By Foster Gamble
I imagine a world where each being is free to act according to his or her inner guidance, provided there is no violation of any other’s person or property.
Association is voluntary, not coerced. Exchange is by choice, not force. There is no involuntary taxation (plunder), so there is no involuntary governance (tyranny). Money is a medium of exchange based on real value (sound currency) rather than arbitrary “fiat” decree (counterfeit and fraud). There are no wars of aggression (mass murder). A truly free market has led to prosperity beyond current imagining, where people have the time and the resources to follow their passions and to care for one another, as needed, voluntarily.
What if citizens were given a choice over the type of government they wanted? Or if they wanted a government at all? What if people were really to have a say in the decisions that determine the content and quality of their lives? Could we self-govern and create more resilient, peaceful, prosperous communities?
Today, involuntary governance is all that exists. When you step back to look at what government really is, it basically comes down to a group of people who are granted more power than the rest of us. They are able to make laws that we have to obey, they are able to charge us money in the form of taxes without our consent, they are able to put us in jail if we don’t go along with their self-proclaimed power, and they are able to go to war –with our money – without our approval.
It seems like voluntary governance is such a radical notion that it is common to reject it without really exploring it fully. We have chosen to examine our assumptions about government and are grateful that there are many great thinkers who have devoted their time and energy to exploring the problems and the solutions related to involuntary governance. People often say that government is necessary for protection. But governments have killed more of their own citizens and innocent civilians than any other institution in history – more than 200 million people in the 20th Century alone. Would voluntary governance result in this kind of brutality and violence? The fact that all current governments are involuntary – ranging from dictatorships to democracies – puts them at risk of being overthrown. Involuntary governments create state militaries not necessarily to protect the people, but to protect themselves. Are there more effective ways of optimizing our security, in a voluntary society?
Involuntary governments also require money to be funded, which is collected in the form of taxes. The people have no say in how taxes are spent but we are nonetheless required to pay them. Americans are terrified of the IRS. How is it that government can order us to fund their activities without us having a say in it? This economic dynamic doesn’t exist anywhere else. People in society make money by voluntarily selling goods and services or by receiving voluntary gifts. The government, on the other hand, collects money by force. Imagine if people had a say in where their taxes went. Would we be spending so much on the military? Would we have taxes at all? What if we only put funds toward services we wanted, and kept the rest of our money to support the businesses, inventions, educational opportunities and upkeep of our infrastructure that we valued? Could we create a more prosperous economy if involuntary governments didn’t collect a large portion of our income?
Making the transition to voluntary governance would obviously take a lot of work, but we believe it’s absolutely essential if what we are after are equal rights and true freedom – not as a philosophical ideal but as a reality. As discussed in our Solutions Strategies article, Stage One of the transition will likely involve reforming current systems to make governments accountable while taking care of those most disenfranchised without increasing the government’s funding or power – and at the same time empowering individuals and communities to organize on their own. Some key areas to address to get the transition underway are election and campaign finance reform.
The good news is a lot of valuable thinking has already been done envisioning voluntary societies. (The Liberty Resource Tree at the bottom of this page is rich with decades of extraordinary ethical and practical thinking.)
Because such profound change cannot happen all at once, there are three overlapping stages of the solutions process: Stage One: Bringing integrity and healing to our current condition; Stage Two: limiting government control to the protection of individual rights and the commons; and Stage Three: living solely by voluntary cooperation – rules, but no rulers.
This three-staged approach is a radical shift from most strategies. Rather than just trying to improve the status quo, it integrates traditional progressive, conservative, and liberty viewpoints, reconciling divisions that have long kept us separated.
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.
- Henry David Thoreau
As our movie, THRIVE, goes out across the globe, I have observed that, as mind-stretching as it might be to consider the reality of Extra-terrestrial visitation, unlimited “free energy,” and vast global conspiracy...this inquiry into true liberty is actually the area that, for many, poses the greatest challenge and yet holds the potential for the most important impact.
“The greatest fight in the history of the world and the world of ideas is the fight to establish a universal morality.”
