by Robert LeFevre
All history reveals the existence of the great human struggle for survival and supremacy. This struggle has two arenas: the arena of nature and the arena of political action.
In the arena of nature, man matches his wit, skills, and strength against his natural environment in an effort to wrest from the forces and materials of nature sufficient for his survival and comfort.
In the arena of political action, man arrays his wits, skills, and strength against others of his kind in an effort to obtain supremacy over them and by this means to control them to his advantage.
In both of these arenas, human energy has always been organized. One of the earliest characteristics of man to be discovered is the characteristic of social organization. Although some theorists have held that men in earliest times lived as isolated and unorganized units, no evidence has yet been unearthed to substantiate this theory. As artifacts are uncovered and as scholars continue to probe, a growing mountain of evidence reveals that individual human beings have coordinated their efforts in some kind of social structure for at least a million years of human and near-human existence. They united behind a skillful hunter or trapper. They united behind a shaman or witch doctor. They united behind a man of power or of property. Finally, they united behind political leadership. When men joined forces in hunting, trapping, fishing, trading, or manufacture, they did so because it was clearly to their advantage to do so. Economic necessity is ever present. Life on this planet does not favor the slothful and indolent. To live requires certain basic necessities and a host of comforts most men value far beyond their minimal caloric intake.
When they combined their energies in the hunt or in other economic ventures, they did so motivated by a central desire to stay alive and to stay alive with a full stomach, relative security, and a degree of pleasure and satisfaction. They were motivated by a search for gain or profit. Conversely, they were motivated to escape the grim necessities the nature of the world forces upon men. To prevent the loss of life and of items of value, great effort must be expended. From earliest times and continuing to this day, every human being seeks to add to his gains and to diminish or eliminate his losses. That he acts at all can be attributed to economic necessity and to the fact that man has a sense of uneasiness occasioned by that necessity. If there were no uneasiness, no economic necessity, the chances are excellent that man would not act at all. His ease would become apathy; his apathy, stagnation; his stagnation, death. It is economic necessity and the urge to survive that postpone death, minimize stagnation, and overcome apathy.
When men combine their energies into political organizations, a slightly modified motivation on the part of some can be discerned. Economic organization presumes individual self-seeking and personal interest. Political organization presumes a search for the “common good.” Man, within a political structure, is not always seeking to benefit himself. He is seeking to benefit all. All political organization is nothing more nor less than enforced altruism at the common expense.
It is true, of course, that the professional politician has precisely the same personal motivation as the early hunter, forager, or marauder. He is personally involved with making gains and preventing losses for himself. But he conducts his affairs within a structure which disregards the common nature of man and creates, instead, a class culture in which some men have authority over other men, hence power over other men. This political structure is invariably based upon the ability of some to exploit others to their own advantage by force or the threat of force.
Economic structures so long as they remain strictly economic, lack the ability to coerce anyone. Nature is the general coercer, demanding effort if death is to be postponed. But in economic structures, all men cooperate in one gigantic, desperate effort to escape nature. Their cooperation is voluntary in the face of the common natural enemy, economic necessity. No man is forced to cooperate with any one. He cooperates because it is to his advantage to do so. If it is not to his advantage, as he sees it, he withholds his cooperation. With economic structures, cooperation is sought on a voluntary basis for mutually held interests. If it is not forthcoming in a given case, the project is abandoned or cooperation is sought elsewhere.
Within political structures a mystique is summoned. It is presumed that the total numbers of a given group form a “society.” From this it is but a step to assume that there is a kind of social entity having what has been called general will, social responsibility, social consciousness, social conscience, social awareness, socialism. The presumed “good” of the social whole is contrasted against the actual “good” of each individual within the group. In order to provide for the general “good,” private “good” and private interests are systematically ravaged. Human sacrifice makes its appearance. Any person who does not agree to the “general good” can be forced by the strong or more numerous to help provide for it anyway. Repeated negligence or repeated resistance summons ever larger employment of coercion. The person who will not submit to the theme of “general good” is victimized. He is victimized up to and including his ultimate demise, if this is deemed in harmony with the “general good.” This is the single unvarying characteristic of all political organizations. They require victims. When theocracies flourished, either the shaman and the strong man combined their resources or a single man assumed both mantles. Human sacrifices for the “general good” became the murderous rule. Modern warfare is nothing more than mass sacrifice of opposing nationals for the “general good.”
