The Fundamental Fallacy of Government

[Originally published at anti-state.com on July 30, 2001]

Why do we need government?

Government is a monopoly of force. Why is it that most people favor such a monopoly?

The Declaration of Independence says:

We hold these truths to be self – evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Setting aside the question of a Creator, I agree in principle that first sentence. It says that there are values which are appropriate to men according to their nature and that rights are implicit in their relationship with those values.

The next sentence offers a reason why we are supposed to need government: We need government to secure rights. This quaint notion has gone a bit out of fashion with many advocates of government, today they typically want government to secure all kinds of things, many of which have nothing to do with rights, but they all want government to secure something. And they’re convinced that only government can do it.

Why can’t people secure their rights, or anything else they need, by voluntary means? Why can’t people freely contract to secure whatever they need to secure? Why is a government, a monopoly on force, necessary to secure anything essential?

The fundamental answer which advocates of government offer for these questions is that we need government to solve a public goods problem. We are told that there is something that we all need, but that we will not secure by voluntary means. Often the argument is used for defense. The argument is that we all need to be defended from foreign invaders but the necessary means to do so cannot be funded on a voluntary basis. If the funding of defense is to be voluntary, what incentive is there for the individual to fund it? After all, for the defense to be viable a large number of people must voluntarily contribute their resources to it, but the individual only controls the actions of one person. Thus the individual has substantial incentive to be a free rider, he’ll get the benefit of defense whether he contributes or not, and the defense will be funded or not regardless of whether the particular individual contributes or not.

I acknowledge this is a legitimate concern and I don’t offer any easy answers.

I just point out that the government as a cure is worse than the disease.

Government “solves” one public goods problem by creating another that cannot be solved. Let’s assume a government is instituted to solve the public goods problem of defense. A mandatory tax is imposed on everyone in the territory to fund defense. Of course force will be used to extract the taxes from any who would not pay voluntarily. But in the end we get the defense we all need by eliminating free riding.

So far so good?

Oops, there’s a catch.

You see, by instituting a monopoly of force you’ve created another threat that people need protection from – the government itself. How will people restrain that government? How can they prevent it from becoming a tyranny?

You have another public goods problem on your hands. And you can’t solve this one the way you “solved” the first. Everyone needs government restrained but that can only be achieved by the voluntary donation of efforts by a great many people. But government will be restrained or not regardless of what the individual does, so he has the very same incentive to be a free rider with respect to the restraint of government as he had with respect to defense. And while you can force people to fund defense you cannot even in principle force people to restrain government since the act of forcing them would be an act of governing.

So government can only be restrained by widespread voluntary donations of effort. But the argument for instituting this government in the first place was that individuals could not be relied on to make such voluntary donations of effort. If you can’t rely on people to voluntarily donate the effort required to repel a foreign invader, how can you rely upon them to voluntarily donate the effort to restrain government?

If voluntary effort can be relied upon to restrain government then you don’t need government because voluntary effort could then be relied upon to solve the problems that government is supposed to solve. In this case there is no justification for government since there is no public goods problem to be solved by a monopoly of force. There’s no way to justify forcing people to solve problems that they are perfectly capable of solving voluntarily.

And if voluntary effort cannot be relied upon to restrain government then there is no justification for government because you haven’t solved any public goods problem by instituting government, you’ve only made things worse by creating a public goods problem that cannot be solved.

In either case government makes things worse.

Sorry folks, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and the argument that government is necessary to secure something that we all need has never been anything but an argument for a free lunch.

Requiem For A Mighty MoPar

mopar_sm.jpg (3194 bytes)

Traffic was wide-open travelling south on I-95
out of New Hampshire, and the deep breathing, long-legged Sport Satellite settled nicely
into into its favorite 100 mile per hour cruising groove. 7.2 liters of displacement
coupled with 3.23 highway gears gave it all the low end torque it needed for handling the
in-town chores, but where the pavement turned long and straight the top-end was limited
only by a somewhat indifferent front suspension,… and nerve. Being young and not
overly-bright meant not having the sense to listen to that spark of reason in my head
because there was competition to be found out here, and I would have it.

I’d meant no harm when the pretty little IROC
Z retreated in my rearview mirror, and frankly I wasn’t interested in wasting gas on an
anemic ghost of a past champion. The showroom Chevy raced up beside me, young boys
crowding its windows, challenging the old MoPar and its driver as they mouthed,
"Let’s go!" Bored but curious, I let the Camaro pull ahead by half a car length,
making sure to keep the nose of the Plymouth right in the corner of the driver’s eye.
Easing up to 120, the Chevy had run out of air, or gears, or perhaps guts, and I casually
gave them a wave as I eased past right before mashing my foot to the floor, leaving them
once again (and finally).

Mustangs also fell by the wayside in the same
manner, and I’d always resented the emasculated Corvette owners who gave some pretense to
racing yet fell back whenever we approached triple digits. Their machine was ‘an
investment’, or ‘a statement’, or anything but the instrument for which it was designed;
to propel a human being at speeds beyond the sanely acceptable. "The car has more
balls than you do," I thought to myself, eyeing the middle-aged, executive type
behind the wheel of what *should* have been some real competition. ‘Cool it down and pack
it up’ was the plan to which I’d resigned myself as I looped around to pick up 128 North
to Cape Ann.

North of Beverly is where the complexion of
Route 128 really changes. The malls and industrial parks are left far behind, as well as
the clots of commuters and extra lanes. Dense and green, the trees grew right up to the
edge of the highway as well as filling the wide median, blocking the view between the
north and southbound lanes. Even at 85 the scene was peaceful, and in my reverie I never
noticed the bright red Porche 911 bearing down on me. Alone on that two lane stretch of
highway, the Porche smoothly negotiated around me and back into the fast lane, checking
his rearview to see if I was willing to give chase.

A slight dip of the nose told him all he need
to know, and in a heartbeat our speedometers registered the news; each of us had found the
challenge we were looking for.

