A Free Hand: The Political Philosophy of Economic and Personal Decision-making

Angela Bergman
May 1, 2000

Insignis Independent Study Research Paper, Aquinas College

A Free Hand

Decisions are made everyday effecting the way we live, work and experience the pleasures of life. The political structure, the people in power and their goals really do make a difference in our economic and personal lives. Government decisions, however democratic, both control and influence the variety of ways in which we earn a living, spend money, express opinions and engage in pleasurable activities. The growing debate on regulation of free commerce and free speech on the Internet, greater control of the tobacco industry and restrictions on homosexual marriage are at one level pragmatic political issues--and at another level--evidence of a broader philosophical question at issue.

The Struggle Between Volition and Coercion

Marx wrote that the history of all civilization could be characterized by class struggle. Yet throughout the constant evolution of human advancement, one of the most pervasive--and many times violent--struggles has been between individual volition and collective coercion. Volition describes the individual act of making conscious decisions through the power of free will. Coercion, though it can be an individual act, is most effective as a collective act to compel or force individuals to think or act in a specified way through pressure, threats, intimidation or even physical force. While the Greeks were promoters of unrestricted thought and philosophical questioning to guide volition, they did not see groups outside of the Greek culture as volitional beings--they were "barbarians." Thus, even the Greeks practiced coercion through war and slavery. Feudalism and absolutism did not have respect for individual volition throughout the Middle Ages, while kings and bishops used coercion to maintain their power. The coercive characteristics of feudalism and absolutism was challenged during the Renaissance, with a resurgent emphasis placed on the individual. The Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment continued to counter the old feudalistic ideas through arguments on free will and reason. The historical struggle

between the individual right to choose and the societal order established through coercion continues today.

Most people do not believe that government, especially in the United States, is coercive. For the most part, people are happy when they have a high amount of volition in matters they consider to be extremely important, but are willing to surrender some of their decision-making power to government or other institutions when the issue is not so important. But what happens when the authority whom the people have granted decision-making power to makes a decision that is adverse to an individual's own goals? The "volitional" society which yields all of its power to other people or groups and takes no individual responsibility for decision-making soon can become coercive. A coercive society today may not employ such visible and obvious tactics as the coercive societies of the past (authoritarian, communism). Though culture, religion, society, beliefs, tradition and family continue influence individuals considerably, none of these institutions any longer have the power to coerce. In order to maintain peace, stability and order, governments have been entrusted with the power of force. Public opinion, polls and consensus can be used to justify or hide actual coercion, or a deviation from the enumerated powers of

government, in a minority of individuals lives.

Governments: Allowing Volitional vs. Coercive Society

Governments can be analyzed as providing for a volitional society or a coercive society. In a volitional society, government is the institution designed to facilitate a political process constructed by the polity to protect individual rights to life, liberty and property. Volitional societies respect the individual's power to choose through democratic pluralism, federalism, individualism and capitalism. Democratic pluralism allows groups to form voluntarily to influence government policy, and such divides and limits the coercive power of the state while respecting individual volition. Federalism, through enumerated and separation of powers and the rule of law, protects citizens from the tyranny of the majority, or coercive power of the majority. The doctrine of individualism respects independence in the pursuit of economic and personal goals. True laissez-faire capitalism is an economic system that allows economic decision-making in the marketplace by individuals or groups acting voluntarily, and not by the political process.

Coercive societies are the opposite of volitional societies. Instead of a government constructed merely to protect individual rights in

both economic and personal decision-making, the governments enforce other elite, public or even dictatorial agendas. Instead of the separation and limitation on power, it can be highly concentrated. The most extreme examples of coercive societies where power is highly concentrated are authoritarianism, absolutism, tyranny, statism, totalitarianism and communism. An authoritarian society is one obedient to a supreme ruler, at the expense of individual liberty. Absolutism and tyranny both hold that power and authority are centralized in one ruler, traditionally through the divine right of kings. Under totalitarianism, the individual is completely subordinated to the state, and authority controls every aspect of an individual's life. Communism in practice must be enforced by an authoritative ruler, where economic control is placed in the hands of the state. Where power is divided and not highly concentrated as a principle, a coercive society may even be democratic, in the sense that the majority may oppress and dominate the minority. Socialist societies encompassing a large and diverse area, including people with different goals, must also employ a coercive element in the economic sphere, since the overall cooperative plan could not be achieved through reliance on individual volition.

Who Should Decide?

Throughout political history, the question of who has ultimate control over the volitional lives of individuals has been hotly debated. Who should decide an individual's employment or the amount that is earned? Who should decide where a person lives or how much property is owned? Who should finance the arts, or free speech? Who should provide financial security to an aging population? Who should regulate the use of potentially harmful products, such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs? Who should decide where an individual's children go to school? Who should choose what type of music is listened to, what books are read, or what movies are seen?

Individuals Should Decide--"A Free Hand"

The most visibly coercive societies are remnants of the past. Yet there are also societies today which still do employ elements of coercion. Ultimately, the highest value that any political institution can serve today is to allow for a volitional society which respects economic and personal decision-making based on free choice. The optimal political philosophical combination to achieve this value is that of laissez faire and modern liberalism.

The Purpose of this Research Paper

The purpose of this research paper is to define concepts critical to the debate and to reflect on a few political philosopher's viewpoints on the normative question of who should make economic and personal decisions which effect the lives of individuals in a civilized political society. The debate will enlighten the reader on various viewpoints worthy of consideration, questioning and critical thinking. The normative thesis is biased in favor of a volitional society, and as such, the arguments presented will direct the reader towards the assertion that the highest value any political institution can serve is to protect individual volition and free choice. A volitional society does not claim to satisfy other political/economic goals, such as equality and security. Rather, a volitional society seeks to ensure the maximum amount of freedom for the individual to make decisions. As Joyce Cary, a British author said in an interview in Writers at Work:

For me, the principal fact of life is the free mind. For good and evil, man is a free creative spirit. This produces the very queer world we live in, a world in continuous creation and therefore continuous change and insecurity. A perpetually new and lively world, but a dangerous one, full of tragedy and injustice. A world

in everlasting conflict between the new idea and the old allegiances, new arts and new inventions against the old establishment.

This research paper is based on Cary's ideology that the highest value of individual creative life is the principle of the free mind. Volition allows individuals to act as they see best, however, the majority or group may not always agree with how certain people choose to live. The philosophy expressed in this research paper also values change and progress, and challenges stasis institutions.

