As Long as Government Exists, Our Freedom Is Insecure

The only way for the state to truly respect our liberty would be to dismantle itself.


Thomas Hawk/Flickr

An article by George H. Smith from a few years ago makes a distinction about freedom that seems worth pursuing. In "Jack and Jill and Two Kinds of Freedom" (also a podcast), Smith distinguishes between (as the title indicates) two kinds of freedom, or between freedom and liberty. He tells the story of Jack, who wants to climb a hill to fetch a pail of water and needs Jill's help to bring the heavy pail back down. Being a "moral nihilist," Jack is just as willing to force Jill to help him as he is to persuade her. It all depends on his cost-benefit calculation at the time. In Smith's story, Jack chooses persuasion and succeeds, so he does not need to resort to Plan B, compulsion. Jill, by the way, does not know that Jack would have forced her.

Jill, on the other hand, is a libertarian who believes in rights and justice. Had the tables been turned and she needed Jack's help, her only acceptable course would have been persuasion. 

What are we to make of this? In both scenarios Jack and Jill are free, Smith writes, in the sense that neither was subjected to force. "Freedom in this sense depends on how others act in regard to me. And since actions are guided by value judgments, I can be free only to the extent that others value my freedom by refusing to aggress against me." But, he adds, the quality of their freedom is not the same:

Jill's freedom, since it depends on Jack's pragmatic calculations, may be called pragmatic freedom. And Jack's freedom, since it depends on Jill's moral values, may be called moral freedom. This does not mean that Jack somehow has "more" freedom than Jill; the distinction here is qualitative, not quantitative. Jack has a better quality of freedom than Jill, because his is more secure.

For the purposes of his article, Smith calls pragmatic freedom simply freedom and moral freedom liberty, though he does not propose this for general usage. (He notes that liberty and freedom are typically used interchangeably.) He goes on:

Freedom, as I shall now use the word, exists whenever a person is not subject to the compulsion or constraint of another person. This describes an objective state of affairs. In our previous scenarios, both Jack and Jill were objectively free vis-à-vis the other person, because neither was actually threatened with force. The fact that Jack was willing to use force, the fact that he was willing to resort to Plan B if Plan A had failed, is irrelevant in this context. Subjective intentions and values have no bearing on our description of the factual state of affairs, the objective relationship between Jack and Jill. Nevertheless, there is a significant difference between the freedom of Jill vis-à-vis Jack and the freedom of Jack vis-à-vis Jill. Jill owes her freedom to a pragmatic decision by Jack, whereas Jack's freedom is based on Jill's moral values…. Liberty is principled freedom.

Smith provides a few historical examples in which the two freedoms were explicitly distinguished. He notes that radicals in colonial America were not satisfied when the British Parliament merely repealed import duties (except the duty on tea, which was reduced) because "Parliament also reaffirmed its sovereign right of taxation." The British in effect said, "We could tax you if we wanted to, but right now we don't want to." Smith writes:

American radicals spurned this conciliatory gesture, because the freedom from taxation was granted to them by permission, not by right. This rolling back of taxes, though it increased the freedom of Americans, was widely seen as a threat to their liberty. Many Americans believed that if they voluntarily complied with the reduced tax on tea, they would implicitly acknowledge the principle of parliamentary sovereignty and would thereby lose the ideological war.

Smith concludes by explaining that the term negative freedom (freedom from aggression) doesn't fully capture how libertarians understand freedom.

Although libertarians are (and should be) willing to argue for the pragmatic benefits of freedom, most libertarians also understand that a free society must ultimately rest on a moral foundation, a positive respect for the moral autonomy of individuals. In short, freedom has both negative and positive aspects.

Thus what libertarians mean by freedom can be phrased both negatively or positively. We may talk about freedom as freedom from aggression or, as Ayn Rand did (quoted by Smith), as "freedom to act on [one's] own judgment, for [one's] own goals, by [one's] own voluntary, uncoerced choice." These phrases mean the same thing; one cannot be thought of without the other.

What's intriguing about Smith's argument is that different people can have different kinds of freedom, and the same person can have different kinds of freedom with respect to different people. When I walk down the street some people abstain from aggression because they regard it as too costly, while others abstain because they respect me and my freedom. In any given case, how can I tell if I have liberty as well as freedom?

Recall Jack and Jill. Without any external difference, they are free in different ways with respect to each other: Jack might recalculate his costs and benefits and decide that force after all is a superior means to obtain Jill's help. But Jill cannot do that (without abandoning her moral principles). We could say that Jack values Jill's freedom only instrumentally—the benefits of respecting her freedom exceed the costs today, but not necessarily tomorrow. But Jill values Jack's freedom constitutively: his and other people's freedom—moral autonomy—is a constituent of her well-being, not merely an external means to it in some circumstances. So violating other people's freedom is not an option for Jill. That's why Smith says Jack's freedom is more secure than Jill's freedom.

This leads me to wonder about the implications of this distinction for the debate between those who would limit government and those who would abolish it. In Smith's framework a government that abstained from taxing and regulating people without renouncing the authority to do so would be respecting people's freedom but not their liberty. But if it did renounce that authority, would that mean the government—or more precisely, the individuals who constitute it—respected people's liberty? Would their freedom be more secure like Jack's rather than less secure like Jill's?

Maybe we need not answer that question because a government that truly renounced the authority to tax and regulate would cease to be a government at all. The power to tax is a defining characteristic of the state. What is government without it? That's why Ayn Rand's idea of monopoly government without taxation is incoherent. (She favored a government that obtained its revenue by selling court services like insurance; some Objectivists, such as Murray Franck, disagree that limited-government taxation is immoral.) How would Rand's "government" maintain its monopoly if it could not compel non-aggressive individuals to surrender resources with which to prevent the emergence of market-based agencies that provided security and legal services? If a purported government lacks the power to tax— or generally, to use force against non-aggressors—why call that group of people a government as opposed to other groups that provide similar services?

Thus as long as government exists, no matter how "limited" by a constitution, our liberty will be in jeopardy, our freedom insecure. A monopoly legislation-maker and legislation-enforcer is an intrinsic rights violator. Even if it lowered the tax rate to zero (because, say, it had accumulated a budget surplus), our freedom would be insecure because it might raise tax rates next week. The only way for it to truly respect our liberty would be to dismantle itself.

