Voluntary Transactions or State Solutions?

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One of the central tenets of libertarianism is the idea of voluntary transactions.  Why does a libertarian believe this?

In a voluntary transaction, all parties involved are trying to get what’s best for them.  They want to maximize their own gains, whether that is real or psychic gain.  There are no guarantees that the transaction will be beneficial, but if any party didn’t believe that they would receive suitable benefits, there’s no incentive to engage in the transaction.  They would either choose another transaction or simply do nothing.

In short, people will only act if they believe it improves their present situation.  They will not act to intentionally harm their situation.  If there are no ways to improve their lot, they will not act.

If you want more information on this, here’s an excellent place to start.

When you introduce the state, every person still operates under this idea of self-interest.  The difference, however, is that choices are restricted.  Depending on the size of the state, nearly all of the choices may be restricted or only a few.  But not only are choices restricted, some choices are made for people.

When either a single person or a group of people makes decisions for others, there’s no way that they’re able to act in the interest of each person they are ruling over.  Some people may benefit and be happy, but you’re always bound leave at least some people in a worse position.

And remember, and this may be the most important thing, each ruler is acting in his own self-interest.  Since some people do serve others for their own psychic benefit (someone like Mother Theresa), if you look throughout the history of the entire world, you cannot say that about most leaders.  Consider how much money politicians end up with these days.  Do we have a bunch of Mother Theresa’s running our governments?

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Marvin Edwards
Guest
Everyone already agrees that people will spend their hard earned money to obtain the things they value. This is a voluntary exchange, and because everyone uses it, no one opposes it. What makes Libertarians different, is that they deny the fact that the state itself is a product of a voluntary exchange. A state is constituted by a voluntary agreement among the people living within the area that becomes the state. This is a written contract that is ratified by a consensus of the people, who then become the first “citizens” of the newly formed state. The agreement spells out… Read more »
Buck Ryan
Guest

Marvin,

You said:

A state is constituted by a voluntary agreement among the people living within the area that becomes the state.

I never voluntarily agreed to be ruled by the state. I never signed a contract agreeing to be ruled by the state. No living person has signed any contract agreeing to the way the US gov’t runs. My parents did not sign that contract and neither did their parents. In fact, only a handful of people laid out the laws detailed in the constitution and signed the contract.

How can you claim the state is voluntary?

Marvin Edwards
Guest
Hi Buck, The people of the United States constituted a government to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”. A child born in the territory of the United States is granted citizenship by birth. But later, when the child becomes an adult, then he or she is here by their own choice. Nothing in the law prohibits an adult from emigrating to another country. And you may have noticed that many people immigrate to America, both legally and illegally. So, choosing a new country is not at all uncommon. It seems plain enough, that anyone choosing to… Read more »
Rollo McFloogle
Guest
“A state is constituted by a voluntary agreement among the people living within the area that becomes the state. This is a written contract that is ratified by a consensus of the people, who then become the first “citizens” of the newly formed state.” Without getting into the legitimacy of creating contracts and holding individuals accountable to them without their permission, you’re missing a key point here. Yes, states can be the result of voluntary interactions, there is no doubt about that. However, they are only voluntary interactions for those people directly involved. In a given geographical area, before a… Read more »
Marvin Edwards
Guest
RM: . Even if they asked the people and the majority of people wanted a state, this was not a democratic decision. The people who refused didn’t want to be a part of it at all to begin with. First, democracy does not require a unanimous decision. If it did, then nothing would ever get done. We have enough trouble getting things done as it is with the “checks and balances” of two legislatures, a presidential veto, and the Supreme Court’s ability to rule a law unconstitutional. Unanimity cannot be required. Second, the authority of a law must apply to… Read more »
Rollo McFloogle
Guest

Reread what I said. I’m talking about when the state is first developed. You’re going off on tangents that I didn’t mention.

Marvin Edwards
Guest
RM: Reread what I said. I’m talking about when the state is first developed. You’re going off on tangents that I didn’t mention. RM: So they draft up a constitution and begin their state. For those directly involved, again, this is all voluntary. When they start knocking on people’s doors to tell them that they are now citizens of the new government, whether they like it or not, the voluntary interactions cease to exist. You were pointing out that those who did not wish to participate in the agreement to constitute the state were nevertheless involuntarily drafted into the new… Read more »
Marvin Edwards
Guest
I followed the mises.org link to the book by Rothbard. My first impression is that he is a pseudo-intellectual blowhard who belabors the obvious to such detail that I wonder if the guy is trying to hypnotize his audience. The first error I found is in his second point where he says: MR: “Only individuals have ends and can act to attain them. There are no such things as ends of or actions by “groups,” “collectives,” or “States,” which do not take place as actions by various specific individuals.” ME: Not quite. For example, the Titanic is going down and… Read more »
Rollo McFloogle
Guest
“My first impression is that he is a pseudo-intellectual blowhard who belabors the obvious to such detail that I wonder if the guy is trying to hypnotize his audience.” I’m not even going to dignify this comment with a response. As far as your objection to the statement by Rothbard, groups are comprised of individuals. In order for the group to “act,” actions have to be taken by the individuals. That was the point that Rothbard was making. In your situation that you presented, the individuals of the group acted together to rescue the individuals. Those who wanted to swim… Read more »
Marvin Edwards
Guest
RM: I’m not even going to dignify this comment with a response. So you noticed it too. I suspect Rothbard (or is Mises to blame?) started with the conclusion and worked back to “prove” himself right. But this is not the first time I’ve seen strange but elaborate explanations from Libertarians. David Marotta is a local libertarian who posted an article by two lawyers attempting to trace back their argument for “natural” rights to biological sources. And long ago when I first ran into you guys on the bulletin boards, there was a fellow who was totally non-understandable. I suspect… Read more »
Rollo McFloogle
Guest

“The point here is that the “group” is not purely imaginary. None of the individuals could choose to keep the boat afloat as an individual. But the “group” as a whole could.”

