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Voluntarism is Superior to Democracy

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/7/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 831 times Debate No: 67928
Debate Rounds (4)
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Voluntaryism (or sometimes voluntarism) is a libertarian philosophy which holds that all forms of human association should be voluntary. The principle most frequently used to support voluntarism is the non-aggression principle (NAP). It is closely associated with the anarcho-capitalist philosophy; however, almost all anarchists and libertarians believe in the NAP. We believe that this moral standard is superior to other forms of statist governance such as democracy.

In this debate, I will be arguing that voluntarism is the superior moral principle to democracy. Democracy is a form of government in which eligible citizens may participate in government either directly by voting for the passing of specific laws, running for office, or voting indirectly through elected representatives. This stands contrary to voluntarism which does not allow for citizens to legally violate the NAP through voting (even by majority consensus).

The NAP asserts only two basic rights: the right to one's person and property living free from aggression; no laws can justifiably violate the right to non-aggression. According to the NAP, any violation of one's person or property is always illegitimate when backed through force or violence rather voluntary, non-coerced exchange.

Considering the vast majority of the population (and this site) are statists who do not support libertarianism or anarchy, I should have no problem finding a worthy and enthusiastic opponent. If you are interested in accepting this debate, please comment. I very much look forward to an interesting discussion on ethics and political philosophy. Thank you in advance for your time and dialog. I will begin my argument in R2 -- feel free to make preliminary notes in R1, or begin the debate if you so choose.

Best of luck!



Thank you to Danielle for this debate.
Debate Round No. 1


Many thanks to my formidable opponent for accepting this debate. I hope that this will be a truly thought provoking discussion.

Rights and the Non-Aggression Principle

I'd like to begin this dialog by providing some insight and background on the NAP. Hopefully this will be useful in explaining voluntarism in layman's terms before I get into more formal philosophical propositions.

To start, let's define rights which are the legal, social or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement. In other words, they describe what people should be (legally) allowed to do [1]. Over the course of history, different rights existed for certain people based on a variety of factors. For example, in the 1800s a white man had the right to buy another (black) human being and hold them captive for life, and force work upon them (without pay) while beating them in good conscience of the law.

Consider this:

- the justification for human rights is ambiguous: divine vs. man-made [2]
- humans have a demonstrable inclination toward power and prestige [3]
- human knowledge is limited and our judgment is biased and flawed [4]

Therefore, we will not always make smart or fair choices in determining rights. In many cases our judgment will be drastic. Large groups of people have been persuaded to believe in the right to hold slaves or commit genocide, for example.

As such, what rights we agree to uphold for one another should try to be consistent in consideration of these limitations and variables. Libertarians, ethical Objectivists and other adherents to the NAP believe therefore that the right to self-ownership, and subsequently the rights to have one's person and property (stemming from the concept of self-ownership) live free from the aggression of others are the true fundamental rights that ought to be upheld; no other rights should probably exist, as they would inherently violate the NAP and require non-voluntary force of some kind.

Ideas about what rights should exist are determined by one's individual (and subjective) values and preferences. However without the right to live your life free from the aggression or threat of aggression, one could not exercise or even enjoy their values to begin with. Self-preservation and protection are basic survival instincts and universal rights that should be established and respected for all.

It is presumed that Con agrees with upholding the arguably innate right to life. Indeed if inherent rights can even exist, the right to life is perhaps the only reasonably absolute one. Without it, one could not employ or promote democracy or any other ideology. However what good is the right to life if one could have one's right to liberty (live free from the force of others) be taken away by virtue of the law? In that case, one could simply have the right to kill another on the basis of their religion - i.e. the Holocaust - rendering a Jew's life meaningless and their right to it non-existent according to 1940 German law, for instance.

In other words, the right to live free from aggression and the force of others ought to be absolute and trump democratic principles. I'm assuming Con will not employ the argument that, say, children are limited from certain autonomous decision making and thus the NAP is not absolute, because I would simply point out that likewise children are inhibited from participating in the democratic process for similar reasons, making this an arguably moot point. Hopefully we are on the same page, and clearly arguing from a genuine difference in value rather than trivialities.

((( Depending on the approach Con takes in his response, I will argue through an either fluid discussion of these points, or a reference to justifications according to various philosophical principles. For example, Hans Herman Hoppe argued from the value of Argumentation Ethics, which supposes that arguing for the legitimate use of aggression violates praxeological utility and thus the NAP ought to be upheld [5]. The economist Ludwig von Mises argues from a Consequentionalist perspective, and insists that adhering to the NAP yields the best tangible results [6]. Thus far I have argued more of a Rothbardian proposition regarding the concept of natural rights... but again, I don't want to distract the audience with bulky terminology or references -- I'm looking for a clean debate and valuable discussion about why I simply disagree with democracy being a superior principle to the NAP. However I am prepared to argue ethics from a double Philosophy major's perspective if that's what this comes down to. *cracks knuckles* )))

The Role and Functionality of the State

As I mentioned, libertarians in addition to anarchists support the NAP. Many people support state protection of the NAP. In other words, they believe the sole legitimate role of the state is to defend individuals against the initiation of force against their person or rightfully owned property. This is the *only* system of government consistent with a natural rights ethic, and the right to life I have described above in defending the NAP.

