James Rosen, defense reporter for Fox News was tracked by the Department of Justice in 2009. His private emails were read, his comings and goings around Washington DC were monitored.
Bizarrely Rosen is the author of The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate.
The universe can be an oddly poetic place at times.
(From The Washington Post)
When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.
They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.
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Bureau of Justice Statistics Reports Firearm Homicides are Down 39% Since 1993; Continues to Severely Under-report Defensive Gun Use
Yesterday, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a special report, Firearm Violence, 1993-2011. Not surprisingly, at least for those who follow crime statistics, the report shows that firearm homicides went down 39% between 1993 and 2011. The report also reconfirms many things that gun-rights supporters have been saying for decades: that less than 2% of prison inmates in 2004 bought their firearm from a “flea market or gun show,” and that “2% of state inmates and 3% of federal inmates were armed with a military-style semiautomatic or fully automatic firearm.”
Also not surprising is that very few people know about the dramatically reduced crime rate. Also released yesterday was a Pew study on Americans’ perceptions of the crime rate. Despite cutting the murder rate nearly in half in less than twenty years, only 12% of Americans believe that gun crime has dropped in the past two decades. Fifty-six percent believe it has increased, and 26% believe it stayed the same. This is not new. People often don’t realize how much better things are getting, and this fact can push public policy in misguided directions.
Many have tried to explain this precipitous drop in crime, including one study that connected it to the decreased amount of lead in the environment. Whatever the cause, one thing is clear: there are about 50 million more guns in America now than in 1993 and crime did not go up.
Now, I will not oversell that statistic, not only because it does not prove the thesis “more guns, less crime,” but also because overselling statistics is a big problem in the gun control debate for both sides. For example, to take another statistic from the BJS report: the number of times per year people use guns to stop or curtail crime.
Despite the fact that the BJS is quite good at some things, it is uniquely bad at measuring the level of defensive gun use (DGU) in America. And despite the fact that I can easily demonstrate this to anyone with even the slightest inclination to allow their minds to be changed, I am not optimistic that the gun controllers will listen.
Gun controllers are constantly accusing gun-rights supporters of over-estimating the instances of DGU, and their primary source is the data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, which they rely on unquestioningly. The disparity between the BJS statistics and other studies is stark, as much as 30x. For example, yesterday’s BJS report claims that, between 2007-2011, crime victims used guns to stop or curtail crime 235,700 times. This aligns with the general tendency for the BJS to record between 60,000 and 100,000 DGUs per year. By contrast, Florida State’s award-winning criminologist Gary Kleck has found there may be as many as 2.5 million DGU instances per year. Gun-controllers almost always dismiss Kleck’s data as wildly inaccurate, if not NRA-funded propaganda (it is neither), and instead unquestioningly accept the BJS numbers. See, for example, this study by the Violence Policy Center, which simply regurgitates the BJS numbers, and this discussion of the VPC report at Mother Jones. This New York Times post on the VPC report sneeringly offers this observation on the disparity between Kleck’s and the BJS’s numbers:
Readers can judge for themselves whether the V.P.C. or the N.R.A. is likely to have better numbers. The V.P.C. used data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The N.R.A.’s estimate is the result of a telephone survey conducted by a Florida State University criminologist.
I accept the Times’s invitation, and I will judge for myself:
Six Reasons to Distrust the NCVS on Defensive Gun Use
1) As you can see from the NCVS survey questions here, the survey is non-anonymous. Although respondents were given guarantees that the results will remain confidential, many respondents would certainly be uneasy about answering questions about gun use after giving their names and addresses. This is a well-known effect of non-anonymous surveys.
2) Respondents were told from the outset that the survey is conducted by the government, specifically the U.S. Census Bureau. Coupling this with the survey being non-anonymous and you have a perfect recipe for withholding information. This is all the more true if the respondent had reasonable concerns about whether an instance of DGU was legal, either because they themselves were not allowed to have a gun or to be carrying a gun (perhaps because of a felony conviction), because carrying a gun or having a gun is essentially illegal in their area (e.g., DC, NYC), or because of the obvious legal gray-area around the act of threatening someone with a gun, much less firing it at them. In essence, those who unquestionably trust the NCVS data on DGUs believe that the question, “hi, I’m from the government, please give me your name and address and tell me if you’ve used a gun to protect yourself in the past year” will yield accurate results.
3) Respondents were only asked about DGU after they had given the location of the crime. If the crime occurred outside the home, as did 78.1% of violent crimes between 2007-2011 (table 7), and some respondents were unauthorized to carry a gun outside the home, then they were being asked to admit to a crime.
4) But respondents were not just told that the U.S. Census Bureau is conducting the survey, they were told that the survey is sponsored by the Department of Justice. They were then asked to volunteer information about possibly illegal activities to the chief law enforcement agency of the United States.
5) Respondents were not directly asked about DGU because the NCVS is not primarily designed to uncover instances of DGU. They were first asked whether they have been victims of a crime and only then were they asked follow-up questions about the incident. But the NCVS under-reports crime, particularly domestic violence and rape, and if it under-reports crimes where DGUs are particularly common then it would of course under-report DGUs.
6) The follow-up questions are not straightforward enough to accurately capture instances of DGU. As you can see from the follow-up questionnaire given to those who report a crime (page 12), respondents must first have answered “yes” to the question, “Did you do anything with the idea of protecting YOURSELF or your PROPERTY while the incident was going on?” before they were asked about DGU. They were then asked to volunteer information about a DGU rather than being put in a position of having to lie in order to deny a DGU.
That’s what the government did. Let’s see how “the result[s] of a telephone survey conducted by a Florida State University criminologist (Gary Kleck)” were collected:
We use the most anonymous possible national survey format, the anonymous random digit dialed telephone survey. We did not know the identities of those who were interviewed, and made this fact clear to the Rs [Respondants]. We interviewed a large nationally representative sample covering all adults, age eighteen and over, in the lower forty-eight states and living in households with telephones. We asked DGU questions of all Rs in our sample, asking them separately about both their own DGU experiences and those of other members of their households. We used both a five year recall period and a one year recall period. We inquired about uses of both handguns and other types of guns, and excluded occupational uses of guns and uses against animals. Finally, we asked a long series of detailed questions designed to establish exactly what Rs did with their guns; for example, if they had confronted other humans, and how had each DGU connected to a specific crime or crimes.
Interviews were monitored at random by survey supervisors. All interviews in which an alleged DGU was reported by the R were validated by supervisors with call-backs, along with a 20% random sample of all other interviews.
Questions about the details of DGU incidents permitted us to establish whether a given DGU met all of the following qualifications for an incident to be treated as a genuine DGU: (1) the incident involved defensive action against a human rather than an animal, but not in connection with police, military, or security guard duties; (2) the incident involved actual contact with a person, rather than merely investigating suspicious circumstances, etc.; (3) the defender could state a specific crime which he thought was being committed at the time of the incident; (4) the gun was actually used in some way–at a minimum it had to be used as part of a threat against a person, either by verbally referring to the gun (e.g., “get away–I’ve got a gun”) or by pointing it at an adversary. We made no effort to assess either the lawfulness or morality of the Rs’ defensive actions.
An additional step was taken to minimize the possibility of DGU frequency being overstated. The senior author went through interview sheets on every one of the interviews in which a DGU was reported, looking for any indication that the incident might not be genuine. A case would be coded as questionable if even just one of four problems appeared: (1) it was not clear whether the R actually confronted any adversary he saw; (2) the R was a police officer, member of the military or a security guard, and thus might have been reporting, despite instructions, an incident which occurred as part of his occupational duties; (3) the interviewer did not properly record exactly what the R had done with the gun, so it was possible that he had not used it in any meaningful way; or (4) the R did not state or the interviewer did not record a specific crime that the R thought was being committed against him at the time of the incident. There were a total of twenty-six cases where at least one of these problematic indications was present. It should be emphasized that we do not know that these cases were not genuine DGUs; we only mean to indicate that we do not have as high a degree of confidence on the matter as with the rest of the cases designated as DGUs. Estimates using all of the DGU cases are labelled herein as “A” estimates, while the more conservative estimates based only on cases devoid of any problematic indications are labelled “B” estimates.