My stock instrument gauge was useless as the
needle swung through 120, pinning itself at the (undesignated) speed of 130, leaving only
the tachometer and some ungodly sound from under the hood to tell the tale. NASCAR racing
was coming to life, and the high-pitched sound of an engine running past six thousand RPM
filled me with visions of pistons punching through the hood. Still the Porche maintained
the lead, and drafting was no longer just a buzzword from the broadcasting booth. The
911’s whale tail opened a pocket for me to slip into, and moving out to pass left me
desperately trying to convince the front-end of the Mighty MoPar that my notion of
direction was worthy of merit.

The road pulled up into a slight rise with a
sweeping right hand turn at its crest, and at 7400 RPM my motor seemed eager for even more
fuel. This was my spot, my only chance to break away from the German fury and prove the
mettle of American iron. Standing between me and victory was a sedate little commuter car
in the right hand travel lane, blithely rolling along at the posted 55 miles per hour.
Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for him), the breakdown lane was just wide enough
for the Plymouth’s bulging rear fenders plus a jelly donut, and with the most careful
input to the steering wheel I could muster, I let the beast drift across the lane,
sheering off distance as I took a radically inside line, aiming for an apex between gravel
and the station wagon’s side molding.

I wondered what the unsuspecting commuter felt
as the two speed demons passed him on either side at nearly the exact moment, but by the
time I’d pulled back into the passing lane in front of the 911 he was nowhere to be seen
in the vibrating mirror. A bit of panic seeped into my brain as I realized that we were
fast approaching traffic ahead at what must have been 165 mph, but both the Porche pilot
and I throttled back and let it go with a friendly wave. Adrenaline rushed through me, my
legs rubbery and jangling as I scrubbed off speed to take my exit, leaving me spent but
elated as I mused, "there’s no replacement for cubic displacement!"

Insurance And Private Defense In Chaos Theory

I’ve recommended
Bob Murphy’s Chaos Theory
as a book that will stimulate readers to think about free market alternatives to
government. But I have serious reservations about Murphy’s overall scheme for a market
based society because it relies on insurance to do things that insurance won’t do. From
cover to cover Murphy offers insurance as the glue which will hold a free society
together.

The idea that insurance can provide market
solutions to certain crucial problems goes back at least to The Market for Liberty written
by Morris and Linda Tannahill in 1970. In the second half of Chaos Theory Murphy offers
essentially the same market solution for defense that the Tannahills do. In the first half
of his book he spins even more elaborate insurance schemes, but I believe his interest in
market solutions insurance could provide probably had it’s origin in consideration of
proposals for defense like those offered in The Market For Liberty. So I will begin my
critique there.

Insurance is central to defense in the society
Murphy envisions:

"In an anarchist society committed to
the sanctity of private property and contract, insurance companies would most likely
oversee defense services."

It’s certainly natural that people will seek
to be insured against the damages of foreign invasion, and Murphy sees this as the first
step toward the solution to the problem of defense.

"Like natural disasters, wars bring
widespread death and destruction. In market anarchy, insurance companies would provide
coverage for these losses too, and would thus have a great financial interest in deterring
and repelling military attacks."

Murphy then asks us to consider a society that
starts with no collective defense. People will want to be insured against invasion, but
the price of insurance will be very high, and insurance itself will do nothing to protect
the people.

"In this bleak situation, an executive
at the Ace insurance company has a brilliant idea. He can undercut his rivals and offer
the same level of coverage for only, say, 5,000 per person – half the price charged by his
competitors. He can afford to do this by spending some of his revenues on military
defenses, and thereby lower the probability of foreign conquest. For example, he might pay
private defense agencies $40 billion per year to maintain helicopters, tanks, trained
personnel, etc. and be on the constant alert to repel any attacks. If these preparations
reduced the chance of foreign invasion to only, say, one-half of one percent per year,
then they would "pay for themselves." The innovative insurance executive would
reap huge profits and capture the market for military liability, while the residents would
enjoy increased security and lower premiums. With property safe from foreign
expropriation, investment and population growth would be stimulated, allowing greater
economies of scale and further rate cuts."

This "brilliant idea" is in fact a
recipe for driving the Ace insurance company into bankruptcy. Producing defense will not
enable Ace to charge lower prices than it’s rivals, quite the opposite is true. If Ace
produces defense which lowers the chance of public invasion all of Ace’s competitors will
cut their prices to take full advantage of the new situation. And they will be able to
charge less for insurance than Ace, because they don’t have to pay for the overhead of
actually producing defense.

David Friedman explained this in The Machinery
of Freedom in 1972:

"This is the problem of Morris and
Linda Tannahill’s idea of financing national defense through an insurance company or
companies which would insure customers against injury by foreign states and finance
national defense out of the money saved by financing the customers. Such an insurance
company, in order to pay the cost of defense, would have to charge rates substantially
higher than the real risk justified, given the existence of it’s defense system. Since
people living in the geographical area defended would be protected whether or not they
were insured by that particular company, it would be in their interest either not to be
insured or to be insured by a company which did not have to bear the burden of paying for
defense and could therefore charge lower rates. The national defense insurance company
would lose all it’s customers and go bankrupt, just as it would if it were simply selling
national defense directly to customers who would be defended whether or not they paid.’

As Friedman points out, defense is a hard
problem in the free market because it is a public goods problem. In a free market
producers of defense cannot easily control who receives the benefit of the defense they
produce. There is no magical quality of insurance that enables insurance companies to
profit from producing public goods.

Murphy is aware of the public goods problem.

"Does the above system really avoid
the perennial problem of private defense? That is, can it overcome the free rider problem?
After Ace Insurance entered into long-term contracts with defense agencies, what would
stop a rival firm, such as Moocher Insurance, from undercutting Ace? After all, the
likelihood of property damage would be the same for Moocher’s clients as for Ace’s, yet
Moocher wouldn’t spend a dime on military expenditures. This reasoning is perfectly valid,
yet the case for private defense remains strong."

The reasoning is perfectly valid, which means
that no case has been made. It means that such a plan would result in bankruptcy for any
company that attempted to implement it.

