L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 182, July 15, 2002
WILL WE OBEY UNJUST LAWS?
Mark Etanerkist's "Against the Free State Project" cries out for a reasoned response, so I have been goaded into giving it.
The essay makes the claim that the Free State Project has no right to act in the political arena, because doing so will "impose a state on people." Etanerkist even claims that we are no different from the Republicans and Democrats in this respect.
This claim could be interpreted in two ways. First, it could be taken to say that all libertarians want to impose libertarianism, just as all socialists want to impose socialism. This is true, but there's nothing wrong with this (for libertarians). When socialists impose socialism, it's aggression, but when libertarians "impose" libertarianism (i.e., by using force to prevent both public and private attempts at immoral redistribution), it's self-defense and legitimate. A free country - a libertarian country - would restrict government to, at most, protection of residents from force and fraud. Etanerkist's argument against "imposition," if anything, should then be interpreted as an argument for complete pacifism, but he has not attempted to deal with the manifest problems in that particular ideology. (For what it's worth, complete pacifists *are* welcome in the Free State Project, but most members of the Free State Project are not complete pacifists.)
The second way Etanerkist's argument could be interpreted is as an argument against any kind of gradualism whatsoever. I think this was probably the intent of the article. He says that by "voluntarily supporting the state through voting and legislative action" we will somehow legitimize the existence of the state and not be able to accomplish anything. It is worth pointing out that not all members of the Free State Project will participate in voting - some of them prefer methods like direct action and "dropping out." But anyway, what is the argument against using the most effective means available for reducing government control? If participating in elections and repealing legislation can reduce the size of government by 75% quickly, why not do it, and then move on from there? Libertarian legislative action is legitimate self-defense. What's more, it will probably work better than trying to shoot people or hide in the woods.
It seems that Etanerkist, if given the choice between 99% freedom and 0% freedom, would choose 0% freedom, simply because 99 isn't 100. That position would be silly and unreasonable.
The fact remains that the Free State Project is as of now the only credible strategic plan for radically cutting the state in America, and perhaps eventually eliminating it. The alternative is to sit on our butts and await an Act of God - like Republicans and Democrats going libertarian, or the Libertarians actually winning a series of major national elections.
LNS writes, "A small asteroid crossed Earth's orbit last week, coming within 75,000 miles of the Mother Planet, three times closer than the Moon."
Is a math teacher allowed to ask the meaning of the phrase,"three times closer than the Moon."? Exactly what is being multiplied by three?
William A. Arvola [email@example.com]
To the Editor
I would like to respond to three issues arising from recent issues of TLE.
Two arise from L. Neil Smith. The first is the minor concern I have that Smith is not terribly forthcoming when he is shown to have been mistaken. After lambasting Bush for his "support" for the international criminal court of the UN, and that Bush would never retract Clinton's accession to the court, when Bush does just that, and retracts Clinton's signature and sticks his heels in hard and fast over this there is no retraction and acknowledgement from Smith that Bush and his team have indeed taken a principled approach ( at the risk of causing a serious rift with its European allies). Any praise for Bush from Smith? No such luck!
In the 22 April edition in his "War of the Weenies" Smith decries the blatant and consistent violations of the "Non-Agression Principle" which have abounded since 11 September 2001, not by the murderous terrorists, but the US government and its allies in the war against terror. I must thank Smith for illustrating clearer than ever the principle encapsulated in George Orwell's incontravertable observation in the 1940's that objectively the pacifists favoured the Nazis, simply because they were protesting in Trafalgar Square and not outside the Reichstag and directing their protests towards the British government. So too, the non-stop complaints lodged against America can only ever have the effect of obstructing the war against terror while having no obstructive effect on the acts of terror against the free world. Luckily no-one from the White House is consulting Smith in the execution of its war, but if they were to do so, his views would hasten the demise of the US, the West and all that gave rise to Smith's inviolable principle on the first place.
