The Black Libertarian’s FAQ
by Wilton D. Alston
by Wilton D. Alston
to my last
article, I figured I would get a few messages and maybe even
a few positive ones if I were lucky. Nothing could have prepared
me for two occurrences. First of all, the overwhelming majority
of responses I got were glowingly positive. (Have no fear – I am
not complaining. After a while though, I did have to go back
and re-read the article to make sure they were talking about me!)
Secondly, those closest to me, people who actually know me personally,
with a few notable exceptions, generally said nothing. Nada. Zip.
While I was
a little disappointed that nobody came at me with the ever-popular,
and very flattering, "Who got to you?" all is not lost.
One respondent did call me an idiot and a jackass, so that has to
count for something. (In the words of the late comic Robin Harris
– someone I enjoyed before his unfortunate and all-too-early passing
– "Now ain’t that a b&*ch?") In any event,
a little housekeeping is still in order before I get to the real
meat of this piece.
Early in the
previously article, I said, "The historical irony is that the
folks who did the bulk of the selling of black folk would have been
predecessors of today’s Democrat party." This statement was
too general. The historical truth is this. The "retailers" of the
initial rounds of slaves would have largely been the (southern –
i.e., those found in the original thirteen colonies) predecessors
of Democratic Party. However, the "wholesalers" of the later generations
slaves would have been primarily the Yankee predecessors of Republican
Party. Basically then, neither party has captured the moral high
ground on slavery. Thanks to a respondent in Utah for pointing this
So, what did
I learn from the responses, and more importantly, what can we all
learn moving forward? To restate, Market Anarchism (MA) is
really about finding and effectively using, a methodology for determining
truth from falsehood as relates to social interactions – nothing
more and nothing less. Using an information technology motif, and
mining the responses for common themes, I have prepared a "Frequently
Asked Questions" (FAQ) list with just this goal in mind. To
# 1: You left out so-and-so, and he’s a black libertarian. Why?
1: This question has a corollary, which is, "You included
so-and-so, and he’s not really a black libertarian."
For both questions the same answer works. And that answer is who
cares? While I certainly agree with what Anthony Gregory says regarding
our need to defend
libertarian purity – this is not about specific people, even
though my article rhetorically asked a question that seemed to be
specifically about people. (I understand that the bulk of those
who offered these suggestions were simply attempting to correct
my apparent oversight – but there is a larger point to make.) What
we are after is not another leader to follow or example person to
hold up to the light. We want, as Stefan Molyneux says so often,
"to reason from first principles." This means, we want
to examine the most basic truths of any situation and use those
to decide what action is best. Thus, if a certain person espouses
a doctrine that is, shall we say, rather unsupported by logic and
reason then by all means, ignore him or her without delay.
I have nothing
against the desire for charismatic leaders per se. Culturally,
I understand from whence it arose. As Robert Wicks says in his
article on the coming of more black libertarians:
assumption is that he [the leader] has been divinely authorized
to lead them. (I remember many times as a child when people would
stand up in church and criticize some practice, first making sure
to note that they were not criticizing the minister because they
know he has been "set above them.") As a result, many black institutions
are much more oriented towards the charismatic leader than the
So the history
is clear. But here’s the thing: If we spend too much time waiting
for the right person to say the right thing, we will
eventually be victimized when the wrong person says the right
thing just by accident. Ergo, the person is not important. (I
am flattered that people apparently appreciate my point of view,
but hey, I am not important either!) The underlying doctrine is
important. The logic is important. Concepts like reciprocity, consistency,
argument from morality are not only important, but also worthy
of focused study and applicable to almost any situation. Let us
focus on the ideas.
# 2: Slavery wasn’t really that big a deal, was it?
2: Well, I guess that depends upon whom you ask. (I promise
all of you – someone actually asked that question in response to
my article. You cannot make this stuff up!) Upon further review,
what this respondent was actually saying was this.
main reasons for the South's secession from the U.S.A. [were]
economic and political, rather than moral. The North sought to
impose trade tariffs on foreign imports, on behalf of northern
factories, and the South wanted to sell their cotton and tobacco
to other countries in order to buy manufactured goods at lower
prices than those of the North."
