Column by Jim Davies.

Exclusive to STR

The coming free society will be rational; residents will live on the basis of reality and reason rather than myth. We will recognize government for what it is and therefore reject it on rational grounds; we will think in rational, economic terms predominantly. I can be sure of this, because a free society will not come into being until everyone does think predominantly in rational, economic terms; as long as society wallows in myth, it will not throw off the curse of government.

That said, will superstition play in it any part at all? Will there be any place for religion, for example? In my opinion, not much, but the very nature of freedom absolutely requires that everyone be left free to believe anything he wishes, be it ever so absurd. Perhaps that is one of the contradictions with which we shall have to grapple. But yes, of course there will be such a place. Perhaps it would be a cold and mechanistic society without it.

People will be free -- of course! -- to believe that the scientific method and all that it has brought mankind by way of medicine, knowledge, exploration, pleasure, culture, leisure and wealth in any of its multiple forms, is a curse to be discarded in favor of primitive living and a return to nature. Should they wish to act on that belief, good luck to them! Nobody has any business forcing them to conform to any beliefs but their own, any more than we have obligation to bail them out when their babies die for want of medical care, and they have no business forcing the rest of us to abandon our preference for civilization. They will need to acquire proper title to the land they want to occupy, but then they'll have a perfect right to be left in peace.

So I got to thinking, what would America have been like, if the European settlers had all been rational market anarchists? In particular, what would have happened to the "Indian" tribes that were occupying North America and living thus, close to Nature and completely unaware of any other way?

The encounter, and the four centuries that followed, is both monumental and tragic. When Leif Ericson stayed a while in Newfoundland, his party had a bad encounter with native Americans, who must have been scared and astonished, but they didn't stay. The great and apparently more friendly encounters were in or around 1497, by Cabot and Columbus.

This is of such significance I cannot find words adequate to describe it. If the timeline in Spencer Wells' Journey of Man is correct, these two branches of our species had not met for 30,000 years--yet there they were, face to face and knowing they were fundamentally alike. The much-overused term "awesome" hardly suffices for such an encounter. That long ago, migrants from Africa had parted company, one group continued Northeast towards Siberia and spent thousands of years living as herders with reindeer, eventually crossing into Alaska when the sea was frozen and moving into America, North and South. About 20,000 years earlier yet another group had made the same trip from the Pacific Rim. But those who turned West towards Europe found a kinder climate and became us, or most of us. Five centuries ago, descendants of those Westbound migrants met their Eastbound brethren. Talk about historic!

The skills developed by the veterans of Siberian ice were amazing, and they were honed by life in more recent millennia in America with its temperate seasons. No longer herders, they reverted to hunting and gathering, and of course knew very intimately how close was mankind to all the rest of nature. They had (and despite all that governments did to them, their descendants still have) an understanding of, and respect for, the natural world which modern man has forgotten. For one small example, I understand that when killing an animal for food, they apologize to it. Meaningless? Useless? Perhaps. But it seems to show more reverence for life than herding cattle into a mechanized slaughterhouse.

As nomads, they needed to make some decisions communally. Members could always leave and go solo, but if they stayed in the group, there were some matters with only a binary answer: Shall we strike camp and move today, or next week?, etc. The time-honored way to settle such questions was that of consensus. The "Chief" is a moderator, not a dictator. Decisions are made only when all agree. In this, they are far superior to all that European man developed, ever since history was first written down.

Some 20,000 years after that Great Division, somewhere between the Caspian and the Himalayas, the Westbound migrants discovered fixed agriculture--evidently, in or near what is now Lebanon. This discovery was the most significant of all human history, and you'll have noticed that it happened after the Eastbounders were long gone. They missed out on it. That's why they reached North America as hunter-gatherers, instead of as farmers. That's why those 400 years of interaction were so tragic. The difference was a fact, but the tragedy could and should have been avoided.

