Sunday, January 29, 2006

What Are Libertarianism, Anyway?

"The libertarian is in no sense a utopian. He argues only that in a world in which each imperfect individual was left free to make his own imperfect decisions and to act on them in any way that was peaceful, enjoying the fruits of his successes and suffering the agony of his mistakes, man could at least fully attain to the dignity and tragedy and comedy that comes with being a man rather than a thing."--Benjamin Rogge, "The Freeman" October 1969


Let us suppose that an ichthyologist (fish scientist) is exploring the life of the ocean. He casts a net into the water and brings up a fishy assortment. Surveying his catch, he arrives at two generalizations:
(1) No sea-creature is less than two inches long;

(2) All sea-creatures have gills.

An onlooker may object: "There are plenty of sea-creatures under two inches long, only your net is not adapted to catch them."

The ichthyologist dismisses this objection contemptuously. "Anything uncatchable by my net is ipso facto outside the scope of ichthyological knowledge. In short, what my net can't catch isn't fish."

A more tactful onlooker makes a rather different suggestion: "May I point out that you could have arrived more easily at the same generalization by examining the net and the method of using it? The net can never bring up anything that it is not adapted to catch.1

Indeed, there are many ichthyologists of libertarianism who claim that libertarianism is tied to: individualism, Austrian or Chicagoan economics, egoism, utopianism, nihilism, anarchism, a night-watchman state... Well, the list is innumerable. For libertarians expound a wide range of philosophies in many different areas: metaphysics, ethics, economics, structure of government, strategy. There are Aristotelians, Kantians, existentialists, Christians, deists, who would agree on little else except restricting the sphere of governmental activity. There are libertarians who are socialists, syndicalists, mutualists, cooperativists, capitalists, and those who adhere to almost every economic policy. There are anarchists, Georgists, voluntarists, advocates of night-watchman states. There are libertarians who wish to create a free society through education, political activism, creating free-port enclaves and many other techniques.

Each of these, libertarian, socialist, free market economist, objectivist, Christian libertarian, anarchocapitalist and others who regard themselves as libertarians have only one point in common: opposition to an expanded sphere of activity by the government. They identify the focus of harm in society with the government. All of the different schools within libertarian thought interface in one area: opposition to the government (although not necessarily total rejection of government, which would be anarchism--one subset of the wider umbrella concept of libertarianism) and a demand for the limitation of state activity.


For libertarians, statist intervention constitutes the ultimate source of both stratified class relationships and the consequent economic exploitation of one class by another. Statist intervention inevitably transforms a free society from a matrix of purely economic means for the acquisition and preservation of wealth to a system infused with the principles and institutions of the political means. The economic means involved the acquisition of wealth through one's own labor and all subsequent voluntary exchanges, while the political means covers all other methods of acquiring wealth. The latter, therefore, encompasses the direct or indirect expropriation of previously produced wealth, either through direct coercion or threat of coercion. The prevalent method of expropriation (and hence exploitation) is taxation. Taxation is also the source of other indirect forms of intervention which, in turn, leads to even greater exploitation.

While a free society represents the institutionalization of the economic means, the government is the organization of the political means. The introduction of the political means into a society creates a system of statism, i.e., a society with increasing elements of monopoly and class privilege incorporated within it. The state is antithetical to society and statist intervention produces a hampered social structure, a system of monopoly privilege, the systematization of exploitation and class antagonisms.

As long as the use of the political means continues, social evolution will be shaped by a process of class conflict. The state, as the institutionalization of the political means, necessarily generates a process of continuing class conflict since the political means, by its very nature, creates a series of negative sum relationships. That is, one individual or group gains only at the expense of another. This is in comparison to the economic means where all exchanges lead to increased benefits for all participants entering into them, otherwise the exchange would not be consummated in the first place. Antagonistic interests, therefore, emerge from the application of the political means and between those who gain from the use of the political means and those whose wealth is expropriated.

