Must We Depend on Political Protection?


Alvin Lowi, Jr.

December 15, 2003

The title question was posed by Robert LeFevre back in 1962. At the time, he was President of the Freedom School and Editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, one of R. C. Hoiles’ Freedom Newspapers. This question was no mere rhetorical exercise for LeFevre. He put it directly to the Reverend Edmund A. Opitz of the Foundation for Economic Education (Irvington-on-Hudson, NY) who was then involved in a scholarly effort to define the “libertarian position” vis-a-vis government. [1]**

LeFevre had been writing a series of editorials challenging Rev. Opitz’s hypothesis that limited political government is indispensable in the social (i.e. voluntary) affairs of man. He argued that any political government at all was a hindrance to good government finding ample government for a peaceful and progressive society in the spontaneous natural order that accompanies voluntary human behavior as it occurs in nature. He showed political government, whether or not constitutionally limited, to be superfluous at best. At worst, he showed it to be mischievous and destructive of private initiative. According to LeFevre, political government can create and protect monopolies but it cannot create and protect private life and property.

In the course of his editorial campaign, LeFevre realized that the readers of his columns in the Colorado Springs newspaper could not fully appreciate the importance of his editorials without being more familiar with the arguments of his ideological adversary. So he proposed to Opitz that they publish their respective arguments side-by-side inside the cover of a single pamphlet.[2] Opitz agreed, adding that he was guided by the following advice of John Stuart Mill:

“However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that, however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as dead dogma, not as living truth.”

LeFevre concurred with Opitz as follows:

“With a similar desire for full, frequent and fearless discussion of ideas, which can point us toward a living truth, this exchange is offered for thoughtful consideration in the marketplace of ideas.”

Two years after the publication of the LeFevre-Opitz limited government debate, when the obscure little booklet was practically forgotten, the 1964 presidential election campaign erupted. 1964 was to be no an ordinary election year for libertarians because Barry Goldwater — “Mr. Conservative” himself — was a candidate at long last.[3] Not in recent memory had anyone made such a stirring declaration of allegiance to the American idea that government must be limited for people to be free.

In the spirit of the occasion, I arranged with some colleagues to bring LeFevre to Los Angeles to present his thesis in a public seminar under the auspices of the Free Enterprise Institute.[4] There, LeFevre proceeded to show how political protection was faulty and could not be trusted regardless of all clever constitutional limitations, good intentions and moral sensitivities of elected officials. It was then and there that I decided to abandon politics for good. Whoever was elected at the end of the national political potlatch that year got into office without my participation.

2004 marks the fortieth anniversary of LeFevre’s pivotal seminar. Since the Republic continues to lumber along, there will be another national election this year as in every other year before and after. While the coming election will involve different players, it will have precisely the same consequences for the individual resident as those in the past and most likely in the future. Past is prologue: the more some things change the more they remain the same. Fortunately, change is in the direction of freedom owing to the fact that the sphere of voluntary behavior is growing faster than the reach of coercive political institutions. But that’s a subject for another essay.


Back in 1964, many of my libertarian acquaintances were dismayed by my deliberate abstention from political participation.  It seemed to them I was going delinquent, that I was abandoning a long-sought opportunity to elect a “real” conservative who could save the country from its dive into collectivist oblivion at this most critical time. (1964 was near the apex of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and its satellites.)  After all, who better to defend the Nation and look after the economy than Barry Goldwater? Upon awakening to the nature of political participation with a nudge from Bob LeFevre, my answer was different. Wishing no harm to either Mr. Goldwater or the country, I decided to abstain. I have adhered to this political posture ever since.

My resistance to political participation came about in part from having learned from LeFevre how to answer the following questions:

  • If an informed and conscientious electorate patronizes only ‘good’ candidates for office in a monopoly institution of governmental power, will the politicians they elect democratically thereafter dedicate themselves to looking after the people’s business in preference to their own?
  • Can politicians, however elected, actually do the people’s business for them through the institutions allegedly built for that purpose?
  • What’s to keep politicians who profess altruism from behaving opportunistically in their own self interest like everyone else to make the most of what they find for themselves while under the cover of the office they hold?
  • If the politician’s government is found to be incapable of delivering its promised protections and benefits, how can the people peaceably recover their prerogatives from this coercive monopoly of force once they sanctioned it?
  • If political institutions fail to fulfill expectations, how can the people go about their business anyway as they must in order to survive and prosper?
  • If entrenched politicians are ignored, will they go away?
  • If the polls are boycotted, will despots succeed to rule?

