Every fringe movement attracts crazy people. Libertarians are no exception. The married couple who murdered two police officers and another person in Las Vegas over the weekend are a perfect example. They’re not people to embrace or defend. They’re nuts whose actions damage the cause of individual freedom.
I’ve written a couple of times before about people I don’t want to be associated with, such as conspiracy cranks with no interest in facts and those who are just plain bigots. There are a lot of very intelligent, sane, interesting and responsible people who have come to libertarian or anarchist positions for moral reasons, but there are also people such as Jerad Miller and Amanda Miller who are mentally unstable people who are looking for an outlet for their anger at the world.
Many of us want to change the world. Many of us see a coercive system of government as immoral and standing in the way of individuals being free to live under the rules they might voluntarily choose. But changing the world in a positive way is about influencing hearts and minds through art, ideas and culture, not about killing people and tearing down institutions. You don’t change the world by adopting the tactics of an oppressor.
In the last couple of days, I’ve seen some libertarians and anarchists defending the Millers’ actions. I’ve seen others who won’t quite defend their murders, but they say the killings weren’t murder and that killing police is justified simply because they are the people who enforce the immoral rules of the state. And I’ve seen a new tack on Tuesday in which some people are trying really hard to say the Millers were government plants or maybe they didn’t really exist. I’ve been really surprised at some of the denial I’ve seen.
Many people are willing to consider what you have to say as long as you’re discussing ideas and making a moral and pragmatic case for freedom. But killing people who aren’t threatening you at the moment is a dividing line between discussion and thuggery. Nobody takes you seriously once you cross this line. Once you cross that line, you also make it very difficult for others to hear anyone with a vaguely similar message. And you no longer have any moral authority once you’ve passed that line.
Many libertarians strongly condemned the actions of the Millers when the news started coming out. When I posted something about it on my Facebook page Monday morning, I had a lot of strong feedback agreeing with my view that the murderers should be strongly rejected. I think many of those people were as surprised as I was at the ambivalence and tacit support that some other people were giving to the murders.
It seems as though the support and lack of condemnation centers around the idea that because police support the work of the coercive state, they’re automatically the enemy and make themselves legitimate targets just by becoming cops.
I detest much of what’s going on in police culture today and I strenuously object to many of the immoral and anti-individualist laws that police enforce, but I think it’s ridiculous to believe that murdering random police officers is moral or pragmatic. We need people to enforce laws and protect us from criminals. There’s a serious problem today because a good portion of police have become a different breed of criminal — and some of the laws they enforce are evil — but the function of policing is one we need. There’s just a serious question about who gets to make the rules and who gets to choose how the rules are enforced in a given place.
I’ve said many times that I don’t want a “one size fits all” system. For those who want to live under the current system, I have no objection to that — as long as they’re willing to tolerate those of us who want out taking our land and wealth away from their control. I have no objection to people living under any system they choose, as long as it’s voluntary for the people living under it. I want it recognized that anyone can opt out of the existing system if he chooses — to live as a lone wolf if he pleases or to join with other people to put their land together to establish cities under the rules they voluntarily agree to.
The fact that we are not allowed to withdraw from this coercive system is morally wrong. The fact that another system exists for those who want another system is perfectly acceptable.
Most people today are living quite voluntarily and happily in a system that I believe is wrong. Most people would be scared to death by the kind of fragmentation that I’m talking about. They want a coercive government to enforce one way for everyone. If they had a choice of living under the existing system or in one of my proposed independent cities with its own rules, most of them would prefer to stick with what they’re familiar with.
I think they’re mistaken not to see the existing system as the moral and pragmatic evil that I see it as. But I’m not going to impose my views on them. I can’t. And even if I could, it would be wrong for me to tear down the system that most people choose. It’s not my business to choose for them. I don’t want to change their world. I only insist that their system has no right to hold me and my property — and that of others who want to withdraw. I’m saying the system has no right to stop us from withdrawing. Others have every right to continue living with their system as long as it doesn’t coerce those who want to withdraw.
If you think it’s your job or your right to destroy the state everywhere and impose your rules on the entire world, you’re no better than the people who are currently imposing their rules on us. It’s not our right to destroy the system that they want to live under — and it’s murder to kill police who work for that system.
We need a legal framework within which we can withdraw our property and ourselves from the state’s control, but that doesn’t mean we need to destroy the system that other people voluntarily want.
There are a lot of people today who are angry at government for a variety of reasons. I’m among them. I see its control over me as immoral. I want to figure out a way to separate myself from that system, but murdering police will only harden public and political attitudes against anyone with such “radical” desires.
Murdering people in the name of individual freedom is immoral and it’s counterproductive as well. We need to reject those who are simply angry at the world and are looking for a way to go out of this life with a bang. They’re crazy — and we need to be clear about that.