The Question of Government
But first things first. If I am to tell you the intellectual trip that
led me to this grim conclusion, I might as well start from my point of
departure. The question that bugged me is a question that must bug most
rationally inclined libertarians at one point or another. And most libertarians
are probably the same kind of rational cerebral libertarian that I am (i.e.
NT in the Myers-Briggs typology(3)).
That question is: are there any rational justifications to the existence
of government? What can we say of existing explanations that serve as official
justifications? In other words: is government the answer to the problems
it claims to solve?
Of course, the answer that we libertarians have reached is that no, there
are no rational justifications for government(4),
its official explanations are bogus, and not only does it not solve the
problems it claims to solve, but it creates these problems to begin with.
This answer even defines us as libertarians. But this answer is not enough.
It is a mistake to close the debate there and think that we've solved the
problem – just our knowing that government is wrong in itself won't make
government go away. We must ask: if these explanations are fake, then what
is the real reason for people to believe in government? What is
the rational explanation for these irrational explanations(5)?
In other words: if government is the answer for some people, then what
was the question?
That's how I'll uncover the dark secret of government. Then, in Part Two,
I'll develop the theme of black magic: its principles; the principles of
white magic, its opposite; how black magic manifests itself, etc. I will
conclude in Part Three with the task that lies ahead for us.
Government: The Official Justifications
The most popular tentative justification of government in rational terms
is Public Goods theory and its variants, whether presented from a utilitarian
point of view (often with the help of its econometric toolbox), or from
a moral point of view: some activity is of a special nature or has a special
importance, and therefore must be managed by a central agency "in the interest
of the public." Without analyzing the details for the moment, suffice it
to say that all other justifications of government somehow boil down to
a more particular or more general case of the Public Goods argument. The
"public good" considered may be some form of service related to security
(police, justice, army), infrastructure (transportation, telecommunications,
education, health), "harmonization" in some matter (information, education,
language, industry standards), certification (identity, land registry,
verification of conformity to standards), etc.
Unhappily, many libertarians concede some "public goods" to the statists,
but then they are on a slippery slope, for there is no reason to stop the
public goods argument to any particular service. To paraphrase Emile Faguet:
minarchists are libertarians who do not have the courage to accept the
full consequences of their ideas; anarchists are uncompromising libertarians(6).
Indeed, using arguments of the "public goods" type, government can intervene
in just any domain – and once it does, it will make sure that the domain
is so messed up that, by the same argument, it will have to extend its
grasp over it until the domain is both completely under its control and
completely messed up. But of course, intervention is based on the premise
that government intervention is useful, to begin with – and this is precisely
the point that statists posit as a petition of principle; it is precisely
the point that needs to be disputed.
The Ad Hoc Fallacy in Any Collectivism
The arguments for the collectivization of some service into a state-managed
"public good" contains an intrinsic ad hoc fallacy: Why pick any
particular form of collectivization?
Indeed, why collectivize or not collectivize, say, "toilet paper?" Isn't
there but a more specific need to collectivize "green soft toilet paper
in 5-inch-wide rolls sold under a brand the name of which ends with an
S?" (After all, some company may very well have a dangerous monopoly on
these!) Or why isn't there instead a need to collectivize production of
all paper? Why collectivize at the scale of Great Britain? Why not collectivize
at a smaller scale, say Westminster or the block next door? Or at a larger
scale, say Northern Eurasia, or our quadrant of the Milky Way? And why
collectivize it on a geographical scale at all? Why not collectivize for
people whose name begin with an "R," or for people who wear black socks?
As for arbitrarily choosing the scale, we could as well argue that the
considered services are of such a particular nature or importance for an
individual that he shouldn't be deprived from the ability of choosing
how these services should be provided to him without being coerced. Or
if we are to take the opposite view, why stop? If collectivization of the
considered service is of such an importance that the necessity for everyone
to obey the same orders is an absolute priority that justifies coercion
and violence until everyone agrees, then we should stop all other activity,
withhold all human rights and wage world war until there is a world government
so at last everyone will be under the same rule. And why stop there
even? it is also urgent to send space ships to conquer the universe and
compel space aliens into accepting the same social laws as we have.
Collectivists implicitly accept that their argument is not universal: their
claim verily supposes the existence of an important counter-effect that
becomes preponderant and limits the applicability of their argument. What
are these counter-effects, their relevance, their limits? Only by identifying
and studying these counter-effects can the applicability of their argument
be established. In other words, their claim contains its very own contradiction,
which they dismiss by voluntary ignorance. Their call for governmental
coercion is based on a one-sided view of government. This is the case of
all statist justifications.
A Brief Review of Statist Justifications
Here is a brief review of the justifications given by statists to argue
for the necessity or utility of government. Other arguments for "public
goods" can be found to be fallacies as well(7).
For details, see footnotes.
Explaining Irrationality Rationally
Theory of "public goods" states that some activities intrinsically imply
and that government is a magic solution to managing these externalities
– whereas it is but a way to coercively concentrate externalities, from
lots of small, manageable ones, into the huge and overwhelming externality
of choosing a "good" government, which turns out to be completely unmanageable(9).
Theory version of "public goods" similarly considers government as an external
all-knowing benevolent God, that will help people choose the average best
scenario in interactions modelled after simple mathematical "games," –
whereas the government is actually made of people with their own self-interest,
so that if we are to correctly use Game Theory, we must consider
government officials as self-interested players among others; the only
particular characteristic of political action is that government agents
have the power of legal coercion, which in Game Theory translates into
their playing negative-sum games of their choice(10).
Impossibility To Exclude theories, many economists define "public goods"
as goods from which the exclusion of third parties is allegedly impossible.
They then introduce the notion that government is a magic solution to manage
these goods and has a "natural monopoly" on those goods. This "natural
monopoly" of course is nothing else than the allegedly impossible exclusion
of people who will not fit government-established rules, and the allocation
of shares of the allegedly "indivisible" common good(11).
version of "public good" agitates the straw man of a simultaneous failure
of all suppliers of some service to justify government intervention in
the market of said service. Now, the only way that there could be
a catastrophic simultaneous failure of all suppliers of said service is
that there be a single simultaneous management of all supplies by a de
jure monopoly – which is precisely what government introduces(12).
will theories, whether the democratic version of "Will of the People,"
the nationalist version about "Identity of the Nation," or the socialist
version about the "Good of Society," go on to suppose that individuals
must be coerced into joining a particular utopia. The utopia is assumed
to be good in theory, because people willingly adhere to it; yet
at the same time, it is admitted in practice that people do not
willingly adhere to said utopia, since they must be coerced into adhering
Window Fallacy supposes that there are some goods, "public goods," that
government can create out of the blue by its own sacred power of coercion.
Of course, when individuals not blessed by this sacred power dare to do
the same thing as government does to "create" those goods, they are immediately
spotted as criminals and treated as such – and rightly so(14).
Fallacy supposes that man is too evil (or too "something") to govern himself
and must be confided to the government – but the government itself is made
of men who are no less evil (or less "something") than the rest of mankind.
Government is not determined by an external superior force, but by men
among others. Actually, its coercive power is of a corrupting nature that
will make government officials evil rather than good, whether by changing
them or by selecting them(15).
Fallacy is a particular misconception often used together with the Moral
Fallacy, to justify the necessity of government: it affirms that people
are naturally egoistic, and that there needs be an external force to make
them behave in altruistic ways in spite of themselves, so that they may
survive. This fallacy once again supposes that government is moved by an
external force outside of the public, whereby statesmen and their henchmen
would be more altruistic and less egoistic than the citizens. But it also
supposes that altruism is in opposition with egoism – which is false. And
which is also obviously false, that it is by appeal to people's egoist
interest that the self-proclaimed altruists try to convince people to follow
them in their statist schemes(16).
