An Open Letter to Robert Ringer

Dear Robert Ringer,

In the very early 1980s, I taught a class at the Free University of Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Md.) based on your book RESTORING THE AMERICAN DREAM. A couple of years later I helped start THE VOLUNTARYIST. Many of my writings can now be found at

I just read a series of articles on comprising your “Core Beliefs” and don’t think your criticism of purist-libertarians is correct. In “The Price of Freedom” you write that we purists “argue that a totally free society can exist only in an atmosphere of anarchy, but this notion conflicts with the reality that civilization cannot exist without a generally accepted code of conduct.” On the contrary, Murray Rothbard in his book FOR A NEW LIBERTY (NY: Macmillan, 1973), pointed out that a libertarian society would have a generally accepted legal code that would be established on the basis of the self-ownership axiom and non-aggression principle. Much of the English common law and law merchant are examples of customary law (as opposed to statutory law). See his discussion of “Law and the Courts,” pages 234-243. I believe most free market anarchists would agree with him.

Later, in your same essay you refer to the great paradox of freedom: that in order to prevent some with a distorted sense of freedom from trampling the freedom of others “to one extent or another freedom must be restricted.” Your further comments in your essay “The Survival of Western Civilization” lead me to believe that you now support compulsory taxation and coercive government because government is needed to “protect its citizens from aggression, both domestic and foreign.” Your justification for government implies an “either-or” alternative: either government protects us from our enemies or we will have no protection at all. This is false: if there were no government, we would still have self-protection, and, furthermore, the specialization of labor on the free market would result in individuals or organizations that sell protection services. They might not provide perfect protection; but then neither does government.

Furthermore, isn’t taxation at odds with the self-ownership axiom and principle of non-aggression? At the very least, those of us who do not want to contribute to the United States Treasury should not be forced to do so. Whatever amount the Treasury can collect voluntarily, the government should use to provide whatever protection that amount will buy. (As an aside, I might ask, what evidence is there that government can do a satisfactory job providing protection? Whenever an organization becomes a coercive, monopolistic service provider, the quality and/or quantity of its service deteriorates. As you know, there is no incentive for such an organization to please its customers because they have no option but to do deal with it.)

The issue is not whether we, as self-responsible human beings, need protection or not, any more than the issue is whether we, as self-responsible beings, require food, shelter, and clothing. Of course, we need all of these things. The question that divides us is: HOW are we to provide ourselves with food, shelter, clothing, and protection? Are some of us to be forced to provide these goods and services to others? Are we to be forced to deal with a coercive monopolist? Do these things require 1) a monopoly of coercion over a given territory, and 2) support via compulsory taxation? Or may we rely upon voluntary efforts to furnish ourselves with food, shelter, clothing, and protection? For the most part, we rely upon voluntaryism for our food, shelter and clothing. Just because government does not take charge and provide them for us, does not mean that we must do without them. Why is protection any different?

The problem with our civilization is that it does not see any contradiction between the generally accepted rule against stealing, and taxation. The mark of a truly civilized society should be the “triumph of persuasion over force.” I believe our civilization will destroy itself and disappear if it continues to rely on coercion and government protection (so-called). What do you think?


Carl Watner


Scroll to Top