No one is saying that the group is imaginary. That said, the group does not develop a “mind of its own.” The actions of the group are the collections of the actions of the individuals. You could say that the group was “acting,” but groups are made up of individuals. I think you’re overthinking this.

Marvin Edwards
Guest
RM: No one is saying that the group is imaginary. ME: Yet that seems to be the implication when Rothbard says, “Thus, to say that “governments” act is merely a metaphor; actually, certain individuals are in a certain relationship with other individuals and act in a way that they and the other individuals recognize as “governmental.”6 The metaphor must not be taken to mean that the collective institution itself has any reality apart from the acts of various individuals.” RM: That said, the group does not develop a “mind of its own.” The actions of the group are the collections… Read more »
Marvin Edwards
Guest
Error #2 RB: With reference to any given act, the environment external to the individual may be divided into two parts: those elements which he believes he cannot control and must leave unchanged, and those which he can alter (or rather, thinks he can alter) to arrive at his ends. The former may be termed the general conditions of the action; the latter, the means used. Thus, the individual actor is faced with an environment that he would like to change in order to attain his ends. To act, he must have technological ideas about how to use some of… Read more »
Marvin Edwards
Guest

Ooops. “RB” above should read “MR” for MURRAY N. ROTHBARD. I’m commenting on his book (see link in article). Pardon my mistake.

Rollo McFloogle
Guest

“What RB is saying is that other people are parts of the environment which may not be employed to reach your ends. This assertion is interesting, but clearly false.”

My interpretation is different. Rothbard says that the “general conditions” are the elements that the actor believes he cannot change. The then says that “the general conditions cannot be objects of any human action.”

I don’t see what the problem with Rothbard’s statement. I think you misread it.

Marvin Edwards
Guest
RM: My interpretation is different. Rothbard says that the “general conditions” are the elements that the actor believes he cannot change. The then says that “the general conditions cannot be objects of any human action.” He later includes the air as a “general condition”, something we all use, but which none of us may control (“3. Further Implications: The Means”). And when he says “The existence of an institution such as government becomes meaningful only through influencing the actions of those individuals who are and those who are not considered as members.” Then we know pretty much what he is… Read more »
Rollo McFloogle
Guest
I don’t understand what you’re trying to say in relation to the comment of mine that you quoted. Do you agree or disagree with my interpretation? As for your comment about air, he explains it on page 5… “For example, air in most situations is in unlimited abundance. It is therefore not a means and is not employed as a means to the fulfillment of ends. It need not be allocated, as time is, to the satisfaction of the more important ends, since it is sufficiently abundant for all human requirements. Air, then, though indispensable, is not a means, but… Read more »
Marvin Edwards
Guest

RM: Libertarians simply want to be left alone. We don’t want the benefits and safety of the state. Why not give us our wish?

You are enjoying the benefits of this nation and your state’s security, its free market economy, its constitutional protection of your basic liberty, etc. You drive on its roads, send your kids to its schools, and post on an internet developed by DARPA. How can we require everyone else to pay their share without requiring you to pay yours? What you ask is not fair to the rest of us.

Marvin Edwards
Guest

RM:I don’t understand what you’re trying to say in relation to the comment of mine that you quoted. Do you agree or disagree with my interpretation?

You are correct. I misread the sentence, “In the external environment, the general conditions cannot be the objects of any human action; only the means can be employed in action.” And did in fact go off on a tangent. My apologies for causing confusion.

Marvin Edwards
Guest

Okay, this Rothbard dude appears to be going on and on about things which are obvious, like air is part of nature and things take time, etc. I’m not going to spend a lot of time wading through all that to find the rest of his errors.

If you do not understand Rothbard well enough to make the argument yourself, then I don’t know what you expect me to get from reading him that you were unsuccessful in attaining yourself.

lance
Guest
Marvin wrote: “You are enjoying the benefits of this nation and your state’s security, its free market economy, its constitutional protection of your basic liberty, etc. You drive on its roads, send your kids to its schools, and post on an internet developed by DARPA. How can we require everyone else to pay their share without requiring you to pay yours? What you ask is not fair to the rest of us.” I pay monthly to use the internet. I pay gas taxes to fix the roads. I pay for private school for my boy and I pay sales tax… Read more »
Marvin Edwards
Guest
Hi Lance. 1) Yes, there are many different taxes in different forms. The fairest tax is the tax based on income. It can never be oppressive because it is based on cash in hand. 2) Yes, I expect you to help pay for free, universal K-12 education whether you choose to use it or not. The rest of us believe you reap the benefits of an educated population. Your welfare is improved by the improvement in the overall economy that results from an educated workforce. 3) Although we may disagree, the rest of us also favor freedom of religion. We… Read more »
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