The Responsible Society
by Lazarus Long
The society envisioned by the Rational Anarchist is one in
which the individual can take for granted his right to live and
take part in any activities that he chooses to do. The right to do
this would only be restricted in that his activities must not
impinge on the rights of his fellow citizens and must be attainable
by the individual without asking the state for aid. Of course, any
activities must also be compatible with his own moral code, but
that can be a given, as no rational person would take part in
activities that were in conflict with his own value system.
How a society that, at first glance has no rigid structure of
laws and regulations to control its citizens can function without
degenerating into chaos, will be explained by first looking at what
rules would exist and what they would be based on. The rules having
been explained, we can then examine how the various structures of
society would be changed. The structures and institutions to be
examined will include the economy, the justice system, health care
and military defense. Later we will examine how the changes to
these institutions will effect the fabric of society and the family
The Laws that would govern a Free Responsible Society
The laws of a truly free and self-responsible society should
be, first of all, clearly stated, uncomplicated, and just. These
laws should only entrench the principles on which a free society is
based and not give or take away rights and freedoms arbitrarily.
To this end any proposal for a law should look first at necessity.
For example, is it necessary to have a law defining what is theft?
Theft is recognisable and easily defined. The law governing theft
would clearly state what theft is, and the repercussions for
violators of that law. There should be no difference between grades
or types of theft as there is under our present law. Under the
present law, punishment of theft is based on a bizarre schedule of
differing lengths of incarceration and fines that are based on the
value of the theft and the amount of trust that has been deemed to
be violated. (under the laws of embezzlement)
This is a ludicrous idea, as any theft is a violation of
trust. Trust is not based on a sliding scale. It is either there or
it isn't, if a person says that they don't trust someone
completely, they are saying that they do not trust the person.
As for value of an object, what value should society place on an
object? A monetary value? What about sentimental value? Monetary
value should be a matter between the property owner and his
insurer? How does one place a sentimental value on an object.
No, the answer should be that all crimes of theft should be
judged on the abuse of trust, and since trust is an absolute, the
punishment should be the same in all cases.
What form of punishment would be used in a Free Society?
Some, in the Libertarian movement have advocated a system
where violators of social order such as thieves and murderers would
be removed from society, not to warehouse type prisons but to an
isolated area of the country where they would have to cope without
the benefits of an ordered society. This idea, similar to that
advanced by R.A. Heinlein, is intriguing in its premise that reform
must come through the criminal's self realisation of the fact that
he must cooperate as an individual with the other individuals
around him to be participate in society. However, I feel that it
may be too optimistic to hope that those sent away would learn to
cooperate together. I believe what would arise is a dictatorial
state where one charismatic and strong individual would be able to
rally enough support to his side and force the weaker members of
these outcasts into a feudal system.
Many of those who commit acts of criminal violence are incapable
of moral judgement and what do we do with those that are now
labelled as sociopaths? Do we ship them off to kill or be killed by
the others in this Coventry. Another problem is where would we
place such a territory and how would we ensure that the exiled
would remain there?
A possible punishment for crimes of theft could be public flogging.
It has the advantages of being inexpensive, and does not waste
resources. It also is effective as a deterrent when performed publicly.
Another method could be having the convicted thief work at a court ordered
task for pay, with his cost of lodging being deducted from his pay and a
set amount being deducted and paid directly to the victims of his
activities until his debt to them is repaid in full.
For crimes of murder, one can either use execution, effective and
no long term economic costs. For crimes that cause death but are
not a purposeful act, the guilty party should be financially liable
for support. If a father or mother was killed and they had
contributed through working or staying at home and raising the
family and keeping house, the guilty party should not be imprisoned
but should be forced to turn over a significant portion of their
earnings to the surviving members of the family to compensate for
either the loss of income or the additional expense of hiring a
The New Economics
The market should be free of restrictions and false quotas and
allowed to seek its own level. The elimination of props such as the
various marketing boards, tariffs and subsidies would free the
market to respond to true conditions such as supply and demand and
allow for real competition. Certainly some companies would fail and
some industries may become uneconomic, but if that is the case,
they are most likely already uneconomic and only surviving because
of intervention. Intervention that costs the economy millions of
dollars a year in wasted expenditures.
Along with the removal of restrictions and marketing boards should
be the elimination of Crown corporations. These financial losers
are often created for political purposes with no valid economic
reasons for their existence.
The privatisation of existing crown corporations should be
made with the aim of maximising the selling price without building
into the deal conditions that leave the govt on the hook for the
cost of displaced workers and buybacks if the corporation goes
belly up. The purchaser must assume the risks of the purchase and
the employees must be prepared for the possibility that their jobs
will not be guaranteed. Most crown corporations are notorious for
having bloated payrolls and would almost certainly be downsized if
privatised. Monopolies that exist by government fiat should be
broken up and the free market principle should be allowed to work,
allowing the consumer more choice and the benefit of a competitive
Reducing restrictions between the provinces of not just the
movement of resources and manufactured goods is not enough, ending
the restriction on the movement of labour must also be a priority.
The closed shop mentality of the provinces, where diplomas and
trade certificates are not exchangeable from one province to
another hurts the economy by forcing many workers out of their
professions and into state run retraining programs, in most cases
unnecessarily. Only when jobs and goods can move freely about the
country in response to economic change and not for political gain
will the economy improve.
