In philosophical discussions there is something called the Causality Dilemma; a question in which two answers are given; either of which could be the possible answer. For instance, one might ask: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? As all chickens are hatched from eggs the chicken can’t come first, right; it takes a chicken to lay an egg. But where did that first chicken come from if it did not hatch from an egg?
That is a Causality Dilemma…
Although the answer to this should be obvious, I often wonder if people have given much thought to which came first, government or man. It is a question of, not so little, significance; yet one which few have probably given any thought to. Yet that question, or something similar, has been on my mind for quite some time now.
There is not a soul alive today who was not born into a system in which they suffered under the thumb of an oppressive government; one which taxes and regulates almost every aspect of their lives. That being the case, there isn’t a soul alive today who has known true and absolute freedom; at least not the kind of freedom known by those who lived hundreds of years ago.
As a quick example, people think they have freedom because they are free to choose from hundreds of channels to watch on TV. Yet do you not pay taxes upon whatever service provides you with all those channels? Are there not a plethora of regulations regarding what content can be broadcast over the air? And, with the advent of Smart TV’s there is the very real possibility that your television could be used to monitor and spy upon you; all without your knowledge and consent.
So tell me again how free you are…
In his book The Politics of Obedience, Etienne de la Boetie writes, “One never pines for what he has never known; longing comes only after enjoyment and constitutes, amidst the experience of sorrow, the memory of past joy. It is truly the nature of man to be free and to wish to be so, yet his character is such that he instinctively follows the tendencies that his training gives him.”
I think there is a lot of truth to that statement; I think that since most people have never experienced true freedom, they don’t crave it like I do. Why that is, what makes people like me different from the majority, is something that I’ve yet to find a satisfactory explanation for, but again quoting from Boetie, I have found somewhat of an answer to why that happens, “There are always a few, better endowed than others, who feel the weight of the yoke and cannot restrain themselves from attempting to shake it off: these are the men who never become tamed under subjection and who always — like Ulysses on land and sea, constantly seeking the smoke of his chimney — cannot prevent themselves from peering about for their natural privileges and from remembering their ancestors and their former ways. … These are the ones who, having good minds of their own, have further trained them by study and learning. Even if liberty had entirely perished from the earth, such men would invent it. For them, slavery has no satisfactions, no matter how well disguised.”
I think it could probably be said that the extent to which one cherishes their liberty corresponds directly with the extent to which they support or oppose government. The less you support government, the more you love liberty, and vice versa.
That’s probably why I become so confused when people panic every time there is the chance that we may suffer from, yet another, government shutdown. As far as I’m concerned the government could shut down permanently; close its doors, pack its bags and move to Tibet for all I care. In fact, if government ever did shut down permanently I’d probably host a party and invite the entire city to help me celebrate the event.
In his pamphlet Common Sense, Thomas Paine wrote, “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”
Although they may claim to, I don’t think most people really understand the difference between society and government; I think most people believe them to be synonymous. To understand the difference one must first know what state man is in as a solitary creature in a perfect state of nature.
In a state of nature man is sovereign; the king of his own domain. In a state of nature no one tells man what he can and cannot do; but at the same time if man chooses to do something stupid, and gets hurt doing it, there is no one there to care for him. Locke explains this in his Second Treatise as follows, “TO understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.”
This state of nature is also a perfect state of freedom, with the only threat to you, your property, or your liberty coming from those living around you. One would think that in such a state the life and property of man would suffer the constant threat posed by others, and more often than not that is true. Yet Locke also declares, “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”
However, as Bastiat says in his book, The Law, “Self-preservation and self-development are common aspirations among all people. And if everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use of his faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted, and unfailing.
But there is also another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others.”
That fatal tendency in man is such that, if it is easier for a man to take something from someone else than it is to work for it, they will do so. You can call it theft or you can call it plunder, but by whatever name you call it the end result is that in a state of nature man’s life and property is not secure; not guaranteed.
Thus it is that men enter into civil societies; for the sole purpose of better securing their lives and liberty. Locke explains that as follows, “The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it. This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of the state of nature.”
If you’ll note, I emphasized that last sentence, because no man can be forced to be a part of, or subject to any system without their consent; for in so doing that would make them a slave. Locke discusses that as well, stating, “… for a man, not having the power of his own life, cannot, by compact, or his own consent, enslave himself to any one, nor put himself under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases. No body can give more power than he has himself; and he that cannot take away his own life, cannot give another power over it.”
