A Libertarian Theory of Enfranchisement

Democracy is often viewed as a necessary component of freedom: for if a country does not have democracy, it must be ruled by a tyrannical dictator. People often proclaim that democracy gives us a choice—a say in government. If there was not a democracy, there would not be freedom. Indeed, the general population believes that they are “free” from tyrannical government because “they” have a say. In truth, this not the case. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once famously said, “[n]one are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” Indeed, we are all slaves to our master we call “government.” Because the state uses the initiation of force, it defies our natural rights. Democracy is nothing but another government system—mob rules. While most people claim to be defenders of minorities, they are prompt to support democracy when its entire concept is to pursue tyranny by the majority and to dismiss the minority. As Ayn Rand once pointed out, “[t]he smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.” Indeed, individual rights should be our guiding principle, not tyranny by majority. This is why libertarians should not support democracy, but any moves to reduce the state, despite if it is undemocratic. Of the three chief systems of governance (democracy, republicanism, and monarchism), democracy is the most abhorrent and base. Or, as Benjamin Franklin said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” We will apply this theory—contesting the vote—to many controversial issues, including hypotheticals and women’s suffrage.

It is important to recognize that the United States of America is not a democracy. In fact, our founders realized the dangers of majority rules and set up a democratic republic. A democracy, in its purest form, means that majority rules, period. From this point, there are no restraints: people vote for representatives to vote for policies or vote for policies directly. This is a democracy. A republic, on the other hand, sets up some ground rules. Unfortunately, a republic does follow the principle that the majority knows best, but to a lesser extent. The Bill of Rights protects certain individual rights, but can be repealed if the majority is high enough (three fourths of the states and two thirds of each house of Congress). This is why the United States is a democratic republic, for there is some ground rules and some restrictions, but if the majority is big enough, anything can be done on a national level. Each state, on the other hand, is actually strictly a republic: for if everyone in the state of Utah were to oppose my right to free speech except me, my right to free speech is still protected under law, due to the national First Amendment. There is no pure democracy in the United States, however, as there should not be. Our founders originally intended the United States to be a Republic: and for white male property owners to exclusively hold the privilege to vote. As we shall see, this restriction was conducive to the ends of Liberty.

Before examining the issue of voting, we must first recognize that voting is not a right. Rights are, indeed, inherent. I have the right to my life. I have the right to my liberty. I have the right to pursue happiness. I have the right to do jumping jacks. I have the right to pursue my dream of becoming the next movie star. No one has the “right” to an object or for anyone to do anything for them. For example, I have the right to eat. This does not entail that I have the right to food: that is, that we must socialize the food industry because I have the right to have food on my plate. I certainly have the right to pursue my goal of justly acquiring food, but I do not have the right to another’s food. I do not have the right for someone else to pursue or do something for me, since, if they were forced to do so, that would be a violation of that person’s rights. I have the right to pursue happiness, but I do not have the right to happiness; stated differently, I can try to give myself happiness all I want, but this does not entail that other people have any sort of obligation to provide me with this happiness, nor can I ever initiate force on another individual to obtain happiness. When people say healthcare is a human right, and, therefore, we need socialized healthcare, they are wrong. We have the right to voluntary association; therefore, we do have the right to voluntarily trade and have a healthcare industry in the free market. We have the right to care for our health, but we do not have the right to other people providing healthcare for us. Similarly, we do not have the right to vote. We do not have the right to other people orchestrating a process for us. We have the right to protest or promote government. We have the right to resist government. We do not have the right to have the government provide us food, healthcare, education, or pieces of paper with politicians’ names written on them. In short, we only have a right to our own person and property, but not to the person and property of others. After all, if voting were a right, ipso facto, all people must be able to vote, including those who were born only days ago. Government is a violation of rights in and of itself, and so, the goal should be to rein in government. If we are faced with minimizing the violation of rights or giving the privilege to vote equally to everyone, the goal should be to minimize the violation of rights.

Libertarians must necessarily be prudent in supporting expansion of the voter base. Every increase in the voter base brings a potentially more difficult task for Libertarian politics. Specifically, if the newly introduced voters increase the margin which we must win over for Liberty, then that is the chief issue; for, in this fashion, the Libertarian job is made more difficult: we must convince a larger populace to vote for us. Unfortunately, for Libertarians, collective propositions to expand suffrage must be considered collectively, as we have already mentioned. The ideal would be banning all who increase the State from the voting booth, wherefrom we may derive our entire enfranchisement theory; but, in practise, this is nigh impossible. Typically and historically, propositions to expand the vote have been made to particular groups of varying different characteristics. When a voter group is added to an existing voter base, if it increases the margin necessary to convince to arrive at a 50% Libertarian vote, then it must be bad. On the contrary, if it decreases this margin, or if it sways the vote toward being Libertarian, it must be good. The goal is to destroy the system, and the means used must be pursuant to this end; as Ayn Rand said, “I am interested in politics so that one day I will not have to be interested in politics.” Libertarians do not care for democracy; we wish merely to destroy the State. Therefore, any change in the democratic (or republican) structure must be in accordance with this end; and, as Libertarians, we ought to rig the vote as much as possible, whether in a representative republic or a true democracy, for our own ends. But whether it is a proposition to expand the vote to women, or a proposition to restrict the vote to only Anarcho-Capitalists (the ideal), we must approach the subject with great caution.

