As someone who loves to debate and can never turn away from an argument (even if I generally should), I can say I’ve engaged in hundreds of discussions in my life with all sorts of people. Some of them are with those who are as interested in political and economic issues as myself, and while I usually fundamentally disagree with them, at least it’s clear that they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what they believe and that they’ve done plenty of research to support their arguments. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people I have argued with have an extremely limited knowledge of history and politics, and if not an outright disdain for economics then barely any knowledge of the subject.
While there is obviously nothing wrong with not being interested in certain subjects, it always amazes me how everyone believes they are entitled to an opinion on those matters. Few would seriously attempt to disagree with a physicist on matters of Physics for very long (when they do, they’re called climate change deniers and are generally held in contempt by society), just like people who don’t read many books or write much themselves would hardly attempt to criticize a writer’s grammar. Yet Economics seems to be open to any opinion, however little research or thought has gone into it.
“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance”.
– Murray Rothbard
What amazes me (although it is so widespread that I can hardly call myself actually amazed), is that the vast majority of people, if not all, who remain in their state of ignorance support a violent political system. Somewhat through denial, but mostly as a consequence of how little rational thought has actually gone into their opinions, they will rarely admit that the system they support is one based on violence. And yet any system that relies on taxation is by definition based on violence and the threat of violence. I’ve said this in so many previous essays that I don’t see a point in rewording myself again; so, borrowing from a previous essay:
“What happens if you disagree and refuse to pay [your taxes]? First, you are threatened with added fees. If you continue to refuse, the fees continue to pile up, until, eventually, you get a knock on your door, and men with a special paper stamped by a special person claim they have the right to enter your own home. You are then kidnapped, taken into a special car – by force if necessary – and brought into a special room where, if you stand by your principle of refusal, you are swiftly told that you will serve a certain amount of time in a special cage. If you try to refuse this last command, and attempt an escape, you are likely to be shot, harmed, or forced to accept an even lengthier sentence”. Remember that all of this in response to completely non-violent behavior: a punishment for a victimless crime.
That taxation requires violence is an undeniable fact – one about which there can literally be not even a shadow of a doubt. Indeed, not a single political or economic philosopher of any persuasion has ever attempted to deny that any system of governance is backed by force. Only through ignorance or sheer will of denial can this fact be challenged (although generally it is simply ignored).
It seems to me that, especially considering the vast amount of literature and evidence supporting the view that government is not necessary to accomplish anything, if you’re going to be ignorant of economics (which, as I’ve said, should in no way be held against anyone) then the default political view should be a non-violent one. Some will say that there isn’t any serious evidence for this at all. To that I would simply point people to the dozens of warnings that Austrian economists gave of the looming financial crisis – a meltdown that no mainstream economists, for all their fancy formulas, managed to predict. Clearly, Austrian economists know what they’re talking about – and yet they also believe in little or no government at all.
People should, lacking strong interest or bountiful evidence, automatically support a completely or almost completely non-violent view, simply for the fact that, lacking much evidence to support either, it should be clear that the non-violent view is morally superior. After all, if you support the non-violent view and turn out to be wrong, at least no one was unjustly harmed or imprisoned as a result of your beliefs. If you subscribe to a violent (statist) view, however, and it turns out you were wrong – how many people were robbed (taxed), kidnapped (imprisoned), and harmed in the process?
This highlights another strange social phenomenon: anarcho-capitalists (and other anarchists) are supposed to be able to detail solutions to almost every single social problem. This despite the fact that 5,000 years of governments has failed to produce almost a single society not ridden with problems and in which a significant minority does not feel contempt for the current rulers. It appears to me that the burden of proof should be on those who support achieving their social goals through violent means. The default should be non-violence – something everyone accepts when applied to his or her own individual morality.
It’s an impressive feat of moral acrobatics when people clamor for increased state power for regulating (by the threat of violence) the most mundane of behaviors (such as smoking cigarettes) and in the next breath proudly claim Gandhi as one of their heroes for managing to end discrimination in an entire country through nonviolent means (a social goal that was clearly hundreds of times harder to achieve than making people stop smoking). What is abundantly clear is that anyone, informed or not, who supports the State has no business calling themselves supporters of nonviolence. The State is the epitome of finding violent solutions to social problems that cause no physical harm to anyone.