Should libertarians embrace the word government?

March 27, 2014
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Twelve chairs in an American jury box

Ask people what libertarians are against, and most will quickly say, “The government.” But is that really true? Are libertarians really against…

  • Law
  • Order
  • Due process
  • Juries
  • Self-defense
  • Compensation to victims?

Of course not. Even libertarians who call themselves anarchists favor ALL of these things. In fact…

These functions are the very definition of what libertarians think government SHOULD do, or what libertarian-anarchists think some kind of institution should do. So…

Is it really correct to say that we’re anti-government? And if NOT, then why do we give people that impression? More importantly…

What if we turned it around? What if we started saying…

“We’re the ONLY people who FAVOR government, because we’re the ONLY people who oppose the initiation of force.”

What if we took it even further. What if we started saying…

“Our current so-called government isn’t a government at all, precisely because it initiates force, which is a criminal act contrary to the whole idea of law and government.”

And what if we also started asserting that the current institution of “government” is so far away from being a true government that it isn’t even worthy of the name?

What if we started using scare quotes around the word “government,” or, better yet, called it The State, rather than calling it “the government.”

Can you imagine how it would turn heads if people started hearing libertarians say…

“I wish we HAD a government? Because what we have right now isn’t one.”

Talking this way will be a struggle for many libertarians. We’re so practiced at complaining about government that some of us will find it impossible to embrace the word, and make it our own. But consider the benefits…

  • We could STOP sounding like the opponents of law and order, and START sounding like the greatest defenders of those virtues.
  • And then perhaps we would no longer be seen as primarily anti-government, but would instead be viewed mainly as passionate advocates of the Zero Aggression Principle.
  • Might this approach be more attractive? And isn’t it more linguistically accurate?

We hope this idea intrigues you, and that you’ll adopt it as your own.


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