What Are You?

Column by Jim Davies.

Exclusive to STR

We are Root Strikers here, because rather than trying to trim the branches of the evil tree of government, we seek a way to destroy its roots. Some want a smaller or minimal government; we want none at all. It's a powerful analogy, a good name.

We are also voluntaryists, for we believe every human action should be uncompelled. That's explicit, and leaves not a cubic centimeter of room for government, for its entire business is to force or compel, by means of laws – definable as one-sided contracts. It's a good name.

We are also market anarchists, because while committed to such absence of rule (the etymology of the word “anarchist”), we like to clarify that we believe a free market will furnish every demand for goods and services that may arise. It's a good name.

We are also anarcho-capitalists, for pretty well the same reasons; we like to clarify that we think living standards are improved by the free use of capital by those who have saved it – in contrast to some who, while curiously using the term “anarchist,” also make it evident that they believe in a great deal of compulsion and confiscation of such savings and in their collective “investment” by a chosen élite. So it too is a good name.

And of course we are libertarians, in the correct and original sense of “not believing in the initiation of force, to achieve social goals.” Instead, we trust individual liberty. A good name.

So far I've used the pronoun “we,” and before someone calls me out on that, I'll correct the error; those five names above are what I am. Are you? Do you accept those labels?

Arguably, a label or group name is a bad idea altogether, it's said to smack of groupthink, or collectivism--even when the group explicitly rejects collectivism. Perhaps a classic example is the Objectivist movement; very insightful, but widely criticized as a cult around the personality of its founder, Ayn Rand. Such was the subject of Rothbard's hilarious satire here. So what can a person be called who refuses to accept any label name at all? A curmudgeon, maybe.

As my friends acknowledge and my adversaries deny, I'm pretty laid back, and don't mind how people label me, unless it's with some kind of government brand. All of the above are fine by me, including curmudgeon. A name isn't all that important, though it seems a lot nicer than a mere number, as in dystopian novels. The French have it a bit wrong, for one of their mild oaths is nom d'un chien! – name of a dog. Dogs need names, and enjoy them, so why should that be an oath? If its origin was to denigrate some person by likening him to a dog, it very likely misfired, for most of the dogs I know compare very well to a lot of bipeds. Jake, for example, whose chest I tickled at length recently: a most placid and amiable animal.

Most of our neighbors would not, unfortunately, be well named if we called them voluntaryists or Root Strikers, and they'd certainly not want to be known as anarchists of any stripe. They have been carefully nurtured to believe in compulsion, though part of the care taken was to disguise the dominant part played by that word. If a road is needed, let others be compelled to pay for it. If a shooter murders children, let everyone be compelled to go gunless. If a foreign country dissolves into civil war, let Americans intervene to compel them to make peace – even if they have a hard time exemplifying where that has ever succeeded. If some cannot make ends meet, let everyone be forced to contribute help, just as if “forced charity” were not an oxymoron. If their children need some schooling, let everyone be compelled to pay for it. If some of them get stoned, let all be compelled to abstain from drugs. And so on, ad nauseam.

They can be called collectivists, or socialists, or progressives, or compellers; libertarian, they are not. So which are you; a compeller or an anarchist? The name reveals the belief, see. “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). It's an interesting passage, that; the advice refers not just to “a man” but specifically to “him that hath an evil eye”--a deceptive person such as a ruler (v. 1). It means, don't trust someone like a politician just because his tongue is smooth; what counts is what he thinks, or believes, internally. An anarchist chapter, almost. All voters, employees, “officials”. . . believe in compulsion. They're force freaks.

So, what do you think and believe, dear Reader, deep down inside?