Interest" Fallacy combines the Moral Fallacy with the Catastrophe-Prevention
Fallacy: it supposes that only government can take into account the long-term
interests of people. Indeed, only people with property rights truly secured
on the long term can and will commit to coherent long-term investments.
Now governments are never secure in their remaining in power, unless they
may use extreme oppression, which both makes obvious their lack of benevolence
and spends the resources necessary for long-term investment(17).
Uniformity Fallacy assumes that uniformity in some matters is good in itself,
and is a "public good" such that common government regulations over as
large a territory as possible is the only or best way to achieve the desired
uniformity in these matters. However, uniformity is not always good in
itself; coercion by governments is neither the only way nor the best way
to enforce standards; moreover the domains that standards will optimally
regulate are seldom either large or territorial; and most importantly,
a system of coercion hampers the very discovery of which better
standards should be commonly adopted and enforced, because it destroys
the points of comparison, neglects most opinions save that of the authority
and its lobbyists, and prevents dynamic adjustment to varying and evolving
Opinions And Interests
It is one thing to know that statist arguments are logical fallacies, but
it is quite another thing to understand why and how these fallacies arise.
What are the mechanisms of thought that lead to developing this kind of
beliefs and this kind of justifications? How come so many people take it
for granted that government can magically solve any and all problems that
they fear or encounter?
A common way to answer these questions is to analyze the popularity of
these fallacious opinions in terms of the interests of the people who spread
them and who accept them(19).
From this perspective, these people will better prosper who spread or accept
opinions from the respective popularity or displayed acceptance of which
they derive higher marginal benefits and lower marginal costs(20).
This point of view has been successfully used to develop Public Choice
Theory, that explains the underlying mechanisms of political decision in
democracies. It is a very important tool to understand the strength of
the forces that underlie oppression and plunder throughout the world.
« The battle for freedom is not a battle between people, it is a
battle between ideas. Inasmuch as the ideas that currently allow for exploitation
to exist are in widespread acceptance, the actual potential for oppression
remains just as strong. It is the voluntary servitude, as La Boétie
called it, the acceptance of power, that must be fought. »
These forces are such that any time there is a potential for exploitation,
someone will come and use this potential to his profit. And the potential
in this case is the acceptance by people of their being exploited(21):
any time people have beliefs that make them willing to be exploited, then
political entrepreneurs will rush to turn this opportunity into actual
exploitation. Note that this is another reason why government subsidies
are never useful and can always be counted as almost pure consumption:
because any promise of potential exploitation generates lobbying toward
collecting (and keeping) the subsidies, up to the amount when the marginal
gain (subsidy minus lobbying cost) equals the normal return on investment
in other industries(22).
People specializing in "political entrepreneurship" will discover or create
new untapped resources that they will exploit, all the while preserving
and intensifying the existing exploitation(23).
The conclusion of this analysis is that the battle for freedom is not a
battle between people, it is a battle between ideas. Inasmuch as the ideas
that currently allow for exploitation to exist are in widespread acceptance,
the actual potential for oppression remains just as strong, and fighting
current oppressors and abolishing current forms of oppression will only
lead to different oppressors taking control and instituting new forms of
oppression. It is the voluntary servitude, as La Boétie called it,
the acceptance of power, that must be fought.
Now, as far as suggesting ways to fight fallacies, this approach does not
offer very encouraging answers; it certainly gives general recipes for
how to lobby or not to lobby, but such advice is worthy whether you're
lobbying for or against liberty, and it seems that the enemies of liberty
already have a headlong advance at levying such techniques(24).
If we are to go further and actually fight these fallacies, if we are to
choose actions that will better the statist propaganda, then we have to
take an approach that is qualitative rather than merely quantitative. Why
are these fallacies surviving, rather than other fallacies? If these
fallacies were successfully dispelled, would exploitation be vanquished,
or would the interests at stake just spawn different fallacies to replace
them, with exploitation remaining just as intensive? Is there something
in these fallacies that can be traced as the Evil to be struck, rather
than the superficial shapes that it can replace at will when they are defeated?
To find out, we must analyze the common patterns of thought behind the
fallacies used to justify government.
Patterns In Irrationality
A first obvious common point in all the justifications for government:
they all suppose that government somehow provides some kind of goods for
free, without any costly counterpart. The existence of this pattern among
statists is not anything new; we libertarians even have a mantra to dispel
this pattern: TANSTAAFL(25).
However, what is remarkable is that all statist justifications include
this pattern, albeit sometimes in a less than obvious way. The pattern
is most visible in the trivial cases, where the goods to be provided for
free are the subsidies that are not counted as taxes. In more subtle cases,
the pattern is hidden behind the increased complexity of the situation,
but it's still there: for instance, government is supposed to bring the
coordination of people toward some common good for free. Ultimately, what
government is supposed to bring is some kind of a warranty that evil won't
happen, some special sense of security. But in all cases, government is
supposed to conjure something out of thin air(26):
The only thing supposedly required for government to grant us its blessings
is to demand them by petitioning it with enough faith.
A second pattern that can be found to accompany the first pattern is that
government is seen as an external entity, something outside of society
and above it. And this divine nature is precisely what allows it to create
and dispense goods, services, trust or whatever, at no cost. This divine
nature can be put clearly in evidence through the awe of people
before the visible power of the State: "How could mere individuals do it?"
will they wonder, when it is suggested that this or that government monopoly
should be abolished. Yet, government monopoly or no government monopoly,
it is always "mere" individuals doing things! Of course it is, and it cannot
be otherwise. Politicians and government officers are nothing more than
other individuals; actually, experience as well as theory shows that they
are usually less than other individuals – because they are irresponsible.
Government doesn't pour any pixie dust on its masters and servants, it
doesn't endow them with any magic power. Actually, government does
grant them a special ability that normal individuals don't have – and this
ability is indeed what characterizes it: it is the ability to recourse
to legal coercion against those who refuse to obey. The God that statists
worship is Brute Force. So, translated in real terms, without the veil
of magic, the question that those awed people wonder about really is: "How
could this be achieved without coercion?" And the answer is then obviously:
"With less suffering."(27)
As we progress toward the dark secret behind statism, we find a third common
pattern among justifications for government: they all introduce a false
tradeoff between liberty and some good, where government is supposed to
be the divine entity with which trade happens. Divine, because it is clear
to everyone, including the statists, that no human force could propose
such a deal(28).
But statists either ignore human behavior, or classify the State out of
it – to them, Government is a God, a superior collectivist entity with
which to trade (where's my invoice?(29)).
The way they evade the crucial question: "Who warranties the warrant?"(30)
is by pushing it back behind a veil of ignorance and blind faith. Once
again, some supernatural force is meant to create trust out of nowhere,
for free. Magic mantras, sacred texts with magic power, such as constitutions(31),
the complex rituals and formal apparatus of the State and its administration,
all contribute to lure people into attributing a divine aura to the State.
Finally, a common point between all of these fallacies is that all their
arguments contain dynamically self-destructing notions. That is, they imply
the dynamic opposite of the axioms used to justify them. They rely on premises
the effects of which lead to the quick disappearance of the premises. This
particular kind of contradiction shows that underlying these fallacies
is a way of thinking that ignores the dynamics of human action through
causation and focuses on static assessments about society using correlations.
