July 29, 2013

“Voluntaryism”

By In C.Jay Engel

Should we use the term voluntaryism to exemplify our view?  Certainly, in recognizing that we hold physical coercion –or threat of physical coercion –to be a crime, this means by its very definition that we believe all normal activity among mankind should be voluntary.

 

But I contend that the problem with systematic voluntaryism is that it ignores the demands of justice in that it goes beyond the so-called non-aggression principle (NAP) wherein the initiation of aggression demands punishment.  If NAP notes that initiating aggression is wrong, it is voluntaryism that will halt the legality of a punishment.  That is to say, the criminal must “volunteer” himself to be punished because he cannot be coerced against justly.  If all activity depends on voluntary approval, then no activity can be done to enforce the just laws.  A libertarianism as developed by Murray Rothbard would avoid this problem by noting that the criminal is not required to approve coercion against him since, in conducting crime, he has given up some of his rights to be free from coercion.

 

Now, the critic will generally have two responses.  On one hand, there are some who might affirm with what was stated above that no coercive action should ever be taken, even against the criminal.  For the way to handle crime in this worldview is not by coercion at all but by pacifist means such as banishment or a state community neglect and a shunning of private businesses against the man.  He will then have no place to go but away.  And also there is another group who would respond that they hold to voluntaryism insomuch as the non-criminal should volunteer all that is done to him, but they would affirm that the criminal who acted aggressively against his fellow man has indeed given up the right to volunteer that which is done to him.

 

Regarding the first group, we can see where here we cannot name ourselves voluntaryists.  For they lack an mindset for the necessity and goodness of justice!  And regarding the second group, we would ask that they also reconsider the use of the label voluntaryist on the simple basis that by their own argument they have conceded that they, along with us, do not see “voluntary” action as the chief principle for all of life.  For if voluntary action was of higher principle than justice, they would be in the first group.

 

Rather, we embrace wholeheartedly the term “libertarian,” aware that “anarchism” is not entirely useful and “voluntaryism” is misleading.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com