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Issue I Now Available

coverIssue I of the WAL Reader magazine is now available! Thank you to everyone involved in the process of creating this magazine, and especially to everyone who contributed content to this first issue. And of course, a special thanks to Chris Spangle for allowing us to create this under the We Are Libertarians label.

Issue I is very introductory in nature – what is the WAL Reader?; what is We Are Libertarians all about?; what can you expect from future issues of the magazine? We also received contributions from multiple writers who explored their own paths to the libertarian movement and what the concept of “liberty” means to them at a personal level.

I’m proud of the variety of viewpoints we were able to gather for this issue – we have the ideas of a Libertarian Party faithful, a pacifist anarchist, a Tea Party revolutionary, and a libertarian socialist, among others. With 80 pages of content, I trust that you will find something of value to you in this issue.

You can view and download Issue I for free here. In the coming days, high-quality print and Amazon Kindle versions of the issue will also be available for purchase (all profits will be given to the We Are Libertarians patreon). Additionally, we will also be adding each article of Issue I to this website as individual web articles soon.

Thank you for taking the time to view our magazine! If you have any feedback, questions, or ideas, please let us know.

In Defense of Rogerism

Why Civility is Worth Defending
By Ryan Lindsey

What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?

What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?

It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but 2019 America seemed like a pretty brutal place. It’s like we were all in sync and in agreement on two things and two things only — people that aren’t like you are trash, and you should go for their jugulars anytime you get a chance.

Politicians, celebrities, bankers and financiers, media personalities and talking heads, neighbors with opposing views — it seems like all of us are just lurking around like brutish, ugly toads waiting to trounce one another. We’ve knotted our likelihood of feeling happy to our ability to witness and inflict embarrassment, inconvenience, or pain on the enemies we’ve all fashioned each other in to.

We’ve praised nastiness. This is obvious among the right-bent portion of society (I mean, come on — Donald Trump is their idol), but it was equally prevalent among the lefties as well. And don’t think you get a pass on this centrists; some of the most condescending and stuck-up skim-milk rhetoric in history has come from y’all this past year or so.

We get a thrill from the suffering of others. That might sound dramatic but it’s true, it is. Maybe you saw someone losing their job and becoming a pariah because it was uncovered that they maintained a rather racist presence on social media, and you just really, really liked that. Maybe you saw a news story about someone who was a gun control advocate get robbed or assaulted, and you reveled in the “irony”. Maybe you saw the fault lines in a certain president’s mental state start to crack and you just couldn’t get enough of the presently-occurring meltdown. Maybe you witnessed someone’s hopes and dreams crumble around them as their political campaign imploded.

Maybe it’s just me who really enjoyed seeing multiple peoples’ lives get ripped to shreds last year, but I doubt it.

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This is all in a strange juxtaposition to the fact that reminders to empathy’s existence are also seemingly increasingly bombarding us nowadays. Take, for example, the surprising (but delightful) revival that Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood have had in the national consciousness these past few years. Even though the man has been dead for over a decade now, all the sudden there have been multiple movies made about him, even more books and magazine articles (of which this very piece is just a small part of the trend) written about him, and countless conversations are conducted about him every day.

Is this all just a matter of us not practicing what we preach? That wouldn’t be terribly uncommon. Or is the problem that we simply didn’t really learn anything at all from watching Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood? Did Fred fail at his mission of trying to make us better at loving each other? Was he really doing nothing more than playing with puppets to no avail?

So all the while that we can’t stop screaming “Fuck you!” at each other, we’re also totally enamored with a gentle, kind, and wise pastor from Pennsylvania who just happens to be the king of that critical part of human relation called empathy (don’t worry though King Friday — you’re still the best royalty around).

It’s bonkers.

It makes no sense.

It’s really pretty infuriating.

What exactly are we all doing wrong?

And how disappointed would Fred be in all of us?

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The cause of the quagmirical crossover of our collective crankiness towards each other and impassioned interest in Fred Rogers lies — I believe — in a disconnect between out feelings and actions. We get that empathy is important, we just don’t act on it.

We hear a lot about empathy. A lot to the point where it often it often sounds hollow. The word is everywhere — t-shirts, book bags, bumper stickers, campaign speeches, Instagram accounts all reminding us that we can choose empathy, making it feel as if choosing to empathize with others is all it would take to fix a world that so often feels broken. But if we want to fix the world, then we have to take our empathy and do something with it.

Doing something with it.

Easier aid than done, right?

Fortunately for us, there’s Mr. Rodgers.

You see, he didn’t only tell us how important empathy is (that’s the part of his message that we all seem to have down for the most part). He also used his show to explicitly show us what empathy can look like as action rather than just as an electronic pulse in your gray matter.

Take for example Fred’s famous foot bath with with Officer Clemmons (who was black) at the height of the battle over segregated swimming pools. Mr. Rodger’s didn’t just vaguely tell us to try and empathize with everyone; he got someone who represented a group that desperately needed empathy and action, and showed the children of that day exactly what they could do practically in their lives to spread love.

Empathy without action is just a pointless jolt of nice-feeling chemicals to your brain. Mr. Rodger’s showed us how to do more.

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If Mr. Rogers was still alive today, what do you think he’d have to say about the state of things? What would Fred’s state of the union sound like? (I mean, I know would probably include pleasant melodies and some puppet appearances, but what would the meat of it be?)

In all honesty, he’d probably be disappointed but not all that surprised — it’s not like the public atmosphere the last couple decades of his life were all sunshine and roses. I think he’d be genuinely shocked that we were still at war in the Middle East to the extent that we are. I think he’d be disgusted by the scenes coming from the CBP camps in New Mexico and Texas. I think he’d be puzzled by our insistence on trying to solve increasingly minuscule problems in public political death matches at the national level. But aside from all that, what I think would shock, disgust, and puzzle him the most though would be just how absolutely uncivil we’ve all become.

You see, in all things (at least, from what I’ve been able to see of his life) Fred Rogers was civil. This doesn’t mean that he wasn’t passionate or unable/unwilling to take sides in heated matters. This doesn’t mean that he would partake in compromises with evil or would sacrifice his moral values for quaint calls of “unity”. It means that in all things Fred Rogers never lost sight of the humanity of the people he disagreed with. He didn’t have enemies, he just had neighbors who didn’t agree with him sometimes.

Seriously, imagine if he were still alive and someone tried to bait Mr. Rogers on Twitter. Maybe Fred had just made a sad comment about the separation of immigrant children from their families and @RealDonaldTrump had this to say:

Dopey @YourNeighborFred143 is low energy and wants open borders! He’s just jealous that my ratings were always higher than his – a real embarrassment to television who tries (and fails bigly) to influence YOUR CHILDREN! Sad!

Would Mr. Rogers “clap-back” with some sassy retort? Would he take the opportunity to dissect piece-by-piece why the president’s policies were awful? Would he get drug into some sort of mud-slinging match between his fans and the MAGA crowd.

Nah.

I’m not gonna pretend to have an inkling of an idea what he would say, but I think it’s pretty obvious some of the things he wouldn’t. And unfortunately, many of those responses that he’d avoid would be our first resorts.

Obviously I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet a fair amount that if Mr. Roger’s had one idea for improving America in 2020, one plea for all of us to heed, it would be for all of us to not forsake kindness. To be civil.

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Now, I don’t want this call to civility to be confused with the attempts by some politicians to replace principle and moral-fortitude with mere cooperation. (I’m riding on the coattails of Fred Rogers, not Joe Biden or Mayor Pete.) Civility doesn’t mean compromising your values or avoiding tough fights that matter.

Ryan_q1On the contrary, I’d say part of civility is standing up and speaking out against policies and actions that are inherently uncivil, inherently anti-social. Speaking out against ICE tactics is not an uncivil act. Protesting efforts to impose authoritarian society barriers on the populous is not uncivil. At least, those things aren’t inherently uncivil. But vilifying those with positions different than — or even counter to — yours and seeing them as a policy obstacle first and a fellow human second or third… well, that is uncivil.

What if we followed one simple principle I like to call Rogerism: whatever you fight for, do it civilly. If you can’t do that, then figure out how to. After all, in theory, it should be pretty easy, right? Just embrace your own feelings, empathize with others, and act in a way that respects them (and that respects and acknowledges your own ability to be an empathetic and decent person).

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But why? What exactly is so important about civility? Why did Mr. Rogers put such a high value on it?

I think the answers to these questions are numerous, and I can’t say exactly why Fred Rogers championed civility so much. That being said, I’ll give three of my best guesses/reasons as to way I think that all of us should strive to maintain Rogerism in our own lives and interactions.

First, I believe that civility is worth defending because it is essentially the manifestation of living virtuously. Civility is a natural side-effect of acting out the virtues in your day-to-day interactions.

Now, there’s a fair amount of debate as to what “the virtues” are, what they stand for, why they’re significant, etc. Addressing these issues would (and does) take up lengthy, lengthy tomes of philosophy of religion so out of necessity I’ll have to ignore those questions here. But for the purpose of this article, just know that I personally accept the following to be “the virtues”:

  • Kindness
  • Truthfulness
  • Friendship
  • Patience
  • Hope
  • Justice
  • Courage
  • Joy
  • Simplicity
  • Humility
  • Generosity
  • Character

Look at these qualities. Think about them. Do you think you can be practicing these traits and acting uncivil at the same time? If your list of virtues is different than this (which it probably is), that’s fine — regardless, I do not think it possible to live in a consistently virtuous manner and a consistently uncivil manner. The two adjectives (virtuous and uncivil) are simply incompatible.

Ryan_q2Can you be expressing kindness while also being uncivil? Or be truthful to yourself while denying your own self-evident ability to foster civility? Do the acts of being a good friend and an uncivil opponent go hand-in-hand? Does practicing incivility show a strong sense of patience? Doesn’t incivility show more of a lack of hope than an abundance of it? And is the aim of incivility really justice, or just personal vindication? Is it more courageous to work through issues with mutual respect and courtesy or with insults and buffoonery? Aren’t the least civil among us often the most prideful? And if you think about it, don’t disrespect and ill-will often rob you and others of joy? Surely there are better ways to be generous than being generous with vitriol? And wouldn’t civility be better constant character trait than incivility?

