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Libertarian

Is it Wrong to Shop at Walmart?

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Over at Skeptical Eye, SE wonders, “If you’re poor like me, how can you not shop at Walmart?” And the fact is you can’t, not if it makes financial sense to do so. And you shouldn’t trouble yourself over this fact. Government aggression created Walmart and sustains it. You didn’t create this situation and if you don’t endorse or help maintain it, you are blameless.

It’s Not Our Fault

Don’t sacrifice yourself on the altar of purity. As much as one would like, it is incredibly difficult and possibly self-defeating to eliminate all the benefits of other people’s aggression from your life. Aggression, by its very nature, leaves one with little to no choice. It’s not our fault and we must make the best with those few choices left to us.

Gold has a Kind of Government Subsidy

Take the price of gold, for example, which is reportedly kept artificially low through government central bank schemes whose purpose is to hide fiat currency inflation levels from the market. Does this roundabout government subsidy mean you should not buy gold? Of course not! You are not responsible for this situation and in fact are working to eliminate aggression in the world (or should be). Why should someone else’s aggression limit your options?

Let’s Harvest the Fruits of their Aggression

Keep in mind that, in order for us to achieve liberty, we liberty lovers must enhance our power while simultaneously draining that of the state. Taking advantage of situations created by government aggression, such as Walmart, the price of gold and anything else that doesn’t require you to aggress or endorse aggression is a good opportunity for us. Other candidates for action might be: acceptance of unemployment benefits, homesteading of government resources (such as parks) and collecting social security payments.

Drain their Coffers while Refusing to Refill them

What I propose is to burn their aggression candle at both ends. While we light one to stop aggression, let’s ignite the other one too by making their aggression less profitable and more unstable. Drain their coffers while refusing to refill them. As long as you don’t ask them to commit aggression for you or endorse their aggressive acts, you have done nothing wrong. In fact, you’re accelerating the demise of government aggression. Keep up the good work!

Photo credit: galaygobi. Photo license.

By George Donnelly

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

15 replies on “Is it Wrong to Shop at Walmart?”

George, your reasoning is extremely flawed. How can I convince a statist to reject the necessity of state dominion over their lives while at the same time collecting unemployment benefits? I will have lost all credibility and my chances for a successful conversion will have vanished. Certainly, you cannot avoid reaping the benefits of some state actions (roads and other infrastructure). The state’s presence in our lives is just too pervasive. But you avoid as much as possible, certainly well short of accepting direct cash payments!

How is collecting unemployment benefits NOT “aggression” or “endorsing aggression?” It certainly IS aggression when my employer is forced at the point of a gun to pay taxes that support such a program. By participating in such a program I am certainly endorsing such criminal activity.

Government unemployment payments are a product of aggression that presumably the libertarian has not asked for or supported and is in fact working to eliminate. Therefore, he has no blame for their existence.

Presumably he would rather take the funds his employer directs to the unemployment funds as direct salary. So he can spend it as he sees fit, including on membership in a mutual aid society, from which he can get free market unemployment insurance to replace the government scheme.

But meanwhile he is left with no choice. Accept the benefit government forced him to buy or go without (especially in this economy where government aggression has artificially constricted the job market).

In other words, when left with no choice by aggression, we are wiser to choose survival over de-contextualized purity.

For this same reason, I think it’s morally acceptable to comply with the tax man when he finally has you in his sights (as opposed to is just sending you forms) and is ready to confiscate your assets.

Are you against buying gold, given the government subsidy?

Everything is contextual, including right and wrong, so it is critically important that we take the context into account whenever judging morality.

Let’s say tomorrow, the government issues an edict nationalizing the food industry; i.e., food producers, food transport, food retail shops, gardens, farms, seeds … your pantry … all food and all means of producing it currently in existence.

Are you acting immorally if you eat?

It’s amazing to me how mutalists can rationalize being thieves and deadbeats, as the beggars and losers do so well over at SE. What next, George? We should all get jobs as well paid government bureaucrats, pushing paper and drinking coffee why we make the big bucks? Why not, the cash is there for the taking!

