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Author Topic: [2009-01-04] Call Me an Abolitionist, Please*  (Read 4258 times)
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« on: 2009-January-09 04:53:45 PM »

[2009-01-04] Call Me an Abolitionist, Please*

Call Me an Abolitionist, Please*
by Dennis Lee Wilson

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

I make my views about "anarchy" and "anarchist" explicit in my TLE letter More on "A Personal Journey..."

  • I do not see myself or define myself in terms of negatives, such as things that I am against. Rather, I define myself by positives, by what I am for, what I advocate. I place very little importance on being known as an anarchist or an atheist. Both "an-archist" and "a-theist" are—by definition— negative positions in their respective fields and I prefer to emphasize positives. Being against Statism does not automatically make a person in favor of freedom nor provide the knowledge needed to be free, nor the structure of a free society.

  • I am not so much an atheist as I am an advocate of reason, and I am not so much an anarchist as I am an advocate of the Covenant of Unanimous Consent. As it happens, being an advocate of reason and of the Covenant also fits within the definitions of atheist and anarchist, but not all atheists are rational or even pretend to be, and not all anarchists are Signatories to the Covenant of Unanimous Consent or even want to be.

However, I have recently had my mind changed by Glen Allport regarding using and defending the term "anarchist". In an article at Strike the Root, dated 2006-Dec-18, (which was finally called to my attention 2 years later) he presents an EXCELLENT CASE for choosing another term to describe my general political position (which, of course, is broader than my specific political position which is Signatory: Covenant of Unanimous Consent).

Perhaps he can change your mind also. His article is at

Henceforth, Call Me an Abolitionist, Please

*  All due respects to Glen Allport and his article** with the same title.
** I would have included a copy of his article here, but Strike the Root has distinctly non-libertarian/pro-state monopoly views regarding "Intellectual Property".

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« Last Edit: 2013-September-22 10:43:25 PM by DennisLeeWilson » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: 2009-August-22 05:58:56 PM »

Emphasis added by DLW

Why We Couldn't Abolish Slavery Then
and Can't Abolish Government Now

by Robert Higgs
Recently by Robert Higgs: Small Government Caused Our Current Problems?

Slavery existed for thousands of years, in all sorts of societies and all parts of the world. To imagine human social life without it required an extraordinary effort. Yet, from time to time, eccentrics emerged to oppose it, most of them arguing that slavery is a moral monstrosity and therefore people should get rid of it. Such advocates generally elicited reactions that ranged from gentle amusement to harsh scorn and violent assault.

When people bothered to give reasons for opposing the proposed abolition, they advanced many different ideas. In the first column of the accompanying table, I list ten such ideas that I have encountered in my reading. At one time, countless people found one or more of these reasons an adequate ground on which to oppose the abolition of slavery.

In retrospect, however, these reasons seem shabby – more rationalizations than reasons. They now appear to nearly everyone to be, if not utterly specious, then shaky or, at best, unpersuasive, notwithstanding an occasional grain of truth. No one now dredges up these ideas or their corollaries to support a proposal for reestablishing slavery. Although vestiges of slavery exist in northern Africa and a few other places, the idea that slavery is a defensible social institution is defunct. Reasons that once, not so long ago, seemed to provide compelling grounds for opposing the abolition of slavery now pack no intellectual punch.

Strange to say, however, the same ideas once trotted out to justify opposition to the abolition of slavery are now routinely trotted out to justify opposition to the abolition of government (as we know it). Libertarian anarchists bold enough to have publicly advanced their proposal for abolishing the state will have encountered many, if not all, of the arguments used for centuries to prop up slavery. Thus, we may make a parallel list, as shown in the table's second column. [Indented with a bullet in this document]

In the table, my repetition of the cumbersome expression "government (as we know it)" may seem odd, or even irritating, but I have chosen to tax the reader's patience in this way for a reason. When the typical person encounters an advocate of anarchism, his immediate reaction is to identify a list of critical government functions – preservation of social order, maintenance of a legal system for resolving disputes and dealing with criminals, protection against foreign aggressors, enforcement of private property rights, support of the weak and defenseless, production and maintenance of economic infrastructure, and so forth. This reaction, however, shoots at the wrong target.

