A Book Review of Jerome L. Wright’s 'Equal Freedom'

Column by Mark Davis.

Exclusive to STR

“We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.” ~ Albert Einstein

A new book by Jerome L. Wright would have made Einstein proud. The book is Equal Freedom – The Principle of Equal Freedom and Noncoercive Government.   It breaks new ground in the libertarian intellectual movement currently sweeping the world as it encompasses and then goes beyond the “Non-Aggression Principle.”   The book looks at the contributions of the great libertarian thinkers such as Locke, Paine, Spencer, Molinari and Rothbard, including a wealth of pertinent quotes throughout the book, in a way that builds on his thesis. The thesis is that “free societies not only provide justice and opportunity for people, but that they are essential for the long-term survival of humanity” and thus “free society needs a clear statement upon which its freedom is based.” This book explains what follows from the principle of equal freedom.
First, full disclosure: I know Jerry. If I didn’t know him then I could have easily missed out on reading this book. But I do and would like to let you know about it. This reading experience has also opened my eyes to seeking out more current works after years of focusing on the classics by historically renowned writers. Equal Freedom has a modern and forward-looking relevance that is refreshing. I recommend it to anybody interested in making this a better world, die-hard statists and avid freedom lovers alike. I especially think it would be a marvelous civics textbook for homeschoolers.
Equal Freedom is written and organized much like a technical manual, a sort of a “How To” book on how society can achieve noncoercive government. This reflects on the author’s engineering background, and there is a clear emphasis on attention to detail. He was literally a rocket scientist that worked on the propulsion systems for NASA during the space program. The book covers the multitude of questions that I’ve been asked over the years trying to explain how society could function without a central planning authority. Equal Freedom has helped me to hone my arguments and explanations and should be a handy reference for years to come.
Trying to explain to statists what the world would be like without coercive government is frustrating. A lot of my frustration has been of my own doing because of either the terms I use (e.g., anarchy) that carry a lot of baggage to overcome or because I expect people to have a fundamental understanding of logic. This book is able to appeal to progressive egalitarians as well as conservative utilitarians that both eat, sleep and breathe the mythology that necessitates the primacy of authoritarian institutions. The methodical approach building his case step by step using everyday language is very convincing.
Equal Freedom begins in Part One with a discussion of the concepts, possibilities, principles and corollaries that society must have as a basis for equal freedom and how they apply to society. This includes a definition of terms and an overview of the history of the foundations, justifications and conditions (e.g., Natural Law, The Golden Rule) for society, civilization and the state. The book builds a solid common ground of understanding that most anyone should easily understand.
Part Two is dedicated to examining how the individual will live and function in a world based on the Principle of Equal Freedom. It does not go off on a utopian journey or have even a whiff of fantasy. The nuts and bolts of human interactions are painstakingly crafted together in such a way that one wonders why we haven’t already taken that path.
Part Three addresses the recognition of societal services that are commonly believed to be governmental services. This part is where everything begins to come together, at least in my mind. For years I have argued for the elimination of the state and the need for society to rely on the free market, only to get a typical response of “We must have a government or we would have chaos.” This semantic trap can now be avoided. One of the brilliant tactics used in this book is to discuss how noncoercive governments operate as opposed to coercive governments; so simple, yet profound. 
Part Four is totally forward thinking yet provides a satisfying feeling of inevitability. The explanations of how corporations, registrars, contracts, associations and other non-coercive government (social) institutions compete and cooperate, not in a vacuum, but with responsibility, is excellent. The discussion addresses wealth, power, relationships and even the “Free-rider non-problem” in a way that doesn’t sound like the typical economics professor’s lecture. “Implementation and Transition” is one of the final chapters that tops-off the now towering structure built floor by floor upon a solid foundation. The prospects for a free society are discussed in both sober and optimistic terms:
“The civilization we have at present is seriously flawed and has what should be regarded as an unacceptably low probability of survival. While the cosmos does not provide a certainty of survival for life, even for life more intelligent than humanity, the probability of survival of our civilization and humanity itself can be greatly improved.”
“Full and equal freedom will come. Ethics and rationality will replace coercion and fraud as the dominant characteristics of civilization. Survival in this Universe demands the best that we can do, and that will happen only in a civilization of freedom.”
The book has one recurring argument that I don’t fully agree with: perpetual intellectual property. As an inventor and writer, this concept appears dear to the author, as he projects that in a free society, it will survive the coercive monopoly status it now enjoys. He makes a fine argument based on the tradition of Spencer and Spooner, but I didn’t find his argument for paying royalties to the estates of long dead authors and inventors in perpetuity totally convincing. Still, the implementation of protecting intellectual property through private registration, contract for use agreements and non-coercive enforcement are consistent with his principle. Respect, incentives and voluntary compliance are important concepts to flush out in a free society for all types of property, especially when definitions of property are at odds. This is a relatively new debate that is heating up in libertarian circles and a small nit to pick in a fine book.
The old institutional power tools of war, fiat money, central planning and obedience to authority are losing their hypnotic potency thanks largely to the Internet. We are living during a historic age that will decide where we go from here. The book Equal Freedom -- The Principle of Equal Freedom and Noncoercive Government by Jerome L. Wright is a concise, yet comprehensive treatise on how and why we must overcome the status quo of coercive government and what should be put in its place. The road that modern civilization has been on for centuries leads to the extinction of our species. The faith men have in coercion and the need for monopoly authority is not only misplaced, it is fatal. We must first recognize and then replace this paradigm with one based on the principle of equal freedom. This daunting task was just made easier by this book.
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Mark Davis's picture
Columns on STR: 55