Call them the virtues, call them living well, call them whatever you want — the fact remains that civility always, always aligns more closely with them than incivility.

Secondly, I think that incivility inevitably metastasizes from our words and thoughts and infects our actions in tragic ways that hurt the most vulnerable among us. If we foster an attitude of contempt for our own literal neighbors just because they have different social views than us, then how much easier is it to feel disgust for our political opponents across the country who we never meet? If we can be disgusted by our domestic political opponents, how much easier is it to dehumanize people across the globe, especially in countries and cultures quite different from ours? If we can dehumanize people in cultures that seem absolutely bizarre to us, then how much easier is it to just go along with the program when our president tells us that we bombed them and invaded them and occupy them?

This might seem like a stretch, but I don’t think it really is that much of one. If we’re incapable of respecting and empathizing with the people down the block, how are we supposed to truly value the humanity of Iraqis or Iranians or North Koreans or Syrians or Russians?

If we detest our own family members because of their opinions, how are we supposed to care about the lives of the homeless, the drug-addicted, the sexually-exploited, the economically depressed outside of our own orbits?

And of course I’m not about to make the ridiculous claim that simply making our domestic discourse calmer will cure all our social ills and usher in an era of world peace — many presidents who history considers to be “civil” and “respectable” were frightful warmongers and social authoritarians. But at least the civility gave an air of gravitas to the violence and gave it more weight than it has now. It’s a start, a definite step in the right direction. We should practice and promote civility because goodness is contagious.

Maybe, just maybe, if I show some small kindness to other people, then they’ll show some small kindness to other people, and maybe — just maybe — we’ll start a chain reaction that spans the globe.

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The third and final reason I will go into for justifying the importance placed on civility comes from another lesson from dear Mr. Rogers: “You were a child once too.”

You were a child once too.

Just imagine if we all took this simple six-word phrase and ingrained it into every encounter we were a part of. And I don’t just mean in the sense of rediscovering the innocence and sense of wonder that came with childhood, but what if we started trying to truly, actively apply this motif to others as well.

They were a child once too.

Maybe we’d start viewing different ideas as something to learn from, rather than something to fear. Maybe we’d start viewing our “enemies” as “just not our friends, yet”. Maybe we’d start realizing that our own meanness is often just our own hurt in a different shape, and that maybe mean people are really just hurting people. Maybe we’d be quicker to give out hugs or to share our snacks than to give out ad homs and share our wrath.

Just think about this simple phrase the next time you get in an argument with someone (I promise to try as well). I bet it’s a lot harder to view someone as a sub-human piece of shit when you force yourself to remember that they were once a child too. They were once innocent and they probably had big ‘ol dreams for their life and wonderful, magical ideas about how the world could and should work. They were probably hurt somewhere along the way (like you probably were) and they probably lost a lot of that beautiful childhoodness (like you probably did).

Ryan_q3And chances are, now they’re just trying to do what they genuinely think is right (just like you are).

In fact, I want to try this exercise out now with myself. Over the last four years, I’ve made no secret about how deep my disdain for Donald Trump is. But looking back on my own thoughts and behavior, I see a troubling trend of me viewing him exactly like he views so many others. I treat him like he treats the people that I get mad at him for for treating badly. Yikes.

Dear Donald,

Now, I’m not going to mince words — I’m sorry, but you are often extremely rude and mean, you take offense and lash out viciously at the slightest slights, and it’s hard for me to disbelieve that your ego is out-of-control. I think you’re dangerous to a lot of good people.

But you were a child once too. And I’m genuinely trying to be sorry for all the things that happened to you that have made you feel insecure or like you lacked anything, like you weren’t enough. Were you bullied and got tired of it, so one day you decided to become the bully instead? I know I’ve been at that bridge and crossed it on the wrong side before. Did you parents not love you tenderly enough, or give you attention when you really, really did need it? Maybe you were — like me — always the last to get picked for kick ball or two-hand touch football or whatever. That sucks man, it really does.

Whatever it is that happened to you, some things not to terribly different probably happened to me too. And maybe I didn’t end up with all your issues, but I’ve probably got plenty of my own that you either already took care of or never had to begin with.

I hope you have a good day and make kind choices. And please, let’s make a deal, just give Twitter a rest for a few hours and I’ll do the same with Facebook.

Best,
Ryan

I can honestly say that that made me feel better. Why don’t you try it now?

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Like I said before, I don’t think that rebuilding some sense of civility is the key to solving all of our problems as a country and species. I just think it’s a great place to start, and in the life and lessons of Mr. Rogers we have a great teacher to show us the way.

So what do you say — do y’all wanna keep slinging mud at each other and hitting ourselves upside the head, or do we want to start being unrelentingly kind, fiercely empathetic, and insistently intimate?

We all like Mr. Rogers, but do we like Rogerism?


Ryan Lindsey is the founder and editor of WAL Reader, and an avid consumer of Mr. Rogers-related content.

Abolishing the Electoral College

The Only Libertarian Position
By Sam Coppinger

11Same here

Few issues provoke such strict battle lines to be drawn within the libertarian movement as the Electoral College. Moreover, unlike the few similarly-contentious topics, opinions on the Electoral College do not even seem to track to obvious differences in ideology or worldview (e.g. leftism vs. capitalism, incrementalism vs. vanguardism, moderation vs. radicalism, or even social progressivism vs. social conservatism). It seems odd there could simultaneously be strong libertarian arguments for both mutually exclusive sides of this single issue, but that’s because, simply put, there are not. Any “libertarian” argument in its favor is nothing more than a false or mistaken application of libertarian principles.

It must first be recalled that the libertarian ideology is built on the bedrock belief that all people, regardless of race, gender, national origin, physical and mental ability, or any other fundamental characteristic are inherently of equal metaphysical value. The very concept of natural, negative rights is derived from this belief — if it were not accepted that all people are equal simply by virtue of their personhood, there would be no rational argument that they all deserve the same rights. Such an assertion could still hypothetically be made, but it would have no concrete, logical basis, and would consequentially be vulnerable to perversion at any moment. With egalitarianism understood to be the most fundamental of all libertarian beliefs, one can also make the connection that libertarian ideology would dictate that the government always treat people equally, all else held constant. Clearly, such a demand would also logically preclude government from offering any kind of either preferential or discriminatory treatment on the basis of location of residence. From the perspective of the federal government, all United States citizens should be subject to the same laws and treatment regardless of state of residence. A New Yorker must be equal to a West Virginian; a Texan equal to a Vermonter. Under the Electoral College, this notion is plainly violated.

 

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This chart shows the ratio of population to electoral vote for each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. As you can see, an individual’s vote in states further to the right on the graph (like Wyoming, Vermont, Delaware, etc.) has much more electoral weight than an individual’s vote in states to the left on the graph (like California, Texas, Florida, etc.).
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Electoral College system cares not for individuals, but for states — arbitrary political collectives which should carry little significance to anyone of the libertarian bent. Under the current system, states are awarded votes based on the sum total of the number of U.S. Senators and Representatives they have in Congress. This means that the smallest number of votes a state can possibly have is three. If we take the lowest population state, Wyoming, with an estimated residency of 580,000 people, this means there is one electoral vote for every approximately 193 thousand people. Contrast this with California, the most populous state, with 39.6 million people and 55 electoral votes, working out to one vote for every 720 thousand people. In terms of representation, this means that the voice of any singular Wyomingan is given nearly four times the weight of a Californian’s. Far from treating all people as equals, this system sees the federal government clearly play favorites on the basis of state origin. Such an arbitrary and disparate valuation of individual worth by the government should be utterly anathema to anyone who even dabbles with remotely libertarian thinking.

11Same here

Through observation of popular discussion surrounding the Electoral College, two things become rapidly evident: firstly, that its support is heavily subsidized by the rural fetishism that deeply permeates American culture, and that most arguments against its abolition can ultimately be traced to nakedly partisan realpolitik. Visible across all manner of American media is a toxic tendency to associate rural, inland living with true Americanism, and urban, coastal living with illegitimacy, crime, dishonesty, collectivism, and other negative concepts. This can be seen in everything from Christmas movies where people in the big city “lose sight of what’s important” and end up “coming home” for the holidays to be with family, to country music that hails the Middle American “Heartland,” and more. There is most certainly a strong whiff of systemic racism and white supremacy to this phenomenon as well, but that may best left for another discussion.

Sam_q1Regardless, this same mentality heavily fuels adoration for the Electoral College. When those who live in or near major coastal metropolises are seen as sub-American collective masses, and rural Americans in the breadbasket as the true heirs of the Founding Fathers’ vision, it becomes much easier to justify privileging the latter at the expense of the former. What makes it easier yet is when one perceives the former group to be little more than a pack of wild animals trying their damnedest to plunder the hard-earned wealth and eliminate the God-given freedoms of the latter. This is where the shameless partisanship imbued in the Electoral College debate begins to show itself. Much like how conservatives throughout history have defended gerrymandering, poll taxes, unnecessary voter ID laws, narrow voting time windows, land ownership requirements, and even blatant exclusions of the vote entirely to all but white men, they also defend the Electoral College on the basis that it restricts the power of those who they believe are likely to vote against their particular political interests. It is commonly (and wrongly, as will later be addressed) believed that were the Electoral College system to be abolished, only the few largest cities in the country would dominate presidential politics, and leverage that power to more or less enslave “real, hard-working” (rural, white, blue-collar) America in order to provide welfare and “free stuff” to those in the coastal cities (namely, people of color, immigrants, LGBT people, and the poor). It’s actually rather jarring how shameless conservatives are in their willingness to simply deny or restrict the franchise of people whom they prejudiciously expect to hold different values than themselves.

