Libertarian Looters: Using the State Against Itself
Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer
All forms of libertarianism have the non-aggression principle at its heart in one way or another, whether it’s anarchism or minarchism or some other strain. Even rejecting the NAP is an open admission that libertarianism cannot be discussed without discussing the NAP.
Some libertarians won’t touch Social Security, Medicare or any other form of government graft; others say everyone has a moral right, even an obligation, to loot the looters and right the wrongs by taking everything the government goons steal from us and using it as a weapon against them.
What follows is an introduction to that strand of libertarian thought.
Save Our Government Bureaubots!
Looting the Looters
While a powerful idea for libertarians it’s also a dangerous course as those who loot the looters can easily become no better, or even worse than, those they loot. Vladimir Lenin, in his 1917 “Advice to Workers and Peasants” quoted a fellow Bolshevik who said “Yes, we loot the looters.” (Pravda, No. 18, 6 February 1918, p. 3.)
We know how that turned out. Libertarians who walk this walk must never forget they are not statist Bolsheviks but their opposite; voluntaryist anti-statists.
This “loot the looters” opinion seems to be in the minority among libertarians. But to illustrate the point here’s a story told by a libertarian freelance technical professional from Minnesota who went into a meeting years ago with the owner of a contract engineering firm to negotiate his first freelance assignment.
The owner had a purchase order to supply a temporary employee to a major business enterprise. The owner had already tendered the guy’s resume to his client and the client had already approved him for hire. In these situations the client would pay the engineering firm for supplying the needed worker and the engineering firm in turn would pay the worker an agreed upon split of the payment as wages. As a “contract employee” he then became a direct employee of the employment firm, not of the client.
The meeting was to work out the final details of the agreement, most importantly the worker’s hourly wage rate.
“We talked back and forth and the pay rate finally came up,” the freelancer said. “I asked for X dollars per hour and the owner countered with a lower rate. We chatted a little more and repeated the same dance about my rate. The third time around the owner said, ‘Well, I have to pay federal and state unemployment taxes for you and that money has to come from somewhere.’”
Now keep in mind that the Minnesota Department of Revenue Withholding Fact Sheet 10 clearly states the following about the Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA) and the State Unemployment Tax (SUTA):
- “Only the employer pays FUTA tax; it is not deducted from the employee’s wages.”
- “SUTA is an employer-paid tax and is not deducted from the employee’s pay.”
For years many libertarians had taken the position that they would never apply for unemployment insurance benefits because the very existence of such assistance, taken from people under the threat or use of coercive force, is illegitimate and immoral. “Taxation is Theft.”
“But,” said the contract employee, “once my boss said ‘that money has to come from somewhere’ I knew with absolute certainty that ‘somewhere’ meant ‘my paycheck.’ Technically it wasn’t withheld like Social Security and Medicare because the unemployment tax wasn’t listed on my paycheck stub; it was simply subtracted from the rate I could have been paid if the government hadn’t demanded that my employer pay it to them rather than to me.”
From then on, he stated emphatically, “I sucked up every penny of unemployment money I could get my hands on because it was my money, I had worked for it, I had earned it, and therefore I was legitimately entitled to it.”
Ah, “entitled.” There’s that word again, a word that redistributionist collectivists have corrupted and turned into a dirty word.
Honest definition of “entitled:” Earned, merited, deserved, worthy of, worked for, rightfully belonging to, honestly acquired; Donna Summer song: “She works hard for the money. So hard for it, honey.”
Political definition of “entitled:” Arrogantly demanded on the basis that one happened to be born; forcibly taken from politically disfavored groups and redistributed to politically favored groups. Simon and Garfunkel song: “I am entitled by my birth To the treasures of the earth.”
In a just society (pay attention Social Justice Warriors) people who genuinely earn what they get are entitled to keep what they earn whether they fall into your hypocritically little narrowly defined politically correct elitist clique or not.
Because of that everyone has the right to repatriate whatever it is that has been stolen from them no matter who has stolen it, whether a street mugger or a political mugger. If they can’t get it back in money they should take it back in kind by using everything they can possibly use that has been paid for with their tax money, from highways and streets and bridges and sidewalks to mandatory tax-funded social schemes.