Mark Davis is a husband, father and real estate analyst/investor enjoying the freedoms we still have in Longwood, Florida.


WhiteIndian's picture

Techno-salvationist social engineering = libertarianism. "...technical manual...rocket scientist...nuts and bolts of human interactions..."

Human just aren't technical nut and bolt machines.

And what is a "noncoercive government" other than a contradiction?

Mark Davis's picture

Humans certainly are capable of using technical knowledge and tools such as nut and bolt machines to ease our burdens, indeed to prosper. I didn't say humans were machines.

Noncoercive government is basically a free society organized around the principle of equal freedom. I suggest that you read the book to gain a better undrstanding of the concept.

And what is a "WhiteIndian" other than a contradiction?

I am curious how you rationalize using the Internet on a computer powered by electricity from a mechanical generator while promoting a roaming hunter-gatherer society? Do you appreciate the contributions of the scientists and engineers that created these modern tools? Do you believe that humans would have these wonderful tools today if social organization never evolved beyond humans roaming around looking for low hanging fruit and small animals to kill?

WhiteIndian's picture

Playing in the woods about 2 hours per day to feed oneself, as Non-State societies did in the Original Affluent Society (Sahlins, 1974), is a far cry from grinding-away 8+ hours for The Man and then having to do all the rest of your living on your "free time."

How is exactly is technology "easing burdens?" It's not.

Technology isn't about easing burdens as much as it is concentrating wealth and sociopolitical control to the hierarchical elite.

Technology mainly means building bigger and better Pyramids for the Pharaohs. And even more efficient management/taming of the labor force.

Alf Hornborg documents this observation well in his "The power of the machine: Global inequalities of economy, technology, and environment."

Being that government is a monopoly on violence over a geographic area, "non-coercive government" seems as ever hopeful as conjuring animated corpses. I suppose Zombies are possible with just the right application of technology too.

James Axtell has a whole chapter in the following book describing White Indians, as follows:

The Invasion Within:
The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America
by James Axtell
Oxford University Press

The White Indians of Colonial America
by James Axtell
The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Jan., 1975), pp. 55-88
Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

Mark Davis's picture

I'm curious how you feel about making a fire for warmth and cooking? Are matches used for "concentrating wealth and sociopolitical control to the hierarchical elite" or should we still be using flints? What about using fishing polls or nets? Or axes for chopping wood? These are all technological advances that make life easier for individuals. "Playing in the woods for two hours per day to feed oneself" sounds a bit oversimplified and romantic to me. Have you ever even been camping much less hunting or fishing? For longer than a weekend? I know of some country boys that are squatters/roamers down in the Everglades that live just like you say you wish to do: free from the perils of civilization (except they're smart enough to have guns, boats, clothes and fishing polls which you could forsake if you wish); so since it is possible then why don't you live as you preach?

WhiteIndian's picture

You've listed technologies used by Non-State societies for millions of years before domestication-agriculture-civilization-warfare-sacrifice. Evidence for fire is 9,000,000 years ago. There is archeological evidence of humans sailing blue water 800,000 years ago. I'm not against technology, per se, and neither are most primitivists.*

But technology after the emergence of domestication tends to be harnessed into increasing the control of the control-freaks, or "emergent elite" or "Big Men" as anthropologists call them in the field's literature.

Do the accounting yourself. Play two hours per day in the woods -- or drudge-away 14 hour per day for The Man and washing your shirts and cleaning and ironing and on and on and on.

There's nothing "romantic" about the Original Affluent Society. (Sahlins, 1974) It's a scholarly analysis of empirical data gathered by anthropologists/ethnologists studying paleolithic people, like the Bushmen, in the field. They spend most of their day in leisure, telling stories, gamboling, sleeping.

All of these recently discovered facts debunk the premises upon which people apologize for agricultural city-Statism (civilization.) It doesn't matter or not if I can or even want to live the life-style; the civilizationist's premises are proven invalid, just as a Biblical Literalists premises are proven invalid by empirical data that constitutes the theory of evolution.

As far as living or wanting to live a Non-State society lifeway -- it's impossible, at least for now (although a fast collapse, like a nuclear war, would certainly create another "stone age.") The agricultural city-State (civilization) has been extremely thorough in its invasion and occupation of nearly every square meter of earth's surface. Living out in the woods, alone, signing "A Country Boy Can Survive" isn't living with a knowledgeable tribe or band on a Landbase that has abundant resources unruined by totalitarian agriculture.

