Voluntaryism is the doctrine that relations among people should be by mutual
consent, or not at all. It represents a means, an end, and an insight. Voluntaryism
does not argue for the specific form that voluntary arrangements will take;
only that force be abandoned so that individuals in society may flourish.
As it is the means which determine the end, the goal of an all voluntary society
must be sought voluntarily. People cannot be coerced into freedom. Hence,
the use of the free market, education, persuasion, and non-violent resistance
as the primary ways to change people's ideas about the State. The voluntaryist
insight, that all tyranny and government are grounded upon popular acceptance,
explains why voluntary means are sufficient to attain that end.
The Epistemological Argument
Violence is never a means to knowledge. As Isabel Paterson, explained
in her book, The God of the Machine, "No edict of law can impart
to an individual a faculty denied him by nature. A government order cannot
mend a broken leg, but it can command the mutilation of a sound body.
It cannot bestow intelligence, but it can forbid the use of intelligence."
Or, as Baldy Harper used to put it, "You cannot shoot a truth!" The advocate
of any form of invasive violence is in a logically precarious situation.
Coercion does not convince, nor is it any kind of argument. William Godwin
pointed out that force "is contrary to the nature of the intellect, which
cannot but be improved by conviction and persuasion," and "if he who employs
coercion against me could mold me to his purposes by argument, no doubt,
he would.. He pretends to punish me because his argument is strong; but
he really punishes me because he is weak." Violence contains none of the
energies that enhance a civilized human society. At best, it is only capable
of expanding the material existence of a few individuals, while narrowing
the opportunities of most others.
The Economic Argument
People engage in voluntary exchanges because they anticipate improving
their lot; the only individuals capable of judging the merits of an exchange
are the parties to it. Voluntaryism follows naturally if no one does anything
to stop it. The interplay of natural property and exchanges results in
a free market price system, which conveys the necessary information needed
to make intelligent economic decisions. Interventionism and collectivism
make economic calculation impossible because they disrupt the free market
price system. Even the smallest government intervention leads to problems
which justify the call for more and more intervention. Also, "controlled"
economies leave no room for new inventions, new ways of doing things,
or for the "unforeseeable and unpredictable." Free market competition
is a learning process which brings about results which no one can know
in advance. There is no way to tell how much harm has been done and will
continue to be done by political restrictions.
The Moral Argument
The voluntary principle assures us that while we may have the possibility
of choosing the worst, we also have the possibility of choosing the best.
It provides us the opportunity to make things better, though it doesn't
guarantee results. While it dictates that we do not force our idea of
"better" on someone else, it protects us from having someone else's idea
of "better" imposed on us by force. The use of coercion to compel virtue
eliminates its possibility, for to be moral, an act must be uncoerced.
If a person is compelled to act in a certain way (or threatened with government
sanctions), there is nothing virtuous about his or her behavior. Freedom
of choice is a necessary ingredient for the achievement of virtue. Whenever
there is a chance for the good life, the risk of a bad one must also be
The Natural Law Argument
Common sense and reason tell us that nothing can be right by legislative
enactment if it is not already right by nature. Epictetus, the Stoic, urged
men to defy tyrants in such a way as to cast doubt on the necessity of government
itself. "If the government directed them to do something that their reason
opposed, they were to defy the government. If it told them to do what their
reason would have told them to do anyway, they did not need a government."
Just as we do not require a State to dictate what is right or wrong in growing
food, manufacturing textiles, or in steel-making, we do not need a government
to dictate standards and procedures in any field of endeavor. "In spite of
the legislature, the snow will fall when the sun is in Capricorn, and the
flowers will bloom when it is in Cancer."
The Means-End Argument
Although certain services and goods are necessary to our survival, it is
not essential that they be provided by the government. Voluntaryists oppose
the State because it uses coercive means. The means are the seeds which bud
into flower and come into fruition. It is impossible to plant the seed of
coercion and then reap the flower of voluntaryism. The coercionist always
proposes to compel people to do some-thing, usually by passing laws or electing
politicians to office. These laws and officials depend upon physical violence
to enforce their wills. Voluntary means, such as non-violent resistance, for
example, violate no one's rights. They only serve to nullify laws and politicians
by ignoring them. Voluntaryism does not require of people that they violently
overthrow their government, or use the electoral process to change it; merely
that they shall cease to support their government, whereupon it will fall
of its own dead weight. If one takes care of the means, the end will take
care of itself.
The Consistency Argument
It is a commonplace observation that the means one uses must be consistent
with the goal one seeks. It is impossible to "wage a war for peace" or "fight
politics by becoming political." Freedom and private property are total, indivisible
concepts that are compromised wherever and whenever the State exists. Since
all things are related to one another in our complicated social world, if
one man's freedom or private property may be violated (regardless of the justification),
then every man's freedom and property are insecure. The superior man can only
be sure of his freedom if the inferior man is secure in his rights. We often
forget that we can secure our liberty only by preserving it for the most despicable
and obnoxious among us, lest we set precedents that can reach us.
The Integrity, Self-Control, and Corruption Argument
It is a fact of human nature that the only person who can think with your
brain is you. Neither can a person be compelled to do anything against his
or her will, for each person is ultimately responsible for his or her own
actions. Governments try to terrorize individuals into submitting to tyranny
by grabbing their bodies as hostages and trying to destroy their spirits.
This strategy is not successful against the person who harbors the Stoic attitude
toward life, and who refuses to allow pain to disturb the equanimity of his
or her mind, and the exercise of reason. A government might destroy one's
body or property, but it cannot injure one's philosophy of life. - Furthermore,
the voluntaryist rejects the use of political power because it can only be
exercised by implicitly endorsing or using violence to accomplish one's ends.
The power to do good to others is also the power to do them harm. Power to
compel people, to control other people's lives, is what political power is
all about. It violates all the basic principles of voluntaryism: might does
not make right; the end never justifies the means; nor may one person coercively
interfere in the life of another. Even the smallest amount of political power
is dangerous. First, it reduces the capacity of at least some people to lead
their own lives in their own way. Second, and more important from the voluntaryist
point of view, is what it does to the person wielding the power: it corrupts
that person's character.