But couldn't a constitution limit the government's powers? Do we have an example of a constitution that consistently limited a government's powers? The United States has had two constitutions—the Articles of Confederation did not include the power to tax anyone or regulate trade—but they were powerless to prevent the government from acquiring new powers (assuming that was their purpose). Constitutions can be rewritten. Moreover, constitutions are expressed in language, and language must always be interpreted—by interested human beings—as new circumstances arise. No "correct" interpretation can be hardwired into a political system. All constitutions are "living" constitutions.

In the end, government defines its own powers. Not exercising a power is not equivalent to lacking the authority to exercise it. The list of a government's latent powers is endless. Even when many people dislike a particular proposed power, government personnel have a variety of ways eventually to obtain it: indoctrination through the "public schools," a manufactured crisis, blowback, and their broad ability, with the help of the embedded mass media, to control a narrative in favor of power. (Think of the USA PATRIOT Act.) One way or another, politicians, and bureaucrats can in time acquire powers that today may strike people as beyond the pale.

Abolishing government wouldn't secure liberty completely because nonstate organizations and individuals could potentially violate our rights. But at least the most threatening apparatus of organized aggression—the greatest danger to liberty—would no longer plague us. 

This piece originally appeared at Sheldon Richman's "Free Association" blog.

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  1. I thought Jill came down with two fitty.

    1. He gon’ need aroun’ tree-fiddy

      1. Goddamlochnessmonster!

      1. Hey Francisco, don’t you live in the Great Falls area? I’m here for the summer.

        1. Yes, Belt.

          Cool. We need to do a meet-up. We’ll see if we can drag Riven up here too. She’s been threatening.

          1. Sounds good. How about next weekend?

            1. I think I can swing that. Let me talk to the spousal unit. My moniker should be an email address for contact. Let me know what you’re thinking.

              1. Just emailed ya.

                Riven, you should come, too, once we get the logistics figured out.

                1. I’m down if my schedule allows. Francisco’s got my email.

                  1. Yes, yessss. Walk right into my trap…

          2. It’s true–I am a known threat.

            1. Wait – a known known or a known unknown?

              1. Neither. An unknown known. Obviously

              2. Unknown unknown – outside context problem.

  2. It is not government that is the problem ! It is the state and other coercive monopolies that deprive us of our choices ! If reason is “going here”, at least it should be more or less technically correct or right !

    1. Huh?

      the state and other coercive monopolies that deprive us of our choices = Government

      You almost had me convinced with all of the exclamation points.

      1. Government is a classification far wider than the state ! The service of governing and policing, etc is a legitimate function of society. To say that it’s non-existence is necessary to secure our freedom is absurd !!

        1. !!!!!!!!!

          1. Yes, I have become “arrogant” and “sure” of my libertarianism in my old age.

            I will scream and !!!!!!!!!!!! all I want 😛

            1. I wouldnt call you arrogant. Pedantic, yes.

        2. ! uh society !=government. !!!1!!!1111!!11!

        3. Governance implies coercive force! Feudalism is one of many examples of governance in the absence of the modern nation-state!

          Why are we yelling?!

          1. Governance implies coercive force ? Do you ever govern things ? Does that mean you are coercive ?

            1. Was it not obvious that governance of a nation-state or similar association was implied? wwhorton hears a who wasnt referring to Priscilla Queen of the Desert or Elvis (The King). whats the point of arguing about this?

              1. In case you haven’t heard recently, crimes are generally determined by the nature of the action ….. not those involved unless they are under some contract that determines what they can or cannot do.

            2. Do you ever govern things ? Does that mean you are coercive ?

              *Every* time I’ve governed something I’ve been coercive ! When I merely *administered* things, then I simply made suggestions as to the best way to proceed !

              A core definition of ‘governing’ is being willing and able to coerce others into doing things your way ! Otherwise you’re not governing, only offering opinions that others can take or leave !

              1. I would say governing is more specific than administering in terms of what is involved. Yes, governments administer too 🙂

                1. Yes, its is more specific – its administering backed up by coercion.

            3. Yes. Governance is control. The essence of control is the ability to compel action according to one’s will that differs from the will of the actor or from the natural trajectory of the thing governed. When I, say, “govern my emotions”, I am exerting control to change them in a fashion opposed to their natural tendency.

              1. No. the state is control or rather COERCIVE control . A valid government would have your permission in some way like a condo association or housing association that governs the community or condo.

                1. Then they may be *governing* but they are not a *government*.

            4. Try not paying your taxes or a ticket, pal.

              See how the ‘mint reacts. They’ll fuck you up if need be.

              Coercion includes fines.

              1. This thread reminds me of a Northern Exposure episode when they were debating getting a community trash dumpster in town. The whole argument was how this simple act of “governance” could be a slippery slope towards statistism. Not sure they used those terms but that was the general idea.

                1. My “slope” is not slippery at all.

                  I opposes ALL coercive monopolies… including the state. That is the moral issue here …. not what service you provide.

                  1. So if the stare would only use retaliatory force you are fine with it?

              2. * includes related fines, I am sure you mean …. not fines in general.

          2. Theft, fraud, robbery, rape, pillage, looting and plunder are the consequents of coercive force that violates individual rights. To secure those rights, governments are instituted among men… the part “we” as a political party are interested in is defining and enforcing the legitimate function of the said government.
            Anyone sincere about wanting anarchy need travel no farther than Syria or portions of Africa to bask in that political ideal. But if the idea is to infiltrate the LP and make libertarians out as socialist assassins to keep the polls safe for kleptocracy, then whining about anarchism makes perfect sense. Logical deduction has never troubled looters, or many voters, for that matter.

        4. As long as the governing and policing do not involve the initiatory use of force. Initiatory force = bad, retaliatory force = good.

        5. Private security is the only way freedom can be protected. You can not protect freedom through a violent coercive monopoly that is a police force funded through extortion.

          As to defense, this to can be provided by individuals in the market.

          1. In Libertopia government is so small non coercive means of funding can suffice.

            By coercive do you mean the initiatory use of force or the retaliatory use of force? It’s a big difference. If the first you are correct, if the latter you are wrong.

