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Disengage!

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Market Anarchist thinkers, as for any such broad category, disagreed on a great number of issues. But on one specific issue, they were and still are, all the way from de La Boétie to Rothbard, very much in agreement: ending statism can only come about through disengagement.

I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.

~ Étienne de la Boétie

Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.

~ Henry David Thoreau

Do not resist the evil-doer and take no part in doing so, either in the violent deeds of the administration, in the law courts, the collection of taxes, or above all in soldiering, and no one in the world will be able to enslave you.

~ Leo Tolstoy

[I]f the bulk of the public were really convinced of the illegitimacy of the State, if it were convinced that the State is nothing more nor less than a bandit gang writ large, then the State would soon collapse to take on no more status or breadth of existence than another Mafia gang.

~ Murray Rothbard

It is fairly clear to anyone who has studied the nature of the State and the ruling class as a whole that, as de la Boétie pointed out almost 500 years ago, their support cannot rest on strength alone, given that the ruling class (especially at the time) is so much smaller than its subject population. Rather, the vast majority of the power of the State resides in its supposed legitimacy. It is also fairly clear that a dedicated minority, by dissociating from the State, can delegitimize its existence and topple it fairly easily.

Principled disengagement and principled revendication are the only strategies that have ever brought about lasting freedom. No movement has ever achieved anything by coercion except more coercion.

So what are we to think of the people in our movement who are now attracted, like a dog to a new shiny bone, to Ron Paul as a presidential candidate? Even if Ron Paul had any chance at all of getting elected, he could hardly do anything when the great majority of the ruling-class is dead set against his aims.

Suffrage is… powerless and unreliable. It can be exercised only periodically; and the tyranny must at least be borne until the time for suffrage comes. Besides, when the suffrage is exercised, it gives no guaranty for the repeal of existing laws that are oppressive, and no security against the enactment of new ones that are equally so.

~ Lysander Spooner

The problem is not that we have “the wrong people in power,” but the fact that the power exists in the first place. As long as the State remains in place as it is, war, whether military or social, will continue to be its prime means of expansion, and taxes will continue to be its reason for being and the means to wage these wars. Even voluntaryists who are not Anarchists should realize that they are not helping their own cause by promoting the social warfare of democracy, and that their best hope lies in a structured Market Anarchist system (such as in the Icelandic model).

Should the voluntaryist movement be painted as just another political movement, engaged in social warfare? This is the impression that many might get, if their only exposure to our movement is through people who promote ruling class politicians like Ron Paul. Do we really want people to believe that we are against them and their values? Or do we rather want them to know the truth: that we are not opposed to their values, and that only the ruling class truly is? If we are to become a successful movement, and succeed where others have failed, we need to seriously answer these questions.

The siren song of political coercion to freedom lovers has always been this; that by using State coercion one can shortcut his way into imposing freedom on the masses, and that there will be no other lasting consequences from this coercive act. This, of course, has never come true. No movement predicated on coercion or violence has ever achieved lasting freedom. All successful movements have been non-violent, non-coercive movements.

How absurd would it be for promoters of non-violence to turn around and promote the use of the tools of State coercion:

Gandhi: “Yes, we all want home rule, but this rich white guy here says that the salt tax should be cut by 10%. Forget our protest march, we should back this guy instead. If the British decide to put him in charge, we’ll be a little closer to our goal! It’s our only hope!”

Jesus: “Look Pilate, I know you guys are in here for the long haul and everything, but could it be possible to promise not to massacre any more Jews? Like, let us have local governments of our own or something? And maybe hire less corrupt tax collectors? That would be a step in the right direction, you know?”

What an absurd concept, that a movement dedicated to abolishing ruling class privileges and political coercion should suddenly come to depend on political coercion as a form of advancement. What a laughable parody of enfranchisement.

Rather, the attitude of the voluntaryist towards the whole political game should be one of co-optation. As the State co-opts successful movements, we should not hesitate to co-opt the rare moral elements we find within it and turn them to our own advantage. For example, we can use the values that attract people to Ron Paul (such as anti-war sentiments) and point out how our movement fulfills them best, not the State.

But it is clear that anyone who supports voluntary governance against ruling class coercion should reject the use of political means. Political means have never achieved anything but more political means. And that is the exact opposite of our goal.

June 9, 2007

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