Murphy goes on to talk about factors which may
tend to make the public goods problem easier to solve, but they have nothing in principle
to do with insurance. He says that the market of defense is "lumpier" than
generally assumed which really means that a small number of agencies have the ability to
afford national scale defense even with free riders. That’s nice if it’s true, but it has
nothing to do with insurance. He talks about offers the defense producing agency cold make
to get enough subscribers to make defense profitable. Such offers might well work in
certain circumstances, but again they have nothing to do with insurance.

If two companies are offering to sell defense
to you, why should it matter to you that one of them is your insurance company? The
defense will only be produced if it is profitable to produce in and of itself, and if it
is produced you’ll be able to get a better rate on your insurance regardless of who
produced the defense.

There is no good argument in Chaos Theory to
support Murphy’s assertion that insurance companies would most likely oversee defense.
Some other points he makes on defense are plausible enough, but it is unfortunate that he
chose insurance as the lynch pin of his scheme because it really has no bearing on the
hard problem of defense.

Murphy asks a great deal more of insurance in
the first part of his book; I will address that in another piece.

A Porcupine’s Worth Is His Price

"The value or worth of a man is, as of all other things, his price.."Hobbes

Government is a predator. Those who seek to secure their liberty face the problem of how to avoid being prey. Some look at the leviathan state and despair that they will never have sufficient force at their disposal to defeat such a predator. They need to learn from the porcupine.

The lesson the porcupine teaches is that you don’t have to be strong enough to defeat a predator to avoid being that predator’s lunch. It suffices to be an expensive meal.  Predators tend not to dine on porcupines because a serving of porcupine tends not to be worth the mouthful of quill that it costs.

In Price Theory David Friedman writes:

"… the essential objective in any conflict is neither to defeat your enemy nor to make it impossible for him to defeat you but merely to make it no longer in his interest to do whatever it is that you object to…

Why do nations seek overwhelmingly to resolve disputes peacefully rather than by force? Because war is usually more expensive than it is worth to the party that initiates it.  The reason that Communist China doesn’t take Taiwan by force is not that it cannot do so, but rather because China judges Taiwan will
cost more than it is worth to take by force. Taiwan does not need to be anywhere near as powerful as the predator to survive, it just needs to be more expensive than it is worth to the predator.

Those who fought for American independence understood the lesson of the porcupine.  One of the most powerful symbols in the war for independence is seen in the Gadsden flag.

The message of the Gadsden flag is not that we can defeat all predators, but that we will cost them dearly. The colonists did not seek to be more powerful than the British, they sought simply to be too expensive for the British to rule.

Some advocates of anarcho-capitalism think that to achieve liberty from government we need to convince a majority or some critical number of people that anarcho-capitalist society will be better for them than governed society.

The porcupine teaches a different lesson -that men will be free from government whenever they become too expensive to govern.

This is the crucial insight which makes me optimistic about the chances for anarcho-capitalist society. I’m not optimistic about converting masses of people to accept anarcho-capitalism through any sort of rational evangelism. I’m not optimistic about persuading large numbers of people to be more moral or to use better judgment. But I am optimistic that in the long run people can be made too expensive to govern.

Rational Evangelism Won’t Work

Anarcho-capitalists are faced with the problem of how to get from our current society to a stateless society. A common assumption many share is that large segments of the population must persuaded of the moral superiority of anarcho-capitalism or of it’s practical advantages. Bob Murphy takes this view in his article In Search of The AntiMarx:

"I think the only hope for a stateless society is a population committed to true voluntarism, that is, to absolute and total freedom."

In this view the primary task of anarcho-capitalists now is to convert the masses, to persuade them to adopt certain moral or philosophical foundations of anarcho-capitalism.

Short of force, there are two primary ways by which one might seek to persuade people. Many people can often be persuaded by rhetoric regardless of the validity of the proposition under consideration. Murphy expresses a certain admiration for Karl Marx’s ability to persuade, even though he recognizes Marx’s arguments as invalid. Murphy is enthusiastic about packaging an a anarcho-capitalist message using rhetorical techniques and methods similar to those employed by Marx. He’s also enthusiastic about the prospect of a charismatic anarcho-capitalist leader.

Can people be persuaded by such methods? Sure. But in Marketing Market Anarchism I explain why I think this kind of persuasion is of no real value to anarcho-capitalists.

The other way to persuade people is by valid rational argument. With some individuals we see this work wonderfully well. If anarcho-capitalism has a valid basis then valid arguments for it can be made. So all that needs to be done is to get all of these valid arguments into the marketplace of ideas and hammer away with them until the masses see the light of reason?

Would it were so.

I call this second approach rational evangelism. It won’t work either. The very fact that large masses of people have routinely accepted invalid arguments on the basis of clever rhetoric or the attraction of charismatic leaders ought to make one extremely skeptical about the efficacy of rational evangelism. Part of the problem is that most people are not sufficiently competent at reasoning to fully apprehend a valid argument of significant complexity. But all men by nature have a rational faculty and a very large part of the problem stems from the fact that they are to a large degree responding quite rationally to the simple choices before them.

How can rational choices lead to undesirable results like the continued expansion of government? The Prisoner’s Dilemma illustrates how this can happen. Principia Cybernetic Web explains the Prisoner’s Dilemma:

"The game got its name from the following hypothetical situation: imagine two criminals arrested under the suspicion of having committed a crime together. However, the police does not have sufficient proof in order to have them convicted. The two prisoners are isolated from each other, and the police visit each of them and offer a deal: the one who offers evidence against the other one will be freed. If none of them accepts the offer, they are in fact cooperating against the police, and both of them will get only a small punishment because of lack of proof. They both gain. However, if one of them betrays the other one, by confessing to the police, the defector will gain more, since he is freed; the one who remained silent, on the other hand, will receive the full punishment, since he did not help the police, and there is sufficient proof. If both betray, both will be punished, but less severely than if they had refused to talk. The dilemma resides in the fact that each prisoner has a choice between only two options, but cannot make a good decision without knowing what the other one will do."