            1. Government in itself, that being individuals voting to aggressive against the rights of others violates liberty.

              As for the police, they initiate violence against the rights of others, as their salary comes by way of extortion. That is the initiation of force, that being forcing a service upon individuals against their will.

              1. If government is forbidden to initiate force how can it violate anyone’s rights?

  3. Ah yes another black and white absolutist argument from Sheldon.

    Of course this is exactly the kind of piece the statists point to and scream “libertarians are anarchists”.

    Could we maybe for once try less government because that just might be better than moar governent?

    We aren’t going to ratchet this thing back to anarchy overnight. No matter how much Sheldon wants it.

    1. I actually am opposed to calling it “less government” as it seems to represent a situation which I call the LIMITED STATE …… still a state but less of it 🙂

    2. “Could we maybe for once try less government because that just might be better than moar governent?”

      That “we” would be whom? The pols of the Dems or GOP? The voters? Every “smaller government” movement since 1783 seems to have fallen short of even being in power long enough to effect change. Arguing that Richman goes way too far makes no sense when, realistically, the majority of voters aren’t inclined to even move in the “small government” direction. It will take more powerful arguments, more powerful obvious failures, and generations to turn back the seemingly natural impulse to grow government in order to control or correct behaviors that most people wish controlled.

      1. Well, less murder is probably better than more murder too. Wouldn’t change my mind on murder though

      2. one reason for this failure in voters to go for the “smaller government” is maybe that no one is making a point out of distinguishing the state from government – INCLUDING those at REASON apparently.

        What you get from the conservatives is “government is good … just not too much” — wherever or whatever that line may be.

        1. pretty sure that your distinction is known only to you. pu lish a monograph and stop bitching that know one has tekepathically absorbed your neologism.

          1. I’m happy to spread my knowledge of libertarianism to others 😀

            Even Sheldon Richman might agree with me upon re-consideration of his wording. 🙂

            1. Government violates liberty, and the NAP. Your version of libertarianism requires coercion and violence to force others to accept your “version” of what government ought to be.

              Not very libertarian to me.

              1. I’m happy to see violence used to put an end to Marxism. Far better off in the long run.

        2. one reason for this failure in voters… INCLUDING those at REASON apparently.


        3. The only reason organized mysticism today gives lip service to the excesses of government is because the competing religion, communist theology, enshrined the political State the way Xtians think the Baby Jesus should be enshrined. Can anyone here point to a real difference between “conservatives” and German National Socialists (apart from choice of scapegoats)?

          1. Struggling, trying so hard not to write 10 paragraphs pointing out the idiocy. Ouch; the stupid, it hurts.
            Do Not Feed The Trolls!!!

          2. Yes, conservatives are part of the right wing ….. The Nazis were right wing socialists BUT STILL socialists …… they even called themselves socialist

            The Nazis hated capitalism and communism …. conservatives at least pretend to support the free market and say they are for it

            1. The Nazi’s were leftists in much the same way as the statist progressive is now. Nazi’s are only right wing in leftist propaganda and revisionism.

          3. Such a shitty premise. Go away weirdo.

      3. “more powerful obvious failures”

        I don’t know if one other than the complete breakdown of society can be had than the absurd debacle that was Katrina. Not only was government unable to help the citizenry during such a disaster, but they actively made things worse. They also disposed of any pretense of respecting law or people’s basic rights. The mask really came off there and their complete incompetence was on full display.

      4. That “we” would be whom? The pols of the Dems or GOP? The voters? Every “smaller government” movement since 1783 seems to have fallen short of even being in power long enough to effect change.


        Shrinking government is possible, the US government is way less intrusive and obnoxious today than it was in the early 1940s, for example.

      5. The whole point is to have less coercion. We had less coercion before the 16th and 18th Amendments, whereby socialists and other religious fanatics joined forces to control and rob everyone at gunpoint. The federal bureaucracy ran on 5% of GDP before Herbert Hoover took office and made the third income tax into a totalitarian mechanism.

    3. By your calculus, JWW, any moral argyment would be a “black and white absolutist argument”.

      Im not even sure that Richman would consider himself a libertarian, as opposed to an anarcho-cap. What I and many others find attractive about Reason is that it is a marketplace of ideas, rather than a single, stultifying refrain of a party line.

      Finally, Reason is a magazine and not some political committee. Why should their writers be constrained by some sort of political consequentialism? Setting aside the foolishness of accurately gauging the political fallout of any article or set of ideas (the “Knowledge Problem” is kind of a cornerstone of libertarianism anyway…) ehy *should* they even if they could (which they cant)?

      1. Reason has always been considered a “libertarian” magazine … at least historically …. even since the small yellow stapled ones started coming out from MIT, I believe.

        At the time it was more of the theoretical magazine which clearly advertised its libertarianism as opposed to the practical one it is today

    4. Well, the thing is, the problem with ratcheting “back” to anarchy is that we’ve had governments of one kind or another for all of recorded history. We’ve got no cultural memory of what a society in the absence of government looks like. What Richman’s saying is that if you simply to try to have less government it’s like a junkie doing less heroin; he’s gonna forget the heroin “diet” as soon as a good excuse comes up. Much like ivy, if you leave any government behind it’ll spread. That’s what it does.

      I consider myself an anarchist (ancap, specifically) but I’m also an incrementalist and a pragmatist. I don’t believe that we’ll get to a stateless, truly free society because one day everyone will wake up and decide that aggression is immoral and governments are inherently wrong. Government is like a cancer. We can’t just dig in and rip it out without killing the patient; we’ve got to reduce it slowly and replace it with something else. To my mind, that something else is a cultural preference for emergent order rather than government.

      1. Governments of one kind or another

        Perhaps the kind of government has more importance than people assume.

        The kind that imposes itself as a coercive monopoly should be opposed as all coercive monopolies.

        The kind that is voluntary like a condo association or a housing association perhaps should be allowed where people signed contracts/agreements when they bought their condo or house.

      2. Mmmmm heroin.

        Wait, what were you saying?

