Today Brittany and Connor discuss “voluntaryism,” a belief that all transactions between human beings should be voluntary and done without force from other individuals or institutions, like government.
What Is Voluntaryism?
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi Connor.
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: So you brought up a term a couple episodes ago that I really wanted to dig into a little bit more, and the word is volunteerism. And we talk about a lot of words like individualism and libertarianism. But as we mentioned a couple episodes ago, these terms often get skewed or kind of twisted until they become kind of meaningless, cuz people don’t really know what they mean anymore. But you brought up using the term volunteerism instead of those words, and I really liked that. So I was wondering if we could maybe take some time, break down this term, explain what it means, and, yeah, let’s, let’s talk about it.
Connor: Totally. So, you know, like you say, we’ve talked about how terms can change, meaning over time, liberal used to mean someone who believed in liberty, and now it means something quite different. And, we did, and I think on that episode, talk about this term voluntaryism. And it’s important to contrast, you know, we’re not talking about volunteerism, like being a volunteer. this is voluntaryism as in, you know, voluntary relationships with people. And, why I like this term and why I personally use this term is I think that the foundation of all human relationships should be consent. And what, that means is that they should all be based on agreement. Yeah. You have to agree to, you know, do business with one another. You have to agree to live together. You have to agree to, you know, buy and sell and exchange things and so forth. And in our, the Declaration of Independence, it says that I’m not gonna quote it verbatim, but it says that just governments have the consent of the governed just means like, where there’s justice, right? Like there’s, protection of rights and things. So basically like good government has to have the consent of the governed. And I wrote a book a few years back called, lessons from Lemonade Stand, where we talk a lot about, you know, what consent means? And the declaration when it says we have to give consent, well if Brittany, you want to take my money and, and you and I don’t give you consent, then you’re stealing. Yep. Right? Or if you’re in kind of an intimate relationship with someone, right? Then you have to have consent. There’s if I want to get a cell phone, and I go to the, to Verizon to get a cell phone, right? There has to be consent there. I have to agree to pay the money that they’re saying I pay. They can’t just take it from me. If someone wants to use my home for an event, I have to give consent, otherwise, they’re trespassing, and trying to force their way into my home. So consent is critical. It’s so important. So if the Declaration of Independence is talking about how just, governments have to have consent of the govern, Brittany, let me ask you, have you ever signed a contract with the government saying that you know, you’re willing to pay any taxes that they make you pay?
Brittany: No, and I think I would’ve remembered that because I’m not a huge fan of all the taxes they can take outta my paycheck. So, no I’ve never signed a contract.
Connor: You’ve, never signed a contract. Like when I bought a home with my wife, we had a lot of documents to sign and we made agreements. We said, yes, we will pay these things to the bank. Yes, we’ll pay these things to the city. You know, or rather to the Asiaway is what I’m thinking of. Cuz that’s kind of a private organization.
Brittany: That’s a whole other act of tier, you know.
Connor: don’t like HOAs, but I was signing a contract, but there was no contract for the city. There was no contract for the state to say, Hey, we’re gonna make you pay all these things. And, you know, because the important thing here is that to give consent, you have to be able to dissent. And what that means is to say, no, if I have to get a phone from Verizon, then there’s no way for me to consent. Like, if they can like, lock me in jail or beat me up, you know, or even frankly kill me. If I don’t get a phone from Verizon, then there’s no way for me to give consent to them because there’s no opportunity for me to dissent if I have to let someone use my home for an event and they’re forcing me to, there’s no consent there. think of like slavery back in the day, right? Like clearly the, you know, black people weren’t consenting to be slaves, but later after slavery ended, many of the black people continued to do things like pick cotton or serve people in homes, but it was what with consent. And they were paid for it, and they had the opportunity to decide whether they wanted to do that or not. They could dissent and say no without being, you know, beaten or killed. And so consent requires dissent. You can’t say yes really unless you can also say no. Well, let’s say, you know, I was born and raised here and my family’s always lived on this land, but I’ve never consented like you, I’ve never signed a contract in agreement with the government. I can’t say no. Oh no, thanks. I’m not gonna pay taxes. No thanks. I don’t like that war. I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna help support it. Right? No thanks. I don’t like how you know, this is happening. I’m not gonna support it. There’s no way to say no to these things without, you know, getting beat up and locked in jail. And so there’s no way to consent, there’s no way to say yes if you can’t say no. Why do I say this? Well, when we talk about voluntarism, that voluntary interactions should be the basis of all our relationships. I think of the consent of the governed consent is how we have voluntary relationships and that we don’t really have that in government. And so when we read in the Declaration of Independence that you can only have a good government if there’s consent, it makes me worried that we don’t really have that in our government today. There’s no real way to do it. So what does a voluntary believe? A voluntary simply believes that all of our relationships, whether in business or you know, family or government or neighbors or whatever, should be based on voluntary exchange, that you should be able to consent, which means you have to also be able to dissent. And so government would look radically different under this scenario because you’d need the ability to opt-out. And as we talk about in lessons from a lemonade stand, there’s, you know, a lot of people say, oh, but if you don’t like it, you can leave. Right? Go move to Somalia, go move to another state. But, you know, there are governments there also where you can’t really meaningfully consent. Obviously, the book talks about this in far more depth. I’m bringing up here only to point out that that is what a voluntary believes. And so Brittany, you’re now a working taxpayer and you know very well what the government does and all the permission slips they require to do basic things and all the taxes you have to pay. So how is it that we’ve let things get this bad? What I’m asking is, you know, I think everyone believes that oh yeah, voluntary relationships, you know, everything should, you should have the freedom to decide. But it seems like the government has gone so far afield from that, would the average person think that a voluntary is just crazy? Is this just like utopian dreaming that will never happen?