Adhering to the concept of individual rights does not mean that cooperation within society is impossible or even discouraged. Within such a system, individuals may associate with whomever they want on any mutually agreed upon terms, so long as they do not warrant aggression. People are free to engage in trade and other social, political, religious or business affiliations that do not require force or coercion. In other words, people cannot legitimately be held at gun point and have that agreement to trade be considered valid, for example. The threat of force (antagonistic aggression, which is contrary to defense against aggression) disqualifies the NAP.

People within society may freely form their own societies operating on their own rules within the framework the state, provided such rules are agreed upon by the members of their respective communities. The Amish are an example of a group who operate on their own agreed upon rules within the larger framework of the state.

Problems with Democracy

Much like the problem with establishing rights, even more problematic is the concept of democracy.

First and foremost, democracy could easily be compared to tyranny of the majority. The idea that a proposition is necessarily moral, worthwhile or its utility could be determined by majority opinion is both dangerous and unsupported. By adopting the NAP, it would protect against things like legitimate or legal slavery, genocide, fascism, imperialism, institutionalized oppression, etc. On the contrary, with democracy all of those things could be validated by simply having the majority of a given population agree to them.

Second, not many people in a given society are informed enough to make intelligent and valid decisions. Plato addressed this concern by suggesting only philosopher-kings (the wisest men) should rule over the populace as a just form of government. However that brings up other concerns and does not count as democracy anyway.

In addition to being uninformed and irrational, voters also have a huge bias to advance their own interests. This may stand contrary to the greater good, or stand contrary to the individual rights of other people in such a way that is aggressive and inhibits their right to life, autonomy or property. Not only are many in the masses uneducated on particular political and social subjects, but humans have been observed to act greedy, selfish, destructive or otherwise vicious and justify it by the psychology of mob mentality or otherwise [7].

Democracy is also inefficient, and promotes popularity and personal gain amongst representatives compared to its intended goals. People vote for someone they prejudge or feel they "connect to" rather than who would be the most effective and/or moral representative. The qualities that make a good leader and skilled politician do not necessarily coincide. Eliminating representatives would require citizens to participate in government at levels we cannot realistically expect them to, given the mix of both apathetic perspectives and realistic time constraints. Thus democracy caters to the whims of the masses and encourages demagogues to focus on winning elections rather than governing justly.

The ever-changing whims of the masses, based on a plethora of factors, can create an element of instability that affects not only the moral fabric of society but the market. The slippery slope of legislating away people's property rights (eg. the government forcibly demanding your earnings through taxation) should arguably be considered criminal. Some tease: democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding on what's for dinner. Someone with particular capital (or property or anything) can have their rights usurped by others simply on the basis that she has something they want, or has more of it. My opponent must justify legal theft or for the forcible seizing of one's earnings or property for no other reason than they have acquired more than others approve of.


It's fallacious to imply that the threat or initiation of violence (or theft) against peaceful people is justified by numbers.

"Democracy? I want nothing to do with a system which operates on the premise that my rights don't exist simply because I am outnumbered." —R. Lee Wrights

Back to Con for now.



Thank you to Pro for her round explaining voluntarism. In this debate, she has a much more difficult task than I do because she has the BoP to show the superiority of voluntarism, which is an ideal that we haven't seen in practice, whereas I'm defending democracy, which have all seen in a few different varieties, and we know how it works.

In this round, I want to put foward several aspects of life that I can't imagine working under such a voluntarism, and I look forward to Pro's explanation of how it would be.

Dispute resolution

If the rules of personhood and property are to be observed, what happens when someone violates them? There would be occasions of clear violation, such as assault and theft, and occasions of genuine disagreement about the rule. For example, if someone's dog runs away and has been missing for several months and ends up killing a sheep. What happens to clarify and enforce the rules?

I don't want to preempt Pro's reply to this question by pointing out problems with potential systems of dispute resolution, so I will leave discussion of this until the next round.

Children and education

Pro compares democracy and NAP and says that they both exclude children and so the difference is trivial. I hope she can explain this idea a bit further.

In a democracy, laws and regulations are passed defining children and adults and how particular rules apply to them. It varies by jurisdiction. Under voluntarism, if children are to be excluded from the NAP rule, how is it decided who is a child and who is an adult and how the rules apply? A decision like that implies a decision-making body. Otherwise, people could decide for themselves, but this would create all kinds of problems.

For example, imagine a small child who keeps running away from her mother in a shopping mall. The mother could fear for her safety and strap her into the pusher to prevent her from running away. Depending on how the child is defined, this could be seen as legitimate parenting or a violation of personhood. Any bystander who sees it as a violation might be justified in intervening to allow the small child to run away.

A second, similar issue relates to education. According to voluntarism, parents should not be in any way compelled to educate their children or even take them to the park. This means that children could grow up unable to read or write, and at a major disadvantage in terms of getting by in the world. It seems unfair that this should happen to them.


