Do Libertarians Depend on the State?

The prominence of the state is a measure of its level of control, not our dependence.

Libertarians are born in state-regulated hospitals, treated by state-licensed doctors, travel on state-maintained roads, go to state-run schools, drink state-regulated water and wear state-approved clothing. We grew up in the milieu of the state. When we die it’s usually after a long stay in that state-regulated hospital again, maybe on the Medicare tab. Is the state cradling us from, uh, cradle to grave? Are we “sucking hard on the teat of the system [we] so revile,” as one redditor recently put it? Is our use of state-controlled resources evidence of hypocrisy and dependence? No, it is evidence of how controlled and enslaved we are by that state.

Is it Anarchy if the State Owns it?

While discussing Adam Mueller’s 60 day caging in Keene, New Hampshire on reddit, a fellow redditor said to me, “You will never ever in your lifetime or after see this sort of thing [anarchism] implemented even slightly.” Sorry, I replied, I live anarchy daily. We are building communities and it works. His classic response?

I would like to see some evidence of this. Where do you live that you do not benefit enormously from the infrastructure and stability of our state? I suspect its a bunch of Libertarians playing make believe that they are living outside society when in fact they are sucking hard on the teat of the system they so revile.

Try moving a hippie co-op to a region in Africa say, without the benefits of the protection and infrastructure of a civilized state and see how long it takes for criminals to rip it apart. You live in this stateless fantasy while protected deep inside the bosom of the state. I would love to do a 30 days with George Donnelly documentary so I can point out the thousands of things you depend on from the state every day.

You did not grow up in a vacuum. The system you despise is the system that grew and nurtured you. You were educated in peace and relative security. How dare you now spit on that and pretend this country and its laws have not served you. I am so sick of you goddamn thankless pseudo-intellectual douchebag Libertarians.

This World was Handed to Us

The gentleman’s obliviousness is matched only by his eloquence. I know for a fact he’d come up with dozens of connections between me and the state. But it’s all for naught. This world was handed to us. We had little if any role in creating this corporate-run, state-appropriated environment. We use the roads and sidewalks, not because we depend on or endorse government, but because doing so makes them ours (homesteading). We also have no other choice. We make do with what we have as we subvert it in service of the good and right. If we have benefited from the state’s crimes, all the more just that we should use that illicit privilege to destroy its source. An anarchist using Comcast internet, facebook, corporate supermarkets and state-licensed taxis is not hypocritical. She is simply making the most of the few tools left to her.

Anarchy Built on Top of the State

Is there any other way to build anarchy but on top of the state? Archaeologists have discovered ancient cities underneath existing cities. Sometimes they find even more cities underneath those ancient ones. So, too, do we build the new society on top of the old. There is no other way because states claim ownership (control) over everything. Even if I took the redditor’s suggestion to move out to some desolate part of Africa that nobody cared about, I would soon be run off by a state authority.

Consider the Republic of Minerva. In 1972 it was an artificial island in the South Pacific. Libertarian visionaries aimed to establish freedom there. No one was using that space. In fact, it was in the middle of open ocean. But once the Minervan flag was raised, Tongan forces rolled in and put a stop to it. So just because we’re building anarchy on top of the state doesn’t mean it’s not actually anarchy. It just means we’re taking back what is rightfully ours. Anyway, having to run off and create something new in a wilderness is an admission of tyranny, isn’t it? Look at the Quakers, the Amish, the Pligrims, et cetera. If we weren’t living under tyranny, change could happen organically.

Do We Endorse What Surrounds Us?

The underlying principle the redditor wants to enunciate is this: you endorse what surrounds you. That might be valid if our choices were entirely voluntary. But the state is not voluntary. It doesn’t allow you to opt out. According to this logic, those in prison must be the most committed supporters of the state. The state controls everything in the prisoner’s environment – what he eats, wears, does, where he lives, where he may go. Surely then, the prisoner is surrounded by the state and must depend on it. How ridiculous it would be for a prisoner to advocate for liberty when he lives in chains! What a hypocrite, right? What an ingrate he is! He spits on the very system that keeps a roof over his head and three squares in his gut.

Do I Owe Fealty to the System?