The beneficiaries of the political means in a society are dependent on the existence of the economic means in order to survive and prosper. The political means presupposes the economic means since the political means alone is unproductive and parasitic, whereas the economic means can exist and, in fact, thrives best in the absence of the political means. In this sense, there is always a conflict between society and the state.


There is an important distinction to make at this juncture between libertarian theory and libertarian sentiments. For there are many philosophies which, while opposing the current state, would, if the opportunity came to pass, enable their exponents to seek to take over the state apparatus or become successful in establishing their own state mechanism, and not only fail to minimize the sphere of state activity, but seek to entrench the state into every realm of human action.

A litmus test is available in the form of a question. Do the proponents of a given school of thought justify any statist intervention? If the answer is yes, then the exponents are not libertarians, although they may have libertarian sentiments. Only if they oppose all statist action, could they be considered proponents of a libertarian theory.

Once the Pandora's Box of statism is opened with a single intervention, it sets in motion a process of retrogression from a free society to a system characterized by an increasingly statist set of relationships. The political means inevitably distorts the social mechanisms necessary for the successful operation of the economic means in a society. Distortion of the decision-making processes produces dislocations which necessitate one of two actions: either the initial intervention through the political means must be eliminated or additional intervention will be introduced in an effort to remove the existing dislocation. Rather than attempting to remove the original causes of these distortions, the response of governmental policy makers is normally to expand government intervention in the society, thereby aggravating the original distortions even further.


Llibertarianism is a direction, a movement toward freedom and away from statism. Those who uphold libertarianism uphold a free society as a guiding light, a standard for action. He/she may do so by individual effort or by cooperation with others. The total amount of freedom thereby released may not be apparent to all observers, however. Indeed, it is possible that the libertarian and the observer may see the whole in a similar manner, but weigh the alternatives or judge the consequences differently. This is a matter of subject judgment which in the spirit of freedom should be left for each person to consider. However accomplished, the goal is to free mankind (both the individual and society) from the mad Moloch, the state.

Libertarianism is not a single, unified philosophy. Rather, libertarianism is an umbrella concept under whose cover many approaches and schools of thought blossom forth. Libertarianism embraces all of the philosophies that seek to restrict the sphere of state action and release the free modes of social action. What are libertarianism? Libertarianism are the philosophies of freedom!

1Arthur Eddington, Philosophy of Physical Science (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1967. pp. 16-19)

What Are Libertarianism, Anyway? was written and published in the 1970's by the Society For Libertarian Life (SLL) based in Orange County, California. SLL was an organization of young libertarian activists (myself included) involved on local campuses and neighboring communities. The following is the platform of the organization.


We, as libertarians, affirm:
That full individual liberty is impossible in any society other than a voluntary one that aggresses upon no one;

That men and women require the full and independent use of their own judgment in order to survive at an optimum level, and therefore have a natural right to do their own thing, providing that thy do not physically harm or coercively restrict another individual's life, liberty or property;

That everyone is exclusively sovereign, and is a slave to no one;

That the individual is best served by society when he or she is free from the forcefully imposed controls of others, acting alone or in concert (as a government);

That all forms of coercion, aggression and fraud are always immoral'

That the only system consistent with personal freedoms in the economic arena is one that does not interfere with free trade between consenting individuals.

THEREFORE, we, as libertarians, resolve to oppose all forms of aggression by any State, Government, self-appointed savior, individual or association of individuals. We further resolve to oppose taxation, conscription, eminent domain, laws which create victimless "crimes," and all programs forced onto individuals without their consent. It is time that the chains of authoritarianism in economics and morality be broken. Individual rights and coercion cannot co-exist. Liberty cannot be compromised, and we will settle for no less than freedom in our time. (adopted on May 5, 1973)

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Saturday, January 28, 2006

It Usually Begins With...

