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Przemysław Hankus – Reasonable thinking versus unreasonable actions

“If your ideas and concepts are so good, why haven’t they been realized in practice yet?”, “Since you think that your proposal is good, right and better than the present state of affairs, why are you only writing and theorizing about it, instead of putting it into practice?” or “It is time to put words into actions and, for example, stop paying taxes” – these are just some of the “final” or the “last resort” questions and arguments that non-libertarians use to prove that libertarianism ends where reality begins. They are not unfounded nor unprincipled and people who predicate them are to some degree right. However, the world does not work the way they seem to suggest. It is not true that good and quite simple or straightforward concepts and ideas (because I consider libertarianism as such) are always easy to put into practice or implement. One should not assume that someone, for the sake of rationalizing the world around us and the reality we live and exist in, will take extremely inadequate or irrational actions.

Blaming libertarians for only convincing others to their cause and predicating and promoting their ideas, but not realizing them in practice, has a certain flaw. If we recognize, after Ludwig von Mises, that human action means substituting a future, more satisfactory state of affairs for a present, less satisfactory one, we must admit that an action of a single libertarian, such as refusing to pay taxes, would be inconsistent with this statement. Such an action would very likely result in a state violence against him and worsening his state of affairs that would not be compensated by the benefit of keeping all (or most of) the fruits of his labor.

Such individual or isolated actions, although ethical, moral and justified from the libertarian point of view, would expose the person taking them to misfortune and (more) harm. Therefore – though it is not completely ruled out, consider Irvin Schiff’s case for example – it does not seem to be reasonable here and now, in given circumstances, to take deliberate actions which would lead to mostly negative outcomes for the individual.

You should not expect that libertarians – supporters of reasonable views – will act unreasonably, causing harm to themselves and benefits for the system they stand against. If Étienne de La Boétie’s or David Hume’s statements – that every government depends (mostly) not on naked force and violence (imposing obedience), but on the opinion of the ruled – are true, then actions recommended and justified by libertarians, such as not paying taxes, seem reasonable only when they are not isolated incidents, but something common and difficult or even impossible for the state apparatus to oppose effectively.

An implementation of libertarian tactics for the accomplishment of the libertarian strategy, which is designed for abolishing the state, should be based on a pragmatic approach: only awareness that most of a given community has accepted and internalized basic conditions for continued functioning of a society based on the principles of self-ownership and non-aggression opens the possibility to resist the state effectively. A sufficient number of the ruled must withdraw their support and consent so that the state and the government could lose their legitimacy to exercise power. Otherwise, the minority refusing further interactions with the state can be simply forced – by a threat or direct use of violence – to obey, which would destroy the chances for a peaceful existence outside the state. That is why it is so important to engage in educational activities which show non-libertarians how much they could gain if they rejected the status quo.

Libertarianism is not atomism, therefore it is not correct to assume that every libertarian will act as if he was “a lonely island” or “a free electron”, although individual cases of such behavior cannot be completely ruled out.

Przemysław Hankus

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