Anthony Wheeler

Humble Executive.  Literary Artist.  Altruistic Libertarian.

              The Proper Role of Government

Some form of government is essential for sustaining civilization.  As stated earlier, government has the exclusive right to initiate the use of violent force.  This aspect of government most commonly manifests through police forces and the military.  Directly behind these armed institutions lie the criminal courts and prisons.  Institutions such as the US Congress and parliaments provide legislation, make laws and change existing ones, raise revenue through taxation, and legitimize various regulatory bodies.  The executive provides overall direction and leadership, and the highest courts ensure all official actions are performed within the boundaries of constitutional law.  These are the essential functions and overall structure of a proper government.

Without any form of government, humans reside in anarchy, where the strongest rule by every whim and internecine warfare a constant threat:

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

Hobbes wrote his Leviathan in support of the monarchy, an argument that stressed the need for civil order so that people could prosper.  Leviathan argues for rule by an absolute sovereign, that the only way to avoid civil war and anarchy (‘the war of all against all’) was by supporting a by strong, undivided government.

Depending what we mean by ‘strong’, this remains true today: a peaceful, prosperous and free people require a respected and undivided government.

Rule of Law

For any government to operate effectively, rule of law must be established.  This means eliminating any standing threats to legitimate government activities, specifically groups using violent force towards their own ends: warlords ruling over large areas; violent gangs controlling city neighborhoods where police have no genuine authority; entire segments of the economy run by criminals.  Alan Greenspan provides an example where such rule breaks down:

Forced to make the shift overnight, the Soviets achieved not a free-market system but a black-market one. Black markets, with their unregulated prices and open competitions, seemingly replicate what goes on in a market economy.  But only in part.  They are not supported by the rule of law.  There is no right to own and dispose of property backed up by the enforcement power of the state.  There are no laws of contract or bankruptcy, and no opportunity to take disputes to court for resolution.  The linchpin of a free-market economy, property rights, is missing.
          The result is that black markets bring few of the benefits to society of legally sanctioned trade.  Knowing that the government will protect one’s property encourages citizens to take business risks, a prerequisite of wealth creation and economic growth.  Few will risk their capital if the rewards are going to be subject to arbitrary seizure by the government or mobsters.

            Alan Greenspan
, The Age of Turbulence

As Greenspan notes, the costs are excessively high when the legitimate government doesn’t prevail over these criminals and mobsters.  The West faces similar circumstances in the drug trade, where a large segment of society—perhaps a majority— support a violent underworld in the import and distribution of illegal drugs.  Without the protection of the law, drug dealers arm themselves and operate without societal restraint, sometimes killing innocent people in occasional firefights. 

For several decades, developmental economics focused on establishing new industries in poor countries, often proposing large capital projects with the notion of accelerating industrialization and thereby increasing the output of local economies.  These state-driven strategies failed when the local economic culture was unable to sustain relatively advanced plants, refineries and factories, as many of the targeted nations lacked the legal and societal infrastructure necessary to support them.  With little political stability, no trans-societal authority, poorly educated workforce, and little in the way of technical culture, these efforts mostly failed when such industrialization was attempted:

The more a Third World country seeks to 'develop', the greater is its need for efficient technologies that have to be imported at considerable expense, and the higher the price to pay in hard currencies, with the economy necessarily becoming increasingly oriented towards exterior markets; the servicing of the interest on the debt, at least, must be financed, and that means priority for agricultural and industrial export production at the expense of the domestic market and the standard of living.  But by the time these (hypothetical) reimbursements can be made, the new factories are already technically obsolete, and the whole operation is ultimately for naught.  Or worse than naught, since if nothing is really produced, much has been destroyed. 

            Jean Chesneaux
, Brave Modern World

The crime of traditional economic development, (that is, the practice of attempting to accelerate third world economies into the industrial age), has been the prevalence of top-down investment based on government planning, resulting in the miss-application of capital in local economies.  Absent rule of law or binding legal structures (that is, within cultures of corruption), and low literacy rates, the imposition of technical industries often fails, and creates the conditions Chesneaux describes.  Successful economic development occurs when civil peace is prevalent, contracts can be negotiated with confidence, and local entrepreneurs are free to invest in a locally specific manner.  Every nation, every region, possess some form of comparative advantage.  Leveraging that advantage is what allows an economy to grow and become more productive in a socially healthy manner.  What these countries fundamentally required was general stability, a functioning legal infrastructure, and widespread respect for the law. 

The market economy cannot do without a police power safeguarding its smooth functioning by the threat or the application of violence against peace-breakers.

            Ludwig von Mises
, Human Action

With that in place, investment becomes possible, and instead of state-planned industry, a local dynamic of genuinely free entrepreneurs best suited to develop their economy along locally determined paths. 

The Purpose of Government

In some respects, the Altruistic Libertarian represents long-held 19th century political philosophy.  For instance, at a time when Germany was first coalescing into the original Reich, a leading German philosopher identified the fundamental purpose of government:

…the state is essentially no more than an institution for the protection of the whole against attacks from without and the protection of its individual members from attacks by one another.

          Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms

Rudiger Safranski goes on to summarizes Schopenhauer’s view of the state:

…to protect each from all, and the whole community from foreign enemies.  Some German philosophizers of this mercenary age have sought to turn it into an institution of education in morality and of edification.  Behind this attempt lurks the Jesuitical aim of abolishing personal freedom and individual development, in order to make each man a mere wheel in a Chinese governmental and religious machine.  But this is the way which formerly led to Inquisitions…and religious wars.

          Rudiger Safranski
, Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy

As to basic rights, Schopenhauer provides the simplest summary:

It is…easy to define human rights: everyone has the right to do anything that does not injure another.

, Essays and Aphorisms

An entire school of 20th century Austrian economists agree:

There is in the operation of the market no compulsion and coercion.  The state, the social apparatus of coercion and compulsion, does not interfere with the market and with the citizens’ activities directed by the market….It protects the individual’s life, health, and property against violent or fraudulent aggression on the part of domestic gangsters and external foes.  Thus the State creates and preserves the environment in which the market economy can safely operate.

          Ludwig von Mises
, Human Action

We must necessarily broaden the scope of state protection to include all aspects of civil life, and not limit the perspective to economics only.  The modern philosophical seeds of genuine freedom were sown in 17th century England by John Locke:

So that however it may be mistaken, the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.

           John Locke
, Concerning Civil Government

No other thinker had more influence on early American political thought.  Essential aspects of the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are infused with John Locke’s political philosophy. 

Should a robber break into my house, and, with a dagger at my throat, make me seal deeds to convey my estate to him, would this give him any title?  Just such a title by his sword has an unjust conqueror who forces me into submission. The injury and the crime is equal, whether committed by the wearer of a crown or some petty villain.  The title of the offender and the number of his followers make no difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it.

