"Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour. The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge for more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality, become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society." ~ John Adams
Towards a Simpler World
Exclusive to STR
March 12, 2007
Libertarians generally identify with laissez-faire and the free market. Wherever the state isn't involved, i.e. where all actions are voluntary and peaceful, is freedom and thus in its very essence ideal. It doesn't really matter what people do, only how they do it; everything is just fine and dandy if individuals act voluntarily and let other people choose for themselves whether they like to take part.
Voluntary interactions literally mean exchanges of something: goods, services, favors, gifts, feelings, or whatever. Everything is thus a market, at least in a not-so-narrow sense of the word. In this peaceful market of nothing but winners (yes, it's true--they all benefit from it or they wouldn't do it), the state barges in and makes losers of most people and points its magic wand at a few who then enjoy the privilege of receiving all the people's lost earnings.
Whereas the market is a state of harmony and constant creation of prosperity, the state means nothing but destruction, violence, and hostility where none was ever present. Jealousy naturally becomes native in people's relations: the state-made losers get jealous of the privileged few, and so the formerly harmonic market society becomes split in rivaling collectives, all of which have different aims for the state after its powers have been seized.
Claiming that the pre-state market society--anarchism--is chaos is thus nothing but a very bad attempt by statists to make the state look good. The real truth is so far from this created statist "truth" that it would be laughable if so many weren't blinded by the powers of the state and therefore willing to accept its propaganda and lies.
Libertarians claim to see through this "veil of ignorance" the state has carefully set up between people and the truth, and they seek to tell the world. But they have a hard time telling people what they don't believe they want to hear. It isn't that people have accepted the state's point of view, they have adopted it and believe in it like it was a religion. The state is god, and its gospel is brought to the masses through the cunningly devised systems of democracy and public schooling.
But how can the truth be so hard to see? Why do people evade the nature of reality? And why do libertarians have such a hard time trying to reach people with the so simple yet beautiful idea that aggression is wrong? The truth is that aggression isn't only wrong--it also doesn't work. So why do libertarians so utterly fail to bring the light of truth to this world of darkness?
Simple is Beautiful
The world of the state has made people believe that only the complex and hard to understand solutions are worth considering. Simple solutions don't work. Problems cannot be solved at the lower level; the beauty of contemporary society is in its hierarchical superstructures--the state is needed to supervise, plan, convince, force, and make decisions. Only from society's core can one establish superior knowledge, engage in extensive planning, and form centers of power to enforce solutions to complex problems.
Libertarians have in a way adopted this view of the world, or at least tend to abide by the terms set up by the state, and thus like to make things much more complicated than they really are.
For instance, consider the pair of shoes you are wearing. You couldn't make such a nice pair of shoes yourself. This is proof the world, even in everyday life, is very complex. You are completely dependent on complex structures and trade networks almost impossible to understand.
This is the description of the production and transportation processes of your shoes spawned by the state. There is nothing complicated with your specific pair of shoes or any other pair of shoes. Your specific pair of shoes were made by a large number of very simple operations made by people just like you. They might not be able to do all of these operations by themselves, but they don't have to--all of them utilize the power and ingenuity of the others in order to make their specific contribution fit the full process.
Does advanced knowledge, large amounts of statistical data, extensive planning, or force help in making your pair of shoes? Of course not. Such things create overhead costs and destroy delicate processes of cooperation for the benefit of everybody involved. And the same kind of reasoning is applicable on exactly everything going on in this world--not just as to how your shoes were produced.
What you need to ask yourself is not only what the state contributes in processes such as this one, but also whether you need to know exactly how your shoes were made. I have never met anyone who needed to know, even though a few would have been interested in knowing.
The world isn't complex unless we try to understand it at higher levels of abstraction. If we try to understand how "the world" works, we're in trouble; if we try to understand how "the country" works, we are in as deep; if we try to understand how "the city" works, we might be able to figure out parts of it. But the truth is that nothing of this is complex--the apparent complexity is created when we force ourselves to see the world in abstractions rather than as individuals acting.
When libertarians embrace this view of the world as a very complex place, it is no longer possible to explain or understand it--or even to see what's wrong with it. If the false premises are accepted as points of departure for our faultless reasoning, nothing in the world will help us avoid drawing the wrong conclusions.
Order is Chaos; Chaos is Order
The complexity of the world calls for planning. It is a matter of survival--if the world chaos cannot be planned, maneuvered, and controlled, who knows where we'll end up? As a matter of fact, if there is no planning to the very complex processes on which people are dependent, there is no guarantee the processes work. The obvious consequence of the failure of such processes is that people depending on the results of these processes may be injured.
In such a world it is important not to restrict freedom; freedom means the very opposite of grand planning, maneuvering, and control, and thus might cause harm to a lot of people. Your freedom thus becomes a real and present danger--to everybody else and to the state. Your freedom is a threat to the whole world.
It is in everybody's interest, the state preaches, to keep people under control, to not allow them too much freedom. When people are free, the complex processes of the world will fail and ultimately degenerate into a state of chaos and destruction. This is true and it is easy to see it--when people are free, they tend to act according to their own values, convictions and interests. They don't follow the grand plan set up by the state voluntarily; they will destroy the foundation of ordered society through acting for and by their own benefit rather than the common good. Thus: freedom means destruction.
So what about those shoes of yours: Are they the result of a complex process that is almost impossible to understand--and even more difficult to warrant? Or are they the result of a chain of easy-to-understand operations carried out by specialists working in harmony for their own and everybody else's benefit? It is not simply a matter of perspective; it is a very important standpoint that needs to be based on your conscious decision on how you see the world work. It is a "blue or red pill" situation; you need to make up your mind of what is important: individuals or abstractions. Are you caught behind the veil of ignorance, or are you able to see through it?