To get one's own way by compulsion is a principle drilled into us from our earliest days, and so it takes a deal of eradicating. The picture is complicated by the fact that fairly often, a young child has to be compelled, for his own safety – that ugly phrase being, in those early years, sometimes actually true. Children are by nature highly inquisitive, and long may it be so, but sometimes their curiosity can lead to great dangers of which they are quite unaware. Compulsion is then perfectly justified, though it should be followed ASAP by reasoned explanation. The trick is to reserve compulsion for when it really matters, and not to use it just because it gets the job (of raising a cooperative youngster) done faster. That as parents we often fail in that task compounds the compulsion ubiquitous at school, if we allow our child to be exposed to such a dreadful institution, with the result that a ten year old takes normality to mean all are expected to do what they are told. That's a lousy fit for the coming free society.

That poor fit means that before a free society can function, all its members must come to the correct understanding that to get what they want in it, they must use only persuasion, not compulsion; and because of the deep roots of the latter, that task is far from trivial. I've often written of the primary need so to re-educate everyone to understand the repulsive nature of government that they decline any longer to work for it (so producing its demise) but this is the other great need of that re-education: to be made ready to live in the quite different kind of society that will prevail once it has disappeared; one in which force must not be used.

“Persuasion” includes the exercise of sales skills, but primarily it means just offering someone an article or service he might want, in exchange for what you want. That means working out what he might want but doesn't have, and what skills and attributes you have, that match up. This is very simple, but for very many people today, very unfamiliar and neglected.

Scraping off the rust and practicing self-evaluation in those terms is possibly the most vital preparation many people need to take, to become ready for life in a free society. Millions in large organizations (even commercial ones, as well as governmental) work daily at almost wholly useless jobs, pushing pens and clicking mice so as to collect a wage. They hold the jobs so that the head of their department can look important, as measured by the numbers at his or her command. So long as there is no effective competition, this absurd waste continues. For such to look oneself in the mirror and ask, “What did I accomplish today?” is devastating. To prepare for freedom – in which no government protections will shield the firm from nimbler rivals – those millions must understand their own abilities and skills realistically and get in the habit of showing potential employers or customers what value they can bring them. One obvious and major business opportunity in that time of rapid change will be in counseling them in the art of self-presentation where they will find fulfilling work, and perhaps placing them for a fee; and no, they will not be unable to pay one. Such wage-slaves very often own a good slice of home equity, valid in terms of real money.

I'm not sure, but think that in the coming free society there will be many fewer “jobs” and far more enterprisers; people who sell their services (often in the form of products which they have used their skills to create or to buy in bulk) to many buyers instead of just one. There will be ample demand for skills like carpentry, plumbing, construction, electrical installing, etc., around the house and garden. Will the demand for programming skills be so strong? Not sure. I've made a few bucks by designing websites for local firms, but it's a tough sell with plenty of competition. Electronic stores, on the other hand, may form a major opportunity.

Training everyone to practice persuasion instead of compulsion is therefore vital, and gets emphasis in the Freedom Academy – possibly it needs more. The nature of the free market is presented, with its surprising key feature that, because different people value things differently, every exchange leaves two “winners,” not one. Under compulsion, there's only one winner: he whose order is obeyed comes out on top, satisfied. But under freedom, both win. This is a fundamental difference between government and liberty, and happens because value is subjective. When someone sends me some pictures of dead white presidents in exchange for a copy of my Liberty Trilogy, it's because he values those books more than the pictures; on the other hand, I have other copies of the books and so prefer (value higher) the pictures more than the books. That's not because they have any intrinsic value, but because I can exchange them for any of a very wide variety of other good things.

A free society – one operating by persuasion, not force – has no losers! Because every exchange is voluntary, completed only when both parties to it are satisfied, both win. Neither loses. There is (completely unlike a governed society) therefore no source of discontent. Now, it's true that afterwards one of the parties might regret it, change his mind; I might ship off my Trilogy and then reflect on the immense value of the priceless ideas it contains and wish, after the event, that I'd charged three times as much. But even then, the only one I could blame would be myself. I'd have no grounds for resentment against anyone else.