If Sherman was correct when he suggested that “war is hell,” then all political action is merely purgatory. It is the arena of purge wherein those having power determine the names, the races, or the nationalities and faiths of the next victims.
The mystique of enforced altruism now engulfs the world. Virtually without numerically significant opposition, the masses of humanity, whether they view themselves as “common men,” “aristocrats,” “intellectuals,” or mere observers, adhere to the “common good” mystical illusion.
But it is important here that a fine line of demarcation be made. There are certain things that men do in common. They share a natural desire to live, and to live in relative ease and security. All men seek to own property. They are driven by a mutually experienced sense of frustration and uneasiness. Beyond these areas of common interest, it is a matter of common interest that each person must seek his own personal best interests. Further, in the process of seeking and in the process of keeping, it is a common interest to all that each remain unmolested. Molestation of some by others violates both personal interests and any real “common good” that can be discerned.
The question to be posed is a derivative of the situation men experience. How can a system of procedure be found which will make possible the maximum self-seeking and self-keeping of men individually, without impairing the same maximum self-seeking and self-keeping proclivities of all other men? Must men live in an armed camp, forever engaged in holding back some so that others may prosper? Is there such a scarcity of resources and goods that some must be masters and others slaves? Is our ability to procreate so large and our ability to produce so meager that, as Malthus opined, there will always be those who are pressing upon the food supply and only the fortunate and the strong will eat?
It is against this background that the idea and ideal of autarchy emerges. The fundamental premise of autarchy is rooted in stoicism. (See Zeno, Epicurus, Marcus Aurelius.) The Stoics understood that each man does control his own energy and his own person. Because of this observable fact of nature, and because of the added fact that man has a rational ability to foresee the results of his actions, it follows that each man is responsible for his choices and actions. The preachment of the Stoics can be summed up in this phrase: Control yourself.
To this end, the Stoics were among the first who philosophically supported the idea of individual liberty. Nor did they imagine that liberty was a mere lack of control so that any man could do exactly as he pleased. On the contrary, the requirement was rigid self-discipline. Freedom was not to be construed as license. Liberty could only endure when individuals voluntarily refrained from imposing their wills upon others.
In other areas, the stoic philosophy wanders inexcusably. It counsels a completely rigid submission to the gods; almost makes poverty a virtue; and extols the ability to suffer to the point where self-control becomes self-denial.
Having obtained the stoic virtue of self-control, autarchy passes to the Epicureans and owes them a debt of gratitude. For the Epicureans (see Epicurus) recognized that man is a profit-seeking creature and prefers pleasure to pain. Man will always seek to avoid pain (losses of anything he values) and will always seek to experience as much pleasure (profit, gain) as possible. Nor are pleasure, profit, gain, or even delight and ecstasy forbidden. To live is good. To live well is better. To live in abundance, security, and joy is the acme of living.
Both Stoics and Epicureans saw that a “social whole” is a pleasant fiction. The building material out of which any social unit is created is always the individual. You do not create social perfection by molding a rigid Platonic state in which political (coercive) organization dominates and eclipses the individual. Rather, if you can educate men to control themselves, the social whole will take care of itself.
But the doctrine of autarchy was still incomplete. Granted that each man could and must control himself. Granted that men will seek profit and avoid loss. But is this practical? Isn’t it true that men will seek profits by imposing their wills on others? Isn’t it true that men will seek to compel others to share in their losses while they reserve their profits for themselves? Isn’t it true that some men are fundamentally incapable of self-control and hence, to preserve the “social good” or the common good of non-molestation, an agency of molestation must be created which will hold back the malefactor?
