Recently, I received a physical copy of VONULIFE, March 1973 and have been in the process of digitizing this 80,000+ word publication. The last article is being transcribed as this is written–all that’s left is to add the images, some proofreading, and then it’ll be ready for publication in its entirety!
(“It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.” Attributed to Sally Kempton)
The book CRUSOE OF LONESOME LAKE relates how Ralph Edwards built a homestead in a remote, isolated area of British Columbia. Ralph performed incredible feats such as packing tools and supplies, including large machine parts, 50 miles from the nearest settlement over a precipitous trail.
Ralph had no need to question the world-views of the culture in which he had grown up. Or did he?
His homestead was half-done when he learned of World War I. Leaving the fruits of his hard labors to the bears, mice and mildew, he rushed off and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He spent precious time fighting the war “to end wars” and “make the world safe for democracy.” And if some equally patriotic German had aimed his way, Ralph’s dreams would never have materialized.
On the other hand, I heard of someone able to speak learnedly about the evils and absurdities of the State, who allowed himself to get drafted and shipped to Vietnam – and is now a basket-case in a VA hospital.
Neither ideas nor actions alone are sufficient. Achieving vonu requires both – and integration of theory and practice. And neither ideas nor actions are ‘primary’. More effective actions depend on a better understanding of the world. And better ideas spring from experience gained doing.
I and probably you were heavily indoctrinated during our early years, not only by State schools, but by attitudes expressed by parents and playmates, and even more by having to live as virtual slaves – most people rationalize that whatever seems unavoidable is really for the best.
As one grows aware of that society’s contradictions one becomes more skeptical. Nevertheless, most people criticize only activities they are personally familiar with, and assume that other State functions are proper. Such a person may say, “I grant that ____ is wrong. But what if the government didn’t provide highways, schools, postal service, national defense, pollution control, food and drug regulation, banking regulations, welfare, police protection…” and so forth.
Answering such questions will not directly affect the policies of government; e.g., proving that there would be better transportation in the absence of coercive financing and control will not cause highway departments, state cops, licensing or gasoline taxes to go away. But one benefits psychologically from knowing that (1) coercive methods are not constructive and (2) the achievement of vonu by individuals indirectly benefits others as well.
There isn’t space here to refute the myths of State. Nor do I know of many readily-available books which do. It is up to each reader to identify and remove any ‘outposts of the State’ from er own mind.*
I suggest selecting ONE activity of government you believe is justified and examining it critically. Ask yourself: Has that activity always been performed by coercive means? Or have there been times and places where it was voluntarily accomplished? Are the interpretations taught in school justified? Or are they simply part of the indoctrination? Do government programs really accomplish what they claim? If government (or its corporate/union vassels [vassals]) stopped doing this, and did not interfere with others trying to do it, how might it be done by non-violent means? Here are some fallacies to look for in arguments favoring coercion:
Spurious cause and effect. Example: “Living conditions are better in America than in Russia so our government must be good.” COUNTER: Russia today is more prosperous than was America in 1800, so should we praise Brezhnev and damn Jefferson? Actually, living conditions depend on many factors including climate, work ethics, market size, and time that industrial development has been under way. American living conditions improved most rapidly during the late 19th century when government was relatively little, which suggests that relative prosperity is IN SPITE OF, not because of, government.
Paternalism: “Most people are not competent to choose food, drugs, doctors, automobiles, entertainment…” etc. COUNTER: If someone isn’t competent to run er own affairs in which e has the greatest interest and knowledge, how is e competent to select leaders to try and run other people’s lives?
Overlooking indirect effects: Example: “Look at the marvelous things the Space Program built.” COUNTER: What things might people have done with these same resources if government had not appropriated them?
Mistaking a different servitude for liberty. Example: “Before child labor laws, under laissez faire, children worked long hours in factories.” COUNTER: Children did NOT possess laissez faire, they were legally the chattels of their parents who could and often did force them to work against their wills, and took their pay. Children who ran away and were found, were returned by the police. Child labor laws did not end child slavery; they merely altered the powers of the various masters: less powers to parents, more to bureaucrats. If really free, a child could seek factory work or not as e wished.
Mistaking license to aggress for liberty. Example: “Factories would pollute (more) if it weren’t for government controls.” COUNTER: The polluter is the aggressor: e dumps er wastes into OTHER PEOPLE’s air and water. It was state laws, which protected industries from the just wrath of their victims, that made possible large-scale pollution in the first place.
Confusing the effects of intervention with the effects of liberty. Example: “Free, unregulated competition leads to monopolies.” COUNTER: The effect of free competition has been to DECENTRALIZE industry; the ‘old guard’ industrialists FAVORED government regulation, to REDUCE competition, which is the effect it has had. (Kolko, THE TRIUMPH OF CONSERVATISM)
Attributing mystical capabilities to government. Example: “Who would provide highways if the government didn’t?” COUNTER: Highways are built by PEOPLE and the machines they operate.
It isn’t possible nor necessary to predict in detail what would happen if government or the monopolies it fosters ceased such and such activity. If, for example, the State was no longer able to collect gasoline taxes and license fees or dictate what kinds of vehicles could be built and operated, the following are all possibilities: local road-repair cooperatives; private, competitive expressways, financed by tolls or by franchising businesses at rest stops; various mass-transit systems; better all-terrain vehicles for travel on unimproved roads; cheaper, easier-to-operate aircraft; better communication which reduces the need for travel; more decentralized industry which reduces freight. No one can predict to what extent each of these would develop; what actually happens would depend on the ingenuity and independent decisions of millions of people. But one can predict that people will find ways to travel and transport.
What highways were built, would be built because there were people willing to pay for using them, rather than for political reasons. And I don’t think there would be the petty harassment by police. (How many people would pay for THAT?)
This is not an appeal for ‘anarchy’. Trying to eradicate or discourage all power-seekers is as futile as trying to kill all flies and mosquitos. What is important is dispelling any notion that one owes anything to flies or mosquitos – or governments.
*If any “what if the government didn’t…” question bothers you, write me, enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope, and I will answer it to refer you to a source of further information. (See p. 120)