I wish to criticize the editorial in REASON's Free Country edition. It mentioned that we are "virtually locked into a continuously-expanding, ultimately self-destructing bureaucratic monster" and cited (among others) the problem of the national debt and Social Security. Accepting as final Dr. Hospers' position ("He replied apologetically that since people had bought government bonds and paid Social Security taxes in good- faith expectation of future returns, taxation for these programs would have to continue until all present obligations were met."), Poole resigns himself (and others) to more taxation. Do I owe those people anything? Is it justice to pay off profiteers and parasites (no matter how ignorant they may be of reality) and punish me, your friends, the totally innocent?
I concur with those who see justice in a policy of repudiation, for this would a) show people the consequences of dealing with criminal governments, b) prevent the continued state of ignorance about how government secures its existence by granting special favors and forcing others to pay them off, and c) at least not further tyrannize the innocent.
MR. POOLE REPLIES: Begging reader Seifert's pardon, I do not resign myself or others to continued taxation. I fully agree that one cannot be held responsible for a debt one did not voluntarily assume (and voting for the less evil candidate out of self defense can hardly constitute voluntary acceptance of a share of the national debt). By citing Dr. Hospers' opinion, I merely wished to point out the enormity of the problem involved in getting out from under a bloated government.
I read with great interest your interview with Mike Oliver [REASON, December 72]. Some time ago, when I first became acquainted with his activities, I was heartened to hear that he shared my reservations about the way a number of aspects of social living are dealt with under the American governmental system. I ordered a copy of his A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR A NEW COUNTRY in the expectation of seeing improved ways of handling these questions; or, at the very least, of seeing thought-provoking failures. Instead, I was disappointed to find many of the key areas glossed over in the most superficial manner—apparently not even having been very seriously thought over.
Item: A raw, young country, just getting started and growing fast, presents rather different governmental problems than a mature society with an established body of tradition and way of life. How can a government be designed to deal successfully with both situations and with the transition between them? These "growing pains," and the failure of the Founding Fathers of the U.S. to adequately cover the problems arising from them in the Constitution, left the way open for many of the present abuses of governmental power. Mr. Oliver recognizes the different situations of new vs. mature societies (he divides them at the point where 40,000 persons are resident "on a permanent basis"). However, he proceeds to set up a system for the mature society alone; for the interim, he merely posits that "governmental functions" will be handled by "the Corporation…institute(ing) its own form of government." Aside from this appearing to be the very sort of "corporate state" he fears with respect to proprietary communities, he doesn't even offer any further information about the nature of this government, except to assert that it will be "in accordance with the principles set forth in the Declaration of Purpose and Constitution."
Item: How can legal procedure be established to protect the innocent from more than a minimal exposure to abuse of official power, while at the same time affording the authorities the maximum freedom feasible to move against the guilty? Again, Mr. Oliver avoids the question. He places stringent restrictions on the right of the government to act against individuals; then, to give the government scope to suppress crime, blandly declares that "guilty persons shall not be permitted to hide behind such technicalities of law, which clever attorneys regularly utilize in various countries to permit free and unhindered criminal and subversive activities by well-known bosses of organized criminal or treasonable entities." Of course, this provision is circular: the whole purpose of legal proceedings is to determine guilt; one man's "clever attorney" thinking up "technicalities of law" to shield the guilty is another man's "resourceful defender of the innocent." If we know, a priori, that a defendant is a "guilty person," a "boss of criminal or treasonable entities," we can dispense with the trouble of a trial altogether and simply lock the fellow up on the spot!
Both of the above problems, as well as a number of similar ones I could cite from Mr. Oliver's book, are quite knotty, and I certainly have no panaceas for them. In the interview, it was mentioned that there have been revisions in the material of the Constitution, and that adaptations of it are being done at this time. Perhaps these will improve the document; I certainly hope so. But, in the form given in the 1968 edition, it shows a disturbing lack of interest on the part of the author in coming to grips with a wide variety of crucial point.
Erwin S. Strauss
I want to comment on Michael Oliver's remarks about anarchism and proprietary communities in the December issue of REASON. Mr. Oliver has criticized one sort of proprietary community, that proposed by MacCallum. In particular, he has remarked that most libertarians would reject it if the proprietorship were called 'government'. Presumably, this is supposed to suggest that such proprietorships are incompatible with libertarian standards of justice, though his remarks, even if true, do not establish that point; truth is not determined by majority opinion, even among libertarians. I would like to say something about this implicit issue.
The proprietary community which Mr. MacCallum has proposed is unlike existing governments in the following ways:
1. It acquires control over land by purchase and/or original use, not by conquest; and its control is financed by earnings on the free market, not by previously extorted taxes.
2. It acquires all its members by consent expressed through some form of contract, not merely the first generation, and this contract can perfectly well include the specification of limits on its powers, amounting in effect to a constitution.
3. It presumably allows the right of emigration to all members; few people would be likely to make a one-way trip voluntarily.
