Humble Executive. Literary Artist. Altruistic Libertarian.
The Altruistic Libertarian Manifesto
Principles and Concepts for a Genuinely Free Society
What follows is a summary of the principles and key definitions for the Altruistic Libertarian, and then a checklist of recommended policy changes required to bring about a Genuinely Free Society.
The foundational Principle of the Altruistic Libertarian is based on Ayn Rand’s political philosophy as expressed below in Atlas Shrugged:
Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate—do you hear me? no man may start—the use of physical force against others.
Violence can only be used in self-defense, and only against those who initiate it:
It is only as retaliation that force may be used and only against the man who starts its use. No, I do not share his evil or sink to his concept of morality: I merely grant him his choice, destruction, the only destruction he had the right to choose: his own. He uses force to seize a value; I use it only to destroy destruction. A holdup man seeks to gain wealth by killing me; I do not grow richer by killing a holdup man. I seek no values by means of evil, nor do I surrender my values to evil.
This principle applies not only to an armed robber, an angry neighbor, or a drunken bully; it applies equally to the State, and those who represent it: the police, the military, and the courts. Robert Musil points out, however, that this is historically not so:
The naïve moral demands that one not break contracts, not lie, not covet one’s neighbor’s goods, and not kill, do not yet prevail in relations among states; their place is taken by the single principle of pursuing one’s own advantage, which is realized through force, cunning, and businessmen’s tactics in applying pressure. As a result, every state is naturally recognized as criminal by the inhabitants of other states, but thanks to relationships that would merit sociological analysis, it appears to its own inhabitants as the embodiment of their honor and moral maturity.
Robert Musil, Precision and Soul
The Altruistic Libertarian applies this principle to all persons, entities, organizations and states, without exception.
General Principles and Definitions
The following principles and definitions are an attempt to summarize the previous chapters, and provide quick reference to core concepts of the Altruistic Libertarian.
Rule of Law
The basis for a Genuinely Free Society, or for any civilization, is the Rule of Law. For human societies, establishing such rule is based upon endowing an organization with a monopoly on the use of violent force. This organization is typically known as ‘the government’.
Societies that impose excessive ‘Rule of Law’ and attempt to control all action, behavior and thought of its citizens are known as totalitarian. At the other extreme, a society utterly lacking in Rule of Law, where lawless gangs or armed neighbors meet out justice or violently dominate weaker parties, is known as anarchy.
A Genuinely Free Society lies at the Golden Mean within the political spectrum, equally distant from totalitarian regimes and anarchy.
Definition of Anarchy
Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same is consequent of the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
Definition of Politics
All political activity involves one group of people forcing another group of people to do (or not do) something they otherwise would be unwilling to do (or not do).
The principle of democracy is critically flawed. By definition, it allows majorities to impose their will upon minorities, regardless of the justification of such imposition.
Democracy does not equal individual freedom. In fact, the three principle democracies in history (ancient Greece, Republican Rome, and the United States) all allowed for the legal ownership of humans in the form of slavery.
All voting is a sort of gaming...a playing with right and wrong; its obligation never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right thing is doing nothing for it. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.
Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
Definition of Evil
Advocating for a Genuinely Free Society entails advocating for minimizing and/or eliminating evil:
An evil act is one committed deliberately by a person that knowingly results directly in unwanted and unjustified pain, suffering and/or death to another human. The greater the pain, suffering and death caused by the unwanted and unjustified act, the greater the evil.
Singular Moral Imperative
Do No Evil.
The greatest threat to any society (outside of natural disasters) is the Nation State (Canada, the United States, Russia, Uganda, Iraq, Israel, etc.). In fact, the only justification for the existence of Nation States is to protect its citizens from other Nation States. In other words, if we didn’t have Nation States, we would need any.
Other than protecting citizens from other nation states, there is nothing of value the federal government provides that couldn’t be done safer, cheaper, and/or more effectively by free individuals, freely franchised organizations and/or local communities. NASA, FDA, ICC, Social Security Administration – all unnecessary and/or a burden on every tax-paying citizen, and in many cases, stiflers of innovation, destroyers of capital and barrier to the creation of new wealth.
We make the distinction between public and private today. The law allows nudity within your home (private) but not in the middle of the street (public). The same principle could apply to private behavior of competent adults, such as recreational drug use, any form of sex among consenting adults (regardless of fees, quantity of participants or gender), gambling of any kind (free of fraud and/or cheating).
These activities should be allowed within a private setting. Communities would retain the option of outlawing such behavior in public places (smoking perhaps a good example of the general utilization of this principle).
The State has no business using force, and the threat of force, to regulate the private lives of competent adults. Respect for the individual should be granted by the community, and responsibility for one’s own behavior, and any consequences, accepted by the individual.
‘Steroid Principle’ - Externalities
The Altruistic Libertarian supports certain activities to be banned and/or outlawed by the community based on the ‘Steroid Principle’.