           John Locke
, Concerning Civil Government

Such words spawned the Boston Tea Party, and further acts of defiance by the colonialists.  The following paragraph justified the American War of Independence:

…whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge which God hath provided for all men against force and violence.

           John Locke
, Concerning Civil Government

The founding fathers would be appalled by the current political state of America.  They would consider their legacy betrayed by the unrelenting expansion of government agencies, laws, taxes and international occupation.  As the father of liberalism, John Locke’s influence can hardly be discerned today:

...[liberals] did so in a spirit of laissez-faire, that is to say, on the theory that the best way of promoting economic development and general welfare is to remove fetters from the private-enterprise economy and to leave it alone.  This is what will be meant in this book by Economic Liberalism.  The reader is requested to keep this definition in mind because the term has acquired a different—in fact almost the opposite—meaning since about 1900 and especially since about 1930: as a supreme, if unintended, compliment, the enemies of the system of private enterprise have thought it wise to appropriate its label.

            Joseph Schumpeter
, History of Economic Analysis

Thus the Altruistic Libertarian holds to the form of the classic liberal, one who advocates a Genuinely Free Society.

Limits of Democracy

Most people assume that democracy is the best, if not the only, appropriate form of government.  The US has made it one of the cornerstones of their international policy as they proselytize it around the world, often to places where the practice is a cultural anathema.  Americans somehow equate voting to liberty, when in fact democracy has effectively eroded genuine freedom for decades, and will likely continue to do so.  Ancient philosophers already identified its weakness:

For tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only; oligarchy has in view the interest of the wealthy; democracy, of the needy: none of them the common good of all (my italics).

, Politics

Even though democracy is one of the ideological lynchpins of Western political philosophy, the commitment to resolve the highest political decisions through mass voting is deeply flawed.

We have no intention, however, of making a fetish of democracy.  It may well be true that our generation talks and thinks too much of democracy and too little of the values which it serves.  It cannot be said of democracy, as Lord Acton truly said of liberty, that it “is not a means to a higher political end.  It is itself the highest political end.  It is not for the sake of a good public administration that it is required, but for the security in the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society, and of private life.”  Democracy is essentially a means, a utilitarian device for safeguarding internal peace and individual freedom.  As such it is by no means infallible or certain.  Nor must we forget that there has often been much more cultural and spiritual freedom under an autocratic rule than under some democracies—and it is at least conceivable that under the government of a very homogeneous and doctrinaire majority democratic government might be as oppressive as the worst dictatorship.

            Friedrich Hayek
, The Road to Serfdom

Hayek rightly indicates the primary purpose of any political system: “…safeguarding internal peace and individual freedom.”  When a political system fails to do so, it’s worth questioning its principles.  Even Milton Friedman, an economist known for his dedication to free market principles, admits the limitations of democracy, when he writes:

I see no solution to this problem except to rely on the self-restraint and good will of the electorate.

            Milton Friedman
, Free to Choose

These words are particularly frightening just two months after Donald Trump gets elected to the presidency.  The fact alone should make people pause in their commitment to democratic principles.  Yet the flaws in democracy extend well beyond electing an incompetent president.  In principle, democracy is unable to resolve genuine differences between groups and individuals without using force.  Typical collectivist ideology justifies sacrificing one group in the name of majority rule:

If taken seriously, [the rights of man] would make it impossible to reach a decision whenever two people’s interests conflict.  The difficulties are particularly obvious in political philosophy, which requires some principle, such as preference for the majority, by which the interests of some can, when necessary, be sacrificed to those of others.  If there is to be any ethic of government, the end of government must be one, and the only single end compatible with justice is the good of the community. 

            Bertrand Russell
, History of Philosophy

Reference to some form of collective is common in political philosophy, whether it is the ‘community’, or the ‘Reich’ or some mythical majority, where somebody must be sacrificed.  Yet Bertrand Russell is mistaken in asserting that the will of the majority is the only recourse to disagreement between individuals and groups.  Conflicts within a Genuinely Freedom Society can be resolved without sacrificing anyone, as majorities have no authority over an individual’s private life.  Socialists, even ones as democratically minded as Orwell, have larger issues:

The central problem—how to prevent power from being abused—remains unsolved.

            George Orwell
, Essays

The irony of so many left-leaning liberals becomes manifest when examining the political means for enacting their program.  Every act of intervention increases elements of political power that didn’t previously exist, exacerbating the problem that Orwell identifies.  Socialist/communist ideologies deliberately accumulate immense economic and political power with the state, with no protection against abuse.  Anyone who expects human leaders to wield the reins of such power without taking personal advantage, or serving interests other than the community they oversee, doesn’t understand human nature.  In such cases, it would take the restraint of monks and the wisdom of angels to rule with justice.  Even then, determining what should really take place in the society or be prevented would be impossible to effectively determine, as it is impossible to know, in any given time and place, what is optimal for everyone, other than by those immediately effected.

Orwell’s central problem of curbing the abuse of power doesn’t occur within a Genuinely Free Society, because such centers of power simply don’t exist:

To believe that the power which is thus conferred on the state is merely transferred to it from others is erroneous.  It is a power which is newly created and which in a competitive society nobody possesses.  So long as property is divided among many owners, none of them acting independently has exclusive power to determine the income and position of particular people—nobody is tied to any one property owner except by the fact that he may offer better terms than anybody else.

            Friedrich Hayek
, The Road to Serfdom

Democracy is also flawed in serious ways, especially when a tyrannical majority rules over a weaker minority.  This took place in ancient Athens, the birth of democracy, in the form of slaves.  In fact, the ancient democracy of Greece and Rome existed for citizens only: slaves, women and the poor didn’t participate. 

As a specific example, in 399bce, a democratic court voted 280 to 220 to condemn Socrates to death (it could have been 360 to 140, depending on various sources).  Regardless, a democratic vote condemned to death one of the wisest men in Western history for impiety and corrupting the young.  George Steiner provides the relevant question:

The ‘examined life’ demanded by Socrates requires that each and every one of us serve on that Athenian jury.  How would we have voted?  Goethe’s dictum, ‘rather injustice than disorder’, puts the prosecution case concisely.  It argues, as does Hegel in respect of Creon’s conflict with Antigone, that the preservation of social-legislative order makes possible the reparation of miscarriages of justice.  Disorder, the dispersal of civic solidarity through anarchic individuality and ‘the inner light’, destroy not only daily life, but the eventuality of progress, of amelioration in the understanding and performance of justice.  Is the price paid for autonomous feats of conscience too high? 

            George Steiner
, No Passion Spent

Autonomous individuals do not threaten a truly free society.  Autonomous individuals only threaten states that require threatening: states that have lost their mandate to govern due to their restrictive nature, one that unreasonably limits how people live, think or behave.  Actually, the people who rule unjustly are the ones threatened, including state bureaucracies, the undeservedly privileged, and the ruling class protected by its self-made and self-serving laws and regulations.

Both order and justice can be achieved within a Genuinely Free Society.  On the one hand, social engineers, lacking the ability to coerce, would have limited influence, and on the other, anarchists would be equally prevented from dismantling legitimate forms of government.  Order would be maintained without having to curb an individual’s ‘inner light’.

John Rawls disagrees, and insists that despite the inherent weaknesses of democracy, majority rule should be heeded:

Yet majorities (or coalitions of minorities) are bound to make mistakes, if not from a lack of knowledge and judgment, then as a result of partial and self-interested views.  Nevertheless, our natural duty to uphold just institutions binds us to comply with unjust laws and policies, or at least not to oppose them by illegal means as long as they do not exceed certain limits of injustice.  Being required to support a just constitution, we must go along with one of its essential principles, that of majority rule.

            John Rawls
, Theory of Justice

It is unreasonable to expect people to quietly acquiesce to unjust laws and policies, and then expect them never to oppose the law in some illegal fashion.  Asking the individual to bend to the authority of a numinous majority is indistinguishable from serving a tyrant.  Does our ‘natural duty’ (think of Kant) go so far as to require us to uphold the institution of slavery? 

Slavery and the Internal Salve-Trade in the United States of North America.  This book constitutes one of the heaviest of all indictments against mankind.  No one can read it without horror, and few will not be reduced to tears: for whatever the reader of it may have heard or imagined or dreamed of the unhappy condition of the slaves, indeed of human harshness and cruelty in general, will fade into insignificance when he reads how these devils in human form, these bigoted, church-going, Sabbath-keeping scoundrels, especially the Anglican parsons among them, treat their innocent black brothers whom force and injustice have delivered into their devilish clutches.

            Arthur Schopenhauer
, Essays and Aphorisms

While many were appalled at the practice, as Schopenhauer indicates, countless others supported the evil institution, and fought a war to preserve it, all within a democratic state.

The classic American critique of democracy can be found in Henry David Thoreau’s essay, Civil Disobedience:

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

He goes on to assert:

Moreover, any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.

            Henry David Thoreau
, Civil Disobedience

He then challenges both Rawls and Kant’s charge to fulfill his duty and adhere to the state’s commands:

Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?

            Henry David Thoreau
, Civil Disobedience

As mentioned earlier, such sentiments are rare today.  In contrast to the democratic ideals that dominate Western political thought, within a Genuinely Free Society, the principle respect for the individual would prevail.  The Founding Fathers made an attempt to protect individual freedom with the Bill of Rights, by creating a list of specific articles designed to protect individuals from the state, and from majorities. 

Antidote to Democracy

To ensure a Genuinely Free Society, the following changes should be made to our political system:

  • The Bill of Rights should be extended to protect individuals from all forms of needless government intervention. 

  • The process to select government executives, including presidents and governors, should include screening to determine basic qualifications.  Perhaps something like how Supreme Court Justices are selected would be apposite.  They would not be subject to popular election.

  • While democratic processes would continue as before (popular elections of representatives and senators, for instance), state and federal supreme courts should ensure that legislation doesn’t trespass on individual rights. 

  • Foreign intervention should be limited to defend against direct acts against the nation and its citizens.  Violent force should only be used as a last resort, and only the case of direct defense.

Under these general guidelines, the legal and political structure would provide every citizen with expanded opportunities and more generous choices, the goal to make all laws good:

The discussion of the first question shows nothing so clearly as that laws, when good, should be supreme.

, Politics

Equality and the Individual

Words can be used in different ways, and change meanings with changing contexts.  For instance, Thomas Jefferson wrote this in the Declaration of Independence, words that many of us memorized in school:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (my italics).

But all ‘men’ are not created equal.  In fact, some ‘men’ are actually ‘women’.  When this was written, anyone born black certainly wasn’t equal, in any sense whatsoever.  Even today, every birth represents a new life, a unique individual, with various characteristics and multiple potential fates.  An endless mix of genes, culture, time and place.  This is empirical fact, and won’t change under any political system, absent universal cloning.

Beyond the obvious differences between one person and everyone else, people choose different paths, even under similar circumstances.  Some choose to marry, others remain single; some choose to have children, others not.  For reasons unknown, people do things that we can’t understand; things we believe to be harmful, or wasteful, or incredibly brilliant.  Some people seem to be born lucky, while others live a life of misery, the difference between the two hardly discernable. 

Attempts to make everyone socially ‘equal’, in terms of money, status, possessions, or professions, will always fail, given human nature and the multitude of differences, both in people and in society.  Some form of hierarchy has always existed, and will continue to exist, in human society. 

There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal.  While the first is the condition of a free society, the second means, as De Tocqueville described it, “a new form of servitude.”

            Friedrich Hayek
, Individualism and Economic Order

In a Genuinely Free Society, people are treated equally before the law.  Everyone enjoys the same freedom, a plethora of opportunities, and a chance to make something of themselves (or not).  Any barriers will be social, and not legal, ensuring they can be breached. 

[True individualism’s] main principle is that no man or group of men should have power to decide what another man’s status ought to be, and it regards this as a condition of freedom so essential that it must not be sacrificed to the gratification of our sense of justice or of our envy.

            Friedrich Hayek
, Individualism and Economic Order

Leftist thinkers who advocate government intervention in the name of social justice fear that if left alone, the wealthy will become even wealthier at the expense of the less fortunate.  Even some of the wealthy feel this way, at least those who believe their status due more to circumstance than what they have earned: born into the right family, or blessed with unnatural gifts, or simply lucky, say.  Those who advocate the redistribution of wealth, highly progressive tax rates, and extensive social programs do so in the belief that the wealthy are undeserving of their wealth, and that they (the wealthy) are socially obligated to contribute to those less fortunate.  Again, many wealthy people feel the same way. 

In a Genuinely Free Society, the wealthy may indeed get wealthier, but it won’t be at anyone’s expense.  In most cases, those who invest well, work hard, develop exceptional skills (think of NFL quarterbacks, for instance), or succeed at the highest levels in their profession, will increase their wealth.  The only way this happens (again, in most cases) is through generating even greater levels of wealth within their society, be it as a professional football player, a successful business owner, an inventor of new technology, or a popular artist.  In every case, the wealth they earn is a small part of the wealth they create. 

The same goes at every economic level within society.  In a Genuinely Free Society, everyone would enjoy opportunities that don’t exist today.  For most people, they would face a range of options, and select those based on their personal values.  Those who wish to live a wealthy live style could pursue one, with a reasonable chance of success.  For those more interested in spiritual matters, they can serve their local church, or volunteer at the SPCA.  Artists can perfect their art as they make a living doing something else, less interested in money than in maximizing their free time. 