Kleck’s study (which you can read here) was done in 1993, so there is good reason to believe that the instances of DGU have gone down with the crime rate. Also, Kleck’s study, like all studies, is far from ironclad. But I’ll leave that question to the reader: which study is likely to be more reliable?
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The Department of Justice and the pharmaceutical industry are not keen on pharmaceutical mail order. According the the DOJ the concern is that people are ordering illegal drugs through the mail from overseas pharmacies. No doubt this is true.
But millions of people order perfectly legal drugs through the mail to save on the cost of their medication. Because of the wall pharma has sought to erect around the United States through the use of law, many completely legitimate meds are much more expensive inside of the United States than outside. Some people take buses across the border to Canada to get their medications. Others use the Internet.
As the article points out, each patient using vendors outside of the United States represents a potential loss to the pharmaceutical industry.
We should not be surprised therefore that the Department of Justice is now leaning on FedEx and UPS to search packages for medications from all pharmacies, not just ones identified as “rogue.” It would be illegal if the DOJ was specific about abusers.
Sorry, the cost of shipping just went up and your medication got that much harder to get. Good thing the government is looking out for us.
Now the Department of Justice (DOJ) is trying to institute the shipping version of a “no fly” list on behalf of the big pharmaceutical companies and in the name of the war on drugs. The DOJ wants America’s two largest courier/delivery services to open and report on the shipments from online pharmacies, allegedly to staunch the flow of illegal pharmaceuticals. Here’s the catch: the DOJ wants packages opened even when there is no reason to suspect illegal contents.
FedEx spokesman Patrick Fitzgerald explained, “sealed packages … are being sent by, as far as we can tell, licensed pharmacies. These are medicines with legal prescriptions written by licensed physicians.” Fitzgerald added, “We are a transportation company that picks up and delivers close to 10 million packages every day. They are sealed packages, so we have no way of knowing specifically what’s inside and we have no interest in violating the privacy rights of our customers.”
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A 19-year-old Roy Childs published his first article in Robert LeFevre’s journal, Rampart Journal of Individualist Thought (Spring 1968). This article was soon followed by another, “Autarchy and the Statist Abyss” (Summer 1968). These articles exhibit three major influences on Roy’s early thinking: Robert LeFevre (1911-1986), Ayn Rand (1905-1982), and Murray Rothbard (1926-1995).
Those people who first learned of Roy in 1969, when he burst upon the libertarian scene with his controversial and influential “Open Letter,” would scarcely suspect the role that Robert LeFevre played in Roy’s early thinking, for the “Open Letter” shows no traces of LeFevre’s influence. Yet this influence is clearly evident in Roy’s two Rampart Journal articles, published the previous year.
It was during his freshman year at SUNY at Buffalo (1967) that Roy became interested in the ideas of Robert LeFevre, who, in 1957, established his Freedom School (later Rampart College) on 320 acres of land in a valley of the Rampart Mountains, near Colorado Springs.
In 1967 Roy won a full scholarship to Rampart’s comprehensive course on the fundamentals of freedom. Roy so impressed LeFevre and other faculty members that he was invited to join the teaching staff, so he quit college at the end of his sophomore year and moved from Buffalo to Colorado. Unfortunately, debts from a devastating flood in 1965 and other financial problems caused Rampart College to shut down within months of Roy’s arrival, so his teaching career never got off the ground.
Greatly influenced by Rose Wilder Lane’s classic, The Discovery of Freedom, Robert LeFevre developed a philosophy of freedom that differed in several major respects from the theories of Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard. Although Roy read Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises while in high school, he later attributed “special significance” to The Discovery of Freedom: “I first read it at the age of sixteen, and more than any other book, it is this one that made me a libertarian.”1
Roy’s admiration for Lane may have made him gravitate to the ideas of Robert LeFevre. Many years later, in “Anarchist Illusions,” Roy mentioned LeFevre as one of his “mentors”: LeFevre’s “doctrine of ‘autarchy’ or ‘self-rule’ caught my fancy as a teenager….”
Although LeFevre rejected government, root and branch, he disliked the terms “anarchy” and “anarchism” and preferred the label “autarchy” instead. As LeFevre explained in his 1965 article “Autarchy Versus Anarchy”:
The accusation that I am an anarchist has continued sporadically. Usually the term is tempered with the qualifying adjective, “philosophical.” A careful check of the writings of those anarchists, both European and American, who have earned this badge of identification leaves me outside their fold. In each case, I find those, so-called, engaged in stating the necessity of some kind of economic intervention or in downgrading some of the conditions which are essential to the operation of a free market. While many of them (Proudhon, Tolstoy, Tucker, Warren, etc.) take a position similar to mine in respect to the evils of state controls imposed upon the creativity and productivity of the individual, they defeat themselves, in my judgment, by calling for arbitrarily imposed or voluntarily accepted extra-market restraints upon property and its ownership.2
In a subsequent article, “Autarchy,” LeFevre wrote:
Auto means self. Archy means rule. Autarchy is self-rule. It means that each person rules himself, and no other….
As I will use the word, autarchy will signify total self-rule. It will presume a system or social arrangement in which each person assumes full responsibility for himself, proceeds to control himself, exercises control over himself, exercises authority over himself, supports himself, takes initiative, joins with others or not as he pleases, and does not in any way seek to impose his will by force upon any other person whatever.3
In his second article for Rampart Journal, “Autarchy and the Statist Abyss,” Roy Childs, in discussing the most principled opposition to statism, defended not “anarchy” or “anarchism” but “autarchy.”
The choice today is called autarchy, and is in principle opposed to the rule of man by man, to the authoritarian subordination of the unique individual human being to anything outside of his own will….Autarchy entails, first and foremost, the acceptance of individual self-sovereignty, the respect for individual rights, and an uncompromising hostility to the state. How can it be achieved?4
In addition to using the label “autarchy” instead of “anarchy,” Roy followed LeFevre in rejecting electoral politics as an effective strategy to achieve a free society. Calling elections “opinion mongering on a mass scale,” Roy contended that “the choices allowed the people are artificial and superficial at best, and are always determined by the state itself. People are given a choice only over the question of who will be their rulers, and never over the questions of power and authority.”5 Keenly aware of the crucial role of legitimation in maintaining the moral authority of governments, Roy (like LeFevre) opposed voting as counterproductive: “Voting and political action itself implies a sanctioning of the state, and hence of its basis—the rule of man by man.”6
Although Roy never embraced LeFevre’s brand of pacifism, he did oppose violence on tactical grounds, even when used in self-defense against unjust actions by government. Attributing the tactics of violence and “physical obstructionism” to the “new left,” Roy observed:
The “new left” had wanted to decrease the power of the state. Has it done so? Quite the contrary. The state, as always, has turned the threat of force into a resource for accumulating force in itself.7
If political action and forcible resistance are not viable political tactics, then “we must find a third alternative, based on a different premise.” Roy recommended “the principle of voluntarism, reason, and persuasion; in short, education.”8
All this is vintage Robert LeFevre, as illustrated by the fact that Roy quoted LeFevre in his concluding remarks on strategy.
Governments cannot be abolished, but they can be abandoned. How? In the words of Robert LeFevre: “They will be abandoned when YOU demonstrate that you can manage your affairs without the supervision of a pater familias. In short, when YOU abandon your political adolescence and come of age, you will stop seeking to impose your will upon others, and at the same time demonstrate that your will is strong enough to control your actions within a framework of non-molestation.
“Do this in your own case with your own life in your own affairs and no political agent or agency can justify its existence on grounds that you require its help.”
Within a year after “Autarchy and the Abyss of Statism” had been published, Roy dropped the word “autarchy,” and openly embraced “anarchism”—as we see in the first line of his Open Letter (August 1969): “Dear Miss Rand: The purpose of this letter is to convert you to free market anarchism.” Virtually every other trace of LeFevre’s influence9 had disappeared as well, replaced by a thoroughly Rothbardian approach. I don’t know what happened to Roy during late 1968 and early 1969, but it was clearly an important period in his intellectual development.
Excerpted from the introduction to Anarchism & Justice, by Roy A. Childs, Jr., published by Libertarianism.org Press.
Laissez Faire Review, April 1985. Reprinted in Taylor, 261. ↩
Rampart Journal of Individualist Thought I, no. 4 (Winter 1965), http://fair-use.org/rampart-journal/1965/12/autarchy-versus-anarchy. ↩
Rampart Journal of Individualist Thought II, no. 2 (Summer 1966), 6, http://mises.org/journals/rampart/rampart_summer1966.pdf. ↩
Ibid., 10. ↩
Ibid., 3. ↩
Ibid, 15. ↩
Ibid., 16. ↩
In our conversations about Robert LeFevre during the early 1970s, Roy, though he liked LeFevre personally, didn’t seem to have a very high regard for his approach to libertarianism. ↩
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Every reader is aware of the strong negative reactions evoked in most people when they hear the words “anarchy,” “anarchism,” and “anarchist.” More often than not “anarchy” has functioned in philosophy as the political equivalent of hell, a model of unending and unendurable social agony—a perpetual war of every man against every man, as Thomas Hobbes put it in his famous account of the anarchistic state of nature. A condition of anarchy, we are told, is so terrible, so destructive, that virtually any kind of government, however brutal or despotic, is preferable to the social poison of anarchy.
It is for this reason that readers unfamiliar with the early anarchist writings of Roy Childs may be reluctant to take his arguments seriously, if they read them at all. This dismissal is more likely to occur now than when his articles were written (1968-1975)—an era when the libertarian movement was in its formative stage and had little to lose, politically speaking. But now that libertarian ideas have become more respectable, and now that many respectable people (including politicians, columnists, and media commentators) call themselves “libertarians,” the professional and political risks involved in discussing the anarchistic implications of libertarian theory can be considerable.
Despite these risks, I strongly recommend that all libertarians read what Roy had to say about anarchism—even if they must do so at night, under the sheets, with a flashlight. The interest of Roy Childs in anarchism was no mere exercise in radical chic. His explorations of anarchism as a moral and viable social system were motivated by an intense interest in political philosophy and by a desire to understand the nature of freedom and government. It is virtually impossible not to learn something from reading Roy, whatever one’s opinions of his conclusions may be. His passion, though sometimes over-the-top, was authentic and contagious. Liberty, for Roy, was a very personal matter. As the distinguished psychiatrist Thomas Szasz put it:
For Roy, liberty was not a means but a personal end….Roy did not belong to his age. He belonged to an age that never was and probably never will be….Roy loved liberty, like a lover loves his beloved.1
The theory of limited government has a long and distinguished provenance in classical liberal and libertarian thought—a tradition for which Roy Childs had great respect. It was because Roy agreed with Ayn Rand about the need for a consistent and integrated political philosophy that he attempted to apply her ideas more consistently than he believed she had, and he did so primarily by integrating her epistemological and moral theories with the anarchistic ideas of Murray Rothbard, who was also influenced by Rand.
Although Rothbard was an anarchist before he came to know Rand during the 1950s, and although he disagreed with her on a number of issues (especially in matters of foreign policy and history), he was impressed, to say the least, by Rand’s overall philosophy, especially her approach to epistemology and ethics.
In an enthusiastic letter to Rand (3 October 1957), Rothbard praised Atlas Shrugged as “the greatest novel ever written.”2 He continued:
To find one person that has carved out a completely integrated rational ethic, rational epistemology, rational psychology, and rational politics, all integrated one with the other, and then to find each with the other portrayed through characters in action, is a doubly staggering event. And I am surprised that it astonishes even I who was familiar with the general outlines of your system. What it will do the person stumbling upon it anew I cannot imagine. For you have achieved not only the unity of principle and person, and of reason and passion, but also the unity of mind and body, matter and spirit, sex and politics … in short, to use the old Marxist phrase, “the unity of theory and practice.”
After acknowledging Rand’s “enormous influence” on his own thinking, Rothbard wrote:
When I first became interested in ideas, my first principle that I had from the start was a burning love of human freedom, and a hatred for aggressive violence of man upon man. I always liked economics, and was inclined to theory, but found in my graduate economics courses that I felt all the theories offered were dead wrong, but I could not say why. Mises’s Human Action was the next great influence upon me, because I found in it a great rational system of economics, each interconnected logically, each following, as in Aristotelian philosophy, from a basic and certain axiom: the existence of human beings. When I first met you, many years ago, I was a follower of Mises, but unhappy about his antipathy to natural rights, which I “felt” was true but could not demonstrate. You introduced me to the whole field of natural rights and natural law philosophy, which I did not know existed, and month by month, working on my own as I preferred, I learned and studied the glorious natural rights tradition. I also learned from you about the existence of Aristotelian epistemology, and then I studied that, and came to adopt it wholeheartedly. So that I owe you a great intellectual debt for many years, the least of which is introducing me to a tradition of which four years of college and three years of graduate school, to say nothing of other reading, had kept me in ignorance.
In later years, after a bitter and tumultuous split with Ayn Rand and her circle, Rothbard never again acknowledged the “enormous influence” that Rand had on his intellectual development.3 On the contrary, he ridiculed Rand and her associates as an ignorant “cult.”4 Be that as it may, this was not his opinion in 1957, when a 31-year-old Rothbard wrote to Rand:
When, in the past, I heard your disciples refer to you in grandiloquent terms—as one of the greatest geniuses who ever lived, as giving them a “round universe”—I confess I was repelled: surely this was the outpouring of a mystic cult. But now, upon reading Atlas Shrugged, I find I was wrong. This was not wild exaggeration but the perception of truth. You are one of the great geniuses of the ages, and I am proud that we are friends.
Roy Childs read Ayn Rand while in high school, before he read Rothbard, and her influence on him is evident in his very first articles, published at age nineteen. (The influence of Nathaniel Branden’s theory of psychology is also apparent.) In his unpublished manuscript “The Epistemological Basis of Anarchism” (discussed below), Roy went so far as to argue that Rand’s epistemology, especially her contextual theory of knowledge, logically entails anarchism. If Rothbard provided the superstructure of Roy’s ideology, Rand provided the foundation—so it would not be an exaggeration to say that Ayn Rand, not Murray Rothbard, was the philosophical fountainhead of Roy’s anarchism.
As I noted previously, libertarian minarchists need not embroil themselves in the fine points of anarchist theory, if they have better things to do. Even those libertarians with strong anarchistic sentiments may prefer to tag their views with a different label, such as “voluntaryism” or “autarchy.” Or some libertarians may rest content with the general term “libertarian” and not get any more specific, lest they provoke the ominous question, “Are you an anarchist?”
Such embarrassments, however important they may be on practical level, should not inhibit our investigation of what Rothbardian anarchism, as defended by Roy Childs and many others, does and does not entail. For example, contrary to what “anarchism” suggests to many people, Rothbardian anarchism stresses the crucial importance of the rule of law and the need to have courts of justice and other agencies to protect and enforce individual rights. The crux of the dispute between Randian minarchists and Rothbardian anarchists is whether these various agencies need be bundled into a single monopolistic institution called “government,” which functions as the final arbiter and enforcer of individual rights in a given geographical area. Roy maintained that any such coercive monopoly must necessarily initiate force against innocent people who might wish nothing more than to protect their rights by other means, such as by enlisting the services of a market agency. Hence Roy’s use of the term “free market anarchism.”
We must clear the air of myths and misconceptions about controversial terms before we can hope to discuss them reasonably, so I will begin by clarifying some concepts that play key roles in the kind of anarchism that Roy Childs defended.
Note that I refer to concepts, not to words, which are merely the concrete symbols of concepts. This is important because dictionaries commonly assign the word “anarchy” to at least two different concepts: “1. Absence of any form of political authority. 2. Political disorder and confusion.” (The American Heritage Dictionary.) Because these two concepts are attached to the word “anarchy,” many people assume that the concepts themselves are identical and interchangeable. Most people cannot conceive of social order without government—they lack the appropriate concept—so they assume that anarchy always entails chaos, violence, and the like.
This helps to explain how the implacable opponents of anarchy respond to an uncomfortable fact, namely, that governments are the greatest perpetrators of violence and murder. To this we are told that bad governments, or governments badly administered, tend to degenerate into anarchy. (This confusion goes back at least to Aristotle.) We thus have two radically different concepts—society without government and society with a bad government—which have been united by the same linguistic symbol, the same hellish word: “anarchy.”
The word “anarchy” refers to a kind of society: a society without government, or state.5 This is a description, not an evaluation. To describe a society as anarchistic means that social order exists in some fashion and to some degree without government, for this is implicit in the meaning of “society,” but it does not tell us anything more specific.
An anarchistic society may be primitive or advanced, violent or peaceful, just or unjust, desirable or undesirable. The anarchist does not endorse every manifestation of anarchy, any more than the defender of government endorses every kind of government.
To determine the nature of a good anarchistic society is the business of anarchism, which is a theory of social order without government. This distinction between anarchy and anarchism is crucial. The former denotes a society, any society, without a state, whether good or bad. The latter denotes a particular point of view—a defense and justification of the good society which includes, as a fundamental precondition, the absence of a state. As stated previously, not every form of anarchy is acceptable to the advocate of anarchism. To eliminate government may remove a major source of injustice and violence in society, but this does not mean that justice and social order will automatically fill the void. In other words, anarchism regards the absence of government as a necessary but not sufficient condition of an ideal society.
To summarize: “anarchy” is a negative term that refers to a social condition—the absence of government. “Anarchism,” in contrast, is a positive term—a theory of justice and social order that rejects government for moral, economic, religious and/or social reasons. Anarchism is a theory about what ought to be, not merely a statement about what is.
We can now approach the meaning of “anarchist,” the third term of our trinity. As indicated previously, the anarchist, qua social philosopher, subscribes to a theory of anarchism, but he does not necessarily endorse all types of anarchy. The rejection of government is not a premise from which the anarchist begins; it is a conclusion based on various ideas about human nature, moral values, social order, institutions, and political power. The label “anarchist” refers to a person who rejects government, but it does not indicate why a person rejects government, nor does it specify what the anarchist means by “government,” nor does it suggest what an anarchistic society would look like (its values, institutions, and so forth), nor does it indicate how or when an anarchistic society can be brought about (if at all). Many variables and permutations are involved here, which lead to radically different kinds of anarchism. To refer merely to a “society without government” tells us nothing about what that society should look like.
It may help to take the edge off the notion of a society without government if we briefly examine what two of America’s founders, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, had to say about this notion.
Thomas Paine argued that “society performs for itself almost every thing which is ascribed to government.” Governments, “so far from being always the cause or means of order, are often the destruction of it.”
Government is no farther necessary than to supply the few cases to which society and civilization are not conveniently competent; and instances are not wanting to show, that every thing which government can usefully add thereto, has been performed by the common consent of society without government.6
To buttress his contention that government is a convenience, not a necessity, Paine observed that some American communities during the Revolution functioned quite well without any government at all:
For upwards of two years from the commencement of the American war, and to a longer period in several of the American States, there were no established forms of government. The old governments had been abolished, and the country was too much occupied in defense, to employ its attention in establishing new governments; yet during this interval, order and harmony were preserved as inviolate as in any country in Europe.7
During the suspension of the old governments in America, both prior to and at the breaking out of hostilities, I was struck with the order and decorum with which everything was conducted; and impressed with the idea, that a little more than what society naturally performed, was all the government that was necessary.8
The view that government is a practical convenience rather than a moral necessity was also expressed by Thomas Jefferson, especially in his numerous references to anarchistic Indian communities. A serious student of Native American culture, Jefferson attributed the highly decentralized nature of Indian communities to “the circumstances of their having never submitted themselves to any laws, any coercive power, any shadow of government. Their only controls are their manners, and [their] moral sense of right and wrong.”9 Since Jefferson believed that freedom is best preserved in decentralized societies, he was naturally sympathetic to societies without government, as he indicated in a letter to Edward Carrington (16 Jan. 1787):
I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians), which live without government, enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under the European governments. Among the former, public opinion is in the place of law, and restrains morals as powerfully as laws ever did anywhere.10
In a letter to James Madison (30 Jan.1787), Jefferson divided societies into three basic “forms,” one of which was “society “without government, as among our Indians.” Although a bit uncertain about the matter, Jefferson suggested that a society without government may be the best ideal form, however impractical it may be for large societies.11
Paine and Jefferson were not anarchists, of course, and they didn’t use the word “anarchy” in their discussions of societies without government. (The word carried the same negative connotations in their day as it does now.) My point is that neither man displayed the knee-jerk reaction to the idea of a society without government that is so common today. Both took the idea seriously, and both believed that societies without government are viable and even preferable in some circumstances, especially when despotism in some form is the alternative. In short, Paine and Jefferson would have been more receptive to the ideas of Roy Childs than are most modern readers.
“Remembering Roy,” in Taylor, x. ↩
I cannot here discuss the various personal feuds that developed among libertarians and Objectivists during the early years of the movement. Suffice it to say that it would be naïve to suppose that such conflicts had no long-range ideological effects. Whereas some of those “splits,” such as that which occurred between Nathaniel Branden and Ayn Rand in 1968, may have had beneficial consequences (e.g., by opening up the libertarian movement to new ideas), a number of disputes, such as that between Roy Childs and Murray Rothbard (which began in the latter half of the 1970s), got very ugly and only served to weaken the movement. ↩
See Rothbard’s 1972 essay, “The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult.” To my knowledge, this scathing piece was initially circulated privately, in manuscript form. I first read it in 1972, after Roy Childs loaned me a copy. In a review of Nathaniel Branden’s memoirs, Judgment Day (Liberty, Sept. 1989), Rothbard claimed that “the problem with Rand, Branden, and the rest of the crew is that these were dazzlingly ignorant people.” Branden and the rest of the crew aside, this remark certainly does not agree with Rothbard’s 1957 assessment of Ayn Rand. For my reply to some of Rothbard’s allegations, see “Nathaniel Branden’s Judgment Day: Reviewing the Reviewers,” New Libertarian 5, no. 5 (June 1990), 4-5, http://www.anthonyflood.com/smithbranden.htm. ↩
Various distinctions, which I cannot discuss here, have been made between “government” and “state,” but for the purposes of my discussion I shall treat these terms as synonyms. ↩
Rights of Man, Part Second (1792), in The Life and Major Writings of Thomas Paine, ed. Philip S. Foner (Citadel Press, 1948), 357-59. ↩
Ibid., 358. ↩
Ibid., 406. ↩
Notes on the State of Virginia, in The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Adrienne Koch and William Peden (Modern Library, 1944), 221. ↩
Ibid., 412. ↩
Ibid., 413. Jefferson claimed that societies without government are “inconsistent with any great degree of population.” Anarchistic societies rely mainly on the sanction of public opinion instead of on coercive laws, and the effectiveness of public opinion decreases as a population increases. ↩
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As I noted at the beginning of this introduction, Roy Childs and I got along famously after we met in the summer of 1971. But there was a problem: I had made plans to return to the University of Arizona to finish my undergraduate degree. Indeed, I had already quit my job as a warehouse foreman in Montebello, given notice on my apartment in Inglewood, and packed up most of my books.
Roy did not want to lose his partner in conversation, so with all the persuasion he could muster—which was considerable, as anyone who knew Roy will attest—he attempted to convince me to cancel my move. I replied that my plans were set, that however much I disliked the idea of taking the usual academic route, I disliked my other options even more.
Within a week of my scheduled departure, I got a call from Roy. He asked if I would stay if he could get a contract for me to write a book on atheism. I replied: “Sure, Roy, I have no academic credentials, and I’m leaving in five days. Sure, get me a book contract, and I’ll stay.” (Roy was familiar with a sixty-page monograph, The Case for Atheism, that I had self-published two years earlier, under the auspices of the UA Students of Objectivism.)
Roy called me the next day. “I’ve been talking to Ed Nash at Nash Publishing, and he wants you to call him about a book on atheism.” Unbeknownst to me but not to Roy, Nash was looking for someone to write a book on the subject.
Things moved quickly after that. Within days, with Roy at my side in the Nash offices on Sunset Blvd., I signed a book contract. One result was Atheism: The Case Against God (finished in August 1973 and published in 1974). Another result was a close friendship of many years with Roy Childs, until his untimely death on May 22, 1992, at age forty-three.
In late 1971, I rented an apartment in the same building in which Roy lived. This launched one of the most intellectually exciting periods in my life. As writers are wont to do, Roy and I were always looking for things to do other than write. Thus, in addition to going to movies and haunting bookstores, we spent endless hours discussing the fine points of libertarian theory, Objectivism, philosophy, and history. Scarcely a day passed for nearly a year without Roy and me engaging in an intense discussion or argument about something or other.
It was during this time that Roy wrote the last part of “Anarchism and Justice,” which discusses “in depth” Mortimer J. Adler’s criticisms of anarchism and his defense of government. Roy and I had many discussions about “Anarchism and Justice,” especially the part he was writing at the time, and I vividly recall his comment that he found Adler’s arguments, as presented in The Common Sense of Politics, difficult to rebut. Indeed, Roy said that Adler had nearly won him over to the pro-government point of view.1
Another project that kept Roy busy was the SIL Book Review and Books for Libertarians. (After two issues—May and June 1972—SIL Book Review morphed into Books for Libertarians, which later became Libertarian Review.) In these monthly eight-page newsletters, we see Roy’s industry, ability, and integrity as a writer.
Roy and I had written reviews for Book News, the book service established by Barbara Branden and Bob Berole after the infamous “split” with Ayn Rand in 1968. I had read other reviews by Roy as well, but not until I saw Roy on a daily basis, witnessed him in action and talked to him about writing reviews, did I fully appreciate the thought he gave to them.
To this day Roy is widely regarded as the finest book reviewer in the history of the modern libertarian movement, and with good reason. His output alone almost defies belief, especially when we take into account the fact that Roy was never content with skimming a book and always read the books he reviewed.
The first issue of SIL Book Review contains fourteen reviews, most of which are 500 words or more. Of these, I wrote one, and Jarret Wollstein wrote one and co-authored one with Roy. The remaining eleven reviews were written by Roy.
Roy wrote six reviews for the June issue of this periodical, seven for the July issue (the month it became Books for Libertarians), and nine for the August issue. Roy must have been taking a break for the October issue, for he only wrote the lead review—a substantive discussion of A New History of Leviathan. But it was back to the races in the October issue, which contains eight reviews by Roy.
And so it went month after month, as Roy covered an enormous range of books on philosophy, economics, history, psychology, and more. (Roy, a great lover of classical music, later wrote numerous music reviews. He once told me that those were the reviews he most enjoyed writing.)
Having observed Roy at work many times and having read a number of his essays and reviews in typescript, I can verify the following observation by Ronn Neff, a friend and colleague of Roy who met him around seven months before I did.
Roy was one of the fastest typists I ever knew. He composed on one of the early-generation IBM Selectrics (without the correction key and tape), usually on flimsy yellow paper…. [H]e composed as he was typing. His drafts contained almost no spelling errors, no corrections, no strike-throughs, and no rewritings….Essays were organized as they appeared on paper. When he was writing “Anarchism & Justice,” each section was written in a single, discrete burst of creativity over the months of their publication. Writers who have experience only with computer keyboards and word-processing software may not realize what a feat that was. It means that the problem with getting Roy to finish things was not getting him to sit down and actually finish them; it was getting him to sit down and start them.2
Roy never wrote a book. His writings appeared in newsletters, magazines, journals, and anthologies; and he distributed manuscript copies of some of his unpublished writings. In 1984 Roy began working for Laissez Faire Books as its chief reviewer, and his later reviews show the same sparkle and depth of analysis that we find in his earlier reviews. Quoting Joan Kennedy Taylor:
[H]is vast reading, which he often used to place the book he was discussing in a wider context; his willingness to point out disagreements he had with a book he was recommending; above all, his unquestionable enthusiasm, all of these won him a multitude of fans. After he died, many people wrote Laissez Faire some variation on the following, received from a subscriber in India: “I had so much respect for him that only the books he chose to review were considered worth reading by me.”3
Even though Roy normally wrote reviews for the purpose of selling books, he rarely pulled his punches. Rare is a reviewer who will trash a book that he hopes to sell, but this is precisely what Roy did in a review (SIL Book Review, May 1972) of It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand, by Jerome Tuccille.
Roy had a wonderful sense of humor, but he hated Tuccille’s satirical skewering of Ayn Rand and other libertarian figures. This “book should never have been published,” he wrote. Tuccille “shows that he does not take the libertarian movement—or the tiny band of heroes at its apex—seriously and that he does not respect them, or honesty.” Roy continued:
Consider the fact that libertarianism is vitally important for man—a life-or-death matter. Consider the fact that Rand and Rothbard are the Jefferson and Paine, the Garrison and Spooner, of our tiny movement. Then consider the fact that it is these people—among others—whom Tuccille attempts to ridicule. It is not, you see, that he wants to demolish them—he just wants them not to be taken seriously. At least that is the impression one gets while reading this book, which makes both look like eccentric nuts.
Roy’s scathing review of It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand was a rare exception.4 Roy normally had good things to say about a book, but even here he typically expressed his disagreements forcefully and unequivocally. Consider this passage from Roy’s review (Libertarian Review, August 1973) of For Reasons of State, a collection of essays by Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky is brilliant at focusing his critical intelligence on the flaws, errors and evasion of others—he is particularly good at dissecting arbitrary assertions—but apparently he has not bothered to turn that intelligence on his own unacknowledged and unsupported assertions. And as if that were not enough, Chomsky exhibits the closest thing I have seen in print to a tabula rasa mentality in his ridiculous and moronic claim than anarchism is a subset of socialism, a voluntary subset, but a subset nonetheless. This is asinine.
Roy’s early reviews provide valuable insights into the sources that influenced him, and they sometimes give us condensed versions of ideas and themes that he developed more fully in essays. No fully adequate account of Roy’s ideas has yet been written, unfortunately, but if one should ever be written, it would need to take into account his many reviews. Although Roy made his living for many years by writing reviews, he rarely wrote them mechanically; they almost always reveal something about the man and what he was thinking at the time.
For example, in his review (SIL Book Review, June 1972) of Thomas Kuhn’s influential book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Roy quoted a passage from “Rothbard’s account” of the same book.5 But, as we find with many of Rothbard’s leads, Roy developed his own approach. Whereas Rothbard applied Kuhn’s theory of paradigms specifically to the history of economics, Roy applied the same general approach to what he called the “paradigm of statism”– as we see, most notably, in his 1974 article “Liberty and the Paradigm of Statism” (published in The Libertarian Alternative, an early collection of libertarian essays edited by Tibor Machan).
Roy exhibited his interest in paradigms as a methodological tool as early as 1971, in what is perhaps his most popular and widely read essay, “Big Business and the Rise of American Statism.” In his discussion of historical paradigms and their relevance to American history, Roy wrote:
Needless to add, many contemporary Marxists have responded to the challenge with ever new wings being added on to classical Marxist theory to “explain,” in an ad hoc fashion, the events which do not fit into classic Marxist paradigms. Historically, whenever defenders of some classic paradigm, in any field, begin to confront problems which conflict with the basic theory, they begin increasingly to modify the particulars of the theory to conform to fact without ever questioning the basic paradigm itself. But sooner or later any such imitation of the path taken by the followers of Ptolemy must end in the same way: the paradigm will collapse and be replaced by a new paradigm which explains all the known facts in a much simpler manner, thus conforming to a fundamental rule of scientific methodology: Occam’s razor.6
Roy’s reference to Occam’s Razor—a principle found in a number of his theoretical works — is another example of how his early book reviews can shed light on the sources of his thinking. The relevant source here is The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes (1967), by Mortimer J. Adler, an Aristotelian philosopher for whom Roy had great respect. In his review of Adler’s book (Libertarian Review, August 1972), he called it “a model of philosophical analysis” and praised Adler’s presentation of Occam’s Razor as a “masterpiece of philosophic method.”
Although this review appeared after the publication of “Big Business and the Rise of American Statism,” and although Roy was undoubtedly familiar with Occam’s Razor from his earlier studies of philosophy, I know from conversations with Roy during this period that it was Adler’s treatment that impressed upon him its significance and potential. Indeed, it was Roy who suggested that I quote from Adler’s account of Occam’s Razor in Atheism: The Case Against God (1974).
Southern California was a hotbed of libertarian activity during the 1970s; lectures, discussion groups, and debates abounded. As Jeff Riggenbach, who was himself involved in many of these activities, observed: “In Los Angeles in the early to mid-1970s, you seldom saw an entire week go by without at least one opportunity to get together with local and visiting libertarians, especially if you were willing to drive a few miles across town or even into a neighboring county.”7
This frenetic activity was not confined to the Los Angeles area; it was also going on in other cities, especially New York and San Francisco. As Riggenbach notes: “The movement had just experienced a massive increase in population, virtually all at once. Suddenly, there were at least two or three times as many libertarians in the world as there had been only a few years earlier. Suddenly, libertarians were everywhere—or so it seemed.”
Suddenly, there were dozens of libertarian publications on the market. There was a joke going around at the time that defined libertarians as people who earned a living by selling magazine articles to each other. It’s true that most of these publications had a circulation of no more than a few hundred, at best, and they looked decidedly amateurish when placed next to conservative or left-liberal publications of that era. It wasn’t until around 1980 that the movement had three or four professionally designed magazines that reached a readership of 10,000 or more and wouldn’t have looked out of place next to National Review or The New Republic on a newsstand. But even in the days when they were still typeset on typewriters and bound with a single staple in the upper left-hand corner of page one, they contained some outstanding writing and some compelling ideas.8
It was during the 1970s that I participated in public debates with John Hospers (on anarchism), Robert LeFevre (on retaliatory force), Tibor Machan (on anarchism), David Friedman (on natural rights versus utilitarianism), and Robert Poole (on abolitionism versus gradualism). These internecine debates made the early libertarian movement an exciting place to be, even when it wasn’t moving anywhere. And they inspired many libertarians to explore new frontiers in libertarian theory—a vital development, generated by the competition of ideas, that might never have occurred if only one person, such as Ayn Rand or Murray Rothbard, had dominated the movement.
Roy also participated in a number of debates during his time in California; and though I cannot recall all of them, I do recall a debate in which Roy and I teamed up to debate the topic of free will versus determinism with two philosophy graduate students from USC.
Roy was a superb speaker, engaging and charismatic, and his lectures for the Cato Summer Seminars are fondly recalled by many who were fortunate enough to hear them. According to Joan Kennedy Taylor, “One of Roy’s speeches so impressed Charles Koch that he bought Libertarian Review from Robert Kephart to turn it into a national magazine that Roy would edit.”9
Roy delivered the keynote address at the National Libertarian Party Convention in 1979, and the following contemporary account gives some indication of the enthusiasm he could generate in an audience:
Childs’s speech had the audience pounding the tables, shouting responses to rhetorical questions, continually breaking in with applause. “Let the governing classes be put on notice that we mean to change the course of history,” he warned. “We have had enough and we are going to resist.” Terming the LP the party of individual liberty, peace, and prosperity, he challenged delegates to build “a new and decent party, a party of hope, a party of the future….Finally, building to a crescendo, he thundered, “If they ask, ‘By what right do you do this?’ we will answer, ‘We are the American people, and we will not bend before the power of the State!’” And that brought down the house.10
Excerpted from the introduction to Anarchism & Justice, by Roy A. Childs, Jr., published by Libertarianism.org Press.
In his review of The Common Sense of Politics (Books for Libertarians, July 1972), Roy said that Adler’s defense of government “is more convincing than almost any other work I have read….Although it is wrong, this is the best statement of a revised Aristotelian-Thomistic political philosophy that I have seen, and I have profited from it a great deal.” ↩
“Roy Childs on Anarchism,” Part 3, http://www.thornwalker.com/ditch/eboa_preface_3.htm. I cannot recommend Neff’s multi-part article too highly. It contains a good deal of information about Roy and his writings on anarchism that I do not discuss in this Introduction. ↩
Taylor, xviii. ↩
Roy’s review of Tuccille’s book was offset by a more favorable review by Jarret Wollstein in the same issue of SIL Book Review (May 1972). Wollstein called It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand “candid, impious, and frequently hilarious.” ↩
Roy did not cite the source, but the passage quoted in Roy’s review is from Rothbard’s article “Ludwig von Mises and the Paradigm of Our Age,” published in Modern Age ( Fall 1971, 370-379). This article was reprinted in the first edition of Rothbard’s anthology, Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays, published by Libertarian Review Press in 1974. Roy edited and wrote an introduction for this edition. ↩
Taylor, xvi. ↩
Frontlines: Reason’s Newsletter for Libertarians 2, no. 2 (October 1979), 2. Roy’s role as keynote speaker had been vehemently opposed by Murray Rothbard. For an account of the bitter controversy that occurred over this issue during a meeting of the LP National Committee (May 5-6, 1979), see Frontlines 1, no. 10 (June 1979). I mention this controversy because it reflects the animosity that had developed over the past several years between Roy Childs and Murray Rothbard, two former friends and colleagues. I should note, however, that the lion’s share of personal animosity came from Rothbard. Roy regarded Rothbard as his most important mentor, and he always retained a high regard for his work, despite their later conflicts. A fair number of Rothbard’s friends and admirers, including me, eventually squabbled with Rothbard and went their separate ways. Such internecine conflicts are the rule in ideological movements, especially during periods of rapid growth. The libertarian movement in the late 1970s and early ‘80s was no exception. ↩
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Roy was a lucid writer, so it is unnecessary to summarize the articles contained in this anthology. The essays speak for themselves. Moreover, it would be virtually impossible to summarize most of the essays included here, given how much ground they cover.
I do, however, wish to comment on a few things; so, having already discussed Roy’s Open Letter—his most influential essay, by far —I shall now turn to the other essays. Let’s begin with “The Epistemological Basis of Anarchism: An Open Letter to Objectivists and Libertarians” (hereafter referred to, for the sake of convenience, as EBA).
This essay, which remained unpublished in Roy’s lifetime, was written in November 1969, within months of the publication of “An Open Letter to Ayn Rand” (August 1969). Roy apparently intended EBA to be a continuation of his Open Letter to Rand, for EBA is also presented as an open letter, but one addressed to the broader audience of “Objectivists and Libertarians.” Many years later, in “Anarchist Illusions,” Roy claimed that EBA was privately “circulated in the thousands,’ but this was probably an exaggeration.
EBA begins with a brief discussion of William Godwin (1756-1836), who is widely regarded as the first “philosophical anarchist.” As Ronn Neff has pointed out, Roy’s quotations from Godwin were almost certainly taken from an anthology of anarchist writings, Patterns of Anarchy (Anchor Books, 1966), edited by Leonard I. Krimerman and Lewis Perry.1 Indeed, Roy probably got the title for his essay from Krimerman and Perry, since the title of their chapter on Godwin is “An Epistemological Basis for Anarchism.”
Roy gave me a typescript copy of EBA not long after we met, and we discussed it at various times. Although I cannot recall the details of our conversations, I do recall that Roy was dissatisfied with parts of the article, which is probably why he never made a serious effort to get it published. His dissatisfaction was stylistic rather than substantive. Parts of EBA are needlessly prolix.
EBA, like the Open Letter, is written in what may be described as a heavy Randian dialect. That is to say, it uses Randian expressions, such as “floating abstraction,” that were (and are) popular among followers of Rand; and much of it consists of little more than paraphrases of Rand’s metaethics, ethics, and epistemology. Roy didn’t always write like this, and he certainly didn’t speak like this, so it is safe to assume that he adapted his style to his intended audience.2
Roy was circumspect in his use of Godwin’s ideas, probably because he knew that many Randian readers would not be receptive to an essay that begins with a discussion of a famous anarchist. He begins by conceding that Godwin was “the father of both individualist and collectivist anarchism,” and he goes on to say that Godwin’s “case for anarchism was seriously marred by the acceptance of a variant of the altruistic moral code….” This was the “single flaw” in Godwin’s “glorious analysis.” He worked from “the assumption that the individual should serve others. Voluntarily, perhaps, but the mistaken premise is still there.”
To appreciate Roy’s strategy here, we need to understand the allergic reaction that many Randians had to any philosopher who defended, or seemed to defend, “altruism”—a word coined in the nineteenth century by Auguste Comte. Knowing that such Randians would be repelled by what appeared to be an altruistic defense of anarchism, Roy maintained that Godwin’s case for anarchism was not based on altruism but rather on an epistemological premise that Rand also endorsed, namely, that “each must have his sphere of discretion.” Roy continued:
The main point … is that [Godwin] thought he could derive anarchism from the right and necessity of independent judgment. Godwin may not have proven his case—but that is my intention here. My purpose, in brief, is to show how a consistent application of the Objectivist ethics leads inevitably to anarchism, rather than to the conclusion which most Objectivists and “students of Objectivism” themselves reach: limited, constitutional government.
Next in chronological order is “Anarchism and Justice,” which is unquestionably Roy’s best work on anarchism, if not his most influential. Published in four installments in 1971 (in the May, June, July-August, and October issues of The Individualist), this important and lengthy essay (“monograph” might be a better word) did not elicit the attention it deserved during Roy’s lifetime, because of the small circulation of the magazine in which it appeared.
I would like to call attention to two interesting features of “Anarchism and Justice.” The first is Roy’s methodological claim that “the burden of proof is always on the advocate of a State.”
It is important to note, in other words, that epistemologically anarchism is a negative proposition, not concerned per se with advocating positive institutions. Like atheism, it need prove nothing positive. All that it has to do is to consider the doctrines and arguments of the advocates of a State, and attempt to prove them to be invalid. If it succeeds in this attempt, then it has itself been established.3
Later in the same part, Roy wrote:
Thus we must start out as anarchists, and have the advocates of the State make out their case. Surely with a historical context to look at we must be skeptics concerning the alleged need for such an institution. And since mankind must have started out without a State, it had to be created historically as well. Thus on every ground, we must start out as anarchists to begin with!
I disagree with Roy on this issue, as indicated in Section III of this Introduction, in which I argue that anarchism, properly considered, is a positive theory of social order without government. I think Roy’s analogy between “negative atheism” (which I defended in Atheism: The Case Against God, as well as in two later books) and anarchism is misconceived, because anarchism is not merely lack of belief in the legitimacy of government. Rather, anarchism is a positive belief in the moral illegitimacy of government. Thus the anarchist, like the advocate of government, must defend his beliefs with moral arguments. Both sides share the burden of proof.
I don’t know what we would call someone who has no opinion, one way or the other, about the legitimacy of government, and so does not positively believe in the legitimacy of that institution, but to call such a person an “anarchist” would be highly peculiar, at best.
But I have no desire to argue with a friend who is no longer around to defend himself. I mention this disagreement in the hope that it will motivate some libertarians to consider some methodological issues that Roy considered important, and that he loved to talk about.
The second topic in “Anarchism and Justice” that merits special attention is Roy’s spirited critique of one of his heroes, the great economist Ludwig von Mises:
Directly and indirectly, Mises is a major influence on the libertarian movement. When representatives of classical liberalism are mentioned, it is he and his student F. A. Hayek who are chosen as key representatives. He, more than anyone else, except possibly Milton Friedman of the Chicago school of economists, is responsible for the convictions which most libertarians hold in economic theory. He is the major intellectual upon whom such organizations as the Foundation for Economic Education build their social philosophy. In short, Ludwig von Mises and his works serve as one of the major intellectual forces within the libertarian and conservative movements.
After subjecting the “utilitarian and anti-natural law” views of Mises to a withering critique and pointing out that “Mises vehemently opposes any attempts to define the limits of the State,” Roy locked into his Randian mode by contrasting the Misesian approach with “the Aristotelian-Thomistic view (as well as the view of Rand and, I believe, Rothbard) that ethics or morality is a science, that normative matters, or ought-statements, are a kind of facts, that they are statements of relations between a certain kind of entity (possessing the capacity of choice, and which can be harmed or benefitted by choices and actions) and the reality with which it deals.
The most intriguing and original aspect of Roy’s discussion is his contention that value-free economics is an illusion, since we cannot even distinguish between voluntary exchange and theft without a moral theory of property rights that distinguishes mine from thine. Although Roy focused on Mises, he knew this argument applied to Rothbard as well.
The thrust of my argument will be to maintain that a value-free economist cannot recommend anything whatever, with the corollary point being made that without reference to ethical principles, one cannot even define such key economic concepts as “voluntary exchange” and “State intervention.” If ethics is needed for the definitions of these concepts, then it will be seen that economics does in fact have to rely on ethics for at least these premises, and thus can never be purely value-free. The importance of this contention for economics as a science should be obvious.
Next in order of appearance is Roy’s last defense of anarchism: “The Invisible Hand Strikes Back,” originally delivered at the third Libertarian Scholars Conference in October 1975 and then published in the premiere issue (1977) of the Journal of Libertarian Studies. This is a detailed and occasionally light-hearted critique of Robert Nozick’s arguments for government, as presented in Anarchy, State, and Utopia.
This article, with its absence of rhetorical flourishes and Randian rhetoric, demonstrates Roy’s adaptability as a writer. That he was able to stand toe-to-toe with Nozick, one of the most highly regarded philosophers of his time, reinforced Roy’s standing as a first-class intellectual.
It is fitting that a person with the complex mind of a Roy Childs should leave a mystery behind him. In Roy’s case the mystery is why he later repudiated anarchism, even going so far as to call anarchism “an incoherent and therefore unreachable goal that inevitably corrupts any attempted strategy to achieve it.”
In 1987, in a review of The Market for Liberty, by Morris and Linda Tannehill, Roy wrote: “I am not an anarchist, but my 1969 ‘Open Letter to Ayn Rand’ was, and it helped stir up the debate, too.” According to Joan Kennedy Taylor:
During the early 1980s, Roy Childs mentioned to some of his friends that he had changed his mind about anarchism, and intended someday to write about the subject at length; exactly when and why this change occurred is unclear. He said to me once that the hostage crisis in Iran was a turning point for him, because it became obvious that when the Iranian students took the hostages, because of the de facto anarchy in that country, there was no one with whom to negotiate for their release; but he didn’t argue the point further. Many limited government libertarians, including myself, feel that their arguments were decisive in changing his mind, but we will never know. When Laissez Faire Books announced in 1988 that Childs would edit The Libertarian newsletter for them, he decided to put his new views on anarchism in the first issue, but neither the article nor the first issue was ever completed—this fragment [“Anarchist Illusions”] (which was found in his papers after his death) is as far as he got.4
Taylor’s claim that Roy had jettisoned his anarchism by the early 1980s is confirmed by Ronn Neff, who said that “Roy informed me of his change of mind in 1982.” But whereas Taylor reported Roy as saying that the Iranian hostage crisis was a turning point in his deconversion, Neff says that Roy “referred to the condition into which Lebanon had fallen after the shelling of Beirut” in 1982.5
Roy and I had long phone conversations, sometimes nearly every day, during the last three years of his life. The story he told me about his forthcoming article differed from the story he told to Taylor, though the two accounts are not necessarily incompatible. According to the version I heard, Roy had been asked by R. W. Bradford, the founder and editor of Liberty magazine, to write up his refutation so it could be published in Liberty. Roy wanted at least $500 for his efforts, but Bradford had a “policy” of not paying writers, so the project fell through. Roy was offended that Bradford refused to pay anything for what was obviously an article of tremendous significance, and I fully appreciated his reaction.
I often quizzed Roy during those final years about his “secret refutation” of anarchism, as we jokingly called it, pointing out that a refutation that is kept secret isn’t much of a refutation. But, again and again, Roy refused to spill the beans, explaining that he didn’t want to reveal anything before he had worked out all the details.
My feeling at the time was that Roy had promised something he could not deliver in a form credible enough to gain the respect, if not the agreement, of the very libertarians he had converted to anarchism many years earlier. This, I believe, is why Roy never wrote anything more than an introductory fragment that tells us very little. His own arguments for anarchism were simply too strong, and there was no way he could refute them without drastically overhauling other features of his moral and political philosophy. The earlier Roy had outwitted the later Roy, a victim of his own brilliance.
One day, not long before his death, I got Roy to open up a bit. After pleading with him to tell me the general outline of his refutation, he paused for a moment and then said, “Well, anarchism isn’t practical.”
It was at this point that I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. Instead of remaining silent or asking Roy a respectful follow-up question, I shot back: “That’s it? Anarchism isn’t practical? That’s your secret refutation?”
After a long pause, Roy replied, “I don’t want to talk about this any more.”
I regret how I handled that situation to this day.
Excerpted from the introduction to Anarchism & Justice, by Roy A. Childs, Jr., published by Libertarianism.org Press.
Neff, “Notes and Commentary,” note 2, http://www.thornwalker.com/ditch/eboa_notes.htm#note2. Neff writes that Roy “makes the same mistake Krimerman and Perry make in giving the name of Godwin’s book. The correct title is Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Modern Morals and Happiness. Another is that the same ellipsis appears in the Krimerman and Perry passage as appears in Childs’s quotation.” Neff’s first assertion is incorrect. Godwin used somewhat different titles in different editions of his book. Krimerman and Perry used the third edition, corrected, (1798) – specifically, the facsimile reprint published by University of Toronto Press (1946) – which is titled An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness. This is a minor point, however, and does not affect Neff’s argument. Neff also observes that Roy, while a student at SUNY in Buffalo, “took a special seminar on anarchism under Lewis Perry.” This may be where Roy first encountered Godwin’s Enquiry. ↩
Near the beginning of EBA, Roy wrote: “Throughout this short essay, I shall assume that the reader is familiar, in essence, with the Objectivist theory of morality and politics.” This remark gives us an idea of what Roy viewed as a “short essay.” ↩
Roy may have gotten this idea from Mortimer J. Adler. In his review of The Common Sense of Politics (Books for Libertarians, July 1972), Roy noted that “Adler recognizes that the burden of proof rests on the advocate of any government.” ↩
Taylor, 179. ↩
“Roy Childs on Anarchism,” Part 5, http://www.thornwalker.com/ditch/eboa_preface_5.htm. Though speculative, Neff’s explanation of what was really going on with Roy’s refutation of anarchism is, in my judgment, exactly on point, so I refer readers to his account for additional details. ↩
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Native Americans arise – some of you anyway. The United States Department of Justice has a momentous announcement. If you are a member of one of the more than 500 federally recognized Indian tribes you will be allowed to possess eagle feathers. And get this, the Justice Department is giving you this privilege, even though possession of eagle feathers is a federal crime.
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and other federal statutes make killing of eagles a crime, but federal actions extend to possession of feathers from birds that die from natural causes, such as collisions with power lines. Currently, the federal government holds the carcasses of those eagles in a depository. Indians may apply to the depository but there is a waiting list. But now members of federally approved tribes can carry or wear eagle feathers and parts. And it gets better.
If federally approved tribal members see fallen eagle feathers in the wild, they can pick them up without fear of prosecution. Likewise, they can trade or lend feathers to other tribe members with impunity, as long as no money is involved. Any buying or selling of feathers or parts, however, and the Justice Department will prosecute.
One should recall that the dealings of the federal government with Indian tribes have hardly been a model of justice. In 2000, the head of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA, which some Indians call the “bureau of ignorance and apathy”) formally apologized for the agency’s participation in the “ethnic cleansing” of Western tribes. To say the least, the federal government’s record of keeping treaties is hardly exemplary. Some Native Americans saw the longstanding eagle feather prohibitions as part of that abuse.
Eagle feathers are not mere decorations. Tribes consider them sacred and use them in religious ceremonies, but the birds they got from the federal depository were rotten and unfit for ceremonial use. “That’s unacceptable,” Nelson P. White of the Northern Arapaho Tribe told an appeals court in 2007. “How would a non-Indian feel if they had to get their Bible from a repository?”
The new Justice Department feather policy could be construed as an improvement but Native Americans may be forgiven for seeing it as tokenism that fails to make up for centuries of mistreatment.
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Tom G. Palmer is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, director of the Institute’s educational division, Cato University, Vice President for International Programs at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and General Director of the Atlas Global Initiative for Free Trade, Peace, and Prosperity.
Kurt Leube is a historian of economic thought, with an emphasis on Austrian economics, and a scholar of law and economics and economic philosophy. He is also a Professor in the Department of Economics at California State University, Hayward; a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University; and Professor and Academic Director of the International Institute for Austrian Economics.
In this video from a seminar in Aix-en-Provence, France in 1995, Palmer and Leube discuss a recently-released paper by Leube on social justice, adapted from his 1989 book, A ‘Hayekian’ Critique of Social Justice. Palmer makes five key points regarding the nature of the welfare state and distributive justice, and Leube responds. The French-only portions of the Q&A period were edited out of this video because of time constraints.
Note: This lecture was delivered to a mostly French-speaking audience. ‘Liberal’ in French should be considered to translate as ‘classical liberal’ or ‘libertarian’ in modern American parlance.
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Randy E. Barnett is a lawyer and legal theorist, and a Senior Fellow of the Cato Institute and the Goldwater Institute. He also teaches constitutional law and contracts at Georgetown University Law Center.
In this lecture, given in 1991 in Aix-en-Provence, France, Barnett talks about justice, the law, and the relationship between the two. He starts by defining both terms and listing three possible relationships between the two: either there is no relationship at all between a rights-based concept of justice and the law, justice is higher than the law (or the law arises out of defined principles of justice), or justice is equal to the law and both concepts serve each other in practice. Barnett dismantles two of these possible relationships and concludes that legal orders must impart legitimacy on the law by making laws that are compatible with higher concepts of justice, but are not solely dependent on justice because the law is also reliant on convention in practice.
Note: This lecture was delivered to a mostly French-speaking audience. ‘Liberal’ in French should be considered to translate to ‘classical liberal’ or ‘libertarian’ in modern American parlance.
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