From the foundation of self-ownership, we can build a system of justice based on property rights and the non-aggression principle. From this sense of justice, we can see that a free society would be one with only relationships free of force and coercion. This ideal would be a society free of violent control, and thus without anything like that which we call “government” today. This ideal society would be voluntary.
When all relations are voluntary, it means we enter into every exchange with another person by choice. We choose those exchanges based on what is in our best interest, rather than what someone else has chosen for us. When our rights are violated, some choice is taken from us. When governments say you can’t do something, it means if you do it, force will be used against you. While many of us still enjoy a great deal of independent decision-making, every aspect of our lives is affected by the threat of force.
Self-ownership means not only that you own yourself, but everyone owns themselves. The best way to ensure respect for our self-ownership is to respect the rights of others. Fortunately, most of us have no problem recognizing this principle and applying it in our daily lives. Even including government employees, relatively few people make their living directly by theft and murder. Unfortunately,society tends to carve out a special morals-free area for government agents. When you learned “don’t hit” and “don’t steal,” it wasn’t
“unless you work for the government.” When you learned not to kill, it wasn’t “unless a politician says it’s ok.” Everything government does is made possible by violating someone’s rights.
Because people are prone to interpersonal violence, the absolute ideal of a purely voluntary society might be impossible. There could be a truly free and voluntary world, but the moment someone gets punched in the face, for the victim, the world is not very free! However, that does not mean we should not strive for a more free and peaceful society, or not work vigorously to eliminate violent aggression.
We are living in the most peaceful times in all of human history. Right now, we are less likely than ever before to be subject to violence from another person. That is a beautiful thing and it should be celebrated! Imagine how much more difficult life was for our ancestors living in a world where they had to live in relative fear of their fellow humans! Imagine how much more difficult trade and cooperation were with a lower level of trust. Sadly, governments today have more than replaced our distrust with other false fears and our lives are more thoroughly governed by force than ever before.
In a world without government (a world in which forced relations are the rare exception), trust is high, individual rights are respected, and the climate for cooperation is ideal. Only in this situation is every person capable of achieving their potential. Every time we fail to respect the self-ownership of others it diminishes our potential. Every threat of force limits choices. Every act of violence holds back humanity. The understanding that we should work toward a free society by ridding all relations of force is known as voluntaryism.
This is an excerpt from the book “FREEDOM!” by Adam Kokesh