Libertarian anarchists do not deny that such social functions must be carried out if a society is to function successfully. They do deny, however, that we must have government (as we know it) to carry them out. Libertarian anarchists prefer that these functions be carried out by private providers with whom the beneficiaries have agreed to deal. When I write about government "as we know it," I am referring to the monopolistic, individually nonconsensual form of government that now exists virtually everywhere on earth.

Readers may object that at least some existing governments do have the people's consent, but where's the evidence? Show me the properly signed and witnessed contracts. Unless all of the responsible adults subject to a government's claimed authority have voluntarily and explicitly accepted its governance on specific terms, the presumption must be that the rulers have simply imposed their rule. Propaganda statements, civics texts, opinion surveys, barroom allegations, political elections, and so forth are beside the point in this regard. No one would think of proffering such forms of evidence to show that I have a valid contract with Virgin Mobile, which supplies me with telephone service. When will the governments of the United States, the state of Louisiana, and St. Tammany Parish send me the contracts wherein I may agree (or not) to purchase their "services" on mutually acceptable terms?

The similarity of arguments against the abolition of slavery and arguments against the abolition of government (as we know it) should shake the faith of all Americans who still labor under the misconception that ours is a "government of the people, by the people, for the people." From where I stand, it looks distressingly like an institutional complex that rests on the same shaky intellectual foundations as slavery.

Arguments Against the Abolition of Slavery and
  • Arguments Against the Abolition of Government (as We Know It)

Slavery is natural.    
  • Government (as we know it) is natural.

Slavery has always existed.    
  • Government (as we know it) has always existed.

Every society on earth has slavery.    
  • Every society on earth has government (as we know it)

The slaves are not capable of taking care of themselves.    
  • The people are not capable of taking care of themselves

Without masters, the slaves will die off.    
  • Without government (as we know it), the people will die off.

Where the common people are free, they are even worse off than slaves    
  • Where the common people have no government (as we know it), they are much worse off (e.g., Somalia).

Getting rid of slavery would occasion great bloodshed and other evils.    
  • Getting rid of government (as we know it) would occasion great bloodshed and other evils.

Without slavery, the former slaves would run amuck, stealing, raping, killing, and generally causing mayhem.    
  • Without government (as we know it), the people would run amuck, stealing, raping, killing, and generally causing mayhem.

Trying to get rid of slavery is foolishly utopian and impractical; only a fuzzy-headed dreamer would advance such a cockamamie proposal.    
  • Trying to get rid of government (as we know it) is foolishly utopian and impractical; only a fuzzy-headed dreamer would advance such a cockamamie proposal.

Forget abolition. A far better plan is to keep the slaves sufficiently well fed, clothed, housed, and occasionally entertained and to take their minds off their exploitation by encouraging them to focus on the better life that awaits them in the hereafter.    
  • Forget anarchy [i.e. abolition of government (as we know it)]. A far better plan is to keep the ordinary people sufficiently well fed, clothed, housed, and entertained and to take their minds off their exploitation by encouraging them to focus on the better life that awaits them in the hereafter.

August 20, 2009

Robert Higgs [send him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. He is also a columnist for His most recent book is Neither Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government. He is also the author of Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy, Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11 and Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society.
Copyright © 2009 Robert Higgs

« Last Edit: 2009-November-02 10:40:42 AM by DennisLeeWilson » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: 2010-March-30 05:30:23 PM »

Word Idolatry by Jim Davidson
Link to this page:

I think Jim makes many interesting points that are related to this discussion thread! Emphasis added ... dlw

Number 563, March 28, 2010

Word Idolatry
by Jim Davidson

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

Walter Block says we cannot give up any words. So, in this essay: He asserts that we have to keep all the words. He writes, "Every word we use to describe ourselves is precious. We must keep them all, jettison none of them."