I get a seasonal layoff from my job 4 months out of EVERY year. I ACCEPT NO UNEMPLOYMENT. Guess what? I get by. It’s not easy, but with careful planning and disciplined spending I manage to survive. It also motivates me to look into other opportunities. “No choice?” Total BS! I don’t need to become a thief to survive. “No choice but aggression?” More total BS! I and others like me prove you wrong every day.!

“A government subsidy for gold?” Where is that? Unless you mean its increased value because of state created inflation.

Morality is only “contextual” in situations involving temporary, immediate survival. Even then, the trespass or theft can later be remedied by restitution. Your example of nationalizing the food industry is a poor one. The state could nationalize EVERYTHING required for survival. Even then, there are alternatives, such as black markets. In this situation you may have no choice. You certainly have the choice of NOT accepting direct cash payments with money stolen from others. You just have to minimize as much as possible your participation in that theft, certainly not actively seek it out, as you suggest. And you CERTAINLY don’t participate in such theft while calling yourself a libertarian or anarchist. Hypocrisy does not win converts.

You’re using your objection to state aggression as a crutch to excuse and make up for your personal failings- failings that we ALL have, I might add.

You put words into my mouth. You make assumptions about who I am. One of your questions is an admission that you didn’t even read the article. If you don’t want me to write you off, I suggest you come back with a reasoned rebuttal that is free of bad faith tactics and takes into account what I’ve already said.

George, how could I put words in your mouth when all I did was directly quote you.

You don’t smash the state by actively participating in its criminal activities. You only strengthen and legitimize it. The only damage done is to your personal integrity. And THAT is really unfortunate.

Blaming and whining about the state, the boogie man, or The Big Bad Wolf will not solve your problems. Neither will “joining” them because you feel you can’t “beat” them. There is ALWAYS a moral way to sidestep tyranny.

Living with the values of frugality, discipline, hard work, self-reliance, preparedness, and living by the Golden Rule are the bedrock necessary for the foundation of a stateless society and its hope for survival and prosperity. Unfortunately, the philosophy you expound represents that annoying, loose gravel, caught between our toes that inhibits that progress.

My initial response is completely in “good faith.” You just can’t offer a reasoned rebuttal. Best wishes.

You claim I said “No choice but aggression”. This is a LIE and an obviously demonstrable one at that.

You offered no argument against accepting unemployment payments for me to rebut! I offered multiple arguments in favor of my position that you implicitly admit you are unable to rebut, since you choose to employ these bad faith tactics instead.

You have further misrepresented my position.

No more posts by you that contain lies or other bad faith tactics will be published here, bub. Scram.

The problem with taking and not paying in is that by doing so you are knowingly causing the system to aggress more against others in order to directly pay you. If I ask someone for a cheap iPod without specifying where from and they deliver one which I know to be stolen is it moral for me to accept it?

No, you are not causing “the system” to aggress. The money has already been collected and there is no way to return it. If people are foolish enough to continue paying, it’s their own fault.

The money may have already been collected but as it drains out more will be collected. Is it right or wrong to buy the stolen ipod?

I don’t think anyone is a fool for paying into the system at the point of a gun.

more will be collected

You mean, more money will be asked for from people. But no one has to hand over that money. It is within the power of each and every one of us to withdraw our financial support of the state. We can’t feasibly withdraw it all immediately, but we can certainly make a huge impact right now.

I don’t think anyone is a fool for paying into the system at the point of a gun.

True, however, most people pay at the point of a piece of cheap paper. The IRS rarely brings out their guns. Their threat to force 120 million+ people to pay up is NOT credible, at least not until they actually come out in person.

Let’s not perpetuate this myth that government is all powerful nor that all government requests are credible threats of aggression.

Is it right or wrong to buy the stolen ipod?