But neither can one ignore the Critique of Civilization. It's promises are illusory, it makes us sick and reduces quality of life. Just knowing that much has helped people today become healthier by eating a "Paleo diet."

* Isn’t it hypocritical of primitivists to use modern technology? If they want to live primitively so badly, why don’t they just run off into the woods already and do it?

26 October 2005
5 Common Objections to Primitivism, and Why They’re Wrong
by Jason Godesky

Jim Davies's picture

Mark, I share your liking for the comforts brought by technology, but it seems to me you haven't answered WhiteIndian's valid question, "What is 'non-coercive government' other than a contradiction?"

If a social system is non-coercive, it's not proper to call it governed. If it has a government, then by definition it coerces. This is binary, because words have meaning. If Mr Wright is referring to social cooperation such as is used by corporations etc, he ought not to use the word "government."

It is possible he used this contradictory phrase to arouse curiosity, to get the book browser to give attention. If so I'd say that's less than honest.

It's also possible he likes the ideas we espouse here, about a society of self-governing individuals, but cannot see how one might be achieved and so wants to modify that objective. In that case please refer your friend to my 2006 STR article "How We Can Get There."

WhiteIndian's picture

Comforts brought by technology; we ALL like them. But such comforts are a monkey trap* of our own making. Now we're locked into commuting 2 hours per day to a Job working for The Man, when in the Original Affluent Society (Sahlins, 1974) 2 hours of play in the woods was sufficient to provide for human needs.

Better enjoy that iPod's social media! -- that ever so poorly replaces the many hours Non-State bands and tribes spent together socially interacting (while making somebody way up the sociopolitical hierarchy rich.)

Also, libertarian types are too quick to separate out the sociopolitical hierarchy into "evil coercive government" and "gloriously free corporations." They're pretty much all the same to a dispassionate observer.

The reason being: libertarians love sociopolitical hierarchy and Lording-over-others — just not sociopolitical hierarchy that Lords-over-them. It's a big contradiction in their thinking.

The "oh-so-evhul" Government is just the CUT-OUT MAN to blame for the very real power wielded by the corporate rulers, or as George Carlin calls them, "The People Who REALLY Own This Country."** We all know today that capitalist/corporate Wall Street purchases the Washington D.C. it wants.

And that has been so from the beginning of agricultural city-Statism (civilization.) Those with the plowshares need to hire people with swords to get more land to farm. "Agriculture creates government." ~Richard Manning, Against the Grain, p.73

* Monkey Trap http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/monkey_trap
** George Carlin -"Who Really Controls America" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYIC0eZYEtI

Mark Davis's picture

States assume that they own the people in their territory and use legalized force and fraud to control those people. Corporations without states to do their bidding would be like any other entity vying for my business and be subject to free-market forces as well as ownership liability.

You seem to completely discount that people can make choices for themselves and do not have to act like little puppets, though many do choose that path of least resistance. I don't know anybody who commutes two hours to work and forsakes social "play". I enjoy my work as it is engaging, challenging and I can do what I want when I want. No hierarchy in sight either. Other than the taxes I am forced to pay, of course. Maybe you just need a new line of work since your view appears awfully skewed.

Still, I must say that I like the way you have brought a fresh perspective and interesting insights to the conversations around here although I felt blindsided by a 2x4. You might want to ratchet it down a little bit though.

WhiteIndian's picture

People disestablished from the land (and it's always by aggressive TAKING*) are forced to either submit and work for the agricultural city-Statism (civilization) juggernaut or starve to death. It's just that simple.

That's Totalitarian Agriculture, or Totalitarian Capitalism, as one author here during the holidays wrote: people without money can just "starve to death."

Our system of private property in land FORCES landless men to work for others; to work in factories, stores, and offices, whether they like it or not. Wherever access to land is free, men work only to provide what they actually need or desire. Wherever the white man has come in contact with savage cultures this fact becomes apparent. There is for savages in their native state no such sharp distinction between "work" and "not working" as clocks and factory whistles have accustomed the white man to accept. They cannot be made to work regularly at repetitive tasks in which they have no direct interest except by some sort of duress. Disestablishment from land, like slavery, is a form of DURESS. The white man, where slavery cannot be practiced, has found that he must first disestablish the savages from their land before he can force them to work steadily for him. Once they are disestablished, they are in effect STARVED into working for him and into working as he directs.

~Dr. Ralph Borsodi
This Ugly Civilization (1929, Simon and Schuster)

“You’ll know you’re among the people of your culture if the food is all owned, if it’s all under lock and key. But food was once no more owned than the air or the sunshine are owned. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key—and putting it there is the cornerstone of your economy, because IF THE FOOD WASN'T UNDER LOCK AND KEY, WHO WOULD WORK?"

~Daniel Quinn
My Ishmael (1998, Bantam)

* "[The Native Americans] didn't have any rights to the land ... Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent."