The Health Care System
The sacred cow of the Canadian Social-Welfare system is our Health
program. Unfortunately, the health care system is on the critical
list with a poor chance of recovery. What ails it is the same
conditions that have dragged down our economy. Overregulation and
political interference have been a drag on the system from day one
and as problems have become worse, the intervention has increased
thus compounding the problem. There are solutions to the problem,
whether Canadians have the will to make or allow these changes to
be made is the question. Some possible answers would be to
allow the consumer a choice of private services... this would mean
a multi-tiered health system, but anyone who doesn't think that we
don't have one already is dreaming. If a cabinet minister gets
sick... he doesn't sit around on a waiting list of a year like most
of us do, he is bumped to the head of the line.
In a private health care system, everyone could have that option
if they wished to pay for it. Those who couldn't pay for it would
receive basic service. Right now the system dictates what services
each hospital may provide and what equipment is to be allocated to
what services. Should the government provide these basic level
services or should the private sector be entrusted with this. If
you ask the statists, you would find that they have little faith in
the private physician being willing to provide service to the poor.
I believe that physicians, as a whole, would be as willing to
provide for the poor as earlier generations of doctors did.
Humanity and compassion are not exclusive properties of the
socialist. I would trust the motives of the private physician more
than those of the power-enthralled statist.
The Defense of the Nation
Many Libertarians seem to have problems when it comes to the
military. Some take the utopian view that the military would be
unnecessary in a Libertarian world. Some advocate that the military
I believe that the role of the military should be redefined and
restrictions on its uses put into the new constitution.
The military's role should be assessed to determine the size
required to be effective. One idea that I like is the concept of a
small standing army... a cadre of trained officers and NCO's that
would from the backbone of any military force required... the bulk
of the army could come from a true militia. That is, a nation in
arms, private citizens who voluntarily practice and keep their
firearm at ready to be used in the defence of the country. The Air
Force would be a different matter, as the majority of the positions
in that area require specialised skills and training. Therefore one
would expect to have a larger cadre of permanent officers and NCO's
than in the army. However the role of the airforce would be
redefined to fit the requirements of the post cold war reality. The
number of interceptors could be lessened and the number of
transport and air support craft increased. The role of the Air
Force would change from primarily air defence and strike capability
to a role of ground support and air/sea rescue. The role of the
Navy would also change from being an almost dedicated Anti-submarine fleet to a general purpose role that would include
sovereignty patrols, Air/Sea rescue as well as defence of the
The Family in the Rational Society
With all these changes to the institutions that form the
framework of our society, the family structure will be effected as
well. With less support from the state, families will have to bear
a greater responsibility for their own financial and social status.
The extended family will become a viable option once again. This
will have the benefit of allowing the elder members of society to
become integral components of the family. The extended family with
its inherent checks and balances will serve to lower the problems
of the youth by providing feedback and responsible role models. The
burden of child care will be lifted from the parents and
distributed among grandparents and other members of the family.
Social ills will be lessened as the feedback and self-correcting
influence of the family becomes re-established.
As the state will have less influence in the lives of the family,
another more realistic and useful influence will grow. This
influence is the community. Strength will be gathered from the
neighbours and the solidity of the community. Instead of relying
upon the faceless, depowering influence of the state, the family
who experiences misfortune will be strengthened and nurtured by the
communal spirit of his neighbours. The symbiotic strengths of the
closely intertwined community provides far more strength and
resources than does the inertia bound bureaucracy.
The roles of the members of the family will be changed. The
parents will again resume their proper roles as the providers and
the rule makers. The grandparents will regain their role as
advisors and lore masters, handing down the wisdom of dealing with
other people and everyday life, that years of experience has given
them. Children will find their role changed as well. No more will
they be considered free of responsibilities until adulthood as they
are now. They will, instead, slowly take on responsibilities of
the household as they grow older and will learn by adulthood the
role of the citizen.
For some, the community that they will draw their strength
from and find their roots in will be the church. Not the faceless,
parasitical church of irrelevance that exists today, but one that
is an integral part of the family life. One that is composed of
like minded families that work together to ameliorate any suffering
or pain within the community. Others who are not of religious bent
will find their community among like-minded individuals bound
together in a common interest.
The advantages of closer knit communities are many. They are
less stressful, more likely to be free of crime and violence and
more responsive to accommodation of the needs of the individual.
The various communities will not necessarily compete for resources
because of their various strengths and weaknesses will make their
demands so varied that two neighbouring communities are more likely
to be dependent upon each other for supplying each other with
resources in a mutually beneficial way.
Education in the Community
The education of our children will be removed from the state
and placed where it belongs, with the family and in a greater
sense, with the community. The state with its moral and social
engineering will be replaced by either community education or
family run education or a combination of the two. Community
education may be secular or church-based depending on the wishes of
the community and the family. In either case the values and the
norms established in the school will be more compatible with the
norms of the community than those provided by the present day
system. Discipline in the school will become less of an issue, thus
freeing the teacher from the role of care-provider and allowing the
teacher to dedicate time to his or her proper role.
The exact methods that schools will be run by and financed by
can be found in other works by myself and will not be repeated
here. Suffice it to say that the community will fund the school as
well as set the standards for the school. This will return power to
the parents and remove it from the hands of the social engineers.
About now I can hear the screams of anguish coming from the
statists and collectivists .."what about rights"? Rights are only
enabled when combined with responsibility. The individual in the
responsible society will have all the rights that he has now. He
would have the right to not work if he chose. He would have the
right to refuse education. However society would have the right to
refuse to support him.
The responsible society can thus be seen as growing out of the
ashes of statism like the mythical phoenix. It is responsible to
itself and to its individual members and conversely the individual
members are responsible to upholding the values of their own
community group. This is true individualism for the reason that
with individual freedom and rights comes responsibility for oneself
and by extension for the community. The individual will be
responsible for doing his or her best to not become a burden on the
community. The community will be responsible for ensuring that
individual members are not allowed to fall into destitution through
circumstances beyond their control.