Libertarians are Greedy and Don’t Care about Poor People!

“Their philosophy is simple: you’re on your own,”

“You’re on your own if you’re out of work, can’t find a job. Tough luck you’re on your own. You don’t have health care: That’s your problem. You’re on your own. If you’re born into poverty, lift yourself up with your own bootstraps, even if you don’t have boots. You’re on your own. They believe that’s how America is advanced,”

“That’s the cramped narrow conception they have of liberty, and they are wrong,”

“We simply cannot return to this brand of ‘you’re on your own’ economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country,”

These ground breaking critiques of libertarianism are courtesy of our commander-in-chief, Barack Obama. Although they were directed at the Republicans, the mainstream media and most people, including the President, are equally targeting libertarians with these attacks.

Libertarianism is a pretty vague term nowadays. It is incorrectly applied to a wide variety of tea-party types and other Republicans. Since the attacks are thrown at anyone who associates with any “brand” of libertarianism, a defense from real libertarians is warranted.

The problem with the common critiques of libertarianism is that they completely misunderstand the very essence of the philosophy. It is not an issue of merely misunderstanding a couple of principles of minor importance. These attacks misunderstand the very foundation.

Pure libertarians, i.e. the anarcho-libertarians, are concerned with one thing: the proper use of violence. We oppose the initiation of aggression. Anything else is outside the scope of libertarianism.

To quote Murray Rothbard: “No one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.”

Should you give money to the poor? Volunteer for a charity? Do drugs? Marry your cousin? Libertarianism has no theory about any of these things. They are outside the scope of the philosophy.

The only way libertarianism can address these issues is like this:

– Don’t steal from your neighbor to give money to the poor
– Don’t violently force people to give to charity
– Don’t violently force other people to use drugs
– Don’t violently force your neighbor to marry their cousin

What you will notice is that nothing is being said at all about whether or not you should give to the poor at all, or use drugs at all, or marry your cousin. These issues are completely separate and unrelated to libertarianism.

Many libertarians are Christan or Catholic. For example: Ron Paul, Robert Murphy, Andrew Napolitano, Tom Woods, Lysander Spooner, Frédéric Bastiat, Jeffrey Tucker, Gary Chartier, and Robert Higgs. A big part of these doctrines is helping your neighbor. Are they no longer libertarians if they, as Christians or Catholics, help the poor? Of course not. (Ron Paul, for example, gave medical care for free to patients who could not afford it. How un-libertarian of him!)

Libertarians can be greedy, gay, straight, chartiable, rude, nice, racist, feminist, charming, pacifist, etc. Libertarianism is not philosophy that answers questions of morality. It is a philosophy concerned with the proper use of physical force. The reasons why libertarians oppose the initiation of aggression varies. Some are libertarians because of their religion, some believe in non-religious based natural rights, and some are utilitiarians. The common thread that ties all libertarians together is the opposition to the initiation of violence.

The reason why libertarians oppose government providing charity is because it relies on theft[1]. It does not follow from this that they don’t want to help poor people, or that they oppose social cooperation. The President’s criticisms imply that people can only work together to help each other if it is done through the government.

“A common defense of the State holds that man is a “social animal,” that he must live in society, and that individualists and libertarians believe in the existence of “atomistic individuals” uninfluenced by and unrelated to their fellow men. But no libertarians have ever held individuals to be isolated atoms; on the contrary, all libertarians have recognized the necessity and the enormous advantages of living in society, and of participating in the social division of labor. The great non sequitur committed by defenders of the State, including classical Aristotelian and Thomist philosophers, is to leap from the necessity of society to the necessity of the State.” – Murray N. Rothbard

[1] Some people maintain that taxation is not theft. I am familiar with the arguments and critique them here

More on this subject:

Do libertarians favor corporate power? Are they unconcerned about the poor? | Gary Chartier:

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Somalia: A Libertarian Paradise?

Pointing to Somalia is popular when criticizing libertarianism. Somalia is a perfect example of the failures of libertarianism, right?

The problem with this criticism is that it is comparing relatively good governments with a bad example of statelessness. Contrasting a chaotic anarchist society with a relatively peaceful statist society is not a fair comparison.

To illustrate: Anarchist society X is more peaceful than statist society China under Mao, or modern day Burma, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia under Stalin, Cambodia under Pol Pot, North Korea, etc. Therefore, anarchy is obviously more desirable than statism.

This is the logic people are using when they contrast poor and war-torn anarchist countries (which are in that condition almost always as a result of government), with relatively peaceful statist societies. The comparison does not make sense.

Comparing the most successful governments (U.S.A) to the least successful stateless societies (Somalia, etc.) isn’t useful in contrasting the different systems. Government is bad, look at North Korea!

If you compare anarchist Somalia with the U.S.A, the U.S.A is a more peaceful place to live. But it does not follow from this that government is more peaceful than anarchism. What needs to be compared is anarchist America with statist America. Given the amount of capital accumulation, culture, social and moral norms, a stateless America would be far more prosperous and peaceful than it currently is.