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PHOTO BY TONY WEBSTER (Wikimedia Commons)

Such illiberal sentiment gets at another key element of why the Electoral College is such a travesty: it disgraces the very notion of democracy. Before getting into how this is the case, however, perhaps it may be necessary to establish why exactly one ought to care. It is worth at least acknowledging that, of course, democracy is not a flawless system by any stretch of the imagination. There is some validity to the old metaphor of two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. Luckily, the American system of a constitutional republic certainly avoids, or at least places obstacles in the way of, some of the most dangerous aspects of democracy, like populist mob rule, under which the majority could simply vote to abolish all legal protections of the rights of minorities. That’s not remotely to say the rights guaranteed under the Constitution, especially those of marginalized people, have always been respected (local law enforcement looking the other way regarding lynchings in the Jim Crow South comes to mind…), but even so, having a concrete list of rights the government is even theoretically obligated to respect is tremendously important — and luckily there are groups like the ACLU which help people take action against the government when it oversteps its bounds. To get back to the primary topic at hand, though, the point is that having some form of democracy is utterly essential to maintaining an environment where anything even remotely resembling libertarianism can exist. If majority rule it can be used to trample on the rights of minorities, then minority rule is an evil so great it oughtn’t even need a description why. Despite its flaws, democracy is still indescribably preferable to all its alternatives (fascism, theocracy, communism, autocratic monarchy, etc.). Many libertarians frequently attack the notion of democracy for many of the aforementioned reasons, apparently failing to realize that, by doing so, they are only helping to pave the way for something immeasurably worse.

11Same here

With a common understanding of democracy as a general good, or at least a flawed guardian against tremendously greater evils, it logically follows that that which harms democracy harms the defense against its evil alternatives. As addressed earlier, the Electoral College is precisely such a harm. Under the Electoral College system, the voice of the people is stifled, manipulated, and ignored in despicable ways utterly indefensible by any moral or rational being. It is currently mathematically possible for a president to be elected in the United States while winning less than 22% of the popular vote — and since less than have of eligible voter do, in fact, it is in turn possible to be elected president by the will of about 10% of the country. Now, the specific circumstances of this hypothetical scenario are extraordinarily unlikely, but the case study is nonetheless very effective at illustrating the problems of the Electoral College.

Sam_q2

Arguably the most egregious problem with the system is the winner-take-all element, which effectively silences the voices of everyone who dissents from even the narrow-majority opinion of the arbitrarily-defined state within which they live. A Republican voter in New York or a Democratic voter in West Virginia may as well not even submit a ballot in presidential elections, because their vote will undoubtedly be thrown aside once the vote total in each respective state inevitably runs blue and red.

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PHOTO BY CHENSI YUAN (Wikimedia Commons)

This result is the logical conclusion of a system which favors states over actual people, and highlights why that is such a poor manner in which to go about organizing an election. States are naught but landmasses whose borders are determined by conflicts, accords, and geographical features entirely irrelevant to the personhood of those who live within them, and should honestly have no significance in federal elections whatsoever. As far as the federal government is concerned, the people of the United States ought not to be considered Texans, Californians, Nebraskans, or Wisconsinites — all that should matter is that they are Americans. Any system of national election ought to be on the basis of individual votes, not collectivism which regards states as individuals in and of themselves. The voices of those who differ from the dominant preference of the region in which they reside should not be simply washed away. The irony is that the very majority rule which proponents of the Electoral College claim to fear is actually part and parcel of the Electoral College system, albeit on the state level.

Sam_q3The fear of tyranny by the majority also often leads many Electoral College defenders to claim any system based on people rather than landmasses would result in those in the few largest cities in the country essentially ruling over everyone else. Simply put, this characterization is spectacularly flawed on all counts—so much so, in fact, that it is difficult to even begin deconstructing it. Firstly, the assertion is just empirically false. The sum population of even the top five largest cities in the country (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix), by 2018 estimates, is about 19 million. Compare to the 2018 US population estimate of 327 million, and the proportion is a measly 5.81%. Even expanding to the top ten cities, and to metropolitan areas rather than just cities, the population total becomes about 87 million, or 26.6% of the country. A healthy chunk, to be sure, but still nowhere near enough to control an election alone. However, even more assumptions and nuances require attention. These numbers include children and immigrants, who obviously are not eligible to vote. They also neglect to consider that a majority of eligible American voters simply choose not to. There is also a baked-in assumption behind this claim that all people who live in cities will vote one way (namely, Democratic). In reality, obviously, cities are extremely diverse places with a broad range of political opinions and voting patterns.

With all these considerations in mind, even the 26.6% figure is a tremendous overestimate of the political influence of these areas. However, still none of this truly gets to the heart of the problem with this narrative, because even in the case that the statement was accurate, how would it be at all unjust that a larger amount of people have a larger say? Even if the US was a nation of gargantuan megacities, how would this change the basic libertarian, and moral, principle of one person, one vote? Even if 99% of the country’s population lived within a single square mile, it would still be the libertarian case to value all votes equally. It is not the distance away from others which determines people’s value, but the very fact that they are people.

11Same here

One of the noblest intentions of the Electoral College system was the desire to prevent an illiberal, charismatic, populist strongman who could be backed by a foreign power from winning an election due to ignorance, naiveté, or misinformation on the part of the voters. It should take no more than a newspaper from November 9th, 2016 to prove that the Electoral College has completely and stupendously failed in this regard. Not only did it fail to prevent precisely this situation from occurring, but it actually caused it to occur when it otherwise would not have. Donald Trump lost the popular vote by the biggest margin ever for a winning presidential candidate (that such a concept even exists is an illustration of the absurdity of the system), and would not have been elected under a different electoral system. Far from restraining the fleeting will of a woefully misguided electorate, the Electoral College system ignored the will of the people and caused the election of the most corrupt, unpopular president in the history of the country.

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PHOTO BY SHANNON MCGEE. (Wikimedia Commons).

The intentions of the Electoral College were undoubtedly noble and understandable from the perspective of a proponent of liberty. The Founding Fathers, despite their countless personal flaws and hypocrisies, were immensely brilliant statesmen, made crucial contributions to the liberal and libertarian philosophies, and crafted the most libertarian governing document ever written. However, they, like all human beings, were not beyond reproach, and the Electoral College was one of their many errors. The system fundamentally contradicts basic liberal values, makes a mockery of democracy, is propped up by collectivist, prejudicial, partisan sentiments, and has failed to perform the duty it was intended to. It is high time to do away with this archaic, unjust, failed system and begin the discussion as to what ought to replace it. A sheer popular vote, still under a plurality-based, first-past-the-post system, would be nearly as problematic as the current Electoral College, and should not be used, either. It would not produce a direct democracy, as many opponents ignorantly claim (direct democracy would mean abolition of the republic of elected representatives in favor of legislation via public referenda, which is not on the table in any case), but it would nonetheless continue to produce undesirable outcomes and fuel dangerous populism. Promising electoral systems may include ranked-choice, under which candidates of many parties are ranked by voters in order of preference, range, under which voters rate each candidate on a certain scale, or even approval, under which voters simply indicate in a binary manner whether they would approve of particular candidates or not. Any of these systems, and likely countless others, would solve nearly all problems of the Electoral College, in addition to providing other benefits such as a healthier and less polarized national political discourse, the alleviation of the political pendulum effect, under which elections become forms of increasingly-extreme revenge by one political party against the other, the growth of more than two parties as credible alternatives, and the possibility of more than one candidate per party to run, so that different visions within a party can compete with one another without causing total division among the party ranks. It’s time for the United States to let go of the past, honor its spoken values, and abolish the Electoral College


Sam Coppinger is a libertarian activist, promoting a cosmopolitan, neoliberal brand of pragmatic libertarianism. He runs the Libertarian Memes for Neoliberal Teens page on Facebook.

A Libertarian-Socialist Conception of Private Property

A Critique of Marx and Capitalism
By Charles Rupert

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The left has been suspicious of private property

since Pierre-Joseph Proudhon brazenly declared it to be nothing more than theft in 1840. His friend, Karl Marx, saw it as the root of capitalism’s exploitation, a superfluous invention of the bourgeoisie that would be dispensed with in the future. Anarchists’ generally see it as an agent of control. Even the most sympathetic socialists treat private property as a necessary evil. Those on the left who refuse to denounce private property are all-too-quickly labeled as faux-socialists, unwitting capitalist apologists, or even disingenuous counter-revolutionary agents.

On the right, private property rights are often so strongly enforced that they trump even the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Such a strong defense of private property is ironic, precisely because the justification for private property is typically based on “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, especially the right to life. These “background rights” perform the justificatory work for private property rights.

I want to engage this conversation from a third direction. I want to begin from a neutral position, neither assured of private property’s virtue nor its defamation. To start, I think we need a tight definition of what private property is. Then, I think we need to explain the fact that so many independent societies throughout history have lighted on the idea of private property. What particular problem did property solve? Then can it be justified to the satisfaction of socialism? To avoid suspense, I’ll sum my conclusions now:

  1. Private property is no different from personal property.
  2. Private property is common to many cultures because it solves the problem of how to divvy up the common world.
  3. Private property can be justified for socialists when it is based on the background right to life and the pursuit of happiness.

The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few. In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

– Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, Chapter 2

There is, in the leftist tradition, an important metaphysical division of the concept of property. The first, largely implicit in Marx’s work, is the split between productive property and consumables. Marx paid little attention to the latter if he mentioned them at all. He, like all the great economists of his day, focused almost exclusively on the “means of production”. The productive property were the things you needed to produce consumables, which included the tools, machinery, and raw and pre-fabricated materials of which the consumable consisted. When Marx speaks of abolishing private property in the above quote, he intends only this productive property. He is also quick to defend the productive property of the “petty artisan and of the small peasant”, saying, “There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it and is still destroying it daily.” Marx is saying there is no need to abolish the camera of the photographer or the laptop of the freelance writer. So he means only the large-scale productive property, i.e. the factories, great machinery, and other types of great capital that requires a social body to utilize it. The consumable property goes by the name of “personal property” while the large-scale productive property goes by the name “private property”.