Forty years ago, few dared ask such questions let alone sought to answer them. Now, I reckon progress in terms of the frequency these questions are asked. But I admit the answers are still far from common knowledge.

Times have changed since I had the good fortune to know Robert LeFevre. But I also had good preparation. Before LeFevre I received prerequisite instruction from Andrew Galambos and Spencer Heath.[5],[6] But for Galambos and Heath, I might not have had the good sense to appreciate LeFevre’s insights when I encountered them. These sober souls taught me to examine politics as it is actually experienced rather than as it ‘ought’ exist in utopia.

Government As It Is

It seems trite to acknowledge that we live in the real world, and not in some abstract institution fashioned for us by an elite class of professional intellectuals. Not long after the American secession from the English Kingdom, when a national republic was established in place of a monarchy to reign over the former colonials, Thomas Paine was to observe:[7]

“We still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping at the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised to furnish new pretenses for revenue and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without a tribute.”

Half a century later, after much passionate experience with plebiscitary rule, Frederic Bastiat was moved to observe:[8]

“Political government is legal plunder. It exists for the purpose of obtaining services without rendering any.”

Today, the story is the same, which moved Lew Rockwell to conclude:[9]

“In short, there is no alternative universe in which the fantasies of politicians come true. Whoever came up with this idea of a mass democracy just wasn’t thinking things through very clearly. Nothing runs well by majority vote, to say nothing of the fact that a truly free society shouldn’t be ‘run’ at all; it works on its own without would-be masters-and-commanders grasping at the helm.”

Clearly, human nature is not altered by the mere fact of an election to political office based on a nose count, or any other mere ritual. Rockwell’s “would-be masters-and-commanders grasping at the helm” declare unwavering altruism if elected as if such a meaningless declaration qualifies them for political support. But if there is any such thing as an altruist, he had to be born that way because there is no way such a person could be created by a plebiscite.  The truth is, altruists cannot be created by elections or anything else. Likewise, contrary to popular opinion, neither can messiahs.

Human Nature, Such As It Is

Consistent with Mises axiom of human action, people are inclined to do something rather than nothing.[10] And they don’t wait in queues to do so because time is of the essence in their lives. The present is perceived to be more valuable than the future. How much more varies widely from person to person. This temporal imperative is an essential attribute of human nature. It accounts for the autonomous, individual humans’ acclaimed pursuit of “happiness,” whatever that is, and it serves to explain the workings of human society to generate economic prosperity.  This strictly human trait motivates exchange and specialization of labor, which make voluntary living dynamic, cooperative, peaceful and progressive. However, this same trait turns into a liability when expressed through political institutions. By its very nature, doing anything politically diminishes the sphere of voluntary behavior. This was the lesson learned by Br’er Rabbit in his encounter with the Tar Baby.[11]


Politics derives from the Greek word for civics, which is Latin for the art of governing.[12] In ancient Greece and Rome, governing at best was the privilege of that minor fraction of the population known as citizens. Political government as we have come to know it was originally confined to cities (polis in Greek). The “polity” of the republics of Athens and Rome were the privileged citizen class. From that usage our terms “policy” and “politics” derive. Indeed, our modern political traditions are merely variations on a theme by Plato.[13]

An authoritative statement of purpose for political participation, said to sum up the views of professional politicians, is as follows:[14]

“[Political] participation is an instrument of conquest because it encourages people to give their consent to being governed…[And] even when voting does not itself produce a clear sense of public willingness, the purpose of participation is nevertheless fulfilled because…deeply embedded in the people’s sense of fair play is the principle that those who play the game must accept the outcome…even if they are consistently on the loosing side. Why do politicians plead with everyone to get out and vote? It is because voting is the simplest and easiest form of participation by masses of people. Even though it is minimal participation, it is sufficient to commit all voters to being governed, regardless of who wins.”

Thus, political participation enables a few to rule many.

To participate in politics is to submit to conquest. The sinister genius of the political ruler consists in his ideological coup d’etat by means of which sufficient numbers of people volunteer for servitude.[15] Curiously, people are persuaded in numbers to abandon their inherited autonomy in favor of a promise of protection from the forces of nature without effort on their part. The prospect is enchanting, to say the least. So perhaps the politician is not so much the genius as the opportunist.

