16A042  Warning! Poison! by Jim Davies, 11/22/2016    


To bring about a free, zero government society only one thing is needed: that each person who understands its vital necessity introduce one friend every year (+/-) to a school for liberty, such as TOLFA; and resolve never to work for government. Okay, so that's two things; picky, picky. All the rest is math; the power of exponential growth will deprive all government of anyone to work for it, and that resource is the only one upon which it totally depends. When that happens, therefore, it will cease to exist.

In my Transition to Liberty I try to predict what government might do to impede that process, and could not imagine one that it could sustain. I still can't, but recently one came to my notice that I'd not anticipated, so this ZGBlog will consider that threat. As will become clear it's not something new - just more of the same old, same old nonsense - but its source is new; it's coming from within the libertarian movement! Further, so far I've found it very hard to label it with a name; if a suitable one occurs to you, do let me know. Here's what it says.

1. "The task is hopeless." That's the task of bringing about a free society, and the poisoners say it cannot be done - therefore, retreat into one's own life and make the best of it. You owe no duty to persuade anyone else, so why bother? Shoot anyone who invades, but otherwise relax. Typically said: "It's not my job to change minds."

Like all Big Lies, that's not wholly untrue. Nobody owes any duty except to himself. The task sometimes seems hard; it's discouraging even to bring friends to the Freedom Academy, if 99 decline the invitation for every 1 who accepts. And if one makes the mistake of trying to persuade a statist against his will, stone walls are softer.

It's true also in that the main way that has been tried - political action - is a spectacular failure. This year, the Libertarian Party nominated Johnson and Weld, neither of whom would have been recognized as libertarians at all by the Party's inspiration, Murray Rothbard. And even they didn't come close to making waves. And even if one day the LP should actually win elections, it would implement an oxymoron: a "libertarian government"! - forcing the losers, at best, to accept a "free" system they neither understood nor wanted.

Notice though how well this suits the purposes of the governing class. Spread the notion that they are immovable, so that these pesky anarchists just give up, leaving them in place for ever! Notice, too, that this aspect of the poison doesn't challenge the view that the State is pestilential, it just says to use violence when it gets too close. That will, of course, swiftly end the resister's life, and so remove another dissident and, for sure, encourage les autres. Now, this doesn't prove that government agents have inspired this defeatist attitude, by infiltrating anarchist sites like Strike the Root; but it sure looks like it.

My answer to all this? - self interest. Everyone does have a duty to himself, to enhance his own self esteem and so his enjoyment of life. There can be no doubt from even a casual glance at the history of government that it will continue growing as a parasite until it has completely destroyed its host, hence for one's own wellbeing and especially that of one's children and theirs, it is highly important to terminate that parasite. And, of course, the task is not hopeless at all; it is rather simple, and has been spelled out right here.

2. "Rights, if any, are transient" - that is, not inherent in human nature, inalienable. They're said to be permission slips, granted on behalf of societies in some place and time; variable. Some go further, saying flatly that rights do not exist, that nobody has any. The "proof" of that which they offer is that rights are invisible, intangible, conceptual, hence "obviously" not real. Typically said: "next time you encounter a 'right' on the street, please let me know."

In particular the right of self ownership is denied! Typically said: "We don't own ourselves, and nor does anyone else. We are ourselves. Ownership applies to objects, and arguably animals, perhaps. But not and never people."

Any truth in this assertion is superficial; a right is of course abstract, not visible or tangible, but as I showed at some length in The Concept of Rights that by no means proves a right is unreal. I named several other invisible, intangible, abstract, conceptual attributes of humans which are very real, including for one example conscience. Incredibly, the response from Alex Knight was that no, Oskar Schindler was not moved to save "his" Jews during WW-2 by conscience, he merely changed his mind! So this loyal Nazi party member, enjoying the company and high regard of senior officers and a highly profitable business, "changed his mind" and risked losing it all, for no particular reason! Perhaps he craved excitement, and flipped a coin.

Reality: human nature has an inbuilt, moral compass we call "conscience" that nudges us about right and wrong. It can be suppressed, and may be hard to hear, but if we listen well, we become better able to respect ourselves.

Similarly, we have the attribute of rights. Not "permission slips" from society or its rulers, but something integral to our nature; and they are fundamentally important to freedom. The most important right, from which all other true ones derive, is that of self ownership, the existence of which, as above, the mind-poisoners explicitly deny.

"Ownership" is the right to control, free of interference. Certainly it applies to objects, but it also applies to people, for control has to do with choices and decisions. Man is a rational, reasoning, choosing animal and in thousands of ways every day we each make choices for our own selves. If we each have a self-ownership right, it follows that (a) all decisions affecting ourselves we are free to make, and (b) none of the decisions affecting anyone else are ours to make; those belong to them, the rightful owners.

