Liberty Stability

Column by Jim Davies.

Exclusive to STR

If I outline the delights of a free society, quite often the listener will say that it's "Utopian." All very nice but not practical, he means, and after clarification he usually agrees that "Utopian" means a status that is not stable; that if it is put into place, it will inevitably collapse. If I have the chance, I'll then continue by suggesting he has it exactly upside down--that it's today's beggar-thy-neighbor governed society that is unstable, and the free one that will stay fixed. Why so? Because in a true free society, everyone understands the self-ownership axiom. Since everyone is free to maximize his own enjoyment of life, there is no motive to change the status. It's optimal, and therefore stable. Things tend to change only when there's a motive to change them, and a free society is the most satisfying of all possible societies. In contrast, one in which everyone is constantly clawing to grab more of a cake confiscated by government, and daily trying to avoid the oppressive diktats of government, there is inherent instability, for few are ever content.

 We must then consider the exceptions, to make sure they do prove that rule. In a society of 300 million, one cannot be certain that nobody at all will try to take by force something his neighbor owns. The education, without which the free society cannot come into being, is unlikely to be 100.0% perfect--nothing ever is. How, then, will the free society handle those exceptions? With a justice system. An industry that will strive to repair injuries caused by aggressors--and, of course, to settle disputes that arise from misunderstandings. Such a for-profit, competing justice industry is described here.
Today the caricature of a justice system that government monopolizes handles civil and criminal cases and locks away about 1% of the population, plus a further 2% on supervised parole etc., and it's busy. Now, fewer than half of that 3% ever hurt anyone except by voting; most of them are victimless criminals. But it does show that if in the coming free society there should be 2% who aggress, the justice business will be able to handle them, and restore the rights they stole or damaged. Two percent would be feasible. Five percent, maybe. Ten percent, no. Twenty percent, no way. Forty-nine percent, absolutely not.
Therefore, our skeptical friend is not far off the mark when he says a free society would be unstable (Utopian) if it has a sizeable minority in disagreement with its fundamental aims. Should 20% of the population spend its time trying to rob or bully the other 80%, its justice industry would be overwhelmed. If it were to be introduced by majority rule, with as many as 49% opposed to its principles and working to undermine it, it would indeed swiftly collapse; hopelessly Utopian.
Therefore, a free, stable and long-lasting society must come about by some means other than by convincing only a majority, who will then impose it upon the remainder. Such imposition would be inconsistent with the very principle underlying freedom (self-ownership) but in any case be impossible to sustain, as above.
Now we see why all attempts to introduce liberty to America by political means (majority rule) are doomed. They will necessarily fail, even if they "succeed." Freedom can be obtained only when everyone (or virtually everyone, that ~2% excepted) embraces it for himself. That requires universal re-education, a result of which is that everyone is so repelled by the nature of government that he ceases to work for it and sets about earning a living by voluntary exchanges. That re-education is already in process. When it is complete, government and politics and majority rule will be concepts found only in history books.
That serves as a long preamble to the question of what would result for liberty if Ron Paul were to win the White House this year, and has shown already that he could not produce a free society--not even if his platform were fully consistent with that of a free society, which it isn't. I can however see two probable positive results from such a victory--which is by no means as unlikely as the blind guides in the Main Stream Media suppose. Paul has a solid base of grassroots support, which is likely to survive until all his conservative rivals give up. When they do, many of the 60-75% of Republican voters opposed to Romney will hold their noses and vote for Paul--rather than trigger the breakup of the GOP. Therefore, he may win their nomination. Then he will face Obama, the authentic and principled candidate against the smooth-talking deceiver whose credibility is shot even among some of his most fervent admirers. So as Dave Trotter recently reasoned, a President Paul is a definite possibility.
The first of those two good results is that while we wait for the re-educated population to grow exponentially, life will be a good deal less unpleasant. A Paul administration will quickly gut the Patriot Act of its enforcers, and swiftly remove the military trip wires the FedGov has strewn all over the world. The threat of war and terrorism will fast recede. Fiat-money bailouts for failing banks and other dinosaurs will cease, so after a short-lived bloodbath of bankruptcies, prosperity will return. There will be serious shortfalls to the Paul program as my recent review noted, but overall we'll see a huge improvement.
The second is that those several aspects of the Paul program that are in good accord with the self-ownership axiom will be ever more visible to the population at large, and the beneficial effect of some of them will be felt within a couple of years, and so the climate of public opinion will change. Result: the re-education process will become easier, and perhaps be enhanced. It will become even simpler for graduates of the Freedom Academy to find and help one friend a year through its course. Therefore, we may expect the average to rise from one friend a year to something a little higher, and so the task will end a little sooner.
Who knows, it might clip a whole year off the remainder of the Government Era.
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Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?" and in 2016, an unraveling of the great paradox of "income tax law" with "How Government Silenced Irwin Schiff."