The obvious progression is that, upon entering into a civil society, man would then establish some form of legislative authority to enact and enforce laws that serve the purpose for which men enter into these civil societies; which is the preservation of their lives, property and liberty. (I’ll be damned if that doesn’t sound a lot like what Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence).
Bastiat writes about this creation of a collective organization, or government if you will, stating, “What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.
Each of us has a natural right—from God—to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties?
If every person has the right to defend—even by force—his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right—its reason for existing, its lawfulness—is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force—for the same reason—cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.”
Again, that sounds very similar to the sentiments expressed by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, “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…”
Under a system based upon those premises, each of us would be equal in the preservation of our lives, property and liberty, and the only guarantee in life would be that we were free to pursue happiness. I think people today assume that happiness is guaranteed in life…it isn’t. As Ben Franklin said, “The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
If such a system were to exist in America today, how many people do you think would actively support it, or become so involved in choosing who got to run it? As Bastiat says about such a system, “Under such an administration, everyone would understand that he possessed all the privileges as well as all the responsibilities of his existence. No one would have any argument with government, provided that his person was respected, his labor was free, and the fruits of his labor were protected against all unjust attack. When successful, we would not have to thank the state for our success. And, conversely, when unsuccessful, we would no more think of blaming the state for our misfortune than would the farmers blame the state because of hail or frost. The state would be felt only by the invaluable blessings of safety provided by this concept of government.”
But as was said, man, when it is easier, will plunder from others if it is easier than working to provide for their own needs; that is the sad truth about humankind. So, even if a system of government may have been originally established to better secure our lives and liberty, it will inevitably become corrupted, run by those who seek to use its coercive power to benefit themselves or their friends and supporters.
Our Founders called these divisions in society factions, some call them political parties, I call them people fighting to gain control of a system so that they can use it to tyrannize and oppress the rest of us. That’s all I see when I see people vote; I see people voting to impose their will, their vision of a Utopian America, upon everyone else. It doesn’t matter if you are Republican or Democrat, if a person does not agree with your political ideology then too bad, they must wait until they can get their person in power to change things. However, the whole time those of us who don’t care for either visions of what’s best for America are forced to suffer; because there is no way for us to opt out of the system; we must still pay the taxes it imposes and still obey the laws it enacts. And if that isn’t slavery, I don’t know what is.
Lysander Spooner describes the process people undertake when they vote perfectly, “He sees, too, that other men practise this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further, that, if he will but use the ballot himself, he has some chance of relieving himself from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own.”
Yet is not our system of government one which derives its consent from the governed, or the people? What if a certain segment of society no longer consents to being governed by a particular system; must they remain forever bound to it simply because they are a minority?
In his Social Contract, Jean Jacques Rousseau writes, “In fact, if there were no earlier agreement, how, unless the election were unanimous, could there be any obligation on the minority to accept the decision of the majority? What right have the hundred who want to have a master to vote on behalf of the ten who do not?”
As our government was established by a compact, either by the people acting as individuals or acting as citizens of their respective states, the fact remains that at that point in history THEY agreed to form a system of government for themselves. The question then arises, did they have the right to bind posterity for all time to that system?
A great many writers have pondered this question, and although I don’t consider myself among them, I too have pondered it. For instance, Thomas Paine writes, “There never did, there never will, and there never can, exist a Parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the “end of time,” or of commanding for ever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it…”
Even Jefferson, who wrote our Declaration of Independence, pondered this question. In a letter to James Madison, dated September 6, 1789, Jefferson wrote, “The question Whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water. Yet it is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also, among the fundamental principles of every government.”
After all, did not Jefferson also state, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…” That would appear to imply that government is not perpetual, that it can be dissolved or abolished if it ceases to serve the purpose for which it was established. The question is, must that dissolution be unanimous among the component parts, or can any portion of society decide that they no longer wish to be bound by such a system?
Let’s see what another leading, and respected president said on the matter. In a speech given in Congress in 1848, the esteemed Abraham Lincoln stated, “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, most sacred right- a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to excercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize and make their own, of so much territory as the inhabit.” (Source: The War With Mexico Speech, Jan 12, 1848) It’s ironic that 12 yrs later he reversed his opinion and sought to use force to deny the Southern States the same right he said belonged to all people.
The fact is that we have a system of government that is oppressive. Whether you choose to accept that or not is up to you, and only shows how unwilling you are to face the truth. That system was created and put into effect over 2 centuries ago, by men who are all dead now. They, or at least some of them, voted for this system of government; with some of them actually signing the document itself.