- Stefan Molyneux
Core morality is not relative. It is not cultural. It is not up for religious interpretation or majority vote. The core moral question I pose for each person to consider is this…
At exactly what point is it OK with YOU for someone to hurt someone else or to take their stuff?
Is it all right if you think you know better than they... or if you feel you are more enlightened ... if you think your race or gender is better...because you have more money or more education... maybe because you have more people who agree with you?
Everything else comes from how we answer this question…
The central rule that I have found, after searching for my entire life, that I believe could guide humanity into a state of not only surviving, but thriving sustainably on Planet Earth, is simply this:
No one gets to violate anyone else – his or her person, property or privacy – except in true self-defense.
This is the one rule that everyone seems to agree with – at least for themselves.
I have not found anyone who wants to be violated against their will.
It seems so simple and obvious – sort of like the golden rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And yet it is more profound, because no one gets to do unto others unless the other agrees – voluntarily!
This is the perhaps the most important word to guide us to a sustainable civilization – VOLUNTARY.
There are many who try to justify violating the intrinsic freedom of others. Look at slavery, bigotry, imperialism, “nation building,” “divine right to rule,” “manifest destiny,” eminent domain, royal decree, genocide, white supremacy, male domination, religious persecution, theft, corruption, conspiracy, fascism, communism, socialism, democracy - all excuses for some to put on a uniform, adopt a title, assume power over others…and violate them.
The inconvenient thought we are so often taught to avoid having is:
If it is against life itself to violate another against their will, then our very “Democracy- which is born of and sustains itself by taking people’s hard-earned money, whether they like it or not, and calling it “taxation,” - is, in and of itself, a violation.
Throughout history this has always led to its own self-destruction, because that first violation is the seed from which grows tyranny, the unethical centralization of power over others. It can’t help but feed on itself, like the cancer that it is, by further violations, in order to maintain its own ill-gotten monopoly on force.
We are actually taught in school that the income tax, is a “voluntary” tax. Just try not paying it, however, like Wesley Snipes and others have, and you will see how quickly people show up at your door with guns and take you away to jail. This is the tacit “gun in the room” that is rarely referred to in our supposedly “free” society.
To see the folly of our politicians trying to defend against the “elephant in the room,” watch liberty advocate Jan Helfeld insisting on consistency from Democratic House Leader Harry Reid:
To see how the tax system allows the elite to farm us for cash like livestock or debt slaves, watch Stefan Molyneux’s historical glimpse into the tax tyranny.
Everything in your life is about voluntary cooperation except a few things like the income tax, and that power needs to be given back to the individual, because as long as the state has that power, ultimately they will be able to do whatever they want.
- Stefan Molyneux
At this point in history, to seriously consider a civilization free of involuntary government must be similar to what imagining a round earth was a thousand years ago. But there is a profound legacy of amazing thinkers who are pioneering what a society could look like based on absolute non-violation.I have particularly learned from the writings of Lysander Spooner, Carl Menger, Ludwig Von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, Hans Hoppe, Lew Rockwell, David Boaz, Stefan Molyneux and especially my own son and one of my most influential teachers, Trevor Gamble, and his new book The Secrets to Non-violent Prosperity: The Principles of Liberty (paid link). Check him out in the Pioneers section.
It’s been said that, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what’s for dinner – and Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”
The Declaration of Independence was quite a profound declaration of the rights of the individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - especially compared to the kingdoms, fiefdoms and dictatorships that preceded it. But by the time it was transformed into the American Constitution, it had already been corrupted by the all male, all wealthy, mostly secret society, Free-Masonic elite who constructed it. Suddenly women, poor people, blacks and others were stripped of their “inalienable rights.” Inalienable means that they are intrinsically for everyone, not that they are given by some authority – the state – and therefore can be taken away by the same “collective.”
“If it’s liberty we want, it’s a republic that we should seek, not a democracy – and only persuasion and education would be used to spread this message. Threats and violence are diametrically opposed to the message we would purport to be spreading. The difference between democracy and a republic is important. Pure democracy, in which the law itself is up for grabs based on legislative maneuvering, is the enemy of individual rights, and it victimizes the minority... A republic, on the other hand, is a non-monarchical system that makes no claim to somehow embody the will of the people; it is a system merely for the appointment of leaders and the administration of law.”
- Ron Paul, Liberty Defined
And herein lies the problem. The lethal misunderstanding is that the “collective” – which is just a term for the idea of a group, should have more say than the individual. The collective, however is just an abstraction, a concept. The individual is real! At the human level, the fundamental wholeness, the quantum, the basic torus energy field, is the individual person – not a group.
Wrongly assuming the rights of the collective to be more important than the individual has always lead to tyranny and is the operative underpinning of all governments and ultimately responsible for most of the death and destruction on the planet.
Here is G. Edward Griffin unpacking the concept:
“What are the elements of collectivism that are common to all of the seemingly opposite forces? Collectivists on the so-called Left and Right agree that:
1. Rights are derived from the state;
2. The group is more important than the individual;
3. Coercion is the preferred method to bring about reform;
4. Laws should be applied differently to different classes;
5. Providing benefits (redistributing wealth) is the proper role of government.
These are the core principles held by collectivists in their quest to remold mankind to their hearts desire. The main disagreement among them is over how those principles should be applied. They do not realize that it's not the application of those principles, but the principles themselves that cause injustice, scarcity, and freedom's demise. History has already shown this truth in the form of despotism under Nazism (the so-called Right) and Communism (the so-called Left). It is sad that intelligent people with knowledge of this history still cling to the myth that they are opposites when it is so clear they are merely different manifestations of the same ideology.”
“In the name of the collective, the resulting “state” has been the single most destructive force in history, accounting for 44 million people killed in wars in the 20th century alone…and the killing of a nation state’s own citizens – 262 million - has outstripped even the endless wars of aggression to take over the property, resources and ultimately the tax base of other regions.
- Ron Paul, Liberty Defined
We are entrained in our culture to express our desire for change by voting - left or right, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. That, however, is a false choice. Both ends of the spectrum take more power away from individuals and grow government, while creating more and more regulation and taxation. It doesn’t fundamentally matter if it’s “the left” taxing and spending on entitlement programs and increased regulation (control over other people) or “the right” taxing for wars of aggression, corporate subsidies and bailouts and regulating who can marry whom and what women can do with their bodies. It’s all about the further consolidation of power. Both parties work fundamentally for their corporate funders, especially the Wall St. bankers who run the central banking, fiat money, fractional reserve scam that is destroying so many lives.
I find the more useful distinction on the vertical axis of what is known as the Nolan diagram. Here is our thrive version of the traditional depiction. Check out the Nolan Chart Survey to see where your views actually land.
On the horizontal axis is the usual political polarity just described. On the “y” axis – contrasted with “statist” or “authoritarian” is Liberty – not the Libertarian political party, which has to a great extent been taken over by the Christian right and mostly ends up condoning state power (“minarchy” – or “small government”), but meaning “voluntary” – ultimately state-free!
“But there are dangerous corrupt people in society, so we need the government to protect us.”
Liberty thinking is often misunderstood as Utopian – meaning a wishful vision of a world filled with only good, well-intended people where everything just works out. Actually this approach is very practical. It recognizes that there are dangerous people with skewed psyches and destructive intent in any society, so we need to make sure they are not empowered.
Given that there are dangerous corrupt people, what could be more risky than having a system with a monopoly on making money (the Federal Reserve), backed up by a monopoly on force (the military and government funded mercenary armies) where dangerous and corrupt people can rise to the top of this centralized power pyramid.
By stage three, I believe we will have discovered the obvious – that no violation of individual rights – including government and the mandatory taxes that make it possible – is tolerable in a just and thriving society. The tripod of independent Dispute Resolution Organizations, true free market insurance, and private security will support the core role of non-aggression and respect will become a more influential currency than cash.
Doesn’t eliminating government mean anarchy – chaos and violence in the streets and the law of the jungle with no protection for the poor?
We are already devolving toward chaos and violence and the poor certainly aren’t being well protected by the government.