Conquest by plebiscite differs from military conquest in that the former is bloodless and volitional. The victims sanction their own servitude and then cooperate in their own regimentation. The only violence that occurs normally is to truth and logic.

Another word for conquest via political participation is “cooptation.” 14 Cooptation is defined as “a political strategy for recruiting members of the opposition for the purpose of weakening or eliminating it.” 12 Cooptation characterizes the proceedings of legislatures where the elected representatives of the people receive special dispensations of legal privilege by compromising their constituents’ rights. Plaintiffs retain the right to petition for relief. The petition is prima facie evidence of conquest. A more ingenious scheme for exploitation can hardly be imagined. Had cooptation not been invented by the Greeks of antiquity, it would surely be legislated forthwith.

Typically, arguments for political participation ASSUME humanity has no alternative for enjoying private life than to submit to the kind of public order brought about by political process and apparatus.[16] Most people are convinced that community and other social accouterments to their private lives are gifts from government. So the common idea of ‘doing something’ to improve human circumstances almost always takes the form of a political initiative of some sort to get the government to do something individuals would never consider to be an appropriate undertaking by themselves for themselves on their own recognizance. Individuals never consider politics appropriate for themselves alone because they shun violence, which is the ultimate recourse of political initiative. Politics seeks to legitimize violence by institutionalizing it on behalf of the multitudes – “one for all and all for one” – never mind the possibilities in the real world. Thus, politics collectivizes the population and subordinates ordinary individuals.

Politics is sustained by a self-fulfilling prophesy. More politics to obtain more government is supposed to be the remedy for all social inadequacies, which are supposed to be due to ‘poor’ government. In other words, politics is the cure for the problems caused by politics in the first place. That politics is mere ritual seems to elude recognition. Political government is the social problem because it preempts self-government, which is fundamentally the only real government in society.

Political government always fails to govern, but it never fails to coerce. What government there is at any given time depends on the existence of self-governing individuals. So before there is self-government, there is no government whatever. Self-government consists of pursuing one’s own wants while adjusting to the similar pursuits of others. It amounts to autonomy and discipline. A modicum of self-government is all it takes for a human population to become a stable society. This condition can be called economic democracy. 10 It exists without a political overseer. So who needs political government? As it turns out, only the prospective political overseer needs it. Accordingly, a political vote is a vote for the dictator of your choice.

Politics inhibits conflict resolution via voluntary human action, which is the only type of human behavior that comprises society at any given time. Therefore, politics diminishes society. Whereas nature ordains that the best place in society to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm, political government aims to monopolize all arms.

Political action is urged on fellow sufferers as a sort of ill-advised self-defense measure. Somehow, safety is to be found in numbers, never mind the fact that there is no safety in numbers or anything else.[17] Clearly, running with the herd runs a great risk of getting run over in a stampede. A solitary course might well avoid that risk, but it does not escape others. Indeed, there is no such thing as life without risk. Thus prudence dictates taking along some insurance. Contracting with a fiduciary entity to share certain risks with like-minded individuals is both practical and prudent.[18]

I don’t depend on political protection because I find it neither practical nor prudent. Since political government is a non-owner, I question not only its authority and responsibility but also its competence to provide collective defense of individual life and property of any population under its hegemony. While I can know who is in nominal charge of the political apparatus of government, I cannot know who (other than me) would be responsible for my personal safety. Notice this dilemma remains whether I vote or not.

Those who would depend on political protection will have delegated to the government their right to self-defense when they last voted. This act is tantamount to giving to the anomalous authority of government an irrevocable power of attorney in matters of self defense.[19] The vote is irreversible. It is a permanent abdication of individual sovereignty. Once having delegated his legitimate powers to the collective authority, a person has no such simple way to nullify his act.  Continuing to vote in successive elections is certainly irrelevant to the issue since the government’s ballot does not offer the choice “no government.” As expressed by the bard of the rock:[20]

“No matter who is elected, the government always gets in.”

Voters fail to realize it is their voting that renders them defenseless against an institution that “owns” their self-defense prerogatives. If they knew this much, they would not participate in politics. Since the government always knows best even when it doesn’t, doing ‘something’ politically always turns out to be counterproductive for all individually humane purposes.

