Frequently Asked Questions:
- Who or what is a voluntaryist?
- Why might I want to be one?
- Isn’t our society already a voluntary one? What is your opinion of Social Contract theory?
- Do you favor capitalism? Socialism? Something Else?
- How do you propose changing society? Are you political activists?
- Where in the world are the Ozarks?
- Is there a way I can support your site?
1) Who or what is a voluntaryist?
Voluntaryism is the doctrine that relations among people should be by mutual consent, or not at all. It represents a means, an end, and an insight. Voluntaryism does not argue for the specific form that voluntary arrangements will take; only that force be abandoned so that individuals in society may flourish.
2) Why might I want to be one?
People could prefer or practice a voluntaryist or libertarian philosophy for a lot of reasons, and we probably all have our own unique motivations. An aversion to the use of force and/or violence, particularly offensive force or initiatory force, as contrasted with defensive force, probably factors into it in some way. Or, more positively, we value peace, consent, reciprocity, and things like that.
3) Isn’t our society already a voluntary one? What is your opinion of Social Contract theory?
To the first question, no. The society we live in presently fails to respect the consent of its members in a number of ways, and the institution of government is one major manifestation of this.
Social Contract theory, at least as a justification for political authority, suffers from flaws which we think the theory’s defenders can not overcome.
We can state a simplified version of Social Contract theory in the following way: The people ruled by governments today, such as U.S. citizens, require their government’s permission to live in, and be present in, the government’s territory. They understand that the government only grants them this permission if they agree to be bound by the Social Contract, i.e. to obey the government’s edicts and be subject to coercion if they disobey. Further, the government benefits them in various ways, and they participate in the system through voting and other actions. These choices, to reside in the government’s territory, to accept benefits from the government, and to participate in the system, qualify as consent to be governed.
We can state a simplified refutation of this simplified description of Social Contract theory in the following manner: First, we know of no reason why we should require the permission of the government to live in the area they claim to be their territory, and so we deny that living in our homes and failing to renounce our citizenship and leave upon turning 18 counts as consent to anything at all. Second, renouncing one’s citizenship and relocating outside of the physical region ruled by government is the only course of action that, if taken, counts as opting out of the Social Contract in the eyes of the government. Refusing to accept benefits from the government, (when possible,) and refusing to participate will not exempt one from the government’s rule. But if one is ruled by government regardless of whether one accepts benefits or participates or not, then acceptance of benefits and participation can no longer qualify as consent to be ruled, they are made irrelevant to the question of consent.
We encourage interested readers to read more about the philosophy of political obligations and political authority in order to gain a better understanding of these questions than our brief summary can provide. Resources for further reading include Michael Huemer’s book The Problem of Political Authority, Danny Frederick’s essay Social Contract Theory Should Be Abandoned, and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on Political Obligation.
4) Do you favor capitalism? Socialism? Something Else?
Different people in our group have differing opinions and preferences regarding economic systems and property norms. Since groups of people, in principle, could choose to adopt a variety of different norms regarding resource usage, voluntaryism as a philosophy is open to a range of different economic systems. Some voluntaryists prefer “sticky” property norms, similar to those advocated by John Locke, others prefer “usufructory” norms like those advocated by Benjamin Tucker, still others may prefer some other variety of norms.
“Capitalism,” “socialism,” and similar terms mean all sorts of different things to different people, and as a result it is sometimes easier to discuss our specific views regarding property, economics, and ethics without using these labels. Feel free to join our forum and ask our various members about their own views on the matter, though.
5) How do you propose changing society? Are you political activists?
We want, of course, to change society so that people respect each other as autonomous individuals. We want to persuade people to only ever use force or coercion defensively, against those who have initiated the use of force or coercion.
How to reach there from here is an interesting puzzle. Our answer, as voluntaryists, is to “lead by example,” and, in that vein, to try and ensure that our means and ends are compatible.
We do not regard government as a consensual institution, (as explained in our answer to question 3,) and we thus wish to abolish it and create voluntary associations to help us solve the problems that we, as a society, face. Importantly, we also want to achieve these goals through means that are in accordance with our principles. Thus, we reject running for election, taking part in political campaigns, or working through the government itself as possible avenues for achieving our values. One might as well ask a vegetarian to encourage others to treat animals more humanely by becoming a CEO of a slaughterhouse as ask a voluntaryist to encourage others to treat people more humanely by joining an organization that harms innocents through war, mass incarceration for victimless crimes, perpetuation of structural poverty, and similar actions. If our chosen means require us to violate our values in order to achieve them then they do not successfully enable us to live in accordance with our values.
We do advocate for jury nullification, civil disobedience, and copwatching as possible avenues to bring society closer to our ideals. We are also perfectly willing to have conversations with politicians and to try and persuade them to our views, though if we were to succeed in this we would find the persuaded politicians dismantling government or resigning their positions and joining voluntary associations to help cure social ills instead. These sorts of activities are the extent of our involvement with government, then: we may comply with demands made of us that are backed with threats of imprisonment or other punishments, (we may, for instance, pay taxes,) and we may ask our rulers to give up life as rulers and join the rest of us in helping each other through peaceful means.
Whenever possible we advocate changing society through direct action, without interacting with the government at all. We can create mutual aid societies, cooperatives and community gardens, homeschool or unschool our children or help others homeschool or unschool theirs, join activist groups like Food Not Bombs or contribute to open source software projects. Any way in which we can help each other without hurting one another, these are the tools of voluntaryists.
6) Where in the world are the Ozarks?
Crazy ol’ Northwest Arkansas, presently under the unfortunate dominion of the United States government. But we’ll keep the fire of freedom going for those who need it.
7) Is there a way I can support your site?
Yes. Participation on our forum or in the comments section of our blog is welcomed and greatly encouraged and appreciated, and if you can make it to some of our occasional in-person meetups, you’re welcome there too. Also, if you link to our articles and other pages on social media and around the web, it will help bring people to our site who may be interested in our ideas.
If you want to support us financially, you can donate to the main writer for the site, Jacob, through their Patreon account here, or just chip in for food or other goodies whenever you come to our monthly get-togethers. Any help you can provide is immensely appreciated, but don’t feel obligated, we want you to join our site and discuss life with us regardless of whether you support us financially or not.