This division saves the left from the accusation that communism or socialism removes your right to use your tooth-brush exclusively. In other words, you have to share your tooth-brush with other people. This argument is devised to reduce socialism to absurdity. If you wouldn’t want to share your toothbrush, you couldn’t even share food-stuffs or water or air, at least not as you eat, drink, and breathe it. So it does make a compelling argument against which socialism must resolve. The division of property into personal and private is the traditional solution. However, the division of property introduces its own problems. The most important of these and the only one I will treat here is the indistinguishability of personal from private property.

Charles_q2We can see the crack in precisely where Marx claimed there is no need to take away the private property of the individual proprietor. Here Marx is admitting that the tools of the individual crafter should belong to the individual crafter; their productive powers are thus not sufficient reason to socialize them. The common understanding is that it is then only those tools that require social operation which must be socialized–I am ignoring here a similar argument that certain types of property of, e.g. land, must be socialized irrespective of how it is used for the simple reason that Marx did not make this argument. The problem with the argument that only social operations must be socialized is that even socially operated machinery is individually exclusive as it is used. To make this concrete imagine an assembly line of ten persons. Each person has a specific spot on the line and performs their unique task. Each spot on the assembly line then may legitimately be conceived of as the exclusive property of the individual proprietor.

While such a conception is dangerous because each individual proprietor, save the first and the last, would be faced with a monopoly on either side of themselves, that is a single provider of the materials they need to do their work and a single consumer of their finished product (viz. the unconsumable, partially-worked commodity). It is more harmonious to conceive of them as all part of a single entity, each cooperating rather than competing. Still, even under the auspice of cooperation, each has an exclusive need to be able to use their part of the whole. The right to exclude others from their part is no different for the workers on the assembly line than it is for the individual proprietor whom Marx exonerated from the abolition of private property. We have only two ways of resolving this inconsistency: either abolish all private property, including the photographer’s camera and the writer’s laptop or do away with the distinction between personal property and private property altogether. As we agreed above that the former is absurd, we are left only with the latter.

What does this mean? It means that we cannot, as Marx commands, abolish private property. This means that capital and capitalist can’t simply be dispensed with. This is not a vindication of capitalism, as those on the right would like to assert. While getting rid of capitalists is not an option, what is left open to us is the modification of what can and cannot be done with private property. That is precisely what the rights of property owners entails them to do. The rights of private property ownership have their limitations, even the most right-wing libertarian will agree. For example, your “right” to own a gun and your “right” to do with your private property as you please, cannot be combined to justify any homicide you may like to commit.

What lies behind the left’s condemnation of private

property is the capitalist’s claim of a right to the surplus-value of a worker’s labor. This claim is justified, according to the apologists of capitalism, by the “ownership” of the means of production. Ownership then it is implied, entails the right to allow others to use said means to produce products for less than the value those products fetch at market. The chief problem the left has with private property then is that it can be used as a means for the exploitation of other people’s labor. Marx details of the process in the first volume of Capital. But even there, private property does not so much create the exploitation as it is simply the vehicle for it. Property relations are social relations, not between human beings and things, but between human beings and other human beings. This is what makes economics political in the first place.

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Given this, our question becomes: can the capitalist really justify the right from ownership? To answer this question we will need to examine what justifies private ownership in the first place. I’ll start with John Locke’s justification of private property. In brief, Locke argued that the private consumption of the material world was vital to every individual. We cannot consume in common, even if we produce that way. This makes private property necessary in order to be enjoyed. The question for Locke then became, how is it that I come to exclude the whole of humanity in order to enjoy this or that particular thing? Or more concretely, by what right do I pluck an apple from the common tree so that I may eat it and by eating it, exclude all others from its enjoyment? When did it become mine alone to enjoy? We all agree that after digestion, it is exclusively mine, but when did it first become so? He traces back the right to my act of plucking the apple. With this labor expenditure, I have the right to that apple. So, generalizing from this, it is my labor that makes things mine. Locke would go on to lay the foundations of the first labor theory of value, but it is his labor theory of property that concerns us. This theory is the basis of private property rights upon which capitalism is founded.

Unfortunately for the bourgeoisie and Marx alike,

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PHOTO BY PERCY BENZIE ABERY (Wikimedia Commons). Textile factory machinery lays dormant in the Cambrian Factory. Such machinery qualifies as “private property” due to the social operation required to use it, whereas the clothes the machinery workers wore would be “personal property”.

the private property right established by Locke is not one based solely upon labor. Labor identifies which particular things are justified, but it does so under the pretense that we are going to use them. Locke himself said that one cannot claim a thing, merely to deprive others of its enjoyment. Ultimately then, it is the need to eat, in conjunction with the labor of plucking that justifies my claim to the apple and so the right to exclude the rest of humanity from the apple’s enjoyment.

Marx misses this. Elaborating in Capital that the value of commodities comes entirely from the labor required to produce them. We may deduce from this that the justification for using commodities according to Marx would come entirely from having labored to acquire a thing, either by producing it or trading “dead labor” for it. Use, the consumption element of commodities, plays little to no role in Marx, who argued that either goods and services have a use-value or they do not, there are no quantifiable degrees of use-value. Equally, there would be no reasoning for use in owning, only labor. For Marx ownership is derived merely from labor and trade.

Charles_q4But no one asserts this claim more than the bourgeoisie. The capitalist claim of ownership is justified entirely by the idea of labor exchanged for a good. That Marx and capitalism agree so completely on this subject is the greatest tragedic irony of the post-enlightenment history. Locke, as I said, founded the labor theory of property and of value on the unquestionable human need to consume individually. Labor alone is therefore insufficient to justify ownership of anything, and correspondingly, it is insufficient to justify the total value of anything. We lack the consumptive side, the input of use-value. This is where Marx made his most fatal error. He said that “use” could not be counted in the final estimation of value. He assumed more than argued that “use” has no quantifiable value because it is a quality, i.e. things either have a use-value or they do not. This is wrong.

Use-value, it turns out, is quantifiable, and what is more, it is quantifiable in units of labor. I have made the argument for use-values quantifiability before (see The Genius and Folly of Karl Marx, Part Two). What is confusing for us is that the labor-units for use-value are inverted from units of labor in exchange. They act like negative numbers to positive ones, so that use-value functions more like “labor saved” while an exchange-value represents “labor expended”. For example, to make a hammer, it might take X amount of total (socially-necessary) labor to produce and bring the hammer to market, this–according to Marx–would be the hammer’s value, assuming there was someone out there with a use for a hammer. However, this is just the minimum that the hammer’s manufacturer would want to sell it for, it does not represent the value of the hammer to the user. The final value is how much labor it saves its consumer over the amount of labor that consumer would have to shell out for it. A hammer’s cost then is subjectively determined by the consumer, not by the producer, and it is never objectively derived as Marx hoped to prove.

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But all is not lost for Marx, because both use-value and

exchange-value are determined as units of labor. In other words, labor remains the sole source of value for everything in exchange, just as Marx said. Private property becomes justifiable in the twin aspects of labor: labor-spent and labor-saved. I ignore here a metaphysical discussion of labor-saved, except to say that Marx himself saw labor-saved as the “value of capital”. It was the private aspect of capital that Marx and the left railed against. The “means of production” of which most capital consists is problematic only when in private hands.

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John Locke, painted by SIR GODFREY KNELLER (Wikimedia Commons).

This, however, is where libertarian socialism breaks with Marxism. It is not the private nature of the ownership of the “means of production” that is the problem. The problem is the fact that capitalists are not and never were the rightful owners of them. Capitalism is contradictory because it violates the justification for private property ownership established by Locke. Capitalists maintain their claim to rightful ownership through the justification of expenditure of labor, but since they have neither the desire nor a possibility of using the “means of production” exclusively their claim of ownership over them is wholly unjustified. It is, in fact, the workers and ONLY the workers who can meet both necessary conditions for ownership. First, they do have an exclusive need of the materials in question, and second, they (through the extraction of surplus-labor) have paid for them. This argument holds true for other forms of “rent”, for example, the tenant who uses the house has the priority claim to ownership of the house if they pay rent.

Charles_q5What is exploitative about capitalism is that the rightful owners of the means of production are not the “legal owners” according to the political structures drafted by capitalists. The inherent villainy of private property is a Marxist red herring, no pun intended. The upshot of this concept of private property is that we have a clear path and reason for removing capitalism’s exploitative element. It will require workers to become the rightful owners of the enterprises in which they work, as is suggested by Dr. Richard Wolff. But it goes beyond just that, it will require the abolition of the form of rent everywhere in society, except where the rentee is the public. It will also require a guarantee of income, but for reasons that are not expressly clear here. But that is all. We needn’t abandon private property nor do we need outlandish distinctions, (e.g. private property vs. personal property or labor vs. “socially necessary” labor) that prove only necessary to bolster the failings in Marx’s theory. The solution is more simple and more elegant, ownership of property is the right of the people who need it, who use it, and who paid for it; and not the state, the community, the government, or investors.


Charles M. Rupert is a teacher of philosophy at several Philadelphia-area colleges and is an active member of the Philly Socialists and the Democratic Socialists of America. You can read more of his work at charlesmrupert.com.

From Damnation to Salvation

Religious Freedom in America
By Hodey Johns

The very first part of this very first Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Of all of the rights deemed untouchable by government within the Bill of Rights, this was deemed the most important right of all, even before speech and press. But in spite of its founding, the United States did not become a place of freedom for believers until recently. This unparalleled strength was not handed to us, it came through bloodshed, martyrdom, and massacres.

In this article, I will examine the journey of several religions within the USA, complete with some of their darkest moments. I offer up these historical situations not to criticize this country, but to praise it. The pioneers of this nation navigated uncharted waters, both literally and figuratively, especially in the religious sense. They did not do so perfectly, but it was during a time in world history where believing in a non-state-sanctioned faith meant certain death. Americans made mountains of life from these valleys of death.

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Contrary to the coloring books you might get in Elementary School, there is not one single belief system that was held by the natives who lived here. There were thousands. I hate grouping them all together as they each are worthy of study, but I put them together for a noble reason. When one was put on trial, members of the various indigenous faiths banded together to fight against oppression.