      3. Besides the fallacy of affirming the consequent, and sloppy definition (anarchist means communist just as clearly as liberal means libertarian-leaning in newspapers for 150 of these past 200 years), anarchists evade the legitimate purpose of government. To enforce clear laws protecting individual rights against theft, fraud and violence is a far cry from the totalitarian crap we labor under today. And the change from relatively free Jacksonian democracy to current variants of fascist collectivism graphs as a fairly smooth differentiable function owing primarily to the influence of crowds calling themselves anarchists and other crowds just as altruistic calling themselves christians. What anarchist urges repeal of the personal income tax copied from the communist manifesto of 1848?

    5. We do make choices that naturally lead to tradeoffs between the two, usually in the form of government. Government being a tradeoff, Liberty is naturally threatened. The title is a little “black and white,” but the notion that government tends toward totalitarianism is not incorrect at all and hardly absolutist.

    6. Of course this is exactly the kind of piece the statists point to and scream “libertarians are anarchists”.

      And, at Reason, they’d be largely correct.

      Hence the Sheldon articles.

      Hence “Open Borders”.

      1. To me, open borders implies a situation where public property is seen as public to the world.

        I’m going to claim it is public only to the citizenry or “invitees” although you don’t see much deep thought on the subject (or I don’t)

        Once this is recognized then “public property” becomes “private property” of some sort to non-citizens making “open borders” not possible in my view.

  4. Jack and Jill went up the hill, each with a buck and a quarter. Jill came down with two fifty.

    1. Jack and Jill went up a hill
      To fetch a pail of water.
      Stupid Jill forgot her pill
      And now they have a daughter.

      1. Sexist claptrap. Where’s the responsibility of Jack to bring a condom?

        And daughter, really, couldn’t be son? Poetry sucks when it requires sexist decisions in the name of rhyming.

        1. He either wants to lay Jill or Jack off.

          1. You said Jack off

        2. Cis shitlord. If the person identifies as a daughter then hir is a daughter.

          1. I really do like when they use the “hir” thing. Like “womyn,” it marks the author as someone I can immediately ignore!

            (I realize yours is a joke. I know you were worried.)

        3. Where’s the responsibility of Jill?

          What happened to “My Body, My Choice”? Your choice, your responsibility.

        4. What synonym of “hill” rhymes with “condom”?


        1. What with 145,000 people being added to the population every day, from a population biology standpoint birth control and voluntary abortion are arguably in a class with vaccinations against yellow fever, polio, and controls on ebola, hoof & mouth disease and corn borers–at least until the personal income tax and gubmint regulation of medicine and drugs settle into the dustbin of history.

      3. And then Jill said she didn’t need no stinkin’ father and became a single mom by choice and the media rejoiced in her inability to make ends meet because it added her name to the long list of welfare beneficiaries.

        1. Amen sister! The Patriarchy will pay!

  5. Dissolve the existing Government and either you must create another to take it’s pace, or one will be imposed on you from outside. No matter what happens, our freedom is insecure. In fact, if you want to wax philosophical about it, freedom IS insecurity.

    Government is like fire. It is possible to live without it, it you are young, healthy, and powerfully motivated. It won’t be comfortable and you won’t last very long, but it is possible. With it, life can be a great deal more comfortable, but it has to be watched at all times.

    1. Even if it is true that another will simply be imposed, is that an explanation of why one should or has to support the state ?

      I don’t care how many Hitler’s might have had in a row … I would be opposed to all of them.

      1. Isn’t there some kind of penalty for a completely non-sequitur Godwin-ing of a thread?

        1. You mean that it is logically invalid to use Hitler or the Nazis in any explanation ? Or is it just opinionated explanations to let history continue

          It also sates that someone must make a comparison. I simply made a statement. You made the comparison when you read it . 😀

          1. You need a “.” at the end of that first paragraph.

        2. “Isn’t there some kind of penalty”

          When in doubt, drink.

    2. “Dissolve the existing Government and either you must create another to take it’s p(l)ace”

      And of course a shadowy cabal of Joooos will control that one too.


      1. Honestly, as long as the trains run on time, I’m fine with shadow Jews.

        1. You know who else wanted his trains to run on time?

          1. The Japanese? Seriously, those trains are spot on.

            1. Is this a new thing? Because they weren’t particularly timely when I lived there (98).

              Then again, they weren’t particularly untimely either – and compared to our unionized workforce that’s practically a fascist utopia.

              1. 2008

          2. Reverend Lovejoy?

          3. The guy waiting for the 8:15 into the city?

          4. Joe Biden?

        2. If shadow Jews can teleport between shadows and have cool costumes, I’m headed to the synagogue down the street to sign up.

    3. Not true. The proper function of government is to defend individual negative liberty with the retaliatory use of force. In other words government is necessary to secure our freedom.

      1. This is such bullshit. Government is incapable of securing freedom, because in order to force others to accept your government and their inefficient services, you must force individuals to work for the benefit of others, and confiscate their things against their will. Slavery isn’t freedom.

        Free individuals in the market can provide defense, and security more effectively and efficiently than government. National defense being necessary to protect freedom is a myth.

        1. Government doesn’t have to and shouldn’t provide all the services it currently does. You have to look beyond what is to what can be.

  6. So…last year the AP found out that various Nazis who had been hiding out in the U.S. were drawing Social Security benefits, even after losing their citizenship for concealing their Nazi ways, or getting ordered deported for said Nazi ways (if they’re actually deported they lose their benefits, but until then they could still collect them.

    So Congress passed the No Social Security for Nazis Act to remedy the situation, and the bill narrowly passed…just kidding, it passed unanimously.


    Now the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration is about to release a report saying –

    “…more than three dozen former Nazis received a total of $5.7 million in Social Security benefits before they were ultimately deported…

    “Another 95 suspected former Nazis who received a total of $14.5 million in Social Security benefits were never deported and continued receiving benefits. Some died before they could be deported, others fled the country and still others settled their investigations and were allowed to remain in the country….

    “[The No Social Security for Nazis Act] led to the termination of benefits to four Nazis who had left the United States to return to Europe. The most recent benefit payment came this January, investigators found.”…..times&_r=0

    1. Reason noted this last year after the AP report:…..l-security

    2. I assume it is their entering the country having been Nazis without telling U.S. authorities which is the crime. I would have doubts on supporting such a law after the war was over.