Very close in time to that discovery, 10,000 years ago, two other vastly important things took place: government was born, and writing began – see my “Origins" for remarks about the former. Once governments appeared, they didn't go away, and fixed-agricultural man has been awash in the blood they spilled ever since. Part of the wealth mankind produced extra to what was needed to live on (the "agricultural surplus") was stolen by them and used for nefarious purposes like pampering their leaders and making war on their rivals. That is the nature of government--but it results not from the surplus itself, but from the theft of the surplus. Mankind's problem for the last 10,000 years has not been that we got more civilized, but that we were cursed with government. As detailed in my Denial of Liberty, but for government we would have become far more civilized, very much faster.

Back, then, to our original question; How would European settlers of this continent have handled the "Indian" problem if they had been anarchists, if theirs had been a free society?

After a means of communication had been established, the matter of land ownership would have arisen. The newcomers wanted land, the natives apparently had land. So a deal could have been struck, for the newcomers had a few things the natives valued. However, the natives didn't have an understanding of land ownership! To them, the land was just "there," to be used by any and all who wished to hunt and gather, it was what we'd call a kind of "commons." Commons work fine, until the demand for grazing land exceeds the supply available. Then, there is chaos and discord, which can be resolved only by exclusive ownership--property rights. So the first lesson our landed anarchists would have had to teach the natives would have had to be the Tragedy of the Commons (without access, of course, to Hardin's 1968 essay) and the concept of ownership. But given a few patient years and good linguistic progress on all sides, the job would have been done, and bargains would have been struck. The price of land, once the natives understood that they would be excluded from what they sold to the settlers, might have been rather high, but it would have been paid. The natives, accordingly, would have gained wealth which they valued more than the land, the use of which they gave up. Such is the free-market subjective theory of value, without which wealth generation is not possible.

After a while--a few generations, possibly--I believe most natives would have found the bargains very satisfactory, and would have eagerly learned the science of fixed agriculture as fast as the European farmers were able to teach them. But if a few did not--if they preferred life on the open range so much they would not sell at any price--then, as we saw above, a free society would have left them in peace.

The process of communication and negotiation would have been repeated by new immigrants, as they arrived and pressed Westward, for "Indians" were of course not a single tribe but nearly 100, each with its own language. But since the immigrants would (by the premise here) all have been market anarchists, no force would have been used--only persuasion and exchange. Most importantly, there would have been no white man's government, to make treaties and then break them at will. The free, anarchist society would have operated a justice industry as effective in settling natives' grievances as much as those of the newcomers.

Accordingly, the tragedy--by which armed government agents herded and slaughtered native Americans like sheep, or worse--would not have taken place. There would still have been the tragedy of death from infection by diseases to which the natives had no immunity, but that was not then understood, so the Europeans cannot be blamed. There would have been no armed agents, no government, no deliberate slaughter, and no grievance the free-market courts could not have settled.

Some may feel this is optimistic, so I'll throw in another reason why I believe something like that would have replaced the actual, bloody history of the actual American Genocide: Native society is intrinsically anarchist, or close to it. The adjustments they would have had to make, in the four centuries after Columbus arrived, would have been relatively slight. Above, I noted that they were used to making group decisions only by consensus--so they were already at least halfway there. This may have been what drew Russell Means, who led the American Indian Movement's occupation at Wounded Knee in 1973, and who later occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs in D.C., to seek the Libertarian Party's nomination for President in 1988. I met him at that convention in Seattle, and voted for him. What we needed most, I thought, was media exposure, and his flamboyant style was almost guaranteed to draw some. He was eloquent and did well—joking, for example, that when elected, he would establish a "Bureau of Caucasian Affairs"--but lost to Ron Paul, who got very little media attention. I knew Russell would have needed a crash course in free-market economics, but he was highly intelligent and willing to learn, and there were plenty ready to teach.

That's not to say I embrace the "Indian" worldview generally, or even understand it--I don't. (Take a look; do you?) It just says that there is a natural affinity between the "Indian" way of doing things and the anarchist way of people who have the advantage of 10,000 extra years of civilization. We anarchists stand for laissez faire: let us be, live and let live. So do they. We would have got along just fine.

