A courageous and fearless defender and promoter of liberty has died. William Norman Grigg was an investigative reporter, researcher, writer and extremely eloquent and articulate speaker who was a powerful voice for the libertarian cause. He was only 54.
I must say, this news is really a shock, given how young he was.
Dan Sanchez has a moving tribute to Will Grigg. He writes:
Will’s main beat was stories about individual victims of the state: particularly Americans who have been unjustly imprisoned or wrongfully assaulted by government officers. His research for each article was exhaustive. From his home in Idaho, he traveled all around the northwest to get the story in person. He would get to know each subject personally, and seek face-to-face interviews with their powerful persecutors. His tireless work has saved several innocent lives from being slowly drained away in prison. He wrote so many pieces about Christopher Tapp, a man who has spent two decades in prison for a murder he did not commit, that the Libertarian Institute, where he was managing editor, will publish a whole book collecting them.
Each essay he wrote was a masterpiece of erudition and eloquence, precision and passion. He did not hurl invective. He simply described each official injustice exactly, stripped of all euphemism, as one would a crime committed by any “mundane” outside of the “punitive priesthood” and devoid of “blue privilege,” to use three of his many incisive coinages. He would illuminate the matter by drawing fascinating parallels from his expansive knowledge of history, literature, and popular culture: especially science fiction, which he loved. And he would slice to pieces the officious justifications of official victimizers with his razor-sharp reason. He was, bar none, the best writer in the liberty movement.
Some of the commenters to that post argue over libertarians’ advocacy of free markets in health care, implying that a government health care system could have saved Will. Of course, we don’t know the whole story on his untimely death, but I do recall Will mentioning in an article or two his unwillingness to accept government financial aid, despite his lack of wealth to handle his (and his wife’s) health issues and the caring for their six kids. I wish that Will was more flexible in that area.
Now, I am not being critical here, but, as a libertarian who truly believes that taxation is theft and that public treasuries funded by government theft are immoral, I nevertheless do not believe that one is acting immorally by receiving government aid, or that it is redistributed “stolen loot.” It is not that simple.
If I may digress for a moment, the U.S. treasury supposedly has trillions. But what is a “trillion”? Try counting to a trillion, or keeping a budget of a $trillion! The truth is, “trillion” doesn’t exist, in my view, especially when we’re talking about government-run money, i.e. counterfeit money. It is not real money, and this whole thing is a government-controlled charade, in which the government-money controllers live well while most of the rest of us don’t. So I don’t believe that, in the absence of outright fraud on the part of the recipient, that one would be receiving “stolen goods.” Only in the most theoretical sense, maybe. Although I do see a difference between Mr. Smith who receives Medicare payments but is not harming others (not even indirectly), and Raytheon receiving payments from the government in exchange for equipment that is then used by the government to murder innocent people which is mainly what the U.S. government has been doing, for decades.
Walter Block, a.k.a. “Mr. Libertarian,” has addressed this issue several times. In this article, Walter Block writes:
My take on this is that it is a positive virtue to relieve the government of its ill-gotten gains. Suppose Z steals an apple from Y and then X comes along and takes this fruit away from Z. Did X do anything wrong? Did he act incompatibly with the NAP? Is X no longer a libertarian? Of course not. Very much to the contrary, X did something entirely compatible with our philosophy. Certainly, all libertarian theories of private property rights, of punishment, would agree that of all people in the world, Z is the absolutely least deserving of this foodstuff. Now, it might be nice, it might be virtuous, for X to return the apple to Y…
It should not at all be an “ideal … not take a penny from the State,” at least not for the libertarian. No, no, no, a thousand times no, it is a virtue to take money away from this illicit organization, and way more than a penny too.
8. But wait! If you cooperate with the government in this manner, can you not be properly accused of “aiding and abetting” an evil institution? Well, yes, sort of. If you take money from the state, you are indeed giving it your imprimatur, or “sanction” as the Randians would say. And, indeed, you are helping the government in the ex ante sense, in that both parties always and ever, and necessarily so, benefit from any voluntary exchange, and, here, you are both agreeing: you to accept the funds, they to give them to you.
However, you are not promoting statism any more by taking their money than by carrying around their cash, patronizing their libraries or streets, etc. And, too, while you are of course benefitting them in the ex ante sense, you are certainly not doing so in the ex post sense. That is, they are giving you the money in the hope that by doing so, they can better promote statism than by the use of it in any other way. But you, by your actual actions, will not be doing any such thing.
And, again, I am not criticizing Will Grigg’s judgment, or his uncompromising moral or Christian beliefs. But could Will’s situation have been different had he been willing to accept some kind of government benefits, such as Medicare? As I noted above, as long as you don’t commit some kind of fraud as a way to receive the government funds, I don’t see that as parasitism if you are truly in need.