Instead of attempting to institute some form of rough equality through legislative means (tax law, income redistribution, standard education, limitations on income, etc.), providing for individual freedom would maximize social justice:

In a world where values collide, rational solutions to all political questions are not available.  Hence the rule of experts and specialists is in principle impossible, and tragic clashes and agonizing choices, far from being a pathological anomaly, are an ineradicable part of the human condition.  Each individual must in the end decide for himself.  Therefore the maximum freedom from interference consonant with basic social order and justice is most likely to promote human flourishing and avoid frustration and suffering.

          Roger Hausheer, quoted by Isaiah Berlin, The Proper Study of Mankind

‘Maximum freedom’ means exactly that:

Throughout the nineteenth century liberal thinkers maintained that if liberty involved a limit upon the powers of any man to force me to do what I did not, or might not, wish to do, then, whatever the ideal in the name of which I was coerced, I was not free…

          Isaiah Berlin
, The Proper Study of Mankind

While we contend that a society that supports such freedom increases individual prosperity, and in the whole, a better and healthier standard of living, there are those who believe the lack of legal restraints will simply promote rampant selfishness.  And yet, others feel that such concerns are overblown:

What a man does is always aimed at an improvement of his own state of satisfaction.  In this sense—and in no other—we are free to use the term selfishness and to emphasize that action is necessarily always selfish.

            Ludwig von Mises
, Human Action

Too often discussions of individual liberty revolve almost exclusively around economics and the material aspects of human society.  Referring to Adam Smith, an economic professor of mine exclaimed with derision, “I don’t wish to ‘truck and barter,’” as if how we make a living and what we spend encompasses the whole of human life.  As an example of a materialistic social determinism:

Here in America there is no difference between a man and his economic fate.  A man is made by his assets, income, position, and prospects.  The economic mask coincides completely with a man’s inner character.  Everyone is worth what he earns and earns what he is worth.  He learns what he is through the vicissitudes of his economic existence.

          Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno
, Dialectic of Enlightenment

Most people would disagree with Max and Ted, and assert that humans desire far more, and that quality of life includes many non-material, non-commercial and non-industrial aspects.  To pigeon-hole anyone based solely on their salary, or where they live, or who they marry, or the mass of their possessions is clearly unreasonable, and in the majority of cases, simply wrong.  Get to know anyone, in any social or economic class, and discover what makes them unique.  No two people—even those sitting in adjacent cubicles and earning the same pay with the same responsibilities—will resemble each other in any fundamental way.  In part, that is because:

Production is not something physical, material, and external; it is a spiritual and intellectual phenomenon.  Its essential requisites are not human labor and external natural forces and things, but the decision of the mind to use these factors as means for the attainment of ends.

            Ludwig von Mises
, Human Action

The ‘ends’ Mises refers to could be anything a human desires.  For instance, any commitment to self-development, whether it be professional, personal or spiritual, entails using the mind to direct ones activities in a specific manner in order to progress along a chosen path.  A particular individual may choose a path that baffles the rest of us.  So many people adopt life-styles that seem irrational, from the point of view of others.  Within a Genuinely Free Society, these personal choices are respected, and people left free to decide for themselves.  In some cases, somebody will discover a path never before considered, and become a leader.  In other cases, people will choose self-destructive activities.  At such times, family, friends and community will sometimes be called upon to intervene (peacefully), to heal, and teach others to avoid similar fates.

God, I don’t want to have any more enthusiasm for big programs full of social planning for big masses of people that leave individual Quality out…And I think it’s about time to return to the rebuilding of this American resource—individual worth.  There are political reactionaries who’ve been saying something close to this for years.  I’m not one of them, but to the extent they’re talking about real individual worth and not just an excuse for giving more money to the rich, they’re right.  We do need a return to individual integrity, self-reliance and old-fashioned gumption.

            Robert Pirsig
, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

In the political systems of the West, various interest groups vie of influence and favors.  The going assumption is that the taxes collected from productive individuals and business entities are to be divvied up among these interest groups without restraint. 

While everyone wants lower taxes, they also want political favors, in terms of social security, industrial projects in home districts, protection from foreign competitors, and farm subsidies.  Legislators eying reelection pander to special interest groups by voting for one thing and against another.  While most government employees, elected or otherwise, would like to do the right thing, fulfill the mission of their agency, say, or vote for economically sound policies, there are too many barriers to behaving in ideal ways: political favor more important than economic impact; pressure to support a faction over and above fair policy; the lack of accurate and germane information that would distinguish the bad from the better.

Trying to be objective is an arduous, fatiguing business, which in the end only the virtuous can attain.  Only those with patience, honesty, courage and persistence can delve through the dense layers of self-deception which prevent us from seeing the situation as it really is.  This is especially difficult for those who wield power – for power tends to breed fantasy, reducing the self to a state of querulous narcissism.  For all its tough-minded pragmatism, it is riddled with delusion, assuming that the whole world centers subserviently upon itself.  It dissolves reality to a mirror of its own desires. 

            Terry Eagleton
, After Theory

Government bureaucracies are not structured to operate efficiently or effectively, and it’s not anyone’s fault; it’s the nature of the beast.  Unlike private commercial institutions, government bureaucracies do not produce the information, or the motivation, or the incentives, or the organizational structure to operate effectively.  It’s nearly impossible to measure success, or productivity, or cost/benefit within these institutions.  Bureaucrats are rewarded for other things: loyalty, perceived success, political/organizational instincts; social skills.  These are not bad things; just that they don’t necessarily correlate to organization effectiveness.  Even if actual saints led these bureaucracies, they would do only marginally better, given the inherent challenges, let alone the people that actually rise to the top of them (or get elected President).

Alternately, like liberals in the past, the Altruistic Libertarian promotes…

…a social system which does not depend for its functioning on our finding good men for running it, or on all men becoming better than they now are, but which makes use of men in all their given variety and complexity, sometimes good and sometimes bad, sometimes intelligent and more often stupid.  Their aim was a system under which it should be possible to grant freedom to all, instead of restricting it, as their French contemporaries wished, to "the good and the wise."

            Friedrich Hayek
, Individualism and Economic Order

It’s unreasonable to ask of humans more than they can deliver.  The current political system does just that, by putting elected officials and agency executives in impossible positions.  The power they wield and their collective influence has derailed beneficial policies for decades, and instead, instituted one bad law after another, creating new agencies, new taxes, more regulations, and growing deficits.

Material Benefits of a Genuinely Free Society

By now, there shouldn’t be any debate: free markets produce more wealth than un-free markets.  Completely free markets, as in a Genuinely Free Society, would produce the maximum amount of value in material, spiritual, and social terms, as measured by the individuals directly affected.  