Finally I need to protest most vigorously the despicable and hate- filled "commentary" offered by a certain Mr Manuel Miles and produced exclusively for TLE (ISSUE 179 20020624) in which Israel is castigated as being a child of the Nazis, and as being the Nazis' "legitimate offspring". The simple message can only be that just as the sole solution to the Nazi regime was its utter destruction, so too is this the solution to the Zionist regime in Israel. I ask myself to what extent this gutter-worthy slide into out-and-out Jew-hatred is just an attempt by TLE to provoke debate, but that appears not to be the case. TLE, by equating Israel with the Nazis and having nary a word to say about the murderous suicide death-squads (maybe these Jew-killers comply with Mile's libertarian world-view), has now surely joined the ranks of the Holocaust deniers over at the IHS, and the other haters of Israel and the Jews who feel alot more free rearing their ugly heads in the prevailing climate.
It saddens me, for I have enjoyed my bi-monthly reading of TLE, but how can I in good faith continue to subscribe to a mag that condones the destruction of my people? I for one will no longer be receiving these mails. I hope that the future sees some change over at TLE but I will not be holding my breath.
yours in dismay and utter disgust
Marc Furman [firstname.lastname@example.org]
[Editor's note: TLE has been published weekly since May 1, 2000. Oh, and hey, Marc? You forgot to "unsubscribe"! So, enjoy this issue! <gbseg!>]
With all the uproar about the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase "one nation, under God" in the news, it is time to take a close look at the 1st Amendment and what it actually says, and means.
It seems that most everyone, including The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2000, [hardback or paperback] gets it wrong. In bold type before the 1st Amendment they state: Religious establishment prohibited. The fact that the State has no right to establish a religion has nothing to do with the 1st Amendment, but everything to do with the fact that nowhere in the Constitution are they give the specific power to establish one.
So what, you ask, does the 1st Amendment which states Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; actually mean?
I think that everyone would agree that "prohibiting the free exercise thereof" means that Congress is not allowed to pass any law compelling or prohibiting anyone from practicing the religion of their choice. If someone wants to call rubbing purple paint on their belly and worshiping mushrooms growing in their backyard at midnight when there is a full moon a religion, so be it. Congress cannot pass a law for it, or against it.
Where most everyone gets it wrong is in the meaning of the phrase "respecting an establishment of religion". To get at the true meaning we have to go back to basics, English basics that is. The key is the two words "an establishment". Establishment can be used as a verb or a noun. Establishment as a verb means: The action of establishing; the fact of being established; in various senses of the verb. Establishment as a noun means: An organized staff of employees or servants, often including, and sometimes limited to, the building in which they are located. (Definitions from Oxford English Dictionary CD-ROM v3.0)
Anyone with just a little knowledge of English knows that the word "establishment" in the phrase "respecting an establishment of religion" is used as a noun, and not a verb. For it to be used as a verb, it would have to be worded "respecting the establishment of religion".
What it all boils down to is that Congress shall make no law respecting the buildings and grounds that a religion uses for worship. It cannot make any laws for or against any establishment (noun) of religion. It has to treat every establishment (noun)of religion exactly as any other building or property that is privately owned.
When put this way, you can readily see that Congress has passed a multitude of laws for an establishment (noun) of religion, the biggest one being that they are exempt from paying all kinds of taxes that the ordinary working man is subject to. Because they are a religion, and usually endorse and encourage the growth of the state, they get a free ride at the expense of everyone else.
All this argument about religion and the use of religious phrases in government owned schools would be mote if there were no government owned schools. If all the schools were privately owned, the decision of how much religion, or lack of religion, in each school would be between the school, the parents, and the students, and no one else.
Anarchist vs. Libertarian
A libertarian is an anarchist that doesn't believe that anarchy can work.