In spite of Constitutional protection, the collection of Native American faiths was almost immediately illegalized. How could this happen? Simply, because they were not considered Americans. And it was assumed that those who became official citizens would implicitly give up their beliefs. The punishment for believing in this religion? Death. More accurately, since practicing an illegal faith nullified citizenship, government protections would not apply.

The result? Countless massacres. Literally countless, since killing them neither merited legal reporting nor demands for explanation. On the record, there are well over one hundred incidents of round-’em-up-shoot-’em-dead mass murders, almost all of which include women and children and number in the double digits.

But initially, even with this bloodshed, it wasn’t enough to just illegalize the religion inside of the borders. In 1883, the Department of the Interior successfully argued that the persecution of the faithful wasn’t enough. Citing a few prayers in which the believers asked that white people leave the land, they were deemed a foreign threat and actively hunted. Even in their own reservation, practicing any native faith was met with state sanctioned violence.

On the Hopi Reservation, since wearing long hair was a sign of thankfulness to the divine for falling rain, it was mandated that their warriors have haircuts. On all reservations, ceremonial face painting was banned on pain of death. The following is an actual quote from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

“The use of this paint leads to many disease of the eyes among those Indians who paint. Persons who have given considerable thought and investigation to the subject are satisfied that this custom causes the majority of cases of blindness among the Indians of the United States.”

This type of misinformation was met with deadly force supported by the public at large, usually resulting in between twenty and two hundred natives being tied up and executed. In December of 1890, it all came to a head. On the heels of two large massacres already that month, the Lakota natives, a mixture of Miniconjou, Hunkpapa, Paiute, and Sioux, participated in the Ghost Dance. The dance was performed around a campfire with the hopes of making the whites leave them alone. The result was the opposite.

On December 29th, 1890, the United States Army rounded up around 250 natives of Lakota, mostly women and children, slaughtered them, and buried them in mass. Proudly, the attackers took a picture of the aftermath, which I have included with this article.

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United States soldiers stand above a mass grave full of their Native American victims at Wounded Knee. Such devastating massacres were horrifically common and performed by both state agents and groups of vigilante civilians.

This picture should break your heart. This is what it did for thousands of United States citizens. While it was meant to be a trophy for an accomplishment, colonial descendants saw, many for the first time, what killing people for their faith really looked like. The army tried to call it the Battle of Wounded Knee. The people that paid their salaries correctly called it the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Hodey_q1While not enamored with the natives, the people still demanded a stop to these actions. By 1892, while Native American religions were still against the law, it was no longer lawful to murder their ranks. And while the practitioners could be jailed, that required a trial. Trials are more expensive than bullets, and so many were finally free to practice their faiths without must reprisal for the first time. The Wounded Knee Massacre was horrifying. But it marked the beginning of an end. After that day, only one other massacre ever occurred in the USA and even that massacre was minimal in casualties and completely unsanctioned.

Those who are on the inside of the fight to legalize recreational drugs know of the contributions the native faiths have had in this fight. Peyote, a spineless cactus used in religious ceremonies by several different tribes, was given an exemption 1994. Naturally, it wasn’t long until marijuana advocates used this amendment in court to represent other exemptions. Drug legalization, if it happens, on the rare occasions it happens, owes its origin to the fight of the practicing natives.

In spite of the positive momentum, it wasn’t until 1978 that these religions become officially legal. Prior to that, conviction meant up to 30 years in prison. It took over 150 years of peace between the two sides to put an end to the bloodshed. There is work to do. Thankfully, this work continues to get done and indications are almost entirely positive.

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The right to believe also includes the right to not believe… doesn’t it? It should. But in practice, it did not until recently. Thomas Paine, a founding father, was a noted atheist, but had to keep this a secret from the public. Most of his public speeches and writings mention God, masking his true beliefs for fear of reprisal.

I am already sure several atheists are going to be upset with me including them in this study. But I mean no harm or insult. Even if they do not consider themselves a faith with any distinguishable practices, their struggles and successes have contributed to the framework of religious freedom in this country. And it is in that dimension that I observe their contribution to our both current state and future.

Specifically, one legal case represented a major win for atheists, but it also furthered religious freedom and weakened judicial prejudice. While many have not heard of The State of Tennessee versus John Thomas Scopes, any English Major has likely been required to read “Inherit the Wind,” the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. While the narrative was fictionalized, the sensationalization of the event is certainly warranted.

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Darrow and Bryan during the trial.

Mr. Scopes never spoke at his own trial, as the trial itself outgrew him pretty quickly. His crime? Teaching Darwin’s Origin of Species on top of the mandated reading of “Genesis” (from The Bible). Such teachings were directly opposed to the curriculum. The two biggest names in the field of lawyers picked up opposite sides of the case and the nation was treated to a showdown between Clarence Darrow for the defense and William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution.

Bryan had the popular position. His position was also enviable because Scopes himself made no effort to refute the allegations against him. In essence, he confessed his guilt immediately, but he took issue with a sentence. Yet Darrow was cunning. After losing public confidence, he called Bryan, the prosecutor, to the stand. Bryan, perhaps out of either duty or hubris, accepted. A picture of this exact moment is available with this article. Citing the heat in the courtroom, you might notice that this trial took place outdoors. However, the more likely explanation is that neither lawyer was opposed to the spotlight. But I digress.

On the stand, Darrow managed to get Bryan to admit that, since the sun was not around, who could say how long the “days” were in which God created the universe? Bryan admitted it perhaps could have been a few minutes extra and Darrow capitalized on the mistake. If a few extra minutes could have slipped in, why not a few extra eons?

Hodey_q2The biggest success was that while the court found Scopes guilty, the jury nullified his sentence. The judge still fined him $100, but it set a precedent. Now, those with alternative views in regards to creation and the origin of humanity were free to teach these alternatives without risking time in jail. And going through a massive trial for a small fine was such a waste that the ruling, in essence, legalized these teachings.

The victories keep coming. Atheists, like many other religions in the USA, still have a ways to go. The good news is that this progress has not stopped. In 1994, Supreme Court Justice David Souter ruled that “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.” While not enforced, seven states still have laws prohibiting atheists from holding public office or being used as a witness. It is only a matter of time, it seems, before these trivial laws and this black stain on our history will be erased forever.

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Even Christian denominations were not friendly with one another for a majority of our country’s existence. Aside from Roger Williams and his small Rhode Island, all of the other early American colonies were established and divided based on specific religious persuasion. And while all of these were offshoots of Christianity, that did not prevent outright hostilities and violence between these factions. Scholars looking into the numbers of the Constitutional Convention find it evident that even the founders were aware that the fledgling nation was not opposed so much about the size and scope of government as they were opposed to religious unity.

The reader has likely covered these quarrels in a history class. Thanks in large part to the leadership and persuasion of the founding fathers, an unsteady truce took place in the aftermath of the American Revolutionary War. But there were other denominations still to come that were not lucky enough to have a Thomas Jefferson, a James Madison, or an Alexander Hamilton speak on their behalf and make peace with the rest.

Mormons were unfortunate to have the ultra-controversial Joseph Smith as their founder and eventual martyr. While details of his death remain clouded, the Illinois Governor Thomas Ford did not mince words when asked about protecting him or any other Mormons. He remarked that they “…expect more protection from the laws than the laws are able to furnish in the face of popular excitement.” In short, since enough people want them dead, it’s open season.

Unlike some religious minorities before this time, where killing a follower of the faith was merely permissible, Missouri actually issued Executive Order 44, demanding the wholesale murder of Mormon practitioners “on sight.” This fell out of favor, of course, but was not rescinded actually until 1976, not coincidentally, the same year the Native Americans saw their faiths become legalized.

It was not until settlers taking offshoots along the Oregon trail were forced to do business with the Mormons that the faith regained legitimacy. The passengers found that the hospitality from this group contradicted the media’s portrayal of barbarism.

I have submitted some anti-Mormon political cartoons from the time in the hopes that you will observe them and see similarities to other marginalized persons today. It might have made for a good laugh back then, but it resulted in a great deal of agony. Mormonism has recovered well, becoming the fastest growing religion in the world in several recent years, so it is with pride that we can anticipate closing this dark chapter.

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Catholics didn’t fair too much better. While they dodged much of the murder of some other religions in the USA, they remained largely discriminated against for longer periods of time. While the Mormons fled persecution to the west, the Catholic movement had a different plan. They began to cohabitate and socialize with their enemies. Most Protestant schools received funding for their schools from taxpayers. This method of finance was declined to Catholic parochial schools. Instead of throwing in the towel, Catholics raised the money themselves.

The anti-black movement, having been instrumental in overthrowing Joseph Smith’s faction due to his belief that no man, including black men, should be held in slavery, turned its wrath on Catholicism soon after, who actively allowed black men in their ranks. I have included two cartoons from the era. One shows not only propaganda against Catholics, but black men within their ranks in. The other shows the grasp of Rome as an ape arm. By the end of the 1920s, these objectors called themselves the Klu Klux Klan and were louder than ever.

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The Catholics matched that volume. In 1925, they boldly built the Church of the Little Flower in one of the largest Protestant areas of the United States; Royal Oak, Michigan. Within two weeks, the KKK had burned the cross on their front lawn. The Church erected a new cross. And the KKK burned that down. The congregation kept replacing that cross until 1936 when the entire Church was burned down. Astonishingly, the Church was rebuilt, with each piece used in the construction being made fireproof. Having weathered the storm, the Church topped off their building with a “cross they could not burn.” In defeat, the KKK stopped after failing to be able to burn either the Church or the cross.

Having lived side-by-side with Catholics for decades, the country finally welcomed John F. Kennedy as the first Catholic president in 1960. Unable to make the stigma about their beliefs stick, religious freedom won out over racism. There have been hiccups, to be sure. The Affordable Care Act directly attacked Catholic practices, but the ability to unify with other denominations has resulted in even these relatively new persecutions to be largely exempted.

