Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career and a passion for all things libertarian to become The Libertarian Opinionizer.
Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer
In a libertarian society how would libertarians deal with … anything?
Replace the “anything” placeholder above and these questions pop up repeatedly all over social media: How would libertarians deal with public services and goods? With equal opportunity? With hunger and poverty? With law enforcement and conflict resolution? With construction and maintenance of the infrastructure?
This last one is the endlessly asked and endlessly answered “Who will build the roads?” poser which means if you haven’t gotten the answer by now you never will get it.
The one thing all of these questioners have in common is asking libertarians to solve problems that were created in and are continuing to haunt non-libertarian societies today. Consider this Q&A from Quora:
Q: “How would a libertarian society deal with someone who couldn't pay for the harm they caused?”
A: “Libertarianism has no magical formula for getting blood from a stone, but neither does the current government regime.”
So libertarianism fails?
It’s like asking how freedom of speech would work in an absolute dictatorship, how freedom of religion would work in a rigid theocracy, how freedom of expression would work in a slave state.
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Reason AND Imagination
For reasons completely mystifying to most libertarians the majority of people who ask these kinds of questions can’t seem to think for themselves. They look all around and see the reality of Here-And-Now and then try to unimaginatively shoehorn vaguely understood ideas of political libertarianism into the status quo with only the faintest idea of the philosophical concepts that underpin libertarianism.
If everyone thought this way the handwritten papyrus scrolls they purchased from Amazon would be delivered to them by ox cart today.
This mindset of projecting today’s failed solutions into a totally unknown future of ideas and problems and solutions that don’t even exist yet—more laws, more rules, more regulations, more government—is far more prevalent than most people realize.
People who don’t want freedom can’t possibly get there so they should just step aside and move on. Those who genuinely want self-ownership and personal freedom need to make an attempt to figure out how to get there. As the Tannehills say in their book, The Market for Liberty:
“IF we don’t know where we’re going, chances are we won’t get there!”
Who Will Build the Roads to Freedom?
A good example of this problem is found in a very long article The Atlantic asked and failed to answer in the title of their own essay: “How Will Police Solve Murders on Mars?”
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Really? We need to solve that question now?
Among other issues, the article sets up an Earthly problem in a far-distant future successful Martian society that looks just like our own here on planet Earth today and then attempts to offer answers based on today’s thought processes.
“Consider the headache presented by an Australian national working on Mars for an American space-faring firm that has been registered, for tax purposes, in Ireland. He has confessed to murdering a Japanese seismologist in a non-jurisdictional mountain range somewhere in the Red Planet’s equatorial region. Who on Mars would be responsible for bringing this man to justice?”
The simple answer is the Martians—or whatever they choose to call themselves at that point in their history—will have the responsibility themselves. The United States today is full of former Australian and Irish and Japanese and millions of other national-racial-ethnic peoples. Who deals with their misdeeds, their former home countries or the US government?
The article apparently pre-supposes that Mars is still an Earth colony. But what kind? A dependency? A Self-governing protectorate? A democratic republic? Socialist? A “Real Socialism” nation-state? Communist? Fascist? Military Dictatorship? A United Nations-turned United Planets turned One World Order-turned Two Worlds Order territorial satrapy?
Suppose it isn’t one country. Maybe the colonists and immigrants and generations of native-born people have evolved multiple different kinds of countries? Or no “countries” at all which would be an unidentifiable notion for today’s Earthbound brainiacs who don’t seem capable of contemplating such a thing?
Or how about this? Suppose these future Martian medical scientists have discovered how to identify and cure psychopathy and sociopathy? Or social scientists have discovered how to channel such abhorrent behavior into areas that don’t harm others?
Without psychopaths/sociopaths prowling the canals of the Red Planet that should cut down on violent crime. Or maybe tomorrow’s Mars dwellers will devise harsh but sensible judgments based on wrong-doers compensating their victims rather than paying some “debt to society.”
Self Governance, Not Forced Governments
Real people don’t actually commit crimes against some ethereal concept called “society” or “the state” or “the people” after all; they commit their crimes against actual individual human beings. Some form of restitution, reparation, compensation, repayment is the most ethical means of making a victim whole again to the extent that it can be done.
So the libertarian answer to the question from The Atlantic article, “Who on Mars would be responsible for bringing this man to justice?” was already answered in the original 2007 edition of the book The Market for liberty:
“When an aggressor causes the loss, damage, or destruction of an innocent man’s values, justice demands that the aggressor pay for his crime, not by forfeiting a part of his life to “society,” but by repaying the victim for his loss, plus all expenses directly occasioned by the aggression (such as the expense of apprehending the aggressor.)”
Libertarians seek individual justice, not some mystical groupthink concept called “social justice.”
The position for libertarians, today on the Third Planet from the Sun or tomorrow on the Fourth Planet out, or anywhere else that future libertarians make planetfall and set up housekeeping is that all considerations will be based on the non-aggression principle against coercion, intimidation or fraud.
The ultimate answer to every issue including crime and punishment will be worked out not by some Earthly 21st-century land use urban planner or some social behavioral engineer but by future individual libertarians living in a free voluntary society who will answer those questions as they go along.