When human action is contemplated in a political context, non-political alternatives seemingly disappear. Voluntary alternatives are invisible in a political context because in politics, the threat of force is the only relevant motivation. By the same token, it is the threat of force that makes politics irrelevant to social living. No wonder, then, that politics is such an all-consuming preoccupation, and that political outcomes are always disappointing – no good deed goes unpunished, no personal profit escapes condemnation. Perish the thought of self-motivation.

Politics is inhumane. It is inherently inappropriate to private, individual ends. Politics is strictly suited to the regimentation of collected masses of people whose individual preferences are suppressed or irretrievably hidden in statistical contrivances. For example, who is that “average” American that elects the President, approves of the policies of government and picks up the tab for the expense? So long as a preponderance of the people affected rely on incoherent political abstractions expressed in collectivistic jargon for their actual community services, the cycle of urgent political campaigns, unfulfilled dreams and disappointing outcomes continues on into despair.

Many people have been misled to believe that to ignore politics is to commit “sociocide,” or worse. They believe failing to vote will concede future generations to bondage. They believe in the false alternatives created by political propaganda, such as the one that advises that participating in politics will ensure that government creates society and not bondage. How does my abstention from political activity condemn my descendents to despotism at the hands of that same political activity? How will my abstention from political activity contribute to the destitution of my progeny by the usurpations of that same political activity? The fact is that abstention from political activity while participating in available voluntary opportunities is actually voting for freedom and prosperity by example.

Fortunately, the grave prognostications of the politically faithful (no pun intended) are based on blind faith in political government to do what it promises, which is quite the opposite of what it is designed to do. Such faith flies in the face of historical experience. In fact, political participation has never failed to bring about the opposite of whatever the participants intended.

Politics obeys the law of reverse (perverse) effects. Political democracy (majority rule) is as far from self government as one can get. It produces a monopoly of coercive power over believers and non-believers, participants and non-participants, living and yet-to-be-born, all alike. Politics is an equal opportunity exploiter. Notice that in politics the winners take all. The only thing that saves the subjects of political rule from being reduced to a condition of abject servitude is the incompetence of political regimes to do anything productive. We’d all be dead if the political administration was more competent in law enforcement, particularly tax collecting. But such relief is the only compensation the victims will get for their impoverishment at the hand of their government, because that same incompetence will have denied them any returns on their forced ‘investments’ in the government’s programs. There is no recourse to restitution of state-inflicted injuries. The perverse effect of the state’s providing restitution to one of its victims is the victimization of innocent others. Somebody has to produce the capital to compensate the loss. The state is no such producer. The state is only a distributor of plunder, a spreader of injury.

A political scholar has observed that coercive government always fails to work, but political government never fails to coerce.[21] Historically, political government has always been at the root of enslavement, war and poverty. It may well be that enslavement, war and poverty do not occur otherwise. So how is it that so many people still look to political government to obtain liberty and prosperity?  Clearly, few have ever considered this question, let alone pondered an answer to it before succumbing to a belief in redemption by political means. Such a belief is like the child’s faith in Santa Claus and Easter Bunnies. However, regardless of the contradictions and the denials of reality, this belief has become a tenet of the so-called mainstream of thought on civil society. Thus, the political delusion is a social pathology.

Some believe so fervently in the propriety of political processes that they act out their belief zealously and condemn vociferously all who doubt or demur. Curiously, discussion of this contradiction in the folklore of politics is seldom heard even in polite and sober company. Remarkably, it is a subject that remains even more taboo than sex. This observation strongly suggests that politics is actually a religion. It is the state religion, and the faithful like to be known as Liberals, secularists, atheists, Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, patriots, etc. The resemblance of politics and religion appears even stronger when one takes note of the rituals and incantations that come into play. For example, consider the spectacle of a president of the United States of America under impeachment and possible criminal indictment for perjury and larceny delivering a nationally televised state-of-the-union address containing over fifty thoroughly fascistic proposals to the cheers of his congressional audience.[22]

Traditionally, at least since Plato, political government is thought to be antecedent to society because otherwise, it is argued, there is no way for humans to establish an umbrella of law and order without which contrivance society is said to be impossible. Never mind clear evidence to the contrary, such as the spontaneous order attributable to the merchants and entrepreneurs of the Hanseatic League cities during the Middle Ages.