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While not a traditionally western religion, Sikhism is the ninth largest religion in the world. The adherents are required to carry a small dagger called a Kirpan with them, due to religious remembrance. Though an extremely small minority here in the United States, they led a significant boycott against all air travel for forcing them to violate their faith while on a flight.

As a testament to their commitment, in 2013 the TSA exempted this religious artifact from the standard ban. This decision has led to multiple liberty-minded challenges, including the right to defend yourself while travelling and the right to wear religious garments privately through checkpoints. Classically wearing a traditional turban, Sikhs are under a great deal of scrutiny, especially during air travel. But by reaching out to other religious and political minorities who wear or carry items of intimate and religious nature, they gained victory for more than just themselves.

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I can’t possibly cover the contributions of all religions in one article. I regret not including Shintoism and Judaism with their struggles to be recognized and how their successes have helped us all. Protestants are not the villains here and they find themselves on the forefront of the revolution today in respect to Church property and taking care of the homeless on their terms. Author Irving Dilliard said, “Jehovah’s Witnesses have done more to help preserve our freedoms than any other religious group.” Please accept my regrets that I can’t fit in more. As I finish this piece, I feel akin to a man who has already overeaten at a buffet and then sees something else he desperately wants to consume. Even the examples I mentioned here deserve further exploration, but an overview will have to suffice

The United States is among the most religiously tolerant countries on earth. We did not get here for free. And while there is much work to be done (we regularly rank outside of the top 20 most tolerant countries) in the area of religious freedom, we are the ones to look up to.

Much of the story of America is a story about freedom slowly eroding in the courts and by public demand. Fortunately for us, religion has been a single, but major exception. This is not just food for thought or fun facts. By using religious freedom, other freedoms are taking shape in the form of the drug war weakening, privacy protections increasing, school choice strengthening, family rights expanding, and more.

In a non-religious context, these fights are not doing particularly well. Yet when religion is involved, Americans find themselves winning fights for those of every religious and non-religious persuasion. Perhaps unaware, when we accept those of different faiths and learn more about them, we do substantial damage to tyranny at large. The most oppressive governments in the history of the planet have either mandated only a single religion or none at all. Religious liberty may never set us completely free, but it keeps even the worst of tyrants in check.

Issue III Now Available!

By Ryan Lindsey
(Letter from the Editor for Issue III)

I owe all of this magazine’s readers an apology. I let the tentative quarterly schedule for WAL Reader fall apart,and the original October 2019 release date for this issue has long since passed. I apologize for not publishing this issue before now. I had several personal and professional events occur that limited my time to work on this, and once most of that was cleared up, the Holidays were here. I’m not trying to make excuses, but I am trying to reassure you that the tardiness of this issue is not something that I expect to happen again (at least not to this extent).

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WAL Reader is back after an extended break. Thank you for your patience and for reading the brilliant submissions in Issue III!

I also owe an apology to the contributors for this issue. They wrote brilliant pieces for this issue and met their deadlines, and I feel as though I did not keep up my end of the bargain with them. Please do not let this keep you from contributing in the future – your writings are truly appreciated. Speaking of contributions and this issue, that is another reason why this is being published so much later than expected – several of the contributors from the first two issues were unable to write for this one. Additionally, I think the theme of trying to point out some of the good things about America and our government turned a lot of people off. While that is understandable (especially considering the mostly-libertarian pool that our contributors come from), it is unfortunate. I think trying to appreciate the good things that have happened and are still going on is something that most of us (especially libertarians) could be much better at. It
was difficult to get people to write for this theme, and thus I kept delaying this issue in hopes of attracting more contributions that never came.

All that being said, while this issue is significantly less in quantity than the previous issues have been, I do not think that the quality of the content has gone down – if anything, it’s improved. I am excited to have this issue finally released, and think that all the articles in here are well worth the time to read with perspectives ranging from a libertarian-socialist to a neoliberal and subjects going from religious liberty to Mr. Rogers.

One Last Apology (For Now, At Least)

There’s an article form the last issue of WAL Reader that I regret publishing, and if I could go back I would not include it. I want to make that clear here and now and explain my reasoning for this.

If you’ll recall, the theme of Issue II was “immigration”. I am still immensely proud of that issue as a whole and love the wide variety of libertarian thought on the matter that was presented. That being said, I think that the article titled “Must Libertarians Believe in Open Borders?” went to far. I knew that this was a right-leaning article (you could probably gather that from the title alone), but in hindsight, I believe that it made several claims that and assertions that are far more based on xenophobia, right-wing talking points, and a sense of Euro-centrism/supremacy than they are in thoughtful, libertarian discourse. Blatantly comparing refugees (created by Western imperialism) to “invaders” crosses a line that I am not willing to cross, even with my commitment to intellectual diversity.

Letter_q1I realized this regret after the shooting at the El Paso WalMart last summer. When it came out that the shooter was motivated by a hatred for Hispanics and immigrants, and inspired by language referring to immigration as an invasion, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between the shooter’s stated influences and the article I had published. I never want to be in that situation again.

While I remain dedicated to intellectual diversity and largely opposed to “cancel culture”, I equally remain dedicated to decency and anti-racism/anti-xenophobia. I don’t want it ever to be said that something I publish inspired or fostered a sense of hatred for others. I’m afraid that “Must Libertarians Believe in Open Borders?” might have done that.

The Future of WAL Reader

One of the bright sides of WAL Reader‘s unintentional sabbatical is that it provides me with an opportune time to… reset the magazine. I’ve learned a lot from organizing and writing for and publishing these last three issues: what works well and what doesn’t; what part of the process I enjoy and what parts I trudge through; what content resounds with readers and what seems to fall flat; what parts of running a magazine I am good at and what parts of it I am not.

I want to be pushing out more content on a regular basis. The nature of a quarterly magazine makes it difficult to write about current events, especially given that the news cycle refreshes so incredibly rapidly. It also makes it hard to maintain a connection with an audience, when new content is only being delivered once every few months. I want to increase the use of the magazine’s website. I would love to put something out on that site at least weekly, allowing us to reflect more on current events as they happen. I am also going to try and do better about using our social media to better connect with our readers.

The scope of WAL Reader needs to change. On a personal level, my interests have shifted greatly in the past year from political theory to religion, history, arts, and ideas. If I am going to continue running this publication (and enjoying myself while I do), I need to be able to shift the focus of the magazine to match my shift in interests. This is not to say that I’m not going to accept contributions relating to politics, or government, or economic theory – on the contrary, I welcome them! – but I will not personally be so focused on producing or recruiting content like that. I want the magazine to include more book reviews, more reflections on history, more creative pieces. I want the magazine to still be open to a wide range of libertarian thought, but I want to open it up to more ways of thinking as well.

To reflect this change in focus, the magazine’s name will be changing with the next publication. I want this magazine to be a bullhorn for voices and opinions that go beyond or against the political, social, religious, and economic orthodoxies of society at large and the libertarian movement – to be heretics. Come the next issue, WAL Reader will be ending but it will also be reborn as Heretic. (More information on this will be posted on our social media and website in in the weeks leading up to Heretic Issue I.)

I want Heretic to reflect everything that has gone well with WAL Reader but to also reflect several changes for the better. I don’t want to rush this project, but I feel certain that it will be worth the wait.

Issue II Now Available!

By Ryan Lindsey
(Letter from the Editor for Issue II)

First, I want to say thank you to everyone who read (and especially those who purchased) Issue I of WAL Reader. I truly hoped all of you enjoyed it and/or learned something valuable from it – I know that everyone who contributed to the inaugural issue put a lot of work into it.

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We’re back! As happy as I was with our first issue, I really think Issue II has raised the bar even more. Thank you for taking the time to check out our magazine – I think the main focus of “immigration” is especially important right now.

Secondly, of course, I want to thank all of you who are now reading the second issue (and again, a special thank you to those of you who purchased it in one form or another). I am extremely proud to be putting out the magazine you’re now holding or looking at on a screen. While I think the first issue was a great success, I believe this second issue has raised the bar.

I am thrilled with the variety of subjects covered in this issue – contributors to this issue talk about the death penalty, universal basic income, the importance of family, reparations, and more. I’m excited that the variety of the magazine’s content is continuing to expand and stretch.

Of course, as you can likely tell from the cover and table of contents, the primary focus of this issue is immigration, one of the most contentious issues among Americans and libertarians. Several talented writers have contributed articles about immigration from a variety of viewpoints about the issue (including positions ranging from open borders to strict border control). I think anyone can find something in this section that they agree with, something that will challenge them, and (undoubtedly) something that will irk them. That’s good, that’s what I want to happen. There’s a bit of fun in being irksome every once in awhile.

My Quick Thoughts on Immigration

Personally, I support open borders, seeing as how I refuse to support violence against non-violent people doing nothing more than crossing an imaginary line drawn up by an imperialist federal government in the 1800s. I believe that cultural diversity (just like intellectual diversity) is a great, great thing – no single culture is superior to others in all (or even most) aspects and all cultures have something to gain from one another. I utterly reject the sense of “Western supremacy” that is present in so many American political ideologies. That being said, I’m not foolish enough to believe that cultural mixing never leads to cultural clashes. Obviously not all aspects of every culture are compatible, but I believe that most of those difference can be resolved peacefully and without government, if the populace is willing to put in the work required for peace.

r2q1Furthermore, I believe that immigration is a boon for the economy, on the local, regional, and state levels. More individuals means more potential for innovation, contribution, and consumption; I know that potential is not always realized, but it’s still there and worth building up. It makes sense to me that workers from less-developed areas of the globe will be more willing to work the important jobs in America that an increasingly privileged populace is unwilling to. That being said, I’m not naive enough to believe that immigration will never lead to temporary displacement of blue-collar workers or that capitalist employers will never take advantage of immigrant labor in extremely exploitive ways. But I also do not believe that those unfortunate realities can be solved by government border control and economic protectionism.

