Article: Voluntary Governance

The standard nomenclature of libertarianism and anarchy suffer the double disadvantage of counter-productive cultural baggage and the factual stigma of being at best unclear and at worst inaccurate. Adopting, instead, the language of ‘voluntary governance’ has a triple advantage. It is a convivial language which doesn’t scare people and turn them off of our arguments before we’ve even made them. It is simply a more accurate description of our desired objective. And, given the actual state of affairs, it not only describes our ends, but also points toward the most promising means of getting to the desired outcome. In other words, ‘voluntary governance’ is not only rhetorically more convivial and substantively accurate, but also transitionally facilitating.

Michael McConkey lives in the socialist hotbed of Vancouver, Canada, where the mountains continually remind him of how puny are the grand designs of the state’s social engineers. He has a Ph.D. in communication from McGill University in Montreal and free lances in teaching organizational theory. He’s just finishing a book that aspires to reinvent communications theory through the application of Austrian and libertarian ideas to a discipline that has been painfully positivist and anti-market.

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  • Though some anarchists like to give the word all kinds of nuanced spin, the fact of the matter is that the etymology of the word anarchy, from the ancient Greek, means: without a leader.

    No, it means without a ruler.

    A ruler is one kind of leader. There are others.

  • The term “voluntary governance” is an appealing synonym for libertarianism that should absolutely be used.

    However, libertarians shouldn’t solely rely on this term because it does not denote the propertarian aspect of right-wing libertarianism that is so crucial to the philosophy. In other words, leftists could conceivably claim that they are supporters of “voluntary governance” but that they simply reject the Lockean/libertarian account of how one comes to own property by “mixing his labor” with it, etc.

    Side note: Apparently “voluntaryist” and “voluntarist” are words that can be used to denote a supporter of “voluntary governance” according to Wikipedia.

    Moreover, if we remove the first “an” from “voluntary governanarian” we are left with a label that isn’t too bad and that still makes sense for libertarians.

    • Kevin, I don’t understand these labels( right-wing , leftist) when applied to libertarianism. It is my understand that libertarians don’t neatly full into this nomenclature. Perhaps you could point me to some resources that elaborate on those qualifiers.

      • I’m not an expert on these labels, but based on my understanding, right-libertarianism affirms private property rights while left-libertarianism, aka libertarian socialism, does not. The importance of that distinction cannot be overstated, and the two philosophies are very much at odds with one another because of this difference.

        When the word ‘libertarianism’ is used in the U.S., it usually refers to right-libertarianism; when the word ‘libertarianism’ is used in Europe, it usually refers to left-libertarianism (at least that is what I heard Noam Chomsky, who identifies himself as a libertarian socialist, say in an interview). Wikipedia’s entries on right-libertarianism, left-libertarianism, and other related topics is probably a good source of information on these distinctions.

        And just for clarity sake, it is worth pointing out that The Libertarian Standard is a right-libertarian website according to the above stated distinction.

        • With all of that said, it is still true that libertarians of the sort at this website do not fit neatly into the usual right-wing/left-wing dichotomy of the U.S.’s political/cultural wars.

          In fact, in terms of the culture wars, libertarians can be seen as extremely left-wing on some issues (anti-war, pro drug legalization) and extremely right-wing on others (anti-taxation).

  • Also, the term “self-governance” in its literal rather than electoral meaning is another good synoym for libertarianism that should be used.

  • Huh. The LIO has been using the term “conscious voluntary governance” as descriptive of civic libertarianism for many decades and it was officially adopted as a descriptive term in a series of meetings to canonically define usage that began in 1946, was taken up again in 1965 and with the US LP loosely called the Dallas Accord Process in the US, and the Windhoek Process internationally. All key Libertarian, including so called left and right, groups and leaders at the time signed off on the usage. In 2002 the LIO, ISIL and USLP representatives signed off on a review of a permanent Libertarian classification system for parties and groups as well. I’m presently summarizing the usage as the last person alive who attended all the meetings, including its recent review. Please check over the next few months for the upload.