When politics is debated at a coffeehouse, the argument inevitably takes shape in terms of coffeehouse metaphors. Case in point, here's what market-anarchist Joey Hill told an audience member during a debate on the topic “Is government necessary?” on Monday at Hillcrest's Café Libertalia:
“It kills me how you can't see a difference in me coming in and voluntarily buying your baklava and your stealing my money and shoving your baklava down my throat.”
Hill, along with debate partner Joseph Corbett argued that government inherently violates an individual's natural rights; it steals property through taxation and enforces monopolies through regulation. In their utopia of “Voluntaryism,” government would be abolished so the free market could determine all realms of public life—from the justice system to environmental protection.
The opposing view was represented by Grossmont Community College sociology professor Gregg Robinson and San Diego State University physics professor Herb Shore, both Democratic Socialists. They argued that government, though potentially oppressive, may ensure equality and prosperity across society.
“This dream of a pure market is itself conducive to a nightmare,” Shore said. “When we have children born in this country to poverty, to racism, that is a kind of coercion the other side is not willing to recognize.”
The Feb. 22 event, which drew more than 30 spectators, was the first debate for the café, which is run by Donna Orlando and Jesse Thomas, advocates for a free-market society as articulated by Austrian thinkers. Thomas hosts a weekly study group and began leading protests last fall. One demonstration involved Corbett paying $2,000 in property taxes with $1 bills and publicly confronting San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister.
Both sides declared victory in the debate, but the café owners say there was no clear winner. “I think it was a draw because the Democratic Socialists exposed themselves as [supporting] the initiation of force or coercion to get what they want,” Thomas says. “The anarcho-capitalist argument didn't go much further than morality arguments.”
Hill and Corbett's position isn't far removed from that espoused in an online manifesto published by Joe Stack, before the disgruntled taxpayer flew a plane into an IRS building in Austin on Feb. 18. Hill says Stack may have been justified, though an individual should exhaust all other options before resorting to violence.
“I do believe that if you are coerced or oppressed, you have the legitimate right to defend yourself,” Hill told CityBeat in a follow-up interview. The 32-year-old ex-Marine with a West Virginian accent says former presidential candidate Ron Paul was his “gateway drug” to anarchism.
Yet, Hill opposes the Tea Party movement and has staged counter-protests: They believe in smaller government, while he believes in no government and boycotting the democratic process.
“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb arguing over what to have for dinner, and it seems Joe and I are going to be for dinner in a Democratic Socialist society,” Hill said in the debate. “However, in a market-anarchist society, I would never have any of you for dinner.”
Nor, presumably, for a coffeehouse snack.