An Open Letter to Statists Everywhere


Mark Davis's picture

The comment I posted at FEE is copied here:

"This raises a whole series of related questions about how you see the nature of government and what you’ve learned, if anything, from our collective experiences with it. I see the ideal government as America’s founders did—in the words attributed to Washington, a “dangerous servant” employing legalized force for the purpose of preserving individual liberties. As such, it is charged with deterring violence and fraud and keeping itself small, limited, and efficient. How can you profess allegiance to peace and nonviolence and at the same time call for so much forcible redistribution?"

Indeed Mr. Read, what is the lesson here? When I saw the title I first thought that the article would be a principled stand against the state, but, alas, it is just a utilitarian argument against a bigger state. The state is a monopoly on the use of force, which is institutionalized violence. This barbaric system can not be used for benevolent purposes, as expressed well above, yet you then still fall back on the old canard that it must be used for “preserving individual liberties”. What?! Why? How? We need to set of a system based on tyranny to protect us from tyranny? What is left to “preserve”? Wishing and hoping that somehow, someday, the democratic process will result in high-minded, selfless leaders that won’t be corrupted getting elected to wield this “fire” is utopian, at best; I’d say hopelessly naïve. Throwing out the popular myths about the “Founding Fathers” reinforces my belief in the naivete of that position.

When society is organized based on the principles of non-aggression and equal freedom, voluntary institutions must evolve based on competing providers of security, dispute resolution and protection of property rights. Preaching to statists (that the free-market can take care of the needs of society when it comes to food, shelter, health care and all other goods and services) will fall on deaf ears for good reason as long as you insert the Big But (security and judicial services). Free-market principles apply to all goods and services, including “preserving individual liberties”. That’s why it’s a principle. Once you compromise it, all bets are off trying to put the Genie back in the bottle.

Samarami's picture

Mark, you certainly did Strike the Root in this comment. I wonder if Sheldon Richman slipped this old Read article in The Freeman to see how many were paying attention.

I enjoy Leonard Read as a writer. But he scuffed up the boot on this one.