WhiteIndian's picture

Yours is a nice description of egalitarian Non-State band and tribal society: "Because in a true free society, everyone understands the self-ownership axiom. Since everyone is free to maximize his own enjoyment of life, there is no motive to change the status. It's optimal, and therefore STABLE."

Such a society works within the human neurobiological limit of "the number of people with whom one can maintain stable STABLE relationships." [wiki:Dunbar's_Number]

Outside of those neurobiological limits—in a Mass Society—sociopolitical hierarchy becomes necessary and freedom is destroyed.

WhiteIndian's picture

Question on "self-ownership": to how many species on the evolutionary Tree of Life* does this principle apply?

If only one, at what point in biological evolution did "self-ownership" (autonomy**) become "axoimatic" for that specie, and why only for that specie?

* Evolutionary Genealogy
The Great Tree of Life

** Life is a complex phenomenon that not only requires individual self-producing and self-sustaining systems but also a historical-collective organization of those individual systems, which brings about characteristic evolutionary dynamics. On these lines, we propose to define universally living beings as autonomous systems with open-ended evolution capacities, and we claim that all such systems must have a semi-permeable active boundary (membrane), an energy transduction apparatus (set of energy currencies) and, at least, two types of functionally interdependent macromolecular components (catalysts and records).

Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo, Juli Peretó and Alvaro Moreno. (2004) "A Universal Definition of Life: Autonomy and Open-Ended Evolution." Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. Volume 34, Number 3, 323-346.

WhiteIndian's picture

John Galt says, "His particular distinction from all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives by means of volitional choice."

I suppose Ayn never observed any other animals. Or much else.

"Animals left the natal site on their own volition and settled down where no close relatives were present."

Natal dispersal in the European wild rabbit
Lehrstuhl für Tierphysiologie, Universität Bayreuth, Germany
Animal Behaviour
Volume 51, Issue 5, May 1996, Pages 1047–1059

Jim Davies's picture

Making the truth of the self-ownership axiom contingent upon a "human neurobiological limit" is bogus from top to bottom. An axiom is an axiom.

This axiom is fundamental to this forum and if you're not willing to accept it, WhiteIndian, I respectfully suggest you go form your own.

On the other hand your comment about other animals is very interesting - I've often wondered about it. Probably Ayn Rand, through Galt, was correct in that the ability to make volitional choice is the key, because self ownership is all about choosing and deciding; but in limited ways the dogs I've known do seem to have exercised some such choice. I can well believe that the folk who reached America from the West instead of from the East had a much finer appreciation and understanding of animal behavior, and we Euros need to respect it more.

Where, though, does it end? - does a bee in a hive or an ant in an army have volitional choice? - not, I think. How about veggies? - likewise. How can one spot the dividing line, do you say?

Don't under-rate Ayn Rand, by the way. She was far more perceptive than any in her generation, about the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of socialism. She had a few faults, notably failing to follow her own findings to their logical (anarchist) conclusions, but mankind is deep in her debt.

