|The Enterprise of Liberty vs |
The Enterprise of Politics
Right Answers to Wrong Questions, or
Liberty as a Paradigm for Your Life
This essay, completed in October 2004, is a development of the speech I gave on April 4th 2004 at the Libertarian International Spring 2004 Convention organized in Leiden by Libertarian International. See also my blog entry about that convention.
1 The Ultimate Opposition
1.1 A Follow-Up To My Previous Speeches
1.2 Black Magic
1.3 White Magic
1.4 The Paradox
2 Life as Enterprise
2.1 The Notion of Enterprise
2.2 The Enterprise of Politics
2.3 The Enterprise of Liberty
3 Creating Liberty
3.1 Liberty As A Resource
3.2 Defense as an Enterprise
3.3 The Historical Creation of Liberty
4 Right Answers to Wrong Questions
4.1 Un-asking Questions
4.2 For or Against the War?
4.3 Liberty Begins Here and Now
5.1 A Paradigm For Your Life
5.2 Instead Of Curing The World
5.3 For More Information...
|1 The Ultimate Opposition|
Good evening. My name is François-René Rideau. I am a cybernetician, and I speak both as a researcher in dynamic systems and as a member of the french Association des Libertariens — ADEL.
This speech can be seen as a sequel to my previous speeches addressing Libertarian International in Paris in April 2002, entitled Reason and Passion: How to Be a Convincing Libertarian, and in London in November 2002, entitled Government is the Rule of Black Magic: On Human Sacrifices and Other Modern Superstitions. I will thus begin by a quick summary of the previous episodes, for the sake of those who don't remember them well, or who plain missed them. And congratulations to the happy few who read the essays on my homepage shortly before this conference.
In my latest speech, Government is the Rule of Black Magic, I explored the fundamental psychological mechanisms that underlie authoritarianism and libertarianism. I characterized and contrasted two opposite attitudes toward life, that I dubbed black magic and white magic.1.2 Black Magic
Black magic is an attitude of submissive expectation of miracles from superior beings as the source of Good things. It is an attitude where the justification of any arbitrary edict lies in its originating in proper authority; where authority is to be flawlessly transmitted and ruthlessly imposed from supernatural top hierarchically down to oh so earthly bottom.
Life to black magicians consists in building up forces so as to fight against an evil that is constituted by anything that does not actively flow in a direction given by the central plan. Black Magicians tend to view things in terms of (positive) associations vs (negative) oppositions, in terms of alliances and enmities, in terms of friends and foes. A person's view of things is often particularly warped towards Black Magic as things are on a larger scale, more remote from one's everyday concerns where reality directly keeps one's opinions and behaviour more relevant.
To black magicians, economics is about a particular domain of activity, well separate from a personal sphere, and to be regulated separately: the domain of things being (usually) done in exchange of this damned intermediate, money . Economic reasoning is in terms of accounting, about apportioning praise and blame. Governmental law is to distribute costs to some people and benefits to other people according to authority-endorsed morality.
To black magicians, choice is irrelevant, because everyone is to obey an external duty. The only information that matters is moral judgments, that come at no cost if only you listen to the proper authority, and have no value if you don't; the rest is arbitrary individual whim. Oh, the precise proceeding of human action may imply having to deal with some technicalities, but science as a collective endeavour is here to fulfill that role in a value-neutral way, and if it's not yet free and complete, it will be one day, and anyway, it doesn't enter the moral debate since it's value-neutral.1.3 White Magic
By contrast White magic is an attitude of autonomous research of solutions to actual problems, not from miracles that defy the laws of nature, but from engineered arrangements that take these laws into account. It is an attitude where objective reality is the ultimate authority, universally accessible to any and every individual through proper and improper interaction.
Life to white magicians consists in learning about nature as they act within it, trying to establish structures so that the order that will naturally emerge from these structures will be beneficial. White Magicians tend to view things in terms of causes and consequences, in terms of dynamic forces that tend toward equilibria and evolutions, in terms of engineering means that fulfill a purpose within constraints. While White Magic is happily not necessary in everyday behaviour that happens through innate and acquired reflexes, it is necessary as a higher-level control method to switch between sets of reflexes, learn and unlearn automatisms, and adapt behaviour to circumstances.
To white magicians, economics is a point of view on the whole of human action, on the way we make choices; the crucial distinction they make is not between domains of activities, but between means of action, either through voluntary cooperation or through forceful aggression. . Economic reasoning is establishing relative costs and benefits of available opportunities. Natural Rights assign responsibilities and liberties together, as property rights, to individuals who earn them through creation and free exchange (or dis-earn them through destruction and restitutive justice).