Commerce is no other than the traffic of two individuals, multiplied on a scale of numbers; and by the same rule that nature intended for the intercourse of two, she intended that of all. For this purpose she has distributed the materials of manufactures and commerce, in various and distant parts of a nation and of the world; and as they cannot be procured by war so cheaply or so commodiously as by commerce, she has rendered the latter the means of extirpating the former.--Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine (1/29/1737–6/8/1809). There is little that I can add to the voluminous writings by or about Paine. Author of Common Sense, Crisis Papers, Age of Reason, Rights of Man, and many other essays and poetry, this visionary has stood the test of time. More than any other writer since, he has influenced our vision of the nature of liberty, limited government, rights, and even religion. An abolitionist who pushed americans and others into the recognizing the humanity of african americans, a feminist before the term was invented. Perhaps the greatest opponent (certainly the most important) of monarchy in the history of humankind, he, like the great libertarian over a century before, John Lilburne, opposed king-killing, for rational and reasonable grounds. Generations of radicals would emigrate to America or attempt a revolution in their own countries.

Even the language of freedom has been affected by him. Paine grasped the necessity of both the overthrow of the tyranny of kings and the divine right of kings, and the tyranny of religious dogma and its inevitable intolerance. He was concerned that governments are instituted among men and derive their power only from the consent of those governed. He was, as he further considered the matter, also concerned about religion deriving its only power based upon the same consent. As I stated over a quarter-century ago,
...[O]ne cannot understand the demise of the Old Order (Ancié Regime, monarchy) and the concomitant rise of Republican forms of government without reference to Thomas Paine, who effectively changed the thinking of the American and French revolutionaries from that of mere rebellion to rejection of the principle of monarchy.

Just as important, "Paine not only compsed the most telling attach upon monarchy to be published in America (with Common Sense), but he was also the first pamphleteer in America to reach a mass audience. Political writings, heretofore, were addressed to society's elite who, it was believed, were uniquely capable of understanding such matters. Paine's primary audience was not the elite, the but rising laboring and artisan class of which he himself was a representative. Paine's genius lies in In its content and as a new genre of political literature, Common Sense is a revolutionary work."

...Common Sense and the Crisis Papers by Thomas Paine were only the beginning statements of the new propaganda war of the republican radicals against monarchy..."--The Three Enlightenments (Santa Ana: Rampart Institute, 1980. p. 8)
At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, Paine proudly stated that the American Revolution had
"...contributed more to enlighten the world, and diffuse a spirit of freedom and liberality among mankind, than any human event...that ever preceded it."--Thomas Paine, The American Crisis XIII in Philip Foner's The Life and Major Writings of Thomas Paine (Seacaucus NJ: Citadel Press, 1948. p. 232)
The spirit of the American Revolution soared into the minds and hearts throughout the world: France, Ireland, Britain, Latin America, Russia, Africa and even China. Successful in some, but always an undercurrent wherever it touched, Paine is the most honored of our founding fathers, not just of the United States of America, but of the principles of the American Revolution.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Friday, January 27, 2006

José Martí

Like bones to the human body, the axle to the wheel, the wing to the bird, and the air to the wing, so is liberty the essence of life. Whatever is done without it is imperfect.--José Martí

José Martí (1/28/1853-5/19/1895), was born in Havana, Cuba. Libertarian, revolutionary, poet, essayist and journalist, he remains the symbol of Cuba's struggle for independence, with few comparable to him. The popular song "Guantanamera" is based on a poem by Martí, His Manifesto of Montecristi describes Cuba as a completely independent republic, free from economic or military control by any outside source. He foresaw an end to Cuba's one-crop economy and U.S. domination, an end to racial discrimination, the embrace of Cuba's African population and outlined what was to be the policy for Cuba's war of independence:
1. the war was to be waged by blacks and whites alike;
2. participation of all blacks was crucial for victory;
3. Spaniards who did not object to the war effort should be spared;
4. private rural properties should not be damaged; and
5. the revolution should bring new economic life to Cuba.

