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The Foundations Of Society: Voluntarism

Updated on December 4, 2016

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

— Carl Sagan
Ancap Flag
Ancap Flag

What is Voluntaryism?

Voluntaryism, or more commonly voluntarism, is the acceptance that all transactions and relationships should be entirely voluntary and consentual.

Voluntarism can be applied to all forms of relationships in life. Everyone already accepts voluntarism whether or not they are aware of it. You go to the store and you expect to be able to buy your choice of food without the grocer using threats of force to coerce you into buying a specific bread loaf. Everyone recognizes the morality of voluntarism, it's quite literally the difference between rape and making love.

US Capitol Building

How Voluntarism Conflicts With Government

In our current government systems around the world people are born into a system and have no say in terms of consent. They have the choice to leave their country, but only to go to other countries which are also governed through force. The fundamental problem with government is that it removes voluntarism and consent, through birth you are enslaved to the system.

Social contract is defined as an implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, for example by sacrificing some individual freedom for state protection. Theories of a social contract became popular in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries among theorists such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as a means of explaining the origin of government and the obligations of subjects.

Social contract is the form of consent given by members of a society to participate in social organization such as government. The problem with the social contract is that nobody actually signs anything or enters into a contract by choice. Instead, they are born into a contract.

Voluntarism implies that a social contract would be unnecessary. If systems of social organization are so questionable in terms of efficacy that people need to be coerced into them, then they are worthless. In voluntarism an idea is only worthy of recognition if people willingly agree to it. The problem with government is that you are coerced into the system.


Although all mentally healthy people have an innate sense of right and wrong, sometimes it is helpful to have principles which can be universally applied to moral issues.

The non-aggression principle (or NAP) is an ethical doctrine that states that aggression is wrong, aggression being defined as the initiation of physical force or fraud against persons or property, or the threat of the same.

We can apply this principle to many situations. Lets take for example the mafia. The mafia initiates the use of force, or uses threats of force to extract protection money from their victims. The mafia are clearly in the moral wrong, even under examination by innate human morality. However, if the mafia offered their protective services at a given price and their victims became willing customers instead, we would not have a moral issue.

The government is the same as the mafia in this sense. We are coerced or threatened into paying for protection from the government. However, if rather than being coerced, we were willingly paying for the protection, there would not be any moral issue.

It’s been easier to convince people to hand over half their income, their children to war, and their freedoms in perpetuity, than to engage them in seriously considering how roads might function in the absence of taxation.

— Stefan Molyneux

Roads | Healthcare | Emergency Response

The primary argument against voluntarism is the simple idea that roads, healthcare, emergency responses and other systems of social organization would collapse without a coercive centralized government. This assertion relies on the premise that people are simply too greedy to pay into a system of social organization, so we must use force and threats to extract their pay. If we take the basic premise of this, that people are too greedy, then we have a problem with the state. If people are too greedy to be trusted with their own money, then how can we trust a group of individuals to hold the money of the populace? If people are too greedy to be trusted with money, then a smaller group of greedy individuals will not solve the problem.

We can see examples of this greed in politicians all the time. They make empty promises and use vague language to avoid sensitive issues. They are in it for their own power, and so why do we trust them year after year?

In a society free of the coercion of a monopoly on force (the state) individuals would be free to socially organize and create systems of transportation, healthcare, and emergency response. In a free society people would still pay for these social safety nets and public services. People often short circuit at this point in the delivery of this new societal foundation. So I'm going to slow down and explain this as clearly as I can. In our society we have a number of public services, we pay the government, then the government pays the hospitals, road workers, and first-responders. In a voluntary society we would pay the hospitals, road workers, and first-responders. There would be no coercive middle man called government.

Let's take Netflix for example. People want entertainment, they are willing to pay for it. So to increase the efficiency of entertaining people, we could give our money to the government, then they could pay Netflix and other entertainment companies. The issue here is that people who do not want Netflix are going to be coerced into paying for it. Not only that, but Netflix is going to have less money to improve their organization. A significant portion of money that once went straight to Netflix is now being pocketed by politicians and bureaucrats. Did our entertainment improve? Quite the contrary, Netflix had less money to put into the quality of their entertainment, so with coercion for entertainment Netflix lost its quality, and many people are angry that they are forced into paying for Netflix although they don't even enjoy watching movies and shows.

The Netflix example can be exchanged with a thought experiment on roads. In this society we are coerced into paying money to the government, which then pays contractors to make roads. In a voluntary society we would sign up for a road membership at say $20 a month and we would have an identifier on our cars proving that we paid for a membership. The roads would be built, maintained, and used by people freely engaged in voluntary economic transactions. In this way we are not violating the NAP and the efficiency of our infrastructure increases.

In a state society we are coerced into paying government to pay contractors to make roads. So as you can see, similar to the Netflix example, we are effectively reducing the quality of our roads. Why? Because government is pocketing a significant portion of the funds which could be going directly into the roads.

An important argument for voluntarism is that efficiency is increased when coercion is removed. In a state society efficiency is decreased because politicians are pocketing money, and people are angry that they are paying for a system which they know could be significantly improved.

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum....

— Noam Chomsky

Statism Is Violence

I've learned a very important truth about the nature of statist societies. This truth is that all states are born, maintained by, and end through violence. Take a look across history and you will see this truth endlessly repeated. They say the good thing about studying history is that you learn from our past mistakes, the problem is that you have to watch everyone else repeat the mistakes seen in our history.

The U.S. wanted independence from the crushing taxes and burdens of Great Britain, and they got their independence and for a while they had a more free society. Now here we are again, people are wanting independence from the crushing taxes and burdens of the U.S. and we find ourselves at another turning point in history.


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