Monday, January 25, 2016

Toward the Voluntary Society: An Introduction

The flag of anarcho-capitalism doesn't have to be the only standard in a voluntary society, but it would certainly be one.

All too often, political philosophy is an exercise in utopianism, the construction of imaginary, idealized societies. On their face, these visions are impossible to realize given disparate human motivations, actions, and desires. The processes proposed are also frequently illogical, invoking non sequitur after non sequitur in their explication.

Marxism is perhaps the most famous example. On his projected path to a stateless, classless communist society, Karl Marx predicted that, despite their own rising standards of living, the working classes in prosperous capitalist economies would revolt against the owning and ruling classes. Thereafter, socialist dictatorships would be established to control every aspect of cultural and economic development in order to eventually eliminate all human inequality. Then, somehow, this totalitarian state would simply surrender all of its power, giving way to a completely free society, where each individual person would produce according to his ability and consume according to his need. Though all attempts at its practical application have failed at every step, Marxist ideology is still immensely popular for obvious reasons.

The reasons why Marxism would never work should be equally obvious, but I’m not writing today to critique Marx. Rather, I want to introduce another political philosophy and explicate it without magical thinking or utopian idealism. The voluntary society I will describe may be no more achievable than Marx’s communist paradise, but I think it can be approached much more closely through the application of ideologically consistent libertarian philosophies and realistic political processes.

All of this presupposes that human freedom is a desirable outcome. I can understand and accept that not everyone shares this goal. Indeed, slave states have flourished throughout human history and have created widely revered cultural landmarks. For those who see such states as the superior way to live, nothing that I can say or do will ever change their minds. Instead, I want to chart a possible course for those who do value human freedom but struggle to understand why the current paradigm also appears to be failing to deliver it.

I will follow with a series of essays discussing various aspects of the voluntary society and how they might realistically be achieved. None of these will demand the adoption of any one model of social or economic organization. In fact, I will argue that all organizational models are permissible within a voluntary society so long as they adhere to just two fundamental moral principles.

On that moral foundation, we can move toward the voluntary society in a logical fashion. This will also account and allow for human differences that other political philosophies have simply and improbably hoped to erase. The choices demanded won’t be easy by any means, and some of the ancillary outcomes that will be implied may be disconcerting where they can’t be mitigated, but this is the only path toward lasting freedom—one that won’t vanish in the mirage of utopian fantasy.

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