Arguments pertaining to the thesis have been divided into two sections. Part I focuses on economic decision-making, while Part II is reserved for personal decision-making. In Part I, the laissez faire philosophy is highlighted by examples from Aristotle's Politics, Frederic Bastiat's The Law, and F.A. Hayek's Essays on Spontaneous Order. Next, the socialist philosophy is overviewed by the arguments of Plato in The Republic, Marx in The Communist Manifesto, and Joseph Schumpeter in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. In Part II, personal decision-making is divided into modern liberalism and modern conservatism. Alluding to the modern liberal philosophy are John Locke, John Stuart Mill in On Liberty, and Murray Rothbard. Representing modern conservatism

are Jean-Jaques Rousseau, Robert Bork and Russell Kirk. The research paper concludes with an analysis of rights and needs, and asserts that the combination of laissez faire in economic decision-making and modern liberalism in personal decision-making allows for the ideal of a volitional society.

The Dichotomy of Economic and Personal Decision-Making

Modern political philosophy separates those from the "left" and the "right." There are two very interesting dichotomies in these designations. In modern culture, the "right" is assumed to value individual responsibility only in making economic decisions yet advocate state guidance in personal decision-making through the enforcement of social traditions and values. The "left" generally focuses on allowing individuals to make their own personal decisions while restricting their economic options through heavy state regulation and resource allocation. As a concept, economic decisions relate to how individuals make a living and spend money. Charles Murray defines economic freedom as "the right to engage in voluntary and informed exchanges of goods and services without restriction" (Murray 24). Under a system of economic freedom,

prices are determined by the free and voluntary exchange of goods rather than a centralized-decision making process. This system allows individuals to gauge what is worth earning and spending money on. Government policies to restrict economic decision-making by individuals include zoning, income taxation, protectionism, tariffs, barriers to trade and regulation of industry. Policy areas which relate to economic decision-making include but are not limited to globalization trade, social security, product safety and environmental regulation, housing, welfare and even funding for the arts.

While those on the "right" generally advocate greater economic freedom, those on the "left" have adamantly supported personal, sometimes referred to political, freedom. These areas generally relate to social concepts of morality, and include but are not limited to free speech (pornography, the entertainment industry), freedom of religion, freedom of sexuality (homosexuality and prostitution), and the freedom to use potentially harmful substances (alcohol, tobacco and drugs). Freedom to choose, however, does not assume freedom from responsibility. Individuals, if they are allowed to make their own choices, would be responsible and accountable for their own decisions. Government policies in the form of legislation

to restrict personal decision-making by individuals include the prohibition and regulation of drugs, prostitution, gambling, pornography, sex and alcohol.

Part I: Economic Decisions

Many political philosophies have emerged throughout western political history which confront the claim that individuals should have economic freedom. For the purposes of debate, two of the most extreme or polar philosophies will be explored--laissez faire and socialism. (1) The laissez faire philosophy adheres strongly to the idea that economic decisions should be made by individuals and groups of individuals through voluntary contract. Philosophers who have contributed to the idea of "hands-off" economics were Aristotle in his Politics with a discussion of private property rights, French economist Frederic Bastiat in The Law, and German economist F.A. Hayek. (2) The antithesis of laissez faire is socialist thought. In this philosophy, adherents believe that economic decisions should be made collectively by central planners--either democratically or autocratically chosen--and that social programs should be designed to redistribute wealth. Selections from this group include Plato in The Republic with his assertion that the

highest value of the state is justice, Marx & Engles in The Communist Manifesto, and Joseph A. Schumpeter in his Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Ironically, both opposing philosophies predict that their normative assertions will help to ensure maximum economic freedom, and therefore, individual volition. Yet under each philosophy, the definition of economic freedom differs considerably.

Sub-section 1: Laissez Faire

The economic philosophy of Laissez Faire began with the French liberals who proclaimed, "laissez-faire, laissez passer," or "let things happen and proceed as they will". Adherents to this philosophy believe that governments should not intercede in the economic sphere. Central to this philosophy are private property rights, expounded upon by Aristotle, Bastiat's idea of "legal plunder" and Hayek's arguments describing "spontaneous order."

Aristotle, Politics

The idea of private property rights can be traced back to ancient Greece, to the philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle lived from 384-322 BC, and taught at the Athenian Lyceum. His writings were derived from lecture notes for his classes. It is significant to note that the

Aristotelian philosophy extends far beyond its arguments for private property into areas such as logic, physical science, ethics and politics. Aristotle's predecessor Plato advanced the idea that rulers could not hold private property without sacrificing their state responsibilities. Aristotle challenged this viewpoint by citing four specific arguments in favor of the universal ownership of private property--not only for the wise rulers, but for all the citizens of Greece: (1) incentive and progress, (2) pleasure, (3) liberality, and (4) prior knowledge and experience (Ebenstein 73-74).

In a system of private property, an individual owns both the land, or capital, needed to produce. Individuals are also entitled to the fruit of their labor. Aristotle described common practices at the time of having private land but common produce, common land and private produce, and both common land and produce. The first practice of having private land and common produce is unequitable, since, "if they [owners] do not share equally in enjoyments and toils, those who labour much and get little will necessarily complain of those who labour little and receive or consume much" (80). Aristotle introduced the foundations of democratic pluralism and that this system can lead to great progress, by arguing that "property should be in a certain sense

common, but, as a general rule, private; for when everyone has a distinct interest, men will not complain of one another, and they will make more progress, because every one will be attending to his own business" (81). Thus, when an individual owns both the land and the fruits of their land and labor, they will in turn cooperate in self-interest to distribute their produce and trade with others to satisfy their needs through the price system. According to Aristotle, the advancement and progress of society can be assured under this type of system. "For, although every man has his own property, some things he will place at the disposal of his friends, while of others he shares the use with them (81). Aristotle's argument was then that when decision-making power about property is left up to individuals who exercise their power of volition, incentive and progress will be natural results.

In addition to incentive and progress, man can receive great pleasure from controlling and being responsible for his ownership and production. Aristotle explained, "how immeasurable greater is the pleasure, when a man feels a thing to be his own; for surely the love of self is a feeling implanted by nature and not given in vain ... and further, there is the greatest pleasure in doing a kindness or service to friends or guests or companions, which can only be

rendered when a man has private property" (81). Virtuous action can only exist in a society which allows private property, Aristotle thought, since "no one, when men have all things in common, will any longer set an example of liberality or do any liberal action (81). He continued, "A man cannot use property with mildness or courage, but temperately an liberally he may; and therefore the practice of these virtues is inseparable from property" (83). Men can be seduced into the idea of common property by its benevolent appearance, Aristotle asserted, yet in practice men under this system enter into more conflict than under systems of private property. Finally, Aristotle cited empirical evidence for private property, stating "Let us remember that we should not disregard the experience of ages; in the multitude of years these things [common property], if they were good, would certainly not have been unknown; for almost everything has been found out ..." (82). Thus, when individuals are allowed to hold private property, they are allowed to take pleasure in their decisions and act liberally: the foundation of a volitional society.

Frederic Bastiat, The Law

Frederic Bastiat, a French liberal, introduced the idea of "legal plunder" when economic interests of citizens are excessively

intertwined with the state. Bastiat lived between 1801-1850, during the French Revolution. He assumed that individuals were capable of making rational decisions with the information available to them, and that the legislators were no more wiser decision-makers than individual citizens. Bastiat pieced together another aspect of the philosophy of laissez faire, by arguing that economic life is best kept distinctly separate from public, or state, life. He advocated a very minimalist state, one which served only to protect the basic rights of individuals so that they were able to participate fairly in economic life. When the law legalized intervention of government into economic life, the state could be characterized by "legal plunder" and injustice. His ideal society would be one in which individuals made decisions--a volitional society--and opposed decision-making by legislators--a coercive society. Even if legislators and interests were democratic, Bastiat still believed that coercion could take place through majority rule or "legal plunder."

Bastiat described "legal plunder" as "under the pretense of organization, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the law takes property from one person and gives it to another" (Bastiat 22). This notion necessarily reflects Aristotle's view of private property rights and ownership. "When a portion of wealth is

transferred from the person who owns it--without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud--to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed" (22). In order for legal plunder to take place, the whole of police, judges and prisons must be at the service of plunderers to make the redistribution of property legal. "Thus," Bastiat wrote, "the beneficiaries are spared the shame, danger, and scruple which their acts would otherwise involve" (Bastiat 16). The way in which to identify legal plunder is by seeing "if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime" (17). Legal plunder, according to Bastiat, falls under the common names of "tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragement's, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit"--in essence, socialism (18). In order for the government to undertake any of these activities, it necessarily had to extract property of someone else through the use of force, an act of lawful injustice. Therefore, according to Bastiat, it would also be unjust

for anyone to benefit from legal coercion.

Bastiat thought the roots of legal plunder were "human greed" and "false philanthropy," which contribute to the "seductive lure of socialism." He criticized the socialist system based on his premise of legal plunder. "It is upon the law that socialism itself relies," Bastiat wrote (19). The "seductive lure of socialism," is the ideology that the law must not only be just, it must also be philanthropic and extend welfare, education and morality to all. This system destroyed Bastiat's definition of liberty, which he believed to be inherent in human nature. Law would necessarily become all-encompassing and controlling. He asserted that the socialists advocate the conformity of human beings, and that the philosophy rests on the belief that people can be shaped, experimented upon and need to be improved (30-31). Even democratic socialism, Bastiat thought, was an element of a coercive society.

F.A. Hayek, Essays on Spontaneous Order

The economist F.A. Hayek coined a phrase to complete the French phrase "laissez-faire, laissez-passer, le monde va de lui-meme," or "Let us do, leave us alone: The world runs by itself" (Boaz 204). The phrase pertained to the latter that the world ran

automatically, or what came to be understood as spontaneous order. This is an order distinguishable from the planned. Spontaneous referred to an order which arose naturally, such as the order emerging on the Internet. When the Internet was first introduced, it was chaotic until navigation tools and order gradually emerged through no one centralized planner. David Boaz from the Cato Institute wrote of all of his essays selected to represent spontaneous order in The Libertarian Reader, "The theme running through these essays is twofold: that unplanned, competitive processes can produce order without central direction, and that a state's attempt to impose order or alter the results of spontaneous processes is likely to produce discoordination, poverty, and social conflict" (Boaz 205). In essence, a coercive society would interfere with the natural, spontaneous order, which arose under a volitional society.

Hayek's essay entitled "The Use of Knowledge in Society" (1945) argued that (1) governments do not have the information available to them to solve the economic problem--economic decision-making is something which only individuals or voluntary groups can do which will naturally produce order, and (2) the dispute about "economic planning" is really about how the planning is to be done. Hayek argued, "The peculiar character of the problem

of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which the separate individuals possess" (Boaz 216). The goal is not merely the allocation of resources, Hayek argued, since no one person has the knowledge to allocate. Rather, the answer to the economic problem Hayek said rests in the way to optimally use resources in the society, when no one person can possibly see the whole picture. Economic planning, Hayek wrote, is important. But he challenged traditional claims that the debate was about whether planning should be done or not by writing, "This is not a dispute about whether planning is to be done or not. It is a dispute as to whether planning is to be done centrally, by one authority for the whole economic system, or is to be divided among many individuals" (217). Furthermore, the knowledge that individuals need to plan is quantified in the price system, determined by free market conditions.

In 1973, Hayek elaborated upon his idea of spontaneous order. He wrote Law, Legislation, and Liberty which dealt with the question of order, both "made" and "grown." Hayek defines order

as a system or a structure where certain elements are related, allowing reasonable judgements to be made and expectations which have a good probability of being correct. Hayek dispels some of the traditional views of order, which associate the concept as resting "on a relation of command and obedience, or a hierarchical structure of the whole of society in which the will of superiors, and ultimately of some single supreme authority, determines what each individual must do" (Boaz 234). He warned that by relying on spontaneous order, for which we know not the end purpose or where it is derived from and only that somehow it naturally occurs, we lose some of our control. "Though the use of spontaneous ordering forces enables us to induce the formation of an order of such a degree of complexity...as we could never master intellectually, or deliberately arrange, we will have less power over the details of such an order than we would of own which we produce by arrangement" (237). Hayek was clearly a proponent of laissez faire, or "hands-off" economic policy. Government is not responsible for the production of goods or services, rather, it is responsible for providing a level playing field--guiding principles for the rules of the game.

