The Voluntary Voice (Book Review #4)

Column by Alex R. Knight III.

Exclusive to STR

Most of us are familiar with scores of libertarian books written by movement luminaries or anthologies containing scores of them, both past and present. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so refreshing to see a volume go into print straight from the grassroots.

The Voluntary Voice: A Book by Individuals (Volume One, 2013), is a compendium of writings from a variety of libertarian perspectives that all exude what the title in part promises – individualism.

Much of the book reads like the other half of a philosophical discussion you might have on Facebook . . . as indeed its origin might suggest. On the downside, this means there are a number of typos, misspells, and such. Not to be overly patronizing (Yours Truly has a contribution contained within), but this doesn’t so much detract from its readability so much as give it a raw, organic feel. These are the trenches of the Voluntaryist Movement, not its vaunted upper echelons.

That said, the volume leads off with an indispensable outreach treatise by Vahram G. Diehl, “User’s Guide to Spreading the Philosophy of Liberty” – a tract that I would consider a grand summation of the starting point for any voluntaryist’s bid to win wider respect and recognition of the Non-Aggression Principle vs. State “Solutions.” This is followed by 15 further essays, an interesting short free-form poem -- “Seed of Deceit” by Megan Tonjes – along with six pages or so of quotations, again, not from big names, but foot soldiers. My favorite of these is from Chelsea Smith: “It’s entirely irrelevant that your intensions [sic] may be altruistic or your inclinations humanitarian. If you promote an agenda whereby government bestows alms upon some and that dole is funded through property taken by force from others, your scheme is not benevolent. It’s conspiratorial plunder.”

Well said. As is the following excerpt from Lindsay O’ Keefe’s “Good Ideas Require Time and Patience” at page 97: “While a Voluntaryist society has not been tried 100%, government has been tried in various forms all of which have abused and oppressed the individual. By asking for examples we are only thinking inside the box. In order to advance Voluntaryism, we must think about what can possibly exist instead of what already does exist.”

Not all contributors display such a tone of optimism, as witness James Brodie Baker’s essay, “The Power Gap.” Evincing somewhat of a more constitutionalist rather than anarchist attitude, Baker offers a far darker scenario. I for one – as in the opening paragraph of my last STR column – disagree strongly with the idea that the populace, armed initially with only semi-auto small arms, are ultimately powerless against the government leviathan. Nonetheless, Baker does make a case for America’s grim destiny if the principles of individual liberty are not embraced by a significant percentage of society before much longer. He writes at page 64: “It’s not a question of ‘who’ will be the dictator to rise, and it’s not a question of ‘if’ a dictator will rise. It’s a question of ‘when.’” Then, at page 67, after discussing the government’s arrogated powers of indefinite detention via the NDAA, “The Federal Government already has this kind of power, and we’re still discussing whether or not an American Hitler is going to rise? It’s abundantly clear at this point.”

Gloomy prognostication indeed. Perhaps counterpointed by teenager Tyler Giles’s “Relating Voluntaryism to Various Aspects of Life,” in which after a brief discourse on how he transitioned from nascent Republicanism to becoming a full-fledged Voluntaryist, Giles responds to a few FAQs that will be familiar to initiates (“Who’ll build the roads?” “Who would punish criminals?” “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you move to Somalia?”), and provides a very cogent case for homeschooling vs. government “public” schools, he sums up with a heartening salutation.

While stating openly on page 105 that, “A voluntary society will not be an easy goal to achieve. If it was, it would already exist,” in the following paragraph, which I quote here in full, he offers readers both a challenge – and the simple truth:

“I dream of a world without government, a world where people are free to do as they desire, a peaceful world. I know that if we all work together, it is possible [sic] create one. Together, we have the power to do anything. People should not fear the government, people should abolish it. ‘Rulers’ only have as much power as people tolerate, if we refuse to tolerate them, they will cease to rule. In order for this to work, we must remove ourselves from the system in every way possible. Finally, we must put aside our differences and support each other at all costs. If we can do this, it is not a question of if we will win, it is only a question of when.”

Good words and good thoughts. The Voluntary Voice is a first outing, and as such, has a few bugs to be worked out. Nonetheless, it is an excellent and accessible book with brevity enough for any newcomer. It makes a great handout to friends and acquaintances still sitting on the statist fence. It’s worth getting your hands on for that reason alone. And after reading it, like myself, I think you’ll be anxious even this soon to see what Volume 2 in 2014 is going to look like.

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 111

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales, including Tales from Dark 7.  He has also written and published poetry; non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues; and is former Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.  In 1998, he was awarded Activist of the Year for that organization.  He now lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University, and looks forward to living in a governmentless society of liberty.