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Would You “Push the Button”?

There is a reason that we do not live in a free society.  This society is simply not supportive of one.  Unfortunately, this is painfully obvious to most libertarians.

I recently had a conversation with another who hesitated at the notion of “pushing the button”.  That is, if there were a button that you could push to create a free society, would you?

The reality is that with the current society, even if someone were to push the button, a free society would likely exist, but for a very short time.  Not for the reasons that statists would put forth, but because this society is simply not ready for self determination.  As inexplicable as this is to me, this appears to be the reality.  But how is this so if all I have been saying and writing for the last number of years is true about the nature of man – about his yearning to be free.  My only explanation is indoctrination and complacency.

But what would be the alternative to “the button test”?  This comes to strategy.  And what strategy is coherent with the goal of liberty?  Should the libertarian become patient and realistic?  Rothbard has spoken on this matter with well reasoned arguments.

“If liberty is to be the highest political end, then this implies that liberty is to be pursued by the most efficacious means, i.e., those means which will most speedily and thoroughly arrive at the goal. This means that the libertarian must be an “ abolitionist,” i.e., he must wish to achieve the goal of liberty as rapidly as possible. If he balks at abolitionism, then he is no longer holding liberty as the highest political end. The libertarian, then, should be an abolitionist who would, if he could, abolish instantaneously all invasions of liberty. Following the classical liberal Leonard Read, who advocated immediate and total abolition of price-and-wage controls after World War II, we might refer to this as the “button-pushing” criterion. Thus, Read declared that “If there were a button on this rostrum, the pressing of which would release all wage-and-price controls instantaneously I would put my finger on it and push!” The libertarian, then, should be a person who would push a button, if it existed, for the instantaneous abolition of all invasions of liberty—not something, by the way, that any utilitarian would ever be likely to do.”

Rothbard continues with why the immediate abolition of invasions of liberty are in fact realistic.  The mechanism to make this so is solely dependent on man’s will.  And his will is determined by his ability to reason.


The libertarian goals—including immediate abolition of invasions of liberty—are “realistic” in the sense that they could be achieved if enough people agreed on them, and that, if achieved, the resulting libertarian system would be viable. The goal of immediate liberty is not unrealistic or “Utopian” because—in contrast to such goals as the “elimination of poverty”—its achievement is entirely dependent on man’s will. If, for example, everyone suddenly and immediately agreed on the overriding desirability of liberty, then total liberty would be immediately achieved. The strategic estimate of how the path toward liberty is likely to be achieved is, of course, an entirely separate question.

I would push that button.  And I would keep pushing that button; not because I believe it would necessarily have the desired effect, but because it is the strategy consistent with libertarianism.

Until such a mechanism is available, I will attempt to educate all that are drawn to the lesson of liberty.  I will support justice – voluntary associations and voluntary exchanges – property rights rooted in self-ownership and the non-aggression axiom.  A goal will be to continue to develop my intellectual base and my ability to persuade others within an open learning style.I will support the political philosophy of liberty in the most consistent manner.  As part of that strategy, I will continue to develop my character.  I will continue to advocate for justice.  I will support voluntary associations, free trade, property rights and the non-aggression axiom.  These are the tools at my disposal.  Knowledge and learning are the tools of free people.  It is aggression and force that are the tools of the state.

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January 13, 2014 · 11:15 pm