Praxeology offered the answer. Austrian economists, enlarging on the works of Menger and Böhm-Bawerk, were able to define the workins of a free economy in scientific terms. If men are free to pursue their individual economic aims, motivated by grim economic necessity, and if they are unmolested by any agency of coercion, the greatest good for the greatest number will emerge. (See Von Mises, The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality and other writings.)
The Stoics provide the moral framework; the Epicureans, the motivation; the praxeologists, the methodology. I propose to call this package of ideological systems autarchy, because autarchy means self-rule.
It is true that the word autarchy has fallen upon evil times. Usually when the word is employed, it has been given a social complexion. Autarchy (customarily in this usage spelled autarky) is employed to designate the economically self-sustaining state. But this is improper and a corruption of the original meaning. Auto means self. Archy means rule. Autarchy is self-rule. It means that each person rules himself, and no other. The autarchist not only rules himself but operates within a voluntary context respecting economic necessity.
Autonomy is a similar word with similar origins. It, too, supposes self-rule. This word has customarily escaped the economic implication which is found in autarky. It has been employed primarily to denote those communities or nations which practice democracy. An autonomous country is one in which the majority (or a plurality) select the rulers who will impose their wills upon the total population. An autonomist can be construed as one who supports the idea that self-rule is nothing more than majority rule. This, too, is a distortion, with the social coloration impinging upon the original meaning.
The word autocracy likewise has been subjected to social implications. This word, also, means self-rule. But it has been corrupted to mean total rule by one man over others.
The enormous effect of reliance upon political structures and the collective mystique is seen in our vocabulary. Three words, all essentially meaning self-rule and self-control, have been corrupted to imply collective rule of one kind or another. I propose to reclaim autarchy to its original meaning. There are plenty of other words so that communication and expression will not be impaired by reserving this usage and spelling for what was originally intended. As I will use the word, autarchy will signify total self-rule. It will presume a system or social arrangement in which each person assumes full responsibility for himself, proceeds to control himself, exercises authority over himself, supports himself, takes initiative, joins with others or not as he so pleases, and does not in any way seek to impose his will by force upon any other persons whatever.
The matter of uniting with others must receive first consideration. It is often assumed by persons claiming to be individualists and who therefore feel that they are autarchic minded, that organization is both unnecessary and fundamentally immoral or improper. Frequently, we hear such persons claiming that the individualist is he who can support himself without any help from anyone else. The individualist is totally independent, it is claimed. Any organization invariably takes away something of a man’s freedom. The moment a person joins in any kind of group endeavor, where two or more persons are involved, then choices and actions are curtailed or harnessed, and individuality is impaired to the degree that this occurs.
Conversely, those who submit gladly to the concept of the “general will” or the “common good” stand opposed to any trace of individualism. The person who seeks profits is narrow and selfish, it is charged. The great pleasures of life come from serving others. It is more blessed to give than to receive. There are a score or more similar platitudes ending with the conviction that “no man is an island” and that he must invariably harness his individualistic impulses or become a societal problem, a sort of anti-social anachronism, carried over from savage times.
Autarchy is more practical than either extreme view. It holds that men control their own energy individually and, hence, whether it is desirable or not, men are individuals. Individuality is one of the great facts of nature. No two persons are alike so far as their respective aptitudes, capacities, energies, or longevities are concerned. Perhaps the closest look man has yet obtained of the universe confirms the fact that individuality is the first rule.
But autarchy does not stop here. Looking at the matter of survival for man, it is at once discernible that no man is strong enough, wise enough, or will live long enough to produce all the products he will need and want for his own existence. The individualist who contends that a strong individual can live without help from others is wrong. The collectivist who denies individuality is wrong.
