Saturday, July 12, 2008

In the end, it's force that suppresses rights but also can protect them

Our friend jk noted someone's comment that, "all government power is enforced at the point of the gun." I expanded on that a bit. It's not just at the barrel of a gun, but ultimately with the threat of government killing you.

Previously, I incorrectly attributed to Richard Ebeling what in fact Walter Williams wrote, in 1999, as part of the foreword to "Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax" by my friend Sheldon Richman. If you don't understand that taxation is immoral because it is coercion, you need to read this book.
Some might consider Richman's title to be hyperbole, but it accurately describes what is at stake. We can readily see this by asking, What is the endgame of the following scenario? Suppose an American told the U.S. Congress, 'I am an emancipated adult. I wish to be left alone to tend to my own retirement needs. If I fail to do so adequately, let me either depend on charity or suffer the consequences; however, I refuse to pay into the government's Social Security retirement program.' If that person refused to fork over part of his earnings as Social Security 'contributions,' the IRS would fine him. If that person rightfully concluded that he has not harmed or initiated violence against another and therefore refused to pay an unjust fine, he would be threatened with property confiscation or imprisonment. Suppose he then decided to use his natural or God-given rights to defend both his physical property against confiscation and his person against aggression? More than likely, he would suffer death at the hands of the U.S. government. The moral question Americans ought to ask is whether they can produce a moral argument that justifies a citizen's being subject to death by his government when that citizen has initiated violence against no one and simply wants to privately care for his own retirement needs? I know of no standard of morality that yields an affirmative answer.
Nonetheless, most of us yield to tyranny. Why? Some might explain, well, the first federal income tax was imposed during the Civil War and later declared unconstitutional, then it returned as a bait-and-switch so the federal government could impose a tiny income tax on the very top income earners in exchange for lowering tariffs, and we've been socially engineered by public education for several decades to believe in wealth redistribution. And they would be incorrect.

Two centuries ago, Thomas Jefferson already knew that "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." Unfortunately, people have always been more willing to do what Samuel Adams said. People do tend to "love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom." Most of us would rather be rich servants than masters over our own lives, living predictable routines instead of taking risks in individual freedom. Most of us are accustomed to serving in chains that they don't see liberty is the easier way, like Christ's yoke is light.

"Most" people means that the farce of "democracy" allows them to impose their will, forcibly, over the entire political jurisdiction; those of us who'd rather live free, not harming anyone else, are instead compelled to follow. Remember my parable about how people declare themselves a government?
Give us what we demand, cried out the multitude, lest we seize it by force.

And the merchant replied, Depart in peace while ye yet can, for ye have no right to my possessions save with my consent, and as I have done no wrong to any man, none of ye have any authority to seize any of my possessions.

Behold, cried out his neighbors with one voice, that we have declared ourselves a
government, and as such we have given ourselves the authority.

The merchant replied, Ye have no authority, for one cannot give authority unto oneself.

That matters not, they replied and began to grumble, for we are a greater number than thee and thy family, and because of our greater numbers, we have decided that thou shalt pay us tribute.

Then did his neighbors, armed with swords and staves, seize a goodly portion of the merchant's possessions. The merchant did not consent in his heart, but for the sake of his wife and children, he did not resist in his actions.
For those who didn't fully understand, people "voting" in a democracy is the same thing as a crowd declaring, "Oh, but we're a government!" It's not a new concept that people assume sudden authority to do what they like: William III needed Parliament to be declared king, but only the king could summon Parliament, and there was no king, as James II had fled the country. To get around that, an ad hoc "Convention Parliament" convened to give William the crown. "Convention" simply means that its authority was not from previous parliamentary process -- so this "Parliament" was one because, well, it said so.

So if had no real authority, nothing derived from the real Parliament, why was its declaration believed? Ask yourselves this: how is that any different from when your neighbors join to create a "government" by voting? After all, that government does not have your consent, so why should it have authority over your life and property? In the reverse, I could declare myself a king over my neighbors, but how could I enforce that? The difference is in the root word: to enforce, one threatens superior force and will exert it if needed. William had enough supporters to back the Convention Parliament, just like police, FBI, ATF, et al, will back the will of your neighbors' "government." Both have no legitimacy and no true authority, but they're both about a group declaring that it has given itself authority over others, because it can enforce that self-given power. If you think "voting" is a peaceful thing, think again. Are generals "peaceful" because they merely make decisions about who wields weapons and how?

On the other hand, force can also be used to defend our rights. I like the word "right," because whatever the etymology, it implies that our rights are what are just and proper, and going against our rights is, well, wrong. In the end, it all comes down to force: how much each side has, and if each side is willing to use it all. I'm afraid I don't know the answers to either. The Japanese, specifically Yamamoto, were worried about having to invade the mainland U.S., fearing that "There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass" -- why should agents of government be any less afraid?

Mostly forgotten is what else Samuel Adams said in that speech: "a politic minister will study to lull us into security by granting us the full extent of our petitions. The warm sunshine of influence would melt down the virtue which the violence of the storm rendered more firm and unyielding. In a state of tranquillity, wealth, and luxury, our descendants would forget the arts of war and the noble activity and zeal which made their ancestors invincible.... We have no other alternative than independence, or the most ignominious and galling servitude. The legions of our enemies thicken on our plains; desolation and death mark their bloody career, while the mangled corpses of our countrymen seem to cry out to us as a voice from heaven." He who has ears, let him hear.

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