Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 562, March 21, 2010

"I'd had better hopes for America."

Previous Previous Table of Contents Contents Next Next

Rothbard's Button
by Jim Davidson

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

"The abolitionist is a 'button pusher' who would blister his thumb pushing a button that would abolish the State immediately, if such a button existed."
—Murray Rothbard

My friend and mentor, the late Michael van Notten once asked me about a button. He explained that at a conference, a guy named Murray Rothbard had spoken about a button of his own invention. You pushed the button and the entire state disappeared. Every state, everywhere. All the state agencies. All the state powers. All the state apparatus. One button, one push, all gone.

So Michael's question to me was very simple. Given that such a button existed, and was put in front of me, would I push the button. I said yes. And, as Humphrey Bogart says at the end of "Casablanca" that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Is it prudent to push that button? I think it is. I think it is the thing everyone who has seen the violence, depredations, suffering, viciousness, brutality, wars, and evil of the state ought to do—to push that button in every way possible, every day, every time the opportunity comes to you.

Now, on a recent episode of the show "Anarchy Time" one of the panellists, Mandie Cunningham, said she thought it would be a mistake to push the button. People were not educated. People did not know enough about how to survive without the state. People would just set up another state right away.

To which I say, fine. Push the button anyway. Those who don't want the state and don't need it can live for a time without the state. Those who instantly start setting up a new state are at least going to be further away from the corruption and brutality that signifies the state today. Their state will be newer, brighter, perhaps attracting people of greater nobility, better motives, less certainty that they can get away with crap. And less experienced at finding ways to steal everything, kill everyone, rape freedom, and impose suffering.

People aren't very well educated, but they never have been. And, by and large, never will be. If educating everyone in how to get along without the state were going to end the state, wouldn't we see some signs of it? This gradualist ideology of political libertarianism has been attempted under the rubric of the Libertarian Party since 1971 and in that time we have seen no progress. We have seen the national budget grow by 18 times from about $210 billion to about $3.8 trillion. We've seen more and more powers taken up by the state, more and more liberties assaulted, fewer and fewer reasons to believe that the system is interested in privacy, liberty, the rights of the accused, or any of the other constitutional limits on power.

Education is a gradualism that never accomplishes freedom from the state. So it is a sort of capitulation. We have to work within the system—but working within the system has produced no results. The political approach has utterly failed. We have to work to educate the people first, then we can push the button and end the state. But people never seem to learn, or even listen. They were not listening, they did not know how. What makes you think they would listen now?

On the other hand, what about you personally. If you could push a button today and not have to deal with the state, would you? I would. And I do push that button as often as possible, sometimes several times a day.

I don't seek the state in my interactions. I don't work on terms that would cause me to earn income. Because I don't earn any income, I have no employer. Nobody withholds income tax and payroll taxes from me. These are great blessings. It is a huge frustration to have to deal with "all that" stuff even for clients. I don't register to vote, I don't vote, I don't run for office, and I would refuse any office in any government at any level if I were appointed. I give nothing to the state when I can possibly avoid doing so, and I take nothing from the state when I can possibly avoid doing so.

What's more, I think this approach is very widespread. In April 2008, about 138 million Americans filed some form of personal income tax paper (including extensions) according to a press release issued by the IRS. In November 2008, about 131 million Americans voted in the presidential election and at other levels. In April 2009, about 130 million Americans filed some form of personal income tax paper. So, not only are these uneducated people not seeking out the state, they seem to be withdrawing in ever greater numbers.

There are around 309 million Americans in the country. About 58% of them aren't interested in voting and aren't interested in filing taxes. Now, that may be overstating the case for withdrawal, since some of those people are children. About 75 million or so are under the age of 18, so they wouldn't be allowed to vote in this bigoted society. And, of course, some of those between the ages of 8 and 18 have jobs, work on farms, have paper routes, collect aluminium cans and refundable bottles, mow lawns, vacuum swimming pools, babysit, or work in "actual" jobs with actual employers actually collecting part of every pay cheque and sending the state a lot of money to pay the death merchants for bombs and bullets to slaughter little children in foreign countries.

But that still leaves about 104 million or so who aren't playing any more. For about that many Americans, for one reason or another, due to eligibility issues having to do with past conviction for a felony, or due to being fed up with the system, or due to something else, something over a hundred million Americans have pushed the button as best they can.

My advice for those who want to be free and sovereign: push Murray Rothbard's button. Think up new ways every day to push that button. Push it good and hard.

The goal of the abolitionists who wanted to end slavery was: total abolition, right now, today. For many years they worked toward that goal even though they had very little means for it. Abolitionists like Harriet Tubman made that goal real for many individual slaves. And, in a way, freedom from the oppression, the violence, the coercion, the brutality, and the impositions of the state is the last stage in abolition. The state says you are their slave, to be preyed upon, taxed, drafted, sent to war, killed, raped, investigated, surveilled, watched, pushed through a millimetre wave radar beam at the airport so nasty trolls can look at you naked (and at your children, by the way, the pervs).

And I say you are free. You and I are free, not slaves.

Push Rothbard's button. You'll be glad you did.

Thus, Read declared that "If there were a button on this rostrum, the pressing of which would release all wage-and-price controls instantaneously I would put my finger on it and push!" The libertarian, then, should be a person who would push a button, if it existed, for the instantaneous abolition of all invasions of liberty—not something, by the way, that any utilitarian would ever be likely to do.

"The genuine libertarian, then, is, in all senses of the word, an 'abolitionist'; he would, if he could, abolish instantaneously all invasions of liberty, whether it be, in the original coining of the term, slavery, or whether it be the manifold other instances of State oppression. He would, in the words of another libertarian in a similar connection, 'blister my thumb pushing that button!'"

Like this? Why not pay the author!
Select amount then click "Donate Now"

Pay to Jim Davidson

Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, and anti-war activist. His 1990 venture to offer a sweepstakes trip into space was destroyed by government action as was his free port and prospective space port in Somalia in 2001. His 2002-2007 venture in free market money and private stock exchange was destroyed by government action in 2007. He's going to Mars if he has to walk. His second book, Being Sovereign is now availble from Lulu and Amazon. His third book Sovereign Self-Defence will be released for Kindle very soon. His fourth book Being Libertarian will be available for free download as a .pdf, being a compilation of all his essays and letters in The Libertarian Enterprise since 1995. Contact him at or


Help Support TLE by patronizing our advertisers and affiliates.
We cheerfully accept donations!

Big Head Press