Autarchy seeks to deal with both realities. To do so, it supports the freedom of each individual to retain his individuality so long as he wishes without threat or force imposed upon him by others. Likewise, autarchy holds that uniting with others in a common objective is not a violation of freedom, but an illustration of it. The only reservation is that all parties to any union must decide individually that they wish to unite. Within the framework of autarchy no individual or group of individuals may properly force any other to do anything against his will.
Autarchy would support the free market because the free market requires no coercion whatever. At any point where either aristocrats or democrats seek to coerce any person or group for any reason whatever, the principles of autarchy vanish and political organization appears.
A person enters the market hoping to sell a product. Some buy the product, but others do not and will not. Autarchy forbids the seller to force a single buyer to his cash register. Likewise, it forbids the buyer to compel the seller to continue selling or to change the price. The seller is free to sell his produce at any price desirable to him. The buyer is free to try to purchase what he wishes at any cost he is willing to assume.
The product or service offered or sought does not alter the rule of procedure. The principle stands. If one person wishes to buy protection, he has only to seek to purchase it. If others agree with him as to the amount and the kind of protection each is willing to buy, they have only to pool their energies or resources and thus procure it. If there are some who do not wish it, they have only to make this decision and they remain unmolested. They cannot be forced into any organization or cooperative endeavor for the “common good.”
Let us suppose that one person wishes to associate with another. When the association is mutually sought, it occurs. If one person rejects an association that another desires, individuality is sustained. Autarchy preserves the right of the individual to say no. The collectivist point of view forbids a no. But individualism sometimes forbids yes. Autarchy favors total freedom of choice so that each individual, acting in his own best interest as he sees it, can say either yes or no. Therefore, with autarchy no voluntary union of any sort is banned. It can and will exist whenever two or more persons wish it to exist. But it will never come into existence unless at least two persons favor it.
This opens the door to any kind of corporate endeavor, provided only that no coercion is employed at any point. Because it opens the door to economic organization of any kind or size, maximum production and distribution can and will occur. To the degree that autarchy has been practiced in this country or elsewhere, enormous advances have been made and great human satisfactions have been experienced.
Each business, industry, or activity profits as it voluntarily attracts people to its wares or services. If it fails to attract enough people, it will not profit. But nothing will be done to compel support of a given business, or to prevent patronage. Competition, in such instance, would be as near maximum as all other natural factors permit.
The practical aspects of autarchy as well as its desirable features are generally understood by many millions of persons except at one point. This is the point relating to possible molestation. It is obvious that the system of self-rule advocated under the name autarchy is both feasible and desirable if molestation does not occur. The problem of autarchy is to deal with molestation in a manner that is consistent with self-rule and that does not, for the sake of expediency, fall into the same trap that has waylaid virtually every culture of which we have knowledge. Whenever in the past the problem of possible molestation has appeared, it has been customary for men to create political and military organizations to deal with this problem. The difficulty here is this: Political and military organizations in themselves are agencies of molestation. Theoretically, they are to be limited to molestation of those who have molested others. Practically, they have never been so limited. The agency on which mankind has relied in all its various forms and guises has proven to be the major source of all trespass and molestation. The “cure” has created deeper problems than the disease. To cure the common cold, we have contracted political pneumonia.
It is not the purpose of this paper to discuss the various and sundry efforts that have been made through the centuries to create a political organization that would limit itself to preventing predation or to punishing the predator. Obviously, protection of life and property is desirable. Efforts to provide for this protection are meritorious, provided that these efforts are limited to protection and do not, in themselves, become predatory.
But there has grown up, largely since the formation of the United States and our “representative” system, the idea that governments can be and are limited by democratic processes. Further, it is believed that the creation of a constitution which binds the hands of lawmakers successfully restrains the state and makes it malleable and adaptable to the “general will.” Yet even a casual glance at the American government will reveal that the central power accumulated here is virtually unlimited. It molests its citizens each year and extracts from them an ever-larger sum of their earnings. It embarks upon enormous economic and military expeditions. It employs millions of personnel, spends billions, intervenes in affairs of other nationals the world around, and truckles and is truculent by turns as it pleases current administrators. Yet the illusion persists that the American government is one of limited powers. From whence comes this illusion?
