Down With Power Audiobook!

L. Neil Smith's

Number 829, July 12, 2015

The ancient symbol of revolt against
oppressive authority, unconstitutional
usurpation, and punitive taxation

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On Ruthlessness
by Boris Karpa
[unknown email]

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

I'd like to talk a bit about why it pays off for a revolutionary to be shameless, fearless, and ruthless.

Today's discussion is that of ruthlessness.

Bryan Caplan has pointed out recently that the state—and other oppressors, like drug cartel leaders—play on the human sense of empathy when they pretend to be charitable, by handing out "welfare payments" or "charity" to the needy. The needy are often legitimately in need of help. There legitimately are poor people who are often legitimately not to blame for their circumstance. But your natural compassion for these people is often used by the state as a justification for its authority. Very possibly if we abolished the modern state (to transition to some kind of libertarian, minarchist, or anarchist society), many of these people would suffer in the short term financially. In the long term, private charity might take over to some extent, but there are three important points to be made:

1. Lots of people would suffer in the short term.

2. There's no guarantee that private charity would adequately help everybody. Libertarianism is STILL a moral option, even if private charity raises less resources for certain good causes than the state does.

3. The government uses its welfare functions as a justification for many of its violent functions. For example, government subsidies of health care costs are used to justify things like helmet laws and drug laws. More indirectly, people who see the poor as 'welfare leeches' are more likely to support police violence against them. It might be worth giving the poor less money if the upshot is less laws under which they'll be imprisoned, shot, or have their freedoms violated

The state—and its supporters—use your natural sympathy to short-circuit appeals to logic by the above. It pays to reply by some measure of ruthlessness if you want to steady yourself morally for the abolition of the modern state.

But there is another way in which the state abuses your natural sympathy to victims of misfortune. It's a common cultural trope that a victim of a horrible crime (real or imagined) is trotted out as a poster child for a new restriction of human liberty.

  • Victims of family abuse by drunken husbands were trotted out in the run-up to prohibition.
  • Victims of terrorist attacks are trotted out to justify torture and mass-surveillance.
  • Victims of mass-shootings are trotted out to justify gun control. Holocaust survivors are trotted out to justify 'hate speech' laws.
  • Child kidnapping victims are used to justify the endless paranoia about child abductions.
  • Rape victims become poster children for wearing down the presumption of innocence.
  • The victims of an unfortunate murder by an undocumented migrant are made the poster children for more restrictions on the freedom of movement.
  • Some bright soul who places a firework on his head and dies is the poster child for more bans on fireworks.

These aren't just 'uncomfortable infringements on our freedom', they can and do cost lives, destroy families, place innocent people in prison.

Of course, this feeling of compassion is difficult to turn around and use for good, because the statists dominate the media and most social institutions. When a victim of a school shooting comes out against gun control, they're ignored, not made into a poster child.

In the world where people of dubious moral standing use their hold on your compassion to destroy your freedom, to be ruthless is a reasonable short-term tactic.

Ayn Rand wrote: "It is believed that the poverty of the future tenants gave them the right to my work. That their need constituted a claim on my life. That it was my duty to contribute anything demanded of me. This is the second-hander's credo now swallowing the world. "

Ayn Rand talked about welfare payments consuming your tax bill, but the same second-hander's credo can also devour your freedom. This ruthlessness feeds into the moral panics that destroy lives and drive us away from any decency.

When a person says, "my child died; my dead child's blood is now a claim on your freedom," yes, you could argue the efficiency of the specific measure they propose. But the truth is, you should reject any claim that they have on you. You weren't there, your friends weren't there, you do not owe them a single inch of your freedom.

Now you do not have to use those very words. But in your heart, the answer to a person who says that their loved ones' blood is a claim on your freedom should always be: "Fuck you, and die in a fire."

That is all, and may God continue to Bless America.

Reprinted from Facebook with permission of author.

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