Another possibility is that neither participant is satisfied by a proposed exchange; the vendor values his wares more than the price offered, while the buyer values his money more than the goods or services offered. The deal aborts; there is no deal. Therefore (that day, that time) there are no winners. Are there any losers? No, there are not! Because each party drew back and departed with his own preference perfectly fulfilled and intact. Nobody lost. The worst that could be said is that some hopes were disappointed, a new or extra gain was not realized. One other factor applies in this case, however; when news of it circulates, the market (everyone) will know of a possible business opportunity, if some inventing can be done.

Today there is very little that any of us can buy or sell without compulsion playing some part. To fill a gas tank means paying tax to a third party, a parasite who did nothing to prospect for, drill, pump, transport, refine or distribute the product. To fill a back-yard BBQ propane tank means trashing the tank and buying a new one, if it is more than a certain age – even though the body and valve mechanism are in obviously perfect condition. To sell a container of food without government-mandated labeling in a certain form is forbidden – even though the buyer does not want the data so displayed, and neither reads them nor understands them. To fit a silencer to a gun (to reduce noise nuisance for neighbors, for example) requires a $200 stamp tax to be paid, even though the device is home-made out of a car oil filter. To manufacture anything at all for sale means being subject to such a raft of regulations as to raise costs (and so, prices) out of all recognition and hence preventing competition with rivals overseas where such regulations are largely absent--and the astonishing reaction of some is to propose not that the regs be scrapped, but that by some means the foreign maker be regulated too! This is the utterly bizarre outcome of operating in a governed environment.

So, what are you; are you a compeller, or a persuader? Are you satisfied with things as they are, or do you, like me, yearn for all the grotesque superstructure of force to be swept away so that a free market satisfies every demand, at its optimal price, in only win-win transactions?

If the latter, will you undertake a very light workload to help make it happen?

Your rating: None Average: 8.8 (4 votes)
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)?"


Scott Lazarowitz's picture

I am a "voluntaryist" and an "individualist." I don't like the words "anarchist" or "anarchy," and "capitalist" or "capitalism," and "liberal" or "liberalism," because of their contemporary redefinitions and connotations.

In mid-2011 I tried "Market Voluntaryism" as an alternative and kept that phrase up at the top of my blog for about a year, but it never seemed to get anywhere, so I gave up on it. Oh, well. Here is the post I wrote about that:


Jim Davies's picture

Whatever floats your boat, Scott, of course. I'd not want to shy away, though, from using the perfectly good names you list just because the enemy has twisted their current meaning.

We always need to explain our position, and it seems to me they all give a springboard for that. Imagine one:

"Oh, thanks for asking. Actually, I'm a capitalist. That's because I want to save a little from my wages so as to build up a capital fund, and invest it the way I wish in companies that seem to me well poised to grow. It's one of the few ways an ordinary guy can grow rich, right?

"The trouble is, government confiscates my earnings as tax, so I can't do that; then it invests my money in ways I usually disagree with and makes its friends rich instead. Tell me, John, do you believe in taxation?"

Then you're off to the races.

GeoffreyTransom's picture

I'm a kratoclast - a word that is meant to mean one who seeks to break the State/War/political power.

I made up the word my own self... as preferable to the now-bastardised "anarchy", which etymologically is not really useful since arché - as in 'hierarchy' - will exist as a result of differences in endowments, skill and luck.

We object to kratos/kraté (war, State power), not arché.

And our opponents worship State power - they are kratodules (like iconodules).

I wrote about my derivation of the work "kratoclast" in this post: http://bit.ly/UpH3r4 - to me 'voluntaryist' is unwieldy (but accurate); 'akratist' evokes akrasia (a mental illness); 'anarchist' evokes nihilist bomb-throwers; 'libertarian' is politically-bastardised (there's a Libertarian party FFS).

