Saturday, March 15, 2014


by James Craig Green

The following article was written by L.K. Samuels, as Chapter 2 in a book called Facets of Liberty: A Libertarian Primer, published in 1985 by Freeland Press (Santa Clara CA). It is an excellent introduction to the philosophy of libertarianism.

by L.K. Samuels

...the State calls its own violence law, and that of the individual crime
-Max Stirner

Voluntarism, as a philosophy advocating the absence of aggression, underlies every important issue of the day. Basically, every issue has two directions in  which it may be approached: (1) individuals may attempt to solve problems by voluntary interaction among people; or (2) individuals may attempt to solve problems by involuntary interaction among people. The difference is that the latter implements force.

The best method to show the striking contrast between voluntarism and force is to give an explicit example. For instance, one of the worst crimes is to assault another human being, especially by rape. When one is sexually assaulted, a coercive action has been perpetrated against the body and liberty of another person. No consent has been given to the rapist, therefore, the victim's right not to be physically aggressed upon is violated. That is to say, the victim is forced by the physical strength of the attacker. The victim is robbed of his or her freedom, and made a slave of the attacker until the attacker either leaves the victim or the victim submits to the attacker's wishes.

When a person consents freely to engage in sex, no crime has been committed as there is no victim. Commonly called prostitution, the prostitute gives her consent to her customer - otherwise it is rape. Brute force characterizes the one; peaceful consent, the other.


Voluntarism simply holds that people should be at liberty to choose, their own lifestyles without being forced to follow someone else's. Followers of voluntarism (i.e., voluntaryists) believe people cannot be forced to protect people from themselves through the use of violence.

Voluntarism opposes any compulsory or mandatory program no matter what reasons are justifications are cited. It is true, for instance, that slums need to be cleared, the unemploed need jobs and the poor need money. However, at whose expense are these wrongs to be righted? Should society of government, in the name of the slum dwellers, the unemployed or the poor, rob those who were fortunate to gather some wealth? And who, by the way, decides whose wealth is to be confiscated, and by how much?

Should slum dwellers be physically dragged from their rooms to make way for urban renewal? Should apartment owners have their land forcibly seized under eminent domain? If so, who decides whose land is to be condemned and seized?

Certainly, problems of the community and the individual need to be resolved, but must we resort to threats of jail and violence to control people and situtations? And when physical control of each person by government is accepted and practiced, where will this ultimately end? How far can aggression and force go before they are declared to be out of hand? It should be remembered that if government has the authority to give what everybody wants, then it has the authority to take what everybody has.


The opposite of voluntarism is aggression. Aggression is an unprovoked and unjustified assault or invasion upon peaceful individuals (and their property), who pose no physical threat to the attacker. For example, there is nothing inherently moral or immoral concerning transportation of people by bus. Yet, when people are compelled by fear of arrest or jail for refusing to comply with forced busing programs, aggression againts the parents has been committed. The parents have lost their right of consent. They have been abused. What was their so-called crime? They refused to comply. They have committed no acts of violence against anyone.

Again, persons or authoritarian persuation abandon voluntary approaches to problems because they often fail to accomplish what they believe ought to be accomplished. If someone fails to follow along, then, by George, the authoritarian believes, that person must suffer the consequences. After all, they believe, it is for the good of society. And society is seen as some grand institution based on foundations of granite. In actuality, there is no physical structure known as "society." Society is not physical; it cannot be touched with a finger. Society is merely a concept. Individuals are real. The authoritarian who argues for the "good of society" concepts is usually the one who benefits the most from society's social and bureaucratic programs.

The main trouble with aggression is that it can never be limited. It is commonly believed that a little force is acceptable, if limited. But what is the limit? And who sets the limitations? How far can taxation go? Can government take 90% of a workers income? It has the authority. Only certain circumstances prevent a particular government from going to far. And in the case of Hitler or Stalin's government, it indeed went too far. To paraphrase Prof. Murray Rothbard, once you justify the existence of aggression, once you santion the use of force to control people, for no matter what reason, you can justity every other evil and excess of the state.

After one form of aggression is legislated or dictated, what prevents the enactment of another? For example, if it is permissible to draft men into the military, then why not draft teachers into schools and workers into factories? Where is the limit? In fact, a number of U.S. politicians introduced federal legislation to draft workers into war-related industries during World War II. Why not? they reasoned; Hitler was doing it.


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