“Philosophy is pointless.”
Jordan Peterson: “Hold my beer.”
“Philosophy is pointless.”
Jordan Peterson: “Hold my beer.”
If there is anything a libertarian must be squarely and totally against, it is involuntary servitude—forced labor—an act which denies the most elemental right of self-ownership. “Liberty” and “slavery” have ever been recognized to be polar opposites. The libertarian, therefore, is totally opposed to slavery.1 An academic question nowadays, one might object? But is it really? For what is slavery but (a) forcing people to work at tasks the slavemaster wishes, and (b) paying them either pure subsistence or, at any rate, less than the slave would have accepted voluntarily. In sort, forced labor at below free-market wages.
1There is one exception: the punishment of criminals who had themselves aggressed against or enslaved their victims. Such punishment in a libertarian system would at least involve forcing the criminal to work in order to pay restitution to his victim.
Thus, are we really free of “slavery,” of involuntary servitude in present-day America? Is the prohibition against involuntary servitude of the Thirteenth Amendment really being obeyed?2
2Significantly, the Thirteenth Amendment’s only exception is the punishment of convicted criminals mentioned in the previous note: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Surely, for one example, there can be no more blatant case of involuntary servitude than our entire system of conscription. Every youth is forced to register with the selective service system when he turns eighteen. He is compelled to carry his draft card at all times, and, at whatever time the federal government deems fit, he is seized by the authorities and inducted into the armed forces. There his body and will are no longer his own; he is subject to the dictates of the government; and he can be forced to kill and to place his own life in jeopardy if the authorities so decree. What else is involuntary servitude if not the draft?
The utilitarian aspect permeates the argument for the conscription system. Thus the government uses the argument: Who will defend us against foreign attack if we do not employ coercion and conscript our defenders? There are several rebuttals for a libertarian to make to this line of reasoning. In the first place, if you and I and our next-door neighbor think that we need defending, we have no moral right to use coercion—the bayonet or the revolver—to force someone else to defend us. This act of conscripting is just as much a deed of unjustifiable aggression—of kidnapping and possibly murder—as the alleged aggression we are trying to guard ourselves against in the first place. If we add that the draftees owe their bodies and their lives, if necessary, to “society” or to “their country,” then we must retort: Who is this “society” or this “country” that is being used as a talisman to justify enslavement? It is simply all individuals in the territorial area except the youths being conscripted. “Society” and “country” are in this case mythical abstractions that are being used to cloak the naked use of coercion to promote the interests of specific individuals.
Secondly, to move to the utilitarian plane, why is it considered necessary to conscript defenders? No one is conscripted on the free market, yet on that market people obtain, through voluntary purchase and sale, every conceivable manner of goods and services, even the most necessary ones. On the market, people can and do obtain food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc. Why can’t they hire defenders as well? Indeed, there are plenty of people being hired every day to perform dangerous services: forest firefighters, rangers, test pilots, and. . . police and private guards and watchmen. Why can’t soldiers be hired in the same way?
Or, to put it another way, the government employs countless thousands of people for all sorts of services, from truck drivers to scientists to typists; how is it that none of these people have to be conscripted? Why is there no “shortage” of these occupations to supposedly force the government to resort to compulsion to obtain them? To go a step further, even within the army there is no “shortage” of officers and no need to draft them; no one conscripts generals or admirals. The answer to these questions is simple: there is no shortage of government typists because the government goes out on the market and hires them at the market wage; there is no shortage of generals because they are paid handsomely, in salaries, perquisites, and pensions. There is a shortage of buck privates because their pay is—or was, until very recently— abysmally below the market wage. For years, even including the monetary value of the free food, shelter, and other services supplied the GIs, the earnings of the buck private were something like one-half the salary he could have earned in civilian life. Is it any wonder that there has been a chronic shortage of enlistees? For years it has been known that the way to induce people to volunteer for hazardous jobs is to pay them extra as a compensation. But the government has been paying the men half of what they could earn in private life.3
3Cf. James C. Miller III, ed., Why the Draft? (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1968).