Devotees of the antique Platonic elitist tradition seek a certain privileged fate in the conservation of familiar political institutions regardless of the absurdities and miseries that follow. They denounce all forms of nonconformity and they mistrust even the suggestion that there may be alternatives to monolithic, monopoly government and a rigidified social structure. To them, change is abhorrent and should be resisted. They constantly reinvent politics as a means of coping with a world disinclined to conform to human preconceptions of social order. In its most recent incarnation, politics has been referred to euphemistically as a means for the socialization of risk. 20 Perhaps so, but in the process, political government compounds and spreads the inherent risks of ordinary human life.[23]

Contrary to popular opinion, politics does not actually mitigate the risks of living. Come what may, human life will remain an adventure. Politics can only spread the risks via coercive means and make them seem less pressing than they actually are. The deception can be deadly for the unsuspecting. Similarly, politics cannot produce wealth. It can only redistribute it while intimidating and shaming the victims into compliance and silence.  As a result, politics spreads deception and impoverishment along with risk thereby impairing people’s abilities to cope with their lives with their limited means at hand. Then, to the extent risk aversion remains a human preoccupation, political institutions stand ready to capitalize on the opportunity to apply more coercion and cause further impoverishment.

Unrealistic expectations of protection from risk, combined with aversions to risk, tend to paralyze people in dealing with their lives as best they can. Even the limited means they have at hand may be neglected or squandered as they wait out their lives with false hopes of government coming to their rescue. Such apathy guarantees that the risks they face will be exacerbated, and that politics will seize the opportunity to play the part of the redeemer with ever greater zeal, and so on ad nauseam.

Politics makes one thing certain if nothing else — coercion. For some, even that much certainty is better than no certainty at all, especially if they can be convinced that the coercion will be applied in the direction of their preferences for order and security. Then, the coercion would always seem to apply to anonymous others rather than to themselves. Even when they encounter the harsh reality of the state, they will have been conditioned to believe that the pain experienced was for a ‘good’ cause.

Politics bears a strong resemblance to messianic theology. Regardless of all the obvious problems associated with its practices, adherents remain steadfast in their belief that the savior is just around the next election.

It is often said that a rational man must enter the political fray to fight for freedom and truth, at least with his pen if nothing else. In neglecting this duty, so goes this admonition, man abandons his kind to an ignominious fate at the mercy of thieves and brutes. To the contrary, abstainers like me spared Barry Goldwater a fate worse than John F. Kennedy’s, Lyndon Johnson’s and Richard Nixon’s.

It is generally assumed that the really conscientious citizens are those who use their pens to mark up state-furnished ballots at election time and then retire from politics until called by the authorities to return to the polls. Established politicians hope citizens have only enough ink for the ballots so that petitions to the political powers for a redress of their inevitable grievances go unsigned and undeliverable.

Apathetic and cynical people reject direct participation in the political system because to them it seems that conscientious political activism achieves nothing. They are wrong, of course, because political participation clearly achieves something, albeit nothing they can admire. But these cynics are no less mistaken about politics than their active and optimistic counterparts who fervently believe to the contrary. Political participation achieves the worst fears of both, namely the conquest of the population on behalf of the government. The fervent believers in government as the savoir of humanity celebrate the political process and ignore the result as if they were blind.

From the point of view of the ardent political participant, voting is a supplication to the deity. It is quite analogous to the prayer of the devout Christian to his personal savior. However, politicians see it differently. For them, it accomplishes precisely what they crave — legitimacy. Both the cynical and the faithful seem not to understand what politics is really about, and politicians would like to keep it that way. Politicians naturally prefer, indeed require, a docile population in order to maintain their hegemony. Such a state of affairs requires that people remain dutiful in their patronage, unrealistic in their expectations and ignorant of their part in maintaining the political establishment that lords over them. Oddly enough, the subjects habitually submit with little protest. Many actually believe it is fair play to go along with the regime as long as others also conform. The politicians look after their appearances of legitimacy and laugh all the way to the bank.

But ignorance is bliss only for cows. So politics may be said to work only in the sense that cattle ranching works. The parallel is uncanny. As cow-punching is custodial, so also is a successful political institution. The parallel does not stop there. It includes regimentation, exploitation and extraction as well. Whereas such purported benefits of the state as education, defense, welfare, security, transportation, justice and welfare are merely the fanciful illusions of the subjects, these institutions are deadly serious political tools for maintaining the status quo.