Jim Davies's picture

For one, Geoffrey, I certainly object to arché. It means "rule." I don't care who wants to rule me nor under what pretext, I object to it. The only rule I accept is self-rule, by me. The abolition of rule by someone else is the whole point.
I wonder whether there might be a little confusion between rule and achievement? Differences in skills, luck, endowments may well result in gradations of success - but when in the coming free society the means to rule other people is eliminated, the poison will have been withdrawn.
Though even that presumes that "success" is measured the same way by all. It really isn't.
"Kratoclast" is a neat term, for it summarizes that you want to break the power of the warmakers. "Kratos" was a mythical god of war, and the term means strength, power, military force. So you're saying you're not too worried about being ruled, per se, but that you heavily oppose the warfare state.

It's difficult, but let's try to imagine a government that has very few military pretensions, but which nonetheless rules its inhabitants. I don't think any actually exists, but we might take Sweden as a fair approximation.

That government has a navy, army and air force but they are rather token. They contribute to UN operations, but do not project the Swedish State across the globe and have not faught a war since 1820.

But the government certainly rules its citizenry closely, and has the highest tax rates in the world.

So there's plenty of arché, but very little krato to clast. Would you be reasonably content, as a Swede?

Glock27's picture

How about just me? Why is it absoutely necessary to stick a lable to yourself when you are not really sure of its the definition assigned to it? . Yet someone must speak out against the atrocities that are occuring

vapors56's picture

Being new to this, I am perhaps entering the middle of a long conversation. I have a question for Jim Davies: Assuming one needs a military of some sort to protect the borders of a country, how do you pay for it other than taxation. Given that a country of great wealth and opportunity (such as a mostly anarchist society would likely be) would be a target for other countries to try to conquer and control, it would seem that a military is a practical necessity. Other than that, I question any role of government. What's the alternative to a military, if there is one?

Glock27's picture

First Vapors you would be paid as our founding fathers were "Promises" that were never kept. Sound familiar. You would defend the shores because you don't want any more [o]bama in the White house. Second you would go back home and do what needed to be done there. You might return to fight somemore, but this time around I think it would be tougher to leave. Just make sure you have figured out a way to eat when you need to. Anyway most of this is a dream, a fantasy, a political novel with no theme or plot or action so I reallywouldn't worry about where the money came from because there will never be an anarchist government, voluntaryist, libertarian, or agorian government. We are going to have some kind of f***ed up government like we already have maybe even worse than it is and we all will still be writing about this Utopian life of bliss if we are permitted to.
I have noticed that Wyoming, Kentuckey, Iowa, Mississippi, Tenneesse, Florida and a few other states have come forward with state laws making [o]bamas edicts illegal in their states because they are in violation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, what are those things; and any Fed Agent coming in to try an enforce these rules will get a five year jail sentence as well as a possible $5000 fine. Some states are stepping up and saying "F**k you and your ilk" I am busting my ass to get my state to step up and remain a free state rather than a slave state to [o]bama. but they seem to desire slavery over freedom.
For months I researched all the stonerplatform AR's and balked at getting one believing in my Mossburge 930, tactical 10 rounder. When it became impossible to find one I paniced but found one I like real well A Sig Sauer 556. Now go find the ammunition for one. Think about reloading twice because you can't find that either.
Finally Vapors, prepare and do it now. Stock up on as much as you can reasonably afford with non perishables and other relevent materials because it is going to get cold faster than we think.
Just an opinion as it is with Spooner.

