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Saturday, October 08, 2011


The Noble Highwayman

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its people may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end."
-C.S. Lewis
This particular quote draws our attention to the ethical side of liberty and makes no direct mention of economic freedom. However, I believe that its sentiment potentially captures what exactly it is about the government that so bothers the anarchists, and also occasionally irritates everyone whose government declares itself a protector of the arenas in which no one desires protection.
The next quote I will use is from The Ethics of Liberty by Rothbard. Rothbard’s claim is that there exists no way to structure government so that it will escape from certain allegations. Among these being that a government cannot possibly follow its own laws and creates a monopoly over things like the money supply, violence, and land/transportation using force and coercion. In chapter 22 Rothbard quotes a 19th century anarchist Lysander Spooner who points out that the way a government conducts its robberies is more ‘dastardly and shameful’ than that of a highwayman [a robber who conducted his robberies on the side of the highway up until the early 19th century]:
“[The highwayman] does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a ‘protector,’ and [to profess] that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to ‘protect’ those infatuated travelers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection.”
A further distinction, Spooner explains, between the highwayman and the government which ties in directly to the previous quote by C.S. Lewis is that:
“[The highwayman] does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful ‘sovereign,’ on account of the ‘protection’ he affords you. He does not keep ‘protecting’ you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands.”
And so it is; the government-unlike the upstanding highwayman or robber baron-skulks behind a parade of promises and empty justifications, tirelessly working to improve the lives of its subjects-whether they like it or not.

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