With children, in a democracy, we usually have regulations based on age to separate children from adults in particular domains. When it comes to adults with impaired capacities, the distinction is a lot less obvious.

I can imagine that there would be a rule of self- and other defense, but many decisions made in a caring context do not fall neatly into these categories. For example, is it reasonable for a carer to prevent the brain-damaged 22-year-old from going out on the street, which is what he wants to do, because he keeps walking onto the road without looking, which is dangerous? Is the danger enough, when you consider that almost everything we do carries a risk of danger. Even taking him in the car to visit a friend is potentially dangerous. Similarly, is it reasonable for the mother in the shopping mall to strap her daughter into the pusher because she wants to look at shoes and she can't if she has to watch where the toddler is running all the time?

Everyday human interaction can't always be broken down into individual person units as voluntarism implies. We function as groups and in symbiotic relationships, and in caring relationships where both parties to the relationship need to be considered, and where people do need to interfere with other people's rights.

In a democracy, we deal with this problem by deeming some people to have rights and others not - most obviously, children not, and have people appointed as guardians for those that don't have full rights. There are regulations about this. A person can't just unilaterally decide to be the guardian for another person.

I'm not sure how this would be managed under a voluntarism system. It seems outrageous that people could unilaterally decide to appoint themselves guardians of others, and certainly it would be a violation of personhood. On the other hand, would there be rules to restrict it, and if so, how would those rules be drafted?

Common property

In the same way that people cannot always be neatly separated into units, nor can property. For example, smoking cigarettes, keeping cattle (CO2 emissions), flying a plane are all actions that may negatively affect the common environment or people's health.

Often, it's impracticable to demonstrate or quantify the exact damage. We know that CO2 emissions are almost certainly related to global warming, and that global warming will result in rising sea levels, among other changes, that will destroy the homes of people in poor, low-lying countries, such as in the Pacific Islands or in Bangladesh.

Under voluntarism, presumably then, any act of CO2 emmission must be balanced with an act of planting trees, or whatever, but given that the exact damage or even the exact emissions are impossible to quantify, these required balances are are enormously complicated and probably impossible for most people to perform.

Presumably, there would be no such thing as public land under voluntarism. All beaches, parks and forrests would become private, and could be claimed for building or for private enjoyment. This would exclude poor people from beaches, ex-national parks, and ex-public space, which seems a definite disadvantage when compared to democracy which can protect such spaces for everyone.

Economic intimidation and welfare

If someone is starving, then offering them money to do something is just as coercive as holding a gun to their head. If they say no in either case, they will die and/or their children will die. Under voluntarism, there is no measure to balance the horrible coercive power of unequal property and wealth.

For someone to have real freedom to say yes or no, they need to have access to a basic living allowance, which would provide them and their families with enough to eat, fresh water, shelter, and basic health care. Voluntarism does not provide this sort of thing for people.

Democracy recognizes a basic social responsibility for others. It shouldn't be that one person has fifty cars, seven mansions, etc., while down the street people can't afford to eat that day. We all share the same environment, and any wealth was extracted from that environment using the country's resources and labor.

About democracy

It's true that democracy can be characterized as the tyranny of the majority when considering a single issue or a single vote. However, everybody is in the minority in some aspect of their lives. It's impossible to be with the majority on every single piece of legislation. Apart from anything else, you can only live in one (or maybe two) places at once, and so the majority will be against your specific zone of habitation. Also, people can't predict their futures, so there is always the fear of ending up in the minority in new ways.

For these reasons, people are motivated to create fair and equal laws. We can see that in the advocacy and their associated rhetoric for laws such as the "fair housing act" (1), ADA "equal opportunity for people with disabilities" (2), and concerns about "equal pay"(3).

Pro writes that "in addition to being uninformed and irrational, voters also have a huge bias to advance their own interests." I find this statement confusing, because voters are informed about their own interests, and yet she characterizes them as uninformed. She also complains that people are uneducated, when under voluntarism, public education would be abolished. Further, nobody has total knowledge and so everyone can be described as uninformed in some way.

Pro argues that people can cooperate to form groups and make decisions about trade and community matters. I don't understand how she trusts us to do that competently, and yet does not trust us to vote competently. I hope she can explain the difference a bit more in the next round.

Democracy is time-consuming and annoying, it's true, but so is cleaning out the fridge. We shouldn't base our judgment of political systems on how fun and easy they are, but rather on the outcomes.

Pro has characterized taxes as theft. I suppose that's true if you believe that property belongs absolutely to the person who happens to have hold of it at a particular moment. However, I don't see why we should respect the rights of a small minority to own and control the majority of a countries wealth, especially if the majority is living in poverty and powerlessness.

Inequality is socially corrosive (4). A system that protects property rights so absolutely defends inequality.

You can say that taxes steal from the rich to give to the poor, or you can use nicer language and say that they help to create social equality. It's the same thing. Ideally, democracy helps to protect vulnerable people from the worst outcomes of poverty, inequality and powerlessness.


Rights to property and rights to person are not independent. The more resources you have, the better your health and the longer you live (6). Therefore, if we support inequality, we are supporting the personal rights of some people over others.