It turns out that because of the incentive structure it’s in neither prisoner’s self interest to cooperate with the other prisoner against the police. Prisoner A considers what prisoner B will do. If B chooses to cooperate with A and not implicate him then A is better off if he implicates B, since A will go free. If B chooses to defect and implicate A then A is better off implicating B since then A will avoid the harshest punishment. So whatever B does it is in A’s interest to defect and implicate B. When prisoner B consider’s what A will do he’s faced with exactly the same situation, whatever A does it’s in B’s self interest to defect and implicate A. So if both A and B act out of rational self interest with respect to the incentives in place each will defect and implicate the other. And they’ll both receive a moderate sentence.

But anyone can see that A and B would both do better if they cooperated and refused to implicate each other because they would both get off with a lighter sentence. If you got to choose the action for both of them the best thing to do would be to have them cooperate with each other but each individual only gets to choose his own action.

In a sense we are all prisoners of government. Individually we can choose to cooperate with each other to dissolve government, or we can choose to defect and wield government against others. We’d be best off if everyone cooperated but we each only get to choose for ourselves. The incentive structure government provides is such that defectors can enrich themselves at the expense of those around them by wielding government. Or they can seek to protect themselves from other defectors by wielding government. Those who cooperate against government and decline to wield it are effectively at the mercy of those who do choose to wield it. This is why individuals overwhelmingly choose to defect and wield government.

Go back to the original Prisoner’s Dilemma to understand why rational evangelism won’t work. If you’re prisoner A and you understand the situation you can easily explain to B why it’s in your common interest to cooperate. You can even convince him because your argument is entirely valid – you’ll both do better if you cooperate. But you haven’t changed the situation a bit, you’re both still individually better off defecting regardless of what the other prisoner does. In the game where we’re all prisoners of government the overwhelming majority will consistently choose to defect, out of rational self interest, regardless of valid arguments for voluntary cooperation against government because the individual doesn’t get to choose for everyone, he only gets to choose for himself.

So how can we win this game?

We can’t.

We need to change the rules, we need another game.

The Myth of the Social Contract

The social contract theory of the
State has it that the State is formed by the agreement of the People to establish a
monopoly on legitimate violence to perform certain functions. Social contract theorists
sometimes disagree about the nature and scope of the State’s functions, but most agree
that they include, at a minimum, providing police, courts, & the military. Many social
contract theorists argue that other things should be done by the State, but few besides
anarchists question whether the State should do these things at all. For the sake of this
discussion, then, let’s stick to these three. If the theory holds for them, then it may
hold for others as well. If it doesn’t hold for these, then it may be difficult to see how
it could justify additional State functions.

On this minimal conception of the functions of the State,
then, social contract theory has it that the People are obligated to pay taxes to the
State and abide by its rules in exchange for the protection they get from the police,
courts, & military. In turn, the State is obligated to protect the People. In theory,
there is mutual agreement between the People & the State to these terms and this
substance, and there is mutual obligation. But does this theory hold in practice? In
practice, is there really mutual agreement and mutual obligation about this relationship?
I will argue that, in practice, neither mutual agreement nor mutual obligation can be
found in the relationship between the People and the State. Further, I will argue that, in
practice, there is no such social contract.

Some argue that the Constitution of a country is the social
contract. But, as Lysander Spooner pointed out, written Constitutions have "no
inherent authority or obligation." They have "no authority or obligation at all,
unless as a contract between man and man." At most, they can only be contracts
between those who were alive and "already come to years of discretion, so as to be
competent to make reasonable and obligatory contracts" when they are written.
Further, they can only obligate those "consulted on the subject, or asked, or
permitted either to express their consent or dissent in any formal manner." And,
those who may authorize & be obligated to Constitutions have "no natural power or
right to make it obligatory upon their children." ("No Treason: the Constitution of No Authority," the Lysander Spooner Reader, p. 71)

How else could the people agree to the State? "If they
have done so, they can only have done so in only one of both of two ways, viz., by voting,
and paying taxes." (ibid, p.
73)

Taxation might seem at first to indicate the consent of the
governed since people seem to willingly pay the State to protect them. However, the Mafia
has also claimed to "protect" people in exchange for payment. In fact, the
"protection" money collected by the Mafia isn’t willingly paid at all, but
extorted by the Mafia from its victims. In fact, it isn’t "protection" money at
all, but extortion. Extortion is defined as "obtaining property from another by
wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official
right." (Black’s Law Dictionary, p. 302). The Mafia’s "protection" is
neither freely offered nor freely accepted. Those who don’t pay their
"protection" money are threatened with harm to their lives, liberties, &
properties.

The same thing goes for taxation. The State doesn’t wait
for anyone to request its "services," and, like the Mafia, its offers are ones
that you can’t refuse. Those who decline its offers are also threatened with harm to their
life, liberty, or property. Where the Mafia may firebomb the home or business of those who
don’t pay up, the State will rob, beat, imprison, and even kill those who refuse to pay
their taxes because they reject the "services" the State has to offer.

Taxation may seem analogous to rent paid by a tenant to its
landlord, but this analogy doesn’t hold water, either. While legitimate landlords get
their property by being the first to make use of it and mark it off or by getting it in
trade or as a gift from someone who did, etc., the State doesn’t get its territory that
way. The State gets its territory the same way as the Mafia: by violence, or the threat
thereof. Thus, neither the State nor the Mafia are the legitimate owners of anything they
get by means of their extortion.