Even though Somalia is a bad place to live when compared with American standards of living, when compared to its own standards, stateless Somalia is more peaceful and prosperous than Somalia with government.


Anarchy in Somalia | Robert P. Murphy:

Somalia: Failed State, Economic Success? | Benjamin Powell:

But Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over? | Robert P. Murphy:

Somali “Anarchy” Is More Orderly than Somali Government | Benjamin Powell:

Anarchism and Its Application to Somalia | Peter Leeson:

Anarchy and Somalia Explained | Peter Leeson:


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Contract Law and Daily Living

One of the possible objections someone might have to the system of law I described [here] is the lack of convenience of contracts in day to day living. People won’t want to sign a contract every time they enter a store or make small transactions. Or, if convicted criminals are banned from certain places, does this mean there will be bouncers everywhere running background checks on everyone?

A simple solution to these problems already exists. Almost everyone is familiar with debit cards, credit cards, club membership cards, etc. There could be “contract cards” backed by repuatable insurance organizations that would make contract law easy and convenient. Scan the card at the register to see if Joffrey is a criminal kleptomaniac, or an upstanding citizen.

If Joffrey is a known criminal who has not redeemed his reputation, higher prices could be charged to compensate for the risk of dealing with him, or the interaction could be declined entirely.

The beauty of this system is that it would be completely voluntary. No person would be forced into involuntary associations with anyone else. Don’t want to get a card? There would be nothing criminal about it. People would react accordingly. The more significant the transaction, the more importance will be put on someone’s willingness to prove that they are trustworthy.

The Kiwk-E-Mart might sell you a Moon Pie at 20% higher than normal cost to compensate the risk. Someone hiring you to be the caretaker for The Stanley Hotel over the winter might decline to do business with you at all. The level of protection would be determined by the parties involved.

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Law Without Taxation: Contract Law

When most people are exposed to the idea of a society organized without taxation, they often jump to the conclusion that the services provided by government would no longer exist. After it is proposed that these services would still exist, but they would be provided by voluntary organizations, they assume only problems and chaos could ensue. Warlords, crooked arbitration, justice for only the rich… surely these are unavoidable consequences of a society without taxation!

These voluntarily organized services would not only exist, but they would do so with more order and efficiency than their coercively funded[1] alternatives. There would be even stronger checks and balances than the beloved U.S. system of government adored by so many people.

  • How do we get there?

One objection to a society completely free of institutionalized coercion is that after the fall of the current system, it will be a war of all against all. Warlords and criminal gangs will take over as society tries to reorganize itself. This objection fails to acknowledge how Voluntaryists advocate the establishment of a voluntary society in the first place. The objection assumes that we will go from a society organized by taxation to voluntary over night through some sort of violent event. Most Voluntaryists recognize that the only practical way to achieve their ideal society is through education and persuasion.

The reason why our advocated means to achieving this society are important to understand is because if it is arrived at through a peaceful process, then there is no reason to assume there has been any change in the demand for law and order amongst the general population. Yes, if the system were to be violently overthrown without any sort of ideological direction, then there would likely be a power vacuum filled by the first charismatic and powerful person who promises prosperity. But if society changes peacefully due to a change in people’s beliefs, then any potential tyrants would lack the necessary support of the general public.

  • Utopian?

Some may object at this point on the basis that education and persuasion on a scale of this magnitude is utopian. How could it be possible to change the minds of so many on a subject that is so ingrained in our history and culture? One need only to look at history for the answer.

To quote Robert Higgs[2] :

“Slavery existed for thousands of years, in all sorts of societies and all parts of the world. To imagine human social life without it required an extraordinary effort. Yet, from time to time, eccentrics emerged to oppose it, most of them arguing that slavery is a moral monstrosity and therefore people should get rid of it. Such advocates generally elicited reactions that ranged from gentle amusement to harsh scorn and violent assault.

In retrospect, however, these reasons seem shabby—more rationalizations than reasons. They now appear to nearly everyone to be, if not utterly specious, then shaky or, at best, unpersuasive, notwithstanding an occasional grain of truth. No one now dredges up these ideas or their corollaries to support a proposal for reestablishing slavery. Although vestiges of slavery exist in northern Africa and a few other places, the idea that slavery is a defensible social institution is defunct. Reasons that once, not so long ago, seemed to provide compelling grounds for opposing the abolition of slavery now pack no intellectual punch.”

I think it is safe to say that the original slave abolitionists were scoffed at by the general public for holding such obviously utopian views. Somehow, institutionalized slavery in the western world was abolished. Other movements that seemed utopian by common knowledge standards but ended up becoming a reality include: The American Revolution, the idea of democracies or republics, violence against women being generally unacceptable, etc.