Such dynamic contradictions are based on some kind of static reasoning
that ignores the very basics of dynamic human behavior – that ignores the
very nature of man. This makes it paradoxical that statists often accuse
libertarians of being utopian and unrealistic and ignorant of human nature,
whereas it is precisely the statists who deserve such comments! But this
kind of paradox is frequent with statists.
All in all, the justifications for statism are not a collection of isolated
mistakes; they stem from a systematic line of flawed reasoning, from a
strong paradigm, from a view of the world.
Government: The Unofficial Justification
From our study of them, it appears that all the justifications of the State
ultimately boil down to this: religious worship of the State as an almighty
supernatural authority. The State is the idol of a self-denying pagan
cult. Belief in such nonsense would be considered a mental disease, if
it were not so common. And hopefully, in a not so far away future, it will
indeed be considered as a mental pandemic, an infantile disease that swept
away the world at a time when mankind was still very young. However, for
the time being, it is still up to us to devise a cure – and to be able
to do so, we must first understand the disease, how it survives, how it
propagates. We must investigate the psychological mechanisms underlying
such a belief system, identify the weaknesses of the mind through which
this parasite belief enters people's mind.
Governments are assuming undue authority. Thus, inasmuch as the structure
of human feelings is a common genetic heritage, any strong and coherent
tendency in a lot of people to believe in government has an explanation
in terms of the usurpation of some natural sentiment of submission to authority.
Natural sources of authority are not many: parents have some authority
on their children, inasmuch as they provide for them; friends give
their opinions to be taken into account inasmuch as their alliance is to
be preserved; chiefs lead people in short times of emergency (war, fire,
natural disaster, etc.); elders or great achievers have authority on laymen,
inasmuch as their wisdom is acknowledged. In evolutionary time scales,
these probably constitute as much complexity as could make way into the
innate structure of the human mind(32).
The first kind of natural authority in human life is parenting. And the
fallacies used as justification for government are fallacies of parenting
indeed – they ride on the primitive mental mechanisms by which young infants
relate to their parents. To a young child, the parents appear as external
superior entities that give one goods for free, if only one moans and cries,
without one having to think about the ins and outs of the production of
the goods thus bestowed. Parents are understood as well-meaning, having
with their children a relationship of mutual love; young infants have an
absolute trust in their parents(33).
Finally, it is almost universally accepted that parents have an authority
to decide for their children, and even to punish them in certain cases
– though the precise limits of parental authority are debatable(34).
There is no doubt that governments pretend to assume the role of parents.
In autocracies at all times, the personal tyrant has always posed as Father
of the Nation(35),
Big Brother, or something similar(36).
In countries where power is more diluted, no single statesman might dare
claim such a pompous title – though it is not uncommon that powerful and
lasting politicians be given by journalists both flattering and joking
a surname in the same vein(37);
but even in these countries, government as a whole nonetheless claims the
role and powers devolved to parental care: the mythology of government
as a parent, or of the Nation as a parent of which government is the spokesman
is still very present in the public discourse about government. This is
revealed by the ease with which are generated and accepted such common
symbols as Uncle Sam or the motherly personification of various
nations. And it is not uncommon, when discussing with statists, that they
will explicitly appeal to the notion that government fulfills the role
of parent with respect to citizens, who are maintained within the role
of irresponsible children.
Now, the statist disease doesn't just substitute government for parents:
it attempts to confer government authority from all possible sources. Democracy,
the concept of Nation, and the notion of "Social Contract," are tricks
for the State to assume the authority of a voluntary alliance of friends,
although there lacks the basic premise that would give validity and a friendly
nature to such an alliance, namely its voluntary nature – in other words,
the liberty to enter it or refrain from entering it, and even exit it.
Governments assume the role of a chief in times of emergency. They begin
by excluding any competition; then they reinforce their power by creating
a permanent climate of emergency. The failings of governments are thus
instrumental to their self-preservation. Finally, governments, through
the heavy subsidy of whichever alleged "scientists," "artists" and "experts"
support their authority, thereby claim the endorsement of human wisdom
for their edicts.
Even if all these roles were legitimately assumed, they wouldn't endow
governments with any of the political rights they claim: to enslave citizens
and non-citizens part-time, to rob and imprison those who won't cooperate,
to kill and torture those who resist – and most importantly, to make laws.
Law-making is the godly power to unilaterally define and redefine the rules
that relate governments to people under their dominion, and that relate
these people to each other. Parents, friends, wise men, and even chiefs,
have none of these prerogatives upon those who voluntarily accept their
authorities, not to talk about those who decline their authorities. Through
all these tricks of emotional fraud, governments are really trying to impersonate
God – the supreme authority(38).
So as to achieve its emotional and intellectual fraud, the statist meme(39)
does much more than just divert existing emotions from their rightful targets:
it severely distorts the way infected people view the world, to begin with.
It must bypass the natural defense system of the human mind, its immunity
system: reason, the bullshit detector. And it must take constantly renewed
measures to keep this defense system disabled(40).
Yet at the same time, it cannot simply destroy all human understanding,
otherwise infected humans would not survive long enough to be infected
and propagate the meme(41).
The successful parasite must selectively destroy understanding; it must
condition the application of its fallacious content so it doesn't prevent
basic surviving skills; it must leave enough of the mind alive and well
so as to nurture and transmit the illness(42).
This circumvention and selective destruction of the immunity system is
the essence of the statist disease, as of all diseases. It is the fundamental
point about the statist disease, the source that enables all errors. It
is the flaw through which the disease can invade the whole of a human's
understanding of society and the universe. It is the cause that fatally
leads to terrible consequences. It is the cornerstone to all intellectual
and emotional frauds; it is the key that justifies all massive criminal
behavior. Only by identifying this flaw can we build new defenses and find
a cure. Therefore, we must study more deeply the immunity-altering mechanism
of this mental disease; we must fully analyze the ur-Evil of this statist
meme that infects human minds. And to begin with, we must give this Evil
its name: Black Magic.
Two / Part Three
This article is based upon articles previously published in French: L'étatisme,
forme moderne de la magie noire (in QL no
108), and Magie
blanche contre magie noire (the latter now also available in English
Magic vs Black Magic). >1>
Actually, I realized after writing this that this light is not that new.
Indeed, Karl Hess briefly mentions magic thinking as the force behind politics
in the conclusion of his 1969 article The
Death of Politics: "... politics is just another form of
residual magic in our culture – a belief that somehow things come from
nothing; that things may be given to some without first taking them from
others; that all the tools of man's survival are his by accident or divine
right and not by pure and simple inventiveness and work."
himself in the first
chapter of his Economic Harmonies, reckons that artificial organization
is based on deceptions that falsely appeal to the religious instinct of
man. Ludwig von Mises also discusses Statolatry – state-worship – in his
works about socialism.
good article about Magic Thinking in general is Magic,
by Bill Whittle. >2>
About libertarianism and psychological characters, see my previous speech
at the April 2002 Libertarian International Conference: Reason
And Passion: How To Be A Convincing Libertarian. >3>
A common confusion at this point is to fail to distinguish "government"
as a monopoly of force from "government" as an organization of force. In
this article, we are using the word "government" in the first meaning,
that of a monopoly of force. "Government" in the second meaning, that is,
organization of force, always exists, just like "the market" always exists;
it may be simple or complex, it may be structured in a variety of ways,
but there is no question of being "for" or "against" it; the question is
about individuals being free or subjected, about there being monopolies
and privileges, or there being a free market. Libertarians support freedom,
in the way that force is organized just like in all other matters. On this
topic, read for instance Revisiting
Anarchism and Government by Tibor R. Machan. >4>
As Claude Bernard wrote, "Il ne suffit pas de dire: 'je me suis trompé';
il faut dire comment on s'est trompé." – It isn't enough to say:
"I was mistaken"; one must say how one was mistaken. >5>
The original quote in French is from his intellectual
biography of Benjamin Constant: "Un libéral systématique
est un anarchiste qui n'a pas tout le courage de son opinion; un anarchiste
est un libéral intransigeant." >6>
See also Fallacies
in the Theories of the Emergence of the State by Bertrand Lemennicier.