Once it is recognized that spontaneous order or natural order

exists, central planning becomes impracticable and even coercive in a macroeconomic sense. Hayek continued to write, "Certainly nobody has yet succeeded in deliberately arranging all the activities that go on in a complex society. If anyone did ever succeed in fully organizing such a society, it would no longer make use of many minds but would be altogether dependent on one mind; it would certainly not be very complex but extremely primitive--and so would soon be the mind whose knowledge and will determined everything" (240). Combinations of "made" and "grown" order, such as a regulation of one particular economic aspect are also interruptions to Hayek's spontaneously ordered system. "This is the gist of the argument against 'interference' or 'intervention' in the market order. The reason why such isolated commands requiring specific actions by members of the spontaneous order can never improve but must disrupt that order is that they will refer to a part of a system of interdependent actions determined by information and guided by purposes known only to the several acting persons but not to the directing authority" (242).

Sub-section II: Socialism

While the above arguments from Aristotle, Bastiat and Hayek all have added pieces to the laissez faire philosophy, a diametrically

opposed viewpoint is that of socialism. Like laissez faire, socialist thought takes on many forms when mixed with various government structures. Socialism, in this sense, is not merely a small voluntary community making economic decisions together, rather the definition of socialism in this debate is when economic decision-making takes place in a large area with respect to equality and requires some element of coercion or involuntary action by individuals. Under socialism the degree of ownership of private property varies, but generally the means of production and distribution are controlled by the public. Allocation decisions are made collectively--sometimes through a central authority. In most forms of socialism, the normative principle is that economic decisions should not be made by individuals acting in their own self-interest, but by an altruistic and just society. In other forms of socialism, social programs are designed to redistribute and allocate wealth in a philosophy where equality of wealth is the highest principle. In the United States, for example, socialism arose in the late 18th and 19th centuries to respond to the inequality and hardship caused by the Industrial Revolution and capitalistic society. Ultimately, socialists believe that equality would lead to a system which will provide for the happiness and well-being of all


Contributors to socialist philosophies were Plato in The Republic, Marx & Engles in The Communist Manifesto and Joseph Schumpeter in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Just as Aristotle, Bastiat and Hayek were not explicitly laissez-faire and only contributed elements to a larger philosophical tradition, these three philosophers are by no means explicitly socialist. However, Plato's idea of central rational planning, Marx's idea of communal means of production and property with an equitable allocation of resources, and Schumpeter's focus on a socialist blueprint, all contribute elements to the socialist philosophy.

Plato The Republic

Even though many socialists cite Plato's ideas as a foundation for their thought, it would be an erroneous assumption to think that the whole of Plato's thought was simply socialist. As Aristotle's justification for private property was not explicitly laissez faire, Plato's concept that central planning by an altruistic ruling class was not explicitly socialist. Both ancient philosophers were influenced by their culture and their time, as evidenced by the aristocratic bias of leaving the private sector economic activity alone and by their view of women, children and slaves as property.

Plato lived during the time of Socrates, about 427-347 BC Plato founded the Academy, where he taught Aristotle. Like Aristotle, Plato discussed broader issues other than the relationship of individuals to the state, however, he addressed his philosophy of the just state in The Republic. According to Plato, the guardians, or wise ruling class, could not hold property, did not work or produce, but made wise decisions, philosophized, and lived off the producing class. As such, many of Plato's ideas can be used as a beginning idea for various forms of socialism.

The Republic is written in traditional Socratic dialogue, inquisition to arrive at a truth. Plato deviates from laissez faire by introducing the idea through the narrator Socrates to a group of philosophers that a planned state could achieve justice. The "state" under which there is no distinction between the private and public "comes into existence because no individual is self-sufficing; we all have many needs" (Ebenstein 21). Plato illustrates his ideas by contrasting two cities, one a "community of pigs" where there is no rational direction and only a satisfaction of material wants, and a second city. The first is characterized what Hayek would have called "spontaneous order." The second is characterized by three classes: the guardians, the fighters and the working population.

Ebenstein wrote, "the Platonic community is the first example of a planned state; but it must be borne in mind that the planned sector of this state applies only to the guardians and auxiliaries, whereas the producing class is left to itself as far as its economic activities go" (5). Again, Plato's highest value that the state can serve is justice, which was defined as equality.

The guardian class would make wise economic and political decisions for the entire community, according to Plato's ideal. Plato wrote, "No ruler, in so far as he is acting as ruler, will study or enjoin what is for his own interest. All that he says and does will be said and done with a view to what is good and proper for the subject for whom he practices his art" (17). In the dialogue about the "Rudiments of Social Organization," Plato begins to explain through Socrates how a planned state would work. First it would be necessary to gather various producers, farmers, builders, weavers and shoemakers to satisfy material wants and then to allocate them a job according to their ability. "We gave each man one trade, for which he was naturally fitted; he would do good work, if he confined himself to that all his life, never letting the right moment slip by" (24). The people in dialogue with Socrates, the narrator, continue to come up with further questions, such as how many and

what kinds of craftsmen they would need for their state, merchants they would need to trade with foreigners, setting up a marketplace with currency as a unit of exchange, and when it appeared that every thought was exhausted, Socrates asked "well, Adeimantus, has our state grown to its full size?" "Perhaps," he replied (22). As a part of the discussion on justice, the state must even be luxurious. Socrates said, "we are to study the growth, not just of a state, but of a luxurious one." "We must not limit ourselves now to those bare necessaries of house and clothes and shoes; we shall have to set going the arts of embroidery and painting, and collect rich materials, like gold and ivory" (23).

Guardians themselves, though they would allocate jobs and promote a luxurious state, could not own private property to guard against them acting in their own self-interest. "Their food ... they will receive from the other citizens as the wages of their guardianship, fixed so that there shall be just enough for the year with nothing left over; and they will have meals in common and all live together like soldiers in a camp" (30). So, although the lower class of producers could own private property, this standard was set for the wise guardians who would make wise decisions with only the state in mind. It is almost a suggestion that only those with the

highest virtues could commune together peacefully. The amount of private property the producers could own was, however, restricted. "There would be no slaves, and anyone whose wealth grew more than fourfold would be compelled to give the rest to the state" (Rohmann 306).

Marx & Engles The Communist Manifesto

At first communism was a synonym with socialism, yet the communist philosophy has deviated from socialism through its views in practice and purpose. Marx's Manifesto, first published in 1848, asserted that capitalism could be overthrown through violent revolution, which created a chasm in the use of socialism and communism as synonyms. However, Marx did contribute to socialist thought through his ideals of (1) abolition of the private ownership of capital, (2) decision-making by a central authority of proletariats, (3) a progressive and graduated income tax, (4) abolition of the inheritance right, (5) the centralization of communication and transportation, and (6) public education. These ideas of collectivism and centralization through the state contrast starkly with Bastiat's idea of "legal plunder." Modern democratic socialists still experiment with Marx's main principles, through justifying intervention by using public consensus and opinion.

