Catholic libertarian J.R.R. Tolkien

tolkienThe centerpiece of the libertarian political philosophy is the nonaggression principle which prohibits any person from initiating physical force against another person. Such force–universally prohibited to individuals–fairs no better when government claims such power for itself.

J.R.R.Tolkien (1892 – 1973) is one such libertarian: A Catholic Englishman who understood Lord Acton’s maxim: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute powers corrupts absolutely.”

Viewing state power as illegitimate, Tolkien described himself as  a philosophical anarchist:

“My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) — or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inaminate real of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could go back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so to refer to people. […] Anyway the proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity. ” The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien.

I hope you enjoy this very listenable biography and background on this great storyteller:

Freedom Feens 07/07/14, co-hosts Garrett Fox – Randy England


microphoneF
reedom Feens is a daily, liberty-related radio show
with Michael W. Dean and a rotating cast of co-hosts.

Freedom Feen Garrett Fox and I co-hosted the show. The 2-hour show is broadcast live at LRN.FM weeknights at Midnight Central time and at noon on weekends.

Show notes for 07/07/2014:

Jury Nullification — The Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment — 3D Printing

Download or listen to today’s show here:

[Download here] (right click, then Save link as . . .)

Or visit Freedom Feens

run

Freedom Feens 06/02/2014 – Randy England co-hosts

Catholic libertarianFreedom Feens is a daily, liberty-related radio show with Michael W. Dean and a rotating cast of co-hosts.

I was co-host of yesterday’s Feen broadcast. The 2-hour show is broadcast live at LRN.FM weeknights at Midnight Central time and at noon on weekends. A list of stations carrying the Freedom Feens is available here

Show notes for 06/02/2014: The Wampus Cat — The Pirate Bay — NSA snoop list — Southern Poverty Law Center — The Beatles, Johnny Rabbit & Harry Caray — Seattle police angry about City’s new “Use of Force” policy — Police wearing cameras — Escaping the state/Zomia — The Art and Strategy of Not being Governed — Conscription — The Bit-Nickel

Download or listen to today’s show here:

[Download here] (right click, then Save link as . . .)

Or visit Freedom Feens

Libertarian Jesus

Freedom Feens 05/20/2014 – Randy England co-hosts

novictim-nocrimeFreedom Feens is a daily, liberty-related radio show with Michael W. Dean .

I was co-host of this morning’s Feen broadcast. The 2-hour show is broadcast live at LRN.FM weeknights at Midnight Central time and at noon on weekends. A list of stations carrying the Freedom Feens is available here

Show notes for 05/20/2014: Stop Free Keene — No Knock Warrants — Becoming a libertarian — Using magic words in court — Castle Doctrine / self-defense — RIP R.J Rummel, Death by government — What will we replace the state with? — Prosecutors as politicians — JRR Tolkien, anarchist/monarchist — Not one man in a million is fit to rule other men

Download or listen to today’s show here:

[Download here] (right click, then Save link as . . .)

Or visit Freedom Feens

Violence 600

What about discrimination laws?

Anarcho-IchthusDiscrimination laws—as applied to private parties—play on the fear that, without government to keep people from favoring one person or group over another, social progress would be set back by decades. They fear that protected groups would be excluded from jobs, schools, neighborhoods and places of business.

The criteria that prompt inclusion in the so-called “protected classes” are not just the old “race, creed and color” divisions. Discrimination laws continue to create more privileged categories based on national origin, age, sex, family composition, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity, and even a person’s genetic code.
These laws proliferate in a downward spiral of ridiculousness, and there is a long way to fall. Recently the government of Greece added to its definition of “disabled” persons. The list now includes the categories of pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, fetishists, sadomasochists, pedophiles, exhibitionists and kleptomaniacs. It would be pointless trying to guess where this fire will jump next, for imagination simply fails.

discriminateMany discrimination laws seem to be advocated more for political advantage or to push a social agenda that many find abhorrent, but no one disagrees with the underlying truth that people ought to be treated with justice and dignity.

Like every law that attempts to force people to be nice to one another, discrimination laws are doomed to fail at anything but a superficial level. We may prevent or punish direct harm, but people are not made compassionate by threats of violence. As Dr. Martin Luther King once said:

It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me.

