12 Apr 2016

A Reader Note About Pacifist Strategy

Pacifism 2 Comments

He gave me permission to post here:

I recently viewed a discussion you had about pacifism, and the topic came up: how do we make progress?

I’m an Air Force officer who is currently undergoing a conscientious objector’s application. I’ve thought A LOT about non-violence lately, and have A LOT of opinions about it. One thing I am convinced of is the need for non-violence as a principle of a free society. Violence is used because it’s effective. It’s effective because death settles arguments with utter finality. If we can just remove this finality, we’d have the “wiggle room” to imperfectly stumble through competing standards of law in a polycentric legal marketplace. I’m convinced that we have to treat non-violence as a principle higher even than maybe property rights in many cases. (in that property is useful as a standard when people comprehend and assent to its utility). Okay, this is a longer discussion (how can something be a right, they say, “if you can’t defend it unto death”?)

In any event, I highly recommend the following book: Johnathan Schell’s “The Unconquerable World”. He was a big lefty, but his analysis of power and violence is the best I’ve ever read. If you know military science, you’d understand what I mean when I say that this book is “the sequel to Clausewitz”. Schell discusses the futility of violence in exercising power in a modern context, and a certain almost metaphysical power of non-violence in changing things (no actual metaphysics though, pure political science). There’s a catch though: non-violence is only effective in a certain way. You have to have a certain kind of political organization and active effort for non-violence to exercise power.

What’s most interesting to me about this book is the critical response. Lefties sympathetic to Schell admire his vision but are skeptical of its efficacy. This leads into my diggressant theory that lefties actually love violence if it’s for their team, anyway! I think Shell can be interpreted through a Rothbardian lens, and his principles come alive accordingly.

So, if you haven’t read this book I highly recommend it. Not only for its interesting conclusions about warfare and power, but also its inspiring vision concerning a sort of praxeological method which might be politically useful to our cause. I think the agorists are hitting close to this vision, as is Tom Woods with all his emphasis on marketing skills. The real truth lies, I believe, in finding small pragmatic ways for us to achieve little political victories – something accessible to common man – which serve to fundamentally undermine the state, in aggregate.

I’ll let you read the book, and I think you’ll see what I mean. I think libertarians have been real close to the mark, but we could benefit from a systematized political method here, just to amplify our efforts. A more concrete theory of libertarian political action if you will, so we can get better “synergy”. But also counter the state’s efforts to undermine what we’ve done.

2 Responses to “A Reader Note About Pacifist Strategy”

  1. guest says:

    “Okay, this is a longer discussion (how can something be a right, they say, “if you can’t defend it unto death”?)”

    How can something be a right merely because the majority says it is?

    The legitimacy of what are called “rights” can only be found outside of government, otherwise, we’re just saying that government is right because the government says so.

    Once you use force to rob people of the funds necessary to defend what is rightfully yours, you’ve essentially denied the very basis of the rights you’re trying to defend.

    Rights are rights whether or not you’re capable of defending them. It’s why we use words like “theft” – to convey the idea that, while someone is currently using something, that doesn’t mean they have the right to do so.

    • guest says:

      I believe in the notion of “universally self-evident truths”. Some philosophical backgrounds quibble about this. But, the common truths of human nature define rights. And therefore it is the assent of human choice by individuals, organized according to what’s true and self-evident, rather than organized under authority, that establishes and defends rights.

      This is why non-violence is important. Because only non-violence exercises power by the authority of truth.

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