Furthermore, this assumes that the State claims title to
all the real estate within its territory, which isn’t always the case. In fact, land title
was held "allodium" ("Land held absolutely in one’s own right, and not of
any lord or superior; land not subject to feudal duties or burdens. An estate held by
absolute ownership, without recognizing any superior to whom any duty is due on account
thereof." – ibid, p. 39), or "fee simple absolute" ("A fee simple is
an estate limited absolutely to a man and his heirs and assigns forever without limitation
or condition. An absolute or fee-simple estate is one in which the owner is entitled to
the entire property, with unconditional power of disposition during his life, and
descending to his heirs and legal representatives upon his death intestate." – ibid,
p. 317) in England prior to the Norman Conquest. But, as Thomas Jefferson pointed out in
his "Summary View of the Rights of British America":

"America was conquered, and her settlements made and
firmly established, at the expense of individuals, and not of the British public. Their
own blood was spilt in acquiring lands for their settlement, their own fortunes expended
in making that settlement effectual. For themselves they fought, for themselves conquered,
and for themselves alone they have right to hold. No shilling was ever issued from the
public treasures of his Majesty, or his ancestors, for their assistance, till of very late
times, after the colonies had become established on a firm and permanent footing. That
then, indeed, having become valuable to Great Britain for her commercial purposes, his
Parliament was pleased to lend them assistance against an enemy who would fain have drawn
to herself the benefits of their commerce, to the great aggrandisement of herself, and
danger of Great Britain. Such assistance, and in such circumstances, they had often before
given to Portugal and other allied states, with whom they carry on a commercial
intercourse. Yet these states never supposed that by calling in her aid, they thereby
submitted themselves to her sovereignty. Had such terms been proposed, they would have
rejected them with disdain, and trusted for better, to the moderation of their enemies, or
to a vigorous exertion of their own force… "

America was not conquered by William the Norman, nor its
lands surrendered to him or any of his successors. Possessions there are, undoubtedly, of
the Allodial nature. Our ancestors, however, who migrated hither, were laborers, not
lawyers. The fictitious principle, that all lands belong originally to the King, they were
early persuaded to believe real, and accordingly took grants of their own lands from the
Crown." – Thomas Jefferson, "Summary view of the rights of British
America," LIFE & SELECTED WRITINGS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON, ed. Adrienne Koch &
William Peden, Random House, (c) 1972, pp. 294-95, 308

However, this error didn’t waive the right.

There are other essential differences between the rent paid
by tenant to landlord and the tax paid by people to the State: tenants voluntarily choose
to enter into their landlord’s estate, and to pay the rent charged by the landlord for the
tenant’s occupation of the estate. Furthermore, tenants can quit the premises and thus
relieve themselves of liability to pay rent to the landlord. Neither condition obtains in
the relationship between the People and the State. Even if we assume that the State holds
legitimate original title to its territory, this could only obligate people to pay rent if
they’d voluntarily occupied it in the first place. Furthermore, the People aren’t relieved
of tax liability even if they leave the country if the country in question is that claimed
by the Federal Government of the USA, which requires its citizens to pay taxes to it no
matter whether they live within its geographical boundaries or not.

The very word "taxation" means "forced
exaction," according to Charles Adams, tax attorney and leading historian of taxation
(see his books "Fight, Flight, Fraud," and "For Good and Evil"). As he
points out, the common-law principle of fair benefit received for consideration given has
no place in tax law. Black’s Law Dictionary says: "Essential characteristics of a tax
are that it is not a voluntary payment for donation, but an enforced contribution…"
(p. 758)

There are a number of reasons why voting isn’t an
expression of the consent of the governed as well. One is that voting is also done under
duress, just as is paying taxes. Taxes are assessed whether one votes or not, so many vote
out of self-defense in order to prevent their taxes from being used against them in some
way or another. Another is that the majority often votes to violate the rights of the
minority, which violates the principle that contracts to violate the rights of another are
invalid. Still another reason is that since voting is done by secret ballot there can be
no meeting of the minds as is necessary for any legally binding agreement. Yet another
reason is that voting could at most only bind those who actually voted in any given
election, but elections are commonly held to obligate those many people who don’t vote.
Still further, those who vote for candidates who lose the election can’t be said to have
consented to the rule of the winner. There may be other reasons, but I think these are
enough to prove that voting can’t be an expression of the consent of the governed.

One could still argue that even though there’s no mutual
agreement to pay taxes & obey the State’s rules in exchange for the State’s
protection, the people are still obligated to do so because the State is obligated to
protect them whether they agree to it or not. But, in fact, not only doesn’t the State
have any obligation to protect those who haven’t agreed to it, it doesn’t have any legal
obligation to protect people who’ve not only agreed to the State’s protection but
desperately need it because they have no other way of getting protection. Neither the
police, courts, military, or any other officials or employees of the State have to protect
them:

"As numerous courts have held, they have no legal
obligation to protect anyone in particular. You cannot sue them for failing to prevent you
from being the victim of a crime." – Jeffrey Snyder

This is an instance of the legal doctrine of
"sovereign immunity," which stems from the medieval notion that the king could
do no wrong. Black’s Law Dictionary says that it "precludes litigant from asserting
an otherwise meritorious cause of action against a sovereign or a party with sovereign
attributes unless sovereign consents to suit." (p. 724) The State has been so kind as
to waive sovereign immunity in some cases under the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946, but
"preserves governmental immunity with respect to the traditional categories of
intentional torts, and with respect to acts or omissions which fall within the
‘discretionary function or duty’ of any federal agency." (p. 317) What is the scope
of this "discretionary function or duty"? It can be found in Black’s Law under
the heading of "sovereignty": "The power to do everything in a state
WITHOUT ACCOUNTABILITY, – to make laws, to execute and to apply them, to impose and
collect taxes and levy contributions, to make war or peace, to form treaties of alliance
or of commerce with foreign nations, and the like" (emphasis added). The several
states under the federal government also have their own statutes relieving them and the
city and county government under them of liability for any and all failures to protect the
people from threats to their lives, liberties, and properties as do the county & city
levels of government.