~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Western Michigan University speech (1963)

The Church recognizes both the Christian duty to treat other people with respect and the inability of government to create that result by force of law:

Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that “everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as ‘another self,’ above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity.” No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a “neighbor,” a brother.

~ Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶ 1931

When considering modern anti-discrimination laws, we should be mindful that the discrimination laws of an earlier era—the malignant Jim Crow laws—were also brought to us by government: racial segregation of restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains, segregation of the military, public schools, public places, and public transportation. All of it deservedly came to an end in the sixties.

If equality under the law had been the end of it, the wounds of that injustice might have begun to heal by now, but the government hardly missed a beat in moving from segregation into a quota system and affirmative action, thereby enshrining the evil it sought to eliminate.

Discrimination laws are counterproductive. The one place that favoring one person over another ought to be forbidden is in government. Unfortunately government at its core is an institution hopelessly dedicated to favoring one man over another; taking from one and giving to another.

On the other hand, attempting to punish discrimination by private individuals is a futile exercise that does more harm than good. With the expansion of protected classes of workers, employers must be careful in hiring. Not many managers are likely to hire a person who may not work out when they know that the applicant cannot be fired without raising the possibility of a discrimination lawsuit.

Of course no employer would admit—and we will never know—how many pregnant women, blacks or old guys like me might have been given jobs if it were not for discrimination laws that make us radioactive.

The government could not have designed a better system to keep hatreds alive. If the federal government had stopped with the repeal of earlier discrimination laws, there was a chance that old hurts would heal and new resentments would not be fed, but government cannot leave well enough alone. Equality under the law might have been as simple as letting everyone stand up and be free, but within the logic of government, equality under the law is achieved just as well when every man is trampled as when every man is free.

[excerpted from Free is Beautiful]

Don't tread on your neighbor

What is a libertarian?

Anarcho-Ichthus-favSometimes it makes my head hurt to think about the labels used by libertarians. I am a libertarian. By that, I mean I oppose the initiation of violence by anyone, including the government.

When it comes to achieving this objective, I agree with Jeffrey Tucker, who wrote last spring:

“I’m interested in only one thing: progressive reductions of the role of all government power in people’s lives all the way to zero if possible. Whatever brings that about, in whatever sector it happens, and whether it happens slowly by steps or all in one fell swoop, I’m for it. I really don’t care who or what makes a contribution to this end or how it comes about, so long as it is ethical and it actually achieves the aim of human liberation, the mother of all progress, order, and higher civilization.”

voluntary

Of course, we can make common cause with small-government conservatives, constitutionalists or the many varieties of minarchists (meaning “minimal rule”), but ultimately, their political goals are only pit stops along the way to a free society.

Other libertarians prefer to describe themselves as “voluntaryists,” a perfectly good term used to convey the idea that people’s interactions should be voluntary and free of government force. It’s too bad most people–quite understandably–confuse voluntaryism with with volunteerism.

Anarchism

Other libertarians go all out and proudly embrace the “anarchist” label, ignoring all the negative, socialist and violent associations that have been attached to that name for over a century. If that was the only problem with the term “anarchism” it might be redeemed, but there are other difficulties. Old terms are often worth salvaging, but what makes anarchism particularly prickly are the many socialists, communists and other unredeemed statists that cluster like barnacles to the ship of anarchy. One can readily get a feel for this group at places like Reddit, here and here.

They seem to understand that the word anarchism must connect with the idea of a stateless society, but they have no shame in kicking the state out the front door while leaving the back gate open for it. They want to get rid of the government and its “racist prisons and war,” and its union-busting, crony capitalism, patented GMO crops and whatever else they hate about the state. [See example: here.]

On the other hand, this variety of anarchist wants the state to break up shareholder-owned businesses and then subsidize worker buy-outs; it wants state power to weigh in on the side of labor over employers, and wants the post office to subsidize “journals of opinion.”

We quickly realize that this sort of anarchist is just a statist who hopes that someday he will get to hold the whip. It seems anarchism is a slippery brand. Perhaps it can be redeemed. Gerard Casey makes a close approach in his new book “Libertarian Anarchism: Against the State.

Left-Libertarians

Another group that tries to play nice with the left side of the aisle calls themselves–not inappropriately– “Left Libertarians.” They tend toward distrust of all institutions (not just government), but they vary as to their rejection of using government-like force to achieve their objectives. Some of them are really just looking to hold the whip.

