There’s No Such Thing as a Statist
Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
Nor are there any minarchists or anarchists.
In this brouhaha stirred up by Per Bylund, some strange lines of argument have appeared. Here is an example:
"There are a huge number who would reject abolishing the state while consenting to leave us alone." [quoted from previous comment]
That is redundant. Consenting to leave us alone IS abolishing the state. A "government" with only jurisdiction over those who consent is not a state. If you can convince people to "leave you alone" (without requiring you forfeit your property--love it or leave it), you have convinced them to be voluntaryists.
There comes a time when labels fail. This is one of them. The author of that comment has simply eliminated from existence the largest population in the country, because they do not fit his neat classes with labels attached to them.
Let’s put together a little thought experiment. Imagine you are a perfect anarchist. You have three neighbors, Aaron, Betty and Connie, who would be perfect anarchists too, but Aaron thinks guns should be illegal, Betty thinks marijuana should be illegal, and Connie thinks poor people should be fed.
Now, if I’m not mistaken, that makes all three minarchists (and statists). So, you’re outnumbered, three “statists" to one real anarchist. Does that mean you inevitably lose?
Have an election, with three local (to you four) measures on the ballot. The first measure makes guns illegal, the second makes marijuana illegal, and the third establishes a welfare system (assume for our thought experiment that these are not already in place).
Guess what happens? What is the election outcome?
Even if you do not vote, guns are still legal, marijuana is still legal, and there is no welfare system! This is true even if you did not besmirch your anarchist virtues by “allying” with any of them, and even if you did not bother to persuade them. That is, three statists could not impose the state on you, even though you did nothing at all!
That’s what is wrong with labels, and with fashioning your arguments around clean-cut categories that do not exist in real life. We are dealing with people here, not things, not interchangeable cogs in a big machine.
Not only do real people have a mess of often conflicting and inconsistent tendencies of statism and anarchism in different varieties, they also change over time, sometimes drastically when outside events rattle their cages (witness the growing crowds of protesters in Egypt).
Yes, there are in fact “statists” who can let you be in some respects, maybe the respects you care about, and that does not automatically turn them into “voluntaryists,” or make your arguments crash into logical inconsistency. Such arguments only fail if you have a weird view of what people are. They are not cogs. They don’t fit into neat, perfect categories.
Yeah, guess what, we can’t just go out and find people with the word “statist” tattooed on their heads, and shoot them. We have to deal with them, some way or another; and the best way to deal with them is persuasively, and through example, and through friendly trade. That can only be done if we haven’t turned them into “enemies.”
People (not all, but most) can be persuaded to leave us alone, or will do it in some respects without any persuasion, even if they are still statists. Maybe they don’t like us smoking pot, but their dislike does not rise to the level of violence. Maybe they just don’t care about it if we are in the next town rather than in their town. Maybe they are afraid to stop us smoking because we will physically attack them. There are all sorts of reasons for them not messing with us. Turning them into enemies only eliminates any possibility of reasoning with them or dealing peacefully with them, leaving us only avoidance, submission or war.
Well, what about the statists who can’t be persuaded to leave us alone? Avoidance, submission or war...
We definitely need to stop thinking of “statists” as enemies (and other disrespectful terms such as “sheeple”), and start thinking of them as people, imperfect just like we are--and victims of the state, just like we are. Stop collectively throwing everybody into some category, and deal with them as individuals. When we finally have our “Egyptian moment,” we will need them out there on the streets along with us.