To white magicians, accounting is irrelevant; it may possibly serve as a tool to simplify a further computation of opportunity costs, but it is that latter computation that matters and doesn't necessarily require any particular accounting decomposition. Information is very important, as the input of moral judgments, and not as their output; it has a cost which is itself a matter of individual choice, and its value depends on relevance to available individual opportunities, so that it cannot be produced by a central authority.1.4 The Paradox
This contrast between Black Magic and White Magic as two opposite paradigms to approach life can help you a lot to understand the way that authoritarians think, and what is the nature of the communication barrier between us and them. But to cast libertarianism as a ``cosmic fight´´ between the liberty of white magic and the authority of black magic, as I did in my previous speech, is a paradox. (Can you see why?) It is a paradox because this opposition between white and black magic, like all oppositions, is itself a black magic kind of point of view.
Is this paradox a performative contradiction of mine? — that is, is it a reasoning that implicitly presupposes its own contrary? Well, not exactly. It is a dynamic action: it consumes as resources some of hypotheses on which it depends, leaving less afterwards than beforehand. And since the resource it tends to fight is the propensity to yield to black magic, that is being turned against itself, I contend that it is a positive action, and the very essence of what libertarianism is about. The opposition between white and black magic is a reductio ad absurdum of black magic.
Now if black magic is absurd, then its point of view is ultimately inconsistent, and there must be a better point of view on the same phenomena. Fighting for liberty may unhappily be a conjectural part of our endeavour, until we may bring better times; but it cannot be the whole story. We cannot wholly extinguish black magic by using black magic itself. And we cannot extinguish it without replacing it with something better to fill its memetic niche.
In the end, there needs be a more ``white magic´´ point of view on our libertarian endeavour; a point of view whereby the cosmic struggle of white magic vs black magic, reason vs emotions, engineering vs prayers, leaves place to causes and consequences, choice and feedback; a point of view where fighting is replaced by entrepreneurship.
And only by such a point of view can we hope to successfully advance our ideas of liberty.
|2 Life as Enterprise|
Enterprise is a paradigm of human action whereby individual decision-makers make choices freely and are responsible for their consequences. Another way to put it is that individuals allocate resources they own in endeavours they commit to. These choices, this allocation, are kept relevant to the world, and therefore improved by evolution, through the mechanism of feedback that is the acquisition or loss of resources as natural consequences of choices.
Success and failure are thus the sanction of each individual's actions in the context in which he makes them. And this sanction is the way we ultimately learn: through trial and error — and the integration of it into our nervous system. Mistakes are thus an essential part of our life, without which we cannot learn. Of course, brighter people will learn not only from their own mistakes, but from the mistakes of other people, too: present people but also past people; through direct observation and integration, but also through the traditions handed to us, that are being developed as the integration of all that was previously learned.
Because we can never directly think about the world, but that we can only think of it through the representations and other integrations of our brain, obtained through interaction with it, we can never have absolute knowledge but only reasonable expectations. Black magicians will often repeat this truism and use it to justify the arbitrariness of beliefs and the use of force to impose theirs. But actually this truism calls for an opposite conclusion: that the development of reason is necessary to improve our expectations, and that respect for property is instrumental in achieving the feedback that makes our thinking relevant to the world .
Indeed, whoever would impose his arbitrary opinions upon another person also has but expectations and not absolute knowledge; and the expectations of a person specialized in coercion through ruthlessness or cunning are to be expected as rather less reasonable than those of a person who advances his causes through peaceful persuasion out of rational debate. Moreover, even if Goddess were to descend upon some prophet, lest She also descends upon everyone else, the listeners cannot know it for sure, they can only have an expectation of it — and it wouldn't be quite reasonable to blindly trust whoever claims to hold absolute knowledge from Goddess. In the end, there is no escaping the committing of resources out of expectations that are not absolute knowledge. And the feedback through which learning is possible will only fall upon the one who commits resources if property rights are respected in the process. And only through this feedback is there adaptation and progress.
With this concept of Enterprise, we may explore not Black Magic and White Magic, these internal attitudes of men toward life, but the Enterprise of Politics and the Enterprise of Liberty, the external phenomena by which men interact within life, and that respectively rely on Black Magic and White Magic.2.2 The Enterprise of Politics
Black Magic is a wrong, crooked way of seeing the world. It is a lapse from humanity and into animality, in the way that some people structure their lives. Yet, we don't fear the black magicians, those who utterly believe in the paradigm of black magic and indulge in its ineffective techniques. Or rather, we don't fear them more than any other wild animal, for wild animals they are; with proper fencing and a weapon, we can easily keep them at bay.
