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Monday, February 2, 2009

Donnelly Follows Konkin Over The Cliff

To George Donnelly at

It's a non sequitur to claim that to exercise a choice is to endorse and advocate the existence of the institution or framework that offered that choice.  The is just one thought experiment of many that can expose the error in such reasoning.  Another example is if every ballot included an I-reject-the-state option.  Even if the results were non-binding, checking that box wouldn't imply consent for the existence of the state -- any more than delivering a less-than-mortal blow to your enemy implies that you desire your enemy to remain alive.

Exploiting a weakness in the machinations of an opponent does not imply endorsement of the existence of that opponent or his machinations.  You're confusing expressed consent with a tiny opportunity cost of not expressing rejection of the state.  If you ostentatiously decline to vote, but you voluntarily get a driver's license or a marriage license or a building permit, then you are embracing the state's machinations much more tightly than merely by voting for maximal reduction of the state.

In game-theoretic terms, the strategy of voting for more liberty dominates the strategy of ballot boycotting.  In any scenario in which liberty is increased by liberty-lovers boycotting elections, liberty would be increased more effectively by those liberty-lovers voting for more liberty.

Your example boycotts are all cases of people exercising real bargaining power, by withholding something the other party wants.  Ballot boycotters have no bargaining power against the State, because the State does not want liberty advocates voting anyway.  Any signal from the few ballot boycotters is inevitably lost in the overwhelming noise of voter apathy.  A much clearer signal can be sent by voting for more liberty.  Such an option isn't necessarily available in every race, but we in the Libertarian Party work hard to provide that option.  I've spent many hours and thousands of dollars to provide it here in Silicon Valley.

You completely sabotage your argument by saying that State punishment for failing to accept State offers does not make acceptance non-voluntary.  This means that anything you do to avoid punishment -- paying your taxes, obeying arbitrary traffic rules, showing up for jury duty, etc. -- is voluntary and constitutes endorsement of the existence of the state.  Your concession here ends the debate.

What's worse, it sabotages your entire libertarian worldview.  You've just told aggressors that credible threats of imminent force do not constitute aggression when the threats work, and that aggression only occurs when the threat has to be carried out.  Perhaps you mis-spoke in eagerness to echo agorist rhetoric, but the implication of your words couldn't be clearer.  That implication is in a theoretical way even more shocking than your notion that every voter is giving "personal sanction" to your "enslavement" and so is presumably subject to Tim-McVeigh-style lethal self-defense from you.  If you don't think you have the right to attack us voters who you say sanction your enslavement, then I'm curious where you draw your limits on the self-defense rights of you so-called slaves.

When I said that the only alternative to the potential tyranny of the many is the potential tyranny of the few, I was speaking of practical alternatives and not of all logically possible alternatives.  Yes, it's logically possible that David Koresh and Randy Weaver and Ted Kaczynski and their kind could magically win their every confrontation with the State or the Mafia, but it's also logically possible that you are the last son of Krypton and are impervious to all tyranny.  The unfortunate reality is that in every single modern instance of a vacuum in State authority, protection markets have always operated like the Sopranos, and never like an anarcholibertarian fantasy.  In the hundreds or thousands of cases of competition among State-ignoring "protection" agencies, there has not been a single instance where the market operated as anarcholibertarian theory predicts.  Anarcholibertarian theory regarding defense agencies is one of the most thoroughly refuted hypotheses in all the social sciences.

Regarding rights protection and consent of the governed, see  It's just silly to claim that rejection of anarchism implies endorsement of whatever the mob decides to do.  That I claim the majority will sometimes adequately protect our rights does not mean I claim that the majority will always adequately protect our rights.

After insulting slaves who died for more freedom, you now insult me by calling me "content" with our level of freedom.  I'll put my record of activism for increased freedom up against yours any day.

When I talk about "the history of our species and our planet", it's weak for you to quibble about "eight years ago".  Please read Fear Neophobia, Not a "Police State" and The Libertarian Moment and then tell me what generation in what non-trivial society has ever been as enduringly free as ours.

Your mousetrap analogy fails, because inventions are non-rivalrous (and even if you're a believer in intellectual property, you stipulated that you got the mousetrap from the rightful inventor).  To make your analogy relevant, the mousetrap would have to be stolen property and you would know it to be such.  Stolen property is a "thing", and you say "things are not evil or good", but I doubt you would say it's moral to accept what you know to be stolen property -- e.g. a stolen Domino's pizza.  So I repeat my question: how does your use of the State's allegedly-theft-financed infrastructure -- streets, water, sewage, power, police protection, justice, etc. -- not constitute endorsement of the State's existence under your theory that "when you use something, you validate it, you give it your personal sanction"?

When I said "your views are evolving rapidly", I meant your views on political strategy -- the very topic of this conversation about voting strategy.   In the last year or so your preferred political strategy has gone IIRC from LP to BTP back to LP and now to agorist, and sometime in there you were talking about joining the GOP to work with Paulistas.  For your age I had no knowledge except your photo, so me saying I infer you are "young" is actually a compliment.  So please have the courtesy to find out what I mean when you're not sure, instead of just assuming that I'm being rude (as you mistakenly did earlier when you called my phrase "ideological purity" a "smear").

P.S. Note that all my arguments here are in a way an admission against interest. Making the LP more effective might get a lot easier if the rest of the LP's anarchists gave up on politics.  It would be amusing to see anarchists like Mary Ruwart and Susan Hogarth have to defend themselves from your charge that they are giving personal sanction to your enslavement.  I suppose they could say that until recently you were sanctioning it too, and that you may be engaging in contract fraud by now trying to back out of the deal you had agreed to earlier.  If voting expresses consent, for how many minutes or decades does the consent last?

Before you follow Konkin all the way over the cliff, I wonder if you noticed his position against all forms of punishment that don't constitute pure restitution (including interest and prosecution costs).  This is even farther 'round the bend than Ruwart's position, which I discuss at