WhiteIndian's picture

Yeah, it is bogus; but I never said that.

You can ignore empirical data if you want, but it is well documented that humans in Mass Societal sizes beyond Dunbar's Number form hierarchy, and in City-size settlements form States. Every Civilization (settlements 5000+) in all human history has State Level Politics.

Every. Single. Time. It's why anthropologists include "State Level Politics" in the 5 primary defining characteristics of civilization. There isn't a single observed exception.

As far as volition defining self-ownership, I don't know where the "volition dividing line" rests. It certainly isn't where Ayn Rand and Capitalism and Christianity purport. Other animals too have emotions*, volition, morality.**

But the whole of Western Civilization—whether Capitalist or Socialist—ideology rests on "the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man." ***

If other animals have self-ownership also, the basic premise of agricultural city-Statism (civilization) is weighted in the balance and found wanting. MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN

P.S. Think of me as NeoGalt speaking, except the chief engineer can shut me off if he wants. I am the man born without guilt over my paucity of Calvinist slavin' ethic.

* When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

** Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals by Frans B. M. de Waal

*** Lynn White, Jr. (1967). "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis." Science, New Series, Vol. 155, No. 3767. pp. 1203-1207.

Jim Davies's picture

Sorry, WhiteIndian, that you can't throw light on the dividing line regarding volitional choice. I had hoped that with your clearly superior understanding of the natural world, you might have.

That being so, we're stuck with using the self-ownership axiom for humans, at least. Possibly some other species, you don't know which (and nor do I.) That axiom does not depend on Rand, still less on Christianity (which teaches, I thought, that all men are subject to the rule of _God_.) Nor does it derive from capitalism, which is a consequence of the axiom and in no sense its source. What nonsense have you been taught to read?!

Accordingly, a hierarchical form of society, regardless of its ubiquity, is 100% contrary to human nature. If every person has the intrinsic right to rule himself (that's what the axiom holds) then nobody has any right to rule anyone else. That follows, as day follows night; there is no escape from that conclusion. Since there is no known exception to your observation (there are minor ones, I think; mediaeval Iceland comes to mind) that means that for the last ten thousand years mankind has been up a government creek.

Your post could be read to say "it has always been so, therefore it is optimal and must or should always be so" - but here on Strike the Root we take the diametrically opposite view. We start by recognizing the axiom as inviolate, and therefore say that mankind has to be turned around, taken out of the creek. Government - illegitimate rule, as above - has to be abolished. That is our purpose, and I for one hope you will join us.

If you wish to visualize how a large society would work without hierarchical rule, go to and order a copy of my book "A Vision of Liberty." For a brief take on world history since fixed agriculture was discovered, consider "Denial of Liberty" in the same trilogy.

WhiteIndian's picture

You're conflating self-awareness and volition, and both of those are side issues to establishing autonomy (self-ownership.) So I'll ask again, if "self-ownership" is axiomatic for humans, then is it axiomatic for other animals? Other life in general? If not, why not?

I'm ok with "self-ownership," but the capitalist version is a toxic mimicry of autonomy, a bait and switch, meant to scam people into thinking of themselves and all of our home planet's Earthlings as mere property to be used by the hierarchical elite.

But people are not mere property. You can dispose of property; it's the right of the property holder. You can't dispose of people.

But that's the whole libertarian theory of labor, people selling themselves as wage slaves. Or even into full slavery, as suggested by Austrian "scholar" Walter Block.

So when a libertarian type proselytizes with their "do you own yourself" I answer:

"People are not mere property. You can dispose of property; its the right of the property holder. You can't dispose of people."

That puts a little kink in their proselytization efforts. If they need more kink, I made a short play for one libertarian, as follows:

{{ Libertarian Snuff Films, Inc. }}

LIBERTARIAN MASTER: Do you own your body?
MOM: [holding sick child] Yes.

