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IPFS News Link • Philosophy: Libertarianism

Serfdom Reform vs. Liberty

•, by Jacob G. Hornberger

The reformers have thrown in the towel with respect to achieving liberty. They have concluded that liberty is simply too difficult, even impossible, to achieve. The federal and state welfare state and the warfare state have become too massive, too well-established, too ingrained in people's minds, and too powerful. There is no reasonable possibility, the libertarian reformers have concluded, of achieving freedom and so there is no point in wasting our time, energy, and resources trying to achieve freedom. Better to do what is practical — work within the system to make our serfdom better and more palatable.

After all, it's important to keep something in mind: Freedom necessarily entails a dismantling of infringements on freedom, not the reform of infringements on freedom. If all we do is reform infringements on freedom, the most we accomplish is an improved serfdom, but we don't achieve freedom.

Think about 19th-century American slaves. A group of reform-oriented libertarians in 1855 Alabama exclaim, "Slavery is too deeply ingrained in Alabama life. It's protected by the state constitution as well as by the U.S. Constitution. Popular sentiment, especially here in Alabama, is in favor of continuing slavery. We have to be practical. We are not going to get rid of slavery any time soon. We need to devote our efforts to reforming slavery, making it better and more palatable. We need to promote legislation that will bring about fewer lashings, shorter work hours, better food and healthcare, and even a modicum of education for the slaves."

The liberty-minded libertarians say otherwise. They say, "Slavery is wrong. We need to end it, not reform it. It doesn't matter how deeply established it is or how popular it is. We need to continue standing squarely against it. Constitutions, both state and federal, can be amended. We need to continue making the case for immediately ending slavery. We cannot settle for reform."