~Ayn Rand, US Military Academy at West Point, March 6, 1974


Finally, an honest (if only for a moment) Totalitarian Capitalist.

Samarami's picture

White Indian:

    "...libertarians love sociopolitical hierarchy and Lording-over-others — just not sociopolitical hierarchy that Lords-over-them. It's a big contradiction in their thinking..."

That's a heavy load to carry I'll tell you!

I am a free, sovereign state. Sorry about the S-word, Jim, but I do have borders and an internal Border Patrol to guard those borders (some days more successfully than others). I've become free within the occupation of "..agricultural city-statism (civilization)..." -- that's out of my present control.

Through insightful essays such as Jim's and Mark's I've developed a lifestyle that has made me the wealthiest man in my city of a million or so. My wealth has nothing to do with investments or bank deposits. In fact, if someone were to hand me a million federal reserve notes no-questions-asked today, I would probably become abruptly less wealthy. Ponder that for a minute.

I might be free, but I've not jettisoned all vanity, jealousy, lust nor greed. Not completely (I'd probably eagerly take the "money". But Only-For-A-Good-Cause).

Mark, your book review is very good, as always for your writings. As you confessed your approbation might have something to do with personal acquaintance with the author. Since I haven't read the book I have only your review on which to rely. My sense is that Jerome Wright is looking toward "...a free society..." as something that is going to have to be brought about -- placed into fruition -- by some one(s). That to me implies political authority to one degree or another. To whatever extent politicians are involved, however "minimal" (no agents of state will ever stand still for "minimal government"), self ownership will be threatened. If a free society comes about in the rubble of a collapsed empire by examples such as those set by you and Jim and White Indian and me -- I'll vote for that.

If I'm going to be free it's up to me.

An already established "free society" might have been helpful, it seems, but had I waited for someone(s) to bring one about I'd have waited too long. I'm almost 76. The clock is ticking.

My family and friends and neighbors and readers of STR and Hale Bobb need my example of freedom today. You, of all people, know that, Mark. Sam

Mark Davis's picture

Jim, Jerry states that "Proper government has the purpose of protecting people from coercion and fraud in their myriad forms, from their many sources... Noncoercive government consists of institutions, organizations, or agencies that provide protection and assurance of freedom without use of coercion or fraud...Individuals contracting for the services could be called clients, customers, citizens or other. However, they cannot have a governmental citizenship forced upon them: They do not belong to a government."

He goes on to explain the differences between coercive and non-coercive governments such as coercive governments (States) are ownerless corporate entities that exist outside the set of laws it creates while non-coercive governments have responsible owners that are constrained by the same principles of the society they operate in. See Chapter 11 for a complete discussion.

I see it as an extension of the concept of self-government where the word government doesn't mean that you are a self-state. It helps to overcome the common mistake of considering the word state synonymous with the word government and it also deflects the common fear of anarchy being lawless chaos.

Suverans2's picture

G'day Mark Davis,

Very good. That was the first thing that came to my mind; "What about 'self-government'?"

There seems to be an aversion, by many freedom-seeking individuals, to the word "government", just as there is an aversion, by many 'citizens', to the word "anarchy". The former associates "government" with "coercion", and the latter associates "anarchy" with "chaos".

"All men* have certain natural, essential, and inherent rights - among which are, the enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting, property..." (Excerpted from the Natural Rights clause of the New Hampshire Constitution) [*Well almost "all men", some men claim to have a "just claim" to nothing. ;)]

"These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two." (The Law by Frederic Bastiat)

If we use the word "government" to define a collective organization that does nothing more than defend and protect our natural rights, would that "government" still be a bad thing?

There are those who will now say something along the lines of, "If it only defends and protects our natural rights it isn't a government". But, just because it isn't, or even has never been, does that mean that it can't be? They then answer, "If it did only that, then it couldn't be called a 'government'." Fine!! What, pray tell, could it be called? Then substitute that word wherever you find the word "government" when we are discussing a collective organization that does nothing more than defend and protect our natural rights.

It's that easy.

And, why waste time discussing anarcho-primitivism, or whatever the hell one wishes to call it, where we did nothing but "run, jump, and play like a young child or animal[1]" in the Garden of Eden, when its staunchest proponent, here, openly admits that it is impossible for even one individual, let alone all of mankind, to voluntarily return to his primitive state? What's the frickin' point?

As for me and my house we will discuss things that are possible.

[1] Quick definition from Macmillan Dictionary for the word gambol.

Mark Davis's picture

Hey Suverans2, I was hoping you would weigh in on this issue of semantics and you didn't disappoint. I also agree on "What's the frickin' point?" of pining for the Garden of Eden; must be frustrating.

WhiteIndian's picture

Pining for the Non-State social structure of your Paleolithic ancestors is precisely what everybody is doing here.

"Must be frustrating," eh?

WhiteIndian's picture

It's not a waste of time when the empirical data from the history of humanity debunks your premises upon which you base your deductive syllogisms.

The point is: you're wrong because your premises are wrong.

It matters not what's possible, you're wrong about many assumptions right now, which Stephen Jay Gould refers rather nicely "just so stories" in the excerpt below.

P.S. Gambol comes from the following excerpt:

Why agriculture? In retrospect, it seems odd that it has taken archaeologists and paleontologists so long to begin answering this essential question of human history. What we are today—civilized, city-bound, overpopulated, literate, organized, wealthy, poor, diseased, conquered, and conquerors—is all rooted in the domestication of plants and animals. The advent of farming re-formed humanity. In fact, the question "Why agriculture?" is so vital, lies so close to the core of our being that it probably cannot be asked or answered with complete honesty. Better to settle for calming explanations of the sort Stephen Jay Gould calls "just-so stories."

In this case, the core of such stories is the assumption that agriculture was better for us. Its surplus of food allowed the leisure and specialization that made civilization. Its bounty settled, refined, and educated us, freed us from the nasty, mean, brutish, and short existence that was the state of nature, freed us from hunting and gathering. Yet when we think about agriculture, and some people have thought intently about it, the pat story glosses over a fundamental point. This just-so story had to have sprung from the imagination of someone who never hoed a row of corn or rose with the sun for a lifetime of milking cows. GAMBOLING about plain and forest, hunting and living off the land is fun. Farming is not. That's all one needs to know to begin a rethinking of the issue. The fundamental question was properly phrased by Colin Tudge of the London School of Economics: “The real problem, then, is not to explain why some people were slow to adopt agriculture but why anybody took it up at all.”

~Richard Manning, Against the Grain, p.24

Mark Davis's picture

Nice story around one man's opinion: Looking about for easy game and abundant grub is more fun than farming. Gee, nobody ever thought about that, what a revelation. All those good ‘ol boys that go fishing or hunting every weekend never thought of just doing it every day.
Assuming this opinion is some kind of revealed universal truth that all people must agree with, it still begs the assumption that human populations will not increase past the point of universal abundance such that there will never be scarcity of, or competition for, resources. That's biologically and physically impossible. Bacteria, rodents, insects and men will reproduce to the point of resource depletion unless resource supplies can be increased fast enough. I don't see waves of mass starvation to keep populations low as all that nice a place to be. Not to mention I really like my bed and a roof over my head. But I digress, you see, my planting my own plants and raising my own animals to manage supply, harvest on schedule and eat as I please allows me to control my destiny more so than trusting to providence and perpetual abundance while we reproduce to our hearts delight. The agricultural scenario makes me happier than the alternative of "gamboling about" and apparently a lot of other people too. The position of assuming that the world owes me a living, especially when I'm no longer a young man physically able to "gambol about" is not as wonderful as you make it appear.

For example, I have a cabin in the mountains on a little 10-acre farm that I am retiring to when I get tired of the beaches and toiling for The Man here in Florida. My land abuts a large forest of 1,000s of square miles that is owned by an Indian tribe and various state agencies, that are 99% uninhabited and in a natural state. My neighbors and I (and our families and friends) have a clear choice daily of whether to work in the garden, milk a goat, get eggs from the chickens, trade or exchange produce, books and stories with each other, make a fire in the fire-place or take a nap in my cozy abode. At any time we could all choose to gather together and start foraging for food, forsake our beds, roofs, shoes, computers and books to avoid working in the garden. I don't know anybody that would prefer "hunting and living off the land" to farming for longer than a weekend, maybe a week when younger. Anyone that can't see why people took up agriculture has never really tried living off the land, especially in the winter.

Suverans2's picture

Now, that, is what I call really "weighing in"!! Thank you, Mark Davis. Well said.

WhiteIndian's picture

Agriculture wasn't started because people were hungry (push factors) as commonly surmised. Anthropology has hotly debated that, and the preponderance of evidence is that agriculture was deliberately started for religious-ritualistic-feasting episodes by "Big Men" or "emergent elite." (pull factors)

Control freaks started controlling other species (domestication, and ensuing agriculture) to increase their social control over their own species, humans.

Agriculture has always been a Bernie Madoff level scam of deficit-spending the "banked" bounty of the soil -- one, unfortunately, upon which lives now depend. At least as long as the scam goes.

For a good summary of the anthropological data, see:

Thesis 10: Emergent elites led the Agricultural Revolution.
by Jason Godesky

P.S. I'm all for gardening (permaculture/horticulture,) as a way to step away from the unsustainable Bernie Madoff-ish scam of totalitarian agriculture.

AtlasAikido's picture

Howdy, Suverans2

Re: "There are those who will now say something along the lines of, "If it only defends and protects our natural rights it isn't a government". But, just because it isn't, or even has never been, does that mean that it can't be? They then answer, "If it did only that, then it couldn't be called a 'government'." Fine!! What, pray tell, could it be called? Then substitute that word wherever you find the word "government" when we are discussing a collective organization that does nothing more than defend and protect our natural rights".