Scott Lazarowitz's picture
Jim Davies's picture

Good question, Vapors! - and I'm glad you phrased it as you did, naming the key assumption.
Scott gave an excellent reply by referring to the Rothbard article, and that's a sound position; defense would in a free society be a service like any other, and would command a market price.
I tend to go a bit further, myself, by trying to imagine any circumstances in which a foreign government would wish to invade a free society; and I do presuppose a free society, ie one with zero government. I'm heavily disinterested in any kind of hybrid, with a small or residual government. So the situation would be that in (say) the former USA there would be 300 million individuals prospering by serving one another with exchanges of goods and services, and offering to buy and sell overseas also.
Their prosperity would be such as to attract immediate notice worldwide. Informed individuals would say to each other that they need that kind of society also. Thus, very rapidly, every foreign government would be in peril from its own citizens. The process that eliminated government here would be happening everywhere else too, at various speeds.
That would mean among other things that they would have a hard time raising an army, especially if the intended target were FUSA (Former) which would be so well regarded by all those they'd need to recruit to do the fighting. Secondly, the calculation that all aggressor governments make, of likely costs and benefits of a proposed war, would tell them loud and clear to abandon the plan; for it would be well known that 300 million FUSAns were nearly all very well armed and totally opposed to any kind of government. The prospect of being able to occupy such a porcupine society would be close to zero; and perhaps most of all, there would be no machinery of administration to take over. Occupiers always take command of the civil servide and police that's already in place, so as to subdue a conquered nation (think France, 1940) - but here, there would be nothing to take over.
Summary: in my view, it ain't going to happen, but if it does, some combination of a for-hire defense industry and fully decentralized and well armed guerillas will suffice very well.
Over the years I've written on the subject a bit, and my perceptions have developed some, and it may be worth browsing a few of the pieces. See http://takelifeback.com/oto/index.htm#e for example.

vapors56's picture

Thank you all for your comments. I did read Rothbard. It would be workable if people, in general, were honest and responsible. Unfortunately, there are too many who are not and, in the coming years, I'm convinced it will only get worse. Even Rothbard refers to a form of societal coercion: "The Appeals Court decision can then be taken by the society as binding." THAT STATEMENT implies some right of force by the collective which becomes a camels nose under the tent for the seeding of the cancer which is government. In the end, I agree with Glock27 - it's nice to find like-minded people in a forum like this, but it's a pipe dream. I have become despondent over the state of the human race as a whole. Most of us are sheep to be led around by sociopathic power mongers. It would be nice if people could be educated, but most of us don't want to be. Therein lies the rub. I've found that the ONLY thing that changes human behavior for the better is PAIN of an emotional, spiritual nature. Right now, the sheep are being insulated from the pain and seduced by the lure of socialist dogma. When the s*** hits the fan (as it will), there will be violence, hard tyranny, incarceration and general misery. What comes after? History would suggest that it will be uglier than what we have now. The only hope would be the rise of a charismatic proponent of liberty and free markets but, it would seem, there is no one.

All this is not to say that I've given up or think any of you should. But I have to keep my expectations realistic.

Jim Davies's picture

No, Vapors, it's a big mistake to suppose that human nature has to change, for a free society to work. Huge! The very opposite is the case!
That's because liberty (self-ownership in practice) is precisely aligned with what humans truly are - rational, self-owning animals. Certainly a good deal of re-education is needed, so that everyone gets to understand his own nature despite the intense disinformation pounded into him by the government indoctrination machine. That's what the Freedom Academy is for.
But never, please, never presume that freedom doesn't fit our species. It's a perfect fit!
Also, please don't take the "binding" decision of a court in a free-market justice system as being in any way comparable to a "right of force by the collective." Poor Rothbard would spin in his grave. One, there is no "collective" in a free society; and two, the justice industry would be a market like any other. Take a look at my summary of how I think it will work out, at "Justice" here on STR. Notice it will be built around restitution instead of retribution - that's fundamental. Then comes the question of force, which you raised; what happens if the loser in some case just gives the court the finger? Answer, his refusal to accept the verdict will be public record. Nobody in the society will trust him again. How, then, will he earn a living?
Do some more reading, if I may suggest it. My own contribution is here. There is happily a large library of good books, not one of which is listed by government "teachers" - here's a subset. You have a lifetime of false indoctrination to eradicate. Don't give up after a few days.
In addition, I should have recommended yesterday, on the "Defense" issue, the page of that name on The Anarchist Alternative. A useful summary, I dare say.

Samarami's picture


    "...it's a big mistake to suppose that human nature has to change, for a free society to work. Huge! The very opposite is the case!..."

