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How do Statists Reconcile their Message of Respect with their Deeds of Aggression? Not Well!

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La Boetie wonders in his Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (this month’s Liberty Reading Group selection) why people are so easily fooled and enslaved by tyrants. With that question on the brain, I approached progressive and Obama supporter “vdaze” on twitter in the following conversation. As you read, please consider how I could have handled myself better, and then let me know in the comments.

vdaze: The US expects the Gummint to provide roads and postal services, but not affordable access to quality HC. Huh. #p2

Me: actually some of us think the govt is evil aggression and we can handle our business w/o them #tvot #p2

vdaze: And I wish those who feel that way the very best of luck. #tvot #p2

Me: well thank you! That’s the spirit. :) #tvot #p2

vdaze: I respect your beliefs, it’s a valid point of view – just not one that I share :-) #tvot #p2

Me: sweet. If we all respected each other’s beliefs, these political problems would be no more. end aggression for better world #tvot #p2

vdaze: If only :-) #tvot #p2

Me: curious, if that’s what you want, why support Mr Obama (judging by icon in your avatar)? You aware govt ppl r aggressors? #tvot #p2

vdaze: I believe ppl should respect the views of others (provided those views are based on truth, not Fox crap) #tvot #p2

Me: then why do you support politicians? they force their views on others with aggression. #tvot #p2

vdaze: I believe in the existence of Govt as a necessary function of society. I do not “support (all) politicians”. #tvot #p2

Me: you support govt but you want to respect the views of others. This is a contradiction. #tvot #p2

vdaze: Supporting Govt and respecting YOUR views (although not agreeing) is not a contradiction. Don’t twist my tweets. #tvot #p2

Me: No twisting here. Govt is aggression, aggression is the opposite of respect. Hence the contradiction. #tvot #p2

vdaze: Human beings are selfish and acquisitive at their core, and thus I don’t personally feel voluntaryism is realistic #tvot #p2

Me: that’s fine, bc I respect your right to form, hold and act on your beliefs. Do you reciprocate? Not if you support govt #tvot #p2

vdaze: I’m not saying that your views are wrong by any means, it’s just not something I believe in. #tvot #p2

Me: Sure, I understand. We each are individuals with the right to live our own lives as we see fit, right? #tvot #p2

vdaze: I’m speaking of an individual respect between you and I. My support of Govt is not a contradiction. #tvot #p2

Me: you claim to respect me but you support your govt’s aggression against me. Therein lies the contradiction. #tvot #p2

vdaze: You don’t seem to respect my views at all, which is why you keep trying to convince me they’re wrong. #tvot #p2

Me: I respect *you*. Views/beliefs/opinions are not deserving of respect, instead of everlasting skepticism and investigation. isn’t that skepticism and investigation and questioning the way one finds the truth? #tvot #p2

vdaze: For someone who believes in the non-aggression principle, u sure seem to be aggressive abt ur non-aggressive views #tvot #p2

Me: My respect for you is evidenced by the fact I don’t aggress against you or support anyone who does. #tvot #p2

vdaze: My support of the function of Govt is not abt you. There is no contradiction. #tvot #p2

Me: your support of govt affects me bc your govt’s wars, taxes, inflations, edicts and other injustices impact me and mine. your willingly given taxes paying for the guns that your govt points at me. How is that respectful? #tvot #p2

vdaze: U continue to challenge me on my position, even though I’ve explained why I don’t support ur views. #tvot #p2

Me: I don’t want you to support my views. I want you to support your views. ie that people should respect each other. evidence your respect for your fellow by putting down your govt’s guns. Please? #tvot #p2

vdaze: Thinly veiled, ur tweets indicate that true respect for u will only occur when I support ur views of anti-Govt. So if by “respect”, u mean that I shld support abolishment of Govt, then u are the one contradicting yourself. #tvot #p2

Me: so you support respect for others, but not “true respect”? What’s the difference? you have taken the discussion into semantics. The meaning of respect is clear, isn’t it? Why muddle it? #tvot #p2

vdaze: Have I told u that ur views are wrong? Invalid? No. Simply that I don’t agree and I’ve given u my reason why. Are you saying that “true” respect is the abolishment of Govt? #tvot #p2

Me: you say you respect ppl so just want to understand how you resolve contradiction of also supporting aggression? Any ideas? #tvot #p2

vdaze: No, apparently the meaning of respect is not clear with u. Respect does not equal agreement with ur views. #tvot #p2

Me: Straw man. Never said it did. Simply trying to understand how your claimed respect for others can include aggression? #tvot #p2

vdaze: I believe I said that I respect ppl’s views. U reject this bc I don’t also *support* ur views. #tvot #p2

Me: I don’t care what views you hold. I just don’t understand why you think aggression = respect. Can you explain it to me pls? #tvot #p2

vdaze: I continue to respect ur position in relation to Govt, but I don’t agree. Just like u don’t agree with my position. I have not told you that you’re wrong, or that your opinions are invalid. I simply don’t agree. #tvot #p2

Me: Not about my views. About yours. I can’t grasp how you reconcile support for respect and support for aggression. Explain? #tvot #p2

*Note that I left out some parts of the conversation I consider irrelevant or repetitive.

