Łukasz Kowalski: “The first step to a libertarian world”20 January, 2008 — kkuczyc
If nobody was willing to work for the state, it would cease to exist at once.
This solution to making a libertarian world happen has a couple of advantages:
1. It is moral.
2. It is bloodless.
3. It is simple.
I find it puzzling that some libertarians (among them prominent scholars) are still on government payroll. While advocating free societies, founded on the non-aggression axiom (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-aggression_principle), they still choose to be rather part of the problem, not the solution.
It could be argued that by holding a post at a prestigious state university you can get the libertarian message to more people – but how true is the message if the messenger denies it by his actions?
Some libertarian scholars seem to think they possess a kind of moral superiority: it lets them advise others to try to bring down the state – simultaneously they themselves avoid the first and simplest step to make it happen: cut their own connections with the state.
In “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Guilt and Punishment for the Crime of Statism” (www.walterblock.com/publications/block_theory-guilt-punishment-crime-statism.pdf) Walter Block (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Block) laments the fact that in the case of government-employed scholars “no cognizance is taken of the distinction between a Marxist or leftist professor who supports totalitarianism, and those who oppose it.”
In Block’s opinion the unnoticed difference is that an opponent of totalitarianism is in some way “less guilty” of “the crime of statism”. I would say otherwise.
There is a distinction. A supporter of totalitarianism simply follows what he preaches. An opponent, who lambastes government taxation but works for the state and takes money collected in taxes, is a hypocrite.
Block admits that “even the libertarian professor or politician who accepts a salary from government is still guilty of what, by his lights, can only be considered stolen (e.g., taxed) property. And this cannot be denied. However, there are several replies open to the libertarian professor employed by a state school. First, there is the claim that he is only getting some of his own money back from the government, and not that of other people. Second, it is not exactly theft to take from a thief; rather, such an act is best characterized as relieving a criminal of his ill gotten gains. So, even if a post office worker takes a salary from the government, this does not mean he is guilty of a libertarian legal code violation; far better that he, a non thief, now has this money than that the government, which stole it in the first place, gets to keep it.”
One question is left unexplained: if a thief steals your property should you have to do him a favour (work for him as a professor, for example) to get back what’s yours?
Andrey Yefimitch, the hero of Anton Chekhov’s (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Chekhov) Ward Number Six (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/13409), says: “I serve in a pernicious institution and receive a salary from people whom I am deceiving. I am not honest, but then, I of myself am nothing, I am only part of an inevitable social evil: all local officials are pernicious and receive their salary for doing nothing. . . . And so for my dishonesty it is not I who am to blame, but the times…. If I had been born two hundred years later I should have been different. . .”
Libertarians who still work at tax-funded positions tend to argue their involvement with the state in a similar way. There are lots of variants of the explanation but it typically finishes with something like this: “I work for a pernicious institution and rob the taxpayers – but at least I know that it’s evil and dishonest. I don’t hide it. In the long run this state system is unable to function. It will collapse. It is wrong both morally and economically. But look, man, right now I need the money. And, what’s more, I tell other people straight in the eye that we don’t need the government”. The libertarian scholar who works for a state institution can go even further: “I teach my students the evils of taxation and state regulations. I work for the government but I’m the enemy within. And, hey, these weirdos even pay me for it”.
There is something fundamentally wrong with this. Imagine a worker at a private company telling someone: “I hate my company. Our products are faulty. My boss is a dunce. But, well, this dunce pays me two grand a week”.
The state acts so absurdly and inefficiently that it really pays the man who fervently attacks it. That is very comfortable – but doesn’t seem to be moral.
What do government-funded libertarian scholars count on? That all people will follow their advice, cut their connections with the state, eventually make it disappear and only then – at the very end – those professors living off people’s money will follow suit?
If not – what other options are there left to overthrow the government? What solutions do we have at our disposal?
Suppose we decide against being engaged in military-like conflicts, shedding blood or seizing the government and trying to impose freedom using its powers (if such a thing was possible). How can we make a free society happen?
Libertarianism implies the absence of the state. It means no state institutions. That means no people willing to work for the government.
Resign your tax-funded position if you hold one. We are one step closer to making a free society reality.
Start changing the world with changing yourself. So simple yet so difficult.