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March 20, 2014

Should we stop calling IT the government?

We’ve been trying to promote some new ideas with our Zero Aggression mini-articles. Today we want to drive home these points by calling for a new linguistic strategy.  


Ask people what libertarians are against, and most will quickly say, “The government.” But is that really true? Are libertarians against…


  • Law

  • Order

  • Due process

  • Juries

  • Self-defense

  • Compensation to victims?


Of course not. Even libertarians who call themselves anarchists favor ALL of these things. In fact…


These functions are the very definition of what libertarians think government SHOULD do, or what libertarian-anarchists think some kind of institution should do. So…


Is it really correct to say that we’re anti-government? And if NOT, then why do we give people the impression that it IS correct?  More importantly…


What if it we turned it around? What if we started saying…


“We’re the ONLY people who FAVOR government, because we’re the ONLY people who oppose the initiation of force.”


What if we took it even further. What if we started saying…  


“Our current so-called government isn’t a government at all, precisely because it initiates force, which is a criminal act contrary to the whole idea of law and government.”  


And what if we also started asserting that the current institution of “government” is so far away from being a true government that it isn’t even worthy of the name?  


What if we started using scare quotes around the word “government,” or, better yet, called it The State, rather than calling it “the government.”


Can you imagine how it would turn heads if people started hearing libertarians say…


“I wish we HAD a government? Because what we have right now isn’t one.”


Talking in this way will be a struggle for many libertarians. We’re so practiced at complaining about the government that some of us will find it impossible to embrace the word, and make it our own. But consider the benefits…


We could STOP sounding like the opponents of law and order, and START sounding like the greatest defenders of those virtues.


And then perhaps we would no longer be seen as primarily anti-government, but would instead be viewed mainly as passionate advocates of the Zero Aggression Principle.


Might this approach be more attractive? And isn’t it more linguistically accurate?


This new angle on the word “government” is what we’ve been aiming at with the Zero Aggression mini-articles we’ve shared over the past few days. We hope you’re intrigued by our approach, and that you’ll adopt it as your own.


But we aren’t done yet. More new ideas are coming, including our new ZAP polling software and more mini-articles. Stay tuned!


And please also consider joining the ZAP Founders Committee, which will close at the end of March. To join, contribute before the deadline.


Perry Willis & Jim Babka

Zero Aggression Project

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