That’s what the Founders of the United States attempted to do when their Revolutionary War was over and they found themselves surrounded by a baker’s dozen of independent former British colonies.
Instead of creating a micro-managed hundred-year plan for everyone to obey they attempted to set up a basic framework that would allow maximum individual freedom and minimal political intrusion. It worked for a while but some major fundamental flaws—slavery, rights for European-descended men only, Manifest Destiny, taxation—eventually destroyed their original vision.
Anyone remember the Soviet Union’s thirteen Five Year Plans or Red China’s Great Leap Forward? Some of these plans were “successful” if you don’t count the millions who died of mass starvation from time to time in both countries as a result of the central planners’ inability to improve everyone’s lives but definitely managed to consolidate their own power over everyone else’s lives.
Don't Stop Questioning But Do Start Answering
Here’s a good start for a Libertarian Constitution:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that no person shall initiate force, intimidation or fraud against another.”
And even this, from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, in which Judge Narragansett proposes an addition to the Bill of Rights:
“Congress shall make no law restricting the freedom of production and trade.”
If libertarians don’t continuously challenge people to think for themselves we’ll never get more libertarians and therefore never escape from today’s coercion-oriented society.
All of the “How would libertarians deal with” questions posed at the beginning of this article have been answered over and over since at least the mid-1970s. If people really wanted to know the answers to these questions they could have found them easily enough all over the online world. So let’s just throw the same questions back at them to see if they’re serious about the answers or just taking up space in discussion forums.
Without using any coercive power from any form of government or nation-state or criminal organization or authoritarian collectivist régime how would YOU deal with…
- Public services and goods?
- Equal opportunity?
- Hunger and poverty?
- Law enforcement and conflict resolution?
- Construction and maintenance of the infrastructure?
To make the question absolutely clear: Given that you have no right to impose your own preferences on anyone through any use of government or non-government coercion, intimidation or fraud, that you have every right to freely enter into, interact with and withdraw from, a virtually endless array of mutual, voluntary interactions with others, and that you absolutely retain the right to use defensive force to counter initiated force what would your answer be to those questions?
Open Minds Are Free Minds
So let’s see how you non-libertarian people can answer these questions. Think like free people for a change. Imagine how you can responsibly accomplish individual and social relationships without running to the government for every little thing.
Try to think positive. You don’t have to nail down every little detail all by yourself. The devil, as we are always told, is in the details. Anyone can come up with an endless string of negatives. If you can’t plug all the holes in your ideas that’s what voluntarily interacting with other people is all about. Ideas exist in millions of individual minds, not in just a few self-serving elitist “experts” who claim to have all the answers but clearly never do.
If all you want to do is live in a world where everyone, including yourself, sits on your ass and does nothing while expecting others to do everything for you you’re not really interested in libertarianism in the first place. You already have that kind of world. If that’s really working out for you what are you complaining about?
For those who actually want to get from here to there, from today’s coercive society to tomorrow's free society, the Tannehills cover that in Part III of their book as well where they rightfully, and tragically, point out:
“The choice is not laissez-faire vs. the status quo, because we cannot possibly keep the status quo anyway. Tremendous socio-economic forces, set in motion long ago by governmental plundering and power-grabbing, are sweeping the present order out from under our feet.”
Revolution, violence, is not an option. The only way of getting to a libertarian society is getting to it through libertarian means, through non-coercion, through continuing to educate ourselves and teaching others, through continually advocating our positions, through adopting as many voluntary means as possible such as developing underground trading economies or online cybercurrencies or perhaps ultimately staging a massive peaceful revolt through passive resistance, through the refusal to obey those who have become our masters.
Or maybe getting there by tapping the best and brightest minds in the freedom movement. This should give us some hope:
“Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.”—RPI News, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, July 2011
“Unshakable belief” is the key. Returning to Old World outmoded failed systems with their roots in mindless tribalism like Marxism, socialism, communism, fascism or the like are also losing strategies. The only choices for humanity are individual freedom or group enslavement.
We all must make this choice whether we realize it or not, whether we think we need to or not, whether we like it or not.
Links and References
Who will build the Roads? Really? You’re going to ask that question without making even a tiny effort to seek out the answer yourself? You can download the PDF version of The Privatization of Roads and Highways for FREE from The Mises Institute!
Treating the Future Like Today If you really want to know how today’s unimaginative mindset from The Atlantic sees deep into a future Martian society here’s “How Will Police Solve Murders on Mars?”
Learn Libertarianism: If you really want to know how various ways a libertarian society could be voluntarily funded stop hounding libertarians with “gotcha” questions and read “6 Ways To Fund Public Services in a Libertarian Republic.”
Debate Libertarianism If you’re still not sure about libertarianism join the debate in Quora and choose Libertarians, Libertarianism (Politics), Libertarian Party (US Politics), Anarcho-Capitalism or Voluntaryism.
The Voluntary Libertarian Government This is just one of many articles online that invite people of reason and imagination to think creatively about a voluntarily funded future rather than just clinging to the same old status quo.
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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2018 Garry Reed