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What We Are For? - What Do We Believe?

From Issue 29 - December, 1987


Past editorials and articles have made it clear that THE VOLUNTARY1ST is unique in that it is the only regularly published libertarian publication to advocate non-State, pro-free market attitudes coupled with an anti-electoral stance and a predilection for nonviolent means. In fact, we could probably argue that THE VOLUNTARYIST is the only journal in the world that consistently upholds individualist anarchism (by which we mean self-government), rejection of electoral politics, and the advocacy of non-violent means to achieve social change. This after all is what we signify when we use the term 'voluntaryist'.

THE VOLUNTARYIST is seldom, if ever, concerned with personalities; but we are concerned with ideas. Our interest is in the enduring aspects of libertarianism. Among these ideas we would include the concept that taxation is theft; that the State is an inherently invasive institution, a coercive monopoly, that war is the health of the State; that power corrupts (especially State power); that there is no service demanded on the free market that cannot be provided by market methods; and that the delineation and implementation of property rights are the solution to many of our social and economic ills. nor to be overlooked is our insistence on the congruence of means and ends; that it is means which determine ends, and not the end which justifies the means.

Voluntaryist thinking forms a link in the chain of ideas started many centuries ago. We have reviewed some of the significant sources of radical libertarian thought in Issue 25. Our roots are to be found in antiquity, when moral thinkers realized that character building, the building of morally strong individuals, was the essential basis of human happiness - as well as the prerequisite of a better society. Self-responsibility was inextricably linked to self-control. The ideas of personal integrity, honesty, productive work, fulfillment of one's promises and the practice of non-retaliation set the stage for social harmony and abundance, wherever and whenever these two attributes of social life were to surface in the world's civilizations.

These ideas helped set the stage for the voluntaryist outlook on means and ends. A person could never use evil means to attain good ends. For one thing, such an attempt would never work. It would be impractical and self-defeating. For another thing, it would be inconsistent with personal integrity. A person would not resort to lying and cheating, for example, even if he or she mistakenly thought such base means could result in good ends. Evil means, like these, would always be rejected by an honest person.

Impure means must lead to an impure end since means always come before ends. The means are at hand, closest to us. They dictate what road we shall set out on and thus eventually determine our destination. Different means must inevitably lead to different destinations for the simple reason that they lead us down different paths. Thus it is that voluntaryists reject electoral politics as well as revolutionary violence, neither of these methods could ever approximate voluntaryist goals - the ideal of a society of free individuals, nor do either bring about a change or improvement in the moral tone of the people who comprise it.

Voluntaryists have a clear understanding of the nature of power - what we have labelled "the voluntaryist insight.' We know that the State, like all human institutions, depends on the consent and cooperation of its participants. We also know that we are self-controlling individuals, with ultimate responsibility for what we do. We cannot be compelled to do anything against our will, though we may suffer the consequences for a refusal to obey the State or any other gangster who holds a gun at us. The State may do what it pleases with our bodies, but it cannot force us to change our ideas. We may lose our liberty behind jail bars (liberty being the absence of coercion or physical restraints), but we cannot lose our freedom (freedom being the inner spirit or conscience) unless we give it up ourselves.

Voluntaryism offers a moral and practical way for advancing the cause of freedom. It rests on a belief in the efficacy of the free market and on a historic and philosophic antagonism to the State. It rests on an understanding of the inter-relatedness of means and ends, and on a belief that "if one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself." We are pro-free market, anti-State, nonviolent, and anti-electoral. This, in a few short phrases, is what we are for; what we believe.