Godkin’s Law

godkin

The Nation turns 150 this year. (Specifically in July, but they’re celebrating it this week; see also Jesse Walker’s piece on the topic.)

In the 19th century, The Nation was, broadly, a classical liberal magazine, and a successor to anarchist William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist paper The Liberator. Its founder and editor, E. L. Godkin, was a mixed bag; here he is in Jekyll mode and here he is in Hyde mode.

Godkin’s hysterical condemnation of anarchists in the second piece is rather ironic, given both his magazine’s anarchist origins and his praise, in the first piece, for France’s “select group of orthodox economists that still reverence the principles of Turgot and Say” – a group whose leader at that time was Molinari.

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Secret Origin of the Austro-Athenian Empire

john-galt-vallejo

I’ve written before about the 1979 Starlog article “The Science Fiction of Ayn Rand” that introduced me to Ayn Rand – and thereby, ultimately, to philosophy in general, and Aristoteleanism and libertarianism in particular. So, one of the defining moments of my life, really.

Anyway, the first page of the article is now online as an image file here, including the (not especially good) painting of John Galt by the then-less-famous Boris Vallejo; and the rest of the article can be found in ASCII form here.

It all started here, folks.

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Worshipping the Boss

[cross-posted at C4SS]

In an anti-libertarian rant titled “You’re Not the Boss of Me! Why Libertarianism Is a Childish Sham,” David Masciotra charges that libertarianism amounts to the petulant selfishness of a child who resents all restrictions on his or her behavior.

Masciotra conveniently focuses on libertarians’ saying “you have no right to impose stuff on us,” while ignoring its corollaries “we have no right to impose stuff on you” and “you have no right to impose stuff on them.” But then it’s a bit harder to spin the latter two as childish selfishness.

yes-yes-boss

Judging from what he writes and where he writes it, I reckon Masciotra fancies himself a man of the left. There was a time when “Dump the Bosses Off Your Back” was a popular leftist slogan. But the idea of a society without bosses seems to carry no charm for Masciotra.

It’s also telling that Masciotra sees libertarian opposition to being bossed as in tension with “bonds of empathy and ties of solidarity.” Apparently, for Masciotra empathy and solidarity are impossible among equals, and can exist only between benevolent shepherds and their docile, subservient flocks. Libertarians, by contrast, see empathy and solidarity as realized in their fullest and healthiest form between free and equal persons in voluntary, uncoerced, unbossed association.

It seems a safe bet that anyone who ridicules resentment against bosses either is a boss, or aims to be a boss, or wants to curry favour with the bosses. But here at C4SS, our attitude toward bosses — be they politicians and bureaucrats, or corporate beneficiaries of state privilege — is: dump ‘em. In a truly libertarian world, no one will be the boss of anyone else.

 

[Note: for longer discussion of Masciotra’s article, see Sheldon Richman and Kevin Carson.]

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Secret Service Incident Highlights Double Standard

[cross-posted at C4SS]

Imagine the following scenario: You’re driving along one fine evening, pretty thoroughly drunk, and ram your car through police tape and into a barricade. Suppose further that the barricade you’ve smashed into is in front of the White House. For good measure, let’s add that the police tape you broke was marking off an active crime scene — an ongoing bomb investigation, which you’ve now dangerously disrupted.

The cops quickly approach your car. What are your chances of avoiding arrest, or worse?

Oh wait, I forgot to mention that you’re a Secret Service agent. So it turns out you don’t get shot, or tased, or roughed up, or slapped in jail, or even detained. You just go home.

rosco-coltrane-driv

Precisely this scenario unfolded on March 4, with two seemingly intoxicated Secret Service agents crashing into a barricade at the east entrance to the White House grounds, nearly running over a suspicious object that agents on the scene were in the course of investigating as a possible bomb.

Officers on duty wanted to arrest the two or give them sobriety tests, but were instructed by a supervisor to let them go. They’ve been placed in “non-supervisory, non-operational” (but presumably paid) positions pending further investigation. What are the odds that this would have happened to you or me?

Predictably, the incident has led to renewed calls for major reforms of the Secret Service. But the double standard — leniency for the elite in-group, severity for the rest of us — is inherent in the system and cannot be corrected by mere reforms.

Implicit in the idea of a governmental police force, from the Secret Service down to your local beat cop, is inequality of rights. Police by definition are supposed to have rights that other people don’t have: Rights to stop, search, or incarcerate peaceful people, and to use deadly force against those who resist.

But as long as this double standard is inherent in the police system as such, all attempts to reform the system are destined to fail, whether in Staten Island, in Ferguson, or in the Secret Service. So long as power corrupts, and attracts the corruptible, any system characterized by inequality of rights renders abuse inevitable. Reforms that target only the symptoms (abuses) and not their root cause (unequal rights) will achieve, at best, only limited success.

The right to use force in defense of oneself or others is a basic and universal human right. But the rights that police claim for themselves go beyond this. Tossing someone in jail for smoking a joint, or shooting them when they resist being thus kidnapped, cannot plausibly be construed as defense.

ABOLISH THE POLICE

And anything a cop is allowed to do that an ordinary citizen is not — carry a gun, perform arrests, and so on — violates the basic equality of rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (“all men are created equal”) and the Constitution (“equal protection of the laws”).

If we do not wish to perpetuate a two-tiered system of justice, any purported right must either be extended to all or denied to all.

There’s nothing wrong with a group of people choosing careers specializing in rights-protection. But it makes no more sense to give such people special rights, rights denied the rest of us, than it does to give professional bakers the right to prevent you from baking bread in your kitchen. A free society cannot recognize special rights enjoyed by some and denied to others.

So long as we permit the double standard inherent in a system of government police, abuses will continue, and reforms will founder.

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