There is also the special disgrace of the doctors’ draft, in which physicians are subject to the draft at ages far beyond anyone else. Are doctors, then, to be penalized for their entry into the profession of medicine? What is the moral justification for onerous burdens placed on this particular, and vitally important, profession? Is this the way to cure the shortage of doctors—to put every man on notice that if he becomes a physician he will be sure to be drafted, and at a specially late age? Once again, the armed forces’ need for doctors could easily be satisfied if the government were willing to pay physicians the market salary, plus enough to compensate them for the hazardous labor. If the government wishes to hire nuclear physicists or “think-tank” strategists, it finds ways of doing so at extremely handsome salaries. Are doctors lower forms of humanity?
While conscription into the armed forces is a blatant and aggravated form of involuntary servitude, there is another, far more subtle and therefore less detectable form: the structure of the army itself. Consider this: in what other occupation in the country are there severe penalties, including prison and in some cases execution, for “desertion,” i.e., for quitting the particular employment? If someone quits General Motors, is he shot at sunrise?
It might be objected that, in the case of enlistees, the soldier or officer has voluntarily agreed to serve for a certain term, and he is therefore obligated to continue in service for that term of years. But the whole concept of “term of service” is part of the problem. Suppose, for example, that an engineer signs a contract with ARAMCO to serve for three years in Saudi Arabia. After a few months he decides that the life is not for him and he quits. This may well be a moral default on his part—a breach of moral obligation. But is it a legally enforceable obligation? In short, can he or should he be forced by the monopoly of weaponry of government to keep working for the remainder of his term? If so, that would be forced labor and enslavement. For while it is true that he made a promise of future work, his body continues, in a free society, to be owned by himself alone. In practice and in libertarian theory as well, then, the engineer might be morally criticized for the breach, he may be blacklisted by other oil firms, he may be forced to return any advance pay tendered to him by the company, but he will not be enslaved to ARAMCO for the three-year period.
But if this is true of ARAMCO, or of any other occupation or job in private life, why should it be different in the army? If a man signs up for seven years and then quits, he should be allowed to leave. He will lose pension rights, he will be morally criticized, he may be blacklisted from similar occupations, but he cannot, as a self-owner, be enslaved against his will.
It may be protested that the armed forces is a peculiarly important occupation that needs this sort of coercive sanction that other jobs do not have. Setting aside the importance of such occupations as medicine, agriculture and transportation that need not resort to such methods, let us consider a comparable defense occupation in civilian life—the police. Surely the police perform an equally, and perhaps more vital, service—and yet every year people join the police and quit the force, and there is no coercive attempt to bind their labor through years of enlistment. In addition to demanding the end of conscription, then, the libertarian also proposes to do away with the entire concept of a term of enlistment and the practice of slavery this implies. Let the armed forces operate in ways similar to police, firemen, rangers, private guards, etc.—free of the blight and the moral crime of involuntary servitude.
But there is more to be said about the army as an institution, even if it were made completely voluntary. Americans have almost totally forgotten one of the noblest and strongest elements in the original America heritage: determined opposition to the entire institution of a “standing army.” A government that has a permanent standing army at its disposal will always be tempted to use it, and to use it in an aggressive, interventionist, and warlike manner. While foreign policy will be dealt with below, it is clear that a permanent army is a standing temptation to the State to enlarge its power, to push around other people as well as other countries, and to dominate the internal life of the nation. The original aim of the Jeffersonian movement—a largely libertarian factor in political life—was to abolish the standing army and navy altogether. The original American principle was that if the nation attacked, then the citizens would hasten to join to repell the invader. A standing armed force, then, could only lead to trouble and to the aggrandizement of State power. In the course of his trenchant and prophetic attack on the proposed Constitution in the Virginia ratifying convention, Patrick Henry warned of a standing army: “Congress, by the power of taxation, by that of raising an army, and by their control over the militia, have the sword in one hand, and the purse in the other. Shall we be safe without either?”4
4Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr., The Civilian and the Military (New York: Oxford Universitiy Press, 1956), p. 28. For a trenchant attack by a Jeffersonian theorist on the American executive as a commander-in-chief of the armed forces, see John Taylor of Caroline, An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (1814, rep. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950), pp. 175ff. On the important influence of seventeenth-century English libertarian theorists and their hostility to a standing army upon the American Revolution, see Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), pp. 61-64. Also see Don Higgenbotham, The War of American Independence (New York: Macmillan, 1971), pp. 14-16.
