5.12, Whence Comfortable Oppression?

This particular puritanical libertarian finds himself constantly running into a kind of resistance to his efforts to expand liberty (property rights, voluntary production and trade) and all the fruits he is sure lie therein. He is no longer surprised to encounter otherwise thoughtful and sincere men who argue from the following always unstated but always embraced by the will of he who resists: “Some oppression is necessary”. Aghast, this puritanical libertarian begins to invite the resistor to explicitly embrace (be a man about it) what is otherwise implicitly embraced. To no avail.

The resistor has a tiresome litany of objections. Almost all of them involve the following value judgment: “It is better that some have control over others than that none have such control.” The some who have the control over others are either criminals or the state. The former is disavowed easily. It is the latter that seems necessary. What makes the otherwise thoughtful and usually sincere resistor so dogmatically opposed to pursuing a world in which there is more and not less monopoly control over others?

The answer cannot be given satisfactorily. That is, there is no good answer. Very often the puritanical libertarian is accused of being an idealist and it is claimed that his view of things is impractical. In one sense yes. He has an ideal of human interaction that it is difficult to imagine could ever be fully and completely instantiated. Otherwise, there will always be evil. Yawn. So?

What the resistor calls practical is, in logical extension, slavery, assault (sexual or otherwise) and theft–all of which involve the breach of contract known historically as the breaking of promise. Why does the resistor accept the legitimacy of some evil instead of seeking its total and complete eradication, at least in ideal? Again, no satisfactory answer can be given. As the ancients understood, good is to be sought and evil avoided. There can be no satisfactory explanation for why some choose evil. But there it is in the hear of any and all who choose freely the preference for some oppression.

Such are of several kinds. First, and most innocently, they are confused about the longterm consequences of state power. Having grown up in and grown used to the state they tremble at what they see as the vacuum of trouble that would fill its void if removed. This is one who wants best but does not see clearly what would be best. He has to be brought to see that sex, eating social relations, and even transfers of other goods (taxation) are all best when completed voluntarily. That it is so hard to convince him is simply to be chalked up to the power of habit and familiarity and the great fear that unfamiliarity incites in the human animal. What is wild is that he may be married (voluntarily), may fruitfully engage in trade voluntarily (within the limited scope allowed by the state), and will ALWAYS direct his own body according to his exclusive control and balk at any effort to force him otherwise–that is until he finds himself in discussions about what is best. Then he will revert to the principle that it is best when some control others.

Second, he may be a beneficiary of the control exerted over others. He may have calculated shrewdly and clearly that he is better off if others are controlled for his benefit. This man finds himself in league with the thief, the assaulter, the slave master, the rapist. The puritanical seeks to boycott this one. He is not to be trusted.

Third, and most tragically, he may sense that speaking up may lead to attention from the controller. And so he refrains from drawing such attention by vocalizing explicitly his support for the controller of others. This may be best. This man is lying. And that raises one of many interesting questions. What of the lie under oppression? What of the speaking of what is not true under the commitment to its truth not to control others but to prevent the controller from gaining an interest in the activity of he who would otherwise only be for voluntary interactions.

The puritanical libertarian has much sympathy with the third. The first is confused. The second is evil. The third is? Let us go there. Let us meditate on support for the state that is disingenuous. Let us meditate on what stands out as one of the preeminent moral principles: truth-telling. Are there limits? Is the lie ever justified? Is it an accident that this puritanical libertarian writes anonymously and only engages in the pursuit of wisdom in voluntary interactions and ceases the moment he senses that his speech may be attended to by he who is in league with those who seek to control others?

What makes this question harder for this puritanical libertarian is that he was raised in the best of idealistic moral codes. As a child he was held to high standards. As an adult he is voluntarily employed as a philosophy professor (whatever that entails). Oh, the latter are lovers of principle and lovers or reality in its deepest sense. Those who pursue being (as opposed to becoming) have a hankering for the absolute, the fixed, the in principle.

And so, the “never lie” principle remains an important one. Hammurabi’s code bans bearing false witness. The much later Hebrew commandments from the god also ban false witness. Buddha’s eightfold path involves right speech. Socrates says in his Crito that one of his fundamental moral principles is to keep promises. Jesus says to speak so sincerely that your “yes” and “no” are sufficient without the added “I promise” of an oath. Aquinas says that truth telling is a fundamental piece of the natural law. Kant says that the categorical imperative involves never making lying promises. And so on.

From this the puritanical libertarian has often inferred (an ideal that may have not been reached given that the statement drawn from the above may not have been safely reached from the above sages) “never lie!”. Thou shalt not lie (ever).

In the next post the puritanical libertarian seeks justification of the above principle with a qualification. It is not that there is not a fixed principle about speech. There are fixed principles. One is the right to self-defense against aggression. Second is the speech that is to be expected from any who engage non-aggressively. So, the question becomes, are you in a state of conflict or are you at peace? This distinction is important and the implications are momentous.

More soon. For now, let us lament the confused and the evil. They are legion. They seek out of ignorance or out of evil to justify oppression and involuntary control of others who are otherwise not engaged in aggression. They are comfortable with oppression.

Published by Purilib

Anonymously interested in grasping the good life.

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  1. Great stuff man! Looking forward to the next part. Would you consider the third actor expedient? Interesting the think that a motivation like fear could manifest in each of your three categories. Regulated by virtue perhaps?


    1. Thanks MV. Expedient in the highest sense of responsive to NL OR fear. The former is at best motivated by preservation and defense of body and property which is distinguishable from the mere feeling of fear. Fear may be felt, but as you say, in the virtuous man it will never be a motive.


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