See more videos from the Lausanne Conference
This is a transcription of the Jan Krepelka’s talk at the ISIL 2013 World Conference.
Transcribed and edited by Kenli S.
Hello everybody, dear friends, my speech today isn’t going to be so much about what we believe in, because I think we agree on a lot of things already, it’s going to be more about how we present it, how we summarise it, how best we structure ideas, and how best we sell it.
I start with some simple questions, that I’ve often been asked: “Why don’t you like the State?”, “What has the State done to you?”, “What is really the centre of your position on the State?”.
My answer comes in three parts.
1. First of all, yeah, why don’t we like the state? What is the gist of our opposition to the State?
2. Why does it matter so much? There’s a lot of things I don’t like, but I don’t make paramount political causes worth fighting for out of them. Is it just a political opinion, a preference, or is more than that?
3. And thirdly, if we don’t like that state and it matters, what can we do about it?
The answer I will try to give today will try to emphasise the difference between laissez-faire and the State as the fundamental opposition between civilisation and the dark ages.
I think we’re all aware that our current societies are all mixed-economies, where you have partly the market, and partly the state running things. My point is that the part that is civilised, is due to the market, and the part of it that is still in the Dark Ages (and there are a lot of examples of how society still works like in the Dark Ages) is really the legacy of the state.
Dark Ages Classes vs. Laissez-Faire Equality
Let me give you a few examples. Let’s start by the Dark Ages’ class structure. Today we still have, like in the Middle Ages, we still have people who are above the law, people who don’t pay taxes, people where the law doesn’t apply to them, people who are immune from prosecution.
Marginally we have sort of nobility, like in the Middle Ages. We still have a clerical class, with state religions, with religious people paid out of taxes in a lot of countries. We have a military class, which includes the army and police, who are the only ones allowed to carry weapons. Even though private citizens might be as well trained, as ready to carry weapons, but only the military class is allowed to do it.
Another case in point is that even today we still have monarchy. Here we can see Europe today, where all the countries shown in red are monarchies. Why in the 21st century do we still have people proclaiming themselves as kings? Have you ever wondered, how does one become a king? Do you just put on a crown one day and say I’m going to rule over other people?
I like the story of the guy on the left, of the Grimaldi family from Monaco. Basically in the 13th century this guy arrived at night, at the castle, he disguised himself as a monk and was easily let in. Then, by his treachery, he got into the castle, and went on to kill everybody and proclaim himself the new Prince of The Rock. That’s how we became the prince, and how his dynasty started.
Now we have today these proud people wearing uniforms, and wearing crowns, and proclaiming to be rulers over other people. What gives them legitimacy?
Beyond that, if you look at all the countries in blue, it’s still the same story. Even if they have presidents of democratic republics, it is still basically a group of people who rule over other people without any rational justifications. Like a ballot box where they are chosen by some people, who are not necessarily the people that they are going to rule over.
We have to understand that more generally, all kinds of political power of some people over other people, comes from the Dark Ages. It is a completely passé institution that doesn’t belong to a modern civilised age.
This is where our philosophy of laissez-faire comes in. We see more generally that basically whatever the State does would be considered crimes if they were done by private citizens. We have this huge inequality, with the state on one hand and normal people on the other, where suddenly some people proclaim that just because they were elected or wear a uniform suddenly they have some powers or rights that they would not have if they were not appointed.
I think to us libertarians this doesn’t make any sense. To us, all human beings are human beings, we have the same rights. You cannot just get some rights because some people choose you in a democratic process, or you kill some people in a monarchy, or you were appointed as a government official. So this is one of the most striking points, that there is a huge difference between our philosophy that everyone has the same rights, and the government philosophy of people being in different classes with different rights and powers.
Dark Ages Feudalism vs. Laissez-Faire Freedom
My second example is Dark Ages Feudalism vs. Laissez-Faire Freedom. In a lot of ways we still have today this feudal model where some people are considered as serfs, and attached to the land. You’re supposed to be born in one country, get married, work there, pay taxes there. All the State institutions, that provide ‘public goods’, and supposed to be paid for by taxes of residents.
All of this is justified by the idea that you don’t move, you don’t travel around the world. Thus, issues like immigration, depending on the context, are usually frowned upon, or may be made illegal, because it doesn’t fit in the Statist model of people being attached to the land, staying there, and paying taxes there.
Now what happens with globalisation and people being allowed to travel? Suddenly you have all those people who are working in one place, living in one place, and paying taxes in another. It all becomes mixed up, and states are completely at a loss. They don’t know what to do anymore. They now have to face the issue of tax competition and people living in one country, so where should they pay taxes? What is taxation based on, citizenship or residency?
They don’t have any rational set of rules to apply to these cases, because the model wasn’t designed for this modern age of globalisation. In contrast our model, of the free human being, who travels and pays for services, is the model of civilisation of the modern times, where basically you just travel, you pay for whatever you use, you work wherever you want to work. It doesn’t make any sense, in our model of free-market capitalism and globalisation, it is perfectly suited for this, this type of modernity.
Dark Ages Barbarism vs. Laissez-faire Civilisation
My third point is, Dark Ages barbarism vs. Laissez-faire civilisation. This is really the fundamental difference between economical means and political means of obtaining things. The means of obtaining things voluntarily (through exchange, gifts, trade) or through violence.
Which leads us really to the one important political question: Under what circumstances is it justified to use violence? The State doesn’t really provide a clear answer to that, whereas we have. We libertarians, have the non-aggression principle. The idea that you cannot use violence unless it’s to defend against another aggression.
So we have a clear cut answer to that, and civilisation in this regard has always depended on having clear cut reasons for the restriction on the use of violence. In this regard, we have given the answers and we have provided this context where violence has been curtailed, and the state circumvents these rules—it doesn’t even respect them anymore. Basically all this leads to chaos and barbarism, with people using violence to get whatever they want to get.
This was basically the three fundamental points I see as a big difference between our model of civilisation of laissez-faire vs. the statist model, which is from the Dark Ages.
Why does it matter so much?
Well, I’m just going to focus on one example, I’m sure other speakers are going to give other examples of why the differences matters. So, my case in point is growth. What is economic growth? Economic growth is the essence of civilisation. You cannot get above subsistence level without economic growth. What does economic growth require?
At least the three things which are:
- The division of labour;
- A practical means of exchange: money;
- The accumulation of capital
All those three things have historically been destroyed by the state.
The division of labour—through the state taxing labour, through taxation transactions, through really pushing people more and more towards a barter economy, where they try to exchange directly so as to avoid taxes.
Money—is becoming destroyed through inflation, a taxation of savings. It is really losing its usefulness as a means either of storing value or of transferring value. Which of course you have accumulation of capital, which is necessary for growing, entrepreneurship and investment.
So basically through all of these things, the State has been destroying what makes civilisation. Therefore it is no wonder that today we are starting to have declining GDP in countries like Greece, maybe even France and other countries. Imagine the amount of incompetence and destruction you have to perpetuate, in our current century, in order to actually have declining growth despite the fact that we have technological progress. You really have to wish to achieve that.
Imagine the amount of incompetence and destruction you have to perpetuate, in our current century, in order to actually have declining growth despite the fact that we have technological progress.
Growth is important because it allows us to have more money, but beyond that, it is also important because it allows us to have longer, healthier lives. Technological progress, of course in the real economic model, is not exogenous, it is related to growth. If the state taxes savings, it’s going to slow down technological progress as well, so it’s not a given.
What is really essential I think, is the huge impact over the long-term on the growth rate. We have to realise that the state—and everyone must agree that the state impacts the growth rate—lowers them. There have been studies that demonstrate by how much, but the point is that even a small difference in growth rate compounded over a thousand years or over a few hundred years, wreaks a huge impact on civilisation.
Here is a website that enables you to calculate by putting in some data, to discover the mathematics of this, which is sometimes hard to grasp.
Just to give you one simple example, take two countries, one with a growth rate of 1%, one with 2%. You compound that over a thousand years. Well, the second one is going to be 20,000 times wealthier than the first one. 20,000 times! This is the difference between the Dark Ages and Civilization, the difference between abject poverty and global wealth, the difference between smartphones and stone tablets. The difference you cannot grasp if you haven’t lived it.
Like I’ve said, growth is essential for wealth, it’s essential for longer healthier lives. To many people it’s a life and death issue. Will they have the wealth to afford medication, food, etc.? It really is essential. Beyond that, we have possibilities for space exploration, life extension, and even the quest for immortality, which we are getting closer to technologically, but which requires money, which requires growth, and therefore a lot of capital. These are all the kinds of things that the state is currently keeping us from achieving.
Besides the fact that the state won’t let us have the kind of money that is necessary for this, we have to realise that it’s also not in the state’s ideology to have longer lives. If you look at the state’s social security model, based on paying for things as taken from the latest arrivals, if we start living longer, the state again (like with the feudal model) will be completely at a loss because their model is completely not adapted to this.
Again, they are probably going to be pushing against that. Probably trying to outlaw it, or building some ethical committee to say that people living longer lives is not good, etc.
My point is that in all of these big issues that matter, it should be pretty easy to spot the fundamental differences between our philosophy and civilisation on the one hand and states and their philosophy that really keeps us in the Dark Ages on the other hand. It should be pretty easy to pick sides. That’s my point.
Now, what do we do about it?
- Set your reality: Civilization vs. Dark Ages
- The burden of proof rests on them, not us
- Stick to the essentials: violence?
- Drop the labels
- Mean it
Like I’ve tried to do: make it really easy to pick sides. Really go down to the basic issues, that make it easy to pick sides, to see what is right and what is wrong.