We do not assert that the capitalist mode of economic calculation guarantees the absolutely best solution of the allocation of factors of production.  Such absolutely perfect solutions of any problem are out of reach of mortal men.  What the operation of a market not sabotaged by the interference of compulsion and coercion can bring about is merely the best solution accessible to the human mind under the given state of technological knowledge and the intellectual abilities of the age’s shrewdest men.

            Ludwig von Mises
, Human Action

Dynamic world trade benefits everyone.  Nowhere in recent decades has this been more evident than in China and India.

The reinstatement of open markets and free trade during the past quarter century has elevated many hundreds of millions of the world population from poverty.
          The spreading of a commercial rule of law and especially the protection of the rights of property has fostered a worldwide entrepreneurial stirring.

          Alan Greenspan
, The Age of Turbulence

Removing barriers to entrepreneurs, eliminating the deadweight cost of most government programs, and lowering taxes to the bare minimum would immediately increase the productivity of the economy, and over time, introduce new products and services that might otherwise never come to pass. 

Industrialization is the only hope of the poor…It is all very well for us, sitting pretty, to think that material standards of living don’t matter all that much.  It is all very well for one, as a personal choice, to reject industrialization—do a modern Walden, if you like, and if you go without much food, see most of your children die in infancy, despise the comforts of literacy, accept twenty years off your own life, then I respect you for the strength of your aesthetic revulsion.  But I don’t respect you in the slightest if, even passively, you try to impose the same choice on others who are not free to choose.  In fact, we know what their choice would be.  For, with singular unanimity, in any country where they have had the chance, the poor have walked off the land into the factories as fast as the factories could take them.

            C. P. Snow
, The Two Cultures

While C. P. Snow refers to times past, the principle remains the same.  Much of what people value in the world—cars, air travel, instant communication, affordable housing, modern medicine, cheap food, entertainment—businesses produce.  The books people read, the movies they watch, the houses they live in—all published, produced or built by productive businesses, and every one of those businesses managed by executive leadership.

This is not to say that corporate executives are any more important than anyone else: they’re not.  Only that they contribute to society in important ways, and should be so recognized and honored.  Managing a business is simply one honorable profession among hundreds, all of them critical to social health. 

Within the scope of a particular life, many important things must be balanced, including family, social relationships, personal fitness, spiritual pursuits, intellectual interests, artistic creation, and the productive activity that typically provides the opportunity to enjoy everything else.  In most cases, this means working in some manner to earn the money necessary to feed oneself, or one’s family, and provide housing, clothing, and entertainment.  While most of us do not consider work the most important priority in life, it’s important enough to be considered in balance with our other needs and interests.

Along with corporate executives, a free market (sometimes referred to by the Marxist term “capitalist”) system is often reviled, particularly within the press and academia.  While a truly free market has never existed in a modern setting, some societies are certainly more free than others.  Productive businesses flourish to the extent markets are free.  They effectively produce what people want, and executives should recognize the value of such a system and their critical role within it.

The only justification for a free-market system over any other known economic system is its efficacy in creating material goods.  No other system creates things cheaper, better or faster than a free market.  Yes, history is littered with wasted, labor-weary lives, but that is the nature of human existence.  It has never been different in times past, and social conditions have done nothing but improve to the extent societies have adopted western free market economies (none of which, even in the US, has done so in a pure manner).  Humans have always had to strive to grow enough to eat, to clothe themselves, to construct shelter from the elements and defend themselves from disease (and from each other).  If the only controversy was how to best to provide for material existence, the question would have been long since settled, and everyone would commit themselves to pure free markets and enjoy the tremendous material wealth that such an economy bestows.

But that is not all that matters.  Simply providing greater material wealth does not justify free markets, because there are more important aspects of human existence.  Western free markets have been roundly criticized for two reasons; the first unfairly, and the second fully justified: 

  • free markets have often been erroneously charged with effects that are actually the result of government-dominated markets, not free ones: killing highways, drug-crime, the increase in father-less families, monopolies, depressions, and inferior education, just to name a few.

  • due to the fact that the value and meaning of human life extends far beyond material conditions and/or material wealth, and given the agnostic aspect of free societies, people may choose to live within them in ways critical and criticized by others

How one should live in a truly free society is a seriously important question, and one without any obvious answer.  What is the meaning of human life, and how should one properly be lived? 

The one great advantage of a Genuinely Free Society over one that is forcefully engineered is that all humans in a free society have a chance to answer that question on their own terms, as opposed to living it on someone else’s.  Terry Eagleton would disagree, when he lays bare the underlying assumption for all interventionist policies:

…you have to have some idea of what counts as a specifically human kind of prospering.  It is not just an individual affair.  It is not up to you to decide what counts as this, any more than it is up to you to decide what counts as mental stability in a moose.  You cannot say ‘Torturing Tyroleans feels like thriving for me’ – not just because it is not true, but because it is not up to you to lay down the law.  Moral values are not just what you happen to plump for, as the decisionist or existentialist maintains.  Some moral thinkers believe that they are what all of us happen to plum for – that they are intersubjective rather than subjective.

          Terry Eagleton
, After Theory,

Humans are moral animals, which means that each individual must consciously make decisions virtually every day of their lives, perhaps even every hour, and every one of them moral in some manner.  Deciding to rely on someone else’s judgment is itself a moral decision.  Under normal circumstances, humans who wish to survive couldn’t avoid deciding if they wished to.  Terry Eagleton goes on to argue:

Another reason why you cannot know whether you are flourishing just by looking inside yourself is because the idea of flourishing is a complex one, involving a whole range of factors.  You may be prospering in some ways and not in others.  You have to ask yourself whether you are healthy, happy, at ease with yourself and others, enjoying life, working creatively, emotionally caring and sensitive, resilient, capable of fulfilling friendships, responsible, self-reliant and the like.  A lot of these things are not wholly within your control.  You cannot be happy or at ease with yourself just by an act of will.  It requires among other things certain social and material conditions.

          Terry Eagleton
, After Theory,

Eagleton is correct, in that social, economic and political conditions impact the extent to which individuals “flourish”.  He cares about the right things, and for the right reasons, yet believes that certain individuals—presumably himself among them—more capable of deciding, planning and constraining the free activities of others in order to attain what he believes optimal, or at least better than what exists today.  This attitude is common among intellectuals, condescending as it does to everyone else’s moral judgment.  The notion that most individuals are simply too stupid, or unrefined, or uneducated, or unsophisticated, or low class, or morally corrupt to decide for themselves how to live, what to do, and how to spend their time and resources, is unseemly, arrogant, and paternalistic. 

