You can’t get there from here.


Why don’t we have libertarian anarchy? Why does government exist? The answer implicit in previous chapters is that government as a whole exists because most people believe it is necessary. Most particular government activities beyond the most fundamental exist because they benefit some special interest at the cost of the rest of us. Each special interest will fight, in most cases successfully, to protect its private racket. Yet the individuals who make up that special interest are on the receiving end of everyone else’s racket. Most of them lose, on net, by the whole transaction. To the extent that they realize this, they should support general reductions in government power. So the fundamental task is one of education.

The obvious way to educate is to write books, give speeches, argue with friends, use all available means of communication to spread libertarian ideas. That is the strategy on which I concentrate my efforts—hence this book.

It is not the only strategy. Showing is an effective way of teaching; people believe what they see. If it is the government that protects them from crime, delivers the mail, builds the streets, they will naturally conclude that without government these things will not get done. The most effective way to demonstrate that these things can be done privately is to do them. So a second strategy is the development of alternative institutions, the skeleton of anarcho-capitalism within the structure of contemporary society. UPS is doing it for postal service. Similarly, private arbitrators have to some degree replaced government courts; in Chapter 18 I suggested ways of hastening that process.

Private protection is already a big business; more than one-third of all expenditure for protection against crime goes to private firms and a majority of all security personnel are private. Some housing developments are now being built complete with their own security systems. At some point, if this trend continues, voters will find themselves protected almost entirely by private services paid for out of their own pockets. They will be understandably reluctant to pay a second time, in taxes, for a superfluous police force, just as parents whose children go to parochial schools are reluctant to vote for school taxes.

Even if these strategies succeed, government will continue for some decades to wield enormous powers and spend huge sums. Fortunately politicians, although usually in favor of expanding their own power, are not motivated by any altruistic desire to guarantee the oppression of our grandchildren. It may often be possible to propose a step that benefits an incumbent politician in the short run but reduces the total power of government in the long run. An example is the voucher plan described in Chapter 10. It has been supported, in a limited form, by a number of powerful politicians, including at least one governor. I do not credit the governor with a passionate dedication to reducing the power of his office, merely with the desire to use Catholic votes to keep such power as he already had. Another example is the minicity proposal discussed in Chapter 17. For reasons given there, it might be in the interest of the governors of several large states.

So a third strategy is to create and support proposals which are in the short-run interest of some present politicians and in the long-run interest of the rest of us.

I have said nothing about direct political action, such as running libertarian candidates. I believe that although that may be a way of getting attention for libertarian ideas, it serves no other purpose. People get more or less the politicians they want. Some would say the politicians they deserve. If the voters become so libertarian that they will only elect candidates who abolish each office as they leave it, such candidates will be found. If the voters want a powerful government, a few libertarians in Congress will not stop them.

I have described what should be done but not who should organize and control it. I have not said who should command the libertarian legions.

The answer, of course, is no one. One of the central libertarian ideas is that command, hierarchy, is not the only way of getting things done, usually not even the best way. Having rejected politics as a way of running the country there is no reason for us to accept politics as the way to run the conspiracy to abolish politics.

If this society is made freer, it will be done by a large number of people working individually or in small groups. I see no reason why we should all be part of some hierarchical group, some political party or libertarian conspiracy, modeled on the political institutions we are fighting against. Better, surely, for us to cooperate through the sorts of institutions we are fighting for, the institutions of the market.

A market has room for firms of varying sizes. The Society for Individual Liberty, one of the older libertarian organizations, is a firm in the business of selling libertarian literature, publishing a magazine, arranging speeches and conferences, and coordinating libertarian activities. It has things called chapters, but their members are in no way the constituents of a political organization. SIL is the personal property of (I think) four people, who started it and run it. That should, I hope, keep its internal politics down to manageable size.

An example of libertarian organization on a larger scale is the Libertarian Party. Like other political parties, it runs candidates for local, state, and national office. Its greatest successes so far are the election of two representatives to the Alaska state legislature; its most successful presidential candidate got about a million votes. Some libertarians regard it as a serious political party designed eventually to win national elections; others, myself included, regard it as a way of getting publicity for libertarian ideas.

The market for liberty has room for small firms as well. I am not an active member of any libertarian organization. I write articles and give speeches and get paid for it. I do not have to worry about whether a majority of libertarians approve of me; I do not hold any office they can vote me out of. I only have to please my customers.

When I used to give speeches in favor of abolishing the draft, there was a dirty word that kept cropping up: mercenary. A mercenary, as far as I could figure it out, was someone who did something because he wanted to. A soldier who fought for money. Or glory. Or patriotism. Or fun. The opposite of a mercenary was a draftee. Someone who fought because if he did not, he would be put in jail. According to that definition, there are only two kinds of people. Mercenaries and slaves. I’m a mercenary.

If this country is worth saving, it’s worth saving at a profit.


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