The American government is largely made up of British antecedents, at least insofar as legal theory is concerned. It is noteworthy that the Whig faction in Britain, the politically liberal (the left), championed the idea of “representative” government. Earlier kings were presumed to hold divine sanction. In most countries this view was supported for a very long time. In Britain, traceable probably to Anglo-Saxon times, the idea of representative government had emerged as an extrapolation from the “folkmoot” or tribal assemblies. As early as 1265 the British had established what is remembered as the Simon de Montfort Parliament. Representation was assured though kings were still viewed as “divinely ordained.”
Following Elizabeth and in the reign of James I, opposition to the unchallenged authority of the monarch gained ground. Men like Sir Edward Coke worked ardently to enhance the prestige of parliament and to curtail the unbridled power of a single ruler. This representative opposition solidified into what was called the “Whig” party in 1679 during the time of James, duke of York. This same political group became the organized political “left” and the source of American resistance to the British crown from as early as 1714 after the accession of George I. The Whigs, or the representatives who opposed divine and unchecked monarchial sway, took the position that no subject of the crown should be taxed without the approval of his representative. While this militant Whig opposition originally was identified with the property-owning or burgher class, it later broadened its base and after 1824 in America was one of the two recognized political parties.
Americans became pre-eminent in the world in supporting the idea that democratically formed representative bodies provided a “limited” government. But this was not the case. From the standpoint of the king, accustomed to total power, parliament definitely tied his hands. And kings opposed the move, but lost the battle. A government with power residing both in an executive and a legislature, was definitely a government of divided power. In America we provided for a third division, and introduced the judicial branch as a separate and distinct repository of coercive force. To the men in government, this division of power always ties down and limits their respective functions. The executive can be checked by the legislature, the legislature by the executive, and either of these by the Supreme Court. This is, in theory, a “limited” government.
But to the men outside of government, a division of power is not a limitation. It makes very little difference to the taxpayer whether he is regimented by an executive decree, steam-rollered by a legislative enactment, or sent to jail by a judicial writ. All the political power that exists is in the political organization. That power is not limited; it is merely channeled into one or another branch. And while it can be contended that this introduction of competition between competing branches serves to check each branch, the rules of competition are such that it will almost invariably stimulate growth. Each branch grows, and all branches combine to consolidate one vast unlimited power that is wholly unchecked. When men compete with each other to provide better mouse traps, the growth of the best firms can be predicted. Such competition stimulates self-discipline, creates superior products, and tends toward price reductions. But when men compete within political organizations, such competition relates to the amassment of power and becomes, in fact, rivalry in taxing and coercive ability. Whichever agency of power gains, the people themselves lose.
But we have been conditioned for so many centuries to suppose that political and military organizations are necessary to deal with molestation that any suggestion to the contrary is apt to fall on deaf ears. By relying on various political organizations to prevent trespass, or, if not to prevent, at least to punish the careless marauder, we have actually created the very condition most feared. Men united in legalized armed bands roam the earth for purposes of imposing molestation upon any who oppose them. In order to pay for the costs of these armed bands, harmless and innocent taxpayers of the world are trespassed constantly, the degree of trespass varying in precise ratio as they are able to bear the burden. The human situation, so far as the true human picture is concerned, is one of chaos and wild disorder. But the nature of this disorder having been legalized, nearly everyone mistakes legal confusion with orderly and peaceful procedures.
It is the height of non-reason to suppose that molestation will be enlarged and enhanced by two systems which are opposite to each other, i.e., autarchy and the political state. If molestation can be put down by political and legal organization, then reliance upon political and legal organization is justified. In that case, a growth of political and legal organization will reduce or eliminate molestation.