One could still argue that even though the State has no
legal obligation to live up to its end of the deal it still has a political obligation: if
its officials breach the social contract, then they can get defeated in their next
election and replaced with someone else. However, this objection was anticipated by
Lysander Spooner as well:

"Suffrage is equally powerless and unreliable. It can
be exercised only periodically; and the tyranny must at least be borne until the time for
suffrage comes. Besides, when the suffrage is exercised, it gives no guaranty for the
repeal of existing laws that are oppressive, and no security against the enactment of new
ones that are equally so. The second body of legislators are liable and likely to be just
as tyrannical as the first. If it be said that the second body may be chosen for their
integrity, the answer is, that the first were chosen for that very reason, and yet proved
tyrants. The second will be exposed to the same temptations as the first, and will be just
as likely to prove tyrannical. Who ever heard that succeeding legislatures were, on the
whole, more honest than those that preceded them? What is there in the nature of men or
things to make them so? If it be said that the first body were chosen from motives of
injustice, that fact proves that there is a portion of society who desire to establish
injustice; and if they were powerful or artful enough to procure the election of their
instruments to compose the first legislature, they will be likely to be powerful enough or
artful enough to procure the election of the same or similar instruments to compose the
second. The right of suffrage, therefore, and even a change of legislators, guarantees no
change of legislation – certainly no change for the better. Even if a change for the
better actually comes, it comes too late, because it comes only after more or less
injustice has been irreparably done.

"But, at best, the right of suffrage can be exercised
only periodically; and between the periods the legislators are wholly irresponsible. No
despot was ever more entirely irresponsible than are republican legislators during the
period for which they are chosen. They can neither be removed from their office, nor
called to account while in office, nor punished after they leave their office, be their
tyranny what it may. Moreover, the judicial and executive departments of the government
are equally irresponsible TO THE PEOPLE, and are only responsible (by impeachment, and
dependence for their salaries), to those irresponsible legislators. This dependence of the
judiciary and executive upon the legislature is a guaranty that they will always sanction
and execute its laws, whether just or unjust. Thus the legislators hold the whole power of
the government in their hands, and are at the same time utterly irresponsible for the
manner in which they use it." – Lysander Spooner, "Trial By Jury," THE
LYSANDER SPOONER READER, pp. 126-27

How could the State be obliged to protect those who reject
its offer if it isn’t even obliged to protect those who not only accept the offer but
whose very lives depend upon it?

What about enforcement of the State’s obligation to protect
the people by means of the right of revolution? First of all, in order for the people to
be able to overthrow the State by armed revolution they have to be able to break the
State’s monopoly of legitimate violence by not only being able to keep & bear arms but
also by having the authority to judge the legitimacy of their actions. Thus, they have to
rob the State of its defining characteristics. The government that would then be
overthrown may be tyrannical, but it wouldn’t be a State except in the sense of being an
organization which tries to monopolize legitimate violence by means of force & fraud,
however unsuccessfully it might do so. In fact, even if a State didn’t claim sovereign
immunity, even if it were based upon the consent of the governed, it still couldn’t be
held to its end of the deal without first being robbed if its status as a State. There
being no practical way to enforce obligations upon an existing State, no such obligations
can exist in practice, which means that there can be no mutual obligation between the
People & the State – which means that there can be no contract between People &
State, since mutual obligation is a necessary condition for contract to exist.

Secondly, Spooner answered this one as well: "The
right of revolution… is of no practical value, except for those who are stronger than
the government. So long, therefore, as the oppressions of a government are kept within
such limits as simply not to exasperate against it a power greater than its own, the right
of revolution cannot be appealed to, and is therefore inapplicable to the case. This
affords a wide field for tyranny…" – ibid, pp. 129

It turns out that the alleged "social contract"
is doubly one-sided: the only party to agree to it is the State, and the only party that
is obliged by it is the People. The State agrees to collect taxes & enforce its rules
upon the People, and the people are obliged to pay those taxes & abide by those rules.
There is no mutuality of agreement nor any mutuality of obligation between the State and
the people, and, therefore, can be no contract. There is no more contract between the
State and the People than there is between the Mafia and the victims of its extortion
rackets or rapists and their victims. Thus, the People have no obligation to pay taxes or
to obey the State, and the State has no legitimacy in attempting to enforce any such
obligations.

Do Something

Park illegally. Smoke a joint. Drain a swamp. Sell something for cash. Buy something for cash. Don’t report income. Submit false census data. Buy an unregistered gun. Sell an unregistered gun. Don’t license your dog or cat. Piss on your own front lawn. Praise Jesus in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic. Praise free speech on any campus. Ice a terminally-ill relative who begs to die. Marry the person you love without getting a marriage certificate. Blow up a cactus. Chainsaw a really old tree on your property. Encrypt anything. Tune your car so that it sucks gas and kicks ass. Find a Saturday Night Special Assault Rifle and load it with Cop Killer Bullets, then use it to pop an endangered bunny twixt his soft, fuzzy ears. Fuck somebody who wants to fuck you in a nasty, illegal way. Peel out at a red light. Bet on something with someone. Write an email using the terms “auto sear” and “detonator”. Burn something without a permit. Drive uninsured while talking on your cellphone. Hoard bullets and good pornography. Light a Marlboro in the mall.

God damn it, stop reading and moaning, go out and fucking do something outside the cattle car-shaped box.

No Treason?

I had never heard of Lysander Spooner before I started surfing the web in 1996.  I soon found a web site created by Niels Buhl that featured some fascinating works of political philosophy that I was completely unfamiliar with. One of the most important was No Treason No. VI: The Constitution of No Authority by Lysander Spooner.

A little background: I’d been a liberal for most of my life. As a very young man I’d  fancied myself a communist, I even carried Mao’s Little Red Book around with me for a couple of years reading it like scripture. But as I settled into making a living I mbraced  a more typical and pedestrian American liberalism. I felt the proper function of government was to help people. I always voted a straight democratic ticket up until 1992. Clinton was the very first liberal I couldn’t bring myself to vote for, but that was only because I didn’t trust him.

The launching of the Clinton administration was punctuated by the fiasco in Waco. I initially supported the government’s role at Waco, but at the same time I was haunted by the sense that something was terribly wrong with this government. Not something that could be blamed on a scoundrel like Clinton but something much deeper. I didn’t know precisely what it was but I knew I wanted a whole lot less of it. By 1994 I was gleefully cheering Republicans on in their crusade to cut back government. By 1996 it was pretty clear to me that their crusade was a scam.