In economics, an externality is the side-effect of an action that concerns
third parties not involved in the action. The externality is said to be
negative if the effect is detrimental to the third parties, and positive
if the effect is beneficial to the third parties. >8>
The idea that externalities were not solved by government but concentrated,
I found first explicitly stated in Bryan Caplan's Anarchism
Theory FAQ. Actually, governments create new externalities.
Indeed, an externality always corresponds to either the lack of definition
of a formal property right, or to the lack of enforcement of an existing
property right, or to the contradictory enforcement of overlapping property
rights. In as much as governments coercively impose their monopoly on the
definition and enforcement of new and old property rights, they are the
cause of any lasting externality. Governments prevent the use of natural
mechanisms by which property rights emerge and externalities disappear:
homesteading and the common law. Whenever government defines a rights protection
policy or lack thereof, it makes the protection services stray away from
what market forces would lead to, overprotecting some properties, and underprotecting
other properties. It thus creates monopolies and hidden protectionist subsidies
to the overprotected privileged ones, and at the same time creates the
Tragedy of the Commons and a hidden taxation to the underprotected victims
of its policies – in both cases, it generates a dynamics of plunder, whereby
people are incited to lobby for ever more protection, all the while being
discouraged from respecting underprotected properties, so that these underprotected
properties will be more and more overexploited.
for the way externalities are treated by governments, it is remarkable
that in democracies, protectionist laws against political competition from
emerging parties is welcomed as a way to secure that the will of the people
will prevail, and to guarantee the power of the people against the power
of money and lobbying. Actually, political protectionism increases the
power of the established parties over the people, and replaces public campaigning
based on the interest of the people with private lobbying based on the
interests of the established politicians and of those who can have them
vote protectionist laws in their interest (or have to pay racket protection
to the politicians for the politicians not to vote laws against their interest).
What the collectivists are actually doing is to replace private people
responsibly launching public advertisement campaigns with shadow agencies
lobbying political powers that be, and with irresponsible political parties
directing propaganda at the public. Now, private advertisers can be sued
for fraud if they breach their promises; they must fund their campaign
on the expected marginal increase in the revenues of their own legitimate
activity. On the contrary, the political advertisers constantly lie; they
fund their campaign with taxes levied on the population and with the sale
of protectionist favors to various political lobbyists. Thus once again,
politics does not remove the "problems" of a free society, but actually
concentrates them and amplifies them. >9>
In Game Theory, simple mathematical "games" such as the prisoner's dilemma
or the "chicken" race, model situations where there is a potential benefit
for players in finding a way to coordinate their action. All the "theorems"
about such games merely restate in formal terms the informal hypotheses
that were put in the model. It certainly does not follow that government
is the right way to achieve this coordination – though such is precisely
the non sequitur claim of statists. Actually, it is possible to
apply Game Theory to compare coordination through government coercion with
coordination through market competition; and this exercise in Game Theory
will easily show how dreadful the effects of government intervention are.
is not something that magically happens, without cost, by divine intervention,
just because the playing parties agree that coordination would be a good
thing if it happened. And if it did, no coordinator would be required to
begin with. Coordination is thus a service, and this service is worth whatever
benefit the coordinated players get that they would not get if left uncoordinated.
There remains to determine the most cost-effective way to achieve this
coordination – assuming there exists such a cost-effective way.
a free market, the playing parties are free to choose a coordinator. Their
interest will thus be to find a coordinator that will provide the best
value for his cost. If there exists a service provider that can indeed
bring coordination at a cost less than what coordination is worth, then
the interests of all concerned will converge toward this coordination happening.
If the costs of enforcing coordination actually overwhelm the benefits
of this coordination, then the interests of all concerned will converge
toward this coordination not happening. All in all, the free market, i.e.
the freedom for the players to choose who will coordinate if anyone, ensures
that coordination will happen if it is good, at the best cost.
us now consider the case of government as a coordinator. Just like any
private service provider – for government is made of private individuals,
just like any institution – government is a player that will maximize its
interests. The only thing that distinguishes government from a free market
coordinator is that government detains the means of coercion, with which
it can exclude or discourage any competing service providers. Thus, in
equilibrium, a government will monopolize the coordination of a game; it
will then reap most benefits of the game, leaving the players with just
what it takes for them to make the game profitable. In an opt-in situation,
where people have the choice to either call for government coordination
or relinquish coordination, the government will leave to the players barely
more profits than the ambient marginal interest rate (with respect to stakes
invested in the game) – and that only if this cooperation proves profitable
to all concerned despite the monopoly cost of government. Things are much
worse, in an opt-out situation, where a government can coerce people into
accepting its protection services for some pattern of services. In such
situation, government will not only reap all the benefits of coordination,
but will also go further and impose a surcharge that makes players
worse off than if they had not played. This surcharge will indeed increase
until it reaches the normal interest rate for the transaction costs of
opting out of government intervention (by emigrating, going into civil
disobedience, hiding into clandestinity, lobbying the established powers
to promote one's interest, seizing political power democratically, making
a revolution, or whatever). And the more powerful the government, the higher
both this cost and the interest rate.
the end, what Game Theory proves – if that was needed at all – is that
coercive power benefits whoever holds it to the detriment of whoever endures
it – which isn't exactly big news. Actually, game theory is but a way to
formalize things in mathematical terms, but can say nothing less and nothing
more than could be said without it. The same common sense reasoning that
is required to see how the qualitative mathematical formalism does or does
not map to reality can be used directly to reason about reality, without
the intermediate mathematical jargon. As usual, mathematics is used in
a pseudo-scientific way to inspire awe to people who are presented with
complex-looking models. This awe is used to hide the fact that the very
same old fallacies are being presented but with a different vocabulary.