But the basic point here is that material wealth is not enough—and not in and of itself justification for a free market economy.  Even so, socialists who believe that their economics will actually produce more material wealth are simply and empirically mistaken.  In addition, socialist organization requires less individual liberty, and therefore results in less freedom in society, not more, as socialist economics requires people to generally do something different than they would typically choose to do, and therefore they must be coerced.  In a free society, by definition, people are not threatened with organized violence, and are free to do what they wish with their time, their energy, and their resources.  Given that a general consensus as to the proper way to live one’s life does not exist, a free society provides infinite possibilities, allowing individuals to decide for themselves.

Criticism of free markets abound in academic literature.  A classic text from the Frankfort School of Critical Theory, reads:

They [Jews] are now [1944] experiencing to their own cost the exclusive, particularist character of capitalism.

            Max Horkheimer, Theodore Adorno
, Dialectic of Enlightenment

This statement is both dangerous and irresponsible.  “Capitalism” is an economic form.  The Fascist acts against the Jews were purely political.  Capitalism, by definition, is the act of humans freely exchanging their goods, labor and services, and doesn’t contain within it the means to perpetuate violence.  But it gets worse:

The howling voice of Fascist orators and camp commandants shows the other side of the same social condition.  The yell is as cold as business...

            Max Horkheimer, Theodore Adorno
, Dialectic of Enlightenment

Lumping “camp commandants” with business managers is particularly offensive, as it is inappropriate to compare the “force” required to herd people into a concentration camp and kill them with “forcing” a person to work to support him or herself.  The two are utterly different: one is violence and the other is not, and Adorno skirts dangerous shores when he can’t distinguish them in a meaningful way.  The confusion continues in the following statement by Derrida in Philosophy in a Time of Terror:

…by democratic citizenship in providing protection against certain kinds of international violence (market, the concentration of world capital, as well as “terrorist” violence and the proliferation of weapons)…

            Jacques Derrida
, Philosophy in a Time of Terror

Again, failing to make critical distinctions results in critical failure to communicate anything meaningful, let alone significant.  In point of fact, “market” and “the concentration of world capital” is something, but under no circumstances can it be considered “violence” without again rendering the word “violence” meaningless.  Habermas contributes to the dialogue with the following:

Without the political taming of an unbounded capitalism, the devastating stratification of world society will remain intractable.  The disparities in the dynamic of world economic development would have to at least be balanced out regarding their most destructive consequences—the deprivation and misery of complete regions and continents comes to mind.

            Jurgen Habermas,
Philosophy in a Time of Terror

The “destructive consequences” Habermas speaks of are directly related to the lack of rule of law, the lack of societal and/or political respect for individuals (particularly women), and the devastation wrought by political regimes that have violently (meaning the use of destructive force against largely helpless humans) ruled these lands and decimated the peoples and the economies without limit.  The Saddams and Somozas and Amin’s are just a few examples from representative corners of the globe in recent decades, and if governments without principle have supported these regimes than they are rightly criticized for doing so, regardless of the particular expediency that seduced those statesmen into such support.  Corporations, capital, and markets do not control the means to wield the necessary force or threat of force to perpetuate such ruthless dictatorships—only governments such as the US, France and Britain are capable of it.  To the extent that governments with armies, navies and air forces allow themselves to be influenced by such commercial interests, they are doing so only by casting aside their principle responsibility, and that is the immediate physical defense of their citizens.

The notions of “power” within a society are exclusively related to the willingness and/or the ability to use, or threaten to use, violent force, whether it be by a common criminal, or representatives of the State (police, military).  Economic “power” is utterly different, has no inherent ability to “threaten” or “injure” without the explicit support of the State.  Executives don’t carry guns—policemen do.  The ability to “fire” someone is no different than a person’s right to “quit”.  Notions that “influence” can somehow be equated to “violent power” are meaningless.  Advertising, commercialization, TV, cultural events, education—all those influences that we may agree with or not, depending on our specific point of view—are but a puff of breeze compared to the hurricane force of political violence.  Citizens can freely choose to respond to that which surrounds them.  To the extent they are influenced (not forced) to act in one way or another by social media, or alter their behavior or attitude in any way, cannot meaningfully be compared to facing an armed policeman, and ordered about.

No thinking person has ever been satisfied with the current state of society.  Even in the golden age of 5th Century Athens, a time almost universally revered as being the epitome of civilization, Plato, perhaps the most influential thinker in history, wrote the Republic, a scathing critique of that very society.  And such criticism has never ceased: Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Thorstein Veblen, Oswald Spengler, H. L. Mencken, Martin Heidegger, Allan Bloom, George Steiner, Jean Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Max Horkheimer, Theodore Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin, Jurgen Habermas, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ayn Rand, Terry Eagleton, Jacques Barzun —the list is endless—have all profoundly criticized the society in which they live.  George Steiner summarized this reality when he wrote:

Yet the indistinct intimation of a lost freedom or of a freedom to be regained—Arcadia behind us, Utopia before—hammers at the far threshold of the human psyche.

            George Steiner
, Real Presences

At no point in history has consensus ever been achieved as to what is best.  Individuals and groups debate politics, religious truth, interpretations of the past, what the future holds, regional uniqueness, the superiority of their generation, the best music, art, entertainment.  Nobody agrees on anything—ever.  And in particular, intellectuals have criticized popular culture in every age.  The common folk can never quite climb to the cultural heights the superior believe necessary to fully achieve an actualized existence.  Considering the pervasive popularity of country music, professional wrestling, reality T.V., and fast food, it’s hard to blame them, but the fact is, in a free society, people will pursue that which they value, and nobody has the undisputed insight into the meaning of human life, or how best to realize it.

All this is said to prove that social criticism is pervasive and unending.  Despite this fact, there should be general agreement that the world is better without polio, tuberculosis, small pox, and high infant mortality.  Needless suffering is simply needless, and to the extent modern society can banish it from the human universe, all the better. 

In general, more wealth is better than less.  What people do with more time, money, and health is another question, one that each person must answer for themselves.  Having choices is better than living life without any, and that’s what free markets provide—choices.  Business provides products and services people need and desire, along with the productive opportunity to earn the privilege of obtaining them.  And the more effectively those are provided, the more creatively and cheaply they are produced, the more wealth people will enjoy.

In a free society, business is generically agnostic, and should remain so.  This means they don’t decide what is best, or what is right or wrong—individuals do.  And the businesses that most effectively support those individual desires will in turn be more successful.

In a modern free society, people can choose to live alone in a cave in the woods, if they wish.  They can donate everything they own to charity, if that is their desire.  Nothing prevents someone in a modern, wealthy society from going without.  If someone hates the pervasive connectedness that cell phones represent, they can choose not to carry one.  If a person wants to live a purely natural life, that option is open to them.  If someone craves danger and excitement, they can take a trip down the Amazon on a raft alone.  That should do it.  Or they can climb Mount McKinley without a coat.  For most people, living in a modern free society means living without fear of accidental freezing to death or attack from killing tigers (unless they work in Vegas). 

