In response 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 out.
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 wit:
Question # 1: You left out so-and-so, and he's a black libertarian. Why?
Answer # 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:
"The 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 underlying doctrine."
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, and the 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.
Question # 2: Slavery wasn't really that big a deal, was it?
Answer # 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.
"The 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.)
This whole 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.
Question # 3: I agreed with you until you mentioned reparations. What about all the other folks who got a raw deal?
Answer # 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.
Question # 4: Now that we are all "equal under the law," abolishing the government would be counterproductive would it not?
Answer # 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.
Everyone accepts 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.
In another 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 not?
Question # 5: Replacing one "ism" with another is not the answer, is it? (Plus, you're an idiot.)
Answer # 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.
Question # 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?
Answer # 6: It is somewhat ironic that someone asked this, because I had a very similar question some time back. But as Alfred G. Cuzán states, anarchy 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 start.
Carter G. Woodson lays this all out in his timeless tome, "The Mis-Education of the Negro," when he states:
"When 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 u2018proper 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."
Dr. Woodson continues with:
"History 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."
Powerful insight! 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."
Question # 7: Why do people seem bound and determined to support the government even when it openly forsakes them?
Answer # 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 with determination.
July 25, 2006