Voluntarism – What is it, definition and concept | 2022

Voluntarism is the political idea that relationships between human beings and between entities (or between individuals and entities) are to be carried out voluntarily in the form of agreements.

In other words, voluntarism implies that all the relationships that must exist between people, organizations and institutions must be of a voluntary nature, with no obligation of any kind between the parties.

Voluntarism, as an idea, is typical of liberal currents, such as liberalism, libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism. Although at its best it would be associated with the latter.

Characteristics of voluntarism

Voluntarism, as a political idea that defends that all relationships between individuals must be voluntary, has a series of characteristics:

  • support the free market: Every person is free to produce, buy, and sell the goods and services they believe necessary.
  • Promote the individual rights: The individual, by virtue of being an individual, has full capacity to enjoy the entire sphere of individual rights. This, as long as they do not negatively affect others.
  • Private property: Property, provided it has been obtained legitimately, is a supreme value, and cannot be attacked by any supreme power.
  • State Removal: The State represents everything that does not support voluntarism, it is a forced organization with the capacity to bend anyone. In addition, no one has voted for it, for it to be so it should be legitimized with votes (on whether it should exist or not) every few years.

The State according to voluntarism

By not considering any type of coercion or coercion as desirable, the only desirable form of government is that which comes from the free association between individuals. The State as we know it would not fit here, let alone those systems in which power is exercised in a despotic and authoritarian manner.

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Bearing this in mind, the main justification for forming an apparatus similar to that of a State, always on a voluntary basis, would be to combat crime and provide security to the community. In fact, this is a central issue in any debate between anarcho-capitalists and other types of liberals: how society should organize itself against violence and external aggression.

Since the nature of the State is imposed and has a monopoly on violence, voluntarism proposes and supposes an extreme decentralization. This is because, to maintain order in large territories, the state figure is necessary, and this decentralization would allow people to organize themselves in small villages or settlements.

In the case of developing common services, these would only be financed by those who wanted to do so or who wanted to enjoy the service. And the form of financing would be as proportional as possible based on use, not on the income of the individual, as is traditionally the case. Voluntaryism assumes that each person pays for those services that they want to enjoy, without holding the rest of society responsible.

collective volunteerism

We can define as collective voluntarism the idea that defends that it is the mass that has to determine its actions and future. This clashes head-on with the voluntarism described above. It is typical of socialist, communist and interventionist ideologies in general.

From this point of view, the actions carried out by organizations and groups are the only legitimate ones. Thus, when the interests of the mass and the individual confront each other, the will of the former always prevails. We see this, for example, in forced expropriation, the payment of taxes or some limitations on individual rights.

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It should be noted that not all the actions taken by the Government would fall within this voluntarism. This, since the Government makes many of its decisions based on elites or de facto powers.

in philosophy

In philosophy, voluntarism refers to the fact that it is the human will that moves the world, there are no objective or supreme laws that determine the progress and behavior of humanity. Its origin is found in the first Christian thinkers such as Saint Augustine of Hippo. Although it was later developed by philosophers such as Nietzsche or Schopenhauer.

Marxism and other ideological and thought doctrines reject this conception. For them, the human being is alienated, he is not aware or capable of making decisions that affect his life, others make them for him. The engine of social change throughout humanity has been the class struggle, the permanent conflict between worker and boss. This idea is a historical law, according to this Marxist view.

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