Marx began his manifesto by citing the evils of a controlling bourgeoisie class. They "left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest ... than callous 'cash payment'" (Marx 84). The bourgeoisie had also "resolved personal worth into exchange value," "converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-laborers," and exploited the world through capitalism (84). The class "batters down," "forces" and "compels" (84). The solution to these evils would be to abolish private ownership of capital, allowing proletarians to become masters of their own production, according to Marx. "Does wage labor create any property for the laborer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage labour" (96-97). Under Marxist thought, man wanted the ability to escape dependency, to make his own economic decisions, but was restricted by an overpowering bourgeoisie class. "And the abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! And rightly so. The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtedly aimed at" (98).

In Marx's ideal society, the proletariat, or worker class, was the most altruistic--as opposed to Plato's guardian class. "The

proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible" (104). Thus, the "state" would be comprised of the proletariat and eventually disappear establishing common or public goals. "The proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation. They have nothing of their own to secure and to fortify; their mission is to destroy all previous securities for, and insurance's of, individual property" (92). Marx continued, "capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion" (97). Equality and redistribution would be achieved through the progressive or graduated income tax.

Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy

Schumpeter defined socialism as "an institutional pattern in which control over the means of production itself is vested with a central authority ... in which, as a matter of principle, the economic affairs of society belonging to the public and not the private

sphere" (Schumpeter 167). Joseph Schumpeter is an Austrian-American economist who lived from 1883-1950. In Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Schumpeter reviewed Marxist thought, cited reasons for his predicted fall of capitalism, and outlined "the socialist blueprint" for society. He characterized the shift in socialist thought from Marxist Communism to democratic socialism, or a mixed economy.

Schumpeter called the Communist Manifesto "one of the classic documents of socialism" and based his socialist blueprint on Marx's fundamental idea of sharing the means of production (168). The end of socialism was "a new cultural world" in which there is "justice, equality, freedom in general and freedom from 'the exploitation of man by man' in particular, of peace and love..." (170). In a footnote, Schumpeter added, "Paradoxical as it sounds, individualism and socialism are not necessarily opposites. One may argue that the socialist form of organization will guarantee 'truly' individualistic realization of personality" (171). A socialist society would be in Schumpeter's terms, a perfect volitional society.

The socialist blueprint would achieve the goals of justice, equality, peace and stability. Schumpeter argued with other economists that there was "nothing wrong with the pure logic of

socialism," and that it would be possible for the central board or ministry of production to determine what and how to produce and solve the economic problem of production and distribution (172). In Schumpeter's blueprint, distribution would be separated from the process of production and could take various forms such as a political act or decision adopting an equalitarian rule, "distribute with a view to producing maximum performance in any desired direction," or by studying "the wishes of individual comrades or resolve to give them what some authority or other thinks best for them" (174). The way to do this, according to Schumpeter, is "by handing out to every person--children and possibly other individuals counting for fractional persons as the competent authority may decide--a voucher representing his or her claim to a quantity of consumers' goods equal to the social product available in the current period of account divided by the number of claimants" (174). Therefore, "prices" charged by social stores would be determined through the multiplication of the existing quantity of the commodity and "price" to equal the total of the comrades' claims.

To control the means of production, "let the central board resolve itself into a committee on a particular industry or, still better, let us

set up an authority for each industry that is to manage it and to cooperate with the central board which controls and coordinates all these industrial managers or managing board" (175). All of the productive resources would be under control of the central board. Schumpeter pointed out that an element of coercion must be applied since individuals wouldn't adhere to the blueprint out of their own volition,. "I have not left it to the individual comrades to decide how much work they are going to do, nor have I allowed them more freedom of choice of occupation than the central board, within the requirements of its general plan, may be able and willing to grant them" (180). He does argue that modifications, such as providing inducements could be made to change this--but even that's coming close to a "commercial" society.

Part II: Personal Decisions

As a variety of western political philosophies have emerged which confront the ability of the individual to make volitional economic choices, there has also been a resurgence of political thought on the state's authority to either provide for or restrict personal decision-making on moral issues. If a governing body is designed to promote the values of the community, then the

authority would necessarily have to have the power to set and enforce standards of morality. Both liberals and conservatives have bantered about the issue of "legislating morality." Should governments have the right to restrict pornography, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, gambling, prostitution, or a multitude of other activities which the consensus is that they are potentially harmful to individuals or immoral? Modern liberals would assert that decisions about morality, however defined, should be made only by individuals themselves. The philosopher John Stuart Mill, a liberal and founder of the utilitarian philosophy, wrote about individual freedom to choose in On Liberty, John Locke described the separation of church and state in his Letter Concerning Toleration, and Murray Rothbard, a libertarian, focused on the idea that virtuous action could not be compulsory in on of his essays. Yet modern day conservatives--and even communitarians--believe that decisions about morality should be made by tradition or groups, based on shared morals, values and standards which are necessary for order and stability. The examples cited from this tradition are Rousseau's The Social Contract, Robert Bork's Slouching Towards Gomorrah, and Russell Kirk's A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians. All of these selections assert the general view that

morality must be directed by law. Both philosophies assert that under their system the individual will be more free, which would provide for a volitional society.

Sub-section I: Modern Liberals

Liberal thought in personal matters, like laissez-faire in economic matters, has traditionally held that the state should not enforce tradition, morals or values. Individuals should be allowed to make their own personal morality decisions, when those decisions do not contradict another's rights. For liberals, "liberty is too precious a commodity to be regulated and controlled in the fashion that conservatives would seem to favor, e.g., through education in virtue, obedience to moral codes, mores, and traditions, or censorship" (Carey XV). Virtuous action, liberals assert, can only happen given the precondition of freedom. Blindly following cultural or traditional morals does not, according to liberals, constitute virtue.

John Locke, Letter Concerning Toleration

John Locke (1632-1704) was a proponent of self-government, of individual rights and of the right to hold property, a classic of the Enlightenment period. His philosophy is that of a classical

liberal--yet the philosophy itself is not explicitly economic. A great deal of classical liberal thought derived from the debate on separation of church and state and on religious toleration. While Locke's more famous political work was the Two Treaties on Government, this essay narrowly challenged the belief that the magistrate, or ruler, could write laws governing the religious convictions and morals of its citizenry. The essay, Letter Concerning Toleration, was written in 1689 (Boaz 53).