But we do have to fear the grey magicians; those who do use white-magic techniques of entrepreneurship to advance their own interest by spreading black magic in other people. Or those who forbid fencing and confiscate weapons, and who require obedience so they may perhaps ``protect´´ you from aggression. Grey Magicians may prominently display belief in Black Magic: that apparent self-infection is a way to be more convincing to the followers they use as subhuman tools to rob their production from the human creators. But the grey magicians preserve their own ability to behave in a White Magic way to efficiently further their own self-interest; they will resort to double-think if needed.
And what we have to face and to fight is thus an Enterprise of Politics — the lobbying, courting, opinion-making and administrating for the control, grant and continued flow of resources toward the interests of the political entrepreneurs. And the Enterprise of Politics obeys a Law that captures its Evil — the Law of Bitur Camember: every single resource available to political redistribution will be entirely spent in lobbying in advance of any transfer actually occurring to benefit anyone (at the cost of someone else).
This law is actually but a combined corollary of the fact that rent-seeking is a human activity amongst others and of the law that says that investment in an activity will take place until the expected return on investment of said activity will be less than the ROI (return-on-investment) of other activities that investors may turn to. The conclusion from this Law of Political Entrepreneurship is that any ``positive´´ effect of political action to anyone is paid twice — once by taxpayers and other victims of the political system, and once by the actors of the political system, as investment to their activity.
As an illustration, if whomever becomes recognized as ``President of Somalia´´ can claim control over 10 billion euros worth of yearly foreign aid and domestic taxes, and there exist bank accounts returning 5% per year, then there will be about 9.5 billion euros worth per year spent and dissipated in armament, warring, destruction, political propaganda, lobbying, and other forms of bids for political power taking place in Somalia.
I don't want to expand too much on this Law of Political Entrepreneurship. You can read about that on my website. The point I am trying to make here is that the point of view of the Enterprise applies to Politics, and helps us understand how Black Magic advances in this world. Political activity, just like any activity, is about the acquisition and allocation of resources through proper decisions by people in a position to make choices, with feedback from successes and failures.2.3 The Enterprise of Liberty
If we are to advance Liberty, we too must understand this endeavour as an Enterprise. We have resources, starting with our own time, with the propensity of other people to listen to us. And we must allocate these resources so as to increase our influence, and acquire enough new resources so as to continue our activity.
Once we take the point of view of the Enterprise, we find that we can actually progress but by taking into account the resources that we possess, how we can spend them, how we can acquire them — and how we can acquire more than we spend. Otherwise, our endeavours will be but spending to exhaustion, with no lasting results beyond the things we write, mere symbols on a blank sheet, words with no power, unreachable dreams, wishful thinking. Meanwhile, the grey magicians will continue to rule and enslave producers by spreading black magic around the world.
If we are to be Libertarian Activists, we must thus think of our activity as an Enterprise. Our goal is to advance Liberty in the minds of people, to dispel the black magic ways of thinking; to have the principles of Libertarian Law widely known and acknowledged as legitimate. We must think of our endeavour as of a Revolution, though it is a non-violent Revolution: we must manage our resources, assess which lines of conduct will extend our influence, see how we can gather funds, time, activists, etc. That doesn't mean that we should have a central authority to coordinate; but that does mean that we ought to think rationally, use managerial tools, gather capitals and other resources, etc.
I don't want to tell you what to do. Foremost because I don't know what to do. Of course I do have ideas as to where precisely to commit resources; but they are independent from the general ideas I want to transmit clearly now. As in any commitment of resources, these ideas are of a very circumstantial and personal nature, which makes them little prone to generalization. Maybe Édouard Fillias  tomorrow can give you a more experienced opinion about which activities are interesting to undertake right now and which are doomed. But the purpose of the present speech is to help you change the way you think about what you do. I want you to think of advancing liberty in terms of resource management.
As a first step toward thinking of liberty as an enterprise, I'm sure you can all realize the following obvious points: we should learn to have a seductive discourse; we should learn the strategies of successful subversion and opinion-making; learn to reach people and acquire their agreement to our ideas; learn to turn mere passive agreement into active endorsement of our action, so that people will spend resources our way; we should learn to use the resources efficiently; learn to put people into movement and coordinate them.
But I would like to invite you to go a step further.
|3 Creating Liberty|
The Enterprise of Liberty is not a matter of defending some fixed given thing named Liberty in a fight against aggressors — that would be the paradoxical black magic vision of white magic that we denounced above. Of course, once in a hopefully rare while, there sadly have to be fights; but mainly, the Enterprise of Liberty is about building freedom where there wasn't freedom before. Indeed, Liberty itself can be seen as resource, that can be created, acquired, preserved and spent, exchanged, destroyed.