Any standing army, then, poses a standing threat to liberty. Its monopoly of coercive weapons, its modern tendency toward creating and supporting a “military-industrial complex” to supply that army, and last, but not least, as Patrick Henry notes, the taxing power to finance that army, pose a continuing threat of the army’s perpetual expansion in size and power. Any tax-supported institution, of course, is opposed by the libertarian as coercive, but an army is uniquely menacing for its amassing and collecting into one set of hands the massive power of modern weaponry.
The problem that I always have with saying something is “What am I trying to say?” Well, in this piece, I want to discuss “other people” (“other” simply meaning people that aren’t myself). What do I want to discuss about them? And why do I want to discuss “other people”? What types of “other people” am I talking about? For surely there are a great number of varieties of “other people”. Let me try to elaborate further on what I want to say without addressing the questions that I just proposed that I know will follow as a result of what I’ve written thus far.
I like to write about topics that I think about. And I think about other people; namely, how to avoid them. Why they anger me, deject me, etc. I know I’m not alone in thinking that there are, compared to the total number of people that exist or have existed, a small number of people that have a positive influence on me. We all just “exist”. And we all do a great variety of things. It is impossible for me to begin to categorize “human action”. But it is evident that there exist people whom are more “influential” than others, with “influential”, in depth, meaning a variety of things.
I suppose at some point I will discuss those people whom have had a great influence in my life. But, for the moment, I’d rather discuss people that I don’t particularly care for: people that I wish I could avoid, or that I wish I never knew existed. There are a great many of these people around. I know there will be foolish readers, ready to pounce on me for saying this, who will say that I’m some sort of monster, and that I plan on killing these people to rid them from the Earth. Those type of hyperbolic idiots are some of the people that I’m referring to hating and wanting to ignore. People who put words in my mouth, and motivations in my heart. People who are ignorant in areas that I feel less ignorant in. People who feel very proud in pointing out the flaws in others.
…Wait a second. Am I not talking about myself?
Yes, I am.
Just because I do something that I despise in others does not mean I need to like the others who do these things. I am perfectly content with people not liking me for the same reason. There are a lot of problems that I have with other people: one of them being not being able to see the logic of hating someone who does what you do. The common line goes something like “Well you do what you hate in them, so aren’t you a hypocrite?” Yes, I am. Just because I do something, does that, ipso facto, mean that I need to like that in others? For example, what if I am a competitive athlete? Clearly, I want to win. If I want to win, I have to prevent you from winning. So if I want to win, I have to want you to lose. Clearly that’s hypocritical on my part. But is that a problem?
Also, I would argue that if I do something you hate, and you do that very thing and hate the fact that I do it, then that is “socially acceptable” from this standpoint: I have a problem with “peace and love” philosophies. My problem with them is their unrealistic nature. I don’t have a problem with desiring for people to all get along in peace and harmony. But I have a problem with attempts to make this a perfect absolute that doesn’t accept natural humanity: a humanity which includes the fact that everyone just has certain personality traits that they just dislike in others. There’s nothing wrong with disliking certain personality traits in others. That’s part of being human; or, to be more exact, it’s not an unacceptable part of being human. It is an immutable reality that should be accepted, instead of attempting to make it disappear with attempts at “perfect peace and harmony” by saying things like “Just change how you are”, “Just turn that frown upside down”, and other vague shit that no sane person can actually do as intended when they are stated. To suggest that I should like an introvert and extrovert equally just because they are both expressing their natural selves (or just because they are “human”, or because of my own personal flaws) is preposterous. Clearly, there are ethical lines that need to be drawn. I should be punished if I act upon individuals in certain ways for certain reasons. If I kill an extrovert simply for being an extrovert, surely I should be punished. But expecting a “happy” attitude from me on “humanitarian” grounds is extremely inhuman. To be human is to experience emotions, and these emotions are not simply “happiness”. Now, I’m not saying that everything “human” is humane. The desire to kill is human insofar as the desire actually exists within at least some humans. But I’m merely saying that an expectation of perfect happiness is inhumane: humans will experience anger, sadness, and a litany of other emotions that render any attempts at “perfect happiness” absolutely futile and destructive to one’s well-being. There’s nothing wrong with the human emotions of anger, sadness, etc. There are extremes, but this “happiness philosophy” that seems prevalent, whereby some type of “perfect happiness” is achievable, or at least should be worked towards, is, quite simply, naive. Not only that, but it is actually destructive. For when you attempt to achieve the impossible, you can only ruin your sense of happiness. So the more you strive for perfect peace and harmony in the name of happiness, the more unhappy you become.
Now, I will say that a desire towards happiness is reasonable. In fact, I think a desire towards happiness motivates all of our actions. I’ll write about that subject in full detail in another piece, however. But the point is that even though I believe that all action is an attempt towards achieving happiness, the idea of absolute or perfect happiness is what I have a problem with. I have a problem with the idea that any “negative” emotions should not be experienced, and one just needs to, somehow (“willpower”, or something) “put a smile on one’s face”. The moralistic phrases are incredibly vain, as they always are. There’s a reason that it seems as if there’s more depressed smart people than depressed dumb people (or, at least, why the stereotype seems to exist (and stereotypes exist for a reason: they typically aren’t created completely unjustified)). Perhaps there’s not really any “evidence” for that observation, but it seems true, nonetheless.
I don’t understand why things like this never seem to be discussed (perhaps I’m just not looking hard enough in the right places. But the opposing view of “avoiding being critical” seems so loud as to almost be unavoidable). Once again, I accept the fact that peace and harmony are socially desirable. I appreciate attempts to bring them about. But what is missing from these perspectives? In my opinion, in addition to what I’ve already said up to this point, it also comes down to an ignorance of individualism within said humans. What am I getting at here? What exactly is it that I’m wanting? I suppose that, for one, I’m saying that a critique against critique is often unjustified, in my opinion. When someone is critical of something, it seems as if many people will say “Why are you so critical? Why can’t you just be happy?” For one, they never consider that the critique actually makes the critiquing individual happy. It is just assumed that critique should be avoided, for some type of “social acceptance” and “peace and harmony” and whatnot. That’s simply ignorant. Peace and harmony and social acceptance can only exist when individual wills are exercised. There’s no social peace among individuals if the individuals cannot express their individuality.
Now, aren’t those who I am critiquing doing just what I said: expressing their individuality? Yes, they are. But so are rapists. The point is that certain individualistic expressions are deserving of critique, whether or not they have a right to express their individualistic nature without punishment. Critique should not be vilified simply because it is critique. Critique exists for reasons. Clearly, it is up to the critic to present these reasons. But vilifying critique simply because it is critique is awfully fucking stupid. But it has seemed to be prevalent to me for quite some time now. And, obviously, I do not desire for stupid things to be popular (well…I suppose that I’d like to be popular, but I digress).
I can accept the fact that there exist people whom have much less of a propensity for critiquing than others. There are many people much more willing to uncritically accept what is in front of them. That’s fine. But, in my opinion, there does not seem to be enough people willing to defend criticism and critical people. There’s an attempt towards homogenization that is undesirable. There are some very popular exceptions to the rule, such as I Hate Everything. I admire people such as himself who are willing to be highly critical in the face of so much “negative Nancy” talk. I think he handles himself quite well. Interestingly enough, I think there are currently types of critiques that are, quite frankly, just stupid. Without getting into much detail, I’ll merely say that they are typically of the feminist or racial varieties, and leave it at that. Topics for future pieces.
I’m not saying that every critique should be accepted. I’m not saying that all critiques are justified. But I’m merely stating that I see a trend where anytime someone is critical, that person is jumped on by others for being a “negative Nancy”, or some other stupid shit phrase like that. I interpret that to be ignorance from blind people willing to accept whatever is given to them, although I know there are exceptions to that within those who, too often, in my opinion, decry “negative Nancy”.
What about criticisms levied against me? I’m not oblivious to the fact that certain criticisms against me are justified. There’s always justified and unjustified criticisms against everyone. But what is the point of me saying that? The point is that individual wills will be exercised, and that’s the way it should be, regardless of who gets along and who doesn’t; who is more critical than others; who is criticized more than others, etc. I’m not saying that all actions from human will are good. But the point is that humans exercise wills, and that’s how it should be; this includes people who are critical, and people who are critical of those who are critical (which is hypocritical). Criticism is not an aspect of humanity that needs “fixing” to a point where “tolerance” or “acceptance” completely take its place. That’s ludicrous. Criticism is a very important, beneficial social mechanism, and I’m merely trying to defend its existence.
But wait a second: I’m critiquing those who are critical of those who are too critical? Does that mean that I’m one of the very people I’m critiquing for being too critical of the critical? In other words, let’s say B is widely accepted as being a “very critical” person. A critiques B for being too critical. Then I come along and critique A for being too critical of B. Aren’t A and myself the same? Are we not both “critics”, just as much as B is, with the only difference being who is criticized for what reason? Yes. The phrase “everyone’s a critic” comes to mind. A critic is criticized for being critical, then the 2nd critic is criticized by a 3rd for being critical of the 1st critic. It’s all quite silly in the long run. But yet, I don’t think there should be some massive attempt to get rid of it all; particularly, if that’s some “peace and harmony” nonsense in which individual wills are to be subjected to some false ideas about humanity. Acceptance of imperfection is a much healthier perspective to have than to somehow mold everyone into perfect moral beings; especially when you compare different types of “immorality” (such as critical hypocrisy and murder). The point being that, clearly, there are differences between “human imperfections” and what retaliations should occur as results of these various “human imperfections”. However, regardless of the scale of the imperfection, attempts at perfection will always fail. There are realistic, humanitarian ways to handle imperfections (imperfections that exist on a scale). There are simply countless flaws within us that cannot be “fixed”; they simply must be accepted as undesirable realities.
I personally have an affinity for critical people. I enjoy them. They are very rare, it seems. I admire their honesty and bravery in speaking out when they know of the shitstorm they are going to receive because of what they say. Once again, I understand “the shitstorm” is a part of speaking out. But many people alter their words from what they truly believe when a lot of people are listening to them. It appears to me that many critics do not give in to this social pressure, and I greatly admire and respect that from them.
What other types of people would I like to be critical of? I suppose there’s not really any other “group” I would like to criticize, but, rather, I wish to, as I said earlier, just avoid people in general. There are obviously exceptions to this rule. There are obviously people that I enjoy reading, listening to, etc. But the rate of “people that I desire to listen to” compared to “people I desire to ignore” sways heavily towards the ignore side. I know there are many people out there who are like me in that regard, but I’m tempted to say that a majority exists where the “desire to listen to” outweighs the “desire to ignore”, if only to maintain my “me vs. the world” mentality.
I believe that it would be too difficult for me to specify which types of people that I wish to ignore. Obviously, I wish to ignore politicians and media members that lie. I wish to ignore people stuck in never-ending debates about race. I wish to ignore Statist economists. I wish to ignore a great many people, if not the majority of them.
I am perfectly content in being alone. As I said, of course there will be people that I enjoy listening to, reading, etc. But, for the most part, I desire to be alone as much as possible. I can never have enough alone time. I hope to remedy that some point in the future by finally figuring out how to achieve the appropriate amount of “alone” time. I think a successful internet career would do the trick (as long as I was never recognized in public). The only exception to my “alone time” rule is entertainment from others, such as music. Even the introvert needs some form of social stimulation.