Oh, and by the way, as far as argument by authority goes, I am a mathematician
born and raised in a family of mathematicians. >10>
Now, the very notion of the government allocating splits of the common
good, and excluding people from it are contradictory to the premises that
were meant to justify government intervention to begin with. The allocation
of quotas, the rationing, the toll booths, etc., set up by the government
prove that the "common good" was not indivisible after all. The exclusion
measures taken by the government, such as immigration control or compulsory
birth control, or the surveillance of land by armed forces, prove that
exclusion from the goods is possible. All the alleged impossibilities about
exclusion are but bad excuses to justify conferring on the government a
monopoly on the actually possible power of exclusion.
may be that exclusion is indeed impossible without the use of armed force,
but the only reason why using it seems impossible without government is
because the premise that government should have a monopoly on the use of
armed force was silently posited, from the outset, in a hugely circular
reasoning: government should have a monopoly on some goods, because it
has the monopoly of force – an original monopoly admitted as necessary
without justification. Once again, the government is supposed to be made
of superior people, or to have some magic pixie dust, that enables it to
do what is admitted to be impossible to mere mortals. And once again, we
find that in the end, the magic pixie dust is nothing but the power of
as nicely remarked by Pascal Salin, having the monopoly to decide who to
accept or to exclude with regard to the use of some good is by definition
a property right on said good; what governments actually claim under false
pretense is thus the expropriation of property from its legitimate owners,
to confer it to an illegitimate political body. The claims of impossibility
are just a trick of prestidigitation, and it is not externalities that
have been shifted and concentrated: it is actually property rights that
have been stolen and concentrated into the hands of the politically strong
of the moment. >11>
The fallacious argument goes that when there is an extraordinary catastrophe
in a particular field, then government intervention is necessary to save
that field, at least until the issue clears up, and then to intervene permanently
to prevent further catastrophes. But how does legal coercion actually help
with saving people and helping them recovering their situation? If government
already exists and has special powers of clairvoyance, why didn't it prevent
the previous catastrophe, to begin with? If it couldn't prevent it, why
would it be able to better avoid the next one? Finally, if some occasional
catastrophes in the private sector justify taking management out of the
hands of private people, don't the permanent catastrophes in the public
sector justify taking management out of the hands of government? And in
whose hands should things then be? The hands of a super-government? The
hands of God?
variant of the argument says that it is their special importance to the
collectivity (national independence, national self-sustenance and some
such), that make it necessary to manage some goods collectively by fear
of mismanagement. But by considering any good or service collectively,
rather than individually, just everything can be of "national importance."
Rothbard showed in Power
and Market, that this was a fallacy of average collective choice
vs marginal individual choice: If there were suddenly no more light
bulbs, no more toilet paper, no more wheat, or no more hairdressers, no
more bridge operators, no more toilet cleansers, then the nation would
be in a sorry state indeed. But that doesn't mean we have to collectivize
any of these operations. Indeed, the sudden disappearance of these goods
or services doesn't correspond to any imaginable real-life event in the
free market. As long as each patron of each of these activities is ready
to pay a marginally profitable price for a marginal increment of the activity
– i.e. as long as the activity is worth it at all –, then there will be
people ready to provide the service for a profit. On the contrary, the
only way that such operations could be put collectively in danger is precisely
by their being collectively managed, so that bad decisions by the central
administrator can ruin the whole industry. >12>
For instance, in democracies, "the people" is to be coerced to do what
it is alleged to want to do but is blatantly admitted to not want at all,
to begin with (or else, it wouldn't need to be coerced). Indeed, if, say,
50.1% of the population wanted to fund this or that insurance, charity,
research project, army, etc. then there's no doubt that said insurance,
charity, research project, army, etc., will be abundantly funded, without
the need for coercion. In a free society, each of the "public" goods that
a majority of the people want to fund, and even those goods that only a
minority wants to fund, will be funded, by people who care, confiding
their money to people that they – caring people – deem able to best
provide these goods. That is, each "public good," charity, or whatever,
will be controlled by those responsible people who are interested in it.
In contrast, in a democracy, these goods are actually controlled by a class
of politicians and public administrators, who are not checked by people
who do care, but by a vast mass of people who don't care; most people are
disinterested in any particular "public good" or charity, and won't vote
for one of the two main parties (those who have a chance of forming a government)
on the basis of any particular issue. Finally, the knowledge that they
will have to pay for something on which they have little control anyway
makes them cease to care: they are made irresponsible, deprived from any
will, by the very system that claims legitimacy from their responsibility
and their will.
a nation or collective can be good only in as much as people gladly identify
with it, and coercing them into some policies will only make them less
prone to do so: though they may submit to the compulsory public role-play
of abstract patriotism, they will actually retreat to their personal interest,
and narrow down their ties to the actual people of nearby or larger neighborhood.
Compulsory forms of nationalism and collectivism only replace genuine concrete
love of one's neighbor by hypocritical appearance of love of an abstract
entity, that only hides fear of the Power, and indifference or hatred toward
other people. >13>
Some example of deeds which make this double standard obvious: stopping
people at arbitrary points along roads, forcing them to humiliate themselves,
and levying a "fee" on riches they carry; forging currency that claims
to be backed on riches one owns but isn't really; compelling people into
using such currency; threatening to rob, detain or kill people who do things
that displease one, and enforcing one's threats if they do not abide by
one's wishes; offering people "offers they cannot refuse" to sell them
service they don't want, with a non-satisfying quality, at a price they
can't negociate; forcing people to spend their money, their lives, etc.,
in a war they don't want, waged in a way of which they disapprove. The
only difference between these criminals and government agents is the official
seal, this magic pixie dust that creates legitimacy when it is sprinkled
over the worst crimes, including mass killings. Ambrose Bierce, in his
Devil's Dictionary, once characterized this superstition in the
case of democracy: Majority, n.: That quality that distinguishes
a crime from a law.
this double-standard is the fallacy of What
Is Seen And What Is Not Seen: the statists will count only the
"positive effects" of intervention on people who benefit from it and conspicuously
forget to count the negative effects on people who suffer from it – because
the benefits are concentrated, whereas the cost is spread. Although the
fallacy is most often used in this crude form, when confronted to its substance,
statists will go a long way toward sweeping their fallacy behind the veil
instance, if faced with the absurdity of their broken window argument,
they will quickly retreat toward a "differential" version of it. In this
differential version, they acknowledge that a price has to be paid for
a service, but then promptly assert that irresponsible government officials
endowed with coercive power can somehow take better decisions than responsible
citizens. (probably thanks to some magic moral purification that is brought
by their coercive power). The underlying argument is still the very same
magic creation of riches through coercive destruction – but it has been
pushed back behind a thickening veil of complexity. And of course, when
complexity makes arguments either way inconclusive, they will victoriously
claim that their case was established, by petition of principle.
take the fallacy one step further: when faced with sufficient evidence
(which they will never be honest enough to be the first to bring forward),
they will not deny that their equations are utter nonsense when applied
to meaningful, understandable, quantities. They will just evade it by claiming
that their equations should only be applied to special "aggregate" measurements
blessed as such by keynesian economists. In a word, they claim to be high-priests
of a religion the tenets of which are obviously absurd when inspected,
but they claim a monopoly on interpreting their magical equations, and
evade criticism by complexifying the question. >14>
Indeed, the very corrupting nature of power will attract to it people who
do not have the scruples to refrain from using it, and drive even the honest
leaders into being self-righteous aristocratic tyrants. This process was
remarkably described by Friedrich A. Hayek in his excellent book The
Road to Serfdom. Meanwhile, coercion will spread not only suffering,
but also physical and mental apathy, moral and psychological retreat, among
those who are deprived from the choice of their life, plus hypocrisy and
servility when they are in contact with their masters and their master's
are often unduly reproached to worship a myth of the good savage – quite
on the contrary, it is statists who worship the myth of the good statesman.
To quote Edward Abbey: "Anarchism is founded on the observation that since
few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough
to rule others." Actually, it is a common pattern that statists will reproach
to libertarians what is actually a blatant failure of their own way of
Egoism, self-care, is not opposite to altruism, care for others. Indeed,
care for others can mean nothing but support for these other people's own
self-care; altruism thus verily presupposes, respects and supports egoism
in other people. Moreover, the foundational basis for altruist behavior
can be but the egoist self-satisfaction derived from cooperating with others.
