To understand why, it is necessary to make a distinction between aggressive violence (almost always morally wrong) and defensive violence. Most of what the government does today falls into the category of aggressive violence; e.g., taxing us to redistribute money for myriad purposes, controlling otherwise peaceful human interactions, etc. Therefore, we who oppose aggressive violence would like to see most of what government does done away with and society returned to a voluntarist basis; that is, people dealing with one another freely and openly as they desire (or not) with the only rule being, the prohibition against aggressive violence.
The original Constitution tried to put all that into words, but failed in part because of vague, imprecise language (examples include the clumsy wording of the Second Amendment, and of course the infamous “general welfare” clause, which has been the source of endless mischief) and also because it did not explicitly state, among other things, that the federal compact among the states was voluntarily entered into and could be voluntarily left if the people of any state decided the compact no longer functioned as intended or in the best interests of their state, as they defined those interests.
Anarchists usually favor the elimination of all government, which they see as the primal evil that inevitably escapes whatever shackles (such as the Constitution) are placed upon it. While I tend to agree with that, and wish we could exist with no government at all, I also accept that the only way that will ever work in the real world is when everyone is both committed to and practices the doctrine of the non-initiation of force. Which of course, will probably never happen. What I mean is, laws against murder or theft and the need of a system to statutorily define such criminal actions, investigate criminal offenses, pursue, try convict and incarcerate criminals, etc., would not be necessary at all in a hypothetical village comprised of the people who live the principle of no first-use of violence. Anarchy – the absence of any government at all – would work. There would be no crime, hence no need for criminal laws and so on. Everything else could be handled by discussion and mediation.
Wouldn’t it be nice?
But the reality is there are and probably always will be bad people – grifters and criminals. Hence, I concede the need for a minimalist government – that is, for what I call “the rule of law.” A bare-bones mechanism, explicitly defined, for dealing with those who commit aggressive violence. I also concede the need for some sort of organized defense against other nations. Nothing like we have now – which is a sick parody of “defense.” Just a viable mechanism for warding off aggressive violence directed our way by other nations (see Switzerland).
But how would this be funded without resorting to aggressive violence and so obviating the whole exercise?
I see two possible ways.
First, equalizing trade tariffs applied to the goods produced in un-free countries such as China. “Free trade” with un-free countries is an oxymoron. Libertarians, among whom I count myself, often have a blind spot on this one. But they should object to “trading” with countries (and companies) that exploit people – that is, countries and companies that use aggressive violence against citizens and workers. Imposing a tax (a tariff) on the goods produced thereby to take the profit out of the exploitation of slave (or semi-slave) labor is both a sort of admonishment against such practices as well as a way to make the aggressor pay to fund a genuinely free system (our hypothetical one) while also providing an inducement to encourage them to become more free, too.
Second, a general sales tax. While I agree it’s not perfect and does impose a few infringements on absolute liberty, it is orders of magnitude preferable to an income tax (or tax on property) since there is no personal obligation to pay and even when one does pay, the burden is very light and also anonymous. The government no longer demands an accounting of your income; you are free to pay as little as you like – or nothing, if you like.
We would once again be free to actually own our homes and land.
Provided the operations of government are strictly limited to the maintenance of the rule of law and legitimate national defense, the amount of money necessary would be trivial relative to the cost of government today. I doubt it would amount to more than (at most) 5 percent of average person’s income.
Everything else would be handled on the basis of free exchange; of individuals working together by mutual free agreement to pursue happiness as they each define it – free of any threat of coercive violence. It would not be anarchy – that is, free of all government. But we would be free of most government – the bad part. For most people – that is, people who do not commit aggressive violence – government would be almost invisible. A near non-presence. It would play next to no role in our lives; more precisely, it would play no negative role in our lives. It would not be watching us, threatening us or controlling us in any way – so long as we continued to refrain from committing aggressive violence ourselves.
This is, essentially, the vision of Ron Paul. A society based, not on coercion and its threat but on voluntary cooperation and peaceful persuasion. A society in which each of us would be free to pursue happiness as we each defined it, so long as we don’t cause harm to our neighbors.
It might not be absolutely perfect but it’d be a damn sight better than what we have now. It is the tragedy our times that so many Americans reject this vision – and prefer to live in a society strictly controlled and regimented, based on violence and its threat. One in which each of us views our fellow man as the wolf views a sheep – or as the sheep views the wolf.
Where we are not free to really live – let alone to pursue happiness. And will never be, until we reject the fundamental evil of human history – the urge to control and dominate.
The acceptance of violence as a tool for human interaction and the basis of human societies.
Throw it in the Woods?