Russell died this week, too young at 72, of cancer. Before going he promised that in the next life he will return as lightning: “When lightning zaps the White House, they'll know it's me.” Hurry back, friend.

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Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched http://TinyURL.com/QuitGov , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?" and in 2016, an unraveling of the great paradox of "income tax law" with "How Government Silenced Irwin Schiff."


Alex R. Knight III's picture

Jim:  Excellent -- one of your very best!  Indeed, Russell Means will be sorely missed.  Let's see that lightning soon...

Jim Davies's picture

Thank you, Alex!

tzo's picture

I also thought this was an excellent essay, but the following did jump out at me:

"However, the natives didn't have an understanding of land ownership! To them, the land was just "there," to be used by any and all who wished to hunt and gather, it was what we'd call a kind of "commons." Commons work fine, until the demand for grazing land exceeds the supply available. Then, there is chaos and discord, which can be resolved only by exclusive ownership--property rights. So the first lesson our landed anarchists would have had to teach the natives would have had to be the Tragedy of the Commons (without access, of course, to Hardin's 1968 essay) and the concept of ownership. But given a few patient years and good linguistic progress on all sides, the job would have been done, and bargains would have been struck."

I don't see that the Europeans had the answer and needed to teach it to the Native Americans. If the Native Americans had flawed ideas of land ownership, so did the Europeans. I think the learning process would have been a two-way street and the end result would have been somewhere in the middle, where longer-term control of land would be tied to occupancy and use and not perpetual title and arbitrarily large claims. Unused land would come back into the commons and used land would become private only while being used. In this way the two systems could merge and coexist. The non-Native Americans on the planet still haven't incorporated much if any of the Native American common-sense understandings based on the very reasonable question "How can one own the Earth?" One has the right to control the parts of the Earth hs is occupying and utilizing and transforming into resources, but it is quite a(n il)logical leap to think one can actually own large swaths of the planet to the exclusion of everyone else based on… well, based on what, besides force?

Jim Davies's picture

As things actually happened, Tzo, of course you're quite right; the incoming Europeans did not have the answer.

However my stated premise was "what would America have been like, if the European settlers had all been rational market anarchists?"

Paul's picture

I had a similar objection. If you read Rothbard's history, actually there was quite a lot of land buying (from Indians) that did work well (particularly, the Quakers). And the Indians did understand land ownership, though in a collective sense. For example, the Crow certainly did contest the Sioux taking over their hunting grounds. And while there may be some problems with collective ownership of land, there are problems with ALL forms of ownership of land. It's just up to people to deal intelligently with those problems, voluntarily.

"The coming free society will be rational; residents will live on the basis of reality and reason rather than myth."

This statement appears to be a myth itself. "The coming free society" sounds like a religious notion. There will never be such a thing. Societies cannot be free; only individuals can be, to varying degrees. And we have that already. I think there will never be a warm and fuzzy golden age as Molyneux posits; humans will always be as they are now, dominating or attempting to dominate others, or resisting or attempting to resist domination by others. The general scene can certainly get better or worse, but I think it's a mistake to look for some golden age. Humans ain't got it in them, and any attempt for it would inevitably turn into another tyranny.

Suverans2's picture

Sorry, Paul, I know that I am no doubt making you look bad, here at STR, but I had to give you a "Like this" once more. Honest, folks, we are not in collusion, it's Paul's fault, he keeps saying things that I agree with.