For better than six thousand years we have relied upon political and legal organization to put down molestation. The facts are plainly in evidence. Political and legal structures enlarge constantly and as they enlarge, the area of molestation increases. We fancy that we are made secure by law and by police power. But the more the laws multiply and the larger the police power becomes, the less security, the more uncertainty, the larger the invitation to trespass. The crutch upon which we have been taught to lean for our security turns out to be the very device by which we are undone.
We cannot have it both ways, and the evidence is plain. It is scarcely news that governments can and do inflict tyranny. It is hardly a revelation when we discover that big governments lead to big wars, and combinations of governmental structures in one or another form of empire commit more predation and cause more damage among helpless and innocent humans than all the private trespassers combined have ever committed or done. Indeed, it would be safe to say that the trespasses, legal murders, extortions, tortures, and acts of theft and vandalism committed by all private persons in six thousand years could hardly total the like acts of criminality performed during any single generation within the same period by legal and aggressive governments.
But so caught up are we in the mystique of government that somehow we avoid looking at the evidence. We adore the agency that molests us. So fearful are we of the possibility of occasional trespass that we approve trespass organized on a grand scale, performed legally by men who say they “represent” us and who loot us and kill us for the “good” of the social whole.
If molestation on a grand scale is demonstrably the result of reliance upon predatory political organizations, it follows that if such reliance were to be removed, all other factors remaining constant, the worst to be anticipated would be molestation on a small scale. This is not to say that autarchy supports petit molestation. But it is to suggest that if we must choose between grand theft and petit theft, the latter is preferable.
At this point, so pervasive is reliance upon political forms, that the greatest fiction of all emerges. It is presumed, by those who support the status quo, that in order to put down legal molestation, all that is necessary is that the agencies of molestation be put in the hands of “good” men. Then, only “bad” men will be molested and most of us, being “good,” can live in peace and security.
We have so abused our minds with great doses of fiction that we are ready for almost any fiction provided that it comes to us with the seal of government attached. By this process we have been led to believe that the world is divided between the “good” men (us) and the “bad” men (others). If people live within the geographic confines lorded over by our own political satrapies, they are presumed to be “good” in the main. The “bad” men live elsewhere. Our intentions are peaceful and productive; their intentions are rapacious and warlike. Only Americans are pure. Therefore, we must have an agency of predation to keep the rest of the world at bay.
Examine the system we have established for our security. First, an agency is created capable of general spoilation. This is followed at once, not by any protective procedure but by a general act of trespass wherein all men, the innocent and guilty alike, are looted systematically for the wherewithal by means of which this agency can be sustained. This general act of molestation is justified on the grounds that by legal molestation, illegal molestation will cease. But nothing ceases. Molestation occurs.
The victim, already victimized by the political organization, is now injured one way or another by a private and unorganized trespasser.
It is at this point that our mighty political organization springs into action; not to prevent the damage, for it has already occurred, but to take vengeance against the private perpetrator of damage. In some cases, but by no means in every case, the malefactor is identified, arrested, arraigned, held, examined, tried, convicted, and punished.
To pay for the enormous costs involved, the agency of public protection now trespasses all of the taxpayers again.
It has been said that crime does not pay. Surely, it does not pay the criminal. But the system we have established does pay for a host of persons and the maintenance and enlargement of enormous and impressive establishments whereby the petit criminal can be dealt with summarily at the hands of a grand professional class of criminal chasers. The cost of crime now relates largely to the professional anti-criminals. The actual damage performed by the criminal himself is minute in comparison.
This is the system, and it is invoked both locally and nationally. Indeed, it is invoked internationally. In the name of protecting some, everyone is molested. Can a worse system be devised?