Some forms of cooperation may appear as "self-less" to external observers
who neglect to take psychology into account; but to a consistent utilitarian,
even the most "self-less" attitudes are really egoistic once non-material
gratifications are taken into account (and ultimately, all gratifications
are psychological, not material).
this fallacy is based on a deep misunderstanding of utilitarianism. This
misunderstanding tries to separate the altruism in people from their "self-interest,"
and pretends that only government can take advantage of this altruism and
limit the "evilness" of self-interest. But in a proper utilitarian setting
(as opposed to the caricatures of it used by statist economists and philosophers),
"self-interest" will already account for the interactions with other people.
For a given personal "utility," one doesn't want either other people's
utility or disutility in addition to it; possible love and hate are already
included in personal utility functions; utility already includes the physical
and psychological benefits from cooperation with others and other "altruist"
behavior. The correct utilitarian stance is one of mutualism, where
people can, will, actually did, do, and will continue to adopt rules of
cooperative conducts out of their own self-interest. Such fallacies and
their debunking have all been well treated by Henry Hazlitt in his book:
Foundations of Morality, that extracts the quintessence of the
achievements of classical anglo-saxon moralists, and corrects their mistakes.
altruism, in its mutualistic form, is already included in personal self-interest.
Not only cannot government increase total utility by magically unleashing
a secret source of altruism in people; but government can and will only
act in an altruist way if it is actually controlled by the altruist tendency
in people, which must preexist any altruism by government. Government is
not a superhuman source of altruism, but can only give back the human altruism
that was successfully put into it. And then again, nothing warranties that
this altruism rather than antagonism will dominate the coercitive apparatus
of the state. On the contrary, by concentrating coercive power, government
is a great incentive for people without scruples to strive toward seizing
power, whereas really altruistic people won't partake in the struggle for
Thus, contrary to the implicit prejudice behind this fallacy, governments
only ever manage things in the short run. Indeed, the horizon of foresight
of any political party is the next elective mandate. If ever one politician
wanted to see further than the rest, his party would soon remind him of
his duties toward it; political parties that do not force politicians to
think in the short run get quickly wiped out of significance by parties
that do; politicians without a political party simply don't get elected.
And since even "good" political parties can't remain in power very long,
even if their policies are oriented toward the long term, these policies
will be changed by the next government. In conclusion, politics mean that
whatever is politically managed will be led by short-term demagoguery.
administrations, inasmuch as they last longer than governments, may act
on the long term – but then, unchecked by any "democratic control," and
moved around by governmental directives as far as their official role is
concerned, the only consistent direction in which they act is the interest
of the administration members themselves: excessive wages and outrageous
"work conditions," protectionist measures against change or competition
either internal or external, political power given to official labor unions,
continuous extension of the "duties" (i.e. powers) of the administration,
etc. All that to the detriment of the citizens being "served" what they
don't want, of the taxpayers having to fund an administration they don't
like, of the potential competitors and innovators, forced to bankruptcy
or prevented from existing (if external) or compelled into following the
hierarchically-imposed way (if internal) – and even of most members of
the administration, who have to bear with a rigid hierarchy that makes
them as hapless as useless.
real force toward positive long-term planning has always been private interest
of foresighted people. Private pension funds typically consider interests
over decades (and it is typical that collectivists will be angry at pension
funds, because they are precisely the way by which freedom turns the salarymen
into the greatest capitalist force in the world, instead of the slaves
that they collectivists want workers to remain). Banks, despite their being
made largely irresponsible by the statist central banking system, also
typically invest with decades of foresight, and used to invest with one
hundred years of planning. Established families typically invested several
centuries in advance, before the governments completely destroyed the incentives:
the estate tax destroyed long-term family planning for physical property,
and the state education destroyed it for intellectual tradition.
For instance, let us consider the limits to the jurisdiction of a government.
Statists will argue that it is the number of persons to which laws apply
that makes the effectiveness of laws and limits their utility; they then
deduce that uniformity is good, that governments are the only good way
to achieve uniformity, and that governments must be as large as possible.
they suppose that laws are forcibly good – whereas laws may be bad. But,
let us suppose that for some reason, some given laws are to be considered
as good. Now, they are not such an absolute good that everything must be
sacrificed to them, including the life of every single man, woman and child
on earth. This good is comparable to other goods, and the costs involved
in achieving this good are comparable to the costs involved in achieving
other goods. Therefore, this good is not sacred, and choosing whether to
pursue it or not, and in which way, is but one of the moral choices that
are part of every man's life. Whether it is more or less urgent than other
goals is a question to be examined. And another question worthy of simultaneous
examination is the means to achieving this good.
special mention must be made of the notion of uniformity that is often
invoked by statists at this point. Uniformity is not good per se. A bad
law uniformly enforced on the whole wide world is extremely bad. A change
toward uniformity can be bad, if it comes from worsening the law at some
place to make it conform to widely accepted bad law. A change toward disuniformity
can be good, if it means better law somewhere freeing some people from
universal slavery. Uniformity doesn't directly matter; it is not a goal
worthy of pursuit, and not even a proxy for a goal worthy of pursuit. Similarly,
a change toward equality by the dissemination of poverty is bad, whereas
a change toward inequality by the creation of riches is good.
even though some laws may be good, this does not justify the use of coercion
to impose them upon other people. Indeed, the use of governmental coercion
supposes that an evil much larger than the good being spread is at work
behind the coercion – and this unleashed evil is prone to enforcing evil
laws and corrupting even good laws, rather than to promoting good laws.
The extension of the jurisdiction of good laws and good institutions is
good; but in theory as well as in practice, the only laws and institutions
the jurisdiction of which coercion can extend are those that are so bad
that people won't voluntarily support them.
in all, even though sometimes, widely accepted good laws may be good, statists
still fail to make any point considering either the goodness of the particular
laws they wish to promote, or the relative desirability of extending the
acceptance of these laws, or the means of extending this acceptance, or
the process by which governmental coercion can be confined into contributing
positively rather than negatively to all these problems. In short, there
is no problem, and government is not the solution; statists are but basing
their claim on a double petition of principle.
and Responsibility are the only possible warranty that people will choose
to obey good laws rather than bad laws. Peaceful persuasion through rhetorics
filtered by critical reasoning and demonstrable benefits is the only way
that good habits, good laws, and good institutions can be durably spread
among the population, while at the same time discarding bad habits, bad
laws and bad institutions. >18>
At this point, some vocabulary and concepts of Memetics can help us. Memetics,
introduced by Richard Dawkins in his book The selfish gene, and
extensively developed afterwards by many people (see the Principia
Cybernetica Project), is the study of memes, patterns of thought
that can be spread from people to other people.
evolve by natural selection, for they survive inasmuch as people voluntarily
embrace them, according to their (well- or ill-) understood self-interest.
Of course, people embracing them may be wrong about their self-interest,
and indeed, memes can survive and spread by systematically deceiving people
about their self-interest.
that, one must beware of using the following justification as an explanation
of the success of some ideas: "these ideas have success because they are
in their believers' perceived self-interest." Indeed, such an argument
would be a circular reasoning. Though it may be true in the particular
case considered, it would be but a post hoc tautology, an affirmation
that is generic to all memes and cannot explain and distinguish the dynamics
of specific memes.
other words, it is sometimes good to repeat general statements, whenever
there is general ignorance and confusion about them, but they cannot replace
a specific study of the topic at hand. >19>
Thus, according to this theory, people who have interest in some government
intervention will profitably lobby for this intervention; and they won't
even have to lie for that, for their interest will make them the first
to believe their own arguments.
so that a meme of exploitation may survive, it must also ensure the cooperation
of the victims of the exploitation. Therefore, interventions that will
be successful are interventions that even victims won't have marginal interest
in leaving; and they won't, because the cost of individual secession will
be too high. There will then be an apparent paradox about victims having
the marginal interest in not to do anything against oppression,
despite oppression being very detrimental to them on the average.