Jim Davies's picture

Thanks for making it unmistakably clear, Paul: you and I are on radically different paths. I wish we could find common ground, for we do share much in common; but other STR members must recognize that with regard to the future of freedom, your present opinion and mine are irreconcilably opposed.
The phrase "the coming free society" I have often used, and intend to keep on using. It springs from a reasoned expectation that the government era will end, rather soon; not of its own volition of course, but from action that freedom seekers take. I have described one promising form of that action quite often, here in STRticles, for example this. You are evidently not taking that action; if all were to join you in that neglect, of course a free society will not result - the prophecy would be self-fulfilling.
I mean you no disrespect, for you are clearly sincere by your own light. But you have said in your own words, here: "there will never be such a thing. Societies cannot be free..." Paul, you are dead wrong.
If (arguendo) you were right, you'd be saying that freedom is incompatible with human nature. That is just what government people believe.  In fact, your comment says almost exactly that: "humans will always be as they are now, dominating or attempting to dominate others..." That being so, I am at a loss to understand what on Earth you are doing here, on Strike the Root.
A free society is one in which individuals can enjoy their natural right to freedom in actual practice, ie without the artificial, external constraint of government. It will follow the dissolution of its converse, a ruled society. That dissolution will follow a successful and completed striking of its root. That is, as I understand it, what members are supposed to be here for.
So please: lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Paul's picture

Well, I think you are at least somewhat misreading my post. After all, I did say "The general scene can certainly get better or worse." And it's usually worth pushing for "better", if you can find an effective way to do so.

I just think we will never get to the point where we can say, "Ah, the birdies are singing in the trees, the flowers are blooming, and we have achieved complete liberty. We never have to worry about it again!" There will be no garden of Eden, sorry. You will never be able to retire the old battle rifle or turn it into a plowshare. There will always be a struggle of some sort.

Your contention looks a bit like the "new Soviet man" that was expected to appear and signal the end result of communism. Nope, it won't be like that either.

To be honest, I wouldn't even like to achieve paradise on Earth. Humans need a struggle, just to remain human. Utopia has always seemed a bit creepy to me.

I'm not leading, following, or getting out of the way. I'm writing and doing as I please. If others get something out of it or dislike it, it's all the same to me. I have no use for "leaders".

Jim Davies's picture

Good, Paul, those are some steps in the right direction. BTW by "Leader" I did not mean "Ruler." A leader is someone whom people choose to follow. The fact that one notorious ruler called himself a "Leader" (no, two - I forgot that Italian fellow) doesn't mean he was telling the truth. I feel sure I read somewhere recently that the etymologies of the two words are quite different.
Nor will struggle be absent from the coming free society; as far as the eye can see and the mind imagine, there will always be knowledge to prise loose, discoveries to make, dangers to overcome and construction to accomplish. Everest would still have been waiting to be climbed, even if government had never polluted the Earth ten millennia ago.
But struggle against fellow humans, yes; that will be vastly reduced because the primary cause of conflict - rulers - will be absent. How much will still occur is hard to guess, but since the motive to steal etc will be so much less, I would expect to see considerably less than the present measure of the kind of crime that does actual harm to real people. To guard against it, yes: guns will remain useful.
There's neither need nor expectation on my part of any change to human nature; just a removal of the prime cause of discord. You might care to look over my 2009 STRticle Human Nature, to check the extent, if any, of disagreement between us on that. There are also several chapters of my A Vision of Liberty shown on STR via TakeLifeBack.com/oto/p2.htm  Certainly, it includes singing birdies and blooming flowers, but its chapter on "Justice" for instance will confirm it is rooted in reality.
Another excellent portrayal of a free society is given in Wes Bertrand's Complete Liberty.

Jim Davies's picture

Afterthought: while Human Nature is worth a read, there's a shorter way to reach the same conclusion, based as always on the self-ownership axiom.
Only three possibilities exist: humans are intrincically good, or evil, or capable of both.
The first of those is impossible because self-ownership rights are actually violated, by government mostly but also by individual aggressors.
The second is also impossible because a large majority of all the people we know almost never trample on others' self-ownership rights; even most government agents are kindly in their personal capacities.
So the truth is the third: humans are capable of doing both good and evil things. We can debate how the mix is composed; my take is that we are basically good but do evil things when holding power over other people. Hence, when the opportunity to hold such power is drastically reduced (government and its  agents are abolished) there remains only the exercise of personal power deliberately grabbed - ie, individual aggression.


