Everything, I Mean Everything, Voluntary

Skyler J. Collins takes the message of voluntarism to a level that will make even a rabid libertarian uncomfortable in his collection of essays that comprises Everything Voluntary: From Politics to Parenting.

Collins comes out swinging in his introduction. He makes the point that today’s politics, education, and parenting all promote the same idea: domination of one group of people over others. How can this be? Isn’t the state the only real oppressor? Not according to Collins. In our own households, most parents become the oppressors of their own children.

Collins divides the essays into five sections — politics, religion, economy, education, and parenting. Also, at the end of each section, there is a helpful list of resources for those that want to take their study further. Some of the biggest names in libertarian history have essays in the book; Rothbard, Hazlitt, Leonard Read, Hoppe, and Laissez Faire Books’ own Wendy McElroy.

Laissez Faire Club members have been treated to these legends’ inspiring work for free each and every Friday. They won’t be disappointed with this collection. What better essay to explain the wonders of the free market than Read’s “I, Pencil.” Hoppe squashes the illogic of socialism like no one else in “Why Socialism Must Fail.”  Rothbard explains what the state really is in his seminal essay “The Anatomy of the State.”

Mark and Jo Ann Skousen provide the first essay in the politics section, titled “Persuasion Versus Force.” The impresarios behind FreedomFest point out that government’s laws can’t create morality. Responsibility and freedom must run together. They quote Henry Ward Beecher: “There is no liberty to men who know not how to govern themselves.”

Carl Watner continues this theme with “Fundamentals of Voluntaryism,” quoting LFT author Isabel Paterson, “No edict of law can impart to an individual a faculty denied him by nature.”
Using what nature has provided and directing one’s own path, rather than being directed by schools and parents, is the thrust of the book’s most interesting and challenging sections on education and parenting.

Psychologist Robin Grille explains why we have so many bullies in the world, from the schoolyard to the Oval Office. Authoritarian parenting violence in the home produces violent children and, in turn, violent adults. Research shows that up until recently, child rearing was very violent. “Authoritarian parenting is characterized by punitiveness, an immutable power imbalance which favors the parents, and an absence of explanation, negotiation, or consultation,” writes Grille.

These households are like the TSA line. “Why do I have to take off my shoes?”

“Because I said so.”

If Grille is right, children who grow up in violent homes will be prepared to either work for the TSA or passively transverse these arbitrary borders. If the kids think they deserve to be hit, they “go on to be more accepting of and desensitized to violence in general,” Grille explains. “They are candidates for the ranks of bullies, victims, or both.”

Alice Miller writes that when obedience is drummed into infants, “the cruelty they experienced [turns] them into emotional cripples incapable of developing any kind of empathy for the suffering of others.”

She posits that virtually all prisoners in American jails were abused as children. However, given that many prisoners now packing U.S. jails are incarcerated for nonviolent, made-up drug war crimes, my guess is that percentage has come way down.

I remember the subject of spanking kids came up at Hans Hoppe’s Property and Freedom Society conference this past year. “Hey, I was spanked when I was a kid and I turned out all right,” was the prevailing point of view. James Kimmel answers that his kids are able to say that they were never spanked or punished and turned out all right.

Children and criminals are the only people in our society that are legally punished in America, Kimmel points out. “When we punish our children, we serve to perpetuate the Western civilization belief that children are, like animals, inferior beings who need to be tamed, trained, and controlled.”  Even so, 90% of parents spank their kids.

Kimmel questions each and every type of punishment and points out that grounding, for instance, is “a major way to teach children to be defiant and disobedient toward their parents, because it usually attacks life and growth in relation to one’s peers.”  Withdrawal of affection tarnishes a child’s capacity to love and trust.

Kids are born to explore, writes Missy Willis. They shouldn’t be punished for touching things and generally making what adults think is a mess. Kids are just showing their creativity. Children are confused by being told no when all they are doing is what seems natural. But what about all that cool, breakable stuff you own? “Don’t allow things in your home to hold more value than your own child’s growth and development,” Willis writes. She says put the stuff away until the child develops an appreciation for the value of these objects.

For those that think kids won’t learn anything unless they are cooped up in a prisonlike school listening to a teacher and given homework, Everything Voluntary points out that children are learning machines. They are intensely curious, constantly asking questions and wanting to understand the world around them.

Education reformer and author John Holt writes that a person’s right to control their education is second only in importance to the right to life itself. “Young people should have the right to control and direct their own learning, that is, to decide what they learn, and when, where, how, how much, how fast, and with what help they want to learn it,” he writes.

Holt wants us to control what goes into our minds. He’s against compulsory education, which is what someone else thinks you should be learning. He calls schools authoritarian, anti-democratic, and the “most dangerous institutions of modern society.”

So if you don’t send your kids to school, what do you do with them?  Earl Stevens recommends unschooling your kids. What’s that?  Kids doing real things that they find interesting which “brings about healthy mental health development and valuable knowledge.”

Of course, markets and religious affiliations should be free. But you can’t do anything about that. Tyranny begins at home. People ask all the time what they can do to bring about a freer world. Should they vote libertarian, not vote at all, get off the grid, or what? The message of this book is that a peaceful home equals a peaceful society. Don’t order your kids around arbitrarily, and for God’s sake, don’t hit them. Don’t put your kids’ present and future in the hands of dimwitted government bureaucrats. Allow them to be creative.

The essays in Everything Voluntary provide a path for a peaceful future. Its essays will challenge you and, best of all, make you think about the world you want to create.