And you know
what? This is absolutely correct. In fact, if one reads the Emancipation
Proclamation carefully (particularly in context with Lincoln’s other
writings) he gets the sneaking suspicion that Lincoln felt just
a little put out that he had to even deal with the slavery issue.
Slavery was basically a minor inconvenience that got in the way
of an otherwise simple goal – making certain dishonest
Abe’s rich mercantilist buddies could keep getting P-A-I-D at
the expense of the unwashed masses south of the Mason Dixon. (Is
it not always that same thing? Second verse same as the first.)
discussion is (or should be) about freedom and how to fully enjoy
it moving forward. It is most assuredly not a contest to
conclusively determine which folks got the most raw deal. While
the Noboby Knows the Trouble I Seen Sweepstakes has a nice
ring to it, I would just as soon not play. Freedom – for all, now
– has little, if any, relationship to the prior positioning of some.
# 3: I agreed with you until you mentioned reparations. What
about all the other folks who got a raw deal?
3: Again, this is not a contest. I am suggesting that we
adopt a logical process and apply it to all issues consistently.
Reparations for slavery was an excellent issue to examine initially
because the amount of writing about it is plentiful and the emotional
baggage about it is rather full-figured. But, it was just an example
of how MA could be applied to a specific issue. (It is an issue
with intense personal resonance for me, but nonetheless...) Even
after applying the approach I restated from Walter Block’s publication,
there may be folks who will not get justice, whatever that may mean
to them. But a simple application of first principles shows that
consistent and universal justice will not be obtained from any state-sponsored
approach either. The only result will be that others will share
in the unfairness – which is already the current situation.
One other point,
before I leave this horse to rot in peace. Some may say, "if
[pick your favorite mistreated racial group] could just get an honest
apology from [pick your favorite mistreater of racial groups] that
would mean something, would it not?" Not to put too
fine a point on this, but the last time I participated in that pageant
of American splendor known as commerce very little could be obtained
in exchange for a heartfelt apology. (It could be that I shop in
the wrong places, but I doubt it.) No, either I obtain justice,
restitution, 40 acres, etc. via conventional (and logical and moral)
civil means, or I just let it go and move on. Symbolic gestures
are for politicians, and at this point it should be pretty apparent
what my feelings are in that regard.
# 4: Now that we are all "equal under the law," abolishing
the government would be counterproductive would it not?
4: At the risk of opening a can of worms, let me state unequivocally
that the "rule of law" is not only relative, it is nigh
fantasy. (Black folks should know this better than most, given the
overwhelming number of black men who are incarcerated relative to
everyone else.) A reasoned explanation of the
myth of the rule of law from John Hasnas provides ample background.
As Dr. Hasnas states in his piece, although the lack of objectivity
inherent, and in fact necessary, in the rule of law is rather obvious,
people nonetheless remain in a state of denial.
that the quality of your experience with the law is directly related
to the quality of your lawyer. As a result, everyone accepts as
almost axiomatic that a rich person can "get off" for
a crime that would land a less well-heeled defendant in the slammer.
So then, why would I place substantial confidence in the rule of
law, particularly as long as the state has a monopoly on its implementation?
Remember, slavery was not against the law for quite a while.
striking example, none other than our very own "leader of the
free world" said, "The constitution is just a piece of
paper!" – or words to that effect. Call him a moron if you
like, and I probably will before day’s end, but when George W. Bush
starts paraphrasing the erudite Lysander
Spooner, we all need to take notice. (I did not know Spooner
had published any of his treatises with big pictures and small words,
but hey, it could have happened without my knowledge.) If the holder
of the highest office in the land thinks the document describing
the ostensive highest law in the land is just an old parchment with
a bunch of suggestions, well, that means something about
how useful the rule of law might actually be in practice, does it
# 5: Replacing one "ism" with another is not
the answer, is it? (Plus, you’re an idiot.)