Locke clearly stated the necessary division of authority between the church and the state. "The care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only of an outward force: but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God" (53). Even if the individual were forced to abide by a religious tradition, the belief and adherence to God and religious faith essentially required a free conversion, free will and free choice. This conversion could not be compelled by any governmental authority according to Locke. "It is one thing to persuade, another to command; one thing to press with arguments, another with penalties...the magistrate's power extends not to the establishing of any articles of faith, or forms of worship, by the force of his laws.

For laws are of no force at all without penalties, and penalties in this case are absolutely impertinent; because they are not proper to convince the mind" (54). Locke held that providing for a volitional society to encourage religious and moral freedom was the highest goal the state could serve.

Locke demonstrated the impracticability and the absurdity of the state asserting power over the individual's care of himself in his private affairs. "Will the magistrate provide by an express law, that such a one shall not become poor or sick? Laws provide, as much as is possible, that the goods and health of subjects be not injured by the fraud or violence of others; they do not guard them from the negligence or ill husbandry of the possessors themselves" (54-55). Locke claimed, laws which attempt to legislate what another things would be good for other people are invalid. No one, except the individual, can make that judgement for themselves, and they alone are responsible for that decision.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

Mill (1806-1873) was another British philosopher and economist. Mill can be used to represent a spectrum of ideas, from individual liberty, to socialism, idealism, and utilitarianism. To add to the debate on personal freedom, Mill's arguments on preserving

individual liberty are especially relevant. On Liberty first appeared in 1859, and was his most famous political work. His principle that government should not interfere with an individual's private affairs was advanced primarily by arguing for freedom of speech. However, freedom is not a license, Mill explained. Individual freedom in private affairs is only allowed when others are not harmed, or non-aggression. Through excessive intervention of the state in moral affairs of individuals, individuality would be sacrificed for the sake of social progress.

Mill elaborated on the principle of non-aggression by writing, "That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant" (Mill 13). It should not be the proper function of the law or the government to restrict an individual's personal behavior--even if it is for his own good. For example, the government should not restrict an individual's option to engage in promiscuous or potentially life-harming behavior when others are not directly concerned. However, Mill wrote that a man can be reasoned with or persuaded--but not compelled. Mill's conception of human liberty "comprises, first, the inward domain of

consciousness, demanding liberty of conscience in the most comprehensive sense, liberty of thought and feeling, absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, moral, or theological" (16). Mill's main example is liberty in the expression of thought and opinion which are contrary to the majority. Individuals should be allowed the right to make their own assumptions and to state those freely, since no human being is necessarily infallible, according to Mill. What seems to be easily forgotten is that individuals are responsible for their opinions and for the actions resulting from them.

Through the prohibition of certain opinions or behaviors on the basis that they are immoral or harmful to the individual, Mill argues that individuality is lost. "The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people. But if he refrains from molesting others in what concerns them, and merely acts according to this own inclination and judgment in things which concern himself, the same reasons which show that opinion should be free prove also that he should be allowed, without molestation, to carry his opinions into practice at his own cost" (68). Mill argued that custom is no basis for the truth of opinions. It is only what has been taught to other people through

limited experience and may not apply to everyone. "To conform to custom merely as custom does not educate or develop in him any of the qualities which are the distinctive endowment of a human being" (71).

Mill asserted that in order for individuals to be moral, they must have a choice. "The human faculties of perception, judgment, discriminative feeling, mental activity, and even moral preference are exercised only in making a choice. He who does anything because it is the custom makes no choice" (71). The exercise of individual volition is then, in a sense, moral. Since choice is hindered by imposing collective morals on individuals, progress is also hindered. "The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement, being in unceasing antagonism to that disposition to aim at something better than customary, which is called, according to circumstances, the spirit of liberty, or that of progress or improvement" (85). Simply because morality is agreed upon, doesn't necessarily make the action objectively right or moral.

Murray Rothbard, Frank S. Meyer: The Fusionist as Libertarian Manqué

Murray Rothbard is a modern economist and has contributed

significantly to libertarian thought. Libertarianism is primarily a political philosophy, which states that the liberty of man is the highest political end. He wrote, "At the heart of the dispute between the traditionalists and the libertarians is the question of freedom and virtue: Should virtuous action (however we define it) be compelled, or should it be left up to the free and voluntary choice of the individual?" (Carey 137). Rothbard answered his own question by stating "no action can be virtuous unless it is freely chosen" (137).

Rothbard's illustrative example proved his point that "to be moral an act must be free." He at first defined a virtuous act as "bowing in the direction of Mecca every day at sunset" (137). By using the state's power of coercive force, the action would increase the number of people doing the virtuous act. However, "by forcing them to do so, we are taking them out of the realm of action and into mere motion, and we are depriving all these coerced persons of the very possibility of acting morally" (138). Yet Rothbard challenged the argument of Mill that "if only we knew what the good might be we would have to enforce it upon everyone" (143). Rather, Rothbard holds that even if we do know the good, the principle of social utility cannot be used to justify intervention on

the natural right of man to liberty.

Even more interesting, according to Rothbard, is the reasons for which society would charge the guardianship of morality to police, soldiers, and the jailer. "Why should the sort of persons who are good at, and will therefore tend to exercise, the arts of shooting, gouging, and stomping, be the same persons we would want to select as our keepers of the moral flame?" (139). If the state is given the duty to control morality, then it follows, according to Rothbard, that the state should be responsible for instilling morality through public education. Rothbard disagreed, "The responsibility for educating the young rests properly with the parent, the family, and not with the state" (140).

A portion of Rothbard's essay quoted another political thinker, Frank S. Meyer. Meyer wrote, "there is a higher sanction than prescription and tradition; there are standards of truly and good by which men must make their ultimate judgment of ideas and institutions; in which cases, reason, operating against the background of tradition, is the faculty upon which they must depend in making that judgment..." (qtd. on 149). Rothbard asserted that it is certainly fine for an individual to either voluntarily choose to obey custom or not, with the recognition that

it is neither moral or immoral, and should be legal either way.