The right to life is more important than the right to property, and that is why voluntarism doesn't work.


Debate Round No. 2


To begin, Con suggests he has the edge in this debate because voluntarism has not been observed in practice, and we have an idea about how democracy would work. First, voluntarism has been observed in practice including communities founded by anarchists for social experiments, and successful cooperative businesses. However there are a few instances of mass society "anarchies" that have come about from explicitly anarchist revolutions, including the Free Territory of Ukraine and the Shinmin autonomous region in Manchuria [1]. There was also the Paris Commune of 1871, and the observable anarchist movement during the Russian Revolution in 1917 among others [2].

Still, beware of the fallacious argument that suggests because something has not yet been observed that it cannot be done. Before the official role of the state, humanity existed for a long time without the concept of official law; I can provide other examples. And further, Con is correct - we have seen democracy in practice and the horrible effects it can have, as I outlined in the last round.

The Role of the State

To challenge the utility of voluntarism, my opponent presents the issues of dispute resolution, children's rights and education. I would be more than happy to address those issues, and moreover explain why voluntarism presents superior responses. However keep in mind that this debate would be frivolous if we each threw out examples of problematic possibilities. Contrary to popular assumption, voluntarists are NOT utopians. There will be problems and challenging disputes along with aggression; such is life. However, the supposition is that the role of the state on balance does more harm than good, and/or is immoral or unjustified.

It's true that children are considered inferior in terms of their capacity to reason and understand basic concepts. Indeed one's ability to reason is what gives us certain rights (like the right to life) in the first place compared to say living animals. Science has clarified an undeveloped brain as partially responsible for physical inhibitions to the decision making process. As such, in democratic societies children are not granted the same rights as (for all intents and purposes) mentally capable adults. It would be reasonable to presume the similar standards would apply under a voluntarist society.

The short answer (in consideration of character space) is that voluntarists have addressed the issue of children's rights under anarchy and explained why they are similar to the status quo with slight changes, eg. younger consent laws for specific acts. This is superior to democracy as it recognizes the autonomy of individuals as it pertains to certain decisions, i.e. ones that affect their health and life (such as the refusal to reject cancer treatment). I would implore my opponent to read the following resources if he would like further explanation and critique on the issue of children's rights [3, 4]. If he disagrees with the explanations or would like me to address specific concerns within the context of the debate, I will do so in the next round.

On property, Con supposes that proper boundaries cannot be defined under the NAP. That is simply unsupported. Anarcho-capitalists have already outlined non-tangible property rights, and explained why CO2 emissions affect other's right to live free from the aggression of harmful toxins. Air pollution and other types of pollution are considered aggressive, as they infringe upon the property rights others [5].

In terms of conflict resolution and law enforcement, some suggestions include - the decriminalization of all non-aggressive crimes, promoting unarmed mediation and intervention teams, restorative justice, community patrols, higher private investment in mental health care, and private institutions of law enforcement that promote accountability [6].

Many governments have been used to slaughter their own people (or others) in the name of nationalism, imperialism, racism, religion or other radical propositions. Again, democracy could make all of these things legal and permissible by the state and law enforcement if the majority of the people agree. Con dropped this argument. All you need is a small majority and it would be justifiable. However, the NAP specifically protects against the legal implementation of aggression regardless of motivating factor. The NAP at least forbids state (the most powerful arms) from aggression.

In Defense of Democracy

Con writes, "If someone is starving, then offering them money to do something is just as coercive as holding a gun to their head." This is a basic appeal to emotion fallacy. One example involves the immediate threat of aggression; the other does not. One implies direct force; the other does not. My opponent suggests that theft and aggression (through democracy) are moral because some people are in bad (poor) conditions. This is a bare assertion that he has not justified with a specific value outside of empathy or guilt.

Now, I've argued that democracy is tyranny of the majority. Con says that while true, people have an incentive to create fair and just laws on the basis of self-preservation. While that may also be true, it ignores my arguments from the last round regarding 1) uninformed and ignorant voters, and 2) self-motivated or otherwise selfish voters who justify their immoral acts through mob mentality. These problematic concerns exist despite the reality of an incentive for decency.

Many critics of voluntarist societies point out that war and other destruction is inevitable, therefore the state is necessary for defense. But that isn't true. First, people DO have an incentive toward decency and self-preservation by Con's own admission, so there's no reason to assume people would suddenly go buck wild and kill each other and create mayhem without the almighty authority of the state. That would not create a productive or stable environment for anyone.

Con did in fact address my point about ignorant voters though and writes, "Voters are informed about their own interests, and yet she characterizes them as uninformed." Under the NAP, people are responsible for choices that have to do with THEMSELVES. Under democracy, people who know absolutely nothing about economics can vote on public policy that could destroy the market, ruin entire economies and significantly infringe on people's property for no other reason than the masses voted a particular way based on their ignorance or bias. Their ignorance can create havoc on the stock market, eliminate the incentives for honest practices (by giving legal consent for banker's carte blanche, for instance) and otherwise have voter's directly impact the livelihood of others through force. Thus I am PRO people making informed decisions about for whom they are most informed: themselves.