Suppose, for example, that a group of fugitives have been stranded on an island. Within this group of fugitives, there are fifteen men and seven women. The group of people have established a democracy, but have restricted men from voting. Because the women have control of the state, rape is avoided in this instance. Only one lady supports the men as a whole raping the women. The people live happily on the island for a long time, and then, later down the road, the men start to demand “voting rights.” The men continuously campaign and eventually win the privilege to vote. The majority of the men, after a long time on the island, try to rape the women after a “proper” democratic vote for this goal. According to democratic theory, this is perfectly permissible, since the majority of the people are in support of the measures being taken. According to libertarian theory, this is not permissible, since it is a violation of individual rights. In addition, according to our practical theory, voter enfranchisement was a poor idea, in that a margin of voters must now be convinced not to rape. The men are using the initiation of force which is always wrong. This is not freedom for the women, since they are the victims of rape. Forcing the majority’s desires on the entire population is unjust in this situation, and is unjust in any situation which will lead to the initiation of force. In the case of any state, democratic or not, it is initiating force. A rational person will conclude that the majority opinion is irrelevant, and enfranchisement, in this case, was a bad idea. Enfranchisement actually caused a deprivation of rights.

Now that we have established that enfranchisement that would lead to more of the initiation of force is bad, and any increase in the state is an increase in the initiation of force, we can see that we have made enfranchisement mistakes in our history, as with women. Indeed, when women were given the privilege to vote, the scope of government expanded excessively and rather rapidly. In twenty-nine states, women had the privilege to vote prior to the Nineteenth Amendment:

Per capita state government spending after accounting for inflation had been flat or falling during the 10 years before women began voting. But state governments started expanding the first year after women voted and continued growing until within 11 years real per capita spending had more than doubled. The increase in government spending and revenue started immediately after women started voting. (Source)

Clearly, men were doing a better job of maintaining a Libertarian society, and the vote should not have expanded to women. Democracy is not the answer to freedom, voting is not a right, and enfranchisement should not be supported without caution. Libertarians should oppose enfranchisement that would expand the state.

The Unconstitutionality of ObamaCare

It has finally happened: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (more commonly known, and how I will be referring to it throughout this post, as “ObamaCare”) is being debated in the Supreme Court. This is a crucial case in history, testing how far the federal government can go. If this bill is ruled constitutional, it means whether or not Congress wants to force people to eat ten pounds of broccoli each day is a political debate and not a judicial one. Ruling this bill constitutional would be giving the federal government almost unlimited authority: it would be the ultimate expansion of the constitutional power of Congress.

Fortunately, swing justices such as Anthony Kennedy are finding the argument coming from the White House to be weak. Stupidly, the White House decided to try a different approach to their case almost immediately prior to the bill being reached to the Supreme Court. Indeed, their argument was horrible before, but this addition they have added has escalated the White House to a new level of embarrassment.

To determine the true constitutionality of ObamaCare, let us look at the facts…

The 10th amendment states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Simply as stated, if the federal government is not specifically delegated the power to implement a particular law, that law is unconstitutional.

The powers of Congress are specifically delegated in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution as follows:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

The part I put in bold is the only part that could ever potentially be applicable to justify ObamaCare. The “General Welfare” cannot be used as an independent power.1 Indeed, the courts that ruled the individual mandate constitutional justified the law using the Commerce Clause.

An argument brought to the table claiming that the individual mandate is constitutional proclaims that it is not actually a mandate — it is merely raising taxes on those who do not buy health insurance, thus using Congress’s power to tax. Now, the courts that did rule the mandate constitutional used the Commerce Clause, not the power to levy taxes, so under this argument, those courts are wrong since it is not covered by the Commerce Clause. However, the individual mandate is a penalty — that is the wording of the ObamaCare document itself. If it were a tax, what would it be a tax on? The consumption of goods? Income? The Constitution allows for duties, imposts, excises, and income taxes. The individual mandate would be a so-called “tax” on an inactivity, which is blatantly unconstitutional, and is why no court has gone down that road.

What does the Commerce Clause mean exactly? From the clear language of it, it seems Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce (but not intrastate). What we need to take into account is the definition of “to regulate” in 1787. Andrew Napolitano, a former superior judge, Princeton University graduate, and now a talk show host, pointed out that if you look up “to regulate” in the Oxford English Dictionary (which gives definitions of words throughout history), it meant “to keep regular” in 1787. In other words, the Commerce Clause was meant to be used to make sure commerce was flowing throughout the states, prohibiting protectionist trade policies among the states. It is also evident that “to regulate” was interpreted as “to keep regular” with the case of our currency (“[t]o coin Money, regulate the Value thereof”), which only inflated about 12% from 1789-1913 while it inflated over 2,000% from 1913-2010 — the value of the dollar decreasing 95% from 1913 (the Federal Reserve Act was enacted in 1913). For over a hundred years, Congress actually did a good job in keeping the value of the dollar regular, as the Constitution clearly and solely gives them power to do.