You cannot create an agency with a monopoly on violence to get rid of violence in a society. We have a society based on coercion and violence and that is the source of its imminent and inevitable collapse. If violence doesn’t work personally, it won’t work socially.
Once the state has income tax taken from source, they can essentially do whatever they want.
There are 230 countries and all the governments are all growing.
The US is the biggest and most dangerous government in history. It has grown from 1776 to this!
Benevolent self-interest, enhanced by free association and voluntary competition, is the only way to create sustainable compassion within society.
- Stefan Molyneux
Isn’t government necessary to protect us from outside invasion?
States attack States because they can confiscate or print the tax money to fund their war, and because there are clear centers of power, and tax bases to be conquered. With endless local Private security firms in a free society, there would still be well-armed and effective protection forces that could band together, like white blood cells protecting against a virus. But there would not be just a few centers to be taken over.
If the Occupy Movement had centralized power, the leaders probably would have been coerced or jailed very quickly. Raymond Kelly, the Police Commissioner of New York City, told CNN, “We can’t find the leaders and they don’t seem to be very interested in regulations and permits.”
Isn’t government necessary to build and maintain the roads?
This is a good, and common, question when considering private ownership and maintenance of something so essential as roads. So few people own what they need, and so many people have often been overruled and coerced by those who do, that it is challenging to consider the radical shift that can happen when people have more money, more time and more self-determination from Stages 1 and 2 to make private ownership something different than we have experienced in our subsidized hierarchies of control.
Still, it’s clear that when you drive into a shopping center you are on a private road, and almost without exception it is in great shape.
Private owners of forest land are not known to clear cut.Private owners of highways would be naturally incented to have as many people as possible use them, and to keep them in good shape to maintain their reputation and insurance. Perhaps some roads will be left in some sort of commons beyond Stage 2 of the transition we are recommending, but my guess is that by then we will see how private ownership serves the public far better than taxpayer funded state control. The costs for drivers would most likely be far less than they are currently paying in taxes. It’s important to think about how much money we currently spend to drive on roads (The American Society of Civil Engineers has given US infrastructure a near-failing grade) and go to school- (clearly a failing system) -- it’s just that we spend it in taxes!
It’s been easier to convince people to hand over half their income, their children to war, and their freedoms in perpetuity - than to engage them in seriously considering how roads might function in the absence of taxation.
- Stefan Molyneux
Aren’t wars good for the economy?
The myth that war is good for a capitalist economy is easily debunked by rational economics - war is good for government income, and for the income of those who supply war materials, but disastrous for everyone else.
- Stefan Molyneux
Isn’t government necessary to provide healthcare for the poor?
Statist health care “systems” follow the basic model that the doctor does not get paid when you are healthy, but only gets paid when you are sick. The doctor has no direct economic incentive to prevent illness, but every incentive to treat it.
Healthcare providers currently profit from illness, rather than health…motivated to deliver medication rather than discover alternatives to medication or prevent the problem in the first place
The key is to align interests.
The wonderful thing about insurance is that the interests of consumers are almost exactly aligned with the interests of providers, since both are directly motivated by the desire to decrease risk.
[“Please note that in this section, I am talking about the free market insurance companies of the future not the kinds we have known.”)
Returning a customer to health not only guarantees future heath care payments, but it also postpones the payment of death benefits. In this way, the self-interest of the insurance company is directly aligned with the self-interest of the customer, who doubtless does not prefer to be either sick or dead. If the doctor is also paid to prevent, cure and keep alive, then all three parties have the same goal, which is the polar opposite of our current system.
Private insurance companies will be reasonably proactive in attempting to prevent health problems from developing…they will be sure to pay doctors first for prevention, and then for successful cures, rather than for merely cycling as many patients through their offices as humanly possible.
In the US, more than 50 cents of every healthcare dollar is spent by the government, which violently protects a monopolistic doctor’s union called the AMA, and also hyper-regulates the medical field with literally hundreds of thousands of laws, rules, directives and requirements. (The incentive of private profit, combined with the corrupt largesse of a public purse, is technically called “fascism,” rather than freedom.
In a stateless society, the poor will be genuinely served by a far better system, composed of those whose self-interest is directly aligned with the health of the poor.