Now, Mr. Oliver's government would meet conditions 1. and 3. quite well; as for condition 2., Mr. Oliver has not been clear about this. If we are to assume that anyone within his government's territory can do anything other than aggressing against a citizen that he chooses—including defending himself, so long as his actions remain purely defensive—then Mr. Oliver has indeed set up a government with voluntary membership, but in doing so he has also set up what any anarcho-capitalist would call an anarchist social system. Otherwise, we must consider citizenship coerced, and Mr. Oliver will therefore have provided no safeguards against tyranny. This is particularly true if we consider that Mr. Oliver's constitution is ultimately to be interpreted by his government, just as Mr. MacCallum's contract by his proprietorship. What protection does he offer against abusive misinterpretations? It is fascinating to see a governmentalist arguing as newly discovered flaws in anarchism the same weaknesses that anarchists have long since shown to be present in government (see Benjamin Tucker's Instead of a Book for arguments of the same kind advanced fifty or more years ago). It seems that many libertarians will tolerate all sorts of abuses from a private organization, in structure and in action, as long as we call that organization "government".
Finally, let me note that there are other versions of anarchism than proprietary communities (if one wishes to call them 'anarchism'—I have grown indifferent to labels, for the most part, though I confess that I still like the term 'anarchism' pour epater les bourgeois). Most such include two additional safeguards in their legal institutions: the right of secession with the consequent unceasing feedback, and the right to appeal to a legal organization other than the one one presently has a contract with in one's own defense. When Mr. Oliver shows that these either are unnecessary or are included in his government—with the consequent possibility that all the subsidiary agencies he might permit could replace his government if it were inefficient—I will consider myself a governmentalist after the Oliver model, at least; for Mr. Oliver will then, equally, be declaring himself an anarchist, as I understand the term.
William H. Stoddard
AUTHOR REPLIES: Regarding the comments by Mr. Strauss: I have already indicated in the interview that the government and company of the new country should be separated from the start. I also indicated that I, and some of my readers, have found errors in my book. The necessity to separate economics from government from the start is one of the most important modifications my new edition (when it comes out) will have.
Regarding legal procedures, I believe that too many criminals are getting away with murder. I also believe that one reason for this is a proliferation of laws in all countries. If we try to define every crime, then those crimes not defined become "lawful". Even at that, I have no final answer to this problem. I am not claiming my book to be perfect, am not promising Utopia, and, as the postage paid return card at the end of my book clearly shows, I am open to suggestions.
Regarding Mr. Stoddard's critique: He has enumerated three criteria by which he judges Mr. MacCallum's book. I would like to add another one, namely the limitation against the absolute power which corrupts absolutely under any system. No amount of sophistry or verbal gymnastics can obliterate the fact that under MacCallum's system, the land owner would also be the judge, jury, policeman, and executioner, as well as moral guardian. Regarding the right of members of such a community to leave such a community, such a right could not be guaranteed if the land owner prohibited it. There is an island in the Indian Ocean, near Australia known as Cocos-Keeling (not to be confused with Cocos Island in the Pacific, which belongs to Costa Rica.) For a number of years, Cocos-Keeling was ruled by an individual proprietor who was the "law and the prophet" there. While the natives on that island supposedly had a right to leave their "paradise", the proprietor, in fact, prohibited that. The proprietor interpreted any rules and agreements as he wished, ruled the people in violation of some of the Australian laws which should have been applicable there. Finally, the Australian government (faulty as it is in many ways) sent in an investigator, and the last I heard the practices on that island have come to an end.
There are defects and imperfections in any one of the existing governments. And as my answer to Mr. Strauss shows, I am not claiming that my own constitution is perfect. But, what we have now in the U.S. is infinitely better than any scheme thus far proposed by the anarcho-capitalists. It is for this reason that I coined the phrase about some libertarians destroying bad government only to have them replaced with worse tyrannies. History proves this to be the case and most of today's anarchists are just as wrong as those we had in the past. In the foreseeable future, I foresee no system (including my own) that will be working perfectly. But let us not go back to the Dark Ages, via "proprietory community" feudalism, or similar systems. We have made real progress in enormously reducing the intertwinement between church and state. The next step then is to separate economics from state, not to go back to a Communist or fascist type of system where one agency (whether it is called "private" or "government") is in charge of performing the economic functions as well as the functions of protecting against force and fraud.
Mr. Stoddard's last paragraph indicates the possibility that he has not read my book. For, I have included a stipulation that a person may decide not to be a participant in the government if he so chooses. Also, in my interview, I stated that private police would not be prohibited. (It is permitted even in the U.S.) I do, however, maintain that there must be one standard, and that this standard is best summarized by stating that a person has a right to his life and property and must not initiate force or fraud against any other person or entity. Moreover, such key terms as "force", "fraud", "entity", "person", "personal right", "property", etc. are defined in my book.
Carson City, Nev.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".