Archive | August 10, 2010

The Politics of Equality

The following letter appeared in today’s Opelika-Auburn News:

Peace Freedom Equality Etc.

To the Editor:

Elizabeth Rutland writes that the debate over gambling needs to focus on the moral issues (Sunday, “Bingo issue is a matter of morality, not legality”).

I agree, but I think she misses the major moral issue: Is it moral to ban gambling? Do we have a moral right to interfere with the possibly mistaken personal choices of other people, using the violence of government to subordinate their judgment to our own?

The answer is no. Other people are not our property. It’s a sin to treat them as though they were.

In the words of Jesus: “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them; but it shall not be so among you.”

Roderick T. Long

(The tone of Ms. Rutland’s letter led me to believe that Jesus was an authority she might think highly of.)

This reminds me that my second reply to Carol Robicheaux, sent on June 4th, was never published. Here it is:

Bonaparte enthroned

To the Editor:

I thank Carol Robicheaux for her polite response (May 31) to my letter.

At the time of the American Revolution, its supporters were challenged to name any recent successful examples of representative democracy. They couldn’t; nearly every developed country was a monarchy.

Contrary to what the challengers were implying, though, this wasn’t because representative democracy is unworkable; it’s because until 1776, monarchists had forcibly suppressed every attempt to establish such a system.

Robicheaux likewise challenges me to name a successful modern large-scale anarchist society. Obviously there hasn’t yet been one, for the same reason.

However, there are many modern examples of people living under governments while autonomously organizing every public service from roads to security to healthcare, without government involvement, and indeed despite government’s actively hostile attempts to suppress such efforts.

“How, and with what resources,” Robicheaux asks, could people could do this? I answer: how and with what resources does government do it? Government has no resources of its own; it simply redistributes other people’s resources, mainly from poorer to richer.

Am I out to abolish “rules and structure,” as she says? No, anarchy is the abolition of rulers, not of rules. We’re not against institutions, we’re just against giving any institution a force-backed monopoly.

Robicheaux thinks most people are well-intentioned and capable, but worries about those who aren’t. So do I. That’s one of the reasons I’m opposed to giving some people power over other people – because people who aren’t well-intentioned or aren’t capable can cause a lot more trouble when they wield political power.

She doesn’t explain what she thinks is “problematic” about working within the existing system while working toward a better one, so I’ll have to leave that point unaddressed.

Roderick T. Long

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