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Dec 1, 1975

An Afterward from Readers, Authors, Reviewers (Dec. 1975)

“A libertarian social order is the only one that free and rational people would ever accept. Scientology…[works] on the same side as the libertarians.”

Rationalism and the State

Rothbard’s review of Oppenheimer on the State [LR, Sept.] is interesting, but I should have thought that an objective analysis of the origin of the State might have revealed at least a few ambiguities in the “conquest” hypothesis. Certainly we know that many States did originate in conquest; but to say that therefore all States are merely parasites and exploitive does not follow.

We need not accept Jefferson’s view that governments are instituted to secure basic rights, nor yet the Book of Common Prayer’s exhortation that rulers “truly and impartially administer justice to the punishment of wickedness and vice” to see that the State has functions other than mere theft from the industrious.

Furthermore, I find it at least doubtful that ancient Corn-kings who were sacrificed for the good of the populace were mere thieving conquerors; nor do I think governors of modern times are universally exploitive despite my many quarrels with our over-grown bureaucracy.

Oppenheimer provided one answer to the silly contract theories that have always been rampant among intellectuals; but then Burke had already done that, and some would say he had done it better. Although I have a certain devotion to rational discussion and the human intellect, it remains that rationalism has not always served us well when applied to government; and I fear it is of no greater value when used by Oppenheimer and Rothbard than when used by Paine and Rousseau.

JERRY POURNELLE
Studio City, Calif.

 

Scientology and Libertarianism

As a Scientologist who is also a libertarian (there are quite a few of us, probably including Ron Hubbard) I am inclined to doubt that many people familiar with Scientology’s actual procedures would follow Evans and Anderson [LR, Sept.] in dismissing it as a “science fiction religion.” (For those interested, Hubbard’s latest book Dianetics Today describes many of these procedures.)

Scientology does not want True Believers, it wants people who are capable of examining carefully what is there. It has been said that Scietology works best on skeptics because they are often more willing to look.

To my mind, a libertarian social order is the only one that free and rational people would ever accept. Scientology claims to be able to handle human irrationality and make people free. Whether it really does this is something each must find out for himself. But it is certainly working on the same side as the libertarians.

MARTIN CHOATE
San Francisco, Calif.

 

Spencer

John Hosper’s fine review of Spencer’s The Man Versus the State [LR, July] called to mind some critiques of Spencer’s libertarian inconsistency by contemporary individualist anarchists. Hospers contends that Spencer was more consistently libertarian than was John Stuart Mill. While this may be true, there were nineteenth century libertarians, like Benjamin Tucker and Victor Yarros, who doubted the libertarian consistency of Herbert Spencer.

Benjamin Tucker wrote that Spencer was unfaithful to the principle of equal liberty due to “his belief in compulsory taxation and his acceptance of the majority principle….” (Instead Of A Book, p. 103.) Tucker also doubted Spencer’s honesty and was suspicious of his attacks on socialism. Spencer always cited laws which protected labor, alleviated suffering or promoted people’s welfare, but he never attacked the “deep-seated evils growing out of the innumerable laws creating privilege and sustaining monopoly.” (Individual Liberty, pp. 275-6.) In short, Tucker suspected that Spencer’s attacks on socialism were merely a cover for monopoly control in collusion with the State.

Victor Yarros, a Tucker associate, admired Spencer, but concluded that “he lacks nothing but a little detemined consistency to be an anarchist.” (Liberty, VI, 20 July, 1889, p. 4.) This evaluation is also heralded by Sidney Fine in Laissez Faire and the General-Welfare State (1956). Fine states that Spencer believed in “the extension of state activity in its special, negatively regulative sphere,” and was “but one step removed from anarchism.” (Laissez Faire, pp. 4, 37.)

I suppose the rift between Spencer and the individualist anarchists is similar to the ideological confrontations which beset the libertarian movement today. Libertarianism has indeed grown in the 1970s, but the gulf between the laissez fairists and the individualist anarchists has remained virtually the same as it was in the nineteenth century.

DAVID HAYDEN
Montgomery, Ind.

 

Hospers Replies

Perhaps Mr. Hayden forgets that the book I was reviewing was The Man Versus the State, which is devoted almost entirely to the evils of encroaching State control over the life of every individual—surely a matter on which all libertarians can agree. Had I been reviewing instead Spencer’s bookSocial Statics, I would indeed have pointed out some inconsistencies, especially his view (held at that time but not later) that individuals should not own land but that “Society” should be the “steward”—which of course invites the criticism that “Society” for all practical purposes means the State. Nevertheless, even Social Statics is a fine libertarian document. The following unforgettable passage from it, on the right to ignore the State, has been an inspiration to libertarians, and is also impossible to reconcile with the view that Spencer approved compulsory taxation:

We cannot choose but admit the right of the citizen to adopt a condition of voluntary outlawry. If every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not on the equal freedom of any other man, then he is free to drop connection with the State—to relinquish its protection and to refuse paying toward its support. In so behaving he in no way trenches upon the liberty of others, for his position is a passive one, and while passive he cannot be an aggressor…. He cannot be compelled to continue one of a political corporation without a breach of moral law, seeing that citizenship involves payment of taxes; and the taking away of a man’s property agaiinst his will is an infringement of his rights. Government being simply an agent employed in common by a number of individuals to secure to them certain advantages, the very nature of the connection implies that it is for each to say whether he will employ such an agent or not. If any one of them determines to ignore this mutual-safety confederation, nothing can be said except that he loses all claim to its good offices and exposes himself to the danger of maltreatment—a thing he is quite at liberty to do if he likes. He cannot be coerced into political combination without breach of the law of equal freedom; he canwithdraw from it without committing any such breach, and he has therefore a right so to withdraw.

JOHN HOSPERS
Hollywood, Calif.

 

Letters from readers are welcome. Although only a selection can be published and none can be individually acknowledged, each will receive editorial consideration and may be passed on to reviewers and authors. Letters submitted for publication should be brief, typed, double spaced, and sent to LR, 410 First Street, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20003.