Unfortunately, the spirit of the Constitution is irrelevant to the constitutionality of a law. Legally, the only thing that matters is the text of the document. James Madison may have articulated this legal status accurately when he said:

Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.

However, from a legal point-of-view, there is no way to objectively determine the spirit of the Constitution and so we must rely on the text (although the definitions should obviously be the ones used in 1787). “To keep regular” is a subjective term, and so it is stretchable to mean “to regulate” in modern terms, although it is completely out of the lines of what the framers intended.

Now, even if we were to stretch the Constitution to its full extent and say “to regulate” meant the same thing in 1787 as it means now, the individual mandate would still be unconstitutional. Quite simply, although it is stretchable to say that Congress can regulate interstate commerce for whatever reason they see fit, imposing a penalty on those who do not buy health insurance is not regulating interstate commerce by any means. The commerce must first exist in order to keep it regular or regulate it — not buying health insurance is an inactivity and is not engaging in commerce. The individual mandate forces people to engage in commerce, and then it regulates that commerce. Arguably, the part where it regulates that commerce is constitutional, but the forcing of people to engage in commerce is completely out of the scope of Congress.

Unfortunately, the bias of the Supreme Court has not only used the stretched version of the Commerce Clause as a basis, but has actually “stretched” that stretch into an almost unlimited power of Congress. The court has not only ruled that Congress can regulate any activity that is interstate commerce, but any activity that has a “substantial” effect on interstate commerce. At this point, it isn’t even a stretch — it’s an outright incorrect ruling. Since “substantial” has a subjective definition, it means Congress can regulate any activity that has an effect on interstate commerce. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say this, and since just about any activity could potentially have an effect on interstate commerce, this means Congress has virtually unlimited power.

As unconstitutional, completely bent, and far away from what the framers intended the courts have been on the Commerce Clause, even this whacky interpretation cannot justify the individual mandate. Indeed, the Supreme Court has only ruled that Congress can regulate any activity that is or has a substantial effect on interstate commerce. As was stated earlier, not buying health insurance is an inactivity and therefore is unconstitutional for the federal government to outlaw.

Here is the crucial point in this case: if the court rules that ObamaCare is constitutional, it means that Congress can control absolutely anything. Indeed, an inactivity cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be engaging in interstate commerce, and so Congress would have the constitutional authority to could control anything.

Now, the White House has recently added a new element to their argument: last minute, they decided to throw in the Necessary and Proper Clause as part of their argument. They proclaim that the individual mandate is necessary and proper for the law; thus, if not constitutional under the Commerce Clause, it must be constitutional by the Necessary and Proper Clause. However, article 1, section 8 makes this very clear: “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;” and then it goes on a list of things the Congress has power to do. Note that it doesn’t say anything about the power to implement laws at this point. Then, at the end of the list, it says that the Congress shall have power “[t]o make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” It does not say that Congress shall make any laws necessary and proper for any law. It clearly states that Congress shall make laws necessary and proper for carrying into the execution of the powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution. This means that Congress shall make laws, if they are both necessary and proper into carrying out the enumerated powers in the Constitution. This is a restriction on government, not an expansion. Congress can make laws to regulate interstate commerce, but the Necessary and Proper Clause adds that Congress can only make laws to regulate intestate commerce if they are necessary and proper to regulating interstate commerce. If anything, the White House is making a case against themselves: ObamaCare is certainly not necessary or even proper to carrying out the execution of regulating interstate commerce. Adding this piece of the argument was a bad move for the White House, indeed.

Those who are firm in their false belief that ObamaCare is constitutional may recite a judge who ruled the mandate constitutional and argued from a different perspective:

The health care market is unlike other markets. No one can guarantee his or her health, or ensure that he or she will never participate in the health care market. Indeed, the opposite is nearly always true. The question is how participants in the health care market pay for medical expenses – through insurance, or through an attempt to pay out of pocket with a backstop of uncompensated care funded by third parties.

This phenomenon of cost- shifting is what makes the health care market unique. Far from “inactivity,” by choosing to forgo insurance plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now through the purchase of insurance,collectively shifting billions of dollars, $43 billion in 2008, onto other market participants….

The plaintiffs have not opted out of the health care services market because, as living, breathing beings, who do not oppose medical services on religious grounds, they cannot opt out of this market. As inseparable and integral members of the health care services market, plaintiffs have made a choice regarding the method of payment for the services they expect to receive. The government makes the apropos analogy of paying by credit card rather than by check. How participants in the health care services market pay for such services has a documented impact on interstate commerce. Obviously, this market reality forms the rational basis for Congressional action designed to reduce the number of uninsureds.