It would seem the answers to the questions you pose above were answered by Henry David Thoreau and others...At least for me.

Classical Liberalism: Fail
by Jim Davidson

Functional Rights: The Elephant in the Parlor, Part II...

Word Idolatry

Suverans2's picture

Thank you, AtlasAikido, I've already gleaned a pearl from the first link you gave me.

"I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow men." ~ Henry D. Thoreau

WhiteIndian's picture

Quoting anarcho-primitivist gems. You've come a long way, baby!

Next, John Zerzan?

The only non-contradictory anarchism is anarcho-primitivism.

Anarchism started to have an ecological view mainly in the writings of American individualist anarchist and transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. In his book Walden he advocates simple living and self-sufficiency among natural surroundings in resistance to the advancement of industrial civilization. "Many have seen in Thoreau one of the precursors of ecologism and anarcho-primitivism represented today in John Zerzan. For George Woodcock this attitude can be also motivated by certain idea of resistance to progress and of rejection of the growing materialism which is the nature of American society in the mid 19th century." Zerzan himself included the text "Excursions" (1863) by Thoreau in his edited compilation of anti-civilization writings called Against Civilization: Readings and Reflections from 1999.

[WIKI: anarcho-primitivism]

Samarami's picture


    "If it only defends and protects our natural rights it isn't a government". But, just because it isn't, or even has never been, does that mean that it can't be? They then answer, "If it did only that, then it couldn't be called a 'government'." Fine!! What, pray tell, could it be called? Then substitute that word wherever you find the word "government" when we are discussing a collective organization that does nothing more than defend and protect our natural rights.

Here's how Delmar England describes the quandary of interpreting what is government:

    If all “anarchists” agree to self ownership, meaning self determination, how can they be in conflict? Absent explanation of multiple “kinds” of self ownership, I am obliged to conclude they think, talk and write in contradiction. An adamant claim of self ownership is quickly canceled by espousing anti-self ownership ideas. They come full circle without realizing what is going on. Regrettably, they are doing nothing but promoting their preferred form of government under a deceptive label.

    Socialism, communism, democracy, monarchy, etc, all presumably represent different forms of government. Root level definition of government is initiation of force and coercion. A dark alley mugging is no less government than any other initiation of force and coercion. (emphasis mine - sam)

Mark, in my attempt 5 minutes ago to link to your superb essay, Be Free, the link appears to my old computer to have defaulted to today's home page of STR and not to the archive of your article. I was replying to White Indian's "libertarian" comment. Let's see if this link works:



WhiteIndian's picture

A tautology of Zombie politics: "Noncoercive government consists of institutions, organizations, or agencies that provide protection and assurance of freedom without use of coercion..."

I bet if you use just the right word magic on sacred pieces of contract-or grade paper, you could also conjure an animated corpse.

Right after we have endless ergs of power too cheap to meter.

Most of the Cargo Cults finally had the good sense to give up, but there are still a few surviving. All hail John Frum, Happy Government, Voodoo Science, and Free Statism. Yep, good luck with that. Let me know when it all works out.

"The cults focus on obtaining the material wealth of the advanced culture through contract rituals and practices. Cult members believe that the wealth was intended for them by the Invisible Hand and the Founding Fathers." ;-) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult

Jim Davies's picture

"Proper government", Mark, appears to me another oxymoron. To govern is to over-rule or destroy the natural and absolute human right of self ownership; that can never be proper (fitting, right, appropriate, suitable.) If Mr Wright thinks there can ever be such a thing, why not suggest to him the error into which he has fallen - along, of course, with a huge number of others.

I've not come across anyone who thought that "self-government" means "self-state", that would be a phrase that makes no sense to me. It just means that you and I each make our own decisions for our own lives, period. Perhaps though it would be a good idea to phase out the use of the phrase, in favor of plain-vanilla self-ownership.

Mark Davis's picture

Jim, I know lots of people who see the words state and government as meaing the same thing. I still think it was a clever way for Jerry to appeal to these people who just can't get by the myth that there are certain social services (i.e. public goods) that must be performed or provided by "government". He clearly states that non-coercive governments don't own its clients while coercive governments own their citizens. So I don't see that use of terms as an error.

AtlasAikido's picture

Indeed Jim!

There is No We: Challenge the Premise.

Follow the precepts of the self governance such as L Neil Smith's Covenant and no government will be necessary.
Violate the precepts of the Covenant and no amount of government will be sufficient....

This discussion with some here seem to have forgotten that the purpose of such things as the Covenant is not to CONTROL the government, but to provide a form of self-governance.

And the young Neil Smith (1985) used the distinction of governance vs government when writing the Covenant ( http://tinyurl.com/Galts-Oath-and-the-Covenant ).

WhiteIndian's picture

The premise has been challenged, and debunked. Humans are egalitarian social band animals, as evidenced by biology[1], evolutionary biology[2], anthropological[3], and sociological observation[4], and medicine.[5]

There is indeed a "we."

