The Frogs Who Wanted a King

David — November 1, 2010

“Nature abhors a vacuum,” said Aristotle. He was incorrect in the realm of science but does it hold true in politics? The history of our world bares this out and it is a real problem for libertarians. We live among people who feel comfortable with political power. The majorities consent creates the conditions under which government intervention occurs. Étienne de La Boétie describes this phenomena in his work The Politics of Obedience (PDF): government power is derived from each individual who gives it authority – like a whole bunch of magnets aligning to reinforce eachother. If alignment changes so will those who rule.

Another example of this in history is the Israelites demanding a king – recorded in the first book of Samuel chapter 8. It was not God’s ideal for the Israelites to have a king. He was suppose to be their king. This is a story that has repeated itself throughout time with many peoples and places. A contemporary example can been seen in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union: most russians still wanted a strong leader to command them. The political change on the top did not bring about a change in the wishes of the people.

A great visual allegory for this can be found in one of Aesops’s Fable’s: The Frogs Who Wanted a King. Made into a stop motion animation by the Russian-born animator Ladislas Starevich The Frogs Who Wanted a King clearly shows the results of a society who would rather have authority over their heads than freedom:

So what does the libertarian do when they live in a society of frogs?

Comments

tim says

Correct! That is why Libertarianism like all “isims”is a false prophet. It assumes what human nature should be and not what it is. If Libertarianism was the “truth” it would just happen naturally. You therefore would not need Libertarians. ( let the natural invisible hand of libertarianism take its course) The problem with libertarianism is that none exits. Remember all knowledge is power. Ask yourself why you crave knowledge of any kind? People seek it, want it, or look to be lead by it. Power structures exist at levels of nature and at all levels of civil society. You show me freedom and I will show you power as freedom is power.

— November 1, 2010

David C says

Tim: I disagree. I would argue that the reason why we havn’t seen libertarianism actually occur throughout most of history is because human beings have a fallen side to them and this invites the powerful to control them. This is no reason to give up our hope for a libertarian society in the same that although humans have propensity towards violence it is no reason for us to stop working for peace. We should and need to work towards a free society. This requires a moral and well educated populace but it can happen and HAS happened in history and just because the wicked need their master’s doesn’t mean the righteous shouldn’t work towards better world or even secede from the current one to form there own. After all isn’t that many Europeans came to the new world? And surely to some extent they succeded. The US and Canada have had their troubles but much of history has also been a shining example for the rest of the world.

— November 1, 2010

Jason says

Tim, isn’t that an ex post facto argument? Using that same logic, one could justify slavery or any other human institution saying that it is just ‘nature’.

— November 1, 2010

Tim says

Your question: So what does the libertarian do when they live in a society of frogs? This is the problem with all isims being marxims, socialism, feutalilsm you pick one. Already you are creating the power structure of legitmacy (“truth) by saying I live in a scoeity of frogs of which i am not a frog. We are all frogs! It is only a matter of degree to what we are willing to give up for our own self interest. Everything we do has a cause and effect- we cannot live in a vacuum. (empty spaces will always be filled by power) You even say it you your opening paragraph: “The history of our world bares this out and it is a real problem for libertarians. We live among people who feel comfortable with political power.” It is part of being human- the need to belong to something. Society is politics. Humans by nature are political beings and politics is power. Politics exist every where from the family structure, church, corporations, etc. Please give me an example in organized societies where the existence of politics or power in some form or another does not exist? I like the many ideals of libertarianism but I also like the idea Santa Clause, the tooth ferry, and “free medical care”.

— November 2, 2010

David C says

Tim:

Libertarians are not arguing for getting rid of politics or power we are arguing for PROPER CONDUCT regarding those things. Just because people CAN does not mean they SHOULD illegitimately bomb foreign nations and unjustly tax their citizens. So again, we arguing for proper conduct when exercising power. We are not under any illusions that these things will disappear.

There are plenty of examples when societies held very closely to libertarian ideals: Celtic Ireland, the desert fathers of early Christian history, the American old west, the Guilded Age (post civil war, pre-WWI), contemporary Singapore/Hong Kong/US/Canada (with some caveats).

— November 3, 2010

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