What is my point of writing this? Am I looking for people to say “I agree with you”? Am I looking for critique? I’m merely looking to express myself. I don’t know what I’m looking for from you, the reader. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand that at this point (except for, of course, money). We all desire to express ourselves, whether we are accepted or rejected for what we express.
All I can conclude for sure is that I desire to be alone more so than I desire to be around others, I reject the seemingly-common “anti-critic” society in which I live, and I wish to express this as I did in this piece.
Simply, I suppose that’s all this piece meagerly achieved.
(There may be a critique levied against me that I’m unfairly grouping “people” into one homogenous unit. However, from experience, I have found that my feelings around many people are so similar that, for the purposes of this piece, it works).
Above all else, I simply desire to be alone. My dream is to make a living through the internet, with that being my only source of human interaction. My desire is to ignore the mundane conversations that occur in the workplace. The best way I can think of to avoid these is to make a living online. Easier said than done, of course. But this is my lofty goal. I don’t want anything to supersede this goal. At what point will I have “failed” in this goal? Either when I give up or when I die. That’s my timeline. Obviously, I’d rather succeed sooner rather than later. Today rather than tomorrow. But I’m not going to stop writing or doing comedy just because I don’t make a certain amount of money this year or the next. It may influence how much I do these things, depending on what time requirements there are from my job. But I don’t think that my desires to write and be funny are going to disappear just because of a lack of financial success. And if my desires to write and be funny aren’t going to disappear, I don’t see why my desire to make a living from them should disappear, either, regardless of how unrealistic that desire may be.
I do not wish to listen to those who tell me how difficult it will be, that I’m wasting my time, etc.
As I said, I greatly desire to be by myself, away from “other people”. I find most conversations insufferable. Petty, trivial, and stupid. Or I find that the listener doesn’t understand what I’m saying, and I don’t wish to explain, for example, a paper like this in casual conversation when someone asks “What do you mean?” I’d rather ignore the person and write the paper. Or the person actually does understand what I’m saying, but I don’t want to be involved in the conversation. That’s happened plenty of times as well. Writing helps you say what you want to say without people interrupting you. It helps you flesh out all of your thoughts, if you put in the time and effort to do so. And I don’t particularly care if people don’t understand my work. It’s frustrating, but I’m not willing to speak it instead to have people able to interrupt me and ask me questions. I do not desire to elaborate simply for the sake of understanding on the part of the listener. It bores the shit out of me, and does nothing for me. At least for the most part, based on past experience. At least understand what the fuck I’m saying. That’s basically all that I ask of you. And to leave me alone.
Maybe I’ll be able to elaborate more on “other people” at a later date.
Let me attempt to coherently tack on one more string of thoughts here. What is it that our wills should do? How do we know what our wills should do? Are there some courses of action that we “should” take above others? If so, by what criteria do we judge these actions in the hierarchy? I’m sure many responses will be of a religious variety, which I will have to write about at a later date.
There’s never a perfect course of action. Who to listen to, who to ignore, and what to do: all of these things and more I’ll have to figure out for myself in my own way. The choices are overwhelming. All the more reason to work to achieve my “alone” bubble that I so desperately long for……
For all of you old people, text speech (“lol” and stuff) was created because technology limited the number of letters that you could use in each message, so you had to be much more economical than you would had you had a quill, ink, and a herd of sheep from which you could draw parchment.
I don’t know how I’m mentally going to approach life.
All I know is that I’m tired of constantly listening to loved ones, and I want to develop my own personal ideas, even if they’re the exact opposite of those of loved ones or anyone else for that matter, and even if they’re as factually incorrect as can be.
I’d rather spend my entire life developing an independent theory that has continually been proven incorrect over and over again instead of blindly accepting truths simply because other people said them, even if they are absolutely objectively true.
Slowly descending into a self-imposed madness......
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