Humans are free agents who need to know that politics aims to subject them to conquest like cattle, and that the conquest proceeds by means of their own broad and active indulgence in the political process itself. They also need to know that, perhaps inadvertently, they provide the essential sanction of a process the sole purpose of which is to subject them to conquest like cattle. When they find they are being treated as cattle rather than free men, which requires no genius, they should realize how their diminished status is a consequence of their having become cow-like in their approach to politics. Queuing up at the polls at election time bears a strong resemblance to a gathering of the herd at a dip trench at branding time.

The Legacy of Robert LeFevre

It is important for people to understand the meaning and consequences of political voting if they aspire to a humane existence. As a consequence, they might well discover the grand alternative to such voting, namely abstention in favor of economic participation. The future of civilization depends on such understanding and choosing.

Can such knowledge be any less important than truth in advertising? What if a ballot was emblazoned with a caption warning the user that the consequences of dropping it into the ballot box can be harmful to ones health and safety?

This advice is not as novel as one might expect.  As Robert LeFevre wrote in his 1973 classic “Abstain from Beans,” the Stoics of Ancient Greece developed a philosophy of individualism well before the modern era that exposed political voting as a nothing more than support for a system that assumes might makes right.[24] LeFevre showed the modern practice of using printed ballots placed in lock-boxes is the same in principle and outcome to the Greeks’ practice of dropping beans of various colors into clay jars. Both record the submission of the participants to a false alternative, namely to accede to monopoly control of all, whatever beans they chose to drop, if any. Accordingly, the Stoics shunned such bean counting. LeFevre observes how 2500 years of political history has accredited the wisdom of the Stoics.

LeFevre personified the obvious fact that one can abstain from beans and still enjoy a wholesome diet. He proved that abstention from voting need not paralyze articulate dissent and disapproval of the remnants of political decadence, official brutality and injustice. To the contrary, he demonstrated how such a posture could inspire eloquence, fellowship, scholarship and respect, and prepare one to enjoy more fully a life in the company of the other volitional humans comprising civil society.

LeFevre was a pacifist because he condemned political violence and institutionalized coercion of all forms. But he advocated self-defense. He knew that condemnation of a disease would not suffice for a cure and advised that one should concentrate on maintaining his mental health notwithstanding the fact that an epidemic disease may be raging and it will run its natural course and take its toll come what may. Not that he liked that prospect, especially when he considered politics a social disease no less virulent than the bubonic plague. But he could not conceive of an alternative outcome of a political binge in a population any more than he could see how an individual alcoholic could escape a hangover or death. He only hoped that not everyone would be so afflicted and that some would practice political abstention as a hygienic measure. Toward the end of his life, LeFevre addressed his students in a “PRIMER TO A NEW WORLD,” which he subtitled “The Confessions of a Man Who Tried to Remake the World and Didn’t Succeed, and Who Leaves the Uncompleted Task Reluctantly to You.” [25] His appeal was simply to you personally, to take care and to pass the word.

LeFevre demonstrated that abstention is not a political act or even a statement of political defiance. He realized he had a choice to make — political animal or human being. He maintained an arms-length posture with regard to politics for reasons of personal sanity. His experience shows how abstention from political participation can liberate one’s mind and body to become more articulate, outspoken, resourceful, optimistic and industrious. At the least, he demonstrated that abstention produces freedom from frustration, anger and time lost from truly creative endeavors.

In light of LeFevre’s example, one might wonder whether his fellow man might construe such self-concern as evidence of exclusion or discrimination. Will a person regret having taken this wholly selfish approach to life? Hell no! Such an approach does no harm and may do some good. Will he alienate family, friends and neighbors with this self-centered attitude? Hell no! By taking care of himself he may become better prepared to render help to less fortunate others. Will he be able to convince them all to emulate him? Hell no! They will respond to his good example and a ready explanation or not at all. Will this bother him? Hell no! — not if he is mindful that indulgence, opportunism and promiscuity are the personal choices of others over whom he has no control.

Alvin Lowi, Jr. is a professional engineer in private practice in Southern California. He is a life-long student of social, economic and political phenomena. He presumes the reader is as familiar with politics as he and dedicates this essay to the memory of Robert LeFevre who made the subject plain and emphatic to him over forty years ago.