The proper analogy is, if all the ipods available for purchase are stolen, and you have no way of actually returning them to their rightful owners, is it ok to buy one? Yes, probably, tho I find that line of questioning spurious and irrelevant. Let’s deal with real situations – there are plenty of them. I dealt with one in the original post.

Even if all ipods are stolen it is still wrong to buy a stolen ipod if you can go without one. So I think it is wrong to request handouts that you know are stolen, if you can survive without them. Whether the stolen item can be returned, and whether the stolen item was stolen through a non-credible threat does not change the fact that it is stolen.

By requesting handouts you’re asking the government to oppress people on your behalf. Whether or not the oppressed believe the government threat is credible or not doesn’t change the fact that extortion (even with a non-credible threat) is wrong. Requesting the fruits of extortion encourages (if not outright creates) further extortion.

If it is not wrong to request handouts from the government in order to bring it down faster, why do you say it is wrong to vote? Shouldn’t you feel compelled to vote for the candidate you feel will bring the government system crashing down faster?

Ok but how will you go without roads, sidewalks, gasoline, food, clothes, shelter, etc? The provision of all of these essential products has been invaded by government, despite my wishes to the contrary.

Does your use of gasoline encourage, nay fund, the continuing government use of aggression in the middle east?

I think I’ve got plenty of real world examples in the original post and continue to reject the ipod scenario.

Whether the stolen item can be returned, and whether the stolen item was stolen through a non-credible threat does not change the fact that it is stolen.

I disagree. If the threat is not credible, just how “stolen” is it really? If you don’t defend your property but hand it over willingly just because I sent you a letter demanding it, isn’t the transfer voluntary?

By requesting handouts you’re asking the government to oppress people on your behalf.

No I think you’re conflating two steps here. And some handouts are involuntary, or package deals. Some you can’t reasonably avoid.

Whether or not the oppressed believe the government threat is credible or not doesn’t change the fact that extortion (even with a non-credible threat) is wrong.

Sure, but giving in to non-credible threats is also wrong.

Requesting the fruits of extortion encourages (if not outright creates) further extortion.

No, because people always have a choice as to whether they will comply or not with the government’s requests for more money.

If it is not wrong to request handouts from the government in order to bring it down faster, why do you say it is wrong to vote? Shouldn’t you feel compelled to vote for the candidate you feel will bring the government system crashing down faster?

Perhaps you have a point there. Maybe it is morally acceptable to vote. However I don’t know of any candidates who want to “bring the government system crashing down”.

Ok but how will you go without roads, sidewalks, gasoline, food, clothes, shelter, etc? The provision of all of these essential products has been invaded by government, despite my wishes to the contrary.

Does your use of gasoline encourage, nay fund, the continuing government use of aggression in the middle east?

It does, however it is not practical to go without (or find alternatives to [all]) these things at this point. If you can get by without requesting money obtained through government aggression you should do so.

I disagree. If the threat is not credible, just how “stolen” is it really? If you don’t defend your property but hand it over willingly just because I sent you a letter demanding it, isn’t the transfer voluntary?

If you tell someone you have a gun and request their money, should you not go to prison because the victims didn’t check for sure that you actually had a gun before handing you the money? Good luck arguing that case in court.

By requesting handouts you’re asking the government to oppress people on your behalf.

No I think you’re conflating two steps here. And some handouts are involuntary, or package deals. Some you can’t reasonably avoid.

That’s why I said “requesting” if the government sends you money you didn’t ask for it’s a different story. Just like if they build a road you didn’t ask for and there is no private alternative it’s a different story.

Sure, but giving in to non-credible threats is also wrong.

Two wrongs make a right? Victims deserve to be punished more because they didn’t resist enough the first time?

No, because people always have a choice as to whether they will comply or not with the government’s requests for more money.

People aren’t resisting it enough, therefore taxation is morally right??

I don’t know of any candidates who want to “bring the government system crashing down”.

And neither is the welfare system’s intent to bring the government down.

The problem with this argument is that it is a greater good or ends justify the means argument. Let us do (or encourage) evil so that good may result.

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