Always the poet, his elegant comments flow with the vision of freedom:
No man has any special right because he belongs to any specific race; just by saying the word man, we have already said all the rights.
Perhaps the enemies of liberty are such only because they judge it by its loud voice. If they knew its charms, the dignity that accompanies it, how much a free man feels like a king, the perpetual inner light that is produced by decorous self-awareness and realization, perhaps there would be no greater friends of freedom than those who are its worst enemies.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Homeland Security Safe Deposit Crackdown--Hoax?

Urban Legends run afoot because they sound likely. There is currently one on Homeland Security's crack-down regarding private safe deposit box use:
A family member from Irvine, CA (who's a branch manager at Bank of America) told us two weeks ago that her bank held a "workshop" where the last two days were dedicated to discussing their bank's new security measures. During these last two days, the workshop included members from the Homeland Security Office who instructed them on how to field calls from customers and what they are to tell them in the event of a national disaster. She said they were told how only agents from Homeland Security (during such an event) would be in charge of opening safe deposit boxes and determining what items would be given to bank customers.

At this point they were told that no weapons, cash, gold, or silver will be allowed to leave the bank - only various paperwork will be given to its owners. After discussing the matter with them at length, she and the other employees were then told not to discuss the subject with anyone.

I found the news alarming and decided to find out more myself. On a trip to my bank here in Houston, I remarked to a young bank employee (who's new there), "well I guess you've been told all that stuff by the manager and the Homeland Security about what to tell your customers" - and to my amazement, the young woman came right out and said yes she'd been through all that, then whispered to me across the counter, "but we're not supposed to talk about - I could lose my job."

Why haven't you heard more about this?

First of all, since maybe only banks' upper management is privy to the new "rules", the information doesn't trickle down so easily.

Also keep in mind that employees have been told NOT to say anything about this, that it's a matter of National Security (with an allusion toward arrest if they do). They face possibly losing their job too. Another reason is that bank employees may not think it's important, or they believe they're a unique part of the effort towards curtailing "terrorism" and helping America's internal defenses.

This fits with the traditional urban legend pattern. It's scary and makes sense, considering the way that Bush and his coterie has been attacking fundamental civil and economic rights. It could be true. So far, however, it's just an urban legend. I hope it stays that way.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Thursday, January 19, 2006

31st APEE Conference

The Association of Private Enterprise Education will hold its thirty first annual conference April 2-4, 2006 at the Renaissance Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The theme of APEE's 2006 International Conference is "Private Solutions to Market Failures: Is Government Always the Answer?" The Association is composed of scholars from economics, political science, philosophy, and other disciplines as well as policy analysts, business executives, and other educators. APEE’s annual meeting explores topics related to private enterprise in an atmosphere that respects market approaches. Presentations reflect the latest research in fields such as regulation, public choice, microeconomics, and Austrian economics, as well as instructional techniques.

APEE invites papers on any topic, however, a number of sessions will be devoted to this year's theme: Private Solutions to Market Failures. The theme provides an opportunity to organize sessions that illustrate the advantages of private enterprise.

As Harold Demsetz pointed out, many advocates of government intervention think of a potential problem and then assume that the state has the capability and incentive to solve it. This “Nirvana approach” to public policy usually ignores potential shortcomings of government and it usually fails to consider potential market solutions. In reality government solutions often have unintended consequences worse than the problem they were meant to fix. Private enterprise, on the other hand, often sees profit opportunities where needs exist and has an incentive to do things right. The private sector has found ways to privately provide many goods including: education, healthcare, relief for the poor, environmental amenities, roads, money, security, and much more.

To learn more about APEE, please click on the link above.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Happy Spooner Day!