This is so important, so fundamental to hornbook libertarianism, that I'll again quote Murray Rothbard on the subject. He literally wrote the book on libertarianism; For a New Liberty. You can read it, free, via that link. If you don't have a copy, please do that. At .pdf page 46, after a detailed and brilliant examination of alternatives, he ends:

"The libertarian therefore... concludes by adopting as his primary axiom the universal right of self-ownership, a right held by everyone by virtue of being a human being." [Emph. mine]

Nobody is infallible, and on a couple of lesser matters I think Rothbard was mistaken, but here he is presenting the "primary axiom" of libertarians, and I know of no way he's been shown wrong on that. In that single, basic axiom lies the reason that all government is 100% illegitimate, for it does nothing else than take decisions (make choices) on behalf of people who have the right to make their own. Accordingly we can take it as fixed: you can properly call yourself a libertarian only if you accept that self-ownership is a universal human right. Deny it if you must; but then, do not play the hypocrite and pretend to be a libertarian.

From this it follows that Alex Knight and Paul Bonneau (who first prescribed this poison on Strike the Root) are not libertarians, and nor is anyone else who has swallowed a dose.

Effects of the Poison

They are fatal to those who drink the stuff, in the sense that he or she will cease to live as a libertarian and contribute to the termination of government. As well as that, though, let's consider their effects on society as a whole - also fatal - in the hypothetical case that the beliefs were true. I get the impression that the poisoners have failed to think those through, or that they do not care, or both. So let's give them a hand.

(a) Absent individual rights, the only choices anyone could make would be those allowed by whoever wields the biggest gun, ie, the best organized enforcement apparatus. Rulers would have no right to rule, of course, since the absence of rights would apply to them too, but that won't bother them. Rulers don't care; they are drunk on power, and power comes from the barrel of a gun. So, choice-making being a primary feature of our species, everyone's humanity would be sharply reduced.

(b) Without the right to own oneself, among the choices everybody would no longer have the right to make would be the choice to form an opinion - or to express it, in speech or in writing. So for example nobody would have the right to believe or to say "nobody has any rights." (This alone suffices to expose this poison as nonsense; it contradicts itself.)

(c) Since all property rights derive from the right of self-ownership (there is no way validly to sign a contract without it) there would not be any property rights. Nobody would own anything. There would be no security, for example, in home "ownership." The absence of real owners equates to communism.

(d) Since it would not be anybody's "job to change minds", all possibility of improvement would be erased. Rulers would rule permanently. Any vision of liberty would remain just a dream, for ever.

(e) Given that all progress "depends upon the unreasonable man" (in the words of G B Shaw, with "unreasonable" here meaning an uncooperative individualist who questions authority) absence of the right to choose and decide would end the progress of civilization.

(f) Denial of the right to choose would destroy the basis for ethics, which is all about choice. Hence there would be no right or wrong, just permitted or forbidden. No blame, no praise. The old basis for choosing good over evil was religious, eg the Ten Commandments; since there is no definition of their alleged author or proof that he exists, those no longer serve. Instead, the rational basis for such choices is self-interest; whatever enhances one's own life is good, whatever damages it is bad. But in either case, choice is central.

(g) There would be no axiom from which the "Non Aggression Principle" (NAP) could be derived. The NAP is sound because everyone does have the right to control his own life, hence aggression against him is morally reprehensible. But if that axiom were removed, the NAP would just be one opinion or ethical idea among many; one of several options. It has been used widely in the LP, as a prerequisite for membership; gut it, and the distinguishing feature of the LP would vanish. (Arguably it's already vanished anyway because the NAP ceased to be imposed as a condition of membership, but that's another story.)

(h) The deadly acceptance of the status quo ("We [just] are ourselves") would mean that justice would be not only impossible, but perhaps impossible to imagine; for justice consists in restoring lost or stolen rights, and if no rights exist that would be meaningless. If rulers decided to liquidate six million Jews, not only would that be done but there would be no standard or basis on which to question their choice or call them to account or prevent a repetition; the Holocaust would be no more unjust than the extermination of an ant heap. As for justice on a smaller scale, victims of theft, assault and murder would be without recourse, unless the rulers (who commit theft, assault and murder on a vast scale) happened to proscribe them; and if the rulers prosecuted someone for owning a gun, for example, he could not respond "but I have the right to defend myself" - for he'd have no inherent rights at all.

(i) Hence, ultimately, absent rights and therefore justice, nobody would even have the right to life itself. John lives, John dies, so what? A matter of no consequence. "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." [Shakespeare, Macbeth.] That is the ultimate effect of taking this poison.


It's all rather familiar; it's that by which we are now almost fully surrounded. This is what government leads to, eventually. This poison is the philosophy that underlies government. Those who peddle it are actively supporting government; either as paid agents or as its useful idiots. Neither has any proper place in a libertarian community.


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