Word magic incantations on paper cannot socially-engineer humans to behave like you want them to behave; they behave as they have evolved.
[1] Hinde, R. A. (1974) Biological Bases of Human Social Behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill.
[2] Boehm, C. (2001) Hierarchy in the forest: The evolution of egalitarian behavior. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
[3] Service, E. R. (1975) Origins oft he State and Civilization: The Process of Cultural Evolution. New York: Norton.
[4] Fehr, E. & Gächter, S. (2002) Human behaviour: Egalitarian motive and altruistic punishment. Nature 415, pp. 137–140.
[5] Henderson, A. S. (1988) An introduction to social psychiatry New York: Oxford University Press medical publications.

AtlasAikido's picture

A common example of misunderstanding the "We" vs the "I" is when so-called leaders, managers, and teachers focus their group members--implicitly or explicitly--on "team-work" instead of its causes "individual work of *I*'s".

Joint efforts are possible, and necessary to increase productivity and profits. But each person must retain CONTROL over his own responsibilities, efforts and rewards, if any meaningful incentives and effectiveness are to be preserved. Otherwise his individual efforts will become less significant and therefore, less productive. But this downward ratcheting spiral is exactly what so called leaders, managers and teachers set in motion and perpetuate, by restricting and confining individual responsibilities, efforts and rewards, to rules designed primarily to command and control the group and its least innovative and responsible members. Such "Collectivized" "WE" thinking seriously compromises the individual's freedom to think, create and adapt and thus his productivity and ultimately the joint efforts of the division of labor (Billions of humans making trillions of decisions could never be harnessed or thoroughly theorized by even the most brilliant voluntaryist thinkers or free market economists. I try not to use the term, “free market system” anymore, because humans trading goods and services is not a system, it’s what humans do. I have abandoned the use of the word “system” completely).

Paraphrased from "How I Found Freedom in an UnFree World" by Harry Browne.
There is No We: Challenge the Premise.

Follow the precepts of self governance such as L Neil Smith's Covenant and no government and no "We"-ism will be necessary. Violate the precepts of the Covenant and no amount of government and no amount of "We"-ism will be sufficient..

If ones' own moral code is important enough to state--for one to know explicitly and improve on; and for others to know oneself--without binding them down--then an inter-relationship Covenant could have much valuable application and is hardly the same as "We"-ism parchment worship or "We"-ism magic as some posit.

This discussion which some here ARE sidetracking is that the purpose of such things as the Covenant is not to CONTROL the government and those who still think and act on "We"-isms (much like statists and sociopaths), but to provide a form of self-governance.

And the young Neil Smith (1985) used this distinction of *I* governance vs *We* government when writing the Covenant ( http://tinyurl.com/Galts-Oath-and-the-Covenant ).

WhiteIndian's picture

Many people yearn quite eloquently for the Non-State social structure of their Paleolithic ancestors, but nobody considers removing their hand from the agricultural city-Statist (civilization) monkey trap.

AtlasAikido's picture

... THE GROUP TRAP is the belief that you can accomplish more by sharing responsibilities, efforts, and rewards with others than you can by acting on your own.

It's an easy trap to fall into. It's a common expression that "in union there is strength." Just the opposite is true, however. You achieve more for yourself when your rewards are dependent upon your own efforts rather than upon the efforts of other people.

When you join a group effort to achieve freedom, you waste precious resources on an endeavor that has very little chance of success. In the same way, group efforts are common in businesses, marriages, and even friendships, and there too the Group Trap can cause subtle problems.

Groups are not living entities. They don't think or act; only individuals do. And yet, any group effort is based upon the assumption of a group purpose that overrides the individual differences of its members. It's expected that the group will act as a single unit with a unified purpose.

Only individuals think—and each one thinks differently. Their interests and desires may overlap, but each person will continue to define his own objectives and have his own opinion concerning the best way to achieve those objectives.

Perhaps each person entering a group unconsciously assumes that it will act in unison for his objectives and by his methods. But every other participant probably has a similar assumption regarding his ideas.

What they get instead will inevitably be a compromise. The individual's goals and his concept of the best methods will be automatically compromised before anything happens to further his objectives.

It also means that a certain amount of time and effort will have to be expended to arrange the compromise—again, before anything concrete is done to further the objectives.

On the other hand, the individual who acts alone doesn't have to alter his objectives. He can employ the means he considers best suited to the objective, and he doesn't have to waste time and effort trying to arrange a compromise with partners...

...You're in the Despair Trap if you believe that you have to stay where you are and work things out somehow. Or if you believe that you couldn't be any better off if you were to change your situation. Or if you think that the government or society can stop you from being free.

You're in the Despair Trap if you think that you'll always be poor because you come from a family that's always been that way. Or when you feel that love relationships must always deteriorate into uneasy compromises. Or when you believe that "people" don't appreciate good products, good ideas, or good individuals.

You're in the trap when you think there are too many complications in your life to be able to break out from where you are. Or when you think that freedom and happiness are overrated myths...