It is my contention that not only is the idea of an organized society free from taxation possible, but it is the natural next step. When I said institutionalized slavery was abolished, what I was referring to is the kind of slavery where the victims were 100% slaves. Right now we are enslaved to the extent that we are forced to pay taxes. Being forced to give up the product of our labor is slavery, even if it is only a percentage of it. I don’t see any reason to think going the last step is utopian when we have made it this far. Going the last inch in a mile journey seems like a very realizable goal.

One last objection raised on this point is: “But this has never been done before!”. We will ignore the fact that there are historical examples of every single function of an orderly society being provided without taxation. There are examples even today. There have been fully developed civilized societies organized by totally voluntary means. Voluntarily organized dispute resolution is only beginning to re-emerge. But that is a topic for another work. For now, let’s assume this is a new idea that has never been tried. To that the reply is, so what? If societies had never advanced goals on the grounds “but it has never be done before”, then we would still be living like primitive man. Do you want to form a republic? Well, we can’t even attempt it because it has never been done before. Do you want to abolish slavery? We can’t do that either because it has never been done before. This objection fails to show why we should not pursue new methods of organization.

  • Dispute Resolution

If tax funded dispute resolution were abolished, there is no reason to assume that people’s desire for peaceful coexistence would disappear. In short, it will be provided because there is a very strong demand for it and plenty of willing people to provide it. So what would dispute resolution look like in a society free of taxation?

Conflicts would be dealt with by voluntarily funded courts and arbitration. Before exchanges are made, the parties will contractually agree to the terms of arbitration in the case of conflict. If there is a conflict between two people who have not made any prior agreements, or even one of the persons made no prior agreement, the case will still be taken to a court or arbitrator.

The party being accused of a crime would be sent a notice saying they are being charged with a crime, but would not be forced to defend themselves in court. They are more likely to have a favorable decision on their part if they provide a defense. It would be in their best interest to show up, but since they are not yet criminals, no force would be used against them.

If the contract assigns a single court to dispute resolution, then this court’s decision is final since the decision was agreed to be binding by both parties. If the two parties contractually agree to be represented by their own separate arbitrators, then the two arbitrators will make a decision. If they agree, then there is obviously no problem. In cases where they have different opinions, the case would be taken to a reputable third-party court or arbitrator. The court or arbitrator that would settle disputes between other courts and arbitrators would probably be agreed upon prior to any disagreements by the respective original agencies.

Why would the courts and arbitrators make prior agreements in cases of disputes? They would do so because of the consumers demand to have peaceful and non-chaotic dispute resolution. If any court or arbitrator had unnecessarily complicated conflict resolution processes, then they would lose business to the more efficient providers.

  • What if people refuse to agree to any contracts or dispute resolution processes? 

There would be many incentives for people to make contractual agreements. People would want some sort of reassurance that you are trustworthy before they are willing to hire you or make serious exchanges. People will be more hesitant to interact with someone who refuses to decrease the chance of any possible future conflict. Anyone who refuses to provide any reassurance would only be interacted with on minor, if any, exchanges.
Of course people would be free to interact with risky individuals if they wished, but since no one else is involuntarily involved, there is no problem.

  • What about people who disagree on “the law” ?

This problem can be anticipated by consumers. People don’t want confusing and unpredictable laws. Why are ATM machines standardized even though different people produce them, and different banks issue debit cards? Why are DVD players standardized to accept the same size disc, even though the movies are from different studios and the DVD players are made by different manufacturer? The reason why is because people prefer standardization. Any ATM or DVD player that accepted different sized cards or discs than the standard would quickly go out of business.

From the Enterprise of Law, Justice Without the State by Bruce L. Benson:

Laws for members of a community may be relatively restrictive, but the laws that apply to outsiders will have to be moderated if the community is to survive. Sheed concluded that while laws will not be uniform, there is a strong tendency for them to standardize in the treatment of violence and commerce “due to considerations of transactions costs and the costs of maintaining a stock of knowledge of other laws. Differences would exist only in those areas where the demand for non-standard enforcement over-rides the economies of standardization. These areas would consist largely of enforcement demands based on moral and religious conviction.”

The vast majority of people agree on laws in regards to violence and theft, so naturally laws will standardize around these widely held agreements. In short, people who think rape and murder should be lawful will find themselves in isolated communities (which will probably self-destruct).

Precisely because some people have different ideas of law and justice is a great reason to oppose the territorial monopolies on law, which imposes the same views on everyone. Instead of people self-governing in their own communities, you have everyone trying to gain control of the State in attempt to either impose their view or defend it. This struggle to gain control of the single producer of law is what creates a true war of all against all.

  • What happens to convicted criminals?

For minor crimes, convicted criminals would be sentenced by the courts to pay restitution. The exact amount of restitution is impossible to predict, but I think we can assume it would be enough to discourage crime. If someone stole $10, and all they had to do was pay back $10, there is little incentive to not steal if the most you will have to do is give back the property you took. So I think in general, the successful courts would be the ones who had punishments that consumers felt were fitting. The criminal might have to pay the $10 back to the victim plus more for the inconvenience, pay court fees, etc. Insurance would also play an important role in a society without taxation, so it is also likely that the criminals insurance rates would go up since he has shown to be aggressive, thus more risky to insure.

What if the criminal refuses to pay restitution? First, their insurance company would pay the victim. Then the criminal would owe his insurance company the restitution that was paid to the victim, and the insurance rates would go up. How much money the criminal owed and how long he refused to pay would determine the course of action from here. For a small owed sum, his rates would slowly continue to rise and interest could be added to the debt. At any point the criminal could pay off his restitution, fees, etc. and be back in good standing.

If the debt got bad enough, then eventually the insurance company would drop him, and he would become the type of untrustworthy person described earlier. He would in effect become an outlaw. The first thing this would do is make him virtually unemployable. People might scoff at this, but consider for a moment how hard it is in our current society to get a job with a criminal record. Without dispute resolution provided through taxation, people would put even more importance on things like reputation and criminal records.

So what about the really dangerous and aggressive people? First of all, they would obviously face the same consequences as our petty criminals described earlier. But surely if someone is violent and aggressive, they might try to impose their will on you. So refusing to interact with them will not suffice. What would happen is they would be physically prevented from entering virtually everyone’s homes, streets, businesses, etc. In effect, they would be ostracized to the point of banishment. With no job, they would not be able to pay their heat, electricity, and water bills. They would have no money for food or water. Even if they had money under their mattress, they would be prohibited from going into a store for food. They would have no means to obtain the necessary goods to sustain their life.

Why would they be prohibited from going into grocery stores? Because any store catering to aggressive, violent, and dangerous individuals would lose business very quickly. They would also find it hard to insure their store if they knowingly subject themselves to unnecessary risk. The same principles would to apply for roads, etc.

  • How would people be protected from the violent criminals?

Just because defense services are not paid through taxation does not mean they will not exist. Voluntarily funded police services will be provided for the purpose of defense. They will be provided by insurance agencies, road producers, neighborhood associations, malls, etc. It is almost like asking how Disney Land would protect people without taxation. Well, they already do! They have defense provided for all of their customers. Why? Because a safe business is a profitable business. Of course not everywhere is like Disney Land, but you can see that these services are provided. Any road or business absent of any protection will lose business to the safer alternatives.

Individuals might also want personal protection, which will be provided if there is a market for it. What I think is more likely is that neighborhoods and communities will collectively provide or pay for protection since it would be more economically feasible for most people.

Not only would defense services exist, they would also be more efficient.

Would there be prisons?

This would probably differ from community to community, or area to area. It would depend on the values and norms of the consumers. People who felt strongly one way or the other about this would choose to live in communities where their beliefs are commonly shared. If we implemented this system without anyone moving from physical location, most communities would probably have prisons. It is deeply ingrained in our culture. I don’t see them going anywhere anytime soon. Given that, I think if this society formed the way I explained earlier, then there is a strong chance that ostracism would completely replace prison.

With that said, any prisons that did exist in our tax-free society would be much better and more humane than what we currently have. “Private” prisons that you are likely thinking of now are not market phenomenon. They are funded through taxation which means they don’t face market pressure. Because they are paid through taxation, they have no incentive to please the consumer. They get paid regardless of how good of a product they produce. Prisons would be radically different if funded through voluntary means (insurance agencies, courts, etc.). Any prison that mistreats inmates would lose prisoners to the better alternatives.

  • What about the poor?

Would the poor be able to afford defense? It is important to understand that the current tax based system is especially bad for the poor. To start, because the police are paid regardless of whether or not they are serving the consumer, it is common for them to avoid especially poor neighborhoods due to the high crime rates. The poor are paying a high price for police protection, yet this does not mean they actually get any protection provided.

The police have little incentive to patrol dangerous and poor neighborhoods. They still get paid, even if a neighborhood stays particularly crime ridden. Not only do they not suffer from not preventing crimes, they actually have incentives to allow crime! What could these incentives be? The more crime there is, the bigger budget the police department gets. Contrast this to the incentives facing people who have to receive their income voluntarily. The incentives are the complete opposite. Non-tax funded police would be much more concerned with prevention. It would be their top priority. For if they fail to protect an area, they lose money. Instead of giving a failing service more money, the money will go to a more efficient provider.

The competition will also lower the price. Think of all of the things the poor can currently afford. Computers, cars, high-definition television, cell phones, etc. They are affordable because there is a mass market and competition. The police are currently monopolized, which means they face no competition, which means they can keep prices high. Where the market is allowed to function, prices continually fall. The prices of government provided police continue to rise, even though the quality of service does not, or even declines.

For many poor people, the protection will be provided by apartment complexes or street providers. Because it would follow that if someone is that poor, they probably don’t own their own house. If they own their own house, it is probably in a neighborhood which provides defense.

