Bloomberg Columnists Claim Libertarians Are the New Communists

I can’t make this stuff up: A couple of ill-informed Bloomberg columnists published an article online that made the absurd claim that “Libertarians Are the New Communists.” How exactly did they manage to take libertarianism, the philosophy that asserts the non-aggression principle as its central tenet, and equate it with communism, the philosophy that denies individuals the right to property, from which all other rights come from? By not reading any actual libertarian literature, no doubt.

Anytime an article mentions Ted Cruz as a premier libertarian and mentions Koch, Ron Paul, Grover Norquist, and other highly public figures in similar veins, you can pretty much chalk the article up as being filled with nonsensical and imbecilic content. It is destined to be the same kind of fear-mongering that Chris Christie did that has no real criticism other than asserting that it’s dangerous, somehow. Nonetheless, I think it useful to point out a few things. The article asserts:

By radical libertarianism, we mean the ideology that holds that individual liberty trumps all other values…Radical libertarianism assumes that humans are wired only to be selfish, when in fact cooperation is the height of human evolution.

Well, right off the bat we can see the only thing the authors might have read that is at all libertarian is maybe the Ayn Rand novel, Atlas Shrugged. Even if they did manage to read it, it’s clear their reading comprehension skills are abominably lacking. One of the most basic libertarian assumptions regarding civilization is that self-interest is the driving force that ensures cooperation. As Adam Smith said almost 250 years ago, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” A libertarian recognizes that self-interest is the cornerstone of cooperation which, in turn, is the cornerstone of civilization. Any number of other libertarian thinkers would say the same thing, which the authors would know if they bothered to do any research. If they wanted to make the assertion that self-interest does not ensure cooperation, that would still be an argument doomed to fail, but at least it would be a legitimate attempt and not a straw man.

Next, the authors state “[Libertarianism] assumes that societies are efficient mechanisms requiring no rules or enforcers.” That’s funny, because for there to be society, it presumes the necessity of rules and enforcement. The authors make the mistake in assuming that less government or no government means no rules and no enforcement. On the contrary, libertarians advocate for less government because it eliminates the arbitrary laws and enforcement that consider non-violent actions to be punishable offences, which tend to cause a deterioration of civil society and peaceful cooperation. Likewise, they believe that government has a greater comparative advantage in denying rights to civilians than in protecting the rights of civilians, ie. in fostering chaos rather than in promoting order. (In societies with a government, rights may be more properly called privileges since the state tends to revoke these privileges whenever it drums up real or imagined crises that “require” such measures).

What libertarianism does argue is that societies are governed by certain rules and mechanisms that lead to more efficient outcomes than when a government intervenes and creates arbitrary mechanisms that distort the natural processes encouraging order.

“Communism failed because it kept citizens from taking responsibility for governing themselves…so does radical libertarianism.” Again, the authors make absurd generalizations that have no basis in the philosophy of libertarianism. If the authors believed that libertarianism was a philosophy based in individualism like they say, than they are essentially arguing that individualism involves not taking responsibility for self-government, a self-contradictory statement if there ever was one.

I guess libertarians should take it as a complement that so many individuals want to attack the philosophy, since it represents a threat to the status quo of the welfare-warfare state which so many individuals have an emotional and financial attachment to. But in all seriousness, the thought that individuals can write such thoughtless pieces and get published is beyond me.