The problem with the argument that not buying health insurance is actually an activity because of the consequences is that this completely misses the point brought forward proving the unconstitutionality of the mandate. The point of the matter is that what the law is regulating must exist in order to regulate it. In this case, the law is supposedly “regulating” health insurance. The argument put forward by this judge is saying that the mandate does not force the engagement of commerce because everyone ends up engaging in commerce somewhere along the line. This is a completely irrelevant and overall bad argument. The individual mandate concerns health insurance. In order to regulate health insurance, the engagement of commerce — in this case, health insurance — must exist. The problems with the argument that is provided is that assumes everyone will eventually engage in commerce of health insurance, which is not true. Even if it were the case that every single person eventually bought health insurance, ObamaCare would still be unconstitutional seeing as it is still forcing individuals to engage in commerce — whether or not they were planning on doing so anyway is irrelevant. Deciding to pay out of pocket regards health care, not health insurance, and is completely irrelevant to the individual mandate debate. This argument goes off topic from the law and brings up red herrings. The individual mandate outlaws not buying health insurance, which is an inactivity. It does not regulate paying out of pocket for health insurance. It does not regulate “how participants in the health care services market pay for such services.” It outlaws not buying health insurance. It’s legal for me to not buy any health insurance and never go to a hospital and never pay any type of health care right now. Most likely, this won’t happen, but it has happened to few people. The individual mandate does not regulate how you buy health insurance or health care — it forces you to engage in commerce and buy the health insurance.


1Some people claim that the general welfare means that the government is permitted to make whatever laws they want as long as it is for the general welfare. They further define “the general welfare” to either mean just general prosperity or others will even go as far to say that it means it permits government aid to the homeless, etc.

First of all, “welfare” did not mean government aid in 1787. Welfare simply meant prosperity, happiness, etc.


welfare n. 1. health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being. [<ME wel faren, to fare well] Source: AHD

Welfare in today’s context also means organized efforts on the part of public or private organizations to benefit the poor, or simply public assistance. This is not the meaning of the word as used in the Constitution.


Thus, saying that the general welfare permits government aid to the poor is simply wrong.

Second, the “general” welfare and just plain “welfare” are not the same thing. The “general” welfare is meant to mean the entire public. It benefits everyone. The federal government taking money from person A to give to person B is unconstitutional. Taking money from person A to provide a service that benefits both person A and B is constitutional (depending on what the service is). Again, this is by simple definition.

So, we know that Congress can do whatever they want if it’s for the the happiness of the public, right? Well, the general welfare is cited in two parts of the Constitution — the preamble and article 1, section 8. Since the preamble is not technically law, let’s cite the official clause in article 1, section 8:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States

Let’s see if we can understand this fully by simple grammatical definition. Congress has power to lay and collect taxes — duties, imposts and excises — to provide for the general welfare. I think we can all agree on that? I used dashes — the Constitution uses comas. You could use parentheses if you wanted. It’s a matter of style, but they all mean the same thing. Duties, imposts, and excises are different types of taxes. So, to shorten the clause to put it in more simplistic terms and get to the main point (and since we’re only talking about the general welfare part), I could say

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes … to … provide for the … general Welfare of the United States

Interchangeably, I could say

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Duties, Imposts and Excises … to … provide for the … general Welfare of the United States

Of course, as I cited above, this is not the only part in article 1, section 8.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To *enumerated powers here*

“But” all of these taxes must be granted from the specific enumerated powers. The general welfare is a restriction on government — the government may only use the specific enumerated powers if it for the general welfare or the common defense, thus prohibiting social welfare programs as we know them today. The general welfare clause does not grant Congress the power to do whatever they want as long as it is for the general welfare. Why would our founders specifically list all those enumerated powers if the general welfare could mean anything, anyway? This is all by simple dictionary and grammatical definitions.

On a side note:
I often see conservatives use the argument that the Constitution actually says “promote” the general welfare, so the government can only encourage the activity. This argument is a fallacy. Although it does say “promote” in the preamble, it says “provide” in article 1, section 8, which is the part that is law.

***This particular article was solely written by J.R. Cardosi (excluding when quoting others as indicated).

Pragmatarianism Disproved

Pragmatarianism is an ideology professed as a solution on which everyone can ostensibly concur: each individual chooses where his or her tax dollars go. So, if Jenna wants to allocate all her money to more EPA regulations, she can decide to do that. If Bill wants all his money to go into the military apparatus, he too can make this choice. Thus, if the tax rate is 15%, each individual can choose into which government agency (or agencies) that 15% goes. According to the founder of pragmatarianism, this would solve a certain “public goods” problem; people could “invest” in whatever “public goods” they please! While this may sound nice, there is a flaw: each individual is forced to pay into this system as Congress deems appropriate and at the rate they deem appropriate; and they are allowed to pay into a list determined by the voters in an idiosyncratic democratic process. This brings up an entire multitude of problems, violating basic economic principles such as Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand, which the founder seems to fallaciously appraise, along with Ludwig von Mises’s economic calculation problem. Pragmatarianism also utilizes a fundamental misunderstanding of Hayek’s concept of partial knowledge and Bastiat’s dichotomy of the seen and the unseen. There are sundry other economic concepts which pragmatarianism neglects like time preference and the intricate structure of production in the marketplace. Moreover, pragmatarianism forces allocation of resources into the government instead of the private sector, which is inexorably detrimental for the economy. The founder also obstinately ignores all moral arguments, claiming that no opinion is absolutely right; yet, of course, he claims that his opinion—that no opinion can be absolutely right—is absolutely correct.