But this sort of fixation on words is a sort of idolatry. As if getting just the right words were going to fix everything. They won't. The good news is, we don't have to treat words as though they were a scarce world resource. They aren't. New words are invented every day.

State socialism is evil whether you call it capitalism or socialism. Statism is evil whether you identify it with the right or the left. Anarchy is almost certainly a botched word because of its association with chaos and bomb throwing. Socialism is almost certainly a botched word because of its association with state ownership of everything. Capitalism is almost certainly a botched word because of its association with cronyism and fascism.

I don't call myself an anarchist, an anarcho-capitalist, a libertarian socialist, or even a "Libertarian." My political philosophy is libertarian as opposed to authoritarian, my economic philosophy is propertarian and free market, and my self-identification is "sovereign individual." If these things are difficulties, then more discussion might be worth having.

One of the reasons I like "agorism" so well is that it is not tainted by association with a lot of past indiscretions by people who had their heads firmly stuck in their own rectums. But, look, type the word "agorism" on your Facebook status, or in a comment, and your computer probably identifies it as misspelt, depending on your browser and whether you've added this word to your dictionary. It is a new word.

Where did it come from? It comes from the word "agora" which is Greek for market place and forum or gathering place. It was used by Samuel Edward Konkin III (SEK3) to identify his economic and political philosophy of withdrawal from the state and entrepreneurship.

So, wait, we can have new words? Sure! The English language borrows words from every other language it encounters. There are hundreds of thousands of words in our language, which is living and growing, with new slang words, and new meanings for old words all the time.

Words are not precious. They are trivial. Words don't make things great, ideas make things great. Better ideas make for better gardens. You can call a rose by any name and it smells exactly the same. So why are you fixated on words?

I think some of the fixation has to do with wanting to make people understand by getting past their barriers of defensiveness. So a term like "libertarian socialist" might be intriguing to people who are interested in social justice and civil liberties. And that's fine. If that sort of work makes you wealthy, or brings in funds for your centre for a stateless society, wonderful. But at the end of the day, if your libertarian socialism becomes tolerant of state socialism, then it was a failure—no matter what words you use to excuse the statism part of the problem.

Yes, it is frustrating that a good word like "no king" in Greek (an-archon) has been destroyed by past association with statist collectivism and initiatory force. And it is frustrating that a system of privately owned resources and free markets could be described by a word like capitalism, except for the long-standing association of that word with cronyism and fascism—the marriage of big government to big business. Nor is it pleasant to suppose that a system of putting people before power structures described by a word like socialism has been associated with statism and power structures to the detriment of people.

But why fret about some words? There are plenty of other words. Or you can invent a new one. I like "indomitus" as a word for "not part of your system." Or "not enslaved." It is Latin for "savage" but it carries these other meanings. And we can make it mean what we want to.

I like the word "agorism" because it comes with 95 theses, it has a nice ring to it, it hasn't been connected to statism or initiatory force, and it seems like our best path forward.

Whatever you choose to do, worrying about what labels are used to describe what you do seems like the last thing to do. In general, worry is a wasted emotion.

After writing the above essay, one of my correspondents on Facebook wrote to comment that the analogy was not fully workable, since one always wants a place to withdraw to. We need, he said, to draw some lines in the sand.

Of course, the most famous line ever drawn in the sand was drawn with the tip of his sword by Col. Travis at the Alamo. A large number of men crossed that line to defend a fixed position. It has since then become the iconic symbol for liberty—the line in the sand. Were the government to cross a metaphorical line in the sand by, say, engaging in door to door gun confiscations, we would all rush out to defend our liberties and remove tyranny from our soil.

No doubt that was a fine sentiment in the 1990s, but in 2005, the government actually sent the Oklahoma nationalist guard door to door in New Orleans, in the Garden District, to fine homes, and seized guns. As I learned of this, and found video of the event, I went to the Free Republic web site to post this fact and alert people to their line in the sand being crossed.