Sub-section II: Modern Conservatives/Communitarians

The words conservative and communitarian with respect to personal decision-making by individuals can be used interchangeably. Both ideologies believe that decisions about morality should be agreed upon and enforced by the state or the community. Conservatives "strongly believe that shared values, morals, and standards, along with accepted traditions, are necessary for the order and stability of society" (Carey XI). Conservatives such as Robert Bork in his Slouching Towards Gomorrah, described the "lewdness, vulgarity, and obscenity in our popular culture" citing the degree of illegitimate births, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery and assault prevalent in society (XIV-XV). Conservatives and communitarians alike are "alarmed at the consequences of what they perceive to be the abandonment of moral standards, mores, and traditions, along with the almost total erosion of both public and private virtues" (XV).

To illustrate the conservative position that preserving social custom, tradition and morality through laws and the enforcement of

the state would allow individuals to live in greater freedom and happiness, are three authors. Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his Social Contract described the need for common values in government. Rousseau's position has been advanced by more modern conservatives such as Robert Bork in Slouching Towards Gomorrah and Russell Kirk in The Roots of American Order.

Jean-Jaques Rousseau, The Social Contract

Rousseau, one of the leaders of the French democratic movement, first published his The Social Contract in 1762. Both Locke and Mill followed his arguments that individuals voluntarily form a contract to accept an entity's authority over them. The nation of people, in other words, give legitimacy to the state's power over them if they can participate in the decision-making process. However, Rousseau differed from Mill on the concept of individuality. Rousseau articulated the need for a common morality, common values agreed upon by the community, and enforced by the law. Rousseau coined the phrase that people would be "forced to be free" or that "compulsion would be required, but that the result of it would be freedom from the insecurity of life outside society, together with the freedom to act within the limits imposed by social life" (Betts XX).

The "social pact" enabled the moral legislative body to establish laws to promote the morality of the whole. "Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will; and we as a body receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole" (Rousseau 55). By submitting to the social contract, man left his immoral state of nature, and became more moral. "To the acquisition of moral status could be added...the acquisition of moral liberty, this being the only thing that makes man truly the master of himself; for to be driven by our appetites alone is slavery, while to obey a law that we have imposed on ourselves is freedom" (59).

The general will, according to Rousseau, can never error. In theory, Rousseau does not think that democratic government can be coercive if everyone agrees. "It follows from what precedes that the general will is always in the right and always tends to the public welfare; but it does not follow that decisions made by the people have equal rightness" (66). To preserve morality, according to Rousseau, legislators with superior minds and supreme intellect must rule (76). This theme is similar to the Platonic ideal of a wise ruling class of guardians.

Government legitimately could promote and legislate the morals

of the body politic. Rousseau spoke of government as a "moral agent" (95). It would be impossible to live with people who did not share morality or values, he argued. "It is impossible to live at peace with people whom one believes to be damned: to show them brotherly love would mean hating God, who is punishing them; one has an absolute duty to convert them or to persecute them" (167). Rousseau proposed the "office of the censor" to preserve the nation's morality. "The censorship maintains standards of conduct by preventing the debasement of public opinion, preserving its integrity by applying it wisely, and sometimes even by giving it a fixed form when it is still doubtful" (156-157).

Robert Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah

Robert Bork, who received a law degree from the University of Chicago, published his assessment of American cultural decline in 1996. Bork is extremely critical of the liberals, and attributes to their ideology to the decline of social values and morality. He wrote, "Men were kept from ruthless hedonism, which is the end stage of unconfined individualism, by religion, morality, and law" (Bork 8). The "ruthless hedonism" he spoke of related to Mill's assertion that man ought to have the ability to live as he pleases.

Bork cited the rise in sex and violence on television, in movies,

music and the mass media as one of the elements of "unconfined individualism." High divorce rates, illegitimate births, crime and pornography in the arts all contributed to the moral decline in America. The solution that Bork proposed was one of legal censorship and the legislation of morality through democratic processes. "I am suggesting that censorship be considered for the most violent and sexually explicit material now on offer, starting with the obscene prose and pictures available on the Internet, motion pictures that are mere rhapsodies to violence, and the degenerate lyrics of rap music" (140).

Bork expressed his ideas in a clearly Rousseau fashion when he asserted that "morality is an essential soil for free and democratic governments" (142). The perversion of the American culture caused by excessive individuality and liberalism would cause Americans to lose the ability to govern themselves effectively. "But only a public morality, in which trust, truth-telling, an self-control are prominent features, can long sustain a decent social order and hence a stable and just democratic order" (142). People, therefore, should be constrained through the actions of government, for "unconstrained human nature will seek degeneracy often enough to create a disorderly, hedonistic, and dangerous society. Modern

liberalism and popular culture are creating that society" (153). Bork asserted that conservatives were not necessarily "authoritarian," rather, they worked within democratic processes to legislate proper moral behavior. All law, asserted Bork, legislated morality, and could never be separated from morality. One of Bork's solutions was a revival of religious traditions, yet he admitted that "a few of the necessary actions must involve the government" (342). The government could legitimately, according to Bork, punish criminals who violate moral laws and "perhaps, in administering censorship of the vilest aspects of our popular culture" (342).

Russell Kirk, The Roots of American Order

Russell Kirk, an academic who first published The Roots of American Order in 1974, also critiqued libertarian--and modern liberal--such as Rothbard in his essay "A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians." Like Bork, Kirk also held that the root of order in society was found in morality. "We can distinguish two sorts of roots, intertwined: the roots of the moral order, or order in the soul; and the roots of the civil social order, or order in the republic" (Kirk 5). Also apparent in his philosophy was that religious freedom only entailed non-intervention from the state in religious affairs, but allowed religion to influence the state. The survival of

America was based on this principle, according to Kirk. "Without a high degree of private moral order among the American people, the reign of law could not have prevailed in this country" (6). Thus, the moral order should be a precondition for civil order, Kirk asserted.

Kirk critiqued libertarians by stating that they ignored custom, the only tradition they would keep would be the institution of private property, and that they aimed to "sweep away political government" (Carey 176). "We prosper because most of the time we work together--and are restrained from our appetites and passions, to some extent, by laws enforced by the state" (176). Kirk wrote, "The enemy to all custom and convention ends in the outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth" (178).

Rights vs. Needs: When is the Use of Force Justified?