Only in analysing the extreme application of a doctrine can its consequences be wholly conceived and understood; and this is true of any doctrine, including pragmatarianism. Thus, we see that the founder of pragmatarianism states that “[t]he first move in pragmatarianism is by far the hardest. It is to completely embrace the tax rate”1; he has also stated elsewhere that “I say absolutely nothing about the tax rate.”2 Therefore, to fully examine the consequences of his doctrine, we must ponder an extreme scenario: a tax rate of 100%. Now, one could argue, “that is not what we have now!” But this is irrelevant to further analyses. For what is bad in theory is, ipso facto, bad in practise. Thus, in order for a theoretically sound doctrine, there must be a sound theory: not only accounting for what exists or would exist at present, but also for what would exist in a feasible hypothetical. In a feasible hypothetical, there could certainly be a tax rate of 100% determined by Congress, as well as pragmatarian funding to enforce taxes at this level with the IRS (the IRS having been determined as a function by the voters).3 This is not an unreasonable proposition based upon pragmatarianism’s own terms.

We must recognize that this would essentially be socialism: it recalls the economic calculation problem, which clearly ascertains and demonstrates that a socialist society shall inevitably fail. The price of goods can never reach its equilibrium due to the lack of competition, and thus surpluses and deficits are created everywhere in the economy. In an economy of pure socialism,4 there can be no economic calculation: for there is no price mechanism. This is true in the pragmatarian socialist model as well. For pragmatarianism, at its core, has a strange conception of democracy: “In a pragmatarian system voters would determine the functions of government and taxpayers would determine which functions to fund.”5 This is except for the tax rate, which is a function of government determined by Congress in pragmatarianism; and it is possible that Congress could set a tax rate of 100%, which demonstrates in full the error of having any tax rate. This leads to the classical impossibility of economic calculation under a system of 100% taxed pragmatarianism:

The reason for the impossibility of calculation under socialism is that one agent owns or directs the use of all the resources in the economy. It should be clear that it does not make any difference whether that one agent is the State or one private individual or private cartel. Whichever occurs, there is no possibility of calculation anywhere in the production structure, since production processes would be only internal and without markets. There could be no calculation, and therefore complete economic irrationality and chaos would prevail, whether the single owner is the State or private persons. (Rothbard 615)

In this case, the “one agent” is the majority vote. This is the one agent—or institution—which, in a metaphorical sense, wholly and collectively directs the use of all resources in the pragmatarian economy. There can be no price mechanism, as individuals do not allocate their resources: the collective vote of the voters on government agencies—and the arbitrary tax rate of Congress—performs this necessary function, through the majority “consensus” determining a list of government agencies. This shall inevitably lead to great inefficiency, for it does not produce the maximum wealth—that is, maximum production for minimum cost. Instead, this produces an unknown amount of wealth, which can never reach the amount of wealth that the free market can create. As illustrated by the following graph, government allocation of resources is essentially a price control since it is decided by a collective ruler and does not use the price mechanism:
Supply and Demand Graph with Price Control
While the free market always reaches the equilibrium, due to the quintessential axiom of supply and demand, a central planner, or, in this case, Congress, arbitrarily guesses what the price should be in their tax rates, and, therefore, it is almost impossible to hit the spot. As Ludwig von Mises ingeniously wrote, “In the socialist commonwealth every economic change becomes an undertaking whose success can be neither appraised in advance nor later retrospectively determined. There is only groping in the dark. Socialism is the abolition of rational economy” (Mises 26). The competition in the free market is what allows the price mechanism to function; without it, the economy will indubitably fail.

Another consequence of this hypothetical society in the economy is that there could be no savings, to any degree! This alone should disturb an economist. There could be no loans in this pragmatarian society; there could be no supply to fulfil any demand for lending. Savings is conducive to long term investments, as well as consumer and producer loans (based on specific time preferences of each individual). These functions are essential for a healthy economy: they are requisite as a determination of how men will spend their monetary resources, or their capital, which is the very lifeblood of free exchange. This is tremendously related to issues of time preference. One man may wish to spend his money forthwith; another man may desire a long-term gain in exchanged resources. The former man has a high time preference; the latter man has a low time preference. Yet, in pragmatarianism, this sensitive function of the marketplace would be destroyed; for people could not truly save and truly decide when to keep—and not spend—their own money. There could be no true savings; there could only be spending, and forced expenses at that. If pragmatarianism in its fullest extent would be highly detrimental to the economy—no savings—the logical conclusion is that a small dose would be that much less detrimental to the economy. In other words, ceteris paribus, if a 100% tax rate in a pragmatarian world causes a specific amount of problems, a 12% tax rate in a pragmatarian system would merely cause a smaller amount of the aforementioned problems.

At this point, our pragmatarian readers may have a response: and a very specific response, which seems a nifty loophole around the heart of the issue. This objection is that “in a pragmatarian society, could there not be a government savings agency”? This is a falsehood for several reasons. Firstly, on semantics, it is not “savings,” in the true sense, if it is not of one’s own free will: it is merely an expenditure. Based solely on this fact, we can conclude that a pragmatarian society, at a tax rate of 100%, would have no savings, unless they be limited and illegal savings, as in the black market. Pragmatarians, of course, presumably would not want to violate their own laws.