Con continues, "She also complains that people are uneducated, when under voluntarism, public education would be abolished." Public education would not be MANDATED through compulsory taxation or attendance under voluntarism; however, that does not mean education would be eradicated under voluntarism all together. Education can and would absolutely exist in a voluntary society [7].

Con states, "Pro argues that people can cooperate to form groups and make decisions about trade and community matters. I don't understand how she trusts us to do that competently, and yet does not trust us to vote competently." This is very simple: I gave the Amish as an example of a group who abides by their own rules and customs within the larger framework of a state. Similarly, Hasidic Jews, Mormons and other groups have done the same, and created their own norms while living under the provisions of the state. Likewise, if the state's authority was limited to protecting people's rights as per the NAP, other groups (like these) could still absolutely come together and voluntarily participate according to their own values. This is far more just than democracy.

For example, the issue about whether or not to recognize gay relationships has been about a 50/50 split among American voters. If particular (say religious) groups did not want to recognize gay relationships, they don't have to. But if other groups or individuals want to, they can. Under democracy, values are forced upon people even if they vehemently disagree at a visceral level. For instance very pro-life people are forced to fund some pro-choice causes. Under the NAP, people are free to express their values and not forcibly support others. That means they are not forced to support things they might truly disagree with such as legal murder (i.e. the Holocaust).

Con drops my argument on efficiency. My point wasn't just that democracy is entirely inefficient and therefore completely flawed and ill-performing (which he did not refute - and therefore we must accept as true), but also that it promotes popularity among representatives and NOT the intended goals. This promotes cronyism and exploitation of the populace. Extend my arguments about demagogues.

On taxes, I wrote that my opponent must justify legal theft or for the forcible seizing of one's earnings or property for no other reason than they have acquired more than others approve of. In response, Con said "I don't see why we should respect the rights of a small minority..." Of course, saying he "doesn't see why" is NOT an argument in response to my question of a required justification for aggressive theft. Please extend this argument / question.



Person versus Property rights

Pro dropped this point, but I think it's important so I want to raise it again. Person and property are not independent. The more resources and wealth a person has, the healthier they are and the longer they live (source 6, previous round). Therefore, if a person or group takes action that results in the poverty of another, then that action will directly and negatively affect that person's health and the health of their family.

Such actions might include legitimate business dealings under voluntarism, such as the formation of monopolies. There is no reason why people shouldn't form monopolies to control essential supplies such as access to fresh water or food. Those people could demand extremely high prices for their essential commodities, thereby becoming very rich and forcing the people the majority of people into poverty and ill health, or even death from starvation or malnutrition.

People are protected from such horrible outcomes under democracy by laws to protect people from extreme poverty (such as welfore laws) and having regulations in place to protect competition. Voluntarism would not do those things.

Air pollution

Pro argues that air pollution would be considered aggressive and not permitted under voluntarism. That means that cars, ships, trains, planes, electricity, and fertilizers would be banned, or their production greatly reduced (1), which means that they would become extremely expensive and most people wouldn't be able to use them any more.

Cows, horses, sheep, goats and pigs also create methane which contributes to global warming (2), and so raising these animals would not be permitted under voluntarism. Without leather or emission-producing factories, it's hard to see where shoes would come from, and people will need a lot since they're going to be walking everywhere.

Some humans also produce methane (3) and those humans would presumably be forbidden from farting under voluntarism and from producing children who might also have methane farts. It's hard to understand how such rules could possibly be enforced, though.

Dispute Resolution

Suppose people insisted on continuing to drive their petrol-fuelled cars, or on keeping goats, or on getting pregnant with other methane-producing farters. Suppose they took diamond earrings from jewellry shops without paying and shamelessly wore them around in the streets - what would happen under voluntarism? Pro suggests "unarmed mediation and intervention teams, restorative justice, community patrols". Of course, according to NAP, those teams and patrols could do no more than talk and pursuade, or potentially bribe, I suppose. It seems likely that a lot of people would remain unpersuaded, and would prefer to keep their cars and diamonds. That would mean that the rules about respecting people and property would be largely voluntary.

I agree that most people are decent and thoughtful, not to mention obedient, and would probably follow the rules anyway. However, a minority of murderers, rapists, thieves, and other types of criminals would be able to operate unchecked, especially if they are rich.

When we consider the crime spree that would exist under voluntarism, as well as the abuses perpetrated by monopolists, the "aggressive theft" that Pro claims is taxation seems very benign in comparison.

Children and education

Pro argues that I am making the debate "frivolous" by asking about children and education, but i see these two issues as fundamental to the problem of voluntarism. Pro did not address these issues, but rather, "implored" me (and presumably any readers to this debate) to read about children's rights and anarchism on another web site. Linking to another web site does not count as an argument in a debate, and could even seen as a breach in conduct because it is a way around the word limit. I respectfully request that Pro summarizes her arguments here in the debate.