Consider the liberty of using the fruit of one's creation. The opportunity to use a resource is first in its creator; this is a metaphysical fact, an intrinsic property of creation. However, the right to use this resource isn't mechanically recognized by all as residing in said creator; and unless this right is recognized, other people may come and seize this resource without respect for the creator's desires, backing their claim with superior force. We libertarians might claim that it would be optimal in many ways that this right, this liberty of the legitimate owner, be recognized; and this recognition of course will only serve in as much as it will ensure that superior force be on his side should a conflict occur. But this, in fact, can fail to be the case. Newborn babies don't recognize this right or any right at all, and rights are not recognized in a hypothetical or historical ``state of nature´´. This recognition, the liberty of the legitimate owner, is thus a resource, that too must be created. Creating this resource involves an enterprise of its own; and so it be useful, you must create such a resource for each of your potential properties, and for each of the people who might take a role in attacking or defending your or some other claimant's rights.
That's where a Theory of Law such as Libertarianism comes handy: it can be a tool for the cheap mass production of such resources. Libertarian ideas are technology to build freedom — they are a Freedom Technology. But they only work when they are accepted by all people concerned. And then you need to find and use other Freedom Technologies upstream so as to convince other people of your ideas, so as to discover and spread good laws, and so as to cancel bad laws.
We are much better off than in the Middle Ages, in terms of many Rights that we have secured: freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of possession, freedom of trade, etc. Surely, there are many defects in the details of those rights that we do have secured, but despite these defects, there has been a global progress in the last few millennia. All in all, we have much better Freedom Technology today in western countries than anyone ever had in the Middle Ages. Yet, though they didn't a have good Freedom Technology in terms of knowing what Liberties should be, could be, and how to enforce them, people in the Middle Ages did have a much better understanding than we do of the nature of Liberties, as resources that have to be built or bought: the explicit recognition of individual rights by other people, and especially so by the people able to enforce or violate those rights.3.2 Defense as an Enterprise
Liberties, as resources of good will in other people who acknowledge your rights, don't exist at first; — they must be created .
When you do not fully enjoy some liberties, when some people do not acknowledge some rights you claim, you may call them robbers and frauds, but that in itself won't discourage them from despoiling you. To preserve the rights you claim from these potential predators, you have to increase the costs and to diminish the benefits of predation. 
Let us examine what happens when some given liberties don't exist yet. Ultimately, there may always be robbers and frauds who dispute the rights of more legitimate owners, and try to grab resources they didn't earn through creation and free exchange. So as to enjoy a resource you produced despite these predators, you may take one of the following courses:
Hence, the criterion for a successful defense will be to be the strongest. Now your being the strongest in a conflict against those who despise your liberties quite probably involves your liberties being respected by the acting majority of people. Therefore, even against those who disregard your rights, your liberty, — the acknowledgement of your rights by the majority of people, — is your ultimate weapon, whereas the denial of your rights by the majority would be your greatest weakness. In other words, might makes facts, but recognized rights contribute a lot to making might.
This is why it is useful and ultimately necessary to convince other people of your rights, if you want to defend these rights successfully against aggression. And there are only so many ways of convincing people. You may use force to influence them, and compel those who are not otherwise convinced; but beside the fact that this conflates the meaning of the word ``convince´´, this supposes that you already have reached the goal of obtaining force, and then you don't need convince more people anymore .
A second way to convince a lot of people, is to use emotions, to draw them from values they hold to some conclusion that is shown to follow emotionally from these values. But emotions can and will be used in fallacious ways to mislead people to wrong conclusions, and the most expert people to manipulate opinions through emotions will be those who are not stopped by irrationality in their emotional demonstrations. This doesn't mean that emotions shouldn't be used to defend liberties; they are definitely a necessary component of any attempt to create liberties. But they do not a priori work in favor of liberties more than they do work in favor of predation, quite the contrary.
A third way to convince people is to use reason, to show how some conclusions logically follow from accepted premises, or better, from premises that can't possibly be rejected without a contradiction. However, one can only convince a few people at a time, and only very slowly. And of course, it requires a positive emotional setting so that rational arguments may be heard at all. Yet, despite all its shortcomings and limitations, reason is the only tool that comes fully and unmistakably in support of liberties: because they are not arbitrary whims, but effective tools in the mutual interest of all concerned, and all the more so when a sufficient number of other people already respect them.3.3 The Historical Creation of Liberty
Liberty is to be created. It always had to be created, and indeed it has been created in the past. I invite you to consider the progress of liberty in a historical perspective, from killing to slavery to robbery to fraud.
In the earliest stages of mankind, the only way to parasite other people was murder and pillage: kill all who resist, take all you can — cattle, weapons, clothes, women, hunting grounds. Between predators and victims, there was no notion of rights. Liberty was still uncreated.
