Progressives Prove Our Point

Check this out. This appeared around the time of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.


This is in response to Thatcher’s statement that “there’s no such thing as society.” So these progressives are going to show her!

Naturally, they interpret her perfectly defensible statement in the most inane and uncharitable way possible. Why, we’ll show her there really is society by helping our fellow man!

But that was exactly her point. There is no such thing as an abstract, disembodied blob called “society.” All that exists are individuals, and it is up to those individuals — not “society” — to perform the great works of charity and civilization.

Her actual words: “There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.”

Now go back and read the juvenile statement in that box above. Every one of those statements is a reflection of what Thatcher actually said, yet the progressives who drafted it seriously think they are letting her have it. Not even an effort to understand the people they oppose. They actually seem to think she meant, “It’s every man 4 himself!! Don’t help anyone!!! KEEP ALL UR STUFF FOR URSELF!!!!”

Just beneath the surface here, and the source of much “progressive” confusion, is the failure to distinguish between society (a shorthand term for the individuals of whom the polity is composed) and the state. No, we don’t think people should be exploited by guys with guns, even if 10% of the exploitation is laughingly portrayed as helping the poor. That doesn’t mean we’re “atomistic individuals” who despise mankind. The state’s thuggish behavior is at odds with society.

(Thanks to this post for the inspiration.)

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  • Jonas

    So much of the debate is over nonsensical desires to be right and prove another wrong than it is to actually reach agreements. I spent days on and off debating another person on YouTube, when I finally realized that we both were arguing for the same point. It was only our understanding and definition of words that divided us.

  • Michael Alford

    Well said, Tom. I grow weary of lefties who think, that unless I am in favor of govrnmental theft and redistribution, I hate the poor. If you really care about the poor, the State is the last entity you want to endebt them to

  • Danielle Mascio Kraemer


  • Socrates

    Reminds me of Rothbard: “The great non sequitur committed by defenders of the State, including classical Aristotelian and Thomist philosophers, is to leap from the necessity of society to the necessity of the State.”

  • jp

    Reminds me of this one.

  • jp

    And it proves my point before about them being intellectually lazy. Too lazy to read what Thatcher actually said, too lazy to see free market capitalism and bailouts are contradictory.

  • Luke Sunderland

    Hmmm…. so they are organizing a charity benefit without having to have the state force them to do it? I wonder how they would feel if I shouted something like “NEO-CONFEDERATE” at them.

  • Cheddar Bob

    Spot on. Progressives make this non sequitur everyday. Don’t like the 1964 Civil Rights Act? You must hate black people in society. Don’t like minimum wage laws? You must hate poor people in society.

  • romano

    Mr. Woods, is there an authority? Does authority come from God? If the answer is yes then there has to be something like “ruling class” which has legitimate power over others (at least at some things) and this power does not come from the people – neither democratically (via elections) nor the free-market way (i.e. market of defense and protection services). It seems to me that lady Thatcher is not correct. There is a society. It works as unit to some degree. Some people lead, others follow. State is a means of this power relationship. We all work for this big “company” called state. It is part of society. Lady Thatcher’s “tapestry” is another important but secondary part of it, voluntary and productive. Though I agree with many libertarian thoughts I do not really see how can be this “voluntary and productive” separated from the “power and coersion” part i.e. society from state. It makes sense to attack current form of state but not state itself.
    Also, you call those people “progressives” but isn’t libertarianism progressive and basically leftist as well?

  • romano

    Maybe these philosophers esp. thomists believed in corrupted nature of man which can’t produce social order naturally, without coersion. Of course, you could reply that state cannot guarantee such order and it can even work against it. In fact, there is nothing that could 100% guarantee social order but state proved as solid tool against anarchy through centuries. It is interesting how afraid of anarchy people must have been in the past. Perhaps they knew why and perhaps Rothbard overestimated the good in human nature. He built his political philosophy on so called voluntary exchange but this term is much less “sharp” in reality than he believed.

  • jp

    You seriously need to read rothbard. He wrote lots of articles on progressivism. Libertarianism is not progressive.

  • Dave

    I think people on the left’s opposition to depending on private charity to help the poor isn’t that they necessarily think that no one will give voluntarily but that it leaves poor people vulnerable in case there isn’t enough charity given to cover everything. Whereas with state welfare it’s guaranteed that people will be taken care of. So I think a good response to that fear, because that’s what I used to think when I was younger, would be to continue to demonstrate how statistically people are worse off now with the welfare state than they were before it.

  • Rothbardian

    If there is such a thing as ‘society’, then what is it? Who is this ‘society’?

  • Rothbardian

    How does it follow that since men are corrupt, its better to have a small group of men who have a monopoly on power over everyone else?

  • alec

    The separation of society and state makes a lot more sense to me than Aristotle’s organic conception of society. But I
    still am curious as to what the Catholic social encyclicals mean when
    they say “The final end of the state is the temporal happiness of man/common good”. Is there some nuance that I’m missing or is this just a sloppy, unrigorous definition? If the state is just an organization built around a common goal, what makes it any different from non-coercive organizations like companies and schools?

  • Mike

    ” It makes sense to attack current form of state but not state itself.”

    Please show us where a state did not devolve into the kind of crap Western countries suffer form now, or even worse.

    Why replace one monopoly of power with another? What’s the point? You’ll just get to the same place….tyranny.

  • Highwind Cid

    In which they fall into yet another logical fallacy of a false dichotomy. Don’t like public schooling? You’re anti school. Don’t like Social Security? You’re anti-old people. They apparently only understand in absolutes.

  • romano

    I am aware of Rothbard’s concept of Old Right. I am not sure that conservative thoughts can be so easily connected with radical libertarianisms he promoted. Jeff Riggenbach says Old Right is a myth.