The issue of children's rights is central to the idea of voluntarism because, as I showed in the previous round, parents of children do need to violate their physical rights in various ways for the children's own welfare, whether it be to strap them into a car seat against their will for safety reasons or to refuse to let them drink from the whisky bottle some drunkard in the street hands them. At some point, children become adults and these violations of rights cease to occur in most cases (although they would continue for adults with severe mental disabilities).

Who gets to decide when children become adults? Under democracy, the way regulations are formed and passed by an elected government is well-known, but how regulations are put together under voluntarism is a mystery. Pro says that it would be "similar to the status quo with slight changes, eg. younger consent laws for specific acts" so presumably it wouldn't be up to individuals to decide when personal and property rights are to be respected and when they aren't. So who does make those decisions? Clearly, it wouldn't be elected representatives, because that would be a democracy. It really isn't obvious how those rules would be determined (or why anyone would adhere to them, as mentioned above).

The other issue related to children's rights, of course, is to do with education. Education wouldn't be mandatory under voluntarism, and nor would it be free. That means that parents would be free not to have their children educated, and that many wouldn't be able to afford education anyway. This seems like a gross disadvantage to children from poor families.

Public space

There would be no public space under voluntarism. Pro dropped this point.


Pro complains that voters are both ignorant and selfish, but better an ignorant and selfish voter than an ignorant and selfish monopolist who abuses her situation to impoverish others for her own gain, which would be allowed under voluntarism.

Pro argues that democracy encourages cronyism, and that politicians seek to be popular and not to achieve the "intended goals" (it's not clear who the goals are intended by). This may be so, but certainly it is better to be ruled by someone who is concerned about popular opinion and who can be removed from office rather than by some enormously rich person who is answerable to nobody and who cannot be stopped from exploiting the majority for his own gain.


There may be a moral difference between holding a gun to someone's head to make them do something and withholding water until they're about to die of thirst and then offering them a cup of water to do something. To me, they seem exactly the same morally.

Personally, if I'm going to end up doing something either way, I'd rather have a gun to my head than get to the point of dying from thirst, because that would make me really thirsty and the gun wouldn't hurt.

Similarly, the experience of being taxed is not as bad as the experience of being impoverished in an unequal society with no welfare or public space, and where education, access to beaches, and use of cars are prohibitively expensive. That is why the experience of democracy is superior to the experience of voluntarism.

Debate Round No. 3


Thanks, Garbanza.

Re: Person vs. Property Rights

I specifically argued why person and property are not independent, and why property rights are a logical extension of personal rights. Ergo, it's not true that I've dropped this point. I agree with it. Since Con does too, she must explain why if one has the right to their person (autonomy) living free from the aggression of others, why one does not also have the right to their property being free from the aggression of others - since they are not independent and logically go together. Con has never justified this inconsistency.

Next Con argues that if someone takes actions to directly deprive another of resources (or impoverish them) that it's immoral. What Con fails to explain is why if the actions are voluntary. If I trade someone money for a cookie, I am being deprived of my wealth yet the voluntary exchange provided mutual gains. Similarly, if I choose to work for pay, I am trading my labor for wages. I'm being deprived but simultaneously provided for. Most transactions within a mutual and voluntary exchange are beneficial for both parties. Moreover, if someone happened to have more wealth/resources than me, they would not be inherently immoral or wrong just because their wealth somehow deprived me of things I could have if only they gave them to me. Inequality exists in nature, in humanity and yes in property. That is fair and just. Not everyone is born into the same circumstances, works the same, has the same intellect and skills, or makes the same choices - so people are not entitled to the same wealth and property. Everyone is entitled to live free (and have their property free) from force and violence though.

Con mentions voluntarism as having the potential to form monopolies. First and foremost, democracy (or the status quo) has a monopoly on governance, force and law enforcement, so it would seem monopolies can and do exist under her proposition as well. A real monopoly can only exist through violence (government backed initiatives). For example: US patent protections. If I want an iPhone, I have to buy it through Apple - no other supplier can provide it for me. That is a monopoly on the sale of iPhones. In a free market, if Apple wanted to be the sole provider of the iPhone, they would have to keep the technical details a secret - instead of relying on the force of government to perpetuate their legal monopoly.

In terms of resources and utilities, professional economist Thomas DiLorenzo explains, "Most so-called public utilities have been granted governmental franchise monopolies because they are thought to be 'natural monopolies.' Put simply, a natural monopoly is said to occur when production technology, such as relatively high fixed costs, causes long-run average total costs to decline as output expands. In such industries, the theory goes, a single producer will eventually be able to produce at a lower cost than any two other producers, thereby creating a 'natural' monopoly. Higher prices will result if more than one producer supplies the market" [1]. So-called natural monopolies don't exist. Only government backed monopolies have existed in history.

Political scientist Murray Rothbard notes "The very term ' public utility' is an absurd one. Every good is useful 'to the public,' and almost every good may be considered 'necessary.' Any designation of a few industries as 'public utilities' is completely arbitrary and unjustified" [2]. In other words, once you give the state (or people through democracy) the power to vote away other people's property rights, they can essentially deem almost anything worthwhile enough to put a government monopoly or regulation sticker on - which is problematic and unfair. One example is education. It's posh now to say people have the "right" to education. But we don't have a "right" to anything that requires force against another person.