      Otherwise I don’t know why they should be denied their “earned benefits”

      1. Social Security is sold as a kind of insurance program, but the *Nestor* decision of 1960 made clear it’s simply another federal benefit program, and that Congress has a broad power to cut off or limit benefits for whom they please.

        1. Broad enough to cut off benefits because of what one believes or supports ? I certainly hope that isn’t true and the constitution matters somewhat.

          1. . . . cut off benefits because of what one believes or supports ? I certainly hope that isn’t true and the constitution matters somewhat.

            C’mon man – this is *America*.

          2. I hear you have (and my brain scanner confirms that you have) libertarian-leaning synapse-firing patterns. AND your income is too high! No SS benef-tits for YOU!

            (But we are happy to keep all you have put in, so that we can buy more votes).

            1. My National Libertarian Party card has a membership number of 000000088 🙂

        2. Its funny (its not) that they’ll cut off benefits for ex-Nazis but not ex-gulag guards or ex-employees of the Soviet government.

          1. The Nestor case was about cutting off benefits to Communist deportees, but I’d have to look into the details to see if there are any loopholes, and I’m feeling a tad lazy right now.

      2. It is their entering the country without disclosure AND not being able to create a nukeclear weapon that pissed off them gubmint fellers.

        If you can design nuclear weapons it’s OK to have been a member of the Nazi party.

        1. I oppose all substance control laws …. including those opposing bomb ownership.

          The details of what constitutes a threat and whether the threat is in fact too large to be present in any normal sized society when owning a bomb like a nuclear one certainly need specifying and working into one’s concept of society 🙂

    3. Thats what Social Security was designed for: to enrich ex-Nazis and welfare queens with 16 kids and a cadillac. /sarc

      1. No, it was designed to buy more votes!

  7. No braniac left a “X is = Adam Lanza” comment in a Sheldon thread? Is this cause for concern? Usually you can set a watch by the time difference between the article publication and the stupid comment posting.

    1. I still say that joke isn’t nearly as worn out as monocle and orphan references around here.

      1. You know who else had officials who wore monocles while increasing the number of orphans?

        1. Lou Reed of the Cleveland Browns?

          1. Commenters are stupid? Really? REALLY?

        2. De Beers?

        3. Adam Lanza?

  8. Even if the state didn’t exist, your freedom would still be in jeopardy. Your individual freedom is something that is always in danger from others. You need to protect your own freedom (and that of others if you can) from whoever would seek to control you.

    1. That’s pretty much the only thing you can take away from this article. You don’t have freedom unless you choose to be free. No scraps of paper can give you that.

      1. I think I’m paraphrasing Malcolm X here, but, “No one can give you freedom; you have to take it.”

    2. The government is also to protect you.
      The proper function of government is to defend individual negative liberty with the retaliatory use of force.

  9. First time I’ve seen the Jack and Jill story. Seems arbitrarily binary, in Jack being a moral nihilist (band name!) and Jill being a moral purist. I don’t fit either category, or maybe both. I have always distrusted people who think they need to coerce me, and plenty of hindsight has gradually convinced me that I get better reactions and future cooperation from other people when I have treated them according to the principle of treating them as having as much right to run their own lives as I want to run mine. Maybe I am a long term moral pragmatist (not a great band name).

    But being human always brings with it momentary transient urges to tell others what to do, and that is where the principles come in. It’s one thing to tell someone “don’t do that, you’ll regret it” and another entirely to bring government to back up your speech. That’s what life has taught me — never ever call the cops, CPS, anybody, to report anyone who is not harming somebody else.

    1. “Seems arbitrarily binary”

      That is how thought experiments work: you attempt to simplify complex problems to (some or all of) their basic parts. It makes it easier to understand the principles involved, perform logical analysis and communicate your findings to others.

      Thought experiments are not supposed to mirror reality in the way you described.

      1. I know, shoulda been more clear that I was trying to think how I fit into those categories.

    2. You may not be exactly like Jack, but if you aren’t a moral purist then you are a moral nihilist. That’s how binary classifications work. If I defined everyone greater than or equal to 6 feet as tall and everyone else as short, would you say “I’m not short. I’m 5 foot 11.” ?

      Moral nihilists aren’t necessarily chomping at the bit to hurt others. Probably at least 90% of the commenters here are moral nihilists. It’d be nice if they weren’t, but they’re still leaps and bounds better than average.

      1. Kind of begs the question as to what a moral “purist” would be willing to do to eliminate the state.

        Also, recognizing that mortality is an artificial construct is not the same as being amoral.

        1. An excellent point. A moral purist can be a extremely dangerous person. Such a person work a dedication to freedom is great, but many supporters of ISIS are moral purists, as were many communists, Puritans, etc.

  10. I came up with an idea for how to have a truly limited non-coercive government, as a thought experiment. Suppose you limit government by not letting it have any budget, no taxes, no expenditure. Government is only a legislature, whose members are elected by votes for contracts; possibly each vote includes a donation for pay, but the primary purpose of election by contract is that people can sue for contract violations.

    But the primary point is that government can only create policies, such as how to file lawsuits, and the definitions of crimes. It has no courts. All courts, police, etc are private and privately hired. Only victims can prosecute (or their lawyers, of course), which makes victimless crimes impossible. Everyone pays their own court costs, with losers reimbursing winners in the verdict. Verdicts only establish restitution, and losers who owe restitution are prohibited from filing charges of less than what they owe. Career criminals will eventually owe so much restitution that they can’t even file charges for being kidnapped.

    At any rate, I think if you limit government to only writing laws, and having no budget for prosecution or policing, nor for running dodgy inefficient unwanted businesses, you could have a truly limited government. Not that I think it will ever happen, but it’s been an interesting thought exercise.

    1. I like it. there was a very good scifi comic book that had as its central conceit a society of asteroid miners that had a libertopian government very similar to what you described. Cant for the life of me remember the name of it but it was awesome.

      1. Starstruck, the play that became a comic book. Literally, one of the best series EVER written.

        1. Dork!

          (?pushes comic book under bed?)

    2. So if you have no money at all, you have no recourse if someone kidnaps you? I don’t get it.

      1. Charity.

        Which is effectively the same thing as we have no – if you have no money to pay taxes to pay for the police then you’re dependent upon others paying taxes to be able to access that resource.