Because of zoning laws, in many places it is illegal to have a business in apartment complexes. This means poor people have to pay more for travel expenses to reach goods. But what is interesting to point out here is that if people were allowed to cater to poor people, say in the basement of a low-income apartment complex, it is likely that security would be provided for free by a business owner. Instead of herding poor people into tax funded and crime ridden apartment complexes, there would be more people competing for their business. One of the goods offered to entice poor people into your apartment complex might be security. This is just an idea worth considering.

Society as a whole would be much more productive and wealthy without taxes. Without taxes, poor people’s paychecks would be bigger. They would receive more services per dollar spent on the market as opposed to the same services provided by taxation.

Any people who happen to still be poor in the extremely wealthy economy will either be provided defense for free from defense providers or from charity. People right now give a huge amount of money to charity, even though a lot of their earnings are stolen through taxation. People would be even more generous with charity if taxation were abolished. 

Around 60% to 75% of every dollar that is taxed for welfare[3] goes to pay bureaucrats and overhead. Voluntary charity provides more services per dollar than the same services provided by taxation.

It is important to remember that everyone who owns a business, road, apartment, etc. will be providing security. So it is very unlikely that poor people will go without defense. One thing for certain is that they will definitely get more defense than they do now.

The same basic analysis can apply to the court system. Tax funded courts are clogged and expensive. If there were a mass market for arbitrators and courts, the increased supply would greatly reduce prices.

  • What about corrupt market defense services?

First it is important to understand defense providers would have no special protection when it comes to them committing criminal acts. If a crooked cop is found to be guilty of a crime, he will have no special immunities. This alone is a very strong incentive to refrain from criminal activity.

What if a defense agency tries to extort people? What if they turn into criminals? They would be dealt the same as any other criminal gang. The non-criminal defense providers would put a stop to their attack. Wouldn’t this mean constant battles? As explained earlier, there are many incentives for resolving disputes peacefully.

It is also worth noting that aggression is very expensive. When governments wage wars, they are not paying for the costs. They force the costs onto the taxpayers. What would happen if a voluntarily funded provider tried to raise money to become aggressive? Without taxation to fund conflicts, there is less incentive to engage in one. Customers would not pay for the enormous price increases when there would be cheaper and more civil alternatives. The costs will be immediately and very apparent (unlike the hidden costs masked by inflation and debt funding etc. of current wars), and it would require the bulk of the population of a given area to agree with such aggression in order for the agency to voluntarily receive sufficient funds. If the bulk of a population in a given area is willing to fund such non-defensive violence, then the bulk of the population in this given area are aggressive maniacs and no social ‘system’ could possibly manage to prevent violence.

People would refuse to do business with any defense agency who refused transparency. Since we can foresee possible problems, we could include in the contract mandatory weapon and arms audits, inspections, inventory checks, etc. If an agency violates the terms in the contract, they would quickly lose reputation and go out of business.

We also have to ask, how does a business grow in the first place? How does a defense provider become successful? In a voluntary market we can assume that a defense provider would become successful by satisfying consumer demands. We can also assume that the owners of the company are probably good businessmen and entrepreneurs. Is it likely for a person to be a successful businessman but also be out of their mind?

  • What about greedy courts? Won’t justice be sold to the highest bidder?

First, it must be pointed out that the current system is already greatly favored towards wealthy people. The rich are able to control and influence government courts, yet the institution itself is still respected. The public in general overwhelmingly respect the government courts, even though it is almost universally acknowledged that corruption and bias towards the wealthy exists. The courts still have the respect of the public even when there is blatant corruption or bad decisions.

It is precisely the respectable and legitimate image the government courts hold on the general public that allows corruption and bias towards the wealthy. The view of the government courts as a sacred institution is precisely why those who wish to abuse power are attracted to it. That is not to say that everyone in the U.S. justice system has bad intentions, but rather that the institution itself will inevitably attract the few people in society who do have a lust for power.

Market courts would have no such automatic respect from the public. Any social order ultimately rests upon the support of the majority of the population. Unlike the government courts, there would be no decades of indoctrination dedicated to convincing the populace of the legitimacy of market courts. Without an automatic and near universal respect, any corruption or favor towards the wealthy would quickly turn the bulk of the population against the rogue court. The court would lose respect, and no other reputable court or the people in general would take their decisions as in any way binding. Society as whole would view the courts as the criminals that they are. There would be no illusion of legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

There is more to be said about this, but for the sake of making this not too long to read, I will end it here. Check out the resources at the bottom for even more detailed analysis of this objection as well as the others previously mentioned. Here is a good summary by Rothbard that should get anyone interested on the right track. From For a New Liberty:

“What of the court which favors its own wealthy client in trouble? In the first place, any such favoritism will be highly unlikely, given the rewards and sanctions of the free market economy. The very life of the court, the very livelihood of a judge, will depend on his reputation for integrity, fair-mindedness, objectivity, and the quest for truth in every case. This is his “brand name.” Should word of any venality leak out, he will immediately lose clients and the courts will no longer have customers; for even those clients who may be criminally inclined will scarcely sponsor a court whose decisions are no longer taken seriously by the rest of society, or who themselves may well be in jail for dishonest and fraudulent dealings. If, for example, Joe Zilch is accused of a crime or breach of contract, and he goes to a “court” headed by his brother-in-law, no one, least of all other, honest courts will take this “court’s” decision seriously. It will no longer be considered a “court” in the eyes of anyone but Joe Zilch and his family.