Doug Heard [email@example.com]
First, the US Constitution only requires that Congress shall make no law respecting ... religion. It does not forbid states, counties or cities from passing such laws. If it had there would have been no USA -- the original states wouldn't have signed up. The claim that the 14th Amendment somehow extends these restrictions to the states is not only nonsensical (if the things the federal government is banned from doing were also banned to the states they would have almost no authority left and couldn't even elect a new Congress), and an invention not justified by the wording of the amendment, but has also been thoroughly debunked, for example in Berger's Government by Judiciary. The 14th Amendment underlines the right to due process - nothing more.
Second, asking schoolchildren to recite a pledge is not a law. If Congress had passed a law requiring them to recite the pledge that would have been another matter. But Congress did not. Nor for that matter did the states.
Third, forcibly denying the expression of Christian or theistic faith within public schools or government premises IS to "make ... law respecting ... religion". It creates a state religion of atheism or neopaganism. It violates the First Amendment. The notion that teaching can somehow be made neutral with respect to religion is grotesquely in error. Political correctness is a religion. Secularism is a religion. Ethics is religion. For that matter, politics itself is applied religion, so the notion of a complete separation of government and religion was fundamentally flawed from the outset.
Fourth, the solution is not further wrong-headed judgements contrary to the wishes of the parents who are ultimately paying the bills, and contrary to those traditions of moral schooling approved of by all but a tiny minority of Americans (who are in no way prevented from opting out on grounds of conscience), but a recognition that what is objectionable is simply the funding of state education by means of compulsory taxation. Get the government out of schooling and the problem goes away.
Commenting on Manuel Miles' latest:
"... Now go shoot the messenger."
I'm an ancap, I won't shoot you unless you become a threat to me or mine. Instead I'll do the ancap thing, I'll shrug and I'll turn my back on you. Consider yourself sent to Coventry.
Julian Morrison [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Thank you for the pleasure I experienced in reading your article "July Forth". It was nice to read sentiments that I hold in the words of another. I remember reading your Probability Broach twenty years ago, and have "rediscovered" you and your recent writings.
Keep up the spot-on libertarian commentary.
Liberty in our time,
Robert Williams [email@example.com]
In response to Bill Bunn's article "The Pledge- One Nation Under G-d", I feel he played fast and loose with his arguments. For a clear understanding of the issue we need to look at the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ...
Mr. Bunn tries to make the argument that the words "under God" constitute the establishment of a religion. What are the creeds of this religion? What are its doctrines? How does it prohibit anyone from the free exercise of their own religion? The answer is simple. It doesn't. Therefore it is not unconstitutional.
The Constitution doesn't remove government from religion, as many atheists would have you believe. It merely prohibits the government from starting the equivalent of the Church of England. The Supreme Court created the principle of separation of Church and State illegally. Nowhere in the First Amendment does it separate the government from Churches. One could argue that the principle of separation of Church and State is the establishment of an Atheistic Religion. The Right to Free Speech covers religion itself. How can speech of any kind be unconstitutional?
Mr. Bunn clouds the issue with talk of a monotheistic religion. Monotheism is a doctrine either accepted or rejected by religions. His argument that this is only the first step towards a national religion further supports the opposite opinion. He is admitting that this law didn't establish a religion but the next one MAY. Should we declare all laws unconstitutional because the next one may be unconstitutional? It sounds like the current science fiction movie where people are arrested for crimes they might commit in the future. Maybe it is not science fiction after all.
The fact that no one is required to recite the Pledge, believe the Pledge, accept the Pledge or even stand for the Pledge shows that no religious freedom is lost. Then there is the argument that everyone is forced to hear the Pledge. If that was the worst thing kids hear at school that would be wonderful, but they can plug their ears if they wish. What of those who are offended by the word God? They need to get a life. I'm offended by many words but the constitution doesn't guarantee me that I will not be offended. In fact quite the opposite is true if you want Free Speech. I am told I must be tolerant. Why am I the only one who needs to be tolerant? Tolerance works both ways.
Brian Gross [Jubilee131@juno.com]
Hello TLE, and all ships at sea.
