New Hampshire Underground

Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Advanced search  

News:

Please log in on the special "login" page, not on any of these normal pages. Thank you, The Procrastinating Management

"Let them march all they want, as long as they pay their taxes."  --Alexander Haig

Pages: [1]   Go Down

Author Topic: Contra Gradualism  (Read 823 times)

Friday

  • Shire Liberty News: spotlighting activism in New Hampshire
  • Insider
  • Enemy of the State
  • *****
  • Karma: 938
  • Posts: 2953
  • TANSTAAFL
    • Shire Liberty News
Contra Gradualism
« on: May 23, 2008, 04:47 PM NHFT »

Fantastic essay defining various types of anarchist: abolitionist, explicit gradualist, and implicit gradualist.

CONTRA GRADUALISM

by Wendy McElroy

It is 1858 and you are living in a Northern town. A man has arrived
at your door with papers documenting his ownership of a run away
slave whom you are sheltering. The slave throws himself at your feet
begging to stay while the slave-owner reasons with you. Being
philosophically inclined, he comments on the political and social
necessity of preserving slavery for the time being. He assures you he
is opposed to the institution, but that without it the economy of the
South would shrivel and crimes of passion by blacks against whites
would abound. Slavery must be phased out. When the black man is
educated and able to support himself, then he will be freed.

If you reply, "There is no moral or practical consideration that
overrides this man's right to his own body," you are an abolitionist.

If you reply, "I am opposed to slavery, but the consequences of
immediately ending it are disastrous; therefore, I return your slave
for the transition period," you are a gradualist.

The abolition of slavery was the core issue around which libertarians
of the early nineteenth century rallied. They opposed phasing it out
as they would have opposed phasing out rape. Both are moral
abominations on which the only proper position is immediate
cessation; that is, as fast as is humanly possible. A core issue
around which modern libertarians must rally is the abolition of the
state, as fast as is humanly possible.

Libertarianism is the political philosophy based on the principle of
nonaggression. Every human being is a self owner with inalienable
rights. And gradualism is inconsistent with the moral foundation of
libertarianism.

Before proceeding, it is useful to distinguish gradual- ism as a
policy from gradualism as a fact of reality. This latter form of
gradualism says that, try as you may, it takes time to implement
ideas. The transition to a libertarian society would not - because it
could not - occur overnight. This is the nature of temporal reality
in which we live. If this is all that is meant by gradualism -- if it
means 'as fast as possible' -- then there is no quarrel between so
called 'gradualists' and 'abolitionists' within the movement.

This is not the formulation of gradualism with which abolitionists
are concerned. When abolitionists say that unjust laws ought to be
abolished immediately, the "ought" is a moral ought, and
"immediately" means no more than as fast as possible.

Abolitionists do not deny reality; they simply insist that - as a
political policy, individual rights must be given priority over all
other moral and practical considerations. Libertarian abolitionists
of the nineteenth century realized that the cessation of slavery
would take time, but their message was that the deliberate
continuation of slavery as a policy could not be justified. They
demanded abolition - no "ifs,"" ands," or "buts."

Those libertarians of the "ifs," "ands," or "buts" camp maintain
that, in some cases, libertarianism ought to favor the gradual
phasing out of unjust laws and agencies rather than pushing for
immediate abolition, even if that immediate abolition is possible. A
commonly cited example is the modern version of slavery - taxation.
If taxes were to cease abruptly, it is claimed, the consequences upon
those who have paid into social security would be calamitous.
Therefore taxes must be phased out.

[For the sake of this analysis, I will label the foregoing position
as "explicit" gradualism and introduce the concept of "implicit"
gradualism later.]

The defining aspect of explicit gradualism is the answer it gives to
the key question: Could it ever be too soon to eliminate an unjust
law or agency? The abolitionist gives an unqualified "no." If the
gradualist does not answer "yes," he answers "maybe." Taxation is
theft but some people might starve if it ceases abruptly. (Please
note that I am not denigrating concern for starving people, but
merely rejecting the use of force - and particularly governmental
force - to solve this problem.)

Here the explicit gradualist is not denying that taxation violates
rights; he is claiming that there is a "social good" which has higher
priority than individual rights. Since he cannot justify coercion
with reference to freedom itself (unless the word is radically
redefined), he justifies the willful continuation of theft by posing
a dilemma of some kind. Abolition of government laws would result in
social chaos; thus, we need a "transition" period during which
deliberate rights violations would continue

The myth of the transition period accomplishes at least two things.
It converts libertarianism from a personal philosophy and obligation
that should be consistently lived on a day-to-day basis into a
symbolic light at the end of a tunnel. Thus, libertarians might have
to advocate and participate, in the violation of rights in order to
humanely achieve a society where no compromise of rights is
tolerated. To the insightful Gandhi objection that "The means are the
ends in progress," the explicit gradualist might well answer with a
quote from Lenin: "You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette."
Is it necessary to point out that "eggs" is a metaphor for "heads"?

The second accomplishment is a slight of hand. By posing the
transition period, gradualism is suddenly shifted into a strategic
rather than a moral question. Gradualism is simply a matter of
getting from here to there.

Abolitionists answer: on the contrary, however, gradualism is a
matter of whether libertarians will sanction the violation of rights
as a strategy. As a libertarian, it is not within your range of
discretion to deliberately violate the rights of any person in any
case. It is forbidden, without qualification, by the fundamental
principle of the philosophy. You may decide to aggress anyway, but
you cannot aggress in the name of libertarian theory. Logic forbids
you that option.

The only possible avenue of escape from this contradiction is to
compromise the non-aggression principle by watering it down to read:
"The initiation of force, is wrong except when it is necessary to
preserve "social order," or "...when it is politically expedient," or
"...when a libertarian politician says so. "

If the non-aggression principle is given priority then the only
libertarian approach to unjust laws and agencies is that they must be
abolished as soon as is humanly possible; that is, abolitionism.

Other problems with explicit gradualism are worth mentioning. For
those who favor libertarian politicians (I do not) it is important to
have a standard by which to judge the effectiveness and sincerity of
libertarian office-holders, If, at the end of four years, your
politician has accomplished little, he can always contend, "The time
was not ripe." Since gradualism has no objective standards, it is a
blank check for inactivity and compromise.

A more fundamental problem is the "reductio ad absurdum" of
gradualism. Once you admit the principle of subordinating rights to a
social good, there is no way to draw the line. If my rights are
violated by libertarians to compensate others for injustice (not
receiving social security, for example), why should the same
principle not be applied to me? Surely that injustice done to me
should go rectified by violating the rights of the coming generation.
This vicious, antilibertarian doctrine fosters an infinite regress of
injustice. As William Lloyd Garrison expressed it, "Gradualism in
theory is perpetuity in practice." The only way to stop injustice is
to stop injustice.

Nevertheless, gradualists might reply that a minimal tax would be a
small injustice compared to the greater one of depriving old people
of social security. But it is not clear what standard is being used
here. Are we to trust a "gut" reaction that it is better for many
people to be deprived of a little than for few to be deprived of a
great deal? Even if one could be judged less unjust, trying to fit
either one into a libertarian framework would be pounding a square
peg of injustice into the round hole of liberty. And if it could be
demonstrated that I have had more stolen from me through taxation
than have many of those on social security, could they be forced to
compensate me for that greater injustice? The dismal fact is that
everyone has had money stolen by the government; the goal of
libertarianism is to end that process, not to dilute or redirect it.

Let me now introduce the concept of "implicit" gradualism, which uses
a different approach. The implicit gradualist might well agree with
everything written up to this point, but he would advocate gradualism
with regard to spreading libertarian ideas. Thus, libertarian writers
and speakers should present issues on a piecemeal basis without ever
stating the goal of abolition or the wider libertarian context. Thus,
a libertarian should call for decreased taxation without revealing
the goal of no taxation. 'Taxation is theft" is replaced with a
statement that you "have the right to keep more of what you earn."

This is gradualism by concealment - a concealment that is justified
as a strategic maneuver to facilitate agreement. After all, if we
unload the entire libertarian ideology onto people, they will shrink
from its radicalism. They are not ready to hear abstract discussions
of justice and natural rights. The implicit gradualists may swear -
in private to fellow libertarians - that they favor abolitionism, but
they are unwilling to be publicly honest about it.

It is important to point out that it is indeed sometimes
inappropriate to bring up the wider framework of libertarianism. In
discussing drugs, for example, it is probably inappropriate to divert
the conversation in order to show how self ownership also applies to
abortion or labor reform. This is different in kind, however, from
actively avoiding the fundamental principles ... of refusing to
extend them when they are appropriate. And it is also different from
misstating a libertarian position to dull its radical edge.

This policy of calculated misstatement is one of the most unpleasant
contributions that electoral politics has made to libertarian theory.
Unlike explicit gradualism, however, implicit gradualism does not
violate rights. It is more a matter of personal integrity and
strategy. It is simply lying by omission.

In defense of such lying it must be admitted that, since no one has a
natural right to hear only the truth, lying is non-aggressive. I
contend, however, that it is counter to strict personal integrity and
is abysmally poor strategy.

Strategically, the first question to consider is whether or not there
is a distinctively libertarian point of view to political issues.
Libertarianism consists of more than advocating certain repeals and
reform; it consists of advocating them for a specific reason.
Individual political reforms come with no ideological tag identifying
them as libertarian, socialist, conservative or liberal. Both
conservatives and libertarians attack big government and taxes. Both
liberals and libertarians call for pro-choice abortion laws...or, at
least, they should. The point is that unless a libertarian gives the
reason for a specific proposal, there is nothing intrinsically
libertarian about it. If, however, he stands up and states, "I oppose
all taxation as theft and support any reduction of taxes as a step
toward that end," then his proposal has a libertarian context.

Secondly, the benefits of consistency and openness must not be
underrated. Once people understand and accept the principle of non-
aggression, they begin the long slide of applying it to specific
issues and concluding that everything from roads to a court system
could be handled on a voluntary basis. Communicate the ideology well
and the issues will follow; the adverse is not necessarily true.

Third, gradualists claim that libertarianism is too radical to appeal
to large numbers of people. But the problem here is not whether we
wish to appear radical; the problem is that we are radical and don't
want to admit it. At least, not publicly. The issue is whether our
radicalism will be viewed as a strong-point or as an political idiot
cousin to be locked in the attic and not discussed.

My final objection is that I suspect many implicit gradualists, are
simply confessing their inability to communicate radical, abstract
ideas well and then making a strategy out of this failure. The
enormous appeal and influence of Ayn Rand and Thomas Szasz proves
that radical ideas can be presented reasonably and effectively. They
can be presented with passion, humor, understatement, allegory,
compassion and anger. The range of presentation is as endless as the
personalities of those who espouse the principles.

The alternative to a fanatic, railing abolitionist is not a wishy-
washy, evasive gradualist. It is a reasoned, knowledgeable
abolitionist who communicates radical ideas effectively.

If libertarians do not present clear and explicit libertarian ideas,
who will? These ideas may be accepted or rejected, but they will live
or die on the basis of what they are instead of what they are not. It
would be tragic if the one clear voice for freedom in our time did
not have enough confidence in itself to speak up without apology.
Logged

Russell Kanning

  • Administrator
  • Enemy of the State
  • *****
  • Karma: 2483
  • Posts: 22767
  • The Nonviolent Revolution starts here
    • russellkanning.com blog
Re: Contra Gradualism
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2008, 05:14 PM NHFT »

I really like her articles.

random thoughts about the article:
presenting ideas ... is not the only action

the situation gets even harder when they threaten to throw you in jail or kill you, if you don't hand over the slave staying at your home :( .... really easy to turn gradualist then

Quote
Other problems with explicit gradualism are worth mentioning. For
those who favor libertarian politicians (I do not) it is important to
have a standard by which to judge the effectiveness and sincerity of
libertarian office-holders, If, at the end of four years, your
politician has accomplished little, he can always contend, "The time
was not ripe." Since gradualism has no objective standards, it is a
blank check for inactivity and compromise.
we can see if polititians made any progress .... at least something to see if you can support them even a little bit

even when dealing with individuals ... asking for, looking for, or suggesting steps ... leads you in the right direction

it seems to me .... the important thing is to do something ... and keeping the goal in mind, head in the right direction

I love the quote:
"the means are the ends in progress"
Logged

Russell Kanning

  • Administrator
  • Enemy of the State
  • *****
  • Karma: 2483
  • Posts: 22767
  • The Nonviolent Revolution starts here
    • russellkanning.com blog
Re: Contra Gradualism
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2008, 05:16 PM NHFT »

also reminds me of when a cop joins LEAP .... they still keep arresting guys .... when does it end?
Logged

TackleTheWorld

  • Insider
  • Troublemaker
  • *****
  • Karma: 1930
  • Posts: 2044
  • Shucks folks, I'm speechless.
Re: Contra Gradualism
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2008, 08:15 PM NHFT »


The alternative to a fanatic, railing abolitionist is not a wishy-
washy, evasive gradualist. It is a reasoned, knowledgeable
abolitionist who communicates radical ideas effectively.

She thinks reason and knowledge is the key,  I think if reason and knowledge were convincing, we would have already won. 
Logged

Russell Kanning

  • Administrator
  • Enemy of the State
  • *****
  • Karma: 2483
  • Posts: 22767
  • The Nonviolent Revolution starts here
    • russellkanning.com blog
Re: Contra Gradualism
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2008, 07:06 AM NHFT »

I am glad people like her write, but most of us just need to help people. :)
Logged

David

  • Secessionist, Peacemaker and Non-violent
  • Enemy of the State
  • ******
  • Karma: 1124
  • Posts: 2819
  • Came home on feb 3rd '07'
Re: Contra Gradualism
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2008, 06:50 PM NHFT »

Quote<Libertarianism is the political philosophy based on the principle of
nonaggression.>  It is so easy for me to forget this.  When talking with others, it usually gets gogged down into some detail, like roads for instance. 
Quote<I love the quote:
"the means are the ends in progress">
It is so true. 
Logged

Russell Kanning

  • Administrator
  • Enemy of the State
  • *****
  • Karma: 2483
  • Posts: 22767
  • The Nonviolent Revolution starts here
    • russellkanning.com blog
Re: Contra Gradualism
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2008, 07:02 PM NHFT »

for me .... the "ends in progress" would not be explaining road construction to government apologists.
Logged

John Edward Mercier

  • Revolutionary
  • ******
  • Karma: 1040
  • Posts: 2269
Re: Contra Gradualism
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2008, 07:48 PM NHFT »

Road construction is one of the few items to discuss with David.

I think most libertarians would understand that if each parent chose either to home school or pay the current going rate to the system... home schooling would be a more prominent choice.

If a private corporation owned all the roads, then payment for their usage would be easier to comprehend... but their would still be a payment and contractual restrictions.

Anyone wishes to see this in action can travel the Mt. Washington Auto Road (privately owned).
While the current system creates an imbalance based on value and efficiency of vehicle. Charging the remainder to property owners, regardless of intrinsic value.

With any luck, the increased costs and reduced revenue to NH DOT will create a transition back to the earlier model.



Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up