I recently found myself thinking about a quote again I first heard from JStark, may he rest in peace.

“You can’t truly call yourself “peaceful” unless you’re capable of great violence, if you’re not capable of violence you’re not peaceful, you’re harmless”

This quote becomes much more profound if you replace “peaceful” with “moral”, “violence” with “freedom” and “harmless” with “unfree”.

How are we supposed to ever develop true morality if most of our actions are constrained by law? This raises questions like “Did I not scam him because I’d risk prison otherwise or because it would be wrong to do so?”1 or “Did I help a homeless person because it was right or because I was forced to through taxes?” External rules, by their nature, reduce our agency and thus chances to develop or own morality.

Why would someone ever think about morality if 99% of social interactions are sufficiently regulated by laws to not cause problems? Of course, if you are philosophically inclined, you might still do so, or if you notice the remaining 1% of cases not covered. But by and large people don’t, because there are more pressing issues in their lives. In that way the state deprives us of our natural strife for individual morality.

You can experience the state replacing morality when the answer to a moral question becomes “because it is the law” or when people, given a anarchic environment like crypto currencies, begin scamming each other en masse2 (because there’s no risk of punishment).

For me this is a sad state of affairs. To be whole, human beings we need their own morality and most will not attain theirs as long as they are subject to state oppression. Freedom is our only chance.

  1. Of course, even without man-made laws there’d be certain incentives in addition to morality, like not stealing because the victim is likely to intervene violently. But in a sense this requires more moral moral reasoning than simply following laws too: “Why would they intervene and why would/wouldn’t they be right to do so?” and very much related “How would I react and why?”↩︎

  2. You might even be called stupid by some not doing so. ↩︎