In professional sports (notably American football and baseball) athletes once gained a significant physical advantage taking steroids. In doing so, they became stronger, faster, and more competitive. But at the cost of serious long term health issues, including premature death.
Steroids have since been banned from professional sports. Had steroids been allowed, many more athletes would be forced to use steroids to remain competitive, or risk losing their short-term opportunity by competing for their jobs with athletes willing to take the risk. This would lead to a major health crisis within professional sports, and unnecessary pain and suffering.
Instead, with the substances banned, and compliance rigorously enforced, every athlete competes on natural terms and eliminates an additional risk to their long-term health.
The same principle can be applied to industry. Polluting the ground, water and air will often be the easiest and cheapest way to operate, yet would endanger the health of many. If strict regulations against such pollution are not enacted and enforced, any industry that wishes to complete would be forced to pollute the environment, or go out of business.
When all companies are required to meet the same environmental standards, and those standards are routinely enforced, each company will invest a comparable amount of capital/expense to meet the standards, the environment will remain mostly untainted, and citizens unaffected by detrimental pollutants.
But not without cost. Every consumer of those industries will pay more for their products, ceteris paribus, to keep the environment clean. But that is a price most of us are willing to pay.
The ‘Red Light District’ Zoning Principle
Within a Genuinely Free Society, undesirable commercial/entertainment establishments will operate somewhere. Casinos, whorehouses, places where recreational drugs can be acquired, strip clubs, liquor stores, and cigarette sales, for example. Many communities will wish to exclude such entities from their boundaries. While general rules concerning schools/residential areas would apply, the Red Light Zoning Principle would stipulate that bans on such activities could only be enacted if a non-banned area for those activities existed within a defined distance (ten miles, say). If such a place existed that catered to these undesirable activities within that limit, the community could ban them from their commercial zones.
The ‘Dam Effect’ – The Importance of Effective Transition
For a society to become genuinely free, major changes must be made. Making major changes suddenly, however, may cause much damage, not unlike breaking down a dam, and let that water go all at once, flooding homes, golf courses and shopping malls. Instead, the lake can be drained slowly until very little water is held back by the dam, at which point the artificial impediment can be completely and safely removed.
A specific example might be Social Security. While such a program wouldn’t exist within a Genuinely Free Society, simply shutting down the Social Security Administration and eliminating both the taxes and the payments would have a devastating effect on millions of people. Thousands would lose their jobs without warning, and countless people dependent upon Social Security benefits would be left without adequate resources.
Properly dismantling Social Security may take decades, perhaps as much as forty years. Doing so, however, would contribute significantly to the wealth of the nation, and the improvement of virtually every citizen.
Welfare serves as another example. People have grown dependent upon government subsidies, and eliminating them suddenly would create social havoc. Strategic plans designed to wean individuals and communities from social welfare would be required to make the transition relatively effective.
Summary of Recommended Policy Changes
Realizing a Genuinely Free Society would include, but not be limited to, the following changes:
Education, at every level, would become private. This possibility threatens the public education bureaucracy at every level. Privatizing education would force educational institutions to actually educate children, and teachers to demonstrate competence, generating tremendous resistance at the very prospect of such a requirement.
The US Post Office would be privatized or eliminated, and the legal monopoly of carrying first class mail rescinded, as many alternatives for moving documents and packages from one place to another exist. It’s amazing we still use physical stamps, yet unsurprising, given the inherent inefficiency of government organizations, that the cost of the stamps continues to rise. Contrast this trend with any other standard product or service that becomes increasingly cheaper based on improved productivity and the application of technology.
This transition could happen soon, and wouldn’t take long to effect.
The giant Ponzi scheme known as Social Security would cease to exist (likely over a number of decades), encouraging and rewarding people to plan for their own future. The new private retirement structure would entail genuine savings, savings that in turn would be invested to create new wealth, wealth that would then be available for that person in their retirement years to consume, as opposed to simply transferring money from one person to another as the Social Security Administration does today, and at significant bureaucratic cost.
Drugs would be legalized, eliminating several local, state and federal bureaucracies (the DEA, for instance). This would also greatly reduce the need for prisons, eliminating many jobs, and lift a large underclass of people and activity from an unlawful gutter, resulting in the equal treatment addicts at all income levels. Today, one class of drug user goes to jail (or dies on the street) while another enters rehab. Education, rehabilitation and community support would become primary means for mitigating the worst aspects of recreational drug use.
All government programs for health care, including Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid would be phased out of existence. Obtaining health insurance would become a private decision, or one between employee and employer. The government would no longer be involved.
AMA restrictions on practicing medicine would be eliminated, allowing anyone to provide health care. All pharmaceuticals would be generally available, eliminating the need for prescriptions. Appropriate literature and counseling would be available for any prospective user. Removing barriers to practicing medicine and acquiring pharmaceuticals would greatly reduce the cost of health care, and increase its availability at all social levels.
Prostitution would be fully legalized. Appropriate health, safety and employee protection regulations would be appropriate.