As agriculture was invented, the invention of sedentariness made possible a great innovation: slavery. Instead of repeatedly coming to kill and pillage, risking a lot and taking little every once in a while, the parasites could now earn more at remaining in place, becoming ``stationary bandits´´, and compelling the conquered to work for them permanently. This was an immense progress for the victims as well as for the victors — a matter of life and death, really. So yes, slavery was a progress in its time . And paradoxically as it may seem, slavery is how liberty was initially created: ``I reckon your right to live, if you do as I tell.´´
Concurrently, with the invention of money (meaning durable fungible divisible valuable goods), some bandits figured out that it was less hassle and more profit to not control the way that the conquered would work, but let them free to thrive however they could, and rather levy a hefty tribute upon them. Instead of requiring total submission, parasites learnt to live by requiring partial submission under the threat of partial destruction (crippling, imprisonment, etc.). Thus robbery was another great progress for mankind, and more liberty was created.
And when with international communication, the competition between parasites made more prosperous those who let their victims grow wealthier and more clever by leaving them more liberty, there came a point when the victims wouldn't be abused by force alone. The parasites couldn't afford to be robbers anymore, and had to resort to deception so as to exploit their victims, and every time more deception and less force. And thus fraud was born as another great progress for mankind. Liberty from robbery could then be created.
There have always been a few unconquered souls, and for those who have been conquered of late, the according story is a sorrowful one. But for the vast majority of — conquered — humans, the story of conquest has been a story of progress toward less harsh treatment of victims and more rights acknowledged to them. And the principles of progress in human social relations have been the progress of techniques and the competition between parasites. Liberty is not created by the unconquered, but by the freed.
Maybe will come a day when mankind progresses enough to get rid of the parasites altogether. This progress in political freedom technology will come naturally when we have created the underlying technologies that enable it in other fields of human action. If we are to build freedom, it will work by our developing better technologies outside of the field of political parasitism.
|4 Right Answers to Wrong Questions|
Underlying the previous part of my speech is a whole paradigm shift from viewing life as Struggle to viewing life as Enterprise. And a paradigm shift means that you unlearn as irrelevant some of your previous questions and answers, and learn to ask more relevant questions that will receive a different kind of answers.
Zen, at least in the way it is (mis)understood by western computer scientists, proposes a way to un-ask questions with the anti-answer ``Mu´´. This anti-answer is a way of rejecting a question, because it relies on pre-suppositions that you do not accept. For instance, the question ``when did you stop beating your wife?´´ pre-supposes that you did use to beat your wife; any answer to that question is an admission of this beating. Often, but not always, the hidden premise is about the comprehensiveness of an alternative: ``are you with me or against me?´´ ``Mu´´ is a way of saying neither ``yes´´, nor ``no´´ nor any answer whatsoever, but instead of challenging the premises of the question. It is a shorter version of Ayn Rand's response: ``check your assumptions´´.
Note that these hidden premises can sometimes constitute a deep network of interrelated beliefs and attitudes, what people in hermeneutics call a ``pre-understanding´´. Premises may have to be checked and questioned not just isolatedly, but with their whole chains of mutual consequences. Otherwise, ``checking´´ a premise will only result in its being reinstanciated as the consequence of other, deeper, flawed premises, and the process of begging the question will continue. The more radical the paradigm shift, the deeper and the wider the sets of assumptions to check and longer the length of these chains of consequences.
Enterprise is the moral activity of a man who exerts his ability to choose, and earns the positive and negative consequences that follow his choices. Every choice is a moral activity, and every human activity is enterprise. Liberty is this paradigm of individual choice. And what this paradigm teaches us is to un-ask questions about false choices that are not to be possibly made by any human, and instead to focus on true choices that can be made by humans, and particularly so by the humans who are actually asking or answering the questions.
For instance, as I have been explaining in my article Economic Reasoning vs Accounting Fallacies, we never really have to worry about accounting costs that describe the difference between a ``before´´ and an ``after´´ some action, but in as much as it participates in evaluating an economic cost, that describes the difference between the outcomes of several actions among which a human may choose at some moment. Developing an accounting calculation about some action and then jumping to the economic conclusion that said action is either good or bad, without actually comparing its outcome to the outcome of the other actions that have to be considered as actual alternatives, is what in this article I dubbed the accounting fallacy. It is the most frequent of a class of economic fallacies that consist in misconsidering the alternatives that do or don't constrain actual human choices.
More generally, the questions we will ask will be directed by the over-arching concern of ``what should I do?´´ — which itself is constrained by the questions ``what can I do?´´ and ``what are the outcomes´´ should I do this or that? And the questions we will un-ask are all those that happen in absence of a possible choice of action from ourselves or anyone.4.2 For or Against the War?
To illustrate how this paradigm works, let's consider the following question, that has produced much heat and dissensions among people in general and among libertarians in particular, to the point of triggering mass mutual excommunications in libertarian ranks, all for seemingly ``obvious´´ reasons in the respective minds of each individual. The question is: ``are you for or against war in Iraq?´´ This is a typical question that we ought to un-ask.