But back to Will Grigg.
I would like to say that my thinking was influenced by Will’s writing, but the truth is that he mirrored what I had already thought about the important issues of the day. Will recognized the Sovietization and stasification of Amerika, especially with the government police tyranny and the SJW crusades we are witnessing today.
Will had an innate sense of the criminality of the State, of the State’s parasitism and injustice. There is no worse a criminal racket than the State.
And Will wrote extensively on the abuses of the State’s corrupt “Child Protective Services,” the “Child Snatchers,” including their aiders and abetters such as stasi neighbors who make anonymous calls to government police because a child is allowed to play outside unsupervised, and so on. (I’ll never understand the conservatives who are with Will on his opposition to CPS intruders, yet such conservatives nevertheless worship government police, or anyone in uniformed authority, quite frankly.)
Will’s criticism of the government police was always justified, in his specific examples and descriptions. In this interview with Lew Rockwell, Will describes the hysterical panic of the L.A. government police in fear of one of their own, Christopher Dorner, who ended up receiving the “Waco” treatment by the gubmint.
But Will was objective. His recognition of the “good cops” was consistent with his sense of honesty, and he many times called out those among government enforcers who persecuted the good cops and who covered up for and even promoted the bad cops.
… all citizens are incipient slaves, subject to detention, abduction, and other abuse at the whim of uniformed slave-keepers.
A slave is somebody who cannot say “no” – as in, “No, I can’t talk to you right now because I’m on the clock and there are paying customers ahead of you.” This is because the slave doesn’t exercise self-ownership in any sense in the presence of a slave-keeper.
A slave-keeper is somebody who claims the legal right to take ownership of another person at his discretion, and use physical violence to compel submission.
. . .
The conceit that defines law enforcement is that all claims to self-ownership evaporate in the presence of a police officer.
Will also observed:
From its inception, American “law enforcement” has been in the business of harassing harmless people, demanding that they present their “papers,” and violently abducting them if they cannot give a proper “accounting” of themselves to those who presumed to own them. Victims of 18th century slave patrols might be mystified by the accoutrements of contemporary police, astounded by the technology they can employ in the service of official coercion, and horrified by their capacity for unprovoked violence, often of the lethal variety.
Will understood the State’s enslavement of the masses’ labor and theft of their wealth. Not just the bureaucrats and their enforcers as the perpetrators but also some of our fellow civilians who routinely make criminal use of the State’s power and control.
A thorough opponent of today’s “Social Justice Warriors” (SJW), Will Grigg always succeeded in pointing out the real motives of SJWs, their thirst to impose governmental powers over others of whose private lives the SJWs disapprove, and the SJWs’ use of the State as a means of exacting tributes from those whose thoughts and consciences don’t jibe with the SJWs. (See Will’s posts, “Of Wedding Cakes and Puritanical Collectivism,” and “Ending Property Rights: What ‘Add the Words’ Really Means,” for instance.)
Regarding his personal life, I remember some of his essays in which he gave personal accounts of his awful medical ordeals. Here is his very detailed description of his medical and hospital ordeal from August 2009, which was the first year that I became familiar with Will and his writing. (That essay brought back memories of my own experiences in the medical area.) In that 2009 essay, Will showed that he can still display quite a wit and have a sense of humor despite his medical difficulties.
Given all of this, I was stunned and troubled to discover during my routine morning ablutions that I had, ah, deposited something the color of borscht. (My apologies to anyone who has enjoyed that Slavic delicacy or any other porridge made from that noble and misunderstood tuber, the beet.)
Regardless of what else was to come, this much was certain: Sometime, in the near future, an endoscopic camera was going to take a long, scenic tour of my intestines sort of like the voyage of the Starship Enterprise through V’Ger, I suppose, although I doubt that V’Ger felt degraded and violated by the experience.
As I was admitted to the ER, I looked at William and we carried out a ritual that became familiar during my years on the speaking circuit.
“William, while I’m away….” I began.
“I know I’m Daddy ex officio,” replied my Firstborn with the same quiet confidence displayed by Mr. Spock as he assumed command in Captain Kirk’s absence.
Now, I don’t know if the cause of Will’s death was related to those particular medical issues described at that time. It’s possible. And while I didn’t know him personally, I recall emailing him once or twice. As some of you already know, I’m not particularly good with email. And I will certainly miss him and his articles and his staunch defense of human freedom.
If you were not familiar with Will Grigg, you can check out his blog. And here are his LewRockwell.Com articles and blog posts, his posts at the Free Thought Project, and articles at the Foundation for Economic Education.
Interview with Jeff Deist of the Mises Institute, on the police state:
Interview with Jeff Tucker of Liberty.me, on the government police: