Everything Voluntary (Book Review #5)

Column by Alex R. Knight III.

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While there are certainly many superb libertarian/voluntaryist anthologies in publication, both past and present, most tend to be unitopical in nature. This is why Everything Voluntary: From Politics to Parenting, a 2012 offering from editor Skyler J. Collins, is not only instantly distinguishable, but perhaps of broader utilitarian value in terms of outreach.

This is not to say that the volume can’t be a refresher or horizon expander for the choir. The essays are arranged in five categories: Politics, Religion, Economy, Education, and Parenting. The initiated will find a smattering of luminary classics, such as Murray N. Rothbard’s The Anatomy of the State, and Leonard Read’s “I, Pencil,” but the emphasis remains on more recent outings by writers of humbler, if in many cases equal, philosophical stature within their respective bailiwicks.

With no particular prejudice towards the first two sections – I think that most of what I read there, while excellent, was simply de rigueur for myself at this point – I gravitated more towards the latter three categories in terms of paragraphs or passages that struck me as innovative, or otherwise crystallizing a concept in some way I’d been previously unfamiliar with.

As an example, in Richard Ebeling’s Historical Capitalism vs. the Free Market, at page 143, the next-to-last paragraph offers a distinct – and succinct -- assessment of the present: “The ideal and the principle of the market economy was never fulfilled. What is called capitalism today is a distorted, twisted and deformed system of increasingly limited market relationships as well as market processes hampered and repressed by state controls and regulations. And overlaying this entire system are the ideologies of 18th-century mercantilism, 19th-century socialism, and 20th-century welfare statism.”

In another, different variation on an economic theme, Nicholas Hooton in Agorist Living, at page 151, demonstrates the futility of attempting to utilize electoral politics or government in any form in order to advance the cause of liberty: “For many years, 'anarcho-capitalists' (under the direction of Mr. Libertarian himself, Murray Rothbard) have attempted to work within the political means to bring down the State. From the inception of the Libertarian Party up until its remaining anarchists were disinvited by means of the “Denver Accord”, to the attention-getting attempts at the Presidency by libertarian poster child Ron Paul, anarcho-capitalists have put their trust in the very political machine they reject. These attempts have been fruitless, of course. The American political machine is stronger than it has ever been, arguably more powerful than any State in man’s history; and the Libertarian Party has become such an impotent hiss and by-word that it no longer garners even comedic targeting.”

Indeed, this was my own experience as well, and Hooton reiterates it in fineness, emphasizing the importance of agorist counter-economics in ultimately abolishing the State.

Many anarchists – perhaps most notably Stefan Molyneaux – have stressed the importance of good parenting in the creation of a free society, and Alice Miller’s Childhood: The Unexplored Source of Knowledge, approaches this subject from a terrifying and unvarnished tack. She discusses the upbringings of the various tyrants comprising the Nazi Party of 1930s-1940s Germany, and arrives at this particular summation of that regrettable phenomenon at page 227: “The fact that the monstrous advice about 'good' parenting disseminated by self-styled educationalists in Germany around 1860 went into as many as 40 editions led me to conclude that most parents had read them and did indeed act – in good faith – on the recommendations set out there. They beat their children from the outset because they had been told this was the way to make decent members of society out of them. Forty years later, the children thus treated did the same with their children. They didn’t know any better. Born 30 to 40 years before the Holocaust, those traumatized children later became Hitler’s adherents, adulators, and henchmen. In my view, it was the direct result of their early drilling. The cruelty they experienced turned them into emotional cripples incapable of developing any kind of empathy for the sufferings of others. At the same time it made them into people living with a time-bomb, unconsciously waiting for an opportunity of venting on others the rage pent up inside them. Hitler gave them the legal scapegoat they needed to acting out their early feelings and their thirst for vengeance.”

Related, but perhaps on the opposite end of this spectrum, is James Kimmel’s Why Do We Hurt Our Children? At pages 248-249, Kimmel illustrates the real consequences of traditional child discipline and punishment: “One of the troubles with punishment as a way to teach children proper social behavior, aside from the infliction of pain, is that it makes children feel weak, impotent and incapable. Punishment teaches children to look to external authority to decide for them how they should behave, rather than looking to themselves. They do not learn how, in collaboration with others, to make choices; they do not learn how to decide what is good for them and for those who are important to them. What they learn instead is to submit to authority and power, to obey. By being punished and treated as inferior beings, they become inferior beings – they do not develop the power of the human individual to love and trust. Children who are regularly punished learn to fear their parents. They learn the behaviors that their parents like and don’t like and also, how to hide these behaviors from their parents. They develop “proper” behavior out of fear, not choice.”

One need look no further than any given day’s news headlines to see prima facie allegorical evidence of Miller’s findings and Kimmel’s assertions.

The print edition of Collins’s book, in addition to containing an afterword by the editor, and a foreword by Dr. Chris R. Brown, contains a list of recommended additional reading and websites following each of the five segments. It is reasonably priced, but Collins nevertheless affords the public the opportunity to read the volume for free on his website, as linked above.

Whichever route you take, I would think you'll be well pleased -- as very well may be a friend or acquaintance, as yet unschooled in the benefits of a voluntary society.

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 111

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales, including Tales from Dark 7.  He has also written and published poetry; non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues; and is former Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.  In 1998, he was awarded Activist of the Year for that organization.  He now lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University, and looks forward to living in a governmentless society of liberty.