To get to a more crucial point, even if we consider a pragmatarian savings agency as a true form of saving, pragmatarianism still ignores time preference! This is a fatal conceit of a typically Keynesian ilk. For it denies the individual absolute control over his monetary resources; it subjugates him to the whims of a vague group of voters’ list, and the government’s tax rate. In essence, even if pragmatarianism is said to allow savings—which it does not—then it still denies the individual investment or savings at whatever rate and point in time he chooses. This, indeed, is an irremediable flaw of the political philosophy. At a tax rate of 100%, when can the individual save his money? When can he take loaned money from others? The answer is simple, to the pragmatarian: whenever the State determines (presuming that taxpayers are paying into the apparatus of taxation). But this is gravely erroneous. Consider a man who wants a loan forthwith; perhaps he is in an emergency and a desperate monetary situation. He must wait until the voters determine to have a loan agency and taxpayers determine to fund a loan agency, rather than when this loaner himself would actually bequeath the money in exchange for future interest. (Which could feasibly be with great immediacy, rather than with the slowness and inexpediency of a collective vote). Knowing the inefficiency of bureaucracy, it is absurd to believe that a majority vote—on behalf of the “majority” and the “minority”—could efficiently operate a time market in the place of rational individual actors, who best know their own self-interest. The collective vote, in summary, shall not reflect the time preferences of the vast multitude of individuals in society; and this error is irreconcilable with economic theory.

Pragmatarians are wont to improperly define terms. For one example, we refer to the pragmatarian conception of the Invisible Hand. The true concept of the Invisible Hand refers exclusively and solely to processes of the market; specifically, it unequivocally refers to processes of self-regulation in the field of catallactics. A common definition of this phrase entails that the “invisible hand is the term economists use to describe the self-regulating nature of the marketplace.”6 The key term here is “the marketplace,” which can by no means be interpreted as “the government.” This is unreasonable on an absurd level: for the market simply means free and consensual trade amongst various individuals; in an advanced society, the market is also an unfettered system of indirect exchange, through use of a medium of exchange, known commonly as money. By contrast, the State is a monopoly on coercion, and a gang of thieves write large, which steals from the people.7 These two conflicting concepts, the State and the Market, are, in fact, at utter odds with each other. Yet pragmatarians insist that, “If you understand how the Invisible Hand works…and know that the private sector can do X, Y and Z better than the public sector can…then advocating for the abolition of the government organizations responsible for X, Y and Z does nothing but distract people from learning about how the Invisible Hand works.”8 But, for simple reasons of definition, this concept is a failure from the beginning! Government organizations have naught to do with the Invisible Hand, pursuant to the definition I provided; instead, government organizations defy the entire concept of the Invisible Hand.

If the market is not allowed to self-regulate, which pragmatarianism would certainly not fully allow, then the Invisible Hand is not operating. Pragmatarianism’s conception of the “Invisible Hand” is intriguing, yet ultimately proves itself futile. The chief dilemma is that not all results of time are good; whatever happens is not necessarily economically ideal, when simply left to people to determine. For instance, if an arsonist burns down my house, that is indeed economically catastrophic! Yet, if one understands how the Invisible Hand works (according to pragmatarians), the destruction of my house and wealth should not be a cause of any alarm: it is what the people naturally determined, after all. The founder of pragmatarianism, therefore, has quite an odd and idiosyncratic definition of the Invisible Hand: he simply believes that it means “whatever shall transpire.” Fortunately, in economic use of the term, the concept of the Invisible Hand does not include destruction of wealth, but only mutually beneficial trade. The term pragmatarians are looking for is simply “fate”; but, clearly, the definition of the Invisible Hand is much more nuanced, including ideas of self-regulation in the marketplace. And, as for the pragmatarian idea of fate, there is no reason merely to passively accept fate; considering arson, for example, one ought to be rightfully defiant and seek restitution!

In accordance with Hayek’s concept of partial knowledge, it is conceited to think one knows more than an individual about his own money, and that an individual should be forced to invest in a plethora of government agencies, contrary to his own desires and knowledge. This is an even more limited knowledge imposed upon the limited knowledge which already exists. If a man’s knowledge is limited, then one’s knowledge—or the majority’s collectively ascertained knowledge—about another man’s desires and knowledge is even more limited. It is thereby truly conceited to impose a taxation scheme, which forces people to invest in government agencies. Pragmatarianism imposes the desires9 of an arbitrary voting collective upon the individual: the individual cannot save all of his money, invest it all in private enterprise, spend it all on consumer’s goods, or whatever else would please him; he is subject to the ruthless whims of a dictatorial group of peers.