I have read many of the recent contributors and am heartened by the less strident tone taken by their arguments. But they are STILL arguing. In Libertarianism, people can have different points of view and still be Libertarians. Don't believe me, ask Neil, dig up Bob Heinlein (metaphorically) and see his views on this. Individuals can disagree and still make important strides to regaining or restoring personal liberties.
I have some observations that I would be pleased to share with you on (and off) the subject. As an amateur astronomer I have memberships and affiliations with a variety of organizations that observe, record, and share data with each other and NASA, ESA, and the Russian space agency. Data compiled by individuals about NEO's (Near Earth Objects) are correlated by the the Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, and other groups to determine the safety of Earth once the orbits of these objects are calculated. Big time observatories cannot spare the research time to track these piddly little (10 KM) objects, so individuals do. This may make a difference in the event of a meteor strike on Earth. Compare this with megalithic governmental agencies that have so much data arriving about "Terrorist" activity that they cannot react to it fast enough to keep us slobs safe while we shop at Wal-Mart. It will be individuals reacting to threats, armed and able, that may make the difference.
Or the worst fear of anti-gunners, the ARMED PILOT could be the best individual defense against an attempt to take a plane by force. Don Young, Senator from Alaska is a staunch supporter of a movement to put guns back on pilots' hips, where they had previously been since the dawn of aviation. Mr Young has been a friend to individual liberties and the right to bear arms for his entire political career. I have had the privilege of making his acquaintance, and find him to be of good character, and I urge all Libertarians to support him and this bill. (The first bill I have supported since the BoR).
Finally, and in closing, I hope this note reaches all readers (and you too, J.C.) with you in the best of health and in fighting trim for the future assaults against our liberties.
Jack Jerome [firstname.lastname@example.org]
I has really enjoyed your magazine as it's one of the very rare free- thinking libertarian-market anarachist site that is not geared toward heavily catholic or conservative mindset. Strike the Root is another more open sites. I am happy with this fact since I don't believe in God and I do think evolution can be a powerful tool for showing why freedom is required condition for a good, productive life. Plus, I see science fiction as one of untapped powerful engins of moving the hearts and minds of people. I believe the the proper task for libertarians and anarachists is not to bring back the good ol' days but to create a new and better civilization that combined the best of classical liberalism, of the past, and of the present.
Anyway, I decided that such we live in a dark times for the freedom when the path can go either way, to freedom or to slavery, I decided to make a few imputs.
Theory and philosophy and debates are useful, but we also need symbols, powerful in hope and confidence. Something that will REALLY set us apart from Republicians in mass media. Since I'm an artist, let me suggest some. One of the first steps is to drop most of the use of American flag. It's too easy for the media and the public to see us waving flags and having their eyes glazed over. How dull! Same thing for the picture of Statute of Liberty. They're both so common that their real meanings have been lost over centuries of abuse. So much meanings have been added to them that the association of ideas with those symbols has got muddled. Another problem is that the colors and stars stress the idea of collectivism and Union which make the job easier for Lincoln and other bastards. Rather we need to go back to an older, more individualitic icon that echo the Franklin motto found on early American coin: Mind Your Own Business. I am talking about the snake with logo "Don't Tread On Me". Better yet, a angry rattlesnake with fangs really shown like I have done in a sketch. The color yellow also can be use as the symbol of reason's light. It can also be a color of warning. Such a symbol is very rare and and striking especially with strong reworking of the snake graphic. I hate all those communist and fascist murderers but, let's face it, they understand the power of symbols far better than we do. Also, we can use the snake so that nobody will confuse us with a jackass and dumbo.
Ok, we got a not-so-friendly snake, what's next? We need a sound that every libertarians can use for protest or support. Other people got drums. What can we use? A rattle! If everybody buy his own rattle and shake it steadily, it can sound like one big nest of angry rattlesnakes! We could each paint our rattle in yellow and black rattlesnake with other stuff such as words and like. We can also wear yellow t-shirts, yellow handbands to display our confederacy. Image a rally like a Million Rattle March decked out in yellow. The stress will be not on just gun rights or free market but on the value of all liberties!