Mark Davis's picture

I watched the tribute to Russell Means from infowars.com on youtube yesterday and he made what I thought was an interesting point about the US Government's "land purchases" of Louisiana and Alaska.  What the Feds purchased was some land around New Orleans from Napoleon and 5 or so ports along the West Coast from the Tsar along with exclusive rights to negotiate with the Indians in those territories called Louisiana and Alaska.  I remember being taught in propaganda history class in the government schools how great these land deals were, even explaining how many pennies per acre they went for.  That a third party could sell someone else's home is a bizarre understanding of property rights, yet rarely challenged by "advanced peoples"; all the while blaming any disputes over this arrangement on the "ignorant savages".
The idea of open ranges and equal access to watering holes was also common among early settlers that was changed by politically connected "land barons" and the invention of barbed wire.  So I don't think that this would have been too difficult for the different cultures to work out.
I liked your mention of the invention of writing in this context.  It made me wonder if maybe that was a mixed blessing as the tradition of customary and natural law wasn't almost immediately undermined by the elite who started writing down "The Law" and thus became the first "Lawmakers".  

Glock27's picture

I don't think you can discuss the American Indian without seeing the Gestalt of the Indian Nations. Some were blood letters, capturing eachother making them slaves. They also were a violent people just as the European. How can you focus only on a select part without observing the whole system. What would it have been like? Probably just like it is not. Screwed up. Greed has a massive grip on all nations. Note. This is an observation and not a criticism.

Jim Davies's picture

Good point, Glock; perfection is elusive.
Not sure though that evil has its root in "nations" - though it's there that it gets ugliest. Seems to me to come from any situation where A is handed power over B. I explored the subject in the context of the Russian Revolution, here.

Suverans2's picture

Greed has a massive grip on most individuals, not all nations, my friend. And, we cannot paint all American Indians with the same brush, just as we cannot paint all Europeans, or all Americans, or all U.S. citizens, with the same brush.

Suverans2's picture

Take a look at this. Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, 11th Edition says: "See greed defined for kids »"

    Student Dictionary

    Main Entry: greed
    Function: noun
    : selfish desire for food, money, or possessions over and above one's needs

Now, my question boils down to, "Who gets to decide what you, and I, need?" Need is defined by the authors of the Macmillan Dictionary as, "verb▸if you need something, you must have it because it is necessary". I agree.

That means what we NEED is enough air, water, food and shelter (includes clothing) to maintain life; anything beyond that is WANT, which is synonymous with "greed", according to above dictionaries.

Therefore, using this yardstick, you [Glock27] are absolutely right, every man, woman and child on planet Earth is greedy.

Glock27's picture

Greetings Suverans 2
I think basically all human beings are inflicted with a degree of greed; it’s like Dexter’s “Dark Rider”, it arises when the need arises, although greed can be tinny up to being huge. Tinny means having dinner at a friend’s house and you maybe eat a little bit more than you should according to the rules of etiquette, or we keep the ink pen from work—you know, the simple little thing we know we shouldn’t do but we know no one will ever notice. I don’t believe I have to elaborate on the huge ones or the ones in-between. Every word, every idea, every philosophy every everything has some wiggle room.
Human beings are not perfect creations, that’s why it puzzles me as to why God would hand over his ideology into the hands of such fallible creature as man. A force which creates an entire universe with the aide of no one suddenly needs the help of pathetic creatures as man to write down the words he wants mankind to comprehend and obey. It is my understanding that God quit communicating with man over 4000 years ago. Did man bore him to death and It just walked away. There’s more to this than what’s being provided. The other question is; did God really even talk to man to begin with? Well. That’s it in a nut shell I guess. More than what you wanted to read, I’m sure