My Analysis

Vdaze is an otherwise reasonable person who tries very hard not be aware of the fact that support for government aggression is incompatible with a desire to respect her fellow man! She wants to pretend the government, and her work in support of it, does not exist! She attempts to take the discussion on tangents multiple times, uses assertions instead of arguments and generally is non-responsive to my key questions. I can sense her discomfort at attempting to hold the contradictory ideas of respect and aggression together at the same time, can’t you?

For the Future

This kind of cognitive dissonance is worrisome. When they’re shoving death down our throats, will the supporters of the current tyrant tell us it’s really life?!

Photo credit: Jayel Aheram. Photo license.

By George Donnelly

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

27 replies on “How do Statists Reconcile their Message of Respect with their Deeds of Aggression? Not Well!”

So typical! Doesn’t every discussion with statists usually boil down to a refusal to accept government actions as violent force? Logic seems to have no effect against this wall.

It’s nice to see a twitter attempt of the “against me” argument.

It is a wall, you’re right. If they don’t admit it, it really isn’t true, right?

I have used “Against Me” on twitter a lot, but I don’t use the cutting off conversation part much, because cutting off the conversation is something that happens all too frequently in online discussions, so the impact is trivial.

Thanks for commenting, James.

The “several meanings of respect” argument doesn’t work because George was allowing any and all possible meanings for respect, e.g.:

By “respect,” the statists mean, “to hold in esteem or honor.” But if you don’t hold in esteem or honor the troops, the statist will use government against you.

By “respect,” the statists mean, “to show regard or consideration for.” But if you don’t respect the right of congress to lay and collect taxes, the statist will use government against you.

By “respect,” the statists mean, “to refrain from intruding upon or interfering with.” But if you point a camera at a police officer, the statist will use government against you.

By “respect,” the statists mean, “to relate or have reference to.” The statist will let you have that meaning in any form since it doesn’t pertain to any action.

It looks like she never grokked the part of “against me” that all government action is aggression, and that by supporting government she was supporting aggression against you.

I’m guessing she thinks that as long as she personally doesn’t aggress against you, then the stuff government does doesn’t count. That voting magic removes all responsibility–after all, she only does what every citizen is supposed to do, and after all, she supported the lesser of the two evils, and after all, she never asked them to specifically write all those laws they did, so you shouldn’t be so rude as to hold her personally accountable.

I think your only mistake is expecting to undo a lifetime of brainwashing with a twitter conversation. I calculated the other day that between school and Boy Scouts, it’s been more than 3000 times that I prayed to the flag with a roomful of other people who thought it was normal. Whenever I suggested in government school that the point of each individual’s life was their personal fulfillment, I was either corrected or at best met with quiet astonishment. No teacher had either heard of or was willing to recommend Rand or Bastiat or Spooner or Rothbard.

Mark, I don’t think she’s considered it enough to even get as far as you’ve taken it.

Haha I believe I did the same thing. Five years of catholic school and pledges of allegiance did not help. I rebelled against all the religious nonsense but was not conscious of why at the time. I didn’t hear about any of those authors until after graduating from the university of chicago.

It’s a crazy world, thanks for commenting. (I’ll reply to your email, soon.)

I think you may have been able to ask more questions instead of making arguments. You did ask quite a few questions though, so that was good. Have you watched any of Jan Helfeld’s videos (youtube channel janhelfeld) or read Marc Stevens’ book Adventures in Legal Land? Both are excellent sources for the Socratic method. I get the feeling though that you already know about the Socratic method.

Regardless, you are going for the jugular. You are questioning her reality. The core of her reality. For the vast majority of people, it is a very difficult pill to swallow. It is the same as trying to question someone’s religious beliefs. For some reason, most people are just unwilling to question their reality.

I will say that it took me four years of intense study to come to being an anarchist. However, I will also say that not until very late in my learning did I run across anyone questioning the legitimacy of the government. The fact that it does not have consent of the governed and that it taxes without representation. If I was presented with these ideas early on, I would hope that I would have admitted to their truthfulness.

Hey Brodie, yes I have seen all of Helfeld’s videos and read Marc’s book. It took me awhile to seriously question the existence of government as well – which fact motivates me to question it ever more intensely and consistently than ever. If these things take time, best to get started now, right? Thanks for commenting. :)

Oh, I agree. I go for the jugular myself. Trying to explain to sheeple (most people are pretty apathetic in my opinion) Austrian economics is just a waste of time. There are too many subjects to cover and too many what ifs. When I talk to people now, I just ask if government without consent of the governed and if taxation without representation are wrong. When they start saying how the world would come to an end without government, I just call that what it is, fear-mongering.