If we did not have these politically organized deterrants to petit crime, would not the situation worsen immeasurably? I do not know. I only know that for some six thousand years and more, we have tried organized political force as a means of creating and maintaining security. That force has operated under the management of men who were as kindly and as cruel in turn as those against whom the force was arrayed. Through the years, greater and greater reliance has been placed upon this agency of force. I note that during this period, aggression, violence, murder, and coercion of every description have continued, and in periods when governments expand, coercion expands.
If, as it appears, there is an interaction between criminal actions and political restraint, both enlarging or subsiding side by side, then it follows that if we no longer place our reliance upon political organization but seek for our security in other directions, the incidence of crime ought to diminish. Will it? No one can be certain. But in the interests of truth, in the interests of survival we ought to make certain. We know where reliance upon political organization has always taken us in the past and is in process of taking us now. If we do not know that reliance upon autarchy and self-rule will bring amelioration, at least in theory it does. What little evidence exists where political structures as such have not been relied upon provides a great reservoir of hope. (Read existing evidence concerning the ancient Etruscans and Hebrews. The early Islamic peoples did not rely on political organizations. Neither did the early American colonies, except in very meager doses.)
With several major powers in the world now equipped with devices by means of which the awesome power of the atom can be released for purposes of destruction, I question whether or not reliance upon such potentially dangerous and costly instruments as political organizations can longer be afforded without at least examining alternative procedures.
There is no reason to debate the question as to whether or not mankind made an error when political structures were first devised. The innovation apparently occurred sometime in early barbarism and may be satisfactory for barbaric or savage peoples. But civilization brings its refinements, both in manners and in murders. And a civilized people which clings to instruments of barbarism is doomed to abandon whatever constructive role the future may hold. Civilization may lie before us. But it cannot be based upon barbarous practices. Nor can it be based upon one last holocaust by means of which barbaric tools are employed to win the world from barbarism.
Certainly, most will confess that the system we have is far from ideal, and many will concede that the present direction being taken by virtually all the world as it girds up its zones for war offers a horrifying spectacle. But it will be said that autarchy is too visionary, too ideal, depending entirely upon a virtual alteration of human nature before it could work. Further, it will be repeated that if one human being chose to disregard the principles of non-molestation, the entire concept would come to grief.
But this is the great practical appeal that autarchy has. Because it combines the stoic virtues with the practical aspects found in economic science, not only is no alteration of human nature required, reliance may be placed upon man and the nature he has always exhibited. Autarchy is predicated upon the assumption that men will not always recognize truth; that they will often be narrow in their views; that they will be stubborn, intractable, yet self-seeking to a total degree. The system of autarchy is based upon the human characteristic of profit seeking. It includes the idea that pleasure is more desirable than pain, that each person will always seek to minimize his costs, not only in money and energy, but also in psychic costs. It includes the idea that each of us will always seek to gain more than we have now, or, failing this, each will try to minimize or totally prevent losses. We need not remake the human race in this regard. This is the way men have been; it is the way they are; it is predictable that they will remain this way in the future.
It is essential to point out that autarchy does not require acceptance by every human being. Were this true, prospects for improving the human situation would indeed be bleak. But the story of mankind, if it tells us anything, reveals that human beings are not alike; that they do not march forward out of a grim and savage past shoulder to shoulder. Rather, the evidence shows that men stagger forward behind a few innovators who blaze new trails. In the same world where, at the moment, aboriginals use the boomerang and have flies crawling over the naked eyeball, there are great and enlightened minds fighting disease, learning more and more about physical reality, trying desperately, not always with success, to make human life better, more enriching, more desirable. How can both these conditions exist now on the same planet? They do. They always have. Concurrence in a given belief or practice has never occurred in the past so far as I can learn. It is entirely unlikely that it will occur in the future. Autarchy does not depend upon any such concord. Rather, autarchy means one thing only. It means that the reality of government is placed in the hands of each human being, not to impose upon others but to impose upon himself. It means that we can reverse our present direction and move towards a more desirable future when those who are the true intellectuals stop trying to impose their wills upon others and, instead, impose strict self-rule upon themselves.
