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Complete Liberty Message Board › Root-striking questions

Root-striking questions

San Diego, CA
Post #: 24
As a result of an email thread concerning the best way to challenge individuals' statist ideas, here is what we came up with so far:

Any situation you find yourself in can be remedied with 3 questions to the person
who is using violence to get what they want, or to any person supporting such
tactics or ideas.

1. Do you consider yourself a moral person?

(Child molesting homicidal maniacs on death row answer yes to this question.
10 out of 10 people will answer yes to this question, so once they do, you have them).

2. Do you believe that stealing is wrong, immoral and a violation of a persons right to property?

(Again who is going to say no to this? Everyone in every culture is taught as a child that stealing is wrong. You can even dumb it down to just "do you think stealing is wrong" if you think that will be more effective).

3. So let me make sure I understand you completely, I heard you say you are a moral person and that you believe stealing is wrong, than how can a moral person who says they know stealing is wrong possibly support, be in favor of, or condone, .........

And you fill in the violence that you are discussing.

This works every time because it takes any conversation down to the bare essentials:
Who are you talking to, what is their world view of themselves, and by what moral code do they live.
Then hold up the mirror and show them how everything they just told you about themselves
and their ethics is utter bullshit. You have just exposed them as nothing but a violent parasite, not the moral, rights respecting person they thought they were.

You can make it even more painful but prefacing the 3 questions by asking if they are a person of faith.
People of faith take these types of questions even more seriously because they feel they are being watched by and have to answer to their "God". They tend to be even more crushed when you point out their inherent conflicted world view.

Prepare for any "intellectual" conversation you may have been having with them to end and for them to shut down or lash out at you emotionally, especially in mixed company as they try to save face.

It takes a bit of practice to learn to pull this out at the best time. It helps to
really let them defend the violence as much as you can before becoming reflective
and quiet and then letting them have it.

And of course to personalize it from the questioner's standpoint, you can add "Do you believe that stealing ~my~ stuff to pay for whatever you want is wrong?" which is a variation of Molyneux's "Are you in favor of using force against me?" argument.

And if they say that the wrongness of stealing depends on the nature of the group doing it--magically transforming an obviously wrong action into necessary "taxes"--then it's good to point out the nature of that severe inconsistency. What fosters such rationalizations? I'd say basically fear of "authority" and rejecting self-responsibility (again, out of fear), coupled oftentimes with the desire to get something for nothing and wanting to control others (or be controlled), stemming from a lack of trust and respect of self and others (which gets back to fear and lack of living responsibly). Authoritarian sociopathy, imo, is the worst manifestation of low self-esteem, or what Branden calls pseudo self-esteem.

Another couple questions, from the great Marc Stevens' playbook:

1. Other than the threat of physical violence (if I don't do what you say), what exactly is the nature of our relationship?

2. Why do you believe that your service should be forced on rights-respecting people (or just me)?

3. After they provide a convoluted or despicable answer to that pointed question, ask them "How do you expect to cope with the fact that you have now admitted that you are NOT a moral person, because moral people do not coerce peaceful people and take their stuff?"

The above questions can of course be posed to any person working in, or aiding and abetting, statist rights-violations. Striking the root no doubt entails getting the main enforcers of statism ("police") to question their own behavior or at least have a crisis of conscience ("To protect and serve," remember). Yet, it may be more vital to challenge the premises and behavior of those who intellectually and psychologically "train" these obedient "law enforcers," i.e., those who write their paychecks and support them (such as statist intellectuals, or members of news media, journalists, and professors).

Damaging the public relations scheme that government is "good and virtuous" because it "protects" and "provides" for people and is the "authority" in all matters of serious dispute (i.e. its coercive monopoly is "necessary and proper") should be a main goal of voluntaryist activism. Those working in government are not immune from the principle of self-responsibility.

Moreover, as we all know by now, statism is just a representation of the sick and twisted forms of authoritarianism (and obedience to such authority) that predominate in most families. So important questions need to be posed to family members too.

Better ideas and behaviors are promoted by helping to raise individuals' awareness about their own damaged self-esteem, contradictory ideologies, and improper actions.

The message of peace, non-violence, and respectful human interaction will ultimately prevail.

San Diego, CA
Post #: 25
To follow up on this thread, included below are the explanation and questions posed by David King in chapt. 14 of his book A Guide To The Philosophy Of Objectivism (­ or­ ), which unfortunately is a VERY misguided chapter in terms of activist strategy; as noted previously, non-violence is the ONLY means to achieve true freedom. Nonetheless, these questions will also get an individual thinking and feeling some things about the nature of statism.


Questions to Determine Philosophical Orientation

How do you tell just what a person really is? You can't simply pose the straightforward question "Do you believe in liberty?" You will merely get a null-value answer: if he really does believe in liberty he will answer "Yes" but if he does not really believe in it he will also probably answer "Yes." It's like asking a man if he is honest - you get the same answer whether he is or not.