Agreed. Individual human attitudes may need to go through changes, but human nature will abound regardless of authoritarian attempts to coral that "nature". I have no way of accurately determining how or to what extent your attitude needs a-changin'. I strongly suspect the fact you're here participating on STR instead of, say "Soarsboard" or various and sundry political and/or statist forums, indicates you're seeking avenues of change in how you view the world.

But you, and you alone, can make the changes as you see necessary. Guns and threats of violence might alter immediate behaviors, but they tend to only solidify "attitudes". That's why government does not work.

That said, I think it was Robert Ringer in "Looking Out for #1" who coined the phrase "grouping and tagging" (maybe it was Harry Browne in "The Group Trap" chapter of "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World"). Many -- even some of us professing libertarians -- seem to be uncomfortable allowing others to come along at their own speeds and to bring their own attitudes in line with free thought.

So we look for labels. Many, many labels.

I'm a late-bloomer at getting into the internet. When the kids finally got me set up, and I gravitated to STR and Lew Rockwell and the host of anarchist (no apology for the use of the term) blogs and websites and forums, I was struck by the manifold and diverse labels used to try to describe "the free society" by people claiming to be (or striving to be) "free".

I started a list of various labels of disciplines -- "types" of "freedom" -- as I ran across them, and it grew to well over 50. I stopped for a time, but have added a couple more today (thanks, Geoffrey, for "kratoclast"). Haven't counted lately, but suspect it's grown to over 60.

I think I'll share it in a separate post, as it's long.

Thanks for another excellent topic for discussion, Jim.


Samarami's picture

In my early forays into libertarianism and anarchy as presented on the web I encountered multitudinal terms or labels for "free society" disciplines. Here's the current list:

Various Libertarian and
Anarchist Labels
• Agorism
• Anarchy
• Anarcho-Capitalism (Mises/Rothbard)
• Anarcho-communism
• Anarcho-syndicalism
• Anti-Positivism
• Apriorism
• Autarchism (Le Fevre)
• Carsonian mutualism
• Classical Liberalism
• Collectivist anarchist
• Communism
• Consequentialism
• Eco-agorism
• Eco-Libertarianism
• Eco-Socialist-Libertarian
• Establishment liberal left
• Explicitly anarchist, pro-decentralist libertarians (Kinsella)
• Free Market Anarchism
• Free Market Capitalism http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard146.html
• Geoanarchism
• Geoism
• Geolibertarianism
• Georgism
• Green-Libertarianism
• Individualism
• Individualist anarchism
• Individualist/collectivist anarchist Individualist/collectivist anarchism
• Kratoclism http://www.marketmentat.com/i-think-i-maked-up-a-word-two-actually/
• Kritarchy http://www.voluntaryist.com/backissues/135.pdf P 8
• Left Libertarianism
• Left-Rothbardians
• Legal Positivism
• Liberal socialism
• Liberalism
• Libertarian
• Libertarian Anarchist
• Libertarian Populism (James Ostrowski)
• Libertarian Socialism
• Libertarianism
• Localism and decentralization
• Logical Positivism
• Market anarchism
• Minarchism
• Modal Libertarianism
Modern Liberalism
• Moral consequentialism
• Mutualism
• Natural-rights libertarianism
• Neo-liberalism
• Neolibertarianism
• Objectivism
• Panarchism
Patrio-psychotic anarcho-materialism http://www.subgenius.com/
• Plumbline Libertarianism
• Polycentrism
• Praxeology
• Primitivist Anarchism
• Progressive Libertarianism
• Punkish/syndicalist/queer radical social anarchism (above two from Rad Geek site)
• Queer anarchism (“sex workers?”)
• Radical minarchists
• Right Libertarianism
• Rothbardian strain of market anarchism
• Schmodal Libertarianism
• Scientific Anarchism Social Darwinian right-wing economics
• Socialism
• Socialist Anarchism
• Socialist-Libertarianism
• syndicalism
• Syndicalist Anarchism
• Utilitarianism (Friedman’s strain of Anarcho-capitalism)
• Utopian socialism
• Voluntarism
• Zenarchism

There are probably many more than these.