  • romano

    I am not saying there is a happy end solution. I am just saying coersion is natural part of human society and state is the tool. Like any tool state is as good as people in charge of the state and their political thinking. Question is if its current form is necessary result of state’s nature or consequence of political thinking of last 200 years. Perhaps a bit of both. I believe political thinking can change and create slightly better form of state but human nature, necessity of coersion (therefore necessity of state) can’t change.

  • romano

    The question here is not what is better but what is really so. Corrupted nature of man leads to coersion and coersion leads to state.
    Btw. I am not sure there is a monopoly of power. Since there is no single world state yet there is no monopoly. All state power is within particular area and states compete with each other on the field of politics (diplomacy and war). We could say it is a special kind of free market, not based on voluntary exchange.

  • jp

    I think Riggenbach is wrong. He just makes everything more muddy and confusing.

  • Rothbardian

    Well there is no monopoly over the earth as a whole, but the US definitely has control over its own territory. But you mention that states compete with each other and there is no overlord to these states – therefore it is a from of anarchy between the states.

    For more on this I recommend this lecture by Hans-Hermann Hoppe:

  • Jim

    Well said. For the most part, people all roughly want the same thing. But they’ve often come to dramatically different ideas about how to actually get it.

  • Mark

    Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

  • romano

    Yes, I did not like his book, too. But what he says about political left and right make sense to me. The Right has always been family, property, nation and state. It was Marx who proposed abolition of state.

  • romano

    “…but the US definitely has control over its own territory”
    It has and rightly so. How could you defend a territory that you do not control? You need someone with sufficient power to control the territory in order to defend it. And anyone having such power is also able to dictate its own rules. Unorganized majority of people simply yields. I think it would be so in every society.

  • Luke Sunderland

    Well, to be fair, so do the Jedi.

  • Rothbardian

    So you submit that the US has a monopoly of power over people in its territory.

    Also, is it impossible to imagine people organizing a defense force without a coercive state?

  • romano

    Every baker has a kind of “monopoly” over particular area. I think Rothbard proved how difficult is this word. If you don’t like your local baker you go to more distant baker. If you don’t like living under US government you can move. You have choice.
    Possible to imagine, unlikely to happen as history shows. Coersive state probably has an advantage compared to such voluntary defense force.

  • jp

    Well I’m definitely for family and property. If libertarianism is now anti family and state then that’s something I definitely don’t want to be associated with.

  • jp

    I meant to day family and property not state.

  • Gamble

    Only after giving State all the power. Make the State giant and then abolish. Hmmm. Seems kind of like something Milton Friedman would suggest.

  • Gamble

    Yes because all of the charity is wasted on administrators and bureaucrats.

    Real charity requires volunteers.

  • Anonymous

    The baker does not have a monopoly unless that baker can prevent another from setting up another bakery. in competition. This is done through the State and involves the use of State coercion, intimidation and force.

    So…..can we set up another competing State? Or choose to do without? Likely not without using violence. Violence and force is the States monopoly.

    As far as moving because a person doesn’t like the US government? As Tom Woods pointed out, why should someone have to leave? They would not be the aggressor. They would not using criminal force against another person either.

    But using your example, say a bunch of people did overthrow a State by force. By your “logic” whatever political system they set up would be OK as long as the subject people would be allowed to leave? Really?

  • romano

    Your problem is that you confuse what is and what should be. In a perfect world there is no violence but we do not live in such perfect world. In the beginning I spoke about corrupted natur of man. If someone has power likely he wil use it to his advantage i.e. to disadvantage of some other group. How do you avoid it? By telling such people don’t do it?
    To put it differently, you speak about economics and suddenly jump to ethics. I think it is Rothbard’s mistake. His concept of value free economics based on voluntary exchange is in fact description of some perfect world. Look at this example – if you make a choice under pressure of my gun aiming at you your choice is still free according to value free economics. My threat is only an influence, outer condition like a rain or flood – you can still choose to get yourself killed. Of course, Rothbard says this is not voluntary exchange but he has no tool within his economics to recognize it as involuntary. Such tool would have to come from ethics. And this is where I think libertarians are wrong.
    Now back to my example with baker. You as ordinary citizen on that particular area have little to do with setting up a new bakery. Your choice is to go to existing one or go somewhere else. There is little chance you would actively search for such a new baker or become baker yourself. The same applies even more for states.
    I lived under communists’ rule in eastern Europe. If people couldn’t live here they had to leave the country. That was the only real choice. Almost nobody resisted. Egyptian slavery system lasted thousands of years. Why? Is the libertarian answer sufficient?

  • Farn Kant

    C’mon, man. Rothbard addressed all this in Ethics of Liberty and Man, Economy and State, and countless other articles.

    I’d hate to go there, but have you read Rothbard?

  • romano

    I have read Ethics of Liberty, part of Man, Economy and State, some other essays and articles, almost everything of Hoppe, Mises’ most important work and many other libertarian articles. I defended the idea of stateless society myself but after some time I came to conclusion there are flaws in libertarian thinking. Some of them I tried to express (maybe poorly) above. I believe these flaws are not resolved in any book I have read. Of course, I am no philosopher and can be wrong.
    Do you have any arguments for me that would make me believe radical libertarianism is more than an intellectual game or worse a dangerous ideology as all concepts disconnected from reality?

  • Anonymous

    You really have some seriously confused and conflicted thought. Good luck with that because you really need some help and I just do not have time to open that ‘can of worms’ called your brain.

  • Martin

    Well, sometimes you hit a point where you can no longer sugarcoat your political arguments. As you hear the same asinine statements constantly repeated, you just hit a point where you want to stand up.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Read so much and learned so little. How sad.