Roy Childs on anarchism
by Ronald N. Neff, continued
Our Roy Childs table of contents
The Open Letter had not been Roy's first published essay identifying errors he thought he had found in Rand's position on government. In 1968, he published "The Contradiction in Objectivism."  After summarizing the Objectivist epistemology and ethics, he said that from his own experience he knew "the Objectivist ethics ... can be an invaluable tool in rebuilding one's own character, in awakening one's mind, and in helping to provide a sound foundation for mental health and, especially, for self-esteem." (p. 86) Nevertheless, he wrote, its position on government was just wrong.
In "Epistemological Basis," Roy would give much consideration to the right of retaliation and its exercise. But in this earlier piece, like other libertarians influenced by Robert LeFevre, he focused on protection and defense. He argued that Rand's concern about competing agencies of retaliation was misdirected, that what he and others were arguing for were competing agencies of protection and defense. He did not discuss the necessity, desirability, or methods of bringing wrongdoers to justice. The main arguments in this essay were different from those he would use later, and he never returned to them. He began by attempting to show that Rand's rejection of taxation as a means of financing a government in fact doomed it, that taxation was necessary to the functioning of a government.
He argued further that the powers to arrest, to issue subpoenas (including the subpoena duces tecum, which requires a person under subpoena to bring certain documents with him), and to punish perjury all characterized government systems of retaliation and that they were "by the standards of Objectivism, immoral and unjustifiable." (p. 91)
Roy's criticism of constitutionalism was twofold: (a) that no constitution could actually limit the actions of the government, and (b) that no constitution could be valid. On the latter point, he drew on the arguments of Lysander Spooner, as he was to do later in making the epistemological case.
In arguing that all constitutions were necessarily invalid, he took issue with Rand's position that civil disobedience was legitimate only to make a "test" case.  Since the U.S. Constitution authorizes the initiation of force against every inhabitant of the United States, every one of its laws is invalid. Therefore, the violation of any law, so long as the violation did not itself entail initiating force, would not be an assault on the concept of individual rights (whether or not the violation was otherwise advisable). Rather it would be "an assertion of individual rights against the power of state enforcement of invalid laws." (p. 93) And he issued an unusual call: "The only logical attitude that any Objectivist should take toward the present government and constitution is one of uncompromising hostility. And since one does not sanction evil in any capacity, that means that every Objectivist should withdraw his sanction from the political establishment immediately and in every possible way." (p. 94)
It is a shame that he did not end the piece on so stirring a challenge.
Instead, he went on to argue that the Objectivist defense of "defensive war" entailed impossible standards, that all war inevitably and predictably results in the killing and injuring of innocents and so constitutes "a large-scale initiation of physical force against innocent victims of the state." He objected both to Rand's support for Israel's war against Egypt and to her opposition to unilateral nuclear disarmament.
In summarizing his case, he reminded Objectivists that in making up his mind about such issues a real individualist would not wait to be told what to think by others.
The origin and growth of the state
In "Autarchy and the Statist Abyss" , Roy presented an account of the origin of the state, explicitly drawing on the work of Murray N. Rothbard, Franz Oppenheimer, Albert Jay Nock, and Bertrand de Jouvenel. He presented an overview of the history of the West to shore up the thesis that "the state, historically, was born through conquest. When men began to produce, others began to loot them.... This means of predation, which is relatively orderly and systematic, is the state." He further asserted, "The origin of the state is never a 'social contract'.... It is always the conquest of one group, or 'tribe,' by another...." (pp. 2, 3)
Again, he took up the question of how to oppose the state, and this time he considered the methods of the two supposedly anti-state groups in America of the late 1960s: the conservatives and the New Left. In the end, he showed, the premises of both led and could only lead to an increase in state power. 
His discussion of the New Left is dismissive, arguing that in posing as a threat to the state, it had merely given the state an excuse to expand. His discussion of conservatism, however, was more substantive. In it he wrote his harshest criticism of religion as such, a subject to which he seldom turned in his writings. Also interesting is his discussion of tradition as an argument. He finds a basic flaw in so using it; but when he returned to the subject years later, he did not build on the arguments of this essay at all.
Perhaps most interesting, though, are his comments on elections "opinion mongering on a mass scale": "The choices allowed the people are artificial and superficial at best, and are always determined by the state itself." And the minority is "subordinated to the consensus reached." (p. 3) His explanation of why elections are the undoing of conservatives is worth quoting at length:
What is the primary tool used by conservatives in opposing the growth of the state? Political action.
Conservatives propose to oppose the growth of the state by supporting politicians. And what do politicians do? They support the growth of the state. Conservatives would have you believe that you can dehydrate a plant by watering it, or get rid of rats by feeding them.
Remember that one of the ways a state grows is by responding to increasing demands for state services. What do conservatives constitute? An increasing demand for politicians. The conservatives abandon their businesses, their voluntary institutions, and rush to bestow their attention on the state. And they expect the private sector to grow and the state sector to shrink.
And more: by rushing into politics, what principles are the conservatives abandoning, and which are they accepting? Voting and political action itself implies a sanctioning of the state, and hence of its basis the rule of man by man. The conservatives would fight the principle by adopting it. They oppose the state by sanctioning the entire governing process. What will be the result? The growth of the state. (pp. 13-14)
To part three.
Posted 2003 by WTM Enterprises.
© 2003 by Ronald N. Neff. All rights reserved by author.
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