From a purely legal standpoint, can they bind us for all eternity to a system of their creation? Or do we have the option of opting out; of filling out a simple form that says we will not depend upon the government for any services, and in return they will no longer tax us, and we are not subject to the laws it enacts unless we violate the rights of another? Can we do that?
If not, then we are slaves to a system none of us has formally consented to. I certainly did not sign any copies of the Constitution. I did swear to serve and protect it upon enlisting in the military, but that obligation ended upon my honorable separation; I should now be free to sever the ties which bind me to a system I no longer support.
I know I already used this, but I feel it is important enough to repeat again, “The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it. This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of the state of nature.”
Can I revoke my consent and return to a state of nature; free from the burdensome taxes and oppressive laws government enacts? If not, then what other word can be used to describe my existence except slave? Government, as Spooner says, “Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.” How people can equate that with government by consent is beyond me; yet they do.
If you really want a good explanation of how inseparable life and taxes are, all you need to do is read this, “If he refuses to comply, seize and sell enough of his property to pay not only our demands, but all your own expenses and trouble beside. If he resists the seizure of his property, call upon the bystanders to help you (doubtless some of them will prove to be members of our band). If, in defending his property, he should kill any of our band who are assisting you, capture him at all hazards; charge him (in one of our courts) with murder, convict him, and hang him. If he should call upon his neighbors, or any others who, like him, may be disposed to resist our demands, and they should come in large numbers to his assistance, cry out that they are all rebels and traitors; that “our country” is in danger; call upon the commander of our hired murderers; tell him to quell the rebellion and “save the country.”
Yet there is a legal maxim that states, “It is a general principle of law and reason, that a written instrument binds no one until he has signed it. This principle is so inflexible a one, that even though a man is unable to write his name, he must still “make his mark,” before he is bound by a written contract.”
So again I ask you, did you sign a copy of the Constitution, pledging your undying support and loyalty to the system it creates? I certainly haven’t, yet I am bound to it by the fact that should I refuse to pay the taxes it imposes, or disobey the laws it enacts, I can and will be charged with a crime and punished for my refusal to conform…to be a good little sheep.
Since when in America has freedom been a crime? (Don’t bother answering that, it was a rhetorical question)
This, in a nutshell, describes the government we live under, “It is no exaggeration, but a literal truth, to say that, by the Constitution—not as I interpret it, but as it is interpreted by those who pretend to administer it—the properties, liberties, and lives of the entire people of the United States are surrendered unreservedly into the hands of men who, it is provided by the Constitution itself, shall never be “questioned” as to any disposal they make of them.
It is no answer to this view of the case to say that these men are under oath to use their power only within certain limits; for what care they, or what should they care, for oaths or limits, when it is expressly provided, by the Constitution itself, that they shall never be “questioned,” or held to any responsibility whatever, for violating their oaths, or transgressing those limits?”
Patrick Henry warned of this very danger BEFORE the Constitution was even put into operation, “Where is the responsibility — that leading principle in the British government? In that government a punishment, certain and inevitable, is provided: But in this, there is no real actual punishment for the grossest maladministration. They may go without punishment, though they commit the most outrageous violation on our immunities. That paper may tell me they will be punished. I ask, by what law? They must make the law — for there is no existing law to do it. What — will they make a law to punish themselves? This, Sir, is my great objection to the Constitution, that there is no true responsibility — and that the preservation of our liberty depends on the single chance of men being virtuous enough to make laws to punish themselves.”
Yet people flock to the polls by the millions, never thinking that by casting their vote the way they do they are participating in the oppression of millions of their fellow citizens.
I think, if our system was truly just, that we should be allowed to opt out of it, on the condition that we do not threaten the lives or liberty of those living around us. I think that if you wish to live under this system, receive the benefits it provides, that you be allowed to do so, but give others the choice of saying no.
After all, isn’t that what Locke said about men entering into civil societies, “This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of the state of nature.”
Spooner also said something along those same lines, “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.
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?”
But we can’t have that, can we? For your system to work there must be sheep the shear, people to plunder of their wealth to fund it. How long would your precious system survive if those under it saw how much those who chose freedom prospered and thrived without the burdens imposed upon them by government? They would soon flee it like rats jumping off a sinking ship.
That is why Lincoln could not allow the South to leave, and why we will forever remain slaves until enough people grow weary of it and begin asserting their freedom; and if a few lives are lost here or there, so be it. As Jefferson said in 1787, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
But until that time comes, don’t you dare tell me that you’re free, for your liable to get offended by what I say in response…