Indeed voluntarism protects against monopolies better than democracy, because force is not allowed. Businesses have to remain competitive through legitimate practice (better prices and service) rather than have the government establish monopolies or oligopolies through law.

Con adds that democracy protects people by allowing for the provision of basic necessities through public utilities and social programs. Again, nobody has the right to anything that requires force or theft. If someone is hungry, they have a right to seek food. They have a right to grow, farm, ask, beg or buy food. But they don't have the right to have people with big guns (the government) back up a demand for food by a bunch of people voting away people's property rights to ensure that others have food. Just because humans have basic survival needs doesn't mean other humans are responsible for providing them against their will.

It's fallacious for Con to imply that poverty would be ignored without the state. People typically do care about their fellow man and want to help - that's why people vote in favor of social programs rather than against them. If the state were not taking away a significant portion of our wealth through force (taxes), we would have more money as individuals to donate and fund charitable causes and social programs voluntarily. Indeed charity and communal exchange are important in a voluntarist society, and in the last round I explained (using Con's own logic) why people have a tendency to care about others.

Re: Air Pollution

Con suggests that in a voluntarist society, all forms of pollution would be criminal which is absurd. I never suggested that, and my source from the last round detailing how air pollution rights worked in a voluntarist society did NOT suggest that either. Not all pollution is destructive or observably impacting of another's property. I don't have time to expand on this point (round's almost due) so I'll drop it for the debate and just post a source for Con's personal reference [4].

Re: Children's Rights and Education

Extend all of my arguments regarding why education is not a right. You have the right to seek education, but you don't have the right to have one provided for you. With only 5 minutes left to post an argument, I simply don't have time to expand any more on this point now than deferring back to my last round explanation. Hopefully the readers will see I've already addressed most of these concerns.

Re: Public Space

Under voluntarism, an individual or group of individuals can collectively own space, and have it open to the public. This will allow for parks and other areas. Democracy is problematic in terms of public space. A group of people can vote to have your personal property be eliminated and turned into public space against your will. The government could also prevent you from doing things like gardening on your own property [3]. This stands directly in contrast to Con's point about property rights being a logical extension of personal rights.

Re: Democracy

Con has zero response to the point that democracy = tyranny of the majority, or bullying through numbers. That's because it is simply true. Of course this does not explain why the populace should be able to legalize things like slavery and genocide through majority vote - something I would like Con to address in the next round. She's dropped every instance of my noting how democracy allows for the legal violation of individual rights. I've argued that the state should exist solely to protect against aggression, not encourage or enforce it. Democracy allows for the legal initiation of force.

In regard to most voters being uninformed, ignorant and selfish, Con says this is true of people even under voluntarism. Extend all of my arguments about why voluntarism only allows for mutual trade, voluntary exchange and the non-legal initiation of force, thereby making the stupidity of other people far less relevant to the lives of others. In a democracy, stupid people vote to make decisions about how to handle your money. I've explained this ad nauseum. Under voluntarism, you decide for yourself how to spend your money. It promotes personal accountability and responsibility in addition to fairness.

Con appeals to fear and suggests that a very wealthy person under voluntarism could "exploit the majority" for his own gain. Obviously that is true in just about any society, given that still happens under democracy and the status quo. Almost all governments are headed or run by rich and powerful individuals. Democracy allows them to legally exploit you - often with the help of government initiatives - while voluntarism protects against an individual's most basic and fundamental rights.

In conclusion, I wrote that on taxes my opponent must justify legal theft or for the forcible seizing of one's earnings or property for no other reason than they have acquired more than others approve of. Con simply responded by saying things like "Personally..." and "I'd rather..." which are entirely moot. I don't care about Con's preferences. In a voluntarist society, she could do exactly as she prefers. What I'm asking is why she thinks her preferences should dictate other people's lives and eradicate their basic rights. Further, if more people had preferences that differed from hers, they could simply vote her preferences to irrelevance. Once again Con said she "doesn't see why" individual rights should be respected or she would "prefer" to pay taxes, but none of those are arguments.



Thank you to Pro for this debate. I can understand that people are angry at being forced to obey laws that they may not agree with and even be responsible for - and paying for - wars that they are opposed to, and for those reasons they are looking for a different way of living. Voluntarism is not an adequate alternative, though. It is not superior to democracy for several reasons.


Firstly, it ignores the coercive element of unequal wealth and poverty. Pro agrees that wealthy people will tend to exploit the majority and says that it is "true in just about any society". In a democracy, the government is answerable to that poor majority, and can make laws to protect them, and establish welfare systems. Under voluntarism, there are no protections at all for poor people. Wealthy monopolists would be free to set any price on their goods that they choose, or offer any pay for employment, and people would have the choice of accepting or starving. The slums and shanty towns around the world are testament to what happens under weak government.

Further, voluntarism would abolish public education, which would mean that children in families who could not afford private education would not have access to formal education. Pro argues that inequality is "fair and just". There is nothing fair and just about children who remain uneducated due to the poverty of their parents.


