THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 379, August 6, 2006
"Absolutely Shockingly Amazing"
A personal journey from Objectivist morality to political "anarchy"
by way of L. Neil Smith's Covenant of Unanimous Consent!
Special to TLE
On Sunni Maravillosa's site, a reader asked: "Do the proponents of anarchy have a clearly stated morality of behavior, an understanding of how to make a moral argument for anarchy?" This is an expanded version of my reply that I thought might interest some of The Libertarian Enterprise readers who might be treading a path similar to the one I took.
I suppose there are as many answers as there are people. I can't (and won't) speak for others, but I arrived at anarchy thru Objectivism and I definitely subscribe to the Objectivist ethics/morality (which I won't repeat here because it is clearly detailed in the opening chapter of The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand). Anarchy, of course, is a political position and a person's politics (usually) reflects their moral code. (Note: Anarchy is to