Contrast this built-in corrective mechanism to the present day government courts. Judges are appointed or elected for long terms, up to life, and they are accorded a monopoly of decision-making in their particular area. It is almost impossible, except in cases of gross corruption, to do anything about venal decisions of judges. Their power to make and to enforce their decisions continues unchecked year after year. Their salaries continue to be paid, furnished under coercion by the hapless taxpayer. But in the totally free society, any suspicion of a judge or court will cause their customers to melt away and their “decisions” to be ignored. This is a far more efficient system of keeping judges honest than the mechanism of government.

Furthermore, the temptation for venality and bias would be far less for another reason: business firms in the free market earn their keep, not from wealthy customers, but from a mass market by consumers. Macy’s earns its income from the mass of the population, not from a few wealthy customers. The same is true of Metropolitan Life Insurance today, and the same would be true of any “Metropolitan” court system tomorrow. It would be folly indeed for the courts to risk the loss of favor by the bulk of its customers for the favors of a few wealthy clients. But contrast the present system, where judges, like all other politicians, may be beholden to wealthy contributors who finance the campaigns of their political parties.”

Why advocate this system? If you oppose theft, you should oppose a system reliant on taxes. Taxation is theft, purely and simply. Not only should you oppose it because of it relies on theft, but also because everything provided by taxation can be provided more efficiently by voluntary organization.

Keep in mind that this is a very basic introduction. It was designed to give you a basic idea of how a society could function without taxation. It is by no means comprehensive. I take no credit for coming up with any of the ideas here. I tried to take important points from great works and put it into something digestible for a wide audience.

[1] Taxation is Theft: A Response to Criticisms

[2] Why We Couldn’t Abolish Slavery Then and Can’t Abolish Government Now by Robert Higgs

[3] The Cost Of Public Income Distribution and Private Charity by James Rolph Edwards

For a great introduction video, see The Market For Security by Robert P. Murphy:

For more on common objections see:

What About Criminal Courts? Won’t The Rich Take Over?

Won’t Gangs Battle Or The Rich Rule?

Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over?

What About Warring Defense Providers?

Posted in Anarchism, Anarcho-Capitalism, Libertarianism, Politics, Uncategorized, Voluntarism, Voluntaryism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spanking Children is Abuse

There is no path to peace. Peace is the path. – Gandhi

We have seen the human species  progress beyond what most people could have ever imagined. The internet, airplanes, advances made in medicine,  the abolition of slavery, to womens rights, the list goes on. Humans have been consistently advancing and learning new and more effective techinques in almost every area imaginable. When it comes to parenting, however, many people will aggressively and unquestionably defend techniques thousands of years old. Why do so many people respond to doubts about parenting as if it is blatantly obvious that ancient techniques should not be questioned?

To suggest that there are more moral and effective ways to raise children than spanking is to almost  inevitably incite an onslaught of furious and ferocious opposition. Why, how dare you question this conventional wisdom! After all, I was spanked, and I turned out fine (while saying this they are often angry and either close or have already lost their temper, which would indiciate that in fact they did not turn out “just fine”)!

This post makes the assumption that the reader shares the view that initiating aggressive violence unnecessarily and for non-defensive purposes is wrong. I am not interested in the present work in defending  that position per se. Rather, this is directed at the people who I believe the vast majority is composed of. That is, people who maintain the belief that using aggressive violence is only justified when reserved for extreme, necessary, and defensive purposes. If  consistent, this belief will lead to the logical conclusion that violence against innocent children is abuse.

If, for whatever reason, you believe people should be able to assault others willy-nilly for no reason, then you can quit reading now.

  • What is assault? Is spanking assault?

Assault is

Webster: 1. a violent physical or verbal attack 2. a threat or attempt to inflict offensive physical contact or bodily harm on a person (as by lifting a fist in a threatening manner) that puts the person in immediate danger of or in apprehension of such harm or contact (compare- battery: an offensive touching or use of force on a person without the person’s consent ) a sudden, violent attack; onslaught (an onset, assault, or attack, especially a vigorous one.)

By any meaningful definition of the word, spanking is clearly assault. Spanking is a violent offensive physical attack. It is impossible to define spanking in any logical way that does not include offensive physical violence. There should be no serious objection at all to this claim.

  • Is spanking children justified?

Spanking is undoubtedly assault, as demonstrated above. The question then becomes, is it justified? Based on the almost universally agreed upon criteria explained earlier, violence is only morally acceptable in extreme,  necessary, and defensive circumstances. By this standard, spanking is unjustified assault. Unjustified physical violence is abuse.

