The definition of ruling is “exercising authority or influence” and the very act of doing so should be anathema to all libertarians. We do not want others exercising power over us and good libertarians want all of our fellow human beings to be equally free of authority and would never dream of trying to exercise authority over them. That is why a Libertarian political party is a fundamentally flawed concept – we don’t want political power. What would we do with it?
History tells us that we can be ruled by many different kinds of oppressors – kings, emperors, tribal elders, clan chiefs and dictators and coercion is always the medium by which we are ruled. All of the above acquired, by force, the monopoly of the means of violence in the geographical territory over which they governed. Of course they were not always violent towards those over whom they had authority but it was the threat of violence that enabled them to impose laws and levy taxes. People were ruled by their fear of that violence – that was, and is, how authority is exercised.
Of course you might say that times have changed. We are now governed by a parliament which we elect and if they oppress us we have the option to elect others to govern us instead. This, the proponents of democracy would say, legitimises the use of coercion in governance but the problem is that most people are not libertarians. Most people like rules, guidelines and being dictated to because it absolves them of the effort required to think for themselves. From our childhood we are taught that authority is a benign force imposed for our own safety and well being and most people take this as the natural template for their lives. They never really grow up. So when someone in authority tells them that they must act in a certain way, most people tend to conform. When they are told that something is being done for their own good they are happy to acquiesce but of course this only encourages those in authority to frighten them more.
Smoke and you’ll die of cancer, we are told. Drink and your liver will fail. Pay your taxes or the NHS won’t cure you. Don’t drive in excess of the speed limit we have imposed. Stop at red lights. Give us access to your emails or we won’t be able to stop the bogeymen from blowing you up! And the supine electorate are afraid and vote for ever greater “protection” no matter the cost in terms of their individual freedom.
So it is somewhat amusing to see the current Brexit campaigns being conducted along the same lines.
Vote REMAIN and the economy will collapse. You will lose your job and the pound will be worthless. Vote LEAVE or else the UK will be swamped by immigrants. And because people are being scared by both sides they are, understandably, a bit perplexed. Which of the Doomsday scenarios is actually more scary, they try to compute? On the one hand, any change from the status quo seems risky however I suspect that the irrational fear of foreigners might win in the end. Let’s hope so.
Because I will vote LEAVE, but not, of course, because I’m the least bit concerned about immigration (I don’t recognise the right of the state to have closed borders at all) but because I cannot resist the opportunity to strip out a pernicious layer of government, and, in fact, the most remote and pernicious layer of all.
I rather think all libertarians will do the same?