Second, voluntarism would need to be enforced, and Pro has not explained adequately how that would happen. If violence cannot be used, how could a violent person be prevented from being violent or from taking others' property?

Further, regulations would need to be established, for example in relation to children's rights. Presumably a parent can strap a toddler into a carseat against her will, but an adult cannot force another adult into the car. At what age does the difference occur, and who decides? Obviously some decision-making body must come up with a ruling that applies to everyone.

Pro argues that under voluntarism, "similar standards" would exist as under democracy, but that's avoiding the question. Democracy has a system in place for establishing those standards, and voluntarism does not. Thus, we are left with a situation where SOME people have rights to personhood and property being respected and some people do not, and no clear way at all of deciding who is who.

As the air pollution discussion illustrated, the boundaries between one property and another are not always clear cut. Disputes would arise, and again, it's not obvious how they would be resolved or how any rulings in relation to property rights be enforced. Probably the situation would end up as it does in many countries with weak governement - there are various police and private security forces available for hire, so that the rich can have their rights respected as they see fit.

property rights and taxes

Pro argues that taxes are theft, but "theft" is just a word which implies that there's something sacred about ownership, which is indeed part of the basis of voluntarism. But ownership is sometimes arbitrary and often unfair. For example, if one person or company was to gain a monopoly on all fruit trees or all beaches in a country, is it fair that they could charge exhorbitant fees for fruit or beach access? Some things belong to everyone. Generations of humans worked to develop the different varieties of fruit trees, and to preserve the beaches. How could those things belong to individuals, and why do they have a right to them over all others?

Obviously, Pro can't answer those questions because it's the last round. They were rhetorical anyway.

Pro says inequality is "fair and just" and describes a system where a child could grow up without access to education or libraries, parks or beaches, where there would be no minimum wage and where monopolists could set any price on essential goods that they chose. A child born into a poor family under voluntarism would not be born into a fair and just world, but a world set back several centuries to the time of peasants and serfs.

In short, voluntarism is a terrible idea.

Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by wrichcirw 1 year ago
CON: " Under voluntarism, there is no measure to balance the horrible coercive power of unequal property and wealth. "

I'd probably frame this as "under voluntarism, there is no measure to balance the horrible coercive power of the natural world upon the human body." Hunger is coercive, not inequality.


PRO: "the supposition is that the role of the state on balance does more harm than good, and/or is immoral or unjustified. "

How can PRO make this statement when her conception of voluntarism also involves the state?


PRO: "Air pollution and other types of pollution are considered aggressive, as they infringe upon the property rights others [5]."

LOL, so flatulence violates NAP...OFF WITH HIS HEAD!!!


PRO: "promoting unarmed mediation and intervention teams, restorative justice, community patrols, higher private investment in mental health care, and private institutions of law enforcement..."

All of this happens under statist democracies. We don't need voluntarism for this.


PRO: "1) uninformed and ignorant voters, and 2) self-motivated or otherwise selfish voters who justify their immoral acts through mob mentality. These problematic concerns exist despite the reality of an incentive for decency. "

These problems would all exist in a voluntarist society as well.


PRO: "Under democracy, people who know absolutely nothing about economics can vote on public policy that could destroy the market"

sigh...why would they do this if it was in their self-interest to keep the market functioning? And who's to say that voluntarists would have any knowledge of economics and destroy the market anyway?


PRO: "Many critics of voluntarist societies point out that war and other destruction is inevitable, therefore the state is necessary for defense. But that isn't true."

If defense isn't necessary, neither is enforcement of the NAP...this is when PRO's position starts looking more and more utopian.
Posted by Garbanza 1 year ago
Thanks Danielle! Yeah, it really felt that there were more ideas than could fit into a debate easily. It's interesting for me because I know a lot of people are interested in anarchy etc., and it's a lot of intelligent, political people, but on the surface I can't see how it would work.
Posted by Danielle 1 year ago
Thanks, Garbanza. I'm annoyed that my last round sucked. I literally submitted it with 33 seconds to spare and started writing it less than 40 minutes before it was due, which explains why it's very rushed. But I would be happy to discuss my points further in a PM or comments (NOT for the debate but in general discussion). There are a lot more resources I couldn't fit and whatnot.
Posted by Garbanza 1 year ago
No worries.
Posted by Danielle 1 year ago
My apologies! I assumed you were male based on someone else's reference.
Posted by Garbanza 1 year ago
Dude. I'm a woman. Stop calling me he.
Posted by Garbanza 1 year ago
I'd like to, if you don't get anyone better.
Posted by Danielle 1 year ago
Nobody is accepting any of my debates though. I don't understand why this one doesn't have a zillion takers considering I am essentially arguing for ANARCHY which virtually nobody supports...
Posted by bossyburrito 1 year ago
I haven't seen many debates like this recently. It should be interesting.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 1 year ago
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Reasons for voting decision: see comments - I read the first 3 rounds for PRO until I simply could not even imagine how her position would differ from statism, regardless of her on/off insistence that the state wasn't necessary in her conception. I found her position to be highly contradictory. She admits that violations of NAP would occur in her conception, but that such violations preclude the need for force to resolve? Utopian thinking at its best.