Excerpted from How I Found FREEDOM in an UNFREE WORLD
A Handbook for Personal Liberty

WhiteIndian's picture

Harry Browne would have done well to check his premises, like studying something along the lines of:

Swanson, G. A. (2008), Living systems theory and an entity-systems approach. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 25: 599–604.

Or to simply consider a lichen, a "composite organisms consisting of a symbiotic organism composed of a fungus with a photosynthetic partner."

Maybe lichens fell into the group trap; yeah, that's the ticket.

AtlasAikido's picture

The Group ("We"-ism) Trap is the assumption that greater strength can be achieved by sharing. Just the opposite happens: Individual objectives are watered down, time and effort are wasted in arranging compromises, and individual incentive is reduced.

The individual becomes much less flexible and mobile (perhaps lichen like is a good analog), because he must deal with others before getting on with the task at hand. As Thoreau said, "The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready."1

A Handbook for Personal Liberty

WhiteIndian's picture

The man who goes alone dies more. But if killing yourself is an "individual objective," then, hey, have at it, Atlas.

Has the record shown that single-pilot (SP) flying is more risky than flights with two-pilot crews? In a word, yes.

Turbine Edition: Single-Pilot Safety
The risks of riding solo
Aircraft Owners and Pilot's Association

AtlasAikido's picture

I never proposed that *I* was auto-sufficient nor that *I* should live or travel as an anti-social hermit. This is precisely what Harry Browne solves in his book How I Found Freedom In An UNfree World as does The Covenant of Unanimous Consent standing on the shoulders of Thoreau, Mises, Rand and her students L Neil Smith and Jim Davidson....and lived by me.

Classical Liberalism: Fail

But where I choose to be and go--that is humanly possible--makes a difference. Do I go to the airport? No!! The Covenant of Unanimous Consent is not going to serve me there! In fact it warns and confirms to me that I should stay away.

WhiteIndian's picture

Seems we're back to humans being social animals as an evolutionary survival strategy with your "I never proposed that *I* was auto-sufficient."

Maybe something is sinking-in.

AtlasAikido's picture

What I have proposed is self-governance and how that occurs. This hardly requires me to be auto-sufficient. In fact it has everything to do with my proposal, Jim Davidson's and Neil L Smiths of self-governance and nothing to do with controlling "We"ists.

What I have been proposing and living: is being around lots and lots of people who know that you own yourself. They don't want you to be subjected to "limited" state aggression, or "constitutional" state aggression, or their own favorite flavor of state aggression or "We'-ism; they want you to have NO ONE committing aggression against you. How extreme! How often are you around more than three people at a time who want you to be truly free?.

If this is a problem for some it is a personal problem. Not mine.

WhiteIndian's picture

So why do you denigrate egalitarian Non-State sociopolitical typology (bands and tribes) when they are the ONLY demonstrated society in which people are observed to be "autonomous and sovereign" individuals "who bow to no external political leaders"? (Service, 1975)

Are you willing to take your hand out of the monkey trap of agricultural-city to be free of Statism?

Remember, there's never been an agricultural city-State (civilization) without a State. And for good reason. People don't work the way you Wish.

AtlasAikido's picture

Speaking for oneself is hardly speaking for me. If someone sets themselves up to be UnFree, when there are clearly alternatives, that is hardly my problem. I trade with those who are compatible. WIshes have nothing to do with it. This is where the Covenant comes to play as a filter. But so does judgment and entrepreneurial skill..And lest I forget there is a price to pay. And it would seem that some here do not make personal provision or foresight for such...

WhiteIndian's picture

You always evade the empirical data that refutes the way you Wish people worked.

AtlasAikido's picture

I don't wish. I trade I offer values...And I don't hang around people who don't believe in such...

WhiteIndian's picture

Evading observed reality is of no value to anybody.

AtlasAikido's picture

Thanks for making my point.

WhiteIndian's picture

You're the one evading reality. So thank you for making my point.

AtlasAikido's picture

Avoiding the observed sociopathic set-up reality of a confirmed "We"-ist makes sense at least to me. Evading such would indeed be foolhardy.

WhiteIndian's picture

Being that you advocate agricultural city-Statism (civilization,) and thus are a "We"-ist (even as you dodge-and-weave, trying to avoid that reality,) it appears you hold a contradiction. But you won't check your premises.

AtlasAikido's picture

Actually I do not advocate agri city statism. I have actually been demonstrating that it is possible to live free in a unfree world.

WhiteIndian's picture

A realistic demonstration would be to publicly grow and publicly advertise marijuana or raw milk, or just put up a shingle to cut hair.

But you're really not free. Not free to do that or a million other things prohibited by the government of agricultural city-Statism (civilization.)

I appreciate your (and Browne's) trying to find ways to cope with mass society. One is "free" to do many things in prison, some even find great enlightenment in prison.

But they're still in prison. And still not free in the sociopolitical sense of being free of coercion.