MASTER: And what can you do with property you own?
MOM: Sell it?
MASTER: Correct. Do you voluntarily sell yourself to me so I'll pay for your child's health care?
MOM: Yes, I'm desperate.
MASTER: Answer yes or no, and then sign here.
MOM: Yes. [signs contract]
MASTER: Did you once own your body, bitch?
SLAVE MOM: Yes, Master.

MASTER: Now I own you. What can an owner do with any property?

SLAVE MOM: Dispose of it?

MASTER: That's right, bitch.
[BANG!] [fap fap fap fap fap fap fap]

He'd like more than anything else to boss me around, and then whip me every time I displeased him....Slave-master Rafe would never shell out the cold cash if, after he paid, I could haul him into court on assault and battery charges when he whipped me.

Voluntary Slave Contracts

by Walter Block

There's the logical conclusion to thinking of humans as mere property, even if "self-owned" property: Libertarian Dehumanization.

AtlasAikido's picture

Hi Jim, I thought I would add this...

Re: "You're conflating self-awareness and volition, and both of those are side issues to establishing autonomy (self-ownership.)"

No they are not side issues. Jim addressed the issue of establishing autonomy (self-ownership. I will attempt to address the issue of whether I see a conflation of reason and volition and whether those two attributes are side issues.

In The Romantic Manifesto in the chapter titled What Is Romanticism?, Ayn Rand says "...the faculty of reason is the faculty of volition...'', and "...volition is a function of man's rational faculty''.

The common underlying faculty being discussed is man's consciousness. Quoting Ayn Rand: "Man's volition is an attribute of his consciousness (of his rational faculty) and consists in the choice to perceive existence or to evade it.''.

They DO, BELONG together as different attributes of consciousness. But just as "white'' of an eye does not belong in a discussion of shape of an eye, and "round'' is not a color of an eye, so "volition'' is not in epistemology and "reason'' is not in metaphysics. Certainly reason is not volition any more than round is white! I see no place that Jim conflated! The faculty of reason is the faculty of volition. So?

Since I/we each must think for ourselves, I/we each must resolve this issue on our own and to our own satisfaction. Rand and her students provided me with intellectual tools to recognize rationalizations and I have utilized these tools to help me understand this issue.

If I want [choose] to understand, I need to go thru the entire process in my own mind. Others can provide me assistance--just as Rand has for me--but I must volitionally CHOOSE (or evade) to address this issue (by raising MY level of awareness to a state of full rationality) and then, via MY reason and use of logic, I must rationally CHOOSE which of the alternatives are true and which are false.

As I am doing this, be fully aware of the two different contexts of the two different CHOICES I am facing! Notice that the first is an action of consciousness and the second involves the content of consciousness. I am NOT ignoring the appropriate context when switching from one mode of CHOICE to the other. I do not see Jim ignoring that.

"Man's faculty of volition as such is not a contradiction of nature, but it opens the way for a host of contradictions and rationalizations--when and if men do not grasp the crucial difference between the metaphysically given and any object, institution, procedure, or rule of conduct made by man.

Is there a conflation of reason (self-awareness) with volition(will/level of awareness) as it relates to Jim's point? No. I do not see that. Jim's point to me is consistent with: The ACT of focusing one's consciousness is volitional.'' and "... only a volitional ACT of his consciousness, a PROCESS of thought, can provide [the knowledge needed for life].

On this issue of man (rational animal) Vs the genus of animal I think Rand did a good job of the differentia regarding that issue! And the above provides light to the difference between such.

WhiteIndian's picture

Morality, rationality, volition, problem solving, self-awareness are all exhibited behaviors in animals other than human.

