The Road Less Traveled

Posted: February 11th, 2012 by Militant Libertarian

by Mark Stoval, DailyAnarchist

As a young man I was naturally anti-war. The result of this made me suspicious of governments since it appeared that only governments could start large wars. But other than this tiny seed I was just a “normal” person. I grew up in a labor-union Democrat household but my grandfather had a small business and experienced difficulties caused by the local town codes, regulations, taxes and so forth. I thought that the founders of the USA had it about right; we needed a small government to keep the peace and protect us from foreign powers but other than that the government should let us live our lives. But I also thought we needed the state for still other things: after all, how could the USA have courts and lawyers without government? How could we have roads to take me to another state without the government having eminent domain? How could we get our mail? How could the young go to school? Who would hire and pay the police?

Over time, I read many different voices and realized that there were good arguments to be made for letting the free market handle many things that I previously thought could only be done by the State. An early influence was the economist Thomas Sowell. He taught me that what looks to be one thing on the surface may be something else entirely after you look at it critically (and the facts may not be what you read in that textbook). I read The Road to Serfdom
by economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek. By the late 1980s I certainly would have called myself a libertarian but I certainly still saw the need for a small government. We just needed to find a way to keep a “small” government under control.

Then one day in the mail came an offer to subscribe to the Rothbard-Rockwell Report. I think I even got a sample copy but I can no longer remember the exact specifics since that was so very long ago. I sent off the money and became a reader of the RRR. That was my introduction to the economist, philosopher and historian Murray Rothbard. I found that I agreed with him in many things, but his belief that we could have a country with no government at all left me thinking he was just dreaming of Utopia on that issue. Over the years, I kept thinking that I could find no flaw in Rothbard’s essays but I could just not imagine a stateless society. Then it struck me one day while reading an essay of Rothbard’s on one of our covert wars: it takes a state to do real harm!

Because of reading Rothbard I went and bought the great Mises work Human Action and read it. That was followed by Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State.Long before I finished these two great books (and darn long ones!), I saw that the evil of the State far outweighed any small risk that not having a state would entail. These were followed by the other Rothbard classics, and my favorite to this day isThe Ethics of Liberty, which I find to be the greatest work on political philosophy that I have ever come across.

In the end it came down to my inner being crying out that aggression was wrong. But the State is aggression! So, how can I be other than an anarchist? It started with Mises and Rothbard, but many other men and women helped me understand the simple fact that the state is our enemy.

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