In today’s world, or a wealthier, freer one, it’s always possible to opt for something simpler, closer to nature say, depending on one’s values.  For instance, in a Genuinely Free Society, a group of families, or like-minded individuals, would be free to combine their resources, purchase a large farm, say, and operate under the famous Marxist maxim: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.  Over time, they can increase their ability to produce their own products, such as clothing or tools.  Others who admire their life-style can join, and steadily increase the size of the community.  In theory, without limit.  In another example, Muslims could congregate in a similar way, and live according to Islamic law, with two possible exceptions: traditional punishment would be unlawful as it would violate the prohibition against violence, and secondly, any woman who comes of age in such a society would be free to leave, if she so desired.  And all children would be subject to the nation’s law as well.  For those who detest modern life, even those with modest means, can live a far simpler live, without modern conveniences or contraptions, and formally disconnect from the bustling metropolis.  Countless such individuals do so today, quite effectively.

On the other hand, it’s simply impossible to choose a more sophisticated, and potentially fulfilling existence within a poor, socialistic society, given that such options simply don’t exist, for anyone.  Imagine a wealthy person from the distant past, and how poor they would seem today, as they faced unavoidable diseases, constant discomfort and danger, rampant ignorance (compared to today), and few distractions to mitigate the monotony. 

For those who long for simpler times, for less wealth, comfort and entertainment, they are welcome to seek such a lifestyle for themselves, without insisting the rest of us, through the application of government action, follow suit.  As George Orwell said, “The poor do not praise poverty.”  Or John Kennedy Toole in Confederacy of Dunces:

Personally, I have found that a lack of food and comfort, rather than ennobling the spirit, creates only anxiety within the human psyche and channels all of one’s better impulses only toward the end of procuring something to eat.  Even though I do have a Rich Inner Life, I must have some food and comfort also.

          John Kennedy Toole, 
Confederacy of Dunces

In times past people lived terrible lives with few choices.  Read Dickens.  Study the history of sub-Sahara Africa (or go there today).  Poverty may be good for the soul, but not for much else.  While some people in the past have worshipped suffering, it’s likely they did so in order to make the best of a bad situation.  The Buddhist divined the four noble truths, and proceeded to inflict so much pain and misery on themselves they became inured to it and therefore felt nothing, bringing them one step closer to Nirvana, otherwise known as “perfect nothingness”.   In the sad past, the Church preached a paradise hereafter, and made suicide a mortal sin to keep the flock from collectively taking a final Lemming-leap.

Those fortunate enough to live and work in America today are blessed.  Anyone willing to show up, pay attention, and exert themselves can earn a living.  And those who wish to work harder, educate themselves, improve their skills, cultivate a talent, can achieve even more, virtually without limit. 

A tremendous range of cultural, social, intellectual, artistic and community activities are routinely available to anyone wishing to pursue them.  One can play guitar in a rock band, learn a foreign language, skateboard, ride motorcycles, write a book, see a movie, play in a park, or just sit around and watch T.V.  For those who can’t handle so much time and money, and as a result make a mess of their lives (movie stars, professional athletes) the fault is theirs.  There is no excuse for it, and they’re lack of character reflects on themselves, and not their society.

Who Benefits the Most

One of the principle ironies of Western Democracies is their focus on the underprivileged, in terms of government spending and tax policy, when these are the people who have the most to gain from a Genuinely Free Society: the weak, the stupid, the lazy, the uneducated, the unmotivated, the poor and the ill all benefit tremendously, in every case all out of proportion with what they contribute.  These people have access to the benefit of every new invention (TVs in the past, cell phones today), increase in productivity (higher standard of living then the poor of the past), and medical advance (cancer treatment, HIV mitigation).  These advances are made possible by the work of genius, and the commercial expertise necessary to make them generally available.  Such things would never come about, not in a trillion years, if it depended solely on the lowly.  Not only that, but the socialist paradise so many dream of would simply stunt the development of further wealth and innovation, leaving the poor in a stagnant pool of hopeless and changeless existence.

The hard working, innovative, and skilled will benefit tremendously as well, as their efforts will be amply rewarded in a Genuinely Free Society.  And of course the lucky – they always do well.

Family and Community Support for the Sick, the Needy and the Unemployed

In a Genuinely Free Society, those in need receive care from family, friends and the community.  Care giving is a noble calling, and returns value to both those in need, and those able to help.  So often needs are unique, and are best provided by those who truly care, as opposed to a heartless bureaucracy. 

Within the impersonal government system, too often the precise needs fail to meet bureaucratic requirements and then go unfulfilled.  Other times cases are misdiagnosed, and cause harm instead of help.  All of these government sponsored attempts to provide assistance are done with considerable administrative inefficiency and at great taxpayer expense.

If enough people in society feel strong enough about helping the unfortunate to vote for such programs, then surely there would be enough people in a Genuinely Free Society to contribute privately, and absent coercion.  Not only that, for those genuinely concerned about helping the unfortunate, voting for such programs, as Thoreau reminds us, does very little for the people in need. 


Beyond family and community, those in need can be provided by regional and national charities organized specifically to support societal deficiencies.  Instead of relying on impersonal government agencies, staffed by individuals motivated by organizational priorities and not necessarily their needy recipients, people in need would rely on people who genuinely care about their condition, and who operate within organizations freely funded and staffed by the like-minded. 

In a wealthy society, when many people earn far more than they need, charity provides a socially applauded means to help those less fortunate.   Tax incentives could help, perhaps providing 120% deduction for all donations to approved charities.

Negligence, Liability

One of the key principles for maintaining justice within a Genuinely Free Society is the practice of holding people, or institutions, liable for harming other people.  For instance, when a drug company sells a product that results in the death of a consumer, and that consumer has used the drug in the recommended fashion, the victim’s family (or the state) can sue the company for damages.  If the plaintiff wins the suit, the court orders the company to pay damages, in many cases in large enough amounts to discourage such negligent behavior.  This last bears repeating: the damages will be large enough to get the company’s—and industry’s—attention.  (More on this in Chapter 7)

As a personal example, while serving as an executive in a telecom company, we owned a site that proved potentially hazardous to trespassers, particularly teenagers, who might be tempted to climb the structure.  After inspecting the site, we decided to rebuild the fence and clearly mark the danger in big red signs, both to deter entry to the site and demonstrate our corporate responsibility.

