does despite there being a monopolist who controls a vast amount of services within a society.
True monopoly is the State giving a business or itself the right to exclusively control some area of business. And the State could theoretically be reduced to such an actor on the market. The State would still keep the monopoly it has, however, rather than forcing people to fund the monopoly, the State could instead offer its services on the market.
This would imply reducing the State to voluntarily offering its services, rather than compelling payment. This would also imply the end of taxation. Services could then be funded by individuals or communities purchasing them. This is without getting into the details of how communal purchases ought to work.
But since the services the State offers are still monopolistic, they can never really function according to the market and will form instead a pseudo-market. The prices will be set higher than the market would allow. And since, contrary to popular belief, costs are determined by prices, the services offered by the State will always be more inefficient as the State is able to charge higher prices. More money does not imply a better service, but rather a more bureaucratic and slower one.
But is there still a way in which the government can retain its control over the violence in society to allegedly prevent chaos, yet still function according to the market system? Can there really be some equivalent of free pricing within a government? After all, if there is need for a central agency to govern and if the market is superior to the State, it should be the highest priority to ensure that there can be a government that can function on the market.
And this is easy, the government must allow other competing governments or even non-governments. If it is true that a government is necessary, all the competition will be governmental. This is not only the indirect competition provided by mobility, but direct competition. In essence, the State must concede all it’s territory if it can no longer be the best provider of services in that territory. The State is reduced to a market entity like any other.
If the State does not claim any territory it does not follow that the State is necessarily abolished. But this model is also fully compatible with abolishing the State, that is simply removing any special privileges the State still claims. If we want to abolish the State while retaining governance, we can do that simply by leaving what used to be the State to only do that which the buyers decide. If the actions of the government are in no way privileged, it can still be a government and it can fully be on a market.
And it would still be a government, it would fulfill all the roles a government fulfills right now. It can provide defense, it can build the roads, it can regulate health and safety hazards. However, this is consensual governance, this is governance that is only funded insofar as people buy what it offers. This form of governance is truly economic governance and also fully conforms with the principles of voluntaryism.
Capitalism Works: The Roads
All people of all political denominations follow a sort of road-cult. Whenever the privatization of roads is proposed, they become shocked. Public roads have become a sort of idol for the modern man. Without public roads, there would be no civilization. Roads are the thin gray line that separates man from anarchy. Because of this, it is important to demonstrate how roads can be privatized without resulting in the collapse of civilization.
First, we need to realize that the way roads are currently run is a form of socialism: roads are publicly owned by the government. Roads are a nationalized industry. If it is true that without the state there could be no roads, it should also be true that without the state, there can only be starvation. If the roads are too complicated to be handled by private individuals, then how could anyone even dream of producing a pizza on the market?
To make a pizza one needs to cure meat, ferment milk, grind and spice tomatoes, produce a dough. All of these steps have infinite other steps. To cure meat one needs to herd livestock, which needs to be fed and maintained. Then the livestock also need to be butchered and processed, which requires the technology to butcher and process livestock. Then that technology needs metal, which must be mined. And the mining of metal needs tools in order to mine metal. Those tools need electricity to function efficiently. The complication of producing a pizza is infinite, far too complex for anyone outside the state.
Thus logically the nationalization of roads should also imply the nationalization of all pizzerias so as to prevent a tremendous scarcity of pizza. But even though the market is logically unable to produce pizza, the market can still produce bread. However, there is no alternative to roads. These complicated marvels of engineering are irreplaceable and irreplicable. There is no way a market system can ever produce something so complicated. Road must be the exclusive domain of the central planner.
And even though the central planners are brilliant, even they often fail at maintaining roads, as evidenced by the constant lack of road maintenance. If even the government can’t do anything about potholes, then it is impossible that a private individual could. If the government cannot keep and maintain roads, then how can it be expected that any company ever would. Furthermore, if roads were privatized we would all have to go through twenty toll booths to cross the street.
But we cannot concede this point. The fact that the government fails at maintaining roads does not necessarily imply that roads cannot be maintained. We have to consider the other perspective. It could be that the government simply has no incentive to maintain the roads. This crucial thin grey line is neglected by the government. The system of roads is not properly maintained and the state has abandoned the roads. If the roads are such a vital part of the economy, it could be that we need to privatize them to keep them from the abuse they receive at the hands of bureaucrats.
And it also just may well be that the argument about toll booths is disingenuous. It could be that having thousands of toll booths everywhere may result in at least a minor loss of revenue. Maybe there are better ways to charge money for the use of roads. The strategies of subscription services, digital tracking, and automatic tolls come to mind.
Furthermore, it might also be true that roads are not the most complex marvel of engineering. It could be true that people without the boundless wisdom of the central planner can actually maintain and build the roads. To build the roads one really does not need much more other than land no one else is using or land that is for sale. After the land is acquired, it is easy to build roads.
And even if roads could not be privately built (though they have been and are), it is very possible to privately maintain these roads. There is no harm in privatizing the roads that are already built in exchange for reducing taxation. When roads are held privately, they will be better maintained so as to attract more drivers and by extension more revenue.
It also might be that the central planner does not have any special wisdom. It could be that the central planner simply manages roads in an arbitrary manner. The central planner is not by necessity intelligent. To the contrary, the central planner is hired by the government bureaucracy. The government bureaucracy is not renowned for its great breadth of innovation and intellectual pursuit. It may just be that road socialism is not necessarily superior to road capitalism.
And if roads can be built privately, it should also hold that pizzas could be baked privately, maybe private people can indeed make pizzas for public consumption. If this is true, it should also be reflected in reality. And upon a thorough analysis of the ownership structure of pizzerias, we determine that indeed pizzas are baked by private entrepreneurs. It could just be that socialism is not the answer, even when it comes to roads.