The redditor also believes that I owe a debt to those who got me to this point. No, that’s not it. He thinks I owe fealty and obedience to the system that cradles controls me. Do the slaves of the American south and their descendants owe a debt to their former masters and their descendants? After all, they transported them free of charge to the new world and gave them food to eat (sometimes). No, the debt goes the other way. And the same is true of my relationship with the state. I am the controlled one. My freedom has been denied.

Am I spitting on the system that raised me? You bet – except it didn’t really raise me. I grew up in spite of it. It’s screwed up. It’s unjust. It is hurting people. It is killing people! I spit on it. Does that make me thankless? Thankless for government schools, subsidized processed foods and intellectual property tyranny? Every incidence of state control cuts out opportunities for better solutions.

*Sucking Sound*

So if you see libertarians sucking hard on the teat, it’s probably an undercover op to recover stolen property because we’re too outgunned and controlled to do much else. Ease off on the chains a little and we’ll give you some fireworks you’ll never forget.

Photo credit: Nepenthes. Photo license.

By George Donnelly

I'm building a tribe of radical libertarians to voluntarize the world by 2064. Join me.

38 replies on “Do Libertarians Depend on the State?”

“How dare you now spit on that and pretend this country and its laws have not served you. I am so sick of you goddamn thankless pseudo-intellectual douchebag Libertarians. ”

:-). We’re actually having an impact, aren’t we? When I first learned that there were others like me, and they knew how to make freedom work, nobody hated us, because we didn’t matter. Looks like we’re changing things.

I don’t spit on this country (only it’s leaders), and I admit that in many ways I have “benefited” from the actions of thieves and tyrants, but that doesn’t make it right. There are very few places where the “benefits” are not a crutch for a leg they’ve broken. Where they are real, I would give them up willingly in a heartbeat for the chance to be left alone. Small price.

Since I understand what a Free Market is, I know that my conclusion that the price is small is mine alone, and the redditor in question may not agree. That does not make either of our valuations wrong. If only I could trade to him (or her) what he perceives as my benefits, and receive in exchange the chance to be free, both of the bad things in the current system, and of the benefits derived by hostile means.

Excellent as always, George, thank you!

This really is an infuriating argument especially as in the abstract they would concede the principles 1.) is forced labor acceptable? & 2.) do you believe in government by the consent of the people?

When connected to reality it is clear how demanding these principles are and thus go back to being a teat-sucking hypocrite so I know how to deal with your insolence!

Great post, George.

Good article!
Have you read “The Art of Not Being Governed” by James C. Scott?
The subtitle is “An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia”
Its a real eye opener.
There are millions living outside the State today. The State can’t control them or even count them, so they ignore them and pretend they don’t exist.

Anyway, keep up the great work!

you guys are fairly rediculous
you do realize that the power of government comes from the consent of the governed? an that libertarians are no where near a majority in this country?
if anarchy is so great why dont you all move to somalia?
the current state of the world is a testament to the enduring advantages of a strong government. states with weak governments have stalling economies and almost no individual rights. if anarchy was a viable political option you would think some political analysts would advocate it. if you take the time to follow political evolution you would see plenty of times that anarchy could have risen from political instability following revolutions and political regime changes. the Constitution was born out of the need to better serve the people of this country which the Articles of Confederation wasnt sufficiently doing. all states follow a pattern of oscillation between greater and less political control and settle into a range of political and economic stablity that anarchy cannot offer. it is childish, naive and arrogant to suppose that 1) your system of anarchy is new 2) that it might work and 3) that you can be independent of the things you despise. if absolute liberty was so important to you i would think that you would leave the state that cradles you from the cradle to the grave.

sorry to rant
this came up on StumbleUpon (i wouldn’t try to find this pigshit on my own)

Last I checked, not many people were consenting to government. So that must not be where their power comes from.

Do you consent to it? Do you have any evidence of that?

“The only idea they have ever manifested as to what is a government of consent, is this – that it is one to which everybody must consent, or be shot.”

“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.”

Love it or leave it, eh?

Oh yeah, big government is certainly working wonders in the US. /sarcasm off

And in Somalia, no government is actually working wonders.

Some political analysts DO advocate anarchism.

HAHAHA. The constitution was an inside job by the power-hungry Hamiltonians.

Anarchy offers MORE flexibility than government. Government is one size fits all. Anarchy is each person picks their own size.