Among libertarians, I've heard plenty of quite interesting and valid arguments about the war, often used, quite disappointingly and invalidly to defend opposite stands. Some will argue quite validly that State action is criminal in itself, and that a State war is inevitably an extension of this action, that in collectively enforced war as in anything, the State cannot bring good, that the State rests upon the principle of irresponsibility, which causes the actions of statesmen to harm innocent people, either wantonly or out of criminal negligence. Others will argue none the less validly that some States are more criminal than others and that it's a boon to humanity that a lesser criminal should vanquish a bigger criminal, that in collectively enforced peace as in anything, the State cannot bring good, that the State rests upon the principle of irresponsibility, which causes the inactions of statesmen to harm innocent people, either wantonly or out of criminal negligence. Both arguments seem correct, yet both seem somehow one-sided; they are both missing something; they each show something that is seen, and hide something that is not seen. In other words, presented one-sidedly, they constitute Accounting Fallacies.
The problem with each of these arguments is that they implicitly compare the outcome of proposed or shunned decisions by Statesmen to the outcome of free actions without a State; these in itself are valid comparisons, are the essence of Libertarianism indeed, and each yields a valid conclusion: namely, that the coercion-based intervention of the State brings no good. Yet, the wholly invalid conclusion to which implicitly jump many of those who develop these arguments is that one choice by the State is superior to another choice by the State. And that is not quite what the argument established.
Now let us look at what these arguments did establish, and at what these arguments didn't establish, and let us un-ask both answered questions.
As to the question of which is better between government intervention and no government intervention, it may be relevant as an abstract, long-term, question, but it is completely irrelevant as a question of current immediate international policy. The vast majority of people in the world today believe in the necessity and utility of States and State intervention, and as long as they do, there will be States and State intervention. There is no ``magical button´´ to push, and no magic wand to wave, so as to abolish the state in the minds of all these people. Now, if you think there is such a button, well, show me. But, first and foremost, and without any further delay whatsoever, for goddess's sake, just... push it. We'll have plenty of time for your telling me about it afterwards. Until that time, stop wasting your and everyone else's time with such childish silliness as discussing such non-existent alternatives. That's wishful thinking, and when someone, even Murray Rothbard, indulges in asking and answering questions of this kind that depend on the existence of such a button, he is relapsing into the basest form of Black Magic wishful thinking. At least Rothbard had the lucidity of making this dependency explicit; but all who make decisions based on the existence of such a button are foolish, and so are those who like Rothbard spend their life desperately seeking such a non-existent button. Thus, as applies to immediate action and current policies, this question is utterly irrelevant and must be un-asked.
Similarly, the choice to abolish war in general doesn't exist. And certainly, even without a State, as long as there are criminals who declare war upon others by their acts, there will be justice-minded people willing to war against these criminals even though they were not personally attacked or mandated by victims — and then there will be a war waged indeed, unless you in turn go to war against those justice-minded people to prevent it, which would be quite a performative contradiction. So there is no a priori argument against war in general, and neither is there an a priori argument for a particular governmental military policy of enforcing either nation-wide war or nation-wide peace by coercing dissenting individuals.
Now, the actual question that has been tentatively argued about is that of nation-wide war vs nation-wide peace between the USA and Iraq. But just how is that question relevant? It is relevant to those who may actually decide of this war or peace, and to no one else. The only person to which this question is directly relevant is thus the president of the United States of America, namely George W. Bush. Now, to make things clear, I am not, I repeat, not, a crook, uh, I mean, I am not George W. Bush (but I repeat myself). And, just as importantly, neither are you. (Ahem. Hey, George, are you listening? no? Well, that pretty much settles the case.) OK, this question and directly related questions might be relevant to a whole host of top ranking officials of many countries; but if you are such high ranking politicians, and endorse the power that is given to you to make decisions instead of returning the decision process to the public, then you already are a criminal in a way that makes any of these alternatives pale in irrelevance in comparison.  In any case, this question is not directly relevant to any of us; and unless it can be established that it has some (indirect) relevance, it too will thus have to be un-asked.
So, what kind of indirect relevance does this question have? Some people may ask you, more or less insistently, to take sides. But are we to take sides, to begin with? No, we don't have to. But then what, will ask the disbelieving side-taker? Well, all my life doesn't revolve around this or that war. We can do something else than act on one or the other side of this war; and actually, most of us do, most of the time. For instance, we each eat breakfasts, attend conferences, make money with our regular activities, woo women, etc. What matters is how we commit our resources. Maybe some of us can decide to spend some of our available resources at directly waging or indirectly financing the war, on one side or another. Maybe we can spend our resources at lobbying for one side, or lobbying to stop waging war. But we can each spend these available resources of ours at so many other things. And we do. We mostly do. There are so many things we can do, so many choices we can make, so many things we can create. Action on either side of this war is seldom any of those things, if at all. If the question is actually relevant, the onus of the proof is on those who claim it. Is there any particular action that I may take in this conflict, and is it worth it? Maybe you can convince me.