Glock27's picture

P.S. Suverans2
I don’t need salt on my hamburger, but it sure makes it taste better; I don’t need and nor do I need seven hand guns and four long rifles nor do I need to attend a combat firearms class to get an enhanced CPL permit that lets me carry where I cannot presently carry. I do this for safety of myself, wife, grandchildren, and other people whom I believe I have a moral and ethical obligation to. Need is more subjective than it is objective. Do NFL quarterbacks need to make the money they do. I think they have a right to obtain as much as they can. It’s like other businesses. I just bought a book for $30.00. I didn’t need it but I wanted it because I try to hunt deer and this guy is a Natural Biologist who has studied deer and their lives for 30 years. He knows more about deer than many people do and the book is a first edition. Other dealers were selling the book for $60.00 to $130, $140. Maybe I can convince my wife I needed it, but she will disagree, so need is subjective rather than objective. Need is an individual thing Ergo. The end. Oh! What's it have to do with Strike the Root?

wkmac's picture

Enjoyed that Jim, thanks. As I read, I thought of the scene with Josey Wales and Ten Bears agreeing to live with one another in the movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales."

Jim Davies's picture

There's a very interesting interview about Russell Means out today on LRC, with Doug Casey.

Glock27's picture

Yes it was interesting. I know nothing about Russell but he sounds like my kind of guy. Man of action. Wish I had that kind of energy remaining in my deterioating idea.

The maggot is truely an organism that is constantly on the hunt with its mush heads to dig up more artificial, unnecessary, corrupt, non-authentic, disingenuious , anal idea to continue to smother anyones efforts at trying to be a free, independnt, self-owning person. The idea of the Indian reservations becoming business centers of the U.S. is a brilliant, genius idea and I am certain that there is someone out there in the world whom can get this idea through their heads. Once this happend the states would pee their paints and do everything in their power to become like the reservations., r do something to stop them from achieving the goals. Here in Michigan it took a hell of an effort to get a cacino developed in Detroit. There are clearly ways and means to accomplish this.

Someone needs to work on a plan to get rid of the BIA, Ira, BTAFE. DEPT OF EDUCATION,AND ETC. There must be ways of doing this. Politiclly I am weak and lack any knowledge.

Jim Davies's picture

The plan is already in place, Glock. The BIA, DEA etc etc will collapse like punctured balloons the day nobody will work for them any longer. Read E-Day and cheer up!

Glock27's picture

Cheers Jim

You never noted my comparison of Uncle to Jabba the Hutt of star wars. There is no government, just one big fat maggot leading all the mush for brains legislators and other menions around by their noses telling them what to say. An artcle you wrote I agreed to because you were beginning to sound like a preacher ready to hit the road for a revival. I am all for that. Finding ways to infect Jabba with a virus that will make all the mush heads useless. (especially since revivals were emotional and playing on the heart strings of the masses--it's just a matter of finding the preachers because all the jabber jabber here is not really going anywhere. It does give me a place to have a little fun and vent a bit.)
My point was streatching to attack Jabba since it is not a person then the self-ownership does not exist or apply for Jabba and the maggot has no rights natural or otherwise. I believe Ron Paul and Rand Paul (RINO) libertarian in disguise as a republican, are wrecking all the havoc they can on the maggot and its minions. They are the virus I am talking about. Despite Pugsleys admonition against H.B. to not get involved I think he did exactly as he knew he needed to do.
So now, would not sabatoge be proper since the maggot has no self-ownership and is void of the Natural Rights and Natural Laws. That's the picture I am getting. Yes, the maggot would twist his little tail, suck on his water pipe and puff out some silly, nonsensical, moronic order to go quell the unwashed masses, especially the preachers. I have a strong feeling that you have the cloth for this endeavor.

Glock27's picture

Cheers Jim,

I think you have followed the rabbit down the rabbit hole on E-Day. Before this can happen you are going to have to hold an old fashioned revivle to prepare the people for the coming E-Day. I do not believe we will see a WWIII but rather a "Road Warrior" Scene and Jabba the Hutt will wiggle Its little tail, suck on Its water pipe (hooka) and puff out orders to his military structure to come and shut up all the preachers first and indefinitely inter all members of the revivals into the FEMA camps. Jabba teh Hutt must be infected with a virus internally before it falls. A start is needed and you can be the leading preacher at the revivals. lol

Glock27's picture

Russell had balls. Giant ones.