One would be hard pressed to imagine a realistic scenario where a child is a physical threat to an adult. Let’s say a 10 year old Andre The Giant looks angry and is for whatever reason charging at you with a knife. Is using physical force to defend yourself justified? In accordance to our standards, yes.

The problem with using this scenario to justify spanking is that it makes the mistake of equating offense and defense. The critique is specifically directed at spanking as offensive violence (as in, punishment). To use an example of defensive violence to argue for offensive violence is to ignore the fact that defense and offensive are complete opposites.

In short, spanking is abuse because it is an offensive and unnecessary act of violence.  Below I will respond to common criticisms that attempt to justify spanking based on the grounds that “it is necessary”, etc.

  • I was spanked and turned out fine.

This provides no actual justification for the spanking. All this shows is that you were mistreated as a child, but you made it through in spite of it. It does not follow that violent action X is justified from the fact that you turned out relatively ok. There are all sorts of unjustified and horrible things that could happen to someone as a child. None of them could be justified on the grounds “X happened to me and I turned out fine”. It says nothing about the justifiation of the act itself.

The “I turned out fine” argument also assumes the validity of the very act in question . If being spanked as a child is unjust, then hitting children on this basis must also be unjust. The legitimacy of the violence cannot just be assumed and then used to justify further violence. The violence itself is in question, it cannot be used as it’s own evidence for justification.

It also brings into question whether or not someone who advocates hitting children really “turned out fine”. For if hitting children is unjust, then someone who commits the act cannot be considered to have completely “turned out fine”.

  • Kids need discipline!

This is a common, but fallacious objection raised when speaking out against hitting children. The advocates of peaceful parenting do not dispute that kids need structure, order, guidance, etc. However, it is a non sequitur to leap from the necessity of discipline, to the necessity of violence.

Violence is only one out of many methods of discipline. Not only is there no reason to assume it is justified, there is also no reason to assume it is the most effective.

  • You don’t know what you are talking about because you don’t have kids. Wait until you have kids, then you will see!

This is another fallacious argument (ad hominem). Pointing out that someone does not have kids does not invalidate their argument. It is a personal attack that avoids the actual argument and diverts attention to an irrelevant fact. Rather than attacking the argument, the advocate of violence against children attacks the person making the claim. The only reason to resort to ad hominems is if you lack any argument with actual substance.

Whether or not hitting kids is wrong is completely ignored. On these grounds alone it fails to establish justification for violence against children. Let’s look at the logical implications of this reponse anyways.

It is 1862, and you had  a bad day at work. You are also very hungry. You come home to find your wife busy working on her stamp collection rather than cooking dinner.  Since you view this as completely unacceptable, you decide it is a good idea to teach her a lesson. You don’t want your wife to be undisciplined, after all. After roughing her up a bit, you notice your neighbor saw everything through the window.  Now that you have fulfilled your duty as a responsible husband, you decide to enjoy some leisure and go outside to have a chat with the neighbor. Looking a bit uneasy, your neighbor says: “Don’t you think it is unnecessary to treat your wife like that? How would you feel if someone bigger and stronger than you decided to hit you just because they didn’t like what you were doing?”. In response you say: “Well, if I don’t discipline her and show her right from wrong, she will never learn her lesson. I don’t want a disorderly and disobedient wife”. The neighbor then says: “Don’t you think there might be a less violent and more civilized way to work out your problems?”. You then say: “Well she just won’t learn any other way!”. Your neighbor replies: “Do you think it might be hard to learn in an environment where you are physically harmed for making mistakes?”. You then look at your neighbor, feeling sympathetic towards him for holding obviously ignorant and simplistic views, and say: “You have a lot to learn, my friend. Wait until you have a wife, then you’ll understand.”

As we can see, using this type of reasoning could justify virtually any act of random violence on the basis of saying “Once you are in my position, then you will understand”. It avoids any and all attempts at addressing the issue.

  • If spanking is wrong, does that mean it is wrong to stop your kid from wandering into traffic?

I don’t know how these relate to eachother, but since people like to bring it up, I will respond to it. Hitting is not in any way necessary to stop your kid from wandering into traffic. If a child is wandering into traffic, simply picking them up would be more effective in stopping them.  

Even as a punishment to discourage your child from running into traffic, hitting is not justified or necessary. Hitting a child for being in a dangerous environment is to punish them for the parent’s mistake. This applies to the “what if my kid is going to touch a hot stove?!” objection as well. First of all, hitting is not in any way necessary to prevent this. There is no reason why you can’t simply stop your child without assaulting them. The more important and neglected question is, why is the child being physically harmed for the parent’s error? It is surely not the child’s fault that the parent has chosen to put them into dangerous environments such as busy streets, kitchens with knives and hot stoves, lion’s dens, etc.

We apply the principle that people should not be physically assaulted for other people’s mistakes to everywhere else in our daily lives. I see no reason why this basic moral principle should all of the sudden disappear when it comes to the most vulnerable and helpless people in society.

Kids need to learn respect!