This paradox can be exemplified as follows, with the principle of "take
five (unconditionally) and give back four (conditionally)." Government
might make it certain that (unless it is overthrown) 5 units of goods will
be taxed away from normal (exploited) citizens, whereas citizens will conditionally
receive 2 units back if they don't resist, and maybe even 4 if they are
active accomplices of government. Thus, even though on the average, government
is always detrimental to all their citizens, costing them 1 unit of riches
in the best case of their actively defending the system, the marginal case
for a citizen to support the government will be a gain of 2 for those who
simply don't resist, and a gain of 4 for those who become active accomplices.
course, to maintain such a discrepancy between marginal interest and average
interest, government must ensure that taxation remains certain, whereas
its subsidies will remain conditional. (As Benjamin Franklin said: "In
this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.") The ultimate danger
to a government is civil disobedience: people massively refusing to cooperate,
and the government not being able to enforce its political decisions anymore
with its own agents refusing to enforce its edicts against people, and
people being ready to fight back against anyone trying to enforce them.
That's why governments will actively campaign to prevent their opponents
from coordinating an overthrow: constant propaganda through media and education
control, harassment of potential high-profile dissenters, denial of working
conditions, hefty fines and imprisonment for those who do not cooperate
with the system (which begins with paying taxes), etc. Measures of this
kind are necessary to keep the government exploitation going; these measures
may end up eating most of what governments manage to plunder away from
quasi-certainty is acquired in the mind of some people, they will have
no marginal interest in learning about alternative high-cost low-probability
possibilities; they will be "rationally ignorant" of any dissenting idea.
When in addition, these people somehow get benefits from being the displayed
accomplice of government intervention (social advancement, avoided or reduced
harassment, psychological relief from the feeling of being a victim, etc.)
then they will be "rationally irrational" and they will actively believe
in the very propaganda that maintains them under an oppressive regime.
that in these two expressions, "rationally" refers to the concept of rationality
used by economists: the fact that the preferences revealed by people's
actual behavior are congruent with each one's idea of his own interests,
and remain so as one's ideas evolve. In contrast, in the second expression,
"irrational" refers to a more casual use of the word, denoting the attitude
of having beliefs that do not pass the soundness filter of simple logic.
The idea that psychological potential is a resource that is spent as it
is tapped was notably developed by Raymond Ruyer in his book, les nuisances
The realization that lobbying will waste in advance exactly the benefits
of any putative form of government subsidy was made (at least for me) by
François Guillaumat, in a personal communication.
course, this equality is asymptotic. In as much as the means to lobby are
specific, they can't be converted from existing industries, and they can't
be reinvested in other industries – they are a sunk capital investment.
A corollary is that the existence of political power creates converging
interests for people having invested in such capital, to maximize the profitability
of this capital, and thus to continuously extend power in place.
Some Public Choice theorists distinguish in political entrepreneurship
the two activities of milking existing potential and lobbying toward the
public opinion to create new potential. But these two activities are not
separable in practice, because as far as self-interested behavior is concerned,
political exploiters do not have exploitation in general as their goal,
so much as exploitation to their own benefit.
people who feel deeply attached to political ideologies may lobby for more
governmental intervention in general – but as far as the dynamics of political
entrepreneurship is concerned, these people as such are part of the potential
to be tapped, rather than of the entrepreneurs tapping the potential. Of
course, people who are (or think they are) in the beneficial side of the
exploitation have interest in spreading such ideologies, and the best way
for them to do it is to genuinely believe in such ideologies, to begin
with (feeling righteous is also essential for them to sleep well at night).
for the remark on people who "think they are" on one side of exploitation,
political lobbying, just like all scams, will of course consist at least
partly in making people think they benefit from oppression, even though
most of them actually suffer from it. Indeed, as scam artists put it: "if
you don't know who's the sucker, how he will be fooled, and how much money
will get from whose hands to whose hands, then you're probably the sucker
This certainly does not mean that we should ignore these techniques – we
must learn to use them. Indeed, it is only through such techniques
that exploitation can be vanquished. See for instance Why
Sophisms Die Hard: The Power Of Ideas Over Interest, by Bertrand
is no reason to believe that current exploiters are particularly efficient
at using lobbying techniques; thus, since we are to enter the market of
ideological entrepreneurship, we may use a better, systematic knowledge
of the techniques to overtake the political entrepreneurs with our anti-political
enterprise. However, since their very existence will then be at stake,
we must expect political entrepreneurs to keep up with whatever better
technique we use, and compete using all the resources of plunder that they
can use and that we cannot use. >24>
"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch." – a famous quote from Heinlein's
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. >25>
This is why What
Is Seen And What Is Not Seen is truly the model of all political fallacies.
Once again, the Ad Hoc Fallacy behind collectivism shows that there
is no reason to consider that their collectivity is the right one to take
any specific decision. Why not a bigger or smaller or different collectivity?
There obviously isn't a universe-wide government, yet humans manage to
coordinate mostly without wars and conflicts. People peacefully engage
in international commerce and tourism without the need of a common international
government to coordinate them. If anything, political behavior causes
wars and conflicts where economical behavior entails peace and cooperation.
The right solution to the problem of determining the shape and size of
collectivities is that the right collectivities are those that people freely
adhere to – and such collectivities have no particular reason to be territorial
(although physical proximity between people might play a role in helping
people coordinate, which role gets smaller and smaller as means of telecommunication
the line of statists reproaching libertarians both something and its opposite,
we can see how the collectivists who lament the impossibility of doing
anything big without government intervention denounce the "intolerable
power of multinationals" whenever anything big is actually done
without government intervention (which disproves their point). Then, they
claim they want this "power" checked by governmental intervention, or completely
replaced by governmental intervention. It's really a religious war that
collectivists are waging: the real thing they reproach deep down in their
heart is that something dare exist outside of their values; from then on,
your mere existence is an insult to them, and they will reproach just any
sign reminding them of it. >27>
If anyone not blessed with the divine power of government would ever propose
to you that you should surrender their liberty to one in exchange for any
kind of good whatsoever, that someone would immediately be spotted as a
crook. Your liberty is the very guarantee that the people with whom you
deal will respect you: if that commerce isn't satisfying, you will switch
to another dealer. Free communication will help spot the bad ones and take
them out of business; a justice system will chase the fraudulent ones.
is nothing anyone can do out of your liberty but to oppress you into extracting
from you the payment of further favors. So if someone asks for your liberty
under the pretense that it will save you expenses for the services he renders,
it's an obvious lie: not only will you still have to pay for everything
he'll do for you – because he just cannot physically provide any service
without acquiring the means to provide them first, which will ultimately
come from the payments of his customers – but you'll now have to pay at
his conditions, without recourse. It sure saves him expenses,
but to your detriment, not to your benefit.
very idea of trading liberty for security is a contradiction. It is a "sign
error" in a basic equation of human behavior. To give a dealer the unlimited
right to decide for his customers under the pretense that he will then
be able to serve them more easily is a negation of the very basic premise
that ensures that the agent remains at the service of the principals. "Yeah,
it'd be great if the agent would still serve us after we agreed to stop
watching him" – except we'd be fools to believe that he will.
only thing our refraint from watching can bring is the "government" stopping
to serve us. And collectivizing the way we may control government is such
about the above word "refraint": Hazlitt regretted that the word "refraint"
(self-imposed constraint) didn't exist just like the word "restraint" (constraint
imposed by other people) did, the word self-restraint being kind of an
oxymoron with misleading connotations. Well, he was wrong: all the words
exist and have the meaning(s) we agree to give to them. He didn't hesitate
to create the word "utilism," after all (to cut through the accumulation
of ending syllables in "utilitarianism." He could have made it even shorter:
usism). We thus see that even with neutral technical terms, words can already
be misleading. How much more misleading can ideologically laden words be!
