About The Arbitrary Will

I haven’t read a lot of John Locke, or Samuel Adams for that matter, or many other names that come up on a Google search for the phrase “arbitrary will.” The main inspiration for the title of this blog is indeed its use in The Second Treatise; however, that I used a smarty-pants phrase from an Important Work by an Important Dead Guy should not imply this blog is esoteric or aimed primarily at intellectuals and philosophy majors. These groups are smarter and more cultured than I and I would never dare stand so tall as to talk down to them. No, I picked this title simply because it is my favorite way of describing the outdated and absurd institution of government–a system of arbitrary rules some man or group of men imposes on his neighbors. That is, an institution through which someone at some time has decided it is ethical to arbitrarily impose Paul’s will on Peter.

Practically everything the government does is arbitrary; from speed limits to blood alcohol limits, from aggressive wars to drug wars, and from business regulations to pollution regulations. Even on issues most of us agree the government has a role in which to meddle, like punishing murderers, its methods are rather arbitrary. Understandably, if the government must be involved in punishing crime, it will be forgiven for making arbitrary decisions regarding how to do so. My next post, however, contains examples of how it gets even this basic function wrong.

The French economist and political philosopher Frédéric Bastiat, in The Law, shows that no law can be valid unless it brings justice. This does not mean “social justice,” a loaded term popular in my home state of California, but rather that laws should aim at complying with natural law; if they do any more or less than that, they are no law at all. Life is too short to “be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man,” as Locke put it, and that is precisely the sort of slavery we endure even in America, which historically has one of the least bad governments in history.

A weblog which aims at skepticism of the effectiveness of an institution and of its moral validity will tend to be negative, but as much as possible, I will strive to balance the negative and the positive. Rather than merely arguing against the state, it is important to argue for voluntarism and freedom. However, I believe I am right to emphasize the anti-state point, because even statists consider themselves for freedom and voluntary action. The monopoly on the initiation of force, especially over immense geographic areas, is what prevents freedom and voluntarism from spreading. Life is too short to tolerate this institution, and if we want to live in peace, love and liberty, we should shrink, localize, avoid and/or abolish it as much as humanly possible. This is the case I intend to make going forward. Thanks for reading.

-Harry

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