Since we're all about choice and freedom, I also have another icon handy. A open hand holding a mighty flame that burn brightly upon the open, naked palm, projecting light againest the darkness. It would make a great poster in addition to the rattlesnake. I also drew a new Lady Liberty who look like she would kick the classical goddess to Saturn. She's more of a tough girl in red beret, wearing western and indian dress, and having tribal decorations on her forearm braces, with a lot of flesh exposed. All this is meanth to show that liberty is a free spirit, a fighter, a fearless symbol who sneer at the darkness and evil. Liberty as multiethic blond Xena, that's the ticket! Also, we could bring back Franklin's motto as our own. Image millions of house with a sign outside: Mind Your Own Business.
Then what about the future? Don't we want to put some stress on space as a place for the ultimate expansion of liberty and reason? Maybe, we should add a star or a planet apart from our home. Or a rocket. We might want to experiment with this on finding a icon that bring out the idea of freedom as part of the natural law, as part of science and space with the fire might be excellent elements for such graphic communication.
Any other idea? I hope what I said here would prove to be useful in rally the engery to bring about greater freedom than we ever has enjoyed in the past!
Manuel Miles, in TLE#181, responds to his critics. Being one of them, I would like to respond to his response to the issues I raised in response.... Ok, I'll get on with it.
Specifically, I brought up private security: The profitable and competitive businesses of private security firms, private contractual arbitration agents, the ASPCA, bodyguards and bounty hunters, demonstrate every day that solving even violent interpersonal conflicts does not require institutional initiation of force in order to find resolution. Mr. Miles replies by citing abuses by specific organizations, concluding that since there have been events (and personalities) related to private security in which abuse has occurred, the entirety of "private" conflict resolution is beyond redemption and unworkable.
Fine. With a range of hundreds of millions dead on the high side of government abuse, and black kids beaten while handcuffed on the low side, will Mr. Miles so profoundly reject every army, every police department, every coercive government agency which has ever abused its power?
Would Mr. Miles explain why state-licensed coercive agencies are not to be held to the same standard he holds Pinkertons and Brinks?
For such abuses, private individuals are prosecutable. State-licensed coercive agents are not. That is why Lon Horiuchi will never stand trial for murder, and the states run snatch-and-sell baby market is booming.
Yes, I conclude that Mr. Miles believes in the initiation of force, because he himself argues that there must be initiation of force in order for people to get along as he sees fit. His entire argument is that people cannot coexist in any semblance of peace without it. If he does not wish to initiate force, why does he advocate it? He cannot both advocate the initiation of force, and decry it.
Mr. Miles' primary assertion is that there are some services that private individuals cannot provide. That coercive institutions, "government", must exist because he doesn't know of any time that they haven't existed.
However, I can give Mr. Miles an example of "right wing" anarchy that he participates in every day: Living in an environment which respects private property. While there may be millions of laws covering everything and anything, no one knows them all. No one operates by checking the law books before going out in the morning, checking the law to know which side of the sidewalk to yield to the woman with a baby carriage, whether Evian or Vitel bottled water is legal to buy or what the legislated price today is. No government agent stands next to him to make sure he pays for his groceries, but I cannot say for certain if the only reason he pays is because he's afraid of being caught by said coercive agent if he doesn't.
The rapist and thief already ignore "laws", by definition. Unless by some miracle a state licensed coercive agent is available on the spot to intervene, anyone defending themselves against an aggressor is by definition acting in anarchy: No one is ruling the situation. "Law" enforcement only occurrs long afterwards.
The vast majority of interpersonal and personal actions are taken without government sanction or control. They are anarchic in nature, no one rules, they are engaged in cooperatively or antagonistically as defined by the participants themselves alone.
So what is left? What, Mr. Miles, specifically, is it that cannot be provided for by anything other than by institutional coercion, and why?
Curt Howland [Howland@Priss.com]
p.s. I think this article, "Security the Hayekian Way", by Gene Callahan, appertains to the discussions at hand.