Where Have All the Black Libertarians Gone?

I like Bill Maher. He takes sides. One of his best recent lines was, "the last time the Republicans had that many black folks on stage they were selling them!" (That was in response to the reportedly large number of black folks carrying the Republican banner at the 2004 RNC.) 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. (So, Maher is evidently no history buff.) I still like him though.

Calling on some of that history, Deroy Murdock and Steven Warshawsky suggest supporting the Republican Party. For me they are just picking a different bus upon which to ride to the same destination. (One can only hope they both get to sit up front!) Why do black folk overwhelmingly support the Democrats, particularly in light of history? And why not give the u2018other party' a chance? Because neither party gives a rat's anal opening about black people! And even if they did it would not matter, for reasons I examine below. How about more black libertarians? Black libertarians are as common as lips on a chicken – hence the tongue-in-cheek title of this little rant.

Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams come to mind as examples of black libertarians. I am pretty sure that the chairman of the NY Libertarian Party is black. But to be clear, I do not think embracing another vehicle of state power – another political party – is really the answer. After a rather long time with my head in the sand – or stuck in other places equally dark – I have come to an even more controversial conclusion. For black folk there is only one viable option – abolish the state. Embrace unvarnished, unfiltered, straight-up, full-contact laissez-faire libertarianism – not the party – the thought process. This is more accurately described as market anarchism or anarcho-capitalism. The uninitiated can review Stefan Molyneux's article on market anarchism (MA), entitled, "Market Anarchism: Are You Guys Crazy or Just Nuts" for background. He defines market anarchism as:

"… a broad term referring to the theory that voluntary free market relationships can – and should – replace all existing coercive state relationships. It is derived from taking the principle of the non-initiation of force to its ultimate conclusion, and accepting that if using violence is wrong for one person, then it is wrong for every person. If stealing is wrong for me as a private citizen, then it is also wrong for everyone – including those in the u2018government'."

Abolish the state? Is this Negro crazy? No, I have not lost my mind, at least not yet. (And for the record – no, I do not plan to vote Republican in the next election. Voting is a subject worthy of a separate article – maybe next time.) While most who visit libertarian websites (like LewRockwell.com) will have little issue with my suggestion, I would be kidding myself if I did not expect this suggestion to be as popular among black folk as designing fashionable sheets for the "Klan of the New Millennium." Maybe it will be helpful to examine, using MA as a rubric, a few myths that continue to undergird our undying support for either Republicans or Democrats. To wit:

Myth #1: Political parties exist for vastly different goals, thus supporting one or the other will make a difference in my life.

How anyone with eyesight slightly better than Stevie Wonder can see the two parties as really that different baffles me. Some time back, I was sitting at a dinner party with a very astute and no doubt well-respected member of the political science faculty of a major university. I uttered something about "from my vantage point, both parties are the same" in a matter-of-fact way, over the appetizer, between sips of wine. This guy was aghast. He spent the next several minutes regaling me with examples illustrating the differences. (Heck, at some point, I may have even started to believe him.) As I recall, he ran off a litany of issues about which the Republicans and Democrats appear to be diametrically opposed. Likely many readers can repeat many of the "classics" in this regard – gay marriage, abortion, voting rights, social security, school choice (vouchers), national defense, welfare, affirmative action – yada, yada, yada.

I do not doubt that on many of these "hot-button" issues, the two parties seem different. If one judges by only these issues they might actually be different to varying degrees. Are the specific issues really that important in the grand scheme? Maybe. Should we not be just as concerned with the methodology for addressing them? Definitely. But if the two parties were substantially different, would we not see, in the aftermath of each election, noticeable and substantial upheavals in policy, law, and as a direct result, day-to-day life? And if we do not, were those ostensive differences really important?

One can basically just watch the whole thing unfold on CNN (or not) and feel no fret. Seriously, unless you are a talk-radio maven, a "ditto head," or an Internet web log geek, you could actually miss the whole election and be mostly unaffected. (This might explain the lack of voter turnout.) And that, my friends, is the goal. And to be fair, as government goals go, it is really not a bad one. Allow me to quote Carroll Quigley, from Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, who says:

"The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to the doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can "throw the rascals out" at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy. … Either party in office becomes in time corrupt, tired, unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of these things but will still pursue, with new vigor, approximately the same basic policies."

Still unconvinced? Here is what seals it. Even if the two parties did actually have radically different ideas about right and wrong – and implemented radically different policies as a result – one key factor would remain the same. Those policies would be funded based upon coercion supported by the threat of violence. Basically, the state, as realized in every western "democracy" available for study, functions on principals closer to the Mafia than any utopian republic described by Plato. Simply put, they [the state] force all to contribute to their treasury, for the creation of products and services that no one has a choice about accepting, at a cost that always escalates. Nice racket.