The importance of this principle cannot be overstated.  Instead of attempting to formalize laws and regulations that would potentially strangle an industry, the consumers and citizens can rely on vigorous liability laws:

Liability: one of the most significant words in the field of law, liability means legal responsibility for one's acts or omissions.  Failure of a person or entity to meet that responsibility leaves him/her/it open to a lawsuit for any resulting damages or a court order to perform (as in a breach of contract or violation of statute).  In order to win a lawsuit the suing party (plaintiff) must prove the legal liability of the defendant if the plaintiff's allegations are shown to be true.  This requires evidence of the duty to act, the failure to fulfill that duty and the connection (proximate cause) of that failure to some injury or harm to the plaintiff.  Liability also applies to alleged criminal acts in which the defendant may be responsible for his/her acts which constitute a crime, thus making him/her subject to conviction and punishment.  Example: Jack Jumpstart runs a stop sign in his car and hits Sarah Stepforth as she is crossing in the cross-walk.  Jack has a duty of care to Sarah (and the public) which he breaches by his negligence, and therefore has liability for Sarah's injuries, giving her the right to bring a lawsuit against him.  However, Jack's father owns the automobile and he, too, may have liability to Sarah based on a statute which makes a car owner liable for any damages caused by the vehicle he owns.  The father's responsibility is based on "statutory liability" even though he personally breached no duty.  A signer of a promissory note has liability for money due if it is not paid and so would a co-signer who guarantees it.  A contractor who has agreed to complete a building has liability to the owner if he fails to complete on time.


‘Steroid Principle’ – Externalities – Global Warming

The Altruistic Libertarian supports certain activities to be banned and/or outlawed by the government 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 by professional sports.  Without the ban, many more athletes would be forced to use steroids to remain competitive, or risk losing their short-term opportunity when competing against 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 compete would be forced to pollute the environment, or risk going 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.  Some have even argued that companies can gain additional competitive advantages by significantly increasing their efficiency in meeting environmental standards.

But not without cost.  Every consumer of those industries will pay more for their products, ceteris paribus, to keep the environment clean.  For the most part, this is a bargain that most people would approve.

The same principle applies to more general cases, like automobile exhaust or sewage treatment.  As we learn more about climate change on a global scale, additional changes may be required, and enforced, to minimize the effects of global warming.  According to David Grinspoon’s Earth in Human Hands, the amount of CO2 already released into the atmosphere will cause inevitable change, regardless of what we do today.  Even so, changes can be made to avoid further damage to the atmosphere and the oceans, and it may require the force of government to bring those changes about. 

Private/Public Distinction

Living in a Genuinely Free Society doesn’t mean individuals can do anything, anywhere.  Certain public standards would be enforced relative to specific behavior and dress.  Laws restricting nudity, public displays of affection (sex), drug/alcohol use, rude or disruptive behavior, would be appropriate. 

Once inside the privacy of one’s home, however, no restrictions among consenting adults would be enacted or enforced.  Nudity, drugs, sex, gambling, reading anything, writing anything, viewing anything would be allowed.  Unless such activity violated GFS principles (i.e. intentionally harming someone without permission, or gross negligence), or negatively impacted neighbors (loud parties, say), it would be legal and permitted.

The ‘Red Light District’ Zoning Principle

Within a Genuinely Free Society, undesirable commercial/entertainment establishments will operate somewhere.  Casinos, whorehouses, recreational drug bars, 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, or allowed such commercial activity, the community could ban them from their commercial zones.

Children, Age of Consent, Competency

Children form a special case within a Genuinely Free Society, as they do in today’s society.  In many ways, they would be treated the same as they are today, and protected by the law from unhealthy influences (drugs, alcohol, smoking), required to attend school until age sixteen, and restricted from many adult activities until they reach the age of consent.

The age of consent might range anywhere from as young as sixteen to as old as nineteen.  Whatever age legally established, an individual would gain full adult rights on that birthday, and become completely free to behave as an adult.

The only exception to the rights granted an individual at the age of consent would be for those adults legally identified as ‘incompetent’.  This designation might be used for those mentally challenged, or adults that require the same care as a child. 


Immigration becomes much simpler in a Genuinely Free Society, as there would be no tariffs, import quotas, illegal drugs worth smuggling, or social services to be taken advantage of.  Schools would be privately owned, and welfare wouldn’t exist, so immigrants would be obligated to provide for themselves and their own children.  Opportunities would be abundant, drawing needed labor and expertise from other countries.  Threats from terrorist would decline, after America withdraws militarily from so many places.  Crimes against people and property would be more difficult to effect, given the total commitment of community police forces against such crimes.  With drugs, prostitution and gambling no longer criminal activities, the attraction to organized crime would be greatly reduced, turning large numbers of formally criminals into law abiding, tax paying, unarmed citizens. 

Monetary Policy – Gold Standard – Borrowing, Deficit Spending

In a Genuinely Free Society, the government would be legally prohibited from deficit spending (spending more than tax receipts), or borrowing from the public (other than short term, say for cash flow coverage).

Deficit spending, whether funded through borrowing or printing more money, fundamentally weakens the economy in insidious ways, given the necessarily ambiguous relationship between cause and effect.  It allows politicians to spend more without direct consequence, even as such spending erodes the value of currency, or robs capital markets of resources that otherwise would be productively invested.

Some people advocate returning to a gold standard in order to ensure the government complies with responsible monetary policy.  Doing so may create additional cost and economic friction that isn’t entirely necessary to realize monetary goals, putting brakes where none are required.  In other words, a strict gold standard would cost more then it would necessarily benefit, especially if the required monetary restrictions were duly enforced on the government.

Gun Control

The original purpose of the second amendment no longer pertains.  Consider the actual wording:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

When written, an armed citizen stood as protection from a tyrannical government, because the citizen and the government soldier were similarly armed.  With an armed citizenry, absolute limits were placed on government.

Today, this is no longer the case.  The government possesses arms far superior to anything owned privately, and the citizen with his pistol or rifle no match for Army Rangers.  Besides, the real risk of government control lies elsewhere, in the ubiquity of personal information (credit cards, GPS trackers), communication surveillance (email, phone calls, text messaging), and the pending disappearance of cash money.

Personally, I believe society would be better off without guns, but that ship has already sailed.  Americans are an armed people.  It would require an act of severe suppression to deprive Americans of their guns, and as a gun owner myself, I would seriously resist any such attempt.  At a minimum, we possess in our firearms the illusion of independence, and in a Genuinely Free Society, guns would abound.

With one notable exception: with the legalization of drugs, prostitution and gambling, far fewer criminals would exist (many converted to law-abiding citizens), along with far fewer guns, as the former criminals would no longer need them to protect their business, and the expense of obtaining and owning weapons would largely disappear. 

Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment violates the basic principle of The Genuinely Free Society, when it deliberately executes a person without immediate threat.  In terms of protecting society, the same can be accomplished through imprisonment.  The government should be held to the same standard as individuals, and only kill when in direct and immediate danger.  Allowing state executions, under any circumstances, should give every citizen pause.  They should be illegal, for anyone, anywhere.