The great abolitionist, radical constitutionalist, freethinker and libertarian, Lysander Spooner (1/19/1808-4/14/1887), had been all but forgotten for generations until 1966 when No Treason: A Constitution of No Authority had been republished by Robert LeFevre's Pine Tree Press. No Treason... (described as "possibly the most subversive document ever penned in this nation.") hit libertarian circles like a bombshell. From that time on, the debate between free market anarchism and minarchism was fueled by the logical analysis of constitutional theory which Spooner brought. No one interested in the fundamendal connection (if any) between liberty and constitution (or meta-contract) and the process of legitimization could ignore Spooner. Indeed, now, nearly fifty years after publication, the debate continues.
With the publication of Spooner's collected works and the rediscovery of another essay of his, Spooner's analytical works has influenced into entire schools of thinking, including his trenchant examination of juries, intellectual property, abolition, even political participation, has continued to affect even popular culture. Stamp collectors even admire him because Spooner set up a private postal service so successful that the federal government decided to outlaw it.
Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Stalin's Monkeyshines

Did Stalin mate primates with humans in the attempt to make superhuman soldiers? It sounds like something from a "Captain America" comic, but there is some evidence for it. Chris Stephen and Alllan Hall's article in The Scotsman, Stalin's half-man, half-ape super-warriors, makes this claim:
"Moscow archives show that in the mid-1920s Russia's top animal breeding scientist, Ilya Ivanov, was ordered to turn his skills from horse and animal work [he specialized in interspecies hybridization] to the quest for a super-warrior."

"According to Moscow newspapers, Stalin told the scientist: "I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat.""

"In 1926 the Politburo in Moscow passed the request to the Academy of Science with the order to build a "living war machine". The order came at a time when the Soviet Union was embarked on a crusade to turn the world upside down, with social engineering seen as a partner to industrialisation: new cities, architecture, and a new egalitarian society were being created."

"The Soviet authorities were struggling to rebuild the Red Army after bruising wars."

"And there was intense pressure to find a new labour force, particularly one that would not complain, with Russia about to embark on its first Five-Year Plan for fast-track industrialisation."

"Mr Ivanov was highly regarded. He had established his reputation under the Tsar when in 1901 he established the world's first centre for the artificial insemination of racehorses."

"Mr Ivanov's ideas were music to the ears of Soviet planners and in 1926 he was dispatched to West Africa with $200,000 to conduct his first experiment in impregnating chimpanzees."

"Meanwhile, a centre for the experiments was set up in Georgia--Stalin's birthplace--for the apes to be raised."

"Mr Ivanov's experiments, unsurprisingly from what we now know, were a total failure. He returned to the Soviet Union, only to see experiments in Georgia to use monkey sperm in human volunteers similarly fail."

"A final attempt to persuade a Cuban heiress to lend some of her monkeys for further experiments reached American ears, with the New York Times reporting on the story, and she dropped the idea amid the uproar."

"Mr Ivanov was now in disgrace. His were not the only experiments going wrong: the plan to collectivise farms ended in the 1932 famine in which at least four million died."

"For his expensive failure, he was sentenced to five years' jail, which was later commuted to five years' exile in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan in 1931. A year later he died, reportedly after falling sick while standing on a freezing railway platform."

I do not know of the story's veracity (it does sound like Stalin), but even if this this is a tall tale, it's a good one.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Voluntaryist/Left Libertarian articles online

A couple of recent online articles caught my attention:
On Carl Watner's Voluntaryist website:
"The Unconquered Remnant: The Hopis and Voluntaryism" by Peter Spotswood Dillard discusses Hopi Indian culture and history of interactions with political agencies.
Without Firing A Single Shot: Voluntaryist Resistance and Societal Defense. Carl Watner outlines some of the major issues in noncoercive mechanisms for protecting a society with historical references to the abolitionist/pamphleteer, Charles King Whipple (1808-1900).

Thanks to Wally Conger, Samuel Edward Konkin III’s unfinished book Agorism Contra Marxism is now available online in 10 essay sections, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. This is an important contribution to left libertarian (or left-rothbardian) literature and I am very glad to see it.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Friday, January 13, 2006

Acton Rocks!