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Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter, Valeria drowned in June, 2019 while attempting to cross into the United States. Desperate to better his daughter’s life, Óscar attempted to enter the country illegally after their asylum request was rejected. (Photo from North Texas Dream Team)

Lastly on immigration, I want to utterly denounce the concentration camps that the government is currently running on the Southern border and the gestapo-esque ICE raids on non-violent people throughout the country. The Trump administration’s actions towards migrants is disgusting and I would feel morally-bankrupt if I didn’t use my platform to say so. It’s disgusting how many people believe that migrant children in DHS’s custody do not deserve soap, blankets, or basic childcare. It’s cruel to mock the struggle of migrants trying desperately to better their situations. It’s absurd to support Trump’s desire to force asylum-seekers to wait in the dangerous situations they are attempting to escape from.

For that reason, this issue of WAL Reader is dedicated to Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter, Valeria, who drowned in the Rio Grande river while trying to enter the U.S. after their asylum request was denied. An awful picture of their bodies has been circulated in the media recently and was even mentioned during the first Democratic 2020 primary debate. The image on page 6 is Óscar and Valeria as I imagine their family would like them to be remembered.

Echo Chambers

Like I said at the beginning of this letter, I was very pleased with the first issue of WAL Reader and for the most part, I was very pleased with the feedback I received. By and large, our readers seemed happy with We Are Libertarians’ newest deliverable. However, I was not at all happy with the response to one of the articles in particular (if you follow WAL Reader on Facebook, you likely know which article I’m talking about).

For Issue I, Kenton Merrill wrote a thoughtful and well-researched article on the history of and in favor of the libertarian-socialist ideology. This was one of my favorite articles in the issue because it did challenge so many ideas that I have taken for granted before, it made me think a whole awful lot. Personally, I think thinking’s a good thing.

I guess a lot of libertarians didn’t want to be challenged though. Several individuals and groups not only denounced the article, but the entire magazine and We Are Libertarians network, claiming that we were all “commies”. What a bogus, hilariously-idiotic claim.

Let me be clear: if you are the type of person to launch personal, ad hom attacks against someone due solely to a disagreement on theoretical societal models, WAL Reader doesn’t need your readership or involvement. Unlike many political and libertarian outlets, WAL Reader (and We Are Libertarians in general) does not pride itself in being an echo chamber; in fact, we pride ourselves in exactly the opposite. If an echo chamber is what you’re looking for I can suggest a few other outlets, groups, and caucuses that might be better suited to your tastes (I won’t name those here).

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Now that that messy bit of housekeeping is out of the way, I hope you all enjoy Issue II of WAL Reader. Again, all I ask is that you read through the following pages with an open mind. I want to thank all the writers who contributed to this issue, as well as Donald Keller for designing this issue’s cover. And of course, to Chris Spangle for starting, growing, and sharing the We Are Libertarians label.

If you want to check out Issue II (which I highly recommend), you can do so here.

Flag Burning

By James Hanmer

Burning or otherwise desecrating the American flag is an especially derisive gesture, like urinating on the Washington Monument or the graves at Arlington Cemetery. It is an act of such heinous disrespect for the history of the United States and for the millions of men and women who have risked or given their lives to preserve what that flag stands for, that many Americans might react to such a gesture with utter disgust, nationalistic pride, vitriol, or a desire for justice, whether in a court of law or a back alley. These reactions are understandable.

Yet, an empathetic case at least as compelling could be made for the outlawing of certain flags which represent a past attempt at disunion, and therefore are antithetical to what the American flag represents in their symbolic import: namely, any and all flags associated with the Confederate States of America (especially the battle flag known colloquially as the “stars and bars”). After all, did not the better part of half a million Americans perish to save the union and to ensure its constitutional guarantee of liberty would be upheld for all citizens regardless of their immutable characteristics?

No, we will not ban the “stars and bars”; we will not ban the flag of the Soviet Union; we will not ban the flag of Nazi Germany nor any of their other iconography. We will never again make illegal the desecration of the flag of the United States of America. The display or destruction of any of these symbols, or any others, no matter what their supposed significance, is protected speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Not only has this been confirmed in the Supreme Court, but it is apparent apriori, since the meaning of any word or symbol is not inherent. More importantly, free speech must include any and all speech, save threats to violence, no matter how noxious any given individual finds that speech. Otherwise, the First Amendment becomes an utterly meaningless provision. For, if one symbol can be protected from scrutiny or degradation due to its subjective valuation, why cannot any other?

To make symbols sacred is a practice best left to the ecclesiastical authorities of the Middle Ages. In a republic such as ours, we must welcome heretics, blasphemers, dissidents, and the flags which they choose to hoist or burn. If some opinion or symbol offends, the onus of responsibility falls upon the offended, not the offender, since they must remain civil and respect the other party’s right to free speech. This seems to be something we have largely forgotten, or perhaps not yet learned, as evidenced by the recent uptake in unprovoked political violence, such as the sucker-punching of white supremacists or the assaulting of speakers on college campuses. Even in mild forms such as the tossing of milkshakes at right-wing figures, aggression against others for expressing their views is as disturbingly authoritarian as the prohibition of flag burning.


James Hammer is a student at the University of Maryland. He places himself in the bottom-right of the political compass, though he’s not to attached to any doctrine other than U.S. Constitutionalism.

LGBTQ+ Rights are Fundamental for a Free Society

By Joseph Gatti

The month of June commemorates the impact the LGBTQ+ community has made here in the United States and around the world. June was chosen for pride month because of its connection to the Stonewall riots which occurred in June of 1969. The LGBTQ+ community’s struggle for marriage equality has been a long and hard struggle. Although the Libertarian Party has supported marriage equality since the moment of the party’s conception in 1971, gay marriage only became legal a few years ago in the United States and in many countries around the world it is still illegal. This is one of the many reasons why pride month is important in our society because individual liberty is non-negotiable for a free society.

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Photo provided by Broward County Libertarian Party

There is nothing abnormal about consenting adults choosing to engage in behaviors that don’t harm others, two same LGBTQ+ partners choosing to be together doesn’t violate the rights of others. Preventing LGBTQ+ people from participating in the workplace, the government, marriage, etc. is a violation of their individual liberty and personal choice. This doesn’t stop people who seek to violate the rights of the LGBTQ+ community though. A society is as free as it is willing to protect its vulnerable members, therefore pride month is important in the US. Pride month shows the LGBTQ+ community that there are people nationwide that are willing to stand up for their rights against those who would seek to deny the LGBTQ+ community the same rights as straight people.

LGBTQ+ rights, like all civil rights, are promoted by Libertarians because Libertarians believe that individuals should have the right to pursue their own destinies without the threat of government force. An important value to libertarians is the belief that aggression is inherently wrong and telling two consenting adults that they can’t engage in love or participate in work because of who they choose to love is an act of aggression against them. In order for a society to be a free society, its members must be free. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, LGBTQ+ rights are values that are as American as apple pie and we are better off as a country for it.


Joseph Gatti is the founder of The Patriot Rider which he hopes to grow into a full media outlet one day.

Confessions of a Former UBI Lover

They say love blinds logic, but sometimes it’s just plain killer.
By Remso W. Martinez

I guess sometimes the best thing to do is just come clean, be open with one’s self and just start with step one of the process of growth and recovery. Hello, I’m Remso W. Martinez and I’m a former lover of Universal Basic Income.

yangIt started as a summer fling, like with a girl your parents warned you about, the type of girl your friends have heard rumors about, but everywhere you go, everyone just runs over to tell you how much trouble she is. That’s the problem though; you like trouble, and she’s sending you all the right signals.

This sultry minx, however, was a breed all her own, nobody could claim ownership over her. First I was told she was seen dancing around with Milton Friedman, then I was told she had a dalliance with Martin Luther King Jr. but her first real love was John Locke. Stories were told that French anarchists dug her style, she shacked up with socialists from Scandinavia all the way to American academia. This femme fatal has gone by many names too, ranging from “Basic Income” to “Guaranteed Income”, but everywhere she turns up, the same problems follow.

It’s easy to look back and say its all the woman’s fault, she made me crazy and convinced me the radical ideas she whispered so seductively into my ears were really mine. The truth is though, I was really using her as an excuse, I loved the idea of her but when she wound up in my bed, dancing in my head, I realized this constant back and forth flirtation had to end.

miltonUniversal Basic Income, in all its names and forms, promises to be everything to everyone. It’s like water because it can be ice and gas and liquid, it can be anything anyone wants it to be but in all actuality, its plain poison. This policy is like any other welfare program, a bandaid on a bullet wound. It ignores that the natural state of man is poverty. It deceives you by telling you that through means of taxation, you’re really just getting your own money back; however, does that justify the theft of it in the first place?

From beltway libertarian think tanks to #YangGang bros trying to “secure the bag”, the desire for the formulation, perfection, and central planning seduces us like an exotic perfume on a dangerous woman. Is Universal Basic Income better than our impersonal, broken welfare state? Yes, the government is if nothing else good at sending the checks out on time, yet this is equating a horse carriage on fire to a car on fire, you can’t simply rebrand a broken product and hope that consumers can look past the missing pieces, dents, and history of false goods.

So here I am, hurt because I allowed myself to be. Deceived because I deeply wanted to believe, but believe me, beneath her soft exterior, she’s poison calling herself medicine, an economic and cultural suicide pill named Desire. Save your-self the trouble, the next time you think she’s actually good for you, block her number.


Remso W. Martinez is the author of Stay Away from the Libertarians and the upcoming book How to Succeed in Politics. He hosts the Remso Republic and The Remso Martinez Experience podcasts. He also recently became the editor of the Washington Times Opinion section.

A Libertarian’s Case for Reparations

By Kenton Merrill

reparation

Restorative justice is a principle I believe in – I desire a world that makes new, rather than continues to down the tired old path of tearing down. We have tried an eye for an eye for long enough, how about we try something new? Why not try liberation from the washed up ways of faux justice? Restoration is an idea that can break toxic cycles of revenge. It can attempt to make things whole again; this includes the idea of reparations.

restorative_justice

Just to be clear, I don’t know exactly how legitimate, ideal reparations will look in the modern age. I don’t know how the exact payment will take place. I don’t claim to know all of the answers as to how to right the wrongs for our sins of the past, but I do know one thing: They are overdue, and I intend to explore the options for reparations from the perspective of a libertarian socialist. This essay intends to explore ways in which reparations can become a reality, and argues that reparations themselves are libertarian.

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I believe that if we, as libertarians, are going to take the Non-Aggression Principle seriously, we should be looking to defeat institutions that violate such principle – yes, taxation is theft, but justice also allows for aggression in return. Institutions such as colonialism, racism, imperialism, toxic masculinity are as American as apple pie. I have often read comments on the Internet and talked with people who say things such as “reparations will start a race war!” or those of us who favor such things are “living in the past.” The truth is that slavery was not that long ago, and many who were under the conditions of slavery are still trying to rebound from a system that benefits from inheritance, private property, and white male privilege. No, these systematic institutions are not always easily visible from my personal eyes, but listening to people and trying to understand where they are coming from go a long way.

It was determined by Demos Report, in association of the Institute for Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University which found that as recently as 2011, the median white household income had $111,146 in wealth holdings, while the median black household income had only $7,113. This racial economic injustice disparity is the direct product of centuries of policies that deliberately excluded and oppressed African Americans. (1)

As Dane Posner, co-member of the Libertarian-Socialist Caucus of the Libertarian Party put it:

Private property ownership in America has been passed down through generations by individuals who slaughtered, or benefited from the slaughter of this land’s original inhabitants. Following the violent seizure of this land, dwellings, factories and other profit-generating structures were constructed through forced involuntary slave labor. Following the abolition of slavery in the United States, former slaves and their descendants were left without homes or compensation for their labor. If the so-called ‘non-aggression principle’ is the pinnacle of all libertarian philosophies, the only just compensation for the centuries of NAP violations that built this country from the ground up would be reparations in the form of money and/or property, at the expense of the descendants of those who benefited from the violent seizure of land, who profited from the involuntary ‘free’ labor of slaves.

colonialism_imperialism

The more closely property norms are examined, the further one can see the blood, violence, and illegitimate ways in which private property is acquired. The Native Americans understand this and effects of U.S. colonialism and imperialism.

There is a strong sense of divisiveness that the topic of reparations emits. “Well, I did not personally own any slaves, why should I pay?” My answer to that is the U.S. has already paid reparations to Japanese Americans who were victims of internment camps through the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, and Germany paid reparations to those who were victims of the Nazi regime. Paying the descendants of oppression is not going to kill us. Is it that people believe we are too late to pay for our shames? When is too late? I think now is the time.

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Types of Reparations

The idea of reparations has two main components: the right of the victim of an injury to receive reparation, and the duty of the party responsible for the injury to provide redress. (2)

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PHOTO FROM THE RONALD REAGAN PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY (Wikimedia Commons). President Ronald Reagan – considered by many to be the most conservative president in the 20th century – signs a reparations law in 1988.

The main ways reparations can be sought by individuals is through judicial systems, or they can be policies introduced by the state to address the concerns or needs of a wider populace. The first strategy is vital in creating legal precedent, the second is certainly a more efficient way to recognize the concerns of groups of people as a whole. While using the state is unpopular amongst libertarian circles (and understandably so), there is and has historically been a libertarian case for using force to combat injustice. Such things like marriage equality and desegregation are examples of this.

The United Nations’ Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Rights to a Remedy and Reparation for Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (3) describes the five formal categories of reparations as restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of nonrepetition. The first two of these are the main focal point of the discussion, given that these two of the four listed below have already happened in some situations.

Restitution

Restitution simply restores something that was lost. It measures to serve victims of injustice in restoring what was taken away. This can include a variety of things related to slavery, but most notably return of property.

Damages Compensation

The provision of compensation for economic damages that were passed down is currently the most talked about reparation in the political arena. These damages can include monetary loss, but also consist of physical or mental damages that were done.

Rehabilitation

This can include psychological, medical, social services, and legal assistances.

Satisfaction

Consists of various measures which include the cessation of human rights violations and abuses, searching for the disappeared, truth-seeking recovery and reburial of remains, judicial and administrative sanctions, public apologies, commemoration, and memorialization.

Guarantees of Non-Repetition

These are reforms which insure of the prevention of future abuses, including: civilian control of the military and security forces, strengthening an independent judiciary, protection of civil service and human rights workers, the overall promotion of human rights standards, and the establishment of mechanisms to prevent and monitor social conflict and conflict resolution. Guarantees of non-repetition have already happened in the form of equal rights acts, desegregation and actions that have given African Americans a fair chance in the workplace.

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Murray Rothbard

Even Murray Rothbard was open to the idea when he wrote the Ethics of Liberty. Albeit, Rothbard admitted the complexities of the situation, this was during his “New Left” stage.

We have indicated above that there was only one possible moral solution for the slave question: immediate and unconditional abolition, with no compensation to the slavemasters. Indeed any compensation should have been the other way—to repay the oppressed slaves for their lifetime of slavery. A vital part of such necessary compensation would have been to grant the plantation lands not to the slavemaster, who scarcely had valid title to any property, but to the slaves themselves, whose labor, on our “homesteading” principle, was mixed with the soil to develop the plantations. In short, at the very least, elementary libertarian justice required not only the immediate freeing of the slaves, but also the immediate turning over to the slaves, again without compensation to the masters, of the plantation lands on which they had worked and sweated. (4)
(From: Ethics of Liberty, chapter 11: “Land Monopoly, Past and Present”.)

*Author’s Note: Even though Rothbard supported reparations for the living slaves, I want to be intellectually honest in saying that I do not believe he would support reparations in the form of compensating future generations for the sins of the past. However, his views are very much worth noting in this piece.

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Noam Chomsky

When Noam Chomsky, a fellow libertarian socialist and most notably an Anarcho-Syndicalist, was asked at a Harvard University discussion forum about whether or not he would be supporting reparations, he said: “Would I? Very much so.

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MAP PROVIDED BY U.S. COAST GUARD. This map shows the percentage of county populations comprised of slaves in 1861. Some counties’ populations were more than 90% slave. (Wikimedia Commons)

Not just African Americans. We ourselves didn’t own slaves, but we – me – are rich and privileged because of the torture of blacks for centuries. And yes we own them reparations.” said Chomsky.

Later, he suggested that any group of people abused by U.S. imperialism should be paid back, saying: “The same with the remnants of Native Americans. Same with countries that we’ve destroyed. What about Iraq? I mean we’ve devastated Iraq, killed hundreds of thousands of people, generated millions of refugees, created sectarian conflict that’s destroying the place. Is it our responsibility? Sure.” said Chomsky.

I think the call for reparations is very legitimate,” he added. (5)

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Reparations as a Call to Action

An anarchist idea which I am intrigued by is the idea of reparations as a verb. This is the idea that as the Black Autonomy Network puts it:

…isn’t a demand to be made of the state, not for 40 acres and a mule (with inflation adjusted) or anything else. Along with reparations as a demand, we are also not interested in it delivered through capitalist property relations or economics (any economics). We agree with Saidiya Hartman when she says “I refuse to believe that the slave’s most capacious political claims or wildest imaginings are for back wages or debt relief. There are too many lives at peril to recycle the forms of appeal that, at best, have delivered the limited emancipation against which we now struggle.” We re-conceptualize reparations as an action, an attack on the order built off of our stolen labor – our stolen lives – which confines our existence to slavery, to wages and debt, to prisons and death, not just 500 years ago but today, here and now.

As libertarian socialists, many of us view the act of reparations as the forms taken in which our liberation already exists. The ways in which our communities have had to exist outside of the law, outside of the economy, to take care of ourselves and each other… The autonomous zones that form in riots when we kick the police our of our neighborhoods. The breakdown of property relations when we loot the commodities we can’t afford but are told to want, only separated from us by the threat of state violence and a window, and share them with strangers on the streets. These acts of survival and attack carry in them the forms of organization and social relations that will open space for anarchy, and it is from these that we move to the liberation of territory, the destruction of work and the economy, and the abolition of the state and its physical manifestations. (6)

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PHOTO BY DAVID BERKOWITZ. A memorial to the slave trade and all enslaved Africans in Stone Town, Tanzania. Part of reparations (aside from monetary/property restitution) could include erecting monuments to the oppressed in order to raise awareness in societies communal consciousness. (Wikimedia Commons)

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Conclusion

As a libertarian socialist, many would say that the only true way of making reparations whole is through the transfer of private property. This may be true, but I also lean favoring pragmatic ways of working toward justice and equality. In ordinary western libertarian circles, words such as “equality” may be seen as one for the progressives, but in my view it is as libertarian as the word liberty itself. If liberty isn’t for all, then it isn’t liberty at all. That, to me, includes economic justice.

k2q1I challenge libertarians of all ideological backgrounds to consider reparations in the present time. Using the state as a response to aggression to carry out justice, I’d argue, is not only progressive, it’s libertarian.

No, I don’t have all the answers. However, I do stand with those who dream of a better America one in which the systems which it has been built upon are finally completely torn down a country that actually takes justice seriously. My hope is that someday we truly mean it when we utter the words “Liberty and Justice for ALL.”

Sources
(1) Traub, Amy, et al. The Racial Wealth Gap: Why Policy Matters. Demos. June 21, 2016.
(2) UN General Assembly Third Committee. A/Res/60/147. United Nations. March 21, 2006.
(3) Office of the High Commissioner UN Human Rights. Basic Principles and Guidelines on the RIght to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law. OHCHR.org. December, 2005.
(4) Rothbard, Murray. The Ethics of Liberty, Chapter 11.  New York University Press. 2002.
(5) Bedard, Paul. Progressive Chomsky Calls for Reparations to Blacks, Native Americans, Iraq. Washington Examiner. September 26, 2015.
(6) Reparations as a Verb. Black Autonomy Network. March 20, 2019.

Kenton Merrill is a founding member of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus of the Libertarian Party.