This is similar to the response about discipline. It is an error to leap from the necessity of respect to the necessity of physical violence.

Aside from this, it is important to determine if your goal is to teach your child respect, or if it is to teach them to fear. There is an important distinction to be made between the two. To respect someone is to consider them worthy of high regard ( This is in sharp contrast with being afraid of someone.

Hitting only teaches them fear. It teaches them to be afraid and scared. Children will listen to commands because they fear physical aggression, but if the goal is to get them to cooperate with you out of respect, then to resort to violence demonstrates failure. It is not respect when a child cooperates with you because of a threat, it is fear. If you are worthy of respect, violence is not needed.

Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary. – Gandhi

  • Non-violent parenting resources: 
The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children:
 How to Prevent Violent Criminal Behavior in the Next Generation:
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Taxation Is Theft

Taxation is theft, purely and simply even though it is theft on a grand and colossal scale which no acknowledged criminals could hope to match. It is a compulsory seizure of the property of the State’s inhabitants, or subjects. – Murray Rothbard

Here are a few dictionary definitions of tax:

  1. a sum of money demanded by a government for its support or for specific facilities or services, levied upon incomes,property, sales, etc. (
  2. a charge usually of money imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes (
  3. a pecuniary burden laid upon individuals or property owners to support the government, and is a payment exacted by legislative authority. Essential characteristics of a tax are that it is not a voluntary payment or donation, but an enforced contribution, exacted pursuant to legislative authority  (Black’s Law Dictionary, 1979)

The third definition leaves no room for confusion. The source for this definition is “the most widely used law book in the United States”. By definition, taxes are not voluntary (i.e. they are theft).

The first two definitions strongly imply that taxation is not voluntary. Money is either demanded or charges are imposed. Some would argue that since services are provided, the money demanded or charges imposed do not equal theft. After all, if you go into a restaurant and order a steak, it is not theft when the bill is “imposed” and then you are “demanded” to pay it. This and similar criticisms is what I will be writing in response to.

  • Driving on the roads, using services provided by taxation, etc., implies consent. 

This a circular argument. The conclusion that using the roads and other services demonstrates consent to taxes relies on the premise that the taxation used for them is voluntary in the first place. Then this is used as evidence that taxation is consensual. To illustrate, imagine that a gang of thieves extort money from you. Then they decide to provide “services” with your money that they now possess. The money used for services (roads, etc.) that they “provide” were not obtained by consent in the first place. Concluding that by using the “services” they provide with your stolen money proves that you consent is fallacious.

  • Not paying taxes is like ordering food and then not paying.  

When you enter a restaurant, it is completely voluntary. No one forces you into it, and no one forces you to buy anything. This is wholly different than the services produced through taxation. You can’t simply decline to pay for the tax funded service in the same way you can simply decline to order food. If you are not happy with the service at a restaurant, you can choose to not pay them anymore. If you are unsatisfied by tax funded services, you are still forced to pay for them. Payment of taxes is not dependent on the services consumed. You are charged for services even if you don’t use or ask for them. Whether or not you pay at a restaurant is directly dependent on receiving a service or product. A simple but effective way to determine whether or not a service is truly voluntary is to find out if you can  decline the service and decline the payment. If you can decline the service but are forced to pay, it is not voluntary.

  • Since you have the option to leave, staying proves consent. 

The only thing this proves is that you would rather stay than leave. This alone does not establish what is or what is not consented to. The happiness gained from staying in an area close to family and a good job could simply outweigh the negatives of being taxed. To give a simple example, imagine that you live near all of your family and friends, you have a good job, and the weather is perfect. However, the area you live in has a high crime rate. Let’s say the crime rate is so high that in any given year, there is a 95% chance your car will be broken into. Deciding that staying near your family etc. is more important than avoiding burglary does not prove that you consent to being stolen from. The robbery does not become voluntary just because you would rather put up with it than abandon your family and home.

If you live in a neighborhood and the Mafia takes it over, staying would not prove consent to their rule or “laws”. If staying in the area that the State claims territory to proves consent to taxation, then this same reasoning would have to be used to prove consent to the Mafia’s extortion. Both groups assert a forced territorial monopoly on certain services, but using those services does not prove consent. The threat of violence is used to prevent competition. This necessarily means there are no choices. There is no possibility for consent when choosing all other alternatives is violently prevented.

  • Without taxes, how will X Y and Z get done?

My purpose here was to show that taxation is theft and respond to a few common criticisms. How society could function without institutionalized theft is a different subject.

All of the services commonly thought to require the State—from the coining of money to police protection to the development of law in defense of the rights of person and property—can be and have been supplied far more efficiently and certainly more morally by private persons. The State is in no sense required by the nature of man; quite the contrary. – Murray Rothbard


For the best critique of taxation, see No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority by Lysander Spooner

On public goods and free riders, see Taxation, Forced Labor, and Theft: Reply by Edward Feser


Fallacies of the Public Goods Theory and the Production of Security by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

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