"The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern."--John Emerich Edward Dalberg

It would be remiss of me to neglect the anniversary of John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton's (Lord Acton or First Baron Acton of Aldenham--01/10/1834-06/19/1902) birth in Naples, Italy. Historian of the first water, classical liberal, author of "the greatest book never written" as well as many other works, could comment on any and all events of his time and of world history. Based on his cosmopolitan background, family (only son of Sir Ferdinand Richard Edward Acton, he inherited a large estate and was to become the eighth baronet of Aldenham Park in Shorpshire at the age of three--his step-father was Lord George Leveson--Earl Granville, William Gladstone's Foreign Secretary), life-long thirst for knowledge, and his studies under studied at the University of Munich under Ignaz von Döllinger, he emerged as a prominent Catholic liberal with a passion for classical liberalism.

Acton pursued electoral politics and entered the House of Commons (1859-1868) for the Irish constituency of Carlow. Gladstone would reward him for his support for classical liberalism through a peerage (1869).

Acton became the part owner and editor of the English periodical, The Rambler (1859), the organ of the "Liberal Catholics." He wrote for The Rambler and for others, including, the Chronicle and the North British Review. When Acton closed down The Rambler, it soon arose as a quarterly, The Home and Foreign Review.

It was through The Rambler and his involvement in the first Vatican Council, that Acton became known as one of the most articulate defenders of religious and political freedom. He argued that the church faithfully fulfills its mission by encouraging the pursuit of scientific, historical, and philosophical truth, and promoting individual liberty in the political realm.

The 1870s and 1880s saw the continued development of Acton's thought on the relationship between history, religion, and liberty. During that period he began to construct outlines for a universal history.

Acton was to found the English Historical Review (1886). He received degrees from both Cambridge (1888) and Oxford (1889). He was appointed Lord-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria (1891), and became Regius Professor of modern history at Cambridge University (1895). From this position, he deepened his view that the historian's search for truth entails the obligation to make moral judgments on history. Although he never finished his anticipated universal history, Acton planned the Cambridge Modern History series and lectured on the topics upon which his later books were culled from.

Upon his death in 1902, Acton was considered one of the most learned people of his age, unmatched for the breadth, depth, and humanity of his knowledge. He was a true classical liberal in the best sense of the term. As Harold Butler said:
"With his vast erudition and universal outlook Acton was better equipped than any modern English thinker to expound the true nature of the problems which now beset us. ... democracy was a revolt against the political autocracy of absolute monarchs or dictators, but democracy itself might breed a new kind of despotism. "Popular power may be tainted with the same poison as personal power." The authority of the people must be restrained by constitutional checks and balances to safeguard freedom and the protection of minorities. "The will of the people cannot make just that which is unjust.""--foreword to G.E. Fasnacht's, Acton's Political Philosophy (London: Hollis & Carter, 1952).

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Col. Wm. B. Greene

Col. William B(atchelder). Greene was one of the most important figures of the American libertarian movement of the 1800's. Greene was, along with Lysander Spooner, Josiah Warren and Stephen P. Andrews, one of the leading activists of the civil war and post-civil war periods. I want to recommend the great effort that Shawn P. Wilbur is doing to put Greene's writings online. Wilbur is in the process of completing a biography, provisionally entitled A Special Answer to a Special Prayer: William B. Greene, An American Mutualist. Greene was insightful, and helped to focus the direction of American libertarianism from the mid to late 1800's on such matters as mutualism, transcendentalism, cooperative banking theory, equality and socialism and was instrumental in forging individualist-anarchism into a coherent system.

When I began studying 19th century American libertarianism years ago, Greene was one of the first that I researched and read. His life and writings are classically American in his viewpoint and writings. There are many of his writings at the Labadie Collection at the Rare Books Room in the Special Collections Library of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Working Men's Institute in New Harmony, Indiana, both of which I heartily recommend.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism