In "Tolerating Tyranny" and "Violence by Any Other Name...", thoughtful man of action, Larken Rose, rightfully excoriates slacktivists and authoritarians. He artfully describes the problem which must be overcome, and damns the individuals who recognize that problem but are either too lazy or unimaginative to take action to solve it.
In "Violence by Any Other Name...", Larken zeros in on the fundamental delusion held by the vast majority of otherwise rational individuals: a belief in the legitimacy of the State. More precisely, he identifies the initiation of violence by individuals in the name of the State as illegitimate yet widely accepted as non-violence or just simply tolerated.
I would have liked Larken to go a step further and explicitly recognize that there is no physical State. There are buildings and bureaucrats, politicians and paper, enforcement and equipment, but the State itself is merely a concept existing in the minds of individuals. The legitimacy of the State, therefore, rests on the strength of belief in that concept.
If you instead presume, as most do, that the State is embodied in its actors, you must eventually come to the paradox Larken presents. A man taking your possessions from your home is a "burglar" and illegitimate, therefore resistance is judged good. That same man with an IRS badge is legitimate, therefore resistance is judged bad. While in both cases you resist a man, in the latter case you also resist the concept of the State, which is not, in fact, embodied in the man, but exists separately in the minds of individuals.
This is an important distinction. Honestly, most people do not give a hoot about the complete stranger that you resisted who just happened to carry a badge. What they do care about is the perceived harm you inflicted on the concept, "the State", that they carry in their mind and wholly own. Since the concept is incapable of any action, let alone initiation of violence, any harm you inflict on the concept is, to the owner, de facto initiation of violence against their personal property.
Whether their belief in the concept of the State is delusional, lunacy, or hypocrisy is completely irrelevant. It is what it is and explains a plethora of intellectual contradictions.
Someone who holds that taxes are not theft is merely verbalizing his belief that taxes are nothing but ledger entries transferring property from one column to another, but remaining his personal property. He can simultaneously claim all applicable tax deductions while denouncing your claim of other deductions; taxes you pay enrich his concept, while taxes he pays are a zero sum game.
No matter that you feel the law is an ass, you must follow it while he may pick and choose which laws he obeys. Service to the State is man\'s highest calling. Collateral damage is acceptable, because those people do nothing for his concept. State actors should have sovereign immunity. If you\'ve got nothing to hide...and so forth.
It is also important to note that, while they bear the same name, there is no one State; rather there are billions of concepts owned by billions of people. Everyone knows, intellectually, that when State actors move against an individual, a hive mind did not make the decision to do so. Rather, individuals made the decision to act in the name of the concept they hold called the State.
If you violently resist State actors, "blowing their damn heads off" as Larken suggests in "Tolerating Tyranny", you only eliminate the State as a concept in the head you blew off. Billions of other concepts called the State remain in billions of other minds, including those who do not believe in the State\'s legitimacy. To completely eliminate the State, you would have to blow off billions of heads, including your own.
Ironically, with every head you blow off, you strengthen and reinforce the belief in the legitimacy of the concept called the State. Individuals think, "someone has to stop this madman before he blows off my head, too." To do so, they give their concept of the State moral license to complete the job the State actors set out to do, now with extreme prejudice.
But, that\'s not to say that individuals cannot sympathize with others they feel have been wronged by their concept of the State. Each individual sets acceptable rules and standards for their concept. While it is typically a higher burden of proof than with non-State actors, if a State actor can be shown to have operated contrary to those rules and standards, the individual will place blame for harm to the State on that State actor.
Notice that this is different from placing the blame on the State actor for harm to the victim. It is the reputation and coffers of the State that is really concerning. What we call sympathy in this case is actually remorse that a State actor has forced or warranted a transfer from the State concept to the victim concept in our minds. Whereas the State concept cannot act of its own volition, the victim concept possesses free will, so any transfer to the victim removes those assets from our control.
For this, individuals blame the State actor and feel aggravation that the victim may have been, in some way, enriched by this encounter. That aggravation manifests itself as a suspicion, no matter how slight, that regardless of any atrocity committed by the State actor, the victim may have deserved it. Violent resistance, despite the State actor\'s behavior, is confirmation of this suspicion.
Remember, the State actor is just a man; your resistance to the State actor may be just, but it is de facto initiation of violence against the State (a non-acting concept) and therefore harmful to the state. In the end, the State actor may have created a liability on the part of the state, but your violent resistance offset the liability, and then some.
Larken begins "Tolerating Tyranny" with derision for the "anticlimactic call-to-not-really-action." I share his disdain, as I share his disdain for the State-legitimizing actions of calling politicians and threatening to not vote them out of office. Unfortunately, the only call to action Larken gives is to hole up in your home and ambush State actors that come calling. Or, there can be armed riots in the streets, but not really because you have to wait for the Marxian ideal of the proletarian revolution to rise up in violent resistance with you.
But, the mob is just another mental concept, that the individuals composing the mob would give moral license to initiate violence against the State. What if the mob is successful? Certainly the idea is not to maintain mob violence, is it? On the other hand, is there even a remote possibility that the conceived moral license for a legitimate use of violence will dissipate forever once the mob has disbanded? That\'s what Marx thought.
I would have hoped for Larken to advocate non-violent resistance like he has practiced. Direct tax resistance is good, but even better is indirect tax resistance. Tax avoidance techniques and schemes are not valuable because they bear scrutiny in tax court, but because they plant the seeds of doubt as the legitimacy of the State as a concept.
Creation and distribution of propaganda is a simple non-violent resistance technique, although the pro-State propaganda machines will always be better funded. The key to effective propaganda is not the funding, but the persuasiveness of the message. Craft and display a message which promotes the personal benefits of relinquishing belief in the State as a deified concept.
But, if you believe, as I do, that human cooperation (the market) is the key to solving social problems, then you should look to the market to solve the social problem of the State. Specifically, use your influence in the market to de-legitimize the State.
Larken says, "buy a gun". Great advice, but from whom? An FFL holder? That pretty much defines counter-productive. Instead, buy from a private source.
Do you like everyday low prices? Thank the owners whose property was taken through eminent domain. Of course, the prices could be lower still if the company wasn\'t engaged in a pro-State health care propaganda campaign.
Speaking of health care, many libertarians were shocked recently to find that Whole Foods is run by a libertarian-minded CEO who\'s not afraid to be socially conscious and speak his anti-State mind. A few libertarians actually did some business with Whole Foods as a result. Those few probably won\'t make much of an armed rebellion, but they did something better: direct, market-based action in support of an anti-State message.
While it\'s not so easy to divine the belief in the State concept of some businesses, there are many who have taken straight payoffs of your cash in the last year. Those banks and manufacturers are well-known names. You aren\'t still doing business with them, are you? How about with other businesses that are doing business with them?
You can structure your economic transactions to be Stateless, organize wildcat strikes and Stateless trading networks, hide your wealth off-shore, and do a million other direct, non-violent, market-based actions of resistance every day, all by yourself. And, contrary to violent resistance, these actions actually do net harm to the concept of the State.
But, I suppose you may think your market influence is too little to make a difference. It is easier to do nothing but wait for a chance to pick up a gun and engage in a violent revolution. Like Larken, I believe you\'ll grow old waiting for that perfect chance to come along, but you\'ll fuel a lot of pro-State propaganda in the meantime.