My account was deleted and I was banned from posting there ever again. You see, the Free Republic is not about freedom, it is about war monger conservatives and the Republican party.

So in response to my friend Mike's comment, I wrote, no, you never run out of places. You are thinking centralized and controlled. Think decentralized and out of control. You go back to the same places over and over again. There are always places to go.

Mike, it isn't my analogy. You used the phrase "stand your ground." Defend a fixed position. Hold your post. I called shenanigans on that idea as being based on a misguided concept of conflict, based on centralization and a hierarchical command structure. You know who holds a post? Cannon fodder.

You can win, by withdrawing. The universe is infinite in all directions, said Freeman Dyson, and within your ability to move, it is certainly infinite enough. What you lack is imagination to find better ways of accomplishing the same goals....

Again, you would never expect to use these English words to explain your ideas to someone who speaks only Russian. If it is okay to abandon your entire language to get ideas across in that situation, why isn't it sensible to abandon confusing words to convey ideas in this situation?

To which he retorted that I should ask the Apache about this matter of withdrawing without ever having a place to stand your ground. What's more, we can't, currently, get off planet, he said. NASA is preventing it.

Of greater significance Mike says we should stand firm on principles. We should not build stuff that the pigs would end up seizing and run away, because then all our efforts go to support them, as much as we don't wish it. And, he says, guerrillas have to stand and fight sometimes. And plans aren't all bad.

So I commented back:

Ask which Apache? About what? Don't tell me what I have to do, son. Try to have some sensitivity to the fact that the term "Apache" was imposed by outsiders on several ethnically related but also diverse clan groupings. Navajo, Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, and Plains Apache have all been called by that name.

So, rather than dismiss the effectiveness of 21st Century fourth generational warfare by making reference to some groups of peoples many of whom kept their autonomy even though some of their cousins suffered various military defeats in the 19th Century when technologies favouring offence were temporarily ascendant (and not available to those people) I would much rather you give me some specific bit of information about why you think I can't simply withdraw from words that are unworkable and keep making up new ones. Your land analogy breaks down because there are always plenty of new words. Talk to a teenager if you doubt me.

As for NASA, etc. it is completely possible to do what you describe, as Jim Benson so nobly proved. It is technically and economically feasible, cost effective, and practical. And forbidden.

Stand firm on principles forever. In matters of fashion, swim with the current. [Jefferson] Nothing about abandoning the words socialism and capitalism effects any of the ideas that I stand for. And you know it....

I write business plans for a living, I am not against planning. I am against your insistence that we waste our time fighting to preserve the sanctity of words that don't matter. Ideas matter. Words are trivial.

All this fighting between Walter Block and Brad Spangler over the words capitalism and socialism is a waste of time. Walter is not going to find hundreds of millions of capitalists rallying to the banner of freedom. Brad and Sheldon are not going to find hundreds of millions of socialists rallying to the banner of freedom. So, stop being mean to each other, guys.

There is no magical incantation of just the proper words that is going to cause everyone on the planet to embrace individual liberty, private property, free markets, and lay the foundation for ending the state, freeing the slaves, and stopping the wars. We're going to do those things, and we'll do them using whatever words work with a particular audience. It isn't rational to worship words as though they were going to be our salvation. We should find the ideas that work and use whatever words we need to convey those into each mind we encounter.

After all, every individual is different, and worthy of whatever words are needed to persuade them. One size does not fit all.

Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, and anti-war activist. His 1990 venture to offer a sweepstakes trip into space was destroyed by government action as was his free port and prospective space port in Somalia in 2001. His 2002-2007 venture in free market money and private stock exchange was destroyed by government action in 2007. He's going to Mars if he has to walk. His second book, Being Sovereign is now availble from Lulu and Amazon. His third book Sovereign Self-Defence will be released for Kindle very soon. His fourth book Being Libertarian will be available for free download as a .pdf, being a compilation of all his essays and letters in "The Libertarian Enterprise" since 1995. Contact him at or

2013-09-26 Added the Link to this page
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