Some of these left-libertarians call themselves “bleeding heart libertarians.” They favor a society that frees the market and empowers the poor by removing all state subsidies, protections and grants of monopoly power that now favor some people over others. The idea is that a level playing field (a “freed” market) will tip the equilibrium back toward the little guy, without using government force to correct the inequities. I find the idea appealing myself. Some left-libertarians of this type would be Gary Chartier and Roderick Long.

Recognizing a libertarian

When it comes to figuring out who is a libertarian, I have found the simplest course is to ask if a person wants to use the government to push me around. Will he or she leave me alone or will they force me to pay for their pet project? A person shows his libertarian chops–not when he want to legalize drugs because he is a dopehead–but when he wants to legalize drugs, even while disapproving of drug use.

Pacifists

peace signThere is one interesting group which libertarians can live with peacefully, despite significant differences. These are the pacifists, by which I mean people who reject all violence, even violence used in self-defense or the defense of others.

Sure, there are some people who call themselves pacifists, but what they mean by their “pacifism” is that they do not like war. Welcome to the club.

Other “pacifists” will not use force in self-defense, but will call on others for their defense. Let us set aside these half-baked pacifists and consider pacifists like Gandhi, Tolstoy, Ammon Hennacy or the Amish. These are perfectly good allies for libertarians.

While a libertarian does not believe that anyone (or any group) may initiate violence against another, the pacifist goes one step further. She not only refuses to aggress against another person, she refuses to use violence to respond to aggression upon herself or others.

For such a person, it follows that if she refuses to support her own government in fighting against an enemy, then surely the pacifist will not lend support to a government that uses–or threatens to use–violence against me, her neighbor. She is going to leave me alone and that is what I want.

And I will leave her alone. I may ask her to join me in protecting our neighborhood from an invader and she will refuse. As a libertarian, I have no right to force her to fight for me; no right to extort money from her for my cause. Each of us respects the other’s right to live in peace.

As I see it, not every libertarian is a pacifist, but every pacifist must be a libertarian.

Ama-gi

Here, have a war. No thanks, I’m trying to give them up

Catholic LibertarianNobel peace prize winner, Barack Obama, has decided to commit acts of war against Syria but wants the U.S. Congress to give its approval first. The reason is to punish Syria for its alleged use of poison gas to kill more than 1000 of its citizens.

Perhaps there is some desire to assist the Syrian opposition, which–along with their allies–have their own record of brutal murder of Syrian Christians.

To intervene in another land’s quarrel is always dangerous–even when the moral choice is clear–but when the choice is murky, the only certainty is that U.S. intervention will lay even more innocent people in their graves as collateral damage to killing some bad guys.

Consider, also, our own children; those we send to do the our killing. Middle-aged presidents do not fight; nor do Congressmen, nor most of the voters. The question is the same as one posed almost fifty years ago during another war:

As a father, I must look at my son, and I must ask if there is anything I possess—any right, any piece of property, any comfort, any joy—that I would ask him to die to permit me to keep. I must ask if I believe that it would be meaningful—after his mother and I have loved each other and begotten him and loved him—for him to die in a lump with a number hanging around his neck. I must ask if his life would have come to meaning or nobility or any usefulness if he should sit—with his human hands and head and eyes—in the cockpit of a bomber, dealing out pain and grief and death to people unknown to him. And my answer to all these questions is one that I must attempt to live by: No.

~ Kentucky teacher, poet, novelist and farmer Wendell Berry, “A Statement Against the War in Vietnam,” 1968.

If an enemy were invading my own country, trying to kill my family, my sons and my daughter, my friends and neighbors, I would stand with them to defend the people I love on the land that I know. I cannot say the same about making war around the world, whatever the justification.

The government has a track record too long and too clear to believe that any good will come of it. We will lose our sons. We will kill their sons in battle and their mothers and daughters on the sidelines. That much we know with certainty.

skulls

What we cannot be sure of is when our meddling will ignite the next world war. When that comes, most of our youngsters–the ones sensible enough to have had other plans–will be forced to make war for this government. Their parents will send them, but the parents will not go.

The parents will not even have to pay for the guns and the bombs, because the money for war can always be borrowed or printed, secured by the promise that our children and grandchildren (if they survive) will pay it back after their fathers have died, warm in their beds.

It is hard to imagine any overseas war worth the price.