Pragmatarianism draws us back to a classical liberal concept in political economy of the seen and the unseen—specifically, the Broken Window Fallacy—originally devised by Frederic Bastiat. The concept gives a hypothetical example: suppose a hooligan throws a rock through a restaurant window. The restaurant owner comes to the restaurant the next day and is mad. Now, he must pay for a new window. A Keynesian economist customer of his comes up to him and explains that this hooligan actually stimulated the economy, and that the owner should look at this in a positive reflection. The Keynesian economist explains that the money used to fix the window will go to a glass man — that glass man will have X amount more wealth, which he will then spend on something else, and so on, and so on. The Keynesian concludes that smashing windows is very good for the economy, and the economy would be better if we simply destroyed the entire city. The restaurant owner looks back at him as if he is out of his mind. The restaurant owner explains that he would have bought a new suit with the same money that he now must spend on the broken window. If he had spent that money on a new suit, the money would have circulated into the economy, just as it would if he had spent it on the broken window. Alternatively, if he decided to save that money, it could have been a loan to someone else. The unseen is what would have happened if the hooligan did not smash the window. The seen is what happens, and is the only factor the Keynesian considers. Bastiat concludes that economics breaks down to common sense: when a hooligan smashes a window, the economy has a net decrease of exactly one window.

At this point, a critical discussion involves goods, and the infeasibility—or at any rate great impracticability—of consumer goods and capital goods in a pragmatarian scheme. We will, for simplicity, once again analyse pragmatarianism at a tax rate of 100%, to show the principles at work here in their full extremity. Pursuant to Bastiat’s concept of the seen versus the unseen, there are unintended consequences of the pragmatarian doctrine. For instance, an individual may wish to spend all his money on consumer goods. In pragmatarianism, the total allocation is not left to the individual; he is forced to allocate money to a given government agency. Thus, there are unseen consequences; what we do not see are the goods an individual would have purchased, or the private (non-governmental) investments the individual would have made. These are all unseen actions that could have happened if the individual’s money was not stolen from him. Stealing the money is breaking a window. If the money had not been stolen and forced into this pragmatarian scheme, it is unseen what would have happened, and there are unintended consequences—high opportunity costs—associated with this. When I talk about opportunity costs, I am defining it how Rothbard used the term in his economic treatise:

There is always open to each actor the prospect of improving his lot, of attaining a value higher than he is giving up, i.e., of making a psychic profit. What he is giving up may be called his costs, i.e., the utilities that he is forgoing in order to attain a better position. Thus, an actor’s costs are his forgone opportunities to enjoy consumers’ goods. [emphasis added] (Rothbard 71)

Every time a man is forced to invest something in pragmatarianism, there are opportunity costs—and no benefits—with this; for the man is aggressed upon, and this aggression benefits others at his own expense. In order to reveal the nuanced consequences of this pragmatarian ideology, we must first become acquainted with the structure of production in a free market capitalist economy:
structure of production diagram
As one can see, this production structure is highly intricate, with many stages of production and sundry capitalists serving as intermediaries, to advance the worker’s (or land owners) present goods in exchange for potential future goods and profit (i.e., the Austrian economic concept of interest). In a purely socialist pragmatarianism, at a tax rate of 100%, these various stages of production would not work, to any extent. For there would needs be a vote10 to determine every capitalist intermediary, as well as investment in each intermediate stage itself. In fact, there could not truly be capitalists or entrepreneurs: only “investment” in the dark at various stages of production, determined by the State or a vague “collective”. This, of course, would have no degree of efficacy, and the structure of production would be utterly distraught; for, in the real world, with hundreds and thousands of stages of production and capitalist intermediaries, this programme would be entirely infeasible.

Of chief import in the capitalistic economy are the concepts of profits, loss, and bankruptcy. Pragmatarianism seems to have this issue covered: the taxpayers can bankrupt any company they please. But, essentially, this is a false dichotomy. For pragmatarianism is, by necessity, propping up these agencies, and giving them a secured source of income, as determined by coercion. In this argument, we will presume that, in the pragmatarian plot, people have not boycotted the IRS. (We are assuming the existence of the IRS as a constant in which the taxpayers have continuously chosen to invest their money). Or, in other words, we hereafter presume that there is still the coercive instrument of taxation. What shall happen in this scheme? Well, at least one agency must necessarily be permanently sheltered from bankruptcy. The taxpayers are not allowed to pay nothing; thus, they must pay something into a specific government programme of their “choice.” Consider that out of a choice of 50 programmes—as determined by voters—taxpayers as a whole decide not to pay into 37 programmes. There are 13 left, with a relatively secured source of income. Presume that all 13 of these agencies begin doing egregious things, and that taxpayers want to pull out of them. What will happen? In the pragmatarian society, the most agencies from which they could remove funding is 12. In the end, due to the coercive nature of the scheme, there would necessarily be (at the very least) one agency with a coercively secured income: in other words, the best result if taxpayers pull out is one government monopoly, which they are forced to pay into, by virtue of having to pay for something on the Pragmatarian List of Acceptable Agencies. In reality, rather than the hypothetical I proposed, pragmatarianism would likely tend toward an oligopoly of government agencies, each of which would have income secured by the apparatus of the State. This is not the market, much less a free one: this is merely the government playing business.

