(Somewhere in the basement I have a signed copy of this.)
The Death of Politics
by Karl Hess
Originally published in Playboy, March 1969, this article was made available for the web by David Schatz and FranÃ§ois-RenÃ© Rideau.
This is not a time of radical, revolutionary politics. Not yet. Unrest, riot, dissent, and chaos notwithstanding, today’s politics is reactionary. Both Left and Right are reactionary and authoritarian. That is to say, both are political. They seek only to revise current methods of acquiring and wielding political power. Radical and revolutionary movements seek not to revise but to revoke. The target of revocation should be obvious. The target is politics itself.
Radicals and revolutionaries have had their sights trained on politics for some time. As governments fail around the world, as more millions become aware that government never has and never can humanely and effectively manage men’s affairs, government’s own inadequacy will emerge, at last, as the basis for a truly radical and revolutionary movement. In the meantime, the radical-revolutionary position is a lonely one. It is feared and hated, by both Right and Left â€“ although both Right and Left must borrow from it to survive. The radical-revolutionary position is libertarianism, and its socioeconomic form is laissez-faire capitalism.
Libertarianism is the view that each man is the absolute owner of his life, to use and dispose of as he sees fit: that all man’s social actions should be voluntary: and that respect for every other man’s similar and equal ownership of life and, by extension, the property and fruits of that life is the ethical basis of a humane and open society. In this view, the only â€“ repeat, only â€“ function of law or government is to provide the sort of self-defense against violence that an individual, if he were powerful enough, would provide for himself.
If it were not for the fact that libertarianism freely concedes the right of men voluntarily to form communities or governments on the same ethical basis, libertarianism could be called anarchy.
Laissez-faire capitalism, or anarchocapitalism, is simply the economic form of the libertarian ethic. Laissez-faire capitalism encompasses the notion that men should exchange goods and services, without regulation, solely on the basis of value for value. It recognizes charity and communal enterprises as voluntary versions of this same ethic. Such a system would be straight barter, except for the widely felt need for a division of labor in which men, voluntarily, accept value tokens such as cash and credit. Economically, this system is anarchy, and proudly so.
Libertarianism is rejected by the modern Left â€“ which preaches individualism but practices collectivism. Capitalism is rejected by the modern Right â€“ which preaches enterprise but practices protectionism. The libertarian faith in the mind of men is rejected by religionists who have faith only in the sins of man. The libertarian insistence that men be free to spin cables of steel, as well as dreams of smoke, is rejected by hippies who adore nature but spurn creation. The libertarian insistence that each man is a sovereign land of liberty, with his primary allegiance to himself, is rejected by patriots who sing of freedom but also shout of banners and boundaries. There is no operating movement in the world today that is based upon a libertarian philosophy. If there were, it would be in the anomalous position of using political power to abolish political power