This research paper simply focused on the question of who has the authority and responsibility to make decisions in individual's lives. Like other political philosophy issues such as the sources of authority, specific powers of government, and the rule of law, the topic of rights and needs has only been tangentially mentioned throughout the discussion. However, a brief discussion of rights

and needs in volitional societies is crucial. There should be no distinction between "economic" and "personal" rights. Basically, the principle of individual volition holds that man is an end in himself; that he is free to act by his own goals. Therefore, the use of governmental coercion is necessary only to respect the maximum amount of individual volition through enforcing property rights and the right to make decisions. A "right" is intrinsic to man's nature, and does not constitute a claim on any other man's right. However, a need is what one must satisfy, usually to sustain life. To satisfy a need, an individual must persuade others to help him satisfy that need. To coerce another to satisfy individual needs would be in violation of individual rights, and a volitional society. This is the criteria the research paper used for which to evaluate a "right" vs. a "need" when comparing volitional and coercive societies. In a volitional society, rights are protected by the state and the fulfillment of needs relies on individual action, voluntary cooperation and persuasion--not coercion. Conflicts arise when individuals and voluntary cooperation fail to provide for another's "needs," and even more discussion would then have to be devoted to what constitutes a decent "need" for another person. Each individual has their own unique definition of what they "need," or

should be entitled to in order to life. These potential conflicts arising from conflicting definitions of needs would be generally avoided in a volitional society as the one described above.

The Volitional Society, Operating by the Free Hand

The arguments in Parts I and II were all read in light of the thesis that the highest value that any political institution could serve today is to allow for a volitional society which respects economic and personal decision-making based on free choice. Unlike the modern-day dichotomy between the "left" and the "right," the philosophical combination that would allow for a volitional society is that of laissez faire and modern liberalism. Again, a volitional society is one in which government is the institution designed to facilitate a political process constructed by the polity to protect individual rights to life, liberty and property. Additionally, a volitional society respects the individual right of choice, of volition. Rights, not needs, are ensured in volitional societies.

True economic freedom allows the individual to make voluntary decisions, with the information and ability which they have available to them. Of the two philosophies presented, the optimal

system for allowing maximum economic freedom for individuals, and therefore the maximum amount of volition, is laissez-faire. Economic freedom entails the principle of freedom of association, that is, voluntary contracts must be made with other individuals which respect the wishes of both parties. Without state intervention, people must both compete and cooperate under a system of true freedom. Charles Murray explained, "Freedom does not give you a choice among unlimited options. All actions have a cost" (Murray 30). Under a socialist system, at least some element of coercion must be present, since voluntary cooperation with the public agenda could not be achieved in a large sphere without some enforcement of the public policy. Even in democratic socialism, a majority would have the ability to legislate coercion for a minority. Whether in Plato's The Republic or in Schumpeter's Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy the guardians, the central board or the "public" decide what jobs people will be given, what they will produce and how much. Laissez faire allows for a volitional society in economic matters--individuals or voluntary groups of individuals decide where they work, how much they will be paid, how they will provide for security in their old age, and the degree to which they will be generous with their property.

True personal freedom of private decision-making by individuals on issues such as religion, homosexuality, drugs, alcohol and prostitution should not coerced by the state. Of the two ideologies presented, modern liberalism comes closest to providing for a volitional society. Although shared morals are important, as Rousseau illustrated, even a democratic institution cannot legislate how individuals should make decisions in their private lives. A coercive element must still exist to enforce public standards of morality, just as a coercive element must be employed to enforce public standards of economic equality. According to Bork, restricting human nature is important. If restrictions are desired, community members can use their just powers of persuasion and argument, even deplore "immoral" behavior, yet should not use the power of the state to restrain individuals according to community or group values. Kirk said that civil order necessarily required moral order. However, civil order can be kept by Mill's non-aggression principle that individuals are allowed to make personal decisions, so long as they don't infringe on the civil rights of others. According to Mill, liberty is not a license. Society should reinforce the concept that all actions have consequences, even "legal ones." Simply because an action is legal, doesn't mean it's

moral. Individuals are responsible for the decisions that they make in their lives. As Locke asserted, religious freedom is necessary, and the state cannot make decisions about what is "good" for another person, even if it has good intentions. Rothbard said that virtue always requires freedom of action. A virtuous and moral citizenry must have the freedom to make their own decisions about their private life.


The purpose of this research paper, to reiterate, is to stimulate political philosophical thinking and critical debate. The point was to persuade the reader of the thesis that the main political/philosophical struggle is that between a volitional vs. a coercive society and that volitional societies based on laissez faire and modern liberalism provide for the greatest individual freedom and are therefore the highest value government can serve. Yet the question of "who decides" is a very real one, which is confronted in everyday life, news and events. Upon completing this initial philosophical questioning, more questions are now relevant. What is the just society? When is the use of force, i.e. coercion, justified? Is a volitional society the just society? The words of South African

President Nelson Mandela provide encouragement. He says that it is our responsibility to reflect on these questions of political philosophy, study them, debate them, and keep them alive. In the future, then, the course of events can be changed from creating more coercive, restricting societies to allowing more volitional, voluntary societies.

"After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended."

-Nelson Mandela, "Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela"

Works Cited

Bastiat, Frederic. The Law. The Foundation for Economic Education: New York, 1998.

Boaz, David, ed. The Libertarian Reader. The Free Press: New York, 1997. (Note: includes work of F.A. Hayek and Frederic Bastiat.)

Bork, Robert H. Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline. Harper Collins: New York, 1996.

Carey, George. Freedom and Virtue: The Conservative/Libertarian Debate. Intercollegiate Studies Institute: Wilmington, 1998. (Note: Essays by Murray Rothbard and Russell Kirk.)

Ebenstein, William. Great Political Thinkers. Rinehart & Co., Inc., 1956. (Note: Aristotle and Plato to be cited from this compilation.)

Ebenstein, Alan and William. Today's Isms: Socialism, Capitalism, Fascism, and Communism. Prentice Hall: New Jersey, 1994.

Kirk, Russell. The Roots of American Order. Regnery Gateway: Washington, D.C., 1991.

Locke, John. The Second Treatise on Civil Government. Prometheus Books: New York, 1986.

Marx, Karl and Engles Friedrich. The Communist Manifesto.

Penguin Books: New York, 1985.

Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. Prentice Hall: New Jersey, 1956.

Murray, Charles. What it Means to be a Libertarian. Broadway Books: New York, 1997.

Rousseau, Jean-Jaques. The Social Contract. Oxford University Press: New York, 1994.

Schumpeter, Joseph A. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Harper & Brothers Publishers: New York, 1950.

Tinder, Glenn. Political Thinking: The Perennial Questions. Harper Collins Publishers: New York, 1991.


Copyright © Angela Bergman, May 1, 2000