In order to do that, first of all, yeah, we have to present these points: that there is a debate between Civilization and the Dark Ages. It’s not a debate between one system that would be more optimal than the other, between slightly less taxes and slightly more taxes, between being slightly more efficient. It’s really these big questions that we have to address, and lead the debate there.
The second point is that the burden of proof rests on them, not us. I mean, the states have done so much damage, so much violence, so they should be the ones justifying themselves and their model. Why should anyone be a king? Why should anyone be a president? What sense does it make? They should be on the apologising side.
We shouldn’t have to justify ourselves as some kind of rebels against society, who suddenly arrive with this weird libertarian model of changing things. That’s not the case. Our model is the mainstream model that makes civilisation and society possible. Our model is really the mainstream model, and the states are the ones that are trying to sabotage civilisation. So they should be the ones justifying themselves: why and how they do this?
We have to stick to the essential. Not only to have a point of view in the debate, but choose the debates. The state will always try to sidetrack us into debating policy matters, of whether the state should finance this or finance that. Or whether they should subsidise this group or subsidise that group. We have to avoid these kinds of debates, and bring the debate back to what matters, where we are strong, and where it is easy to pick sides. Where we bring them to the essential question of: In which cases is it justified to use violence? And in which cases is it not?
My next point is: drop labels. We are basically people who defend civilisation, who defend an understanding of reality, a system that works. The states have basically been denying it and clinging to past ideologies. So, my point is, our goal is not to convert people to some ideology or some life style, our goal is to have them understand this and trust their basic intuitions about their freedom, about what matters to them. That the state has no right to aggress against them and to steal from them. It’s not about converting people, it’s about making them realise things that they already know, things that they practice in their everyday lives.
Which leaves me to my final point, which is mean it. Basically, understand all of the above, understand the ideas, and that our goal is not so much to convince the people of the state, but to have them realise what the state is doing and to act accordingly. Don’t try to convince people, because you don’t have the duty to convince state officials to let you go. You just have to reach a world where they become powerless. Our goal is not to convince the people who are trying to rob us, our goal is to convince everybody else to ignore them.
Our goal is not to convince the people who are trying to rob us, our goal is to convince everybody else to ignore them.
I think by acting accordingly and understanding those principles, everything kind of falls into place.
I’m just going to give you a few nice examples of what I mean by reframing, by changing the debate to something that is more favourable to us.
One is: “You libertarians would be in favour of fornication in public parks!”
“What do you mean, public parks?”
This is an example of reframing, we can’t let ourselves get sidetracked by a debate of what should or shouldn’t happen in public parks, we should ask instead Why should they be public parks? How were they financed? Where did they get the money? What kind of violence was used in order to extort the property and the money to finance it. This is instead of getting sidetracked on debates where maybe there is no good or wrong answer.
Another good example is from Ron Paul.
“Congressman Paul, 50% of Americans pay no tax, what are your thoughts?”
“We’re halfway there!”
So the point again is, we shouldn’t care about issues of tax equality, or who pays tax and who doesn’t. The taxes themselves, the income tax in the US is unconstitutional. We have to address the big issue. What is the justification for taxation, on what grounds do they tax us?
A third example, for those of you unfamiliar with the Simpsons, in this episode, Bart is accused through a poster that “a vote for Bart is a vote for anarchy”. Instead of accepting the frame that anarchy is bad, and defending himself of being an anarchist, of apologising, Bart’s supporters start themselves sticking the exact same poster: “a vote for Bart is a vote for anarchy”.
In conclusion, reclaim your right, reclaim your reality, reclaim your life. Don’t let states set the frame of how things are to be perceived. Really live within an understanding of what the state is and what we are defending and what side we are on in this big debate between Civilisation and the Dark Ages. Think from this frame.
Recognise the state as a Dark Ages institutions, understand that the growth of the State cannot go on, it will collapse. Sooner or later people will understand that if we’re not to go back to the Dark Ages, and start dying of hunger, we will have to embrace the free-market, not just in some cases but everywhere. Trust your libertarian intuition, whenever you feel that something is wrong, whenever someone tries to pose questions that you see as pointless, you’re probably right. Maybe the reason that the question doesn’t make sense is because the question shouldn’t be asked at all, and there is a much deeper issue at stake that must be addressed. You have to dig and get to this real issue.
Live according to your principles, be an entrepreneur of liberty, never mind the looters and the law, simply try to be as free as you can within what the state allows. Never think you have a duty to obey the State. Don’t think you have a duty to convince them, or give them any justification for your actions, just simply live your life, ignore them as much as you can, obey them if you must, but essentially live in your reality, not theirs.
Thank you very much.
See more videos from the Lausanne Conference
This is a transcription of the Jan Krepelka’s talk at the ISIL 2013 World Conference.
Transcribed and edited by Kenli S.