        1. Taxes???? To hell with taxes a police force funded through such extortion.

      2. You mean the career criminal? What I meant was, if someone commits a lot of crime and piles up the unpaid restitution, at some point that restitution debt will be so high that any restitution he could expect from being kidnapped would still be less than the restitution he owes; therefore he would have no redress for being locked up as a career criminal.

        But in the general case of poor people, of course they would have recourse. First off, losers pay all costs — courts, the victims’ costs, restitution, etc. This makes it much easier for poor people to get a lawyer to prosecute their case since the lawyers would get paid after. If the criminals are so poor that there is no hope of collecting verdict debts, that is a problem, but it’s a problem now too, and with the government no longer soaking up 45% of GDP, people would be a lot more willing to contribute to charities. I expect a lot of charities would spring up to help poor people prosecute criminals, primarily because I think people are good at heart in most ways, but also because it makes pragmatic selfish sense to help prosecute local criminals regardless of who the victims are.

        1. When folks are able to defend themselves and their property, that criminal might wind up dead before they can rack up all these damages.

    3. And how many fivisions does this type of government have to enforce it’s policies ?

      It always comes back to the gun.

    4. My primary problem with :votes as contract” is that I’ve always been told I have a right to vote.

      Now you are proposing something different.

      1. No no, everyone can vote, in fact, I’d say anyone who can submit a ballot can vote, subject to dipping fingers into indelible ink to prevent multiple voting. Tourists, sure. No residency check.

        What I mean is that instead of voting for the candidates, you vote for their contracts. Then when they violate it, they can be held responsible by anyone who wants to sue. Don’t even need to prove you voted for them, or even voted at all.

        I’d also have a volunteer chamber in the legislature. When you vote, check the volunteer box, and one volunteer per district is randomly chosen. No pay because there is no contract. All bills must pass all chambers, including the volunteer one.

    5. Or we could just limit government authority to the retaliatory use of force.

    6. Why have something labeled government that can write laws? Why do are “Top Men” required to write laws, when freedom and liberty are so simple, along with natural law.

      Freedom and liberty shall not be infringed. Man shall make no law. Enscribe it in stone if you wish, but to hell with gov’t and their laws. The other stuff coincides with liberty.

      1. The proper function of government is to defend individual negative liberty with the retaliatory use of force.

  11. No matter what system y’all imagine we are still stuck with the likes of the people who are in government now. Whatever system we have those people will seek to control it. Regulatory capture or its like will occur in any system. That is, unless we are willing to line all the control freaks up against a wall. Of course then we would be just like them.

    Dissolving the Senate won’t make Diane Feinstein disappear. Obumbles isn’t going to blow away in the wind (Seriously, have you listened to the guy lately? Everything he says is about how government should permeate every facet of our existence and we should all strive to become the New Soviet Man.)

    1. I just mute or change the channel whenever he speaks. At this point, what difference does it make what he says?

      He’s just a 20th century progressive re-tread.

    2. Just limit government authority to the retaliatory use of force and there won’t be anything to control.

      1. Why should they wield any force over others? They will make excuses that they are retaliating against you for violating laws they just ratified. OMFG!

        1. They act as an objective third party to resolve disputes.
          No law could be made that requires the initiatory use of force to enforce. The Civil Rights law would not be allowed for instance.

  12. Moldbug seems to have thought this through better than most.


  13. Organized violence will always triumph over the individual, and there will always be gangs of despicable men employing organized violence against the individual. This gives them the power to steal under the guise of taxation. They call themselves government. That’s life. Deal with it.

    1. Limit their authority to the retaliatory use of force.

  14. I liked Huermer’s version of this argument.

  15. Legitimate government is a monopoly on forcible restraint of any who violate the rights of individuals. Where it is instituted, a free market can then exist, paid for by import tariffs collected for revenue in the course of inspecting for biological, chemical or other general destruction weapons or invaders. These are the facts of reality the Jack and Jill story effaces. Jill cannot pay Jack to help her in an anarchist setting where her own victimization by murder or robbery would, by definition, be legal acts. Any such supposition commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent by positing the prior disappearance of predatory theft, fraud and violence as a starting point. During the Cold War collectivist infiltrators came up with all manner of “anarchist” fallacies designed only to paint the LP as a bunch of bomb-throwing communists to the voting public. The few that remain never ask what competition in the forcible restraint of men has to mean.

    1. Legitimate government is a monopoly on forcible restraint of any who violate the rights of individuals.

      So an individual cannot forcibly restrain a shoplifter or a burglar?

      All government has is the monopoly on the initiation of force, being that they employ organized violence and there isn’t much that anyone can do about it. It doesn’t have the monopoly on all uses of force, since the individual certainly has a right to use force for self defense. But that is a response to the initiation of force, not an initiation of force.

    2. The few that remain never ask what competition in the forcible restraint of men has to mean.

      Perhaps you should bother reading the work of these “few” libertarians. Then you would know that murder and robbery are not “by definition” legal acts.

    3. How it maintains that monopoly is all important to me.

      Is it a coercive one that maintains its monopoly by threat of / use of physical force ? or merely a monopoly where there are no other “visible” choices ?

      Legitimate/moral government may not be a coercive monopoly. The adjective should be a big clue.

    4. “”anarchist” fallacies”

      Like the fallacy you Parrot about how government will limit itself and follow what you write down on a piece of paper?

  16. “Abolishing government wouldn’t secure liberty completely because nonstate organizations and individuals could potentially violate our rights. But at least the most threatening apparatus of organized aggression?the greatest danger to liberty?would no longer plague us.”

    If you have the rule of law men will seek to subvert the law to their own purposes. If you eliminate the rule of law, you get the rule of men with not even hypocritical nods to justice. It may be more honest but it is not better. Human institutions are always fragile and dependent on the virtue and vigilance of the people. Utopia is always an unachievable ideal, and libertarians should not fool themselves that they can immantenize the eschaton by eliminating the state anymore than the statists think they can by empowering the state.

    1. Very well put. Except that I would disagree with your last sentence.
      Anarchy is the eschaton, the same as in Communist Theory. Libertarianism is the realization that Utopia is not achievable, and that government, with all its inherit evils, is necessary. But, with that in mind, a smaller government is closer to the ideal than a large government.

