Can any particular good outcome justify The State?

Cargo Cult Statism

Statists justify initiated force by pointing to some good it achieves. But this is like the South Sea Cargo Cults that linked wealth with cargo-planes. The fact that a particular institution or method delivered a good outcome doesn’t mean that’s the only way it could be done. Using individual good outcomes to justify initiated force is Cargo Cult Statism. In reality…

  • It would be stunning if The State did nothing positive with the vast wealth it controls. It would simply have to do some good, even if only by accident.
  • The ends don’t justify the means. Using bad means is always wrong, no matter how good your intentions are. The moral costs of initiated force trump any claimed benefit.
  • There are non-violent alternatives to every good The State provides.

Libertarians reject Cargo Cult Statism. Instead, we set ourselves the empathetic task of always finding ways to deliver the cargo using Zero Aggression.
Libertarians believe governments must obey the Zero Aggression Principle. Governments must not initiate force. They must only use force defensively. 

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Jim Babka

About the Author

Jim Babka

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Jim Babka is co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and President of DownsizeDC.org, Inc. He’s an author and former talk show host.
Previously, he was the President of RealCampaignReform.org, Inc., defending free press rights all the way to the Supreme Court. He and Susie are the proud, home-schooling parents of three teenagers. He enjoys theology, UFC, target practice, and Tai Chi.

Perry Willis

About the Author

Perry Willis

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Perry Willis is the co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and Downsize DC. He was the National Director of the Libertarian National Committee on two occasions, and ran two Libertarian Party presidential campaigns. He has an extensive background in marketing and fundraising, and has ghost written direct mail appeals for numerous luminaries, including Karl Hess, Ron Paul, Charlton Heston and Harry Browne.

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Show Comments 16

 

  1. I am familiar with your underlying principle but since I have never heard of the South Sea Cargo Cults, I so not understand this article.

    1. Perry Willis Post
      Author
    2. When I look at this I see that the words “Cargo Cults” are a hyperlink to the Wikipedia article on Cargo Cults.

  2. Some years ago I did a column on this theme:
    http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/hines/031008
    Since it mentions things specific to Pittsburgh, some explanation may be in order. The decoys on the North Shore are sports arenas. In the downtown corridor going businesses were forced to move in hopes that high-end retailers would take over. They did not find an attractive enough customer base to make a go of it.

  3. This is a particularly good one. I love the ZAProject because it pays important focus to how our words are actually RECEIVED by the readers/listeners. Our personal imprecise equivocation in trying to put complex concepts in English is bad enough, but the “noise” the readers/listeners toss in to seem to misunderstand so many of our favorite words …
    Thanks, Perry and Jim.

    1. Perry Willis Post
      Author
  4. I really like your stuff, but this Cargo Cults business is not a good strategy. If your goal is to explain things briefly, don’t reference something that the vast majority (like me) don’t know about and send us to a long Wikipedia article to explain it. That’s defeats the purpose of the short attention span learning opportunity.
    Love what you guys are trying to do, though! I support you!

    1. Perry Willis Post
      Author

      Thanks for the constructive criticism Mikefive. We’re looking at this one to see how we might do it better.

  5. I am sympathetic with your thesis. However until Jesus Christ returns to set up his kingdom, there are violent men who attack the weak for gain. Thus we need governments with the power to protect us from these evil people weather they be armies or police. I served in the military for 21 years, I hate war with a passion. Especially these fake political wars our government has been waging since WW2. I fear America has become the evil aggressor state. But true defensive action against attacks of evil is proper and needful.

  6. I don’t think anyone here disagrees with your view about the risks and threats we have from our fellow humans, but the issue is whether we actually are “better off” with a State, as we have inherited it. A formal agency with a payroll of agents standing by, with weapons at ready, who will respond quickly if called, is important. We all want one of those. The issue is whether “the State” actually provides a good agency or an inferior agency? And a 2nd very important (ethical) question is whether such an agency should be able to fund itself by compulsory collections from “free riders” from its “social benefits.”
    I regret to notice you have not looked at those two questions, and your assumption that what we inherited is as good as they get, then you and I are in disagreement – but peacefully, of course.

    1. Perry Willis Post
      Author
  7. This article is poorly argued. It assumes the State is always “bad means” without offering any proof. Hypothetical situation: You come home to your apt. and see signs of a struggle. Blood is on the floor. Your loved one, that should be home, is missing. There is a trail of blood that goes upstairs two floors and stops near a certain apt. door. You bang on the door and demand to be let in. A voice behind the door declines to let you in. You call your free-market investigators in your libertarian utopia to inspect the blood. They come and quickly determine that the blood is indeed that of your loved one. They bang on the door and demand to be let in. The voice inside the apt. declines to let them in. Now what? Since your libertarian utopia strictly forbids any initiation of force by anyone, are we done here now?

    1. Perry Willis Post
      Author

      Hi Jay. The answer to your question is simple. The arrest process would work substantially the way it works now. If the free market police have a court= issued warrant then they could indeed break down the door. Although I suspect that free market police would be more likely than statist police to simply wait for the suspect to come out.
      I would quibble with your use of the word utopia. As my friend David Bergland wisely observed, “Utopia is not want of the options.”

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