Using words in such a way as to imply a lot of its ideology, having its
words, its problematics, and its paradigms implicitly accepted in all discussions
– that is the way the collectivist meme is extending its control over people's
This godly trade is one of the underlying justifications of government,
used by those promoting the polymorphous myth of the "social contract":
this institution of violence would be a magic contractor under the orders
of a collective entity named "the people." Yet none of us ever received
a detailed contract or invoice saying what is paid for what service. We
are kept out of the knowledge to judge and out of the right to judge whether
we pay too much for too little, for services we need or need not. As opposed
to what happens in a legitimate trade, citizens cannot refuse the monopolistic
dealer. They are kept from even thinking about refusing it. >29>
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who shall watch the watchmen themselves?)
– Juvenal, Satires, VI, 347. >30>
Constitutions solve no problem. Politicians learn to bypass the spirit
by slowly changing the meaning of the letter. And they will also change
the letter of the text itself whenever there is a clear corporate interest
for politicians to do so. Constitutions are a but way to induce into citizens
religious consideration for government; just as in the cabal, they uses
the psychological impact of (written) words as magic anchors that fascinate
the mind, until the hypnotized minds discuss the words without questioning
the text. >31>
This above list is not meant as a definitive coverage of psychological
patterns of natural authority, but as a first attempt at such a coverage.
Our purpose is not to establish an authoritative classification, but to
open the path to more comprehensive and detailed studies of the statist
phenomenon from the point of view of human psychology. And of course when
we say "innate," we include all genetically programmed acquisitions.
This general relationship between parents and children evolved into its
current pattern by natural selection because it indeed is mutually beneficial
to parents and young children; such a relationship allows to provide for
individuals and to invest capital in them before they are able to productively
provide for themselves. So the pattern has some good use. But it also leads
to some bad abuse. And indeed, this blind trust in parents dissolves as
children mature and become responsible adults. The problem is conspicuously
not in the blind trust of young infants, but in this trust lingering among
adults and being diverted into a faith in the power of a supernatural entity
incarnate in the decisions of political leaders. A saying goes: "Politicians
are like diapers: they must be changed often. And for the same reasons."
– To this saying, we may add that adults don't need either of them.
The common consensus nowadays is that parents cannot go so far as killing
their children, or even hitting them. Now, as to establishing precise limits
to the authority of parents, legislation doesn't promote liberty of action
for either children or candidate foster parents, but rather substitutes
government authority to parent authority – government behaving as a super-parent.
On the contrary, many libertarians argue that parental authority is largely
unnecessary and unjustified; parents are not entitled to coerce their children
into complying to their whims. According to this view, governments, even
if they were some kind of parents, would not deserve any special authority
for that. See the Taking Children
Seriously movement, that develops ways of parenting without coercion.
In any case, it is clear that together with progress of society will go
a de facto diminution of the violence and frequency of coercive acts by
Stalin, more ambitious, was the Little Father of the Peoples – which he
demonstrated by killing millions, deporting entire populations, and exterminating
whole nations when he felt he was being resisted. >35>
Hô Chi Minh was "Elder Uncle," which he also demonstrated by killing
anyone who resisted him. >36>
For instance, the french president François Mitterand, was surnamed
"Tonton" (Uncle) and in the end of his 14 years of presidency, the outrageously
deferential "Dieu" (God) even stuck to him. >37>
Thus, the most secular governments, and even overtly atheistic ones, are
no less blasphemously superstitious than the most blatantly religious theocracy:
their fundamental claim is to incarnate Authority itself, whether by personal
identification, by godly delegation, by mysterious transubstantiation,
or by a combination of the above. A case in point is how democracy transubstantiates
the result of ballots into the holy "Will of the People," conferring godly
powers on the elected politicians. >38>
See the footnote above in the section on Opinions and Interests
for a short introduction to Memetics. >39>
The measures taken to prevent people from using reason are to build a wall
of strong emotions around the issue to avoid. A primary set of measure
is to use FUD
tactics to instill fear of any change. Governmental coercion is thus
offered as a guarantee, the Ultimate Guarantee against Evil. But the only
things that the right to coercion guarantees are injustice and evil themselves,
whereas the only possible guarantee of good is the harmony of self-interests
in a society of freely cooperating individuals. These tactics are the emotional
equivalent of the Catastrophe-Prevention Fallacy and the Moral Fallacy
discussed above. Yet they are effective: people are willing to escape the
risk of some bad outcome by embracing the certainty of the worst possible
outcome. What it takes is making the risk obvious while hiding the nature
of the certainty; people are risk averse, and they seldom understand that
with liberty, their only risk is to get better.
other main set of tactics is to isolate people from each other and prevent
them from cooperating, so as to appeal to the marginal interest of individuals
versus their average interest, in a big prisoner's dilemma. (Once again,
it is striking that statists use game theory arguments based on government
intervention being meant to solve the prisoner's dilemma, whereas it is
precisely governments creating the problem of a huge nation-wide prisoner's
dilemma, to begin with.) Any emerging competition is to be subjected by
force, or made ineffective by fraud, or to be subverted by corrupting its
leaders into becoming part of the establishment. By some legal mean or
some other (which might require enacting new legislation), any coordination
of the oppressed into an anti-political movement is systematically suppressed.
Actually, constant political propaganda, tax-funded religious fervor for
political reform, and even tax-funded "political opposition," try to constantly
canalize any potential energy among the public into debates that accept
the basic premises of political power. >40>
Bastiat, in his Economic
Sophisms, noted that it is impossible to fully follow a false theory:
even the most ardent proponents of collectivist systems in theory live
by the principles of life in their individual practice; they may apply
their false theories more or less, but they cannot be coherent in applying
them, lest they die. The principles of Life and Truth are coherent, whereas
the principles of Death and Falsity are not – actually, it is precisely
this coherence that ultimately characterizes Truth, and this is the reason
why, despite superficial symmetries, you cannot exchange Life and Death,
Truth and Falsity, Good and Evil. Emotional judgments are in terms of two
categories like Friend or Foe; they are related by symmetrical links of
alliance and opposition. Rational judgments, on the other hand, though
they may look superficially as being in terms of two symmetrical emotional
categories like Truth and Falsity, are actually based on logical structures
of infinitely many categories, related by intrinsically dissymmetrical
links of logical implication. >41>
Evil can only parasite good. The forces of Death can only feed upon Life.
Parasites and predators can never "win" over their victims and preys, or
they would extinguish themselves too. This is why even the most oppressive
regime cannot sustain itself unless there are more creative forces active
in the body of oppressed people than there are destructive forces used
by the oppressors – and if these oppressors don't fall before, these creative
forces will ultimately win over them, though it may take quite a long time
for them to win, during which the destructive forces will cause suffering
and destroy not just material capital, but even part of the basic psychological
capital that allows for human cooperation. Libertarians must thus be confident
in the far future; what we are to be concerned about is how to make progress
nearer rather than farther – what part we can take in making progress happen.