What if you would coerce me into choosing one side, by threatening me with some action of yours in case I wouldn't take sides, and quite possibly even take the ``right´´ side according to you? Well, then this could make the question relevant to me indeed, and if your threats are serious enough and I can't escape them, then I would without hesitation answer your dilemma, one way or the other, depending on the precise circumstances. But then by exerting this coercion, you would be a criminal against me, and a criminal much more relevant to me than any of the sides involved in that conflict. And by the way you would be none the less of a criminal by coercively preventing me from taking sides. Coercion is damaging both ways, when promoting coerced ``peace´´ just as much as when waging compulsory war.4.3 Liberty Begins Here and Now
If we wish to advance liberty in the world, we should learn to advance liberty where we have the most power to do so. And that means, ourselves. Liberty does not begin at home; rather it begins wherever we happen to be.
Enterprise of Liberty is a process that consists in un-asking wrong-headed questions that lead no-where and asking instead questions that actually help make useful decisions. Embracing it means that we must learn to apply Economic Reasoning and discard Accounting Fallacies. Every dilemma that is presented to us, we must question thusly before we may accept it: Can anyone make an actual choice about the problem being considered? Are we these people who are able to choose? Are these the actually available choices? Are some of the proposed alternatives actually not available? Are there actually available choices that were silently omitted?
But mastering the paradigm of Liberty goes beyond possessing tools to criticize dilemmas already being offered. It means acquiring an attitude that makes us think correctly. We ought to:
In summary, we must learn to live as rational individuals. The Enterprise of Liberty is Rationality, properly understood.
You may wonder how your own conversion may help convince other people; well, stop wondering about it. You are, or ought to be, the most important person to yourself. The only person you really have to free is yourself. And you're the only person you really can free, anyway. So you better focus on freeing yourself. Besides, ensuring your own freedom, apart from making you happier, will also make you a role model for others to follow; and your example will have a better effect than any words you may produce as to convincing other people of the paradigm of Liberty.
The Enterprise of Liberty is a Paradigm for understanding Life — the whole of it. Actually, Liberty is of the essence of life itself: making choices is what distinguishes us from inanimate beings; and making choices rationally is what distinguishes us from animals; it is our very distinctive nature.
As a paradigm, the Enterprise of Liberty doesn't have to wait for the State to be reduced or abolished, so as to be valid and help you in your own life. It is immediately applicable, and I hope I will have convinced you of applying it more thoroughly and more consciously to your life.
Note, though, that the State will be automatically abolished when sufficiently many people come to embrace this paradigm: as more people start to think rationally and forsake their old superstitions, that biggest superstition of all, the State, will fall apart. Incidentally, this is also the only possible way that it can fall apart. In other words, embracing the Enterprise of Liberty, and becoming a model for other people to follow, is the best thing you can do to further your and my political ideals — which is, the abolition of politics itself.
As of superstitions, I have made references to Zen buddhism, or a variant of it, in my explanation of how to un-ask questions. I could also have referred to taoism, or a variant of it, in my explanations of how to stop caring for the irrelevant, stop believing that force can provide an escape from reality, etc. And indeed, there was probably something to be learnt in these oriental philosophies, something that these philosophies unhappily left implicit, a dynamic attitude of adherence to what matters in reality. However, because this attitude was never made explicit, these philosophies have left a lot of superstitious cruft accrete to them, and what most people show you of them are a bunch of static superstitions.
Now, ultimately, a dynamic attitude cannot be fully summarized in any static body of words, only suggested with more or less details that make it more or less obvious to people depending on their background culture. There will always be an implicit, contextual, source in the meaning of words, that may only be preserved through a living tradition. If an oriental philosophy such as Taoism ever provided a living insight on the Enterprise of Liberty, the tradition upon which this insight depended is long dead, and there remains but hints of it.
This is why, once again, the best thing you may do to promote Liberty is to keep this tradition alive by embracing it and giving it its full meaning through your very own life.5.2 Instead Of Curing The World
In earlier essays, I have proposed the idea that the right approach for libertarians to spread liberty was to cure people from their static statist state of mind. In so far as the memes of statism are an illness indeed, I won't deny this earlier claim of mine. But I would like to go further.