This is about the time I was introduced to Spooner’s work.

I had never heard of Lysander Spooner before I started surfing the web in 1996.  I soon found a web site created by Niels Buhl that featured some fascinating works of political philosophy that I was completely unfamiliar with. One of the most important was No Treason No. VI: The Constitution of No Authority by Lysander Spooner.

A little background: I’d been a liberal for most of my life. As a very young man I’d  fancied myself a communist, I even carried Mao’s Little Red Book around with me for a couple of years reading it like scripture. But as I settled into making a living I embraced a more typical and pedestrian American liberalism. I felt the proper function of government was to help people. I always voted a straight democratic ticket up until 1992. Clinton was the very first liberal I couldn’t bring myself to vote for, but that was only because I didn’t trust him.

The launching of the Clinton administration was punctuated by the fiasco in Waco. I initially supported the government’s role at Waco, but at the same time I was haunted by the sense that something was terribly wrong with this government. Not something that could be blamed on a scoundrel like Clinton but something much deeper. I didn’t know precisely what it was but I knew I wanted a whole lot less of it. By 1994 I was gleefully cheering Republicans on in their crusade to cut back government. By 1996 it was pretty clear to me that their crusade was a scam.

This is about the time I was introduced to Spooner’s work.

I’d been thinking quite a lot about what the proper function of government was. I studied the Constitution and other works of the founding fathers to understand what they thought. The founding principle of American government was that just government required the consent of the governed. But there was a nagging question that kept coming up: Who consented to this constitution, this government? I couldn’t figure it out. I heard legal scholars describe the Constitution as a form of contract. When asked how a contract could be binding on people who had not even been born, they’d brush off the question with the assurance that an explanation of how such a contract was valid was too technical for the layman to understand.

But how could they consent to what they did not understand?

This was by no means the focus of my inquiries into the proper function of government, it was just a nagging puzzle that wouldn’t go away. I assumed the Constitution was a valid contract for reasons I didn’t yet fully understand.

So Lysander Spooner’s writing hit me like a truck. A big truck.

Spooner revealed the dirty little secret: There is no contract. The Constitution is not a contract, in substance it’s nothing like a contract and it has no morally binding force on anyone.

Spooner:

It is plain, then, that on general principles of law and reason—such principles as we all act upon in courts of justice and in common life—the Constitution is no contract; that it binds nobody, and never did bind anybody; and that all those who pretend to act by its authority, are really acting without any legitimate authority at all; that, on general principles of law and reason, they are mere usurpers, and that everybody not only has the right, but is morally bound, to treat them as such.

If the people of this country wish to maintain such a government as the Constitution
describes, there is no reason in the world why they should not sign the instrument itself, and thus make known their wishes in an open, authentic manner; in such manner as the common sense and experience of mankind have shown to be reasonable and necessary in such cases; and in such manner as to make themselves (as they ought to do) individually responsible for the acts of the government. But the people have never been asked to sign it. And the only reason why they have never been asked to sign it, has been that it has been known that they never would sign it; that they were neither such fools nor knaves as they must needs have been to be willing to sign it; that (at least as it has been practically interpreted) it is not what any sensible and honest man wants for himself; nor such as he has any right to impose upon others. It is, to all moral intents and purposes, as destitute of obligations as the compacts which robbers and thieves and pirates enter into with each other, but never sign.

If any considerable number of the people believe the Constitution to be good, why do they not sign it themselves, and make laws for, and administer them upon, each other; leaving all other persons (who do not interfere with them) in peace? Until they have tried the experiment for themselves, how can they have the face to impose the Constitution upon, or even to recommend it to, others? Plainly the reason for absurd and inconsistent conduct is that they want the Constitution, not solely for any honest or legitimate use it can be of to themselves or others, but for the dishonest and illegitimate power it gives them over the persons and properties of others. But for this latter reason, all their eulogiums on the Constitution, all their exhortations, and all their expenditures of money and blood to sustain it, would be wanting.

Oh.

This didn’t instantly turn me into an anarchist, that came a little later, but it crippled me as an advocate of government. Never again could I propose any government activity without knowing that I was advocating that it be forced upon others regardless of consent.

This journal is dedicated to the insight of Lysander Spooner. I would sum up his political philosophy this way: We are not born with any positive moral obligation to any state or agency or individuals, the only legitimate obligations we have are those to which we freely consent. To reject the obligations we are commonly supposed to have to the state,  but to which we have not in fact freely consented, is No Treason.

When Anarchists Attack

It’s not as if you hesitate to turn your back on them. You see them
as domesticated, congenial, even. They’ll cheerfully watch your money on the bar for you
or hold your place in line if you need to make a quick trip to the rest room or to the
phone. You may have had them in your home as guests. Certainly, in spite of leftist
mischaracterization of them, anarcho-capitalists are often generous and on top of
everything else, they make the perfect designated drivers due to their rational natures.
So why fear them?

Why, indeed. Only because they can be provoked at any given
moment for the most subtle of reasons and because of the sheer deadliness of their
arguments. Granted, the incidence of lethal anarchist attacks is relatively low, but the
consequences can be severe, especially to the comfortable paradigms of conservatives and
Libertarians.

Anarchists have been known to walk the assorted,
unsuspecting conservative or Libertarian safely across the street only to gut him right on the sidewalk. It’s not a
pretty prospect. When it happens to you, you’ll likely be reminded, as you lay bleeding,
that your designated driver contract only bound them to drive you home safely and that
there was no agreement on their part to actually not kill you on your doorstep. Good
point, you think, as you lose consciousness and the world, as you knew it, draws in and
darkens.

It’s not as if you hesitate to turn your back on them. You see them
as domesticated, congenial, even. They’ll cheerfully watch your money on the bar for you
or hold your place in line if you need to make a quick trip to the rest room or to the
phone. You may have had them in your home as guests. Certainly, in spite of leftist
mischaracterization of them, anarcho-capitalists are often generous and on top of
everything else, they make the perfect designated drivers due to their rational natures.
So why fear them?

