Posted by: John Vandivier | September 17, 2013

How Voluntaryists Claim Enforcement Would Work

This article will not make an argument for or against voluntaryism. Instead I will simply be describing the voluntaryist position as I understand it. I will describe voluntaryism in general and then focus in particular on the idea of how enforcement would work in a voluntaryist system.

I will draw my information from three sources. First I will reference a permanent Wikipedia article and second I will reference a pair of primary sources derived from asking self-proclaimed voluntaryists very directly how enforcement would work in the voluntaryist world they conceive. This article will be in a sort of rapid-fire bullet point format. I will conclude by trying to synthesize the points made into a short and simple conceptual definition and also point out other potential readings for myself or an interested reader.

From Wikipedia, Voluntaryism:

  • “Holds that all forms of human association should be voluntary.” I presume they mean transaction as well as association.
  • Is highly derived from the work of Murray Rothbard and Robert LeFevre.
  • Is justified by necessity, consequence, natural rights or a social contract. Of these the most common argument is the argument from the non-aggression principal (NAP).
  • Has self-identified adherents dating back as far as the 17th century, with the NAP dating back to Epicurus in the 300s BC.
  • Has been notably supported by a newsletter called The Voluntaryist.
  • Is often associated with, and sometimes used interchangeably with, the idea of anarcho-capitalism.
  • Related concepts include libertarianism, anarchism, agorism, panarchism, the NAP, voluntary association and rule of law.

From my question on Reddit:

  • The use of force can be either aggressive or defensive and NAP only seeks to prohibit the former.
  • If enforcement clauses are included in a voluntary contract then the use of force as justified and non-aggressive in the relevant cases allowed by the contract.
  • How to treat children is an unsolved issue in voluntaryism. One person commented that, “Rothbard’s view of children not being property allows parents to abandon their children without legal responsibility. Molyneux took that non-ownership to the next logical step by saying that children do not have a choice in the relationship, but the parents do…Because of that they have an obligation to care for the child and raise him/her to become independent human beings.”
  • It is unclear if psychological force is considered a kind of aggressive force.
  • Certain solutions to the problem of children or defining force require the use of implied, inescapable, automatic and centrally controlled social contracts.

From my post on Bitcoin Forum:

  • Some voluntaryists claim that reputation alone would/should/could allow good enforcement of contracts.
  • David Friedman is a leading anarcho-capitalist thinker who proposes a system of anarcho-capitalism which does not require adherence to voluntaryism or the NAP.
  • Voluntaryists split on what kind of force is aggressive. Some consider pre-emptive or preventative force as defensive and others do not.
  • It’s possible the NAP is self-contradictory because a person must be able to enforce their own self-proclaimed right to self-defense, even if the person they are defending against does not consent.
  • A purely voluntaryist system may be impossible or unrealistic, but that does not preclude the fact that such a system is preferable, nor that being closer to such a system produces desirable results.
  • One user could not explain how such a system would work, but differed to the following two videos which I have yet to watch but will comment on in a separate post: Video 1 and Video 2.
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