Notes and References

* The title is taken from a pamphlet originally published in 1962 by The Pine Tree Press of the Freedom School, Colorado Springs, CO. This essay began life under the title “Abstention Is Not Apathy: Must We depend on Political Protection? (with Apologies to Robert LeFevre)” at the request of Robert Klassen ( founder of Economic Government Group, who published it in part in 1999 on its website ( [defunct]. With the revival of the League of Non-Voters by Stephen H. Foerster, that essay now appears at ( [defunct]. The present edition remembers Robert LeFevre more specifically and commemorates the 40th anniversary of the author’s discovery of life without politics.

**Superscript numerals denote references listed at end.

1 Edmund A. Opitz, Libertariansim Revisited, Foundation for Economic Education, Irvington, NY, 1962.

[2] , Must We Depend on Political Protection?—Yes…Edmund A. Opitz, No…Robert LeFevre, Studies in Human Action, Vol. II, No. 1, The Pine Tree Press, The Freedom School, Colorado Springs,CO, 1962.

[3] Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative, Victor Publishing Co., New York, 1960. Note: The publication of this book inspired a clamor for its presumptive author’s candidacy for President. One such grass-roots organization was “Californians for Goldwater.” Andrew Galambos, later the founder of the Free Enterprise Institute, joined and went to the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago to beat the drums for Goldwater’s nomination. There were lapel buttons and bumper stickers galore declaring “Nominate anyone you please. I’m voting for Barry Goldwater.” Galambos actually button-holed the Senator in his hotel room to persuade him to run. But, alas, he balked. Four years later (1964), Goldwater was persuaded to run for president as a Republican by the party fathers. By that time, Galambos had discovered there was, after all, a life apart from politics.

[4] Robert LeFevre, “The Thinking Man’s Guide to Politics,” Seminar, Free Enterprise Institute, Los Angeles, May 2, 1964.

[5] Andrew J. Galambos, “Capitalism, The Key To Survival,” Course 100, Free Enterprise Institute, Los Angeles, 1991 (partly contained in Sic Itur ad Astra, The Universal Scientific Publication Company, San Diego, 1999, ).

[6] Spencer Heath, Citadel, Market and Altar: Emerging Society – Outline of Socionomy, the New Natural Science of Society, The Science of Society Foundation, Baltimore, MD, 1957. (Spencer Heath’s extensive writings are preserved by The Heather Foundation, Spencer H. MacCallum, Trustee, P.O. Box 180, Tonopah, NV, 89049. They are also archived at the Harper Library of the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.)

[7] Thomas Paine, Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke’s Attack on the French Revolution, Parts Second, Introduction, J.S. Jordan, Publisher, Fleet Street, London, 1792. (Also quoted in Future of Freedom Foundation Update, December, 15, 2003.

[8] Frederic Bastiat, The Law, RusselI Translation, Foundation for Economic Education, Irvington-on-Hudson, NY, 1950.

[9] Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr., “Illusions of Power: How Government Deceives Us on the Path to Political Control,” Talk delivered at the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, on December 12, 2003

[10] Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1949.

[11] Joel Chandler Harris, The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus, Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, 2002

[12] The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged Edition, Random House, New York, 1966.

[13] Stephen L. Newman, Liberalism at Wits’ End: The Libertarian Revolt Against the Modern State, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1984.

[14] Theodore J. Lowi, Incomplete Conquest: Governing America, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1981, p.25.

[15] Étienne de la Boétie, The Politics of Obedience:The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, 1540,

[16] Theodore J. Lowi, Private Life and Public Order: Problems of Modern Government, W.W. Norton, New York, 1968.

[17] Arthur Bloch, Murphy’s Law and Other Reasons Why Things Go Wrong, Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers, Los Angeles, 1977.

[18] Peter B. Bos, “The Societal Implications of Risk-Sharing,” The Heather Foundation, P.O. Box 180, Tonopah, NV 89049, April 8, 1997.

[19] Peter Fleming observes in personal communication with author.

[20] Anonymous rock music lyric.

[21] Theodore J. Lowi, “The Welfare State: Ethical Foundations and Constitutional Remedies,” Political Science Quarterly 101/2, Centennial Issue, 1986, 197-220.

[22] William J. Clinton’s second inaugural address.

[23] Ludwig von Mises, Planning for Freedom, Libertarian Press, South Holland, IL, 1952.

[24] Robert LeFevre, “Abstain From Beans,” Commentary, Rampart College, Santa Ana, CA, 1973.

[25] Robert LeFevre, “Primer to a New World,” Rampart College, Santa Ana, CA, 1973.


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