History teaches us that men who will not control themselves will invariably serve to justify others who will impose controls upon them. And when our intellectuals champion ideas relating to controlling others, it is inevitable that moves will be made wherein such controls will appear.
Open rebellion against entrenched political authority serves to justify a strengthening of that authority. Force begets force; violence, violence. Government of a political character by strong men creates the pressure to impose another government of a political character by still stronger men.
Governments must not be abolished! They must be abandoned. They will be abandoned when you demonstrate that you can manage your affairs without the supervision of a pater familias. In short, when you abandon your political adolescence and come of age, you will stop seeking to impose your will upon others, and at the same time demonstrate that your will is strong enough to control your own actions within a framework of non-molestation.
Do this in your own case with your own life in your own affairs and no political agent or agency can justify its existence on grounds that you require its help.
Of course autarchy is an ideal. Is there any reason to devote one’s self to something that is less than ideal? But is it so ideal as to be impractical? Not at all. Autarchy is being born right now under the noses of political authorities. Already, here and there, far-seeing men, sensing the practical aspects of self-rule as contrasted either to no-rule (anarchy) or political rule of any sort, are making personal, high-spirited resolutions. They are resolving to adjust their affairs in such manner that they no longer require an overseer. They are resolving to do no harm to any man. They are resolving to solve all their problems without political assistance.
No political agent or agency can possibly object to such a procedure. Yet, just such a procedure will reduce political structures to a shadow of their present breadth and scope. Autarchy produces a social solution by the process of individual self-control. It is an individualistic revolution, bloodless and without violence, which simply shifts reliance from group consciousness to individual conscience. Group solutions need not be sought. When the intellectual elite begin, as Zeno suggested, to try to encourage men who will control themselves regardless of provocation or problem, the groups will take care of themselves.
Will men be perfect then? Certainly not. But men will seek their own personal gain within the most practical framework open to them. It will be enormously profitable for rich and poor alike to abandon reliance upon political organizations. Economic science shows that the greatest good for the greatest number will be served in a free market. All that has to be added is the recognition that protection is neither more nor less than a free-market service. Nor is it retributive. It will protect prior to the commission of a crime.
But what if it does not? Would any free-market protective device or practice positively guarantee non-molestation? Of course not. Nor does our present system. The free market can never guarantee any panacea. Do you have a motor car that is guaranteed against possible mechanical failure? No. But do you seek, because an automobile might break down or get a flat tire, to abandon automobiles? Is there a razor blade that will not dull? Is there a battery that will not run down? Is there a medicine that will eliminate all sickness? Is there a house that will never need repair?
Because imperfect man makes imperfect devices does not cause us to abandon the devices. Rather, it encourages us to try again and to seek ever to improve what we have. And with autarchy we need not be confined to systems that continually demonstrate their impractibility. If a particular device proves to be faulty, improve it. If a particular custom does not bring the results sought, invent or devise a new practice.
Autarchy is but human liberty elevated to the status of principle. But autarchy does not suggest a lack of social organization, a lack of cooperative effort. On the contrary, autarchy presumes that men outside of political organizations have at least as much self-interest and mental acumen as men inside such organizations. Autarchy sees nothing mystical nor magical about political structures. Rather, it strips away all pretense and shows them for what they are: monsters of human contrivance capable of predation against all.
The autarchist will control himself in his own best interests. He will cooperate with others, individually or in groups, when he wishes to do so for his own gains. If he does not believe that cooperation in a given case will benefit him, he will refrain from such cooperation. He will not be coerced, and he will refrain from coercing others, even for their own good.
He will replace the apparent necessity for general coercion by clear evidence that he requires no coercion. He will no longer concern himself with what others ought to do because he will be too busy doing what he ought to do.
The autarchist is an intellectual activist. He is a builder, not a destroyer