Consent is for the Weak

“Consent is for the weak!!” – John Kreese
“[T]he president can give an order, but the order must be taken up and executed by a general.  The general can give an order, but the order has to be executed by some officer.  The officer can give an order, but the soldiers ultimately have to do the shooting.  And if they don’t shoot, then whatever the president says, what the highest commander says has absolutely no effect.” – Hans Hermann Hoppe

This is the essence of withdrawing consent from the State; this is the endeavor to be striving for as non-violent resistance is integral to achieving a free society. The right to pursue any course of action we may choose unmolested, so long as our actions confer no harm upon anyone else, is the most basic human principle. Anytime the government acts contrary to this axiom, it acts a dangerous aggressor that must be resisted. John Locke said, “In transgressing the law of nature, the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equity,” viz living as animals live. In doing so:
he becomes dangerous to mankind. Which being a trespass against the whole species, and the peace and safety of it, provided for by the law of nature, every man upon this score, by the right he hath to preserve mankind in general, may restrain, or where it is necessary, destroy things noxious to them, and so may bring such evil on any one, who hath transgressed that law, as may make him repent the doing of it, and thereby deter him, and by his example others, from doing the like mischief.
Why should this principle be confined to individual men, i.e. private citizens? Are governments not made of men also? Why should the government not be subject to the same standards of justice as its citizens? If we believe in the rule of law, we must admit that “no official, high or petty,” is beyond reproach of the law; specifically, the natural law.

Ayn Rand has made it abundantly clear in her writing that consent to the injustices of government “looters” is the only thing that gives a legitimacy to government power. In Atlas Shrugged, when the government was trying to force Henry Rearden to voluntarily give up the rights to his metal in court, he said: 
If you choose to deal with men by means of compulsion, do so. But you will discover that you need the voluntary co-operation of your victims, in many more ways than you can see at present. And your victims should discover that it is their own volition-which you cannot force-that makes you possible. I choose to be consistent and I will obey you in the manner you demand. Whatever you wish me to do, I will do it at the point of a gun. If you sentence me to jail, you will have to send armed men to carry me there-I will not volunteer to move. If you fine me, you will have to seize my property to collect the fine-I will not volunteer to pay it. If you believe that you have the right to force me-use your guns openly. I will not help you to disguise the nature of your action.
Under Rand’s logic, openly refusing to acknowledge the authority of the state is necessary to expose the injustices it necessarily commits. This concept is one that goes back centuries. Before Ayn Rand affirmed this principle, Henry David Thoreau wrote about it in great clarity in On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. He understood that even tacit consent to a government that is tyrannical is only going to ensure that the injustice continues. Thoreau said:
How does it become a man to behave toward the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave’s government also. All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.
He believed a government which sanctioned chattel slavery could not possibly have any grounds for legitimacy. In fact, there was even a moral imperative to withdraw one’s consent from a tyrannical government, particularly when it violated the most basic of human rights as the antebellum United States’ blatant violation the right of self-ownership for African-Americans did. In Civil Disobedience, where Thoreau mentioned his letter of refusal to pay church taxes, addressed to the Town Clerk, he said, “Know all men by these presents, that I, Henry Thoreau, do not wish to be regarded as a member of any incorporated society which I have not joined.” Thoreau lived by, and went to jail for, these principles.

Going even farther back, into the 16th century, we see that Étienne de La Boétie was writing about withdrawing one’s consent from the government in his work The Politics of Obedience. In one of the most powerful statements of all time, Boétie declared:
Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place your hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.
Boétie thought that we didn’t even need to forcefully resist a government to topple it; we only needed to cease being the pedestal that government stands on. Acquiescence in the government’s immoral policies only provides the foundation for further tyranny. As banal as it has become, the truth is that if we all stopped paying taxes tomorrow, government would fail in no time. It would have no choice; it could either fail or stop masquerading as a voluntary establishment instituted for protection and benevolence and show its true colors as a highwayman pointing a gun at us saying, “Your money, or your life.”

Henry David Thoreau said, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe—”That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.” If we believe in the right to withdraw one’s consent to the government, and take it to it’s logical conclusion, we arrive at a fully voluntary society where no one is subject to arbitrary whims of a coercive monopolist. Anyone can roll over and allow the government to do whatever it pleases; consent is easy. Dissent is onerous; only a courageous few are willing to take a principled stand and refuse to allow any concessions to the State at personal risk to their own life, liberty and property. These few should be lauded as they are the bulwark of liberty.