You have to go at it in an indirect way, asking questions designed to circumvent his dishonesty (or his ignorance - many people would answer the questions without real knowledge of what is liberty or what is honesty). You must also allow for any self-delusion he has. What is important is not to ascertain the rationale that he uses to justify his behavior, but the actual motivation underlying the behavior.

The questions should be constructed so as to pose a distinguishable separation between two phenomena. The important thing to look for when you ask them is NOT the clarity and precision with which the person identifies the distinction, but merely whether or not he MAKES the distinction. After all, you cannot expect an ordinary person to be a trained philosopher or logician, but you can and SHOULD expect him to be a decent human being, and thus to REALIZE that there is a distinction to be made, even though he may not be able to precisely specify that distinction.

Here are some sample questions:

Under what circumstances would it be proper for a group of men to do something that it would be improper for an individual member of that group to do alone?

How do you distinguish between trade and theft? [according to Marxist doctrine, there is no distinction.] How do you distinguish between taxation and theft?

What are you opposed to - the people running the government, the way they are running it, or government itself?

Define freedom. Define slavery.

What is the fundamental distinguishing characteristic of government?

What are the proper functions of government? What is the alternative to government?

What is the difference between Politics and Economics?

What is the logical fallacy in the statement "cheating on a tax form"?

Under what circumstances may the State justly place its welfare above that of an individual citizen?

Would you be morally justified in killing an innocent person if that were the only way to prevent your own death?

How do you distinguish between criminal and non-criminal behavior?

Is there a distinction between moral principle (natural law) and legislative enactment (government law)? Illustrate your answer by reference to gambling and to the legal and illegal ownership of gold, whiskey and heroin.

By what means do you propose to restrict behavior of which you disapprove?

At whose expense will your proposed program be implemented?

What part do you play in the political process of the community?

What have you done to reduce your taxes?

Do you judge both government behavior and non-government behavior by reference to the same ethical principles?


Add more at will...
A former member
Post #: 4
Excellent questions.

And as I brought up during the email chain, I thought Michael articulated his "root striking" very well during Episode 88 of Wes' Complete Liberty Podcast. Good discussion!!

Hopefully, we can all get some "root striking" practice in before we meet-up again and we can share.
user 10643368
San Diego, CA
Post #: 5

This approach is certainly a good one. Essentially you back a person into a box (which represents their self-reported beliefs through answers to your questions), and then expose their self-defined "box" as immoral, hypocritical and/or inconsistent. In high school I referred to this method of argument as "backing them into a box and setting the box on fire". When done well they will even make a point to distance themselves from their own beliefs, espoused only moments earlier. In other words, they tell you how wrong they were (are) and why. On the other hand, when it's not working, you get a glassy-eyed daze as their brain turns off (I swear you can see the moment when they eschew logic) to protect their self-esteem, or sometimes you get an emotional response.

The primary barrier I see is that the person (e.g. the tax commissioner) you are asking these questions is not receptive to change, and therefore not actively participating in the process that will lead to the revelations you are seeking to induce. Their answers represent a defense of existing entrenched ideas they have already decided to protect rather than an objective evaluation of those same beliefs. In some cases, I think this is a reflection of one's own psychological need for competence. Your suggestion of a radical new way of thinking, no matter how logical or correct, also implies that they are silly for having held another belief.

Sorry to play devil's advocate, it's just what I do. People often reject logical appeals, and the specific reasons for this rejection need to be addressed toward greater efficacy of a valid logical approach (like the one you presented in this thread).


San Diego, CA
Post #: 26
Excellent analysis, Brian. I agree. It's the perennial problem: those in most need of change typically do not seek it, because from their standpoint such change is either unnecessary or psychologically (or existentially) impossible.

Yet, the public relations scheme of governmental "officials" relies on the notion that they are good and are doing good works for "the public." What is the nature of goodness, especially in relation to how one treats other people? Everyone understands that harming others and taking their stuff isn't good (even monkeys have a sense of fairness). So, the main way those in government can proceed in a righteous fashion (and what evil has not carried the flag of righteousness!) is by considering their actions to actually be beneficial to the very individuals they are harming (e.g., "It's for your own good" and "Obedience to our law is a virtue"). Turns out, this is the exact same psychological tactic that parents use to dominate their children.

But when this is openly shown as a fraudulent notion and directly and repeatedly challenged, they (and those who support them) are left with two basic choices: ridiculously defend the irrational and indefensible, the evasions, the pretenses, the lies, the abuse, and thus incur more public shaming; or, consider those they are lying to and abusing actually worthy of respect and autonomy, thereby making principled concessions and coming to terms with their flawed notion of goodness.

The great irony in this process of course is that persons who have a mindset of authoritarian sociopathy really need to consider their own selves worthy of respect and autonomy. To paraphrase Ayn Rand, a leash is really a rope with a collar at each end.