5: I should have been intrigued that this respondent could
obtain this level of insight about me so quickly. Interestingly,
I was not. (Wait. Maybe he does know me?) However, the question
is valid. Are we proponents of Market Anarchism simply trading
one religion for another? Would we not be better served to extract
all the tender goodness out of the other "isms" and combine
them into the tasty panoply of societal bliss? In a word – NO.
As long as
consistent logic is applied to all in a way that properly utilizes
the argument from morality, I have no concern what the process is
called. (I am planning to get some vanity license plates
though – so we need to pick something relatively quickly!) The moral
nature of a man – that which makes him subject to the most basic
decisions of "right" and "wrong" – are in no way changed based upon
where he resides in a larger organization, or what we call that
group of people. The government has no rights that I as an individual
do not have. And if they do, then only I can supply them. Of course,
I cannot give what I do not have – and here we are, back at the
beginning. Treat all people morally, consistently, and with reciprocity
– call it whatever you like.
# 6: I like the idea of anarcho-capitalism but as long
as we're forced to finance the government, i.e., taxes, how can
we get rid of it?
6: It is somewhat ironic that someone asked this, because
I had a very similar question some time back. But as Alfred G. Cuzán
is actually all around us, particularly within the governments
that rule us. There is nothing to get rid of per se but instead
something to point out and identify. We proponents of MA are not
trying to implement anything, ergo "getting rid of the government"
is not an active result but a passive one – as counter-intuitive
as that sounds. So, even though I used the phrase "abolish
the state" the true battle actually lies within, at least to
Carter G. Woodson
lays this all out in his timeless tome, "The
Mis-Education of the Negro," when he states:
you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his
actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder.
He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not
need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told.
In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special
benefit. His education makes it necessary."
shows that it does not matter who is in power … those who have
not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on
others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than
they had in the beginning."
And directly applicable, I believe, to our shared quest. When a
sufficient number of individuals understand and apply personal freedom
in their everyday lives, MA is the inevitable result. If that sufficient
number of individuals does not, as Dr. Woodson states, "learn
to do for themselves," then the shape of the government is
largely irrelevant, and they will "never obtain more rights
and privileges at the end then they had at the beginning."
# 7: Why do people seem bound and determined to support the government
even when it openly forsakes them?
7: I have not the faintest clue! This is one of the great
mysteries of civilization. (Although Dr. Woodson’s premise – that
learning to do for themselves is at the root – is very instructive.)
As one respondent stated, "It especially hurt me to see so
many in the black community turning to the government in the wake
of Hurricane Katrina, when the worst of the tragedy was caused by
the levees that weren't properly maintained by the government."
How true. In the case of Katrina, one could argue that many were
caught by surprise. Looking forward however, no one should be surprised
if it happens again. Whether the "powers that be" are
simply incompetent or simply uninterested is simply a detail.
One of the
shocking ironies about the state is exemplified by this all-too-typical
response to a colossal failure – the allocation of more money and
power to the organization that failed in the first place. The best
recent example of this practice is the post-9/11 formation of the
Department of Homeland Security. Call me a pessimist, but if a really
large, nearly bloated bureaucracy cannot get the job done, then
swallowing it whole with a larger bureaucracy seems unlikely, at
best, to provide a solution. When the people who have been so poorly
served look to the very object of that failure for help – that is
even worse. The heinous symbolism of the lamb licking the knife
that cuts his throat is applicable, if unfortunate.
I heard somewhere
that there is a saying that goes, "May you live in interesting
times." I believe they are upon us. And despite any hint of
pessimism above, I feel pretty strongly that there is hope. But
it will not be easy. Let us continue the conversation and the education
Alston [send him
mail] lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife and three
children. When he’s not training for a marathon or furthering his
part-time study of libertarian philosophy, he works as a principal
research scientist in transportation safety, focusing primarily
on the safety of subway and freight train control systems.
© 2006 LewRockwell.com