L. Neil Smith's
Number 225, May 25, 2003

The Prime Directive

The Prime Directive
by William Stone, III

Exclusive to TLE

The central tenet of what Star Trek fans call the "Star Trek Philosophy" is the Prime Directive (or Starfleet's General Order Number One). It was never explicitly stated onscreen, but a general statement of it is that no Starfleet personnel shall ever interfere in the development of a less technologically advanced civilization. If interference was made accidentally, then all attempts must be made to minimize or reverse the damage. All ships and personnel are expendable if necessary to uphold the Directive.

As a general statement of KYFHO MYOB (Keep Your Frelling Hands Off, Mind Your Own Business), the Prime Directive is useful enough. The time during which it was developed was the height of the Vietnam War—a massive abuse of Federal power that should have taught the FedGov a lasting lesson in the stupidity of butting into complex matters of which it has no comprehension.

In the nearly forty years since the Prime Directive was first employed in Star Trek, successive generations of producers and writers have used the idea to justify all manner of moral relativism. I discussed this at some length in my essay, "Keelhaul Enterprise!".

One of the central tenets of that essay discussed what might have happened in the episode "Cogenitor" had the Enterprise been crewed by free individuals self-governing guided by the Zero Aggression Principle (as opposed to a boatload of Statist thugs). I suggested that when confronted with a culture that enslaves individuals, it is moral to assist in liberating them.

Not surprisingly, this generated some criticism based on current events. If I support the notion of a fictional group of free individuals liberating a fictional group of slaves, then to be consistent, I must naturally support the recent "liberation" of Iraq by the FedGov—and by extension any other meddling the FedGov might wish to undertake.

I've written about this before, but apparently my conclusion—based on the Zero Aggression Principle—is so far outside the norm that it's difficult to comprehend.

From all accounts, Saddam Hussein was an initiator of force on multiple levels and over a long period of time. He certainly deserved killing, and I would have whole-heartedly supported any any private individual or company who wanted to line him up in their sights.

However, from the ZAP perspective, there is no moral justification for GOVERNMENT to become involved. Government warfare initiates force against two groups of individuals:

1. The governed, since government cannot so much as place one brick atop another without stealing the resources to do it.

2. Innocent bystanders ("collateral damage" in Governmentese).

In addition to inherently initiating force, supporting government warfare has the side effect of encouraging tyranny. Much as people would like to think, it is impossible to isolate one action of government from another. In reality, one cannot say, "I support government liberating Iraq, but I don't support government taking guns away from people."

The actions of government are inseparable, linked to each other via complex, tortuous, sometimes incomprehensible activities by beaurocrats.

You cannot, for example, isolate the Non-War in Iraq (it's technically not a war without a Declaration by Congress, regardless of what the Neocons have to say about it). In order to have the Non-War in Iraq, you must also have domestic victim disarmament, the USA PATRIOT Act, PATRIOT II, Federal Airport Rape Centers (what the Neocons like to call "airport security") and drug and alcohol prohibition.

To support government warfare, it is necessary to have a central government with unlimited authority. The moment you support government warfare, you automatically support unlimited authority.

The price of government warfare is furthering the police state. You can't get one without the other, much as we'd like to imagine that you can.

Conversely, a free individual, self-governing his or her behavior guided by the Zero Aggression Principle, may at any time assist a victim of initiated force—including slaves or oppressed individuals. The ZAP only prohibits initiation of force, not bystanders coming to the victim's rescue.

However, the ZAP prohibits an individual initiating force against someone else in the process of rendering aid. The ZAP would prohibit assisting a mugging victim by spraying the entire area around the mugger with a Thompson Submachine Gun and in the process kill forty bystanders.

Where government cannot raise an army without stealing the resources to do so, private individuals and companies can raise funds voluntarily. Where government cannot conduct a war without accidentally killing innocents, a private individual or company must be selective or face the wrath of the innocents' families and friends.

This is certainly a totally different paradigm than what's been practiced throughout the majority of human history. Based on the century and a half in which a similar philosophy propelled the human species from subsistence-level farming to grasping at the stars, it's clearly a workable philosophy.

The typical criticism at this point is that no free individuals presently exist who are capable of doing what I suggest. Since there are none in existence, critics say, it naturally falls to government to do the job instead.

It's not a question of what "libertarian brigades" sprang up to fight terrorism or liberate oppressed individuals. It's a question of the FedGov (and State and LocalGovs) having long since conspired to make it impossible.

The "libertarian brigades" would historically have been the militia—something that's been marginalized for nearly a decade. Since the Murrah Building was bombed, militias have been considered violent, dangerous extremists. I can't imagine joining one—not because I have any objection to their stated goals, because I don't. I wouldn't join because I don't want to be one of the "usual suspects" the FedGov rounds up when it discovers that raping little old ladies at the airport is a pointless exercise in futility and needs someone else to blame for terrorism.

So, given:

  • The FedGov has marginalized citizen militias virtually out of existence.

  • The FedGov steals 30% of the money individuals might use to fund a private militia (and condones theft of another 20% by State and LocalGovs).

  • The FedGov has successfully indoctrinated whole generations of urban Americans to hate and fear guns on sight.

  • The FedGov controls the "free" press to an extent that it can be considered complete, therefore all debate of public policy is kept within tight boundaries.

  • Libertarians make up a tiny fraction of the population and have absolutely no political input and damned near no moral input.

Given that, who's to blame that there were no citizen militias to locate the 9/11 perpetrators? Government, of course. The FedGov primarily, with the majority of StateGovs close behind.

Do I wish I had the time, training, expertise, and most of all MONEY to run the North Sioux City Regional Militia? Of COURSE I do. But I DON'T. The FedGov makes it impossible.

The line of reasoning that supports government warfare is:

  • There is a job that needs doing badly—in fact, if it's NOT done, we're all going to die.

  • Government is the only entity extant that can do the job.

  • Therefore, I must support government doing this job.

The problem with this reasoning is twofold:

1. In the specific case of terrorism, it is unclear that the job needs doing that badly. The September 11 perpetrators would never even have ATTEMPTED their acts but for domestic gun victim disarmament. It makes far more sense to combat the problem by eliminating its cause (gun control) than creating an American police state.

2. This line of reasoning ignores one very important given: that in empowering government to do the job you're certain needs doing, you empower it to do all kinds of things that don't need doing—and in fact are utterly antithetical to the job you think needs doing.

Support government on ANYTHING, and you support it on EVERYTHING.

You don't get to pick and choose the government you get—it forces itself on you. The Non-War in Iraq doesn't exist in a vacuum, after all. It exists in the context of a million other things the FedGov does that makes things infinitely worse for everyone.

The price of government fighting terrorism abroad is that it can fight terrorism at home. This leads to—at best—a Pyhrric victory.

All is far from lost, however. The police state Dubyuh and his cronies are building is inherently unstable. It will—like the Soviet Union before it—ultimately collapse of its own weight. It will probably do so much sooner than anyone thinks, simply because the Soviet Union had constant aid from the West to keep it propped up. Since there is no such country to prop up the American police state, it won't take seventy years for it to collapse.

If we're really, REALLY lucky, therefore, all of Dubyuh's sick, twisted dreams about how he can control everyone in America for their own good will be implemented. The entire mess will collapse out from under Dubyuh, he'll find himself out of a job all that much sooner, and the rest of us can finally get on with our lives free of government interference.

Freedom, Immortality, and the Stars!

William Stone, III is a computer nerd (RHCE, CCNP, CISSP) and Executive Director of the Zero Aggression Institute. He seeks the Libertarian Party's nomination for the 2004 Senate race in South Dakota.


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