Brittany: That’s what’s so funny is they do, right? You tell somebody that, especially if you use that term and they start throwing out terms like anarchy, which we’ll get into another time where it’s like, oh no, you just want chaos. You don’t believe in, you know, law and order. And what we’re really saying is, no, we just want the opportunity to consent to say yes or no. And we don’t have that. One thing that always sticks in my mind are utilities. What I mean by that is the electricity that, you know, lights up your house and the gas that keeps your house warm. So these are technically private companies, and I say this with quotes, but the government gives like only like one company the right to do gas and one company the right to do electricity. So if you want gas or electricity in your house, you don’t have the choice to say, no, I don’t wanna use this company, and yes, I wanna use this company. And do you know what happens when that happens? Is they can, you know, charge you whatever they want because you have no competition, right? And that’s one of those things in adulthood that made me really mad. And I’m like, this isn’t that radical of a belief, right? It’s not that extreme. This is just me saying, I would like a choice, please. And everywhere else we go, you know, restaurants or the store, we have choices. But government seems to thrive on taking away choice from us.
Connor: absolutely. I’m so glad you brought up the competition idea because a volunteer would say, look, I mean cuz the volunteer is really just someone who believes in the free market. Yes. And that the market isn’t just about business, it applies to the marketplace of, you know, politics in a sense as well, and governments. And so I can stay in my home and I can choose which insurance company I should use for my home, right? without having to move, I can pick which internet provider that I want to service my home. I can pick which cell phone company and I don’t have to move. I can stay in one place in the land where I was born that my, you know, grandpa built the house or whatever. I can stay put and I can choose from all kinds of different options. But with government you can’t. And the free market people, we understand that with competition, two things happen. Prices go down and quality goes up. And we also understand that monopolies are bad because the opposite happens. Prices go up cuz there’s no competition. So they can charge whatever they want and quality goes down because there’s no competition to steal away their business. And so they can get lazy and slow and bad customer service. That is exactly what government does and what happens with government, they get lazy costs go up, they don’t care about the customer. Whereas if you go to a business that has to compete for your money, they’re gonna treat you like royalty. They’re gonna treat you like a king because they want your business and they know that if they operate poorly, you’re gonna go somewhere else. And so what we need, and obviously go into this more in the book lessons from a lemonade stand, which you can go grab on Amazon, is that we need competition in government. The real problem is that there is a monopoly. if you can’t choose which gas company is gonna provide you gas, if there’s a monopoly, you can’t really consent, right? Because like you, need like, I guess you could just go live off grid and you know, like whatever, right? So maybe there’s some reasonable, minimal action.
Brittany: That won’t be very fun for very long.
Connor: No, you know, but at least technically you can.
Brittany: You can.
Connor: Whereas, there’s basically nowhere in the world to live without having a government ruling over you and only one government at a time. There’s, you don’t really have these areas where you can pick and choose. Imagine if we lived in a, imagine if, again, like insurance or internet companies or whatever, you could stay put in one home and let’s say there were three different governments, to choose from. And you could say like, okay, well this government over here charges a lot of money, but they have a really stellar security force. You know, like police, they have a really good fire protection plan, they have health benefits, they’ve got good education like they get you into these schools for free, etcetera, etcetera. Oh, but over here, government B like they don’t have the school option, but they also do garbage pickup and they’ll, you know, whatever, right? Like, oh, and but they charge less and government c is super cheap, but all they do is the security protection. but there’s no fire or there’s no education. Like you could, choose and you could say like, well, I don’t have a lot of money, so for now I’m just gonna go with the security force. And then later on as I have more money, I mean it’s basically like health insurance. Some people go without and then they get better plans over time. and so imagine if the government was like that, then it would be like going to get your cell phone at Verizon. You can pick the big plan, the cheap plan, the dirt cheap plan, you know, and it’s not a tax, it’s a fee that you agree to. We would no longer be able to really complain about taxes because you would have actual choice. You could say, well, you weighed the alternatives. This is what you chose. It’s what you agreed to. You could have chose something else, but you didn’t, therefore you can’t really complain. Whereas today we can’t choose and therefore we can complain because there is no consent. Now, I will say that this is a very radical idea. Yes. Because it’s so different from the status quo from the world of this today. So if you’re intrigued by this, go check out lessons from a lemonade stand. All we wanted to bring up today is this concept and define it so that you understand what the word means. And for those who use it like I do, it’s really about how humankind should be all about voluntary relationships. We shouldn’t have coercion, we shouldn’t have monopolies. And we would have to think very creatively about how to restructure, you know, government and society. But I think that that’s what morality requires. I think good government requires it just as the Declaration of Independence says. And so right now, we’re not really following that Declaration of Independence. We’re not, we don’t really have consent. I think we should do it. It’s gonna take some creative thinkers to do it. If you’re intrigued again, go check out lessons from a Lemonade Stand for now. Now you know what a voluntary thing, maybe you’ll start calling one, calling yourself one. but anyways, we thought that was a fun topic. We hope you guys enjoy. Go keep learning more, go Google it if you want. thanks as always for listening. And until next time, Brittany, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.