      1. I agree that smaller is better than larger, but Richman apparently thinks that eliminating government will result in something relatively more protective of liberties. In the long run, such a thing is inherently unstable and will devolve into gang warfare because even without government the Jacks of the world will still want to make Jill do what they want and she has to sleep sometime.

        1. Ask John Bobitt about going to sleep with and angry woman.

          1. Who said Jack was sleeping?

            1. Is Jack a human?

        2. I agree. I was pointing out, that INMHO, Libertarianism is a philosophy that accepts the idea that there needs to be a government. Anarchy is the utopian belief, not Libertarianism.

          1. Then Richman has strayed from libertarianism.

        3. Bullshit, ancient Ireland helps to dispel your myth.

          Government will never limit itself. I love when folks call anarchy chaos, yet ignore the chaos that surrounds them with anything government gets its mitts on.

          When was the last time there was a shoe chrisis? How long did it last? Hmmm…..untouched by the regulators, no nationalized shoe company……you would think that makes would be chaotic…….yet everyone has good shoes for competitive prices. OMFG!!!

          They said money in the hands of individuals would be counterfeited, debased, and all sorts of stuff. Yet the central bank aided by the government have debauched the currency and robbed all who hold it. They’ve even forced its use through legal tender laws!

    2. Libertarians are not anarchists.

      1. OK.

        Is Richman a libertarian and if not, what is this article doing on Hit n Run? I think your problem may be with him and the editor who allowed this to be posted here.

        1. He sounds like an anarchist.

      2. Bullshit, your beloved NAP is violated with the very existence of gov’t. Or do you get to move the goalposts and promote your version of liberty?

        1. The proper function of government is to defend individual negative liberty with the retaliatory use of force. How does a government limited to only using retaliatory force violate the NAP? In other words they can’t make you do anything they can only stop you from doing some things.

          1. Government cannot defend individual liberty. It is incapable of doing so. Stopping me from doing what? Violating their laws they decide to make?

            I would much rather have free individuals in the market where I can choose the services provided, than rely on violent gov’t to provide them against my will.

            If you are bringing up the myth of national defense, the market can provide those services, and folks could voluntarily choose to purchase them.

            1. If my car is stolen the government will catch the thief for me.
              They will stop you from stealing my car.

              1. Lol. Those investigative and prevention services aren’t provided efficiently, nor through voluntary transaction and agreement.

    3. “Immantenize the eschaton” is now the name of my band.

      1. *Immanentize

  17. Jack’s & Jill’s freedom each depend on the other’s not changing their mind. 1 person’s freedom is in jeopardy as long as another person exists.

    1. Therefore, Goldberg is correct. The answer is Smod.…..h-goldberg

    2. No, Jill’s freedom depends on her willingness to defend it.

  18. The one thing I do know is that Jill needs a gun.

      1. Have not seen that show. Looks like something I would like.

  19. Was there ever a society in human history when people were free enough to suit Richman’s taste? If so, when and what was it like?

    1. Somalia?

      1. Somalia is not a result of freedom, but rather what years of violent government does to people. Since they have been free of government, they’ve fared better. Other governments forbidding merchant ships to have the right to defend themselves encourages piracy.

    2. If there had been any worthwhile prior example in Human history, Sheldon would find a way to reject it as flawed

      His entire schtick is about floating above mere-reality and castigating the rest of the world for their failure to realize his philosophical Utopia. His “solutions” are always unrealistic, impossible, impracticable by their very definition. He’s not so much a political writer as Dungeon Master for a fantasy Libertopia club than convenes on the weekends to ritually denounce the status quo.

      Reason seems to keep him around exclusively for the weekend clickbait.

    3. Ancient Ireland and Medieval Iceland.

  20. My buddy’s step-sister makes $63 hourly on the internet . She has been unemployed for 10 months but last month her payment was $19497 just working on the internet for a few hours.
    read more ??????????

  21. Slow weekend, 5+ hours and only 140 comments.


    Seriously, Sheldon, you’ll never live that down.

  23. what Antonio replied I am stunned that a mom able to get paid $4594 in 4 weeks on the computer . why not look here

    ………….. http://www.Times-Report.Com

  24. What a load of bullshit. Smith completely ignores the fact that Jill has the moral right to defend herself from Jack’s aggression with physical force up to and including homocide. Jill’s freedom does not depend solely on Jack’s assessment. If he initiates force, she may retaliate with force.
    He is correct that there are two types of freedom, I say liberty, negative and positive. Except positive liberty is not freedom because it requires the initiatory use of force.
    It ‘s all quite simple. In Libertopia all actions are allowed except those involving the initiatory use of force, threats of force or fraud. Government authority is limited to the retaliatory use of force. It’s the type of force the government uses that matters. The governemnt doesn’t need to tax since it is so small non coercive means of funding suffice.
    There are only 3 things that need to be done to save ourselves:
    Get rid of the Fed
    Repeal the 17th amendment
    Adopt this as the 28th amendment,

    Article 1
    No person may initiate force, threats of force, or fraud against any other person’s self or property.
    Article 2
    Force may be used against those who violate Article 1.
    Article 3
    No exceptions shall exist for Articles 1 and 2.

    1. I like that! Very short and sweet!

      Next come the lawyers and politicians to circumvent and thwart it, of course… We MUST have THIS exception, and THIS one, and THIS one… Not for ME and my special interests, of COURSE not! For YOUR protection, and “for the children, and for Gaia”.

      1. Did you not see Article 3?

        1. Yes, but!!! Creeping incrementalism is a problem, as is blatant violation of the Constitution. Take article 9. In the old days, we paid SOME heed to that? If the feds took on a new power (income tax, no booze, OK, booze then after all), we amended the Constitution. Sine then, we have Social Security, welfare programs out the wazzoo, spying on telephone calls and emails, the war on drugs, and so on, all new powers to the feds, NOT authorized by the Constitution! They ignore #9, they’ll ignore the new ones too?

          My proposal, just the flip the bird at the fucked-up system, is also short and sweet:

          “The Constitution means what it says, especially article 9.”