I dislike the use of the word “sheeple”. It’s disrespectful and we are better than that. The key issue at bottom is will the person you are speaking with support or commit aggression against you? Or will he allow you to live your life as you see fit? Everything else boils down to this and it’s a very simple question to ask and answer. No need IMHO to get into economics, however fascinating that is. :)

Below is a line of questioning I recently used on a friend with some surprising success. I’ll call this the “Against You” argument.

Do you reject the initiation of violence as a mens to solve problems?

If someone came to your door and threatened to hurt you unless you gave them your stereo, would that be an act of violence?

What if the robber had a special costume, maybe with a shiny badge or a black robe?

But what if everyone in your building agreed that your stereo was needed to be taken? Would that still be an act of violence?

What if the whole city agreed? The whole country? Would it still be an act of violence to forcibly grab your stereo?

What if they held an election and picked some “representatives” to shake you down?

I thoroughly enjoyed that.

I recently got into an online debate and when I asked the guy if he supported violence, he wouldn’t answer the question due to it being irrelevant. haha

I think the flaw in your argument is that you do not present an argument for why government is aggression, you only state the conclusion and your opponent rejects your conclusion on the grounds that it is not justified. What you need to do is provide proof that government = aggression in the first place. I would have said something like, “so you respect my right to think what I want, but do you expect me to monetarily and morally support your beliefs in contradiction of mine?” If the answer to that is no, then clearly she’s forced into a corner – she must either condemn forcible confiscation of your property to support her government, or she must admit that she does not respect your beliefs in any meaningful fashion (yes yes you’re an atheist, I respect that, now believe in god and tithe to the church or it’s the stake for you).

I found a few statements interesting:
“I believe ppl should respect the views of others (provided those views are based on truth, not Fox crap)”
And who is the arbiter of truth? You? Glen Beck? Keith Olbermann? Obama? Or must you provide evidence to know what is true and what is not true? “these people watch Fox, therefore their views are invalid” is logical fallacy.

“Human beings are selfish and acquisitive at their core, and thus I don’t personally feel voluntaryism is realistic”

Therefore human beings must instead be put in positions of power where their selfishness and acquisitive nature can be maximized? More simply, if all men are evil, no men are fit to rule; if some men are evil, no man can be trusted to rule; if all men are good, there is no need for a ruler.

Your approach with people like this should be more along the lines of: “I would not use force or support the use of force to stop you from paying for foreign wars, welfare, or any of the other things I disagree with that you support. I would not use force or support the use of force in coercing you to declare that you agree with me. Will you grant me the same courtesy?” The opponent must then either agree that the use of aggression against you is wrong, or admit that they believe aggression is valid when used by men in costumes whos’ colors the opponent fancies, or whatever.

Hi Justen, I don’t consider it a flaw in the argument (which would be an error in logic or reason) but a topic that is outside the scope of the discussion because she didn’t challenge me on it. It deserves a complete treatment tho, you’re right.

I found her “out” on truth curious as well but chose not to follow up.

I kind of did take that approach, don’t you think Justen? But she consistently evaded answering the key questions. That is the escape hatch for the “Against Me” argument – evasion.

Thanks for commenting. :)

I guess I should have been clearer about that last bit – I recognized the “against me” approach but I didn’t feel you drove home the key point – threw the powder on the invisible gun to steal Molyneux’s metaphor – well enough. She failed to make the critical connection between her support of taxation and her implicit disrespect of your beliefs. Maybe she was just being dense. Better luck to you with the next one and keep up the good work :) Twitter is a tough format, I can’t even handle youtube comments without running out of space.

The advantage of the 140 char limit is that neither party can go into huge rants that you the must read to even continue the debate and don’t even get me started on replying to those replies point by point. That’s the curse of discussions in forums and other places where there’s no limit.

Quick blurbs actually mimic many real life social situations where you don’t exactly get to preach very long. So yeah, should be good exercise indeed. :)

Maybe I should use twitter more…

Oh George, so nice of you to let people play Monday morning quarterback and play in the fantasy world of hindsight heaven. :)

The problem with doing so is that we can ‘t test our versions because we don’t know what the next reply would have been. That’s why I just decided to look at the very first tweet to see how I might have interpreted it and responded.

(It’s interesting to note that in her original tweet, she was talking about other people’s contradictions. Yet she could not go down that path with you when you pointed out hers.)

If it was me, I would have responded more directly to what she actually said since she mentioned specific items (roads, postal service and health care). There are a million ways to do it, but since she said it in the way she did, I might have asked how she came to the conclusion that people expect those things. My hope would be to see if I could get a clearer understanding as to how she’s thinking it through.

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