Why, indeed. Only because they can be provoked at any given
moment for the most subtle of reasons and because of the sheer deadliness of their
arguments. Granted, the incidence of lethal anarchist attacks is relatively low, but the
consequences can be severe, especially to the comfortable paradigms of conservatives and
Libertarians.

Anarchists have been known to walk the assorted,
unsuspecting conservative or Libertarian safely across the street only to gut him right on the sidewalk. It’s not a
pretty prospect. When it happens to you, you’ll likely be reminded, as you lay bleeding,
that your designated driver contract only bound them to drive you home safely and that
there was no agreement on their part to actually not kill you on your doorstep. Good
point, you think, as you lose consciousness and the world, as you knew it, draws in and
darkens.

Be ready for it. It’s bound to happen and when it does,
applying just a little common sense and drawing on the experiences of others can make all
the difference in your chances of surviving when anarchists attack.

All will seem well. You’ll be having a hell of a good time
swatting statists with your rolled-up, large print copy of the Constitution. There you’ll
be, just wailing on some contemptible, socialist rodent that you’ve got solidly cornered
when, out of the blue, you hear a voice from behind your own lines quietly say, "What
gives you the right to rule me?"

You turn to get a lock on the voice. The cornered rodent
scurries away. So begins the real conflict.

"Why don’t you just unroll that piece of pulp you’re
holding there and tell me if you see my signature on it?" suggests the voice, which
you now recognize as a stringent former ally in the battle against the political evils of
the previous administration.

You respond that, of course, there are no signatures there,
but the consent is implied. "It’s a social contract. You choose to live here so you
choose to live by the laws. If you don’t like them, it’s all the more reason you need to
work to change the laws and your elected representatives. No excuses for not acting. No
mercy for whiners. Didn’t vote, don’t bitch. Anyway, even though I don’t agree with most
of the laws, we need laws. We just do."

I warned you it wasn’t a pretty prospect.

You continue. Your field of vision narrows and you grasp at
anything that flies past your stream of consciousness in your mounting desperation to
silence the voice that keeps insisting it has given no consent, implied or otherwise, to
bestow authority on a document drawn by the scantiest representation, even among the
populace of its own originating era.

You do a bit more thrashing and then you start arguing
necessity. Inevitably W.W.II is invoked along with the virtues of conscription in fighting
the good war. You get shot down. You begin to hallucinate, as evidenced by weird
illuminations whimsically embroidered in the margins of your argument, i.e., "lichen
is a social contract between a fungus and an alga."

If fate is merciful, you’ll be called away from whatever
forum or venue you’re in by some external force for a finite cool down period. It can be
overnight or a matter of days, but it is the crucial return to the discussion afterwards
which will determine your survivability.

It is at this point that you’ll do one of two basic
categories of things.

One, you’ll decide that the ideas being put to you are
unthinkable. You’ll, consequently avoid all thought on the issue itself by concentrating
considerable mental capacity on winning the argument. You may embark on a calculated
defensive or you may choose to launch an offensive, which will be fierce, but irrational.
(You won’t win, but if you’re the sporting type, you’ll derive some satisfaction from the
adrenaline rush.)

Whether choosing to hold a defense or going on the
offensive, it will require you to turn away from the logic of the argument and draw deep
from the primordial recesses of rote thought and indoctrination. It’s not that you can’t
think, it’s more that you must keep returning to low points in your intellect where
habitual and even infantile thinking tends to pool up.

If you persist, you’ll draw abundantly from the brackish
wells of un-replenished reflexive response and, with any luck, you’ll deplete them. It’s
not much of an alternative for thought, but it’s not altogether unproductive discussion,
either. On the up side, even your worst argument can reveal something useful, if only at a
second glance later on down the road.

Or two, you might consider folding a losing hand.

this is lung

lung is nice. every year all the lungs have a picnic. all the lungs come to the picnic. there is lung, and lung, and another lung, and some more lungs and lung. there is giant lungs and tiny lungs. (tiny lung is secret. shhh.) there is grownup lung (she has bumps) and even poor little norinco lung who doesn’t get out much. we play with norinco lung but we have to be careful because she is frail and breaks too easy. then dean fixes her. we are sad about norinco lung but maybe she has fun anyway we hope she does although she can’t tell us if she does or not because she can only say one thing. but she is lung too and we love her.

we are all in a big field or a forest in the sunshine and we run around and we play and we fly. giant lung swallows us and we fly out of her mouth. grownup lung combs her hair. tiny lung is in the grass. we give donuts to the engineers and they give donuts to us. the sun is shining and the sky is blue and we are happy.

at the end of the day we all sit around dean and he tells us stories and holds us in his lap and gives us donuts. then he tells us our story, the story of lung. we know the story because we are lung and dean is lung and we remember the story from long ago. the story is secret but if you watch and listen very carefully you will know it anyway. before anything was, lung was, and lung is the dragon (lung means dragon) and lung rides the winds. lung sat beneath the chariot once and lung once knew the matters pertaining to the chariot and someday lung will know them again. once upon a time “that which has no end” asked “the book” for workers and the book said “I give you 22 workers, namely the 22 letters that are in me and give to each his own” and the 22 letters made the first lung who serves that which has no end and whose name lung knows but does not say. then lung made a donut. the righteous could make a donut if they wished.

then lung sleeps on the grass and lung dreams. sometimes lung dreams about a donut. sometimes lung dreams about you. sometimes lung dreams about a lung who dreams about you. do you dream about lung? who is dreaming who? are you dreaming right now?

the next morning lung wakes up and all the lungs go back what they were doing until the next picnic. there will always be a picnic and there will always be dean and there will always be sunshine and grass and another donut for lung. lung hopes that you will have all the donuts you want and all the sunshine too.

lung says “be happy” and “be nice” and “hi”. lung is your friend.