Gambling would be fully legalized, thus ending the government’s hypocrisy on the issue. Instead of fostering inefficient and unfair state and national lotteries, individual citizens and organizations could offer any games of chance that the public supports: on-line, within casinos, in private homes – all legal. Appropriate taxation and laws related to fraud would apply.
Tariffs, quotas and import restrictions would be eliminated, thereby dissolving the economic shield they provide for domestic industries. If foreign countries wish to subsidize their industry and sell manufactured goods or raw materials cheaper than they cost, or if there exists foreign economies more efficient at providing products than US industries, then US citizens should be granted the opportunity to benefit, as opposed to artificially and expensively propping up domestic businesses. In fact, if another economy insists on ‘dumping’ products into the US market, after using domestic tax revenues to subsidize that industry (Airbus, for instance, selling subsidized commercial airliners to US carriers), consumers in the receiving country should thank the citizens of the place of origin for transferring some of their wealth to the US.
All welfare, Medicare, Unemployment and other entitlement programs would be phased out and ultimately eliminated. Private charities would be highly encouraged, both through tax incentives and recognition. Family, friends and community services would assume the major role in supporting the poor, the sick, the unfortunate.
All minimum wage laws would be repealed immediately. In those cases where the minimum wage is relevant, it harms businesses, increases unemployment and helps very few, if any people. Where such minimums are irrelevant, in that the nature rate for basic labor exceeds the minimum, such minimums have no impact anyway.
To offer a specific example, as the owner of a small seasonal business, for years we hired four or five part time employees every summer to support our breakfast and lunch café. We finally closed the café due to the cost of the employees. Costs included payroll taxes, paying minimum wage, obtaining employee insurance (for the entire year), and purchasing a payroll application (due to the complexity of withholding rules and to support quarterly reporting to the government). For the scale of our business, the employee overhead made the key financial difference between operating the business and closing it down.
Plans for transitioning from the private automobile to a safer, cheaper and more effective form of personal ground transportation would be developed and implemented.
The second amendment would remain in force, with reasonable regulations related to obtaining, owning, carrying and shooting firearms.
Capital punishment would be eliminated. Criminals formally subject to capital punishment would be removed from society via prison, expulsion from the country (sent to Australia, say), or shot into space…
Pro Life or Pro Choice?
Abortion would be legal up to a certain point of the pregnancy, after which, the pregnant woman would be legally obliged to carry the child to term. Until then, the individual woman decides whether to keep the child, or not.
The Military Draft
Military conscription, in all forms, would be eliminated. The 13th Amendment of the US Constitution states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction [my italics].” Getting drafted into the army certainly qualifies as ‘involuntary servitude’, and should be included in any interpretation of the 13th Amendment. As for national defense, the services should offer benefits significant enough to gain the necessary recruits. Doing so maximizes the labor resources in the nation, and also encourages the country to engage in conflicts generally supported by the citizenry.
The US government would immediately be prohibited from any form of deficit spending. Debt retirement would be a priority in the coming decades. This could be partly accomplished through minor, and controlled, increases in the money supply, something that matched closely to growth rates, resulting in a reasonably stable price level. Overall, price indexes should hover between -2% to +2% annually, with the target of something close to 0% changes in the broadest spectrum of consumer prices.
Government debt would be paid down until eliminated altogether. The magnitude of the challenge can be discerned by considering the balances involved. As of July 31, 2014, the national debt consisted of:
$5.0 trillion - owed to federal entities
$12.6 trillion - owed to non-federal entities
$17.6 trillion - owed in total
In addition to existing debt, consider the total debt plus future obligations:
At the close of the federal government's 2014 fiscal year, the federal government had $74.3 trillion in debts, liabilities, and unfunded obligations. This equates to $232,627 for every person living in the U.S. or $603,194 per household.
Failing to alter government spending and the current debilitating monetary policy will eventually impoverish the nation.
Immigration would be liberalized, with vetting primarily focused on preventing criminals or terrorists from entering the country. In most other cases, those with the desire and the means would be welcome. By supporting themselves, immigrants build their own lives and contribute to the wealth of the nation.
One of the major objections to legal and illegal immigration is the charge that such immigrants take advantage of government assistance programs, and send their children to public schools without paying taxes. These have been addressed in previous chapters: by privatizing education and eliminating social welfare, immigrants must work and support themselves, thereby contributing to society like everyone else.
US meddling in the internal affairs of other nations would cease, and we would withdraw our military forces from Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, the UK, Spain, Cuba, Italy, Taiwan, Diego Garcia, and the Philippines, and anywhere else they are stationed outside of the US, finally ending our global military occupation. The nation would maintain a powerful, effective military force to protect the US and its citizens, but would do so without encroaching upon the sovereignty of foreign nations.
Summary of Recommended Changes
These possibilities sound radical today, but the United States was founded upon very similar ideas. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
With few exceptions, the founding fathers would support everything on the list, while most people today wouldn’t support any of them. But then, it has been pointed out that the Bill of Rights probably wouldn’t be passed today if it came to a popular vote.