Pragmatarianism attempts to offer a compromise between both parties: allow each person to allocate their resources as desired, as long as the government or majority gives it to them as an option. While advocates of pragmatarianism will argue that the system gives choice of allocation of resources, they tend to ignore the fact that this is actually only giving them a list generated by the government, or the voters. Essentially, then, pragmatarianism makes no value judgements; it is, in short, a political philosophy best known as “pragma-nihilism,”11 which is, at any rate, a contradiction in terms. Nihilism is not pragmatic. Indeed, pragmatarianism is so very nihilistic that it makes no judgement on political agencies which the people may vote for and spend on: “If enough people would voluntarily fund Gulags…ie…if enough people are “evil”…then what’s the point in promoting anarcho-capitalism?” Or, in summary, he questions that, if people are abducted by the Gulag, why should we advocate Liberty? Pragmatarianism is thus utterly nihilistic, making no judgement on peoples’ means and ends. By analogy, the founder of pragmatarianism plays the role of a sort of amoral deity: concerning morality, he says that we ought to make no judgement. Yet, contrary to the God of Christian tradition, he merely says, “if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be.” He does not conclude the statement aright: “if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him” (Lev. 24:19, KJV). Or, in other words, a potentially fictitious deity is more rational than a pragmatarian!

Morally, and as a parallel example, let us suppose one is thinking of starting one of three businesses: (a) a hot dog stand, (b) a gym, or (c) a hardware store. He realizes that he does not have the funds for any of these businesses, so he knocks on people’s doors and “asks” for money, and gives them the choice of investing in any one of these three businesses. He does this around the town, and jots down the address of everyone who rejects him. He continuously sends bills to the houses that refused. They do not pay him. A few months of this transpire, and the man sends armed people to these houses. These cohorts give the people who refused to pay one more chance, and then, if they further refuse, they shall handcuff and cage those people who refuse.

In retrospect, to any rational person, this sounds quite ridiculous: of course I do not have the right to do any of this. Indeed, it would be an utter violation of individual rights to do anything of this sort. The fact that I am initiating force outweighs the aspect that they have a “choice.” The “choice,” in this context, is irrelevant: there is still the initiation of force to participate in this matter, so to claim that this is “choice” is quite simply incorrect. While pragmatarianism employs the fallacious thought that this system is moral because of choice, it is deeply a contradiction: true choice in the allocation of resources is for each individual to spend his money however he pleases, so long as that spending does not initiate force or fraud on any other individual. In other words, pragmatarianism, as a philosophy, has qualms with neither immoral means nor ends, particularly as related to the desires of the majority.

Now, our readers may query: to what extent can a Libertarian embrace Pragmatarianism? The answer is simple: to the extent that pragmatarianism is conducive to the aims and ideals of Liberty. Phrased differently, this can be stated that Libertarians give support to the extent to which pragmatarian thought allows for a reduction of the State. Pragmatarianism, therefore, may serve as a Libertarian means in some specific cases, while not in others. Libertarians can support being able to opt out of the IRS; but we would not support Congress determining a tax rate of 75% and voters determining a giant list of government agencies, upon which the individual is imposed to spend his money. Whatever the case, pragmatarianism is certainly, as we have examined, not an end in itself. Pragmatarianism forces spending a variable of money, and does not actually reflect individual choice of resource allocation. Anarcho-Capitalism allows each person to allocate his resource as he desires, and also allows the freedom of desired time preferences. Thus, we can conclude that—as an end in itself—Anarcho-Capitalism is the superior system.

Revision 3/19/2012- Evidently, Xerographica, the pragmatarian, has stated paradoxically that the tax rate is the only function of government which the voters DO NOT determine; rather, this is left to Congress. This was never stated in any of his former works, so I merely applied his idea that “voters determine the functions of government” consistently. Hence, I have revised the essay accordingly.




3Thus, see Rothbard’s critique on the arbitrary nature of all taxes.

4We define socialism in the Rothbardian conception of the term: “ government ownership of the ‘means of production’” or “that system in which the State forcibly seizes control of all the means of production in the economy” (MES 615).



7On the definition of the State, see Rothbard’s timeless lecture, “Society Without a State.


9Technically, this is a metaphor for the various wills of specific individuals. For more on methodological individualism, see pages 2-3 of Man, Economy, and State.

10Or, at any rate, each intermediate stage would necessarily be requisite on the Pragmatarian List of Acceptable Agencies.

11In the Oxford English Dictionary, nihilism is defined as “negative doctrines in religion or morals; the total rejection of current religious beliefs or moral principles.” In this section, as religion is irrelevant, we shall focus on the rejection of moral principles, and the negative pacifism of pragmatarianism toward immoral happenings.

Works Cited

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“Economic Calculation Problem.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Mar. 2012. Web.                15 Mar. 2012. .
Mises, Ludwig Von. Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis. Indianapolis:                LibertyClassics, 1981. Print.
Rothbard, Murray N. Man, Economy, and State; A Treatise on Economic Principles.                Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand, 1962. Print.
Simpson, J. A., and E. S. C. Weiner. The Oxford English Dictionary.
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Xerographica. “Pragmatarianism.” Pragmatarianism. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.                http://pragmatarianism.blogspot.com