Rand was mistaken, and preaching a heretical—but still basically Abrahamic—hierarchically anthropocentric worldview fundamentally resting on Genesis 1:26, as follows:

• JEHOVALLAH ("The Invisible Hand")
• KINGS and PRIESTCRAFT (Heroic Industrialists)
• MAN ("Inferior" to their "betters," as Mises stated in a letter to Rand)
• WOMAN (submits to husband)
• ANIMALS (submits to husbandry)
• NATURE (valuable only if used up by the above hierarchy)

You'd do well to check your Dear Leader's premises against observed reality, Atlas. Her "axioms" as valid as the "inspired scriptures."

Rational Animals?
Susan Hurley (Editor), Matthew Nudds (Editor)
Oxford University Press

Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals
Frans B. M. de Waal
Harvard University Press

AtlasAikido's picture

A troll is an excellent avatar. It attaches itself under an article, muddies the article by attaching itself to the article and then waits. Rather than submit an article itself. It cannot because it is incapable of building its own bridge.

WhiteIndian's picture

Real life observation debunks Rand's erroneous "axioms." An honest fellow would appreciate the correction.

AtlasAikido's picture

..."if they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers." Our world is in the mess it is in today because most of us have internalized the fine art of asking the wrong questions. Contrary to the thinking that would have us believe that the conflict, violence, tyranny, and destructiveness that permeates modern society is the result of "bad" or "hateful" people, disparities in wealth, or lack of education, all of our social problems are the direct consequence of a general failure to respect the inviolability of one another’s property interests!

...Property" is not simply some social invention, like Emily Post’s guide to etiquette, but a way of describing conditions that are essential to all living things. Every living thing must occupy space and consume energy from outside itself if it is to survive, and it must do so to the exclusion of all other living things on the planet. I didn’t dream this up. My thinking was not consulted before the life system developed. The world was operating on the property principle when I arrived and, like the rest of us, I had to work out my answers to that most fundamental, pragmatic of all social questions: who gets to make decisions about what? The essence of "ownership" is to be found in control: who gets to be the ultimate decision maker about people and "things" in the world?....

Do You Own Yourself?
by Butler Shaffer

PS The above addresses the issues of axioms, self-ownership/property, the agora, (and every living thing) in a format that is understandable and relevant.

WhiteIndian's picture

Agorism is another city-Statist con-game.

What is the agora? "...a central spot in ancient Greek male land-owners who were citizens would gather in the Agora for MILITARY DUTY or to hear statements of the RULING KING or council..."

Of course, "later" in this prison of agricultural city-Statism, the wardens allowed some shops to sell cigarettes and trinkets among the prisoners, and agorists consider such as the ultimate freedom, especially if they can get rich off the city-Statist prison arrangement.

AtlasAikido's picture

For those actually interested "On Reclaiming Self-Ownership" without waiting for the rest of the world and every living thing...
by Butler Shaffer

"On what basis does another...presume to rule you?," Butler Shaffer rephrased the question. This question took us into a discussion of the subject of "authority." During the course of this discussion, a young man began to ask a series of questions:

"But how else are we going to live, if we don’t follow others [i.e., authorities]?"

"Do you understand how allowing others to direct your thinking and your actions produces conflict within yourself?", I asked.

"Yes, I think so," the young man responded.

"Would you like to learn how to live your life in a more self-directed way, without relying on ‘authorities’ to tell you how to do so?", I inquired.

"Yes," my student answered.

"How will you find out?", I asked.

"By asking you," he replied.

"Let me make certain I understand you: are you saying that you are now aware of how you have allowed others to control your thinking and actions by accepting these people as ‘authorities’ over you?"

"Yes," he responded.

"And now you are asking me to tell you how to stop living this way and take control over your own life? Can I make you a self-directed person?"

There was a long silence, during which one could almost see what was going on in this man’s mind. Finally he declared: "I guess this means that it’s up to each one of us, doesn’t it?"

"Do you need me to answer this question for you?", I asked.

"No," my student answered.