          1. Well sure if it’s going to be ignored…

            “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

            1. And you’ll start the failed experiment of government over again and enslave people. Why not start with your neighbor. See how far you get.

              1. If a vast majority follow my amendment how could anyone be enslaved?

                1. So what if a minority refused?

                  1. The would be arrested for slavery, duh.

                    1. Duh yourself. If individuals would refuse to be governed by you, will you arrest them, or leave them alone to be free. The desires of the majority don’t trump the liberty of anyone.

                      So if the majority of those individuals decided you should be raped, so be it?

                      I don’t want your gov’t that is an abject failure of an experiment at protecting people’s rights. I choose free and voluntary transactions with other individuals to include courts, security, defense, dispute resolution, schooling, healthcare, roads and so on.

                    2. There is no liberty to enslave another.
                      Rape requires the initiatory use of force. Have you read anything I’ve written?

        2. What of it? It is an inkblot.

          The only way a piece of paper protects you is if the people hold the leadership to the idea that it does. If not, they will rationalize a way around the paper and nothing can stop them.

          1. Did you not see my comment at 4:54?

            1. Yes, but you have to maintain that as credible threat, the “we rally mean it” is irrelevant.

              1. Yeah? It’s always contingent on the people defending their liberty. If they don’t they get what they deserve, that’s how we got to this point.

  25. Oh, yes, total anarchy would be so much better than limited government. Why don’t we just introduce Purge Day while were at it? Can we gave serious proposals, please?

    1. We don’t have anything close to limited government. What we have right now is unlimited government.

  26. The only way for it to truly respect our liberty would be to dismantle itself.

    Yeah because central Somalia is such a libertarian paradise.

    1. There you go parroting the Somalia argument again. Somalia is a result of years of violence and coercion by government. Liberals love to use that line as an argument against freedom.

      1. Some people are perfectly willing to take what they want and enforce their will via violence. The notion of absolute liberty is absurd as human nature prevents it. There will always be violence enforcing rules. The question is who writes the rules and how judiciously that violence is employed.

  27. So, does this mean that they voted to keep it on the table, but it really hasn’t passed?

  28. Oh look, Florida Prof brought up the movie the Purge in reference to anarchy. Sadly, you ignore the very purging governments have done during their very existence.

    Let’s just ignore how more peaceful free societies are compared to gov’t. Let’s ignore human action and the markets, and believe that only top men are capable of making socialism magically efficient, and effective. So therefore, all the services they force upon individuals will magically be more effective because monopolies that aren’t natural are great.

    Let’s ignore the blatant efficiency and effectiveness of the privateers, corsairs and letters of marque ships over the navies of the gov’t. Let’s ignore how effective private shipbuilding is compared to gov’t shipbuilding and ignore the abuse by the did bureaucracy and lie to ourselves that we are getting a more efficient service with all of the malinvestment and budgetary abuse taking place.

  29. The Swiss have – somewhat – watered down their original concept of largely devolved government, power to the people, and very limited central government power. Nevertheless, different cantons still compete in many areas, just as the US Constitution originally stated for the Several States.

    Is competition between governments the best way to ensure freedom? If not, how else do you stop politicians pretending to have and then ursurping even more power than actually authorized?
    As Lord Action said: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    1. “If not, how else do you stop politicians pretending to have and then ursurping even more power than actually authorized?”


  30. This is both the first and the dumbest thing I’ve read today. I’ll let y’all know if I find anything dumber.

    1. Go out and rob your neighbor slaver. What you propose requires violence and theft in order to implement. Run your household by continual debt. Go around your neighborhood and rob folks to pay for the desires of others.

      You won’t get far. You are the very part of the problem that is the institute of government. If your ideas were so great, they wouldn’t need to be forced upon people at gunpoint.

      1. If your ideas were so great they would have been implemented by someone, somewhere, by now.

        1. They already are around us. Unless someone still dresses you in the morning, you use your free will in deciding what to wear. You also decide what to eat, how much of it, and so on. You decide what sneakers you want to buy, and make a decision. Luckily, government doesn’t control shoes and that market isn’t distorted. You purchase a watch without issue, because government doesn’t control watches, there hasn’t been a crisis and you have many choices.

          Freedom and liberty have been around forever. The sad part is, you couldn’t hold the gun to someone yourself, and must hide behind others. If you want to be a slave, so so by your own. Lick all the boots you want, but leave others alone. The day you have an urge to rob someone because you are jealous or envious of them, do it yourself. Be a man and try and take their things. You will see you wont get far at all.

          1. People get away with robbery all the time.

            1. The gov’t and the central banks happen to be the biggest of all robbers. They get away with extortion, and murder. At least an armed populace is a deterrent, and the politicians prefer their prey disarmed.

              Self defense and private security are better than the arm of the state at theft prevention and protecting the rights of individuals.

              1. If an armed populace, which we have, is such a deterrent how have the banks become the biggest of all robbers?

                1. Because government schools don’t teach Austrian economics now do they? Folks are so blind to the currency debauchery that has taken place, as history repeats itself again.

                  Legal tender laws also prevent individuals from abandoning the dollar. These laws force an exchange partner to accept a media of exchange against their will, through violence if necessary.

            2. The gov’t and the central banks happen to be the biggest of all robbers. They get away with extortion, and murder. At least an armed populace is a deterrent, and the politicians prefer their prey disarmed.

              Self defense and private security are better than the arm of the state at theft prevention and protecting the rights of individuals.

  31. No government means people enforcing their will via violence with nothing but their own whims and designs to guide them. No thanks

    1. The government already does this. Because you’re so blind to this, you’d rather have others enslaved so you can feel better about yourself. Not much different than a gun grabber, but more like a freedom grabber.

      Freedom is hard work sometimes. So if you can’t handle it, or are scared, give up your own. Don’t give up mine or anyone else’s for them.

  32. “Even when many people dislike a particular proposed power, government personnel have a variety of ways eventually to obtain it: indoctrination through the “public schools,” a manufactured crisis, blowback, and their broad ability, with the help of the embedded mass media, to control a narrative in favor of power.”

    This is what the Baltimore pigs are doing right now, and what the NYC pigs did just a few weeks ago after murdering unarmed victims. It is an old tactic.

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