Whether one supports "a women's right to choose" or considers "the sanctity of human life" most important – everybody has to pay for it. If you think the police have a duty to protect you or you realize, accurately, that they cannot (and will not) do anything of the sort – you will still pay their salaries. Think the invasion of [pick a country] makes you safer or puts you in danger – irrelevant. Your money will be buying ammunition. (Flak jackets will occasionally be financed via neighborhood bake sales.) Individually, offering a product or service via the barrel of a gun is criminal. Having an organization known as the state do it is acceptable. Usually, forcing people – who must accept that product or service – to pay for its creation, without exception, is totalitarian lunacy. For the state, it is business as usual. For black folk, this should sound suspiciously like another time-honored tradition – slavery. If the outcome will always be the same, why would I care which "Massa" I ended up working for this go 'round? Would it not be better to close the plantation?

Myth #2: While the state government (e.g., North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi) will do you wrong, the federal government will do you right.

I can pretty much guarantee that if you approach any college-educated black person in the South and ask them, "So what do you think of state's rights?" the answer will involve harsh glances and at least a couple four-letter words. The term "state's rights" has been co-opted to mean "institutionalized racism like that practiced in the pre-Civil War south" or something like that. Here is what confuses me. Unless the moral nature of a man – that which he uses to determine right and wrong, fair and unjust, true and false – is modified based upon whether or not he works for the federal government in D.C. or a state government in Alabama, why would state's rights automatically lead to a different outcome than federal rule?

If, for example, the North had been the home of slavery, and the South been the home of freedom, does anyone think the War Between the States would not have played out with the same script? Is it unreasonable to suggest that it was just a quirk of fate that placed Abe Lincoln (a white-supremacist psychopath) in the historical position of supposedly freeing the slaves? And if so, would that not make the act of placing a lot of faith in the federal government vis-à-vis the state governments a little misguided? No, unless the likelihood of a person being racist is changed based upon his position in some larger organization, then nothing about the ontology of the state, be it the federal or otherwise, can mitigate the tendencies of this individual. Ergo, if the state governments were unfit to oversee the affairs of black folk after the Civil War, I am at least a little concerned about trusting the federal government with my welfare now.

Myth #3: It is the job of the state to correct past wrongs – lest they go on unabated for the foreseeable future.

Is affirmative action, as generally implemented, really that different from discrimination? Not so much. Because of past wrongs – like slavery – does the government owe something to a certain group? Depends upon whom you ask. Even if they do – and certainly there is little doubt that the state directly facilitated slavery – how should this repayment be funded? Reparations, at their root, should be about property rights, not retribution. Yet all debate seems to center on retribution, and why it is justified, or not.

Before we attempt to place concepts like reparations into a consistent, logical, and moral context, let us examine the fact regarding the only method available to the state for securing money – theft. Frdric Bastiat, in his pamphlet The Law, puts state-sponsored theft, which he refers to as "plunder," into scientific terms when he says:

"When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it, without his consent, and without compensation, whether by force or fraud, to someone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated and an action of plunder is committed."

If someone stole something from you, having the state steal from someone different does not really solve the problem, does it? And if the state stole – or more accurately, allowed someone else to steal – something from your ancestors does it make sense for them to now steal something from everyone else and give it to you? Not so much. All that said, and despite anything David Horowitz might say, reparations are a legitimate issue. (And I have to admit, after reading Twelve Years a Slave," by Solomon Northup, I wanted to go out and extract a little personal repayment myself!) I believe Walter Block puts this issue into proper perspective in his piece, "On Reparations to Blacks for Slavery," from Human Rights Review, July-September 2002.

"Justified reparations are nothing more and nothing less than the forced return of stolen property – even after significant amount of time has passed. For example, if my grandfather stole a ring from your grandfather, and then bequeathed it to me through the intermediation of my father, then I am, presently, the illegitimate owner of that piece of jewelry. To take the position that reparations are always and forever unjustified is to give the imprimatur to theft, provided a sufficient time period has elapsed."

The question is not if the debt is owed. The questions are: from whom it is owed; to whom it should be paid; and, how best to fund that repayment. But in no case is it justified for the state to come along and tax everyone so that some can get their money back, no matter how often this has been done in the past. That is, unless we seek to place ourselves at the trough of stolen spoils the state creates. I have no desire to perpetuate theft, even for reasons as personally compelling as the debt of slavery. Ironically, once one embraces the logic of property rights, the arguments against reparations cease to be reasonable from any basis. It is a simple matter of proper assignment and recovery. But it does not involve the state – at least not in the form of taxation. The state cannot be used as tool of theft, even for ostensibly just reasons.


So where does all this leave us? If the shape of the government does not matter, i.e., state versus federal is irrelevant; and the existing political parties are not different enough to warrant continued interest; and if past wrongs are best addressed via private means, what purpose does the state serve for black folk? Not much of any from my view. To be completely free, secure, and happy, there are three things that concern me – life, liberty, and property. The state did not create them. The state can only take them away. There has been enough of that already. So unless I want to enjoy the fruits of income redistribution – which account for a major portion of the state's budget, excluding national defense – there is not much left for the state to do on my behalf. Enough is enough. Put the state out of my misery. Give me my freedom back. Let us interact in ways more direct, more efficient, and in no way dependent upon organized theft, from anyone, me included.

July 11, 2006