Though there are forces that actively fight and destroy liberty, the main problem is not that there is liberty that is being destroyed; it is that liberty remains essentially unbuilt. The forces of evil prevent liberty from being built more than they destroy it when it exists. People who are victims to the influence of statism are mostly not people formerly acquainted with freedom and its technology and who suddenly forget about this freedom. They are mostly people who never learnt about freedom and its technology and are unable to use it. A few people indeed are prevented from using technology they know about; but most victims are just made to remain plain ignorant or become confused . They don't have an illness to cure; they have to grow a new sense of freedom, a whole organ where the System left atrophied stubs.
And the first people we have to cure is ourselves. Before we may cure other people, teach them, show them how to grow, we must cure ourselves, teach ourselves, find out how to grow. Freedom technology begins in the way we shape our own minds and build our own lives.5.3 For More Information...
If this speech raised your interest, you may read the essays corresponding to this and previous conferences, as well as other writings of mine, on my website: Liberty, as it is http://fare.tunes.org/liberty/.
And finally, I would like conclude with this piece of wisdom of which you may already have heard another variant:
Socialists want absolute power given to the ``good´´ people. Conservatives want a balance of powers to keep the ``bad´´ people in check. Libertarians realize that power is evil in itself and want to abolish it. Free Men see that power doesn't really exist and wonder why others make such a fuss about it.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, if you have any questions, I will be pleased to answer them the best that I can.
: And that is why conservative black magicians see as a horror activities that violate the usual separation between economic and personal domains, like prostitution, any kind of black market, etc. Socialist black magicians simply see everything ``economical´´ as horrible, and any violation of the usual separation as corruption.
: The libertarian view of economics, praxeology, thus covers the same domain of phenomena as the socialists' sociology; but it uses quite different epistemological methods. Radical libertarians see everything ``political´´, i.e. done through aggression, as horrible.
: In the words of latter days cyberneticians like Maturana, property rights are what allows for structural coupling between men and their environment.
: Édouard is the president of Liberté Chérie, the only libertarian activist group with any occasional media coverage in France. He addressed the conference the morning after I delivered my speech.
: With the definition we use of the word ``liberty´´, indeed, a liberty exists only in as much as it is respected, and this respect must be created, before it may possibly be preserved.
: This change in costs and benefits must of course be considered as compared to remaining alternatives. What matters here is that these measures should raise the opportunity cost of predation, so as to make potential predators choose another (predatory or productive) activity. If some action raises the costs and decreases the benefits of non-predatory behaviour as much or more than that of predatory behaviour, then it will be counter-productive as far as defense is concerned.
See below the section Right Answers to Wrong Questions for a discussion of Economic Reasoning vs Accounting Fallacies.
: Note that the threat of violence is not effective against all predators. Those who are but irrational animals, because they can't reason effectively, or because they are so unable to bind time that they have very low time-preference for the future, will only be tamed by actual violence. Besides, a threat of violence will only be credible if this threat is actually acted upon in the marginal cases that will inevitably arise.
The threat of violence will only influence those potential predators most able of foresight. However, the most powerful predators to fight will indeed happen to be those who have enough foresight to organize efficiently.
: Once an active majority is gathered toward the defense or the attack of some claim, then the dominant opinion, whether it favors predation or the respect of rights, can establish its hold over most everyone, by the strong party offering its alliance and protection to consenters, and refusing marginal dissenters.
There is not even a need for much aggression in this use of force: for most people, the ``mere´´ interest of being on the strong side of a potential aggression will be plenty convincing; and the strongest doesn't have to be the potential aggressor, plenty of rogues will happily assume this role. Of course, the temptation to use force in an aggressive way can be great, especially when said force already rests on illegitimate, irrational premises.
For instance, the State not only proposes its ``protection´´ as the strongest, it also claims a monopoly on defense and pro-actively prevents anyone from organizing defense outside of its authority. In such cases, even though for the majority of people, aggression is not required and does not happen, at the margin, the State prevents dissidents from seceding, escaping, or voicing their opinions too loudly; and thus the timid masses have no vanguard to follow.
: Slap that into the face of those who said that this or that most barbaric religion or custom was ``a progress in its time´´: ``Yeah, so what? Even slavery was a progress in its time, that doesn't make it any less barbaric by today's standards.´´
: Hayek, in his book The Road to Serfdom, explains how good people shun power while corrupt people seek it, whereas how power corrupts those who hold it. Actually, power is in itself an evil and criminal thing, and it is not just a dynamic contradiction, as Hayek found it to be, to expect good things to come out of political power: it is a conceptual contradiction at the very root.
: This was the topic of a previous conference of mine Reason and Passion: How to Be a Convincing Libertarian.
: As Ayn Rand suggested in the very title of her book Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal, most people do not knowingly reject Capitalism, Liberty. Instead they are oblivious of it, they have never heard of it, never discovered it. They don't even get the chance to reject it, and it takes a lot of effort for a few people to really learn about it.
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