In the final analysis, I can do no more than respond with one of my favorite quotes, authored by one of the best minds in all of libertarian thinking, F.A. Harper, who said: "the man who knows what freedom means will find a way to be free."

PS If *I* want [choose] to understand the above, I need to go thru the entire process in my own mind. Others can provide me assistance--*just as Rand has for me*--but it is I that must volitionally CHOOSE (or evade) to address this issue (by raising MY level of awareness to a state of full rationality) and then, via MY reason and use of logic, I must rationally CHOOSE what the alternatives are and which are true and which are false.

WhiteIndian's picture

I post 2 scientific text titles, just the references to the information in my post, and you throw a conniption, implying I don't have an original thought, even though all of the post but the references titles were my own words.

Now you cut'n'past a wall'o'text.

I don't really care if you do that or not, but what's up with your fetish for contradiction?

AtlasAikido's picture

A lesson to be drawn? Don't drop the articles and links dear reader. I try to read those first and come to my own conclusions before addressing the comments, especially if there is a "troll"/"vandal" lurking.

At some point good people will be driven off because they will give up reading and sorting thru the non-sequiters.

Technical tweaks may also help. On Reddit, votes on your comments don't affect your karma score, but they do on And it does seem to influence people when they can see their reputation in the eyes of their peers drain away....

WhiteIndian's picture

Herding the faithful like a Soviet political officer. Think this. Do that. Identify enemies of the city-State. Da, comrade.

AtlasAikido's picture

It's not that hard to present the issues of axioms, self-ownership/property, the agora, (and every living thing) in two short paragraphs for all to see with a supporting link. I just did it (in the prior post). The only herding going on here has been from you know who!

Jim Davies's picture

Thank you, AtlasAikido, for your excellent observation, above, about trolls.

I have come very close to meeting trolls. I know a certain island, in a certain lake, which has a whole family of them, and if you land and explore they will hide behind big rocks and slip from one to another while you're not looking.

These are harmless creatures, though scary to small children unless held by the hand. I don't know whether they regard themselves as self-owning, or not, but I fancy they do. They are smart enough never, ever, to be pinned down to a straight answer to a straight question, and of course they never allow anyone actually to see them; they have an uncanny ability to vanish when on the cusp of being caught. The purpose of their lives is to have fun and make mischief, but these real ones never cause damage and they have a much keener sense of humor than their imitators. They pass their time, when human explorers are not around, by telling each other fables and fairy tales - of which they have an inexhaustible supply.

At you can see a photo I took of Troll Island, a few years ago. Of course, no troll is visible.

AtlasAikido's picture

Thank you, Jim Davies, I have enjoyed your work for many years.

One troll famously tried to infiltrate a mensa group; the results read like 100 trolls and one regular, it didn't have a chance - but it was stupid enough to persist until removed. Usually, yes they are harmless though fractured funny bones and occasional waves of nausea may have been reported.

I don't discount that it vanished and arrived here from Troll Island--drivel intact--at about the same time attention and criticism of Ron Paul, Austrian economics and libertarians surfaced.

Jim Davies's picture

Perhaps it did, Atlas Aikido, but my impression of the Troll Island family is that they are powerful but harmless. They do wear funny pointed headgear, or so it's widely rumored, but their mischief-making is just a sport. They are not known as drivelers, but do have some mysterious powers.

For example, you may have noticed that the island is dark, in the photo at - some may attribute that to a passing cloud but no! - those trolls have the ability to take a perfectly clear, bright scene and bring darkness and confusion at an instant's notice; in this case, just as my finger squeezed the camera shutter.

There's another example at - which shows a rock the size of a minivan, balanced delicately on three small stones in the middle of a forest not far from Troll Island. It's _possible_ that in some ancient era humans placed it there, but it would have been a major feat of engineering for no evident purpose; all the natives in those parts call it the "Troll Stone" and take it as proof that trolls exist.

Why did they do it? - just to show they could.