- Stefan Molyneux
Isn’t government necessary to provide free or cheap education so even poor people can have the opportunity to get ahead?
Without needing to fund the state, the resulting prosperity would allow individuals to select and pay for the educational opportunities of their own choice.
It’s important to compare a stateless society not to some perfect utopia, but rather to existing statist societies. Both access to, quality of and choice regarding educational opportunities would far surpass the current situation for poor people in any state-funded society.
- Stefan Molyneux
Isn’t government necessary to keep the corporations from destroying our environment?
In a free society based on individual rights and the protection of eco-systems, corporations and the people running them would be prosecuted for violating other individuals by polluting air, water and soil.
Isn’t government necessary to protect us from the crazy, crooked and violent people in the world?
Competition and voluntarism are the only known methodologies for repairing and opposing the inevitable errors and corruptions that constantly creep into human relations. The fact that human beings can make mistakes – and are always susceptible to corruption – is exactly why they should never be given a monopoly power of violence over others.
The possibility of corruption, and/or error is often considered to be an airtight argument against anarchy, when in fact it is an airtight argument for anarchy and against Statism.
- Stefan Molyneux
Wouldn’t private armies just leave the poor unprotected and lead to mercenary civil wars and domination by the rich who could afford the biggest armies?
Private security companies that violated anyone, other than in genuine protection of individual rights, would lose their insurance and reputation, and be unable to compete with companies that adhered to the principle of non-aggression.
Wouldn’t private justice organizations just sell themselves out to whoever could offer them the biggest bribes?
They would lose their reputation for resolving conflicts in alignment with individual rights, which would be bad for their business, and they would lose their insurance, which would threaten to put them out of business.
Wouldn’t private insurance companies with no government supervision be even worse than the AIG and health insurance fiascoes we have already witnessed?
Private insurance companies in a true free market, voluntaryist society would themselves need to be insured and therefore need to stay honest in their practices. They could not count on government contracts, subsidies or bailouts to survive.
Wouldn’t it be better to have a small government than no government at all?
There is much debate about this within the liberty movement. One fact is most influential for me: No state in history has ever been contained. My own belief is that ideally there would be voluntary associations in which various people gather and help in various ways now associated with government, but it is done voluntarily, without force of any kind, so if any monies are pooled it is done with voluntary participation of all engaged, and can be withdrawn at any time.
States are parasites which always expand until they destroy their host populations. Because the state uses violence to achieve its ends, and there is no rational end to the use of violence, states grow until they destroy civilized interactions through the corruption of money, contracts, honesty, family and self-reliance.
It’s took just a little more than a century for the US – founded on the idea of limited government, institute the income tax, take control of the money supply and the educational system and begin its catastrophic expansion.
- Stefan Molyneux
A protectorate is a suitable goal for stage 2 – shrinking government to protect individual rights and some of the commons, but will it be sustainable? Most likely not, if it can take even some of my money against my will and if I am forced to accept its services on its own terms if I want to keep my property. These two seemingly innocuous powers are all any government needs to grow from the smallest "protectorate" seed to the most totalitarian "empire.”
Paper constitutions have the same long-term value as paper money; also, like paper money, they lend a false sense of security to the holder. What constitution has ever kept the government from rewriting or discarding it throughout history? Just look at Latin America and Europe: one could make a bonfire with the constitutions they have gone through in the last 500 years.
But the heart of the matter is this: Concentrated power that legalizes robbery to fund itself will always win in the end. It always wins because the State steals from those who work, so that State-connected interests do not need to work to put food on the table, and can thus occupy their days working to consolidate their power. The consolidated power is eventually turned on those whom the original, limited power was intended to serve. And because the victims have to work for a living, they do not have the means of fighting back.
- Stefan Molyneux
There is an endless array of topics to argue about regarding how a state-free world would handle them. I find it critical to keep bringing into the conversation that our current systems are not working and getting worse and that ultimately we need to keep starting from the core principle of non-violation. Otherwise it’s like not abolishing slavery because we are not sure how everything is going to work out.
“You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”
— Ayn Rand