But the young man’s revelation above and his scorched-earth libertarian theory of taking back everything that was stolen from us isn’t alone, or new. Older libertarians are certainly aware of Austrian School economist, anarcho-capitalist theorist and Loyola University New Orleans economics professor Walter Block and his classic book Defending the Undefendable.
His article on LewRockwell.com in 2011 in defense of what some call “looting the looters” has also become something of a classic as well. The title “May a Libertarian Take Money From the Government?” comes from a letter Block received from a libertarian professor asking whether it was morally wrong for him to work at a tax-supported university.
Block answers with carefully thought out and crafted arguments by progressing through nine major points which are (mixed metaphor alert) nut-shelled to the bone below purely as an appetite-whetter; those truly interested in his moral and practical theory of using the state’s own ill-gotten gains against the state should read it and think on it. (All quotes in the following from the original.)
Block’s Blocks of Text
1. Block opens by declaring the obvious, that “being true to the NAP [non-aggression principle] is difficult when the state has its tentacles in virtually every aspect of life. The state violates rights with a vengeance, and it is difficult to lead a normal life without being ensnared in its web.”
2. “My take on this is that it is a positive virtue to relieve the government of its ill-gotten gains.”
3. “Taking money from a thief is an unadulterated good deed.” Even when the thief is government.
4. If someone else wants a share of the ill-gotten gains you’ve seized from the government “he should go to the same place as you did, and seize it from the same bad guys.”
5. “I have in my time been ‘guilty’ of accepting subsidies from the state” but “given our lack of economic freedom” it is categorically impossible to avoid doing so (“I use streets, sidewalks, roads and highways”) so everyone should just “Go out there, and proudly get everything you can from the government.”
6. “Which organizations may properly accept government subsidies? May the typical private university do so? My answer is no.” But this is just a setup for point 7.
7. “Murray Rothbard truly said that it’s not necessary for us to become martyrs. Libertarianism does not at all require any such thing." Academics should be free to pursue "every opportunity possible to work with private industry" but “you will not be awarded any libertarian brownie points” for avoiding a government subsidized university because “it is a virtue to take money away from this illicit organization.”
8. Here’s how it works with government subsidies. They are “giving you the money in the hope that by doing so, they can better promote statism than by the use of it in any other way. But you, by your actual actions, will not be doing any such thing.” Instead you will be using that stolen loot to help promote libertarianism!
9. “To conclude.” From the pragmatic perspective “I urge you to apply for all of the grants you possibly can” because “the more money you take from the coffers of the state the better libertarian you are.”
Pirating the Pirates
Ayn Rand also accepted this approach in fighting against The State. In Atlas Shrugged her modern day pirate, Ragnar Danneskjold, attacked American shipping on the high seas, confiscated – liberated – their cargos that had been looted from American taxpayers and, when possible, repatriated gold bars to the biggest victims of the statist tax-takers.
As Ragnar, a former philosopher, explained it to another character:
"What I actually am, Mr. Rearden, is a policeman. It is a policeman's duty to protect men from criminals – criminals being those who seize wealth by force. It is a policeman's duty to retrieve stolen property and return it to its owners. But when robbery becomes the purpose of the law, and the policeman's duty becomes, not the protection, but the plunder of property – then it is an outlaw who has to become a policeman." – Atlas Shrugged, Chapter 7
The message in all of this is simple: Libertarians should grab every bit of tax loot offered to them by government and use it as weapons against that government by promoting libertarianism. The Libertarian Party, for one, certainly intends to do exactly that by accepting matching funds if and when they qualify for them by achieving five percent of the national popular vote.
In Marxist theory “looting the looters” meant “confiscation of private property” – and thereby becoming the biggest looters of all – just the opposite of what libertarians mean by it.
Libertarian philosophy is based on reality, on the fact that humans exist in nature in a manner that nature determines is right for humans to exist; as specific, individual entities. Thus human rights or natural rights determine that individuals own themselves. Their own bodies, their brains, their minds and the content of those minds are their personal, individual property. There are only three fundamental ways to acquire other property such as food, clothing and shelter that make human existence possible: by stealing it, earning it or accepting it as a gift. Libertarians reject the first and embrace the second two.
All libertarians, as well as everyone else, will of course make their own personal judgements on whether to take this road through today’s putrid undergrowth-entangled jungle of statism.
Lauren Alaina song: “If you trust your rebel heart, ride it into battle
Don't be afraid, take the road less traveled.”