Whatever strategies we can employ to raise awareness of this last insight will no doubt be beneficial. People in most need of change can offer the world so much more. If only they would realize the best within themselves.

user 10643368
San Diego, CA
Post #: 6
Wes said: "persons who have a mindset of authoritarian sociopathy really need to consider their own selves worthy of respect and autonomy"

Agreed, and this may represent the currency with which changing one's mind can offer more to the person than simply defending existing beliefs. True open-mindedness requires respecting yourself and others equally for who they are. Once you make the conscious decision to be accepting and not judgmental, it is difficult to genuinely have a low opinion of yourself or others.

Do you (or anyone else reading) believe in true altruism? I do not, but I am wondering what you think. I have a speech I like to give about this topic, but I don't want to type it out and maybe I should stay off my soapbox since I'm still learning about the mission and beliefs of this group.

Sometime I would like to further discuss your views on parenting and the appropriateness of parental authority. Your viewpoint is not one I am familiar with, but I got some hints from your posts and am intrigued.
San Diego, CA
Post #: 27
Well, I think it's really important to define altruism. I'm against any and all forms of self-sacrifice (and sacrifice is another term that needs a coherent definition). I explored all this in the chapter on ethics of my first book, btw:
Freedom—An Ethical Issue

If you have further questions in this regard, feel free to start another thread. I'd like to keep this one mainly to the root-striking questions.

As far as treating kids with respect, here are some great resources:

user 10643368
San Diego, CA
Post #: 7
I asked some of these root-striking questions of a person (who shall remain nameless) that is close to me, and they were reasonably effective. The idea of not allowing a group of individuals to do something you wouldn't allow an individual to do seemed to have the most influence.

The objections that arose in our conversation centered around the notion that complete liberty, while moral, would be difficult (impossible?) to achieve and maintain. Specific objections cited human nature, conflict theories, etc. Now remember that I am not set in my own beliefs and so I only discussed these objections rather than really trying to change her mind. In the end we agreed that complete liberty is an idealistic concept (like world peace), and that the objections were functional in nature.

So, if our goal is to change a mind there are two primary objections to overcome that I witnessed:

1 Numerous objections phrased roughly as "you have to have (some type of structure) or the result is chaos". Yes I know this is one of the most common objections.

2. Something to increase the perceived efficacy of a complete liberty viewpoint, both that it can be achieved and that achieving it would lead to a functionally better world. The moral argument was somewhat effective, but limited for these reasons.

Personally I believe that liberty is more important than safety/security, but still I can see why these objections arise.

I hope my adventures as a newbie are not too elementary to be helpful.... your thoughts?

Thanks for the links about raising children, they will soon be used to cause trouble in one of my classes. BTW I don't think I mentioned that I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in organizational psychology. My master's is in general psych.
San Diego, CA
Post #: 28
I appreciate the thoughtful input, Brian. Nice to see you're studying the psych angle, which I think is critical for success in these important matters.

So, yes, we're often confronted by the altruistic cliche that "freedom isn't practical" (aka, being able to make your own choices with your own property doesn't work). Fascinating, isn't it--this no doubt spoken by people who are assuredly not being coerced to say such a thing. What irony. Sacrificing self to others and others to self is somehow considered the acceptable default ethical position.

For whom is force "practical"? Those who depend on the sanction of the victim, no less. http://aynrandlexicon...­

The moral code of sacrifice gives rise to the moral/practical dichotomy:

All of which fosters the language of slavespeak: http://www.buildfreed...­

Conceptually, the meme of collectivism is instrumental in this dead-end thinking. Of course you can't get a "country" or "state" or "city" of people to agree on whatever "political" policies the people "in charge" have cooked up, so the only way to implement them is coercively, under threads of fines, jail cells, and even death (i.e., if you try to defend yourself and property). Naturally, "chaos" is the image that the meme of collectivism depends on. All hell will break loose if people don't obey the "laws of the collective." Looked at from a developmental perspective, unruly children must be sternly "disciplined," you know.

Liberty actually brings about safety and security, by respecting people's choices and property in the marketplace. Any infringement of individual rights is a manifestation of how unsafe we are--insecurity brought about by the predations of those who champion the "practicality" of statism.

Here's a sentence completion exercise to illustrate some of the subconscious motivations:

The good thing about seeing freedom as an unreachable or impractical ideal is...
I don't have to think about how unfree I am
I don't have to take responsibility for my lack of freedom
I can remain in chains, comfortably
I don't have to do anything
I don't have to pass judgment on those who aggress against others
I don't have to deal with my fears of being free
I can just believe what others have told me
I don't have to challenge anyone
I don't have to confront those who claim to have authority
I don't have to rock the boat
I can just accept the status quo and make the most of it


user 10643368
San Diego, CA
Post #: 8

Excellent, thanks for the quick education! I figured you had good answers, but had not heard them yet. Collectivism does seem to require sacrifices that are often overlooked. For example while horizontal collectivism (i.e. socialism) promises equality (relative), people forget to ask about the quality (absolute) of life that can be equally had.

Well I have a lot of reading to do after having so much recommended to me at the meetings and here on the board. I think I'll take some time to delve into those and see if I come out the other side with more questions, or less.

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San Diego, CA

Founded Aug 19, 2009

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