Leave the state? Did you not even read the article before commenting?

1) you consent to be governed. when was the last time you intentionally broke the law and said “fuck the system” when faced with the consequences?

your citizenship implies consent to the current government.

2) somalia’s economy is in free-fall
one million people have died there from a lack of national leadership
it is a safe haven for piracy and costs the rest of the world millions of dollars in shipping damages and security

3) i will agree that anarchy offers the most flexibility in terms of individual liberties but some liberties must be traded for security, the government is the mediator of that trade. naturally i have the liberty to steal and to kill but i am willing to trade that for the security of not being stolen from or killed.

i think that your expectations of government amount to consent when viewed rationally, but i dont know what you expect of government so i cant say for sure

When did I consent to this government? Be specific.

Consent is not something you imply. You either do it or you don’t.

You don’t know jack about Somalia.

So what if they engage in piracy? It is a non sequitur.

Who decides which rights must be traded for whose security?

Who appointed the government to this role?

There is no liberty to rob or murder. Liberty imposes no cost on other people.

I expect government to die. Period.

1 liberty is simple, either it is natural and you have the liberty to do anything you can physically do, or it is granted by societal norms. society has collectively decided that some liberties must be sacrificed for security. even you must concede that some sacrifices must be made to ensure justice for the general population. no one is enraged when a serial killer is deprived of his life or liberty. that is just the most extreme case of society ensuring security for the population.

2 Liberty is a concept of political philosophy and identifies the condition in which an individual has the right to act according to his or her own will

how is somalian society not fucked up?

Do you have any evidence that this “society” has made said decision? Where does “society” get the right to make decisions for me? Who has more human rights than me? How did they get them?

No sacrifices need be forced on anyone, ever.

All societies are fucked up to one extent or another. It proves nothing.

the bill of rights contains 10 explicit rights, the UN’s universal declaration of human rights has 30 articles, the english bill of rights had 10 core statements and 6 of them are about kings. these are clear examples of societies giving you rights and liberties.

sacrifices arent forced on people, its just that society doesnt recognize all of the liberties that men are born with.

all societies are fucked up, but the most problematic societies lie at the extremes of government control. a “big brother” state is definately not good, but no government is no better.

Huh, those are all pieces of paper. Is a piece of paper a society? I thought a society was a bunch of people.

Furthermore, the bill of rights does not pretend to *grant* rights. It aims to codify rights that already existed. This is constitution 101.

Right now governments are forcing sacrifices on people left and right, all over the place.

If a big government is bad, what makes a small government good?

society is a non-physical interaction between people, which is manifested in social constructs like government and social hierarchy. the “pieces of paper” are one way that society becomes a real entity.

if the bill of rights doesnt grant rights then it doesnt codify rights either. the supreme court must be the body that codifies rights. if rights are codified then the supreme court is the only body that can do that. constitutional interpretation is the only was that your rights are gauranteed or protected.

if all government is bad, why is there so many governments? if the flexibility offered by anarchy is preferable, why havent societies devolved into anarchy? why did humanity progress from tribal structures to nation-states?

in our current system, either the government controls things or companies do, and i am a lot more comfortable with the government than with big business.

I use dictionary definitions and my dictionary says society is “the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community”. So I don’t know what this other society is that you’re talking about.

Your attempt at logic makes no sense. Even a basic background in the theory of american government disproves your claim about the supreme court codifying rights. The supreme court adjudicates law cases.

No, my rights are not protected by words on a paper or spoken by some bigwhig in DC. That doesn’t stop a thief, rapist or murderer.

Crime is bad but there is still plenty of crime. If non-crime is preferable then why aren’t we crime free? Just because something is better doesn’t mean everyone is going to adopt it naturally.

Big business is a branch of government. Governments create corporations, grant them limited liability, corporate welfare, favorable tort law and other special privileges. Without government, there is no big business.

i would look at your claim that big business is a branch of the government before you include statements like “Even a basic background in the theory of american government disproves your claim”.

questions 1 what are YOUR rights,where do they come from and who protects them?
2 if anarchy is preferable, why is there no true anarchy in the world?

and by the way i can cite supreme court cases that codify all rights you think you have and some that you dont

Do you think corporations are not basically a branch of government? Then tell me why.

You’re repeating yourself now.

Codify means to put something into writing. Supreme courts only put their decisions in writing. They do not put rights into writing except tangentially as part of their decision-writing.

if corporations are an extension of the government, why is there a national debt and profits on wall street?

if you dont believe that the supreme court has a profound effect on your liberties you need to refresh your studies in government and especially the concept of judicial activism.

questions 1 what are YOUR rights,where do they come from and who protects them?
2 if anarchy is preferable, why is there no true anarchy in the world?

the most difficult part of government is foreign policy, i concede that anarchy may be possible in small communities but it could not survive on the global political scene.

Because the corporations have got a really sweet deal. They privatize the profits and socialize the debts.

“if you dont believe that the supreme court has a profound effect on your liberties”

You just strawmanned me. That wasn’t what we were talking about and I didn’t say that.

Anarchy does exist. For example, there is anarchy among the nations of the word. IOW, there is no government that governs the nations of the world. No, the UN is not a world government.

What are my rights and where do they come form? Big question. I just wrote something about that but I’m not ready to release it and it was 1,000 words so I’m punting for now. It’s not directly relevant anyway.

Partial anarchy (otherwise known as liberty or respect for human rights) exists almost everywhere, including in the US.

What is the global scene but many small communities?

i believe that your rights and liberties are granted by the government, until you give another possibility i can only assume that this is universally correct.

i understand that the nations of the world interact in anarchy, that wasnt my point. this is the reason that national governments cannot be in a state of anarchy. if the state is in anarchy it cannot act on the international scene. it cannot fully participate in foreign policy and in international obligations.

social security is part of the government and has been running a surplus for like 50 years, if businesses were part of the government then i would expect the national debt to be nonexistant as long as the companies were making profit.

partial anarchy will always exist. it is not possible for the state to control every aspect of one’s life. therefore there will always be some level of anarchy, even in totalitarian regimes.

The government grants your rights? Does that mean that in Libya, North Korea and Myanmar that nobody has any rights?

If the state is in anarchy, it’s no longer a state and the existing anarchy has simply expanded to include more anarchs (sovereigns).

Social Security either recently started running a deficit or is about to.

I didn’t say business were part of the government, I said they were a branch of it, in the same vein as the Post Office or Amtrak.

That is exactly my point, some level of anarchy always exists, even when it is suppressed.

societies always exist in between absolute anarchy and totalitarian control. the extremes at either end are not an efficient way of governing people.

do you have the liberty to speak freely in north korea? that is a liberty that they do not grant their people.

the only argument for companies being a branch of the government is that the new level of corporate personhood granted by citizens united vs FEC, this, i think, is the beginning of the transition from republic to oligarchy for the united states.

a state that has degenerated into anarchy is still a state.

i have yet to see statistical support for any of your opinions.

i never said i was stating fact, these are my opinions and i believe that is fairly obvious.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

thank god most people dont like your way

Great article. By the way, having a discussion with Mr.kafka about freedom is like having a discussion with Adolf Hitler about Jews deserving to live. Mr.kafka has been brainwashed and there is nothing we can do to make him understand what freedom is. Mr.kafka is just another casualty of the State.

ok, i have to object to the hitler reference. the holocaust was the greatest tragedy in human history and this is a discussion on an internet comment board, NOT COMPARABLE.

you can disagree with me and call me names but you should at least try respect 11 million deaths.

i know that hes talking about analogies in principle. in principle genocide is different than a difference in political opinions, or would you say disagreement is equivelant to genocide?

Then why bring number into the discussion. It’s a non sequitur. Principle apply equally to 1 person or 1 billion.

Your analogy, if that’s what that was supposed to be, makes no sense.

why get hung up about the number? is killing people an acceptable analogy for political disagreement?

all im saying is that the holocaust reference is way overdone and should not actually be applied to anything less than genocide.

You are a real laugh. It was you who got hung up on the number and came out of retirement to rant about it in all caps.

The Nazis are excellent evidence for showing why some principles demand absolute respect.

let me summarize his analogy for you:
you disagree with me therefor its like you killed 11 million people.

i dont care about the number i care about being compared to a genocidal lunatic for expressing political opinions. i think thats kind of inappropriate.

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