US Indymedia Global Indymedia Publish About us
Printed from Boston IMC :
IVAW Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier
Brad Presente

Other Local News

Spare Change News
Open Media Boston
Somerville Voices
Cradle of Liberty
The Sword and Shield

Local Radio Shows

WMBR 88.1 FM
What's Left
WEDS at 8:00 pm
Local Edition
FRI (alt) at 5:30 pm

WMFO 91.5 FM
Socialist Alternative
SUN 11:00 am

WZBC 90.3 FM
Sounds of Dissent
SAT at 11:00 am
Truth and Justice Radio
SUN at 6:00 am

Create account Log in
Comment on this article | View comments | Email this article | Printer-friendly version
News ::
Kucinich and the Politics of Nonviolence (english)
27 Sep 2003
Modified: 28 Sep 2003
Now all this time I've been unfair to Kucinich, assuming that he wanted to use the coercive power of the State as an advocate of violence in society -- since laws are, after all, backed up by governmental force.
Kucinich and the Politics of Nonviolence
Roderick T. Long,

In Thursday night's Democratic presidential candidates' debate (yes, I watched it -- masochism, I guess), Rep. Dennis Kucinich suddenly declared himself a libertarian.

No, he didn't use the L-word. But he announced his plan, should he be elected, to create a "Department of Peace" to bring about a "transformation of our society" by "making non-violence an organizing principle."

See, all along I'd been misinterpreting him. Kucinich's campaign website ( gives a fairly thorough rundown of the programs he'd like to enact. These include "massive public works to rebuild our cities, our water systems, our public transportation systems, our schools, our parks, our public energy systems," "ample free television time for candidates," "break-up of the media monopolies," a "regulatory structure which puts a ceiling on drug company profits," restrictions on political advertising, a Federal charter of corporate responsibility (, and a "financial commitment to providing healthy drinking water to all the world's people." He also wants to "strengthen and enforce air and water regulation," "empower farmers in the marketplace by providing incentives to join a collective bargaining unit," and "bring suit in federal court if an agribusiness doesn't bargain in good faith." He is particularly insistent that "All water shall be considered to be forever in the public domain" (an interesting proposal, given that every human being is 70% water).

Now all this time I've been unfair to the man. I'd been assuming that he wanted to use the coercive power of the State to do all these things. So naturally I'd taken him to be an advocate of massive increases of violence in society -- since laws are, after all, backed up by governmental force. Now it turns out, however, that Kucinich is a man committed to nonviolence, a man who wants to make nonviolence an "organizing principle" of our society. But just as the State represents violence as an organizing principle of society, so the free market represents nonviolence -- mutual consent -- as an organizing principle of society. If Kucinich is the enthusiast for nonviolence that he claims to be, then he can only be a libertarian.

I infer, then, that Kucinich can't really want to enforce that laundry list of pet projects that he advertises on his website. That would be violence, after all. As Ludwig von Mises writes:

It is important to remember that government interference always means either violent action or the threat of such action. The funds that a government spends for whatever purposes are levied by taxation. And taxes are paid because the taxpayers are afraid of offering resistance to the tax gatherers. They know that any disobedience or resistance is hopeless. As long as this is the state of affairs, the government is able to collect the money that it wants to spend. Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.
Since nobody with Kucinich's reverence for nonviolence could possibly want to increase "violent action or the threat of such action," he plainly couldn't seriously be calling for his projects to be governmentally enforced. He must instead be trying to persuade people to implement these programs voluntarily.

The only alternative would be to assume that Kucinich regards, or expects us to regard, governmental edicts "as though they were incantations, passing directly from decree to result, without the inconvenience of means." ( And what sensible person could be so deluded?

September 27, 2003

Roderick T. Long is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Auburn University; author of Reason and Value: Aristotle versus Rand; Editor of the Libertarian Nation Foundation periodical Formulations; and an Adjunct Scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1992, and maintains the website, as well as the web journal In a Blog's Stead.
See also:
Add a quick comment
Your name Your email


Text Format
Anti-spam Enter the following number into the box:
To add more detailed comments, or to upload files, see the full comment form.


Kudos to Kuchinich (english)
28 Sep 2003
I like the sound of it. I also like Kucinich, who I've heard speak and does indeed sound like he has a libertarian streak. He believes, for example, in the rationalization of the nation's drug policy, allowing more freedom by not imprisoning people solely for their desire for an altered state of consciousness.

Socialism is the idea that individuals should work together to progress as a society. Libertarianism is the idea that individuals have the right to dissent, and not participate in this social organization. Hence it is in their interest to prevent government-abetted exploitation of individuals. It is, to be sure, a memetic match made in heaven. That is why the third way is, as Sartre said of Marxism decades ago, "the inescapable philosophy of our time."

Kucinich has the spirit of an Allende. We will see if he has the courage as well. I can tell you one thing from the meetups I've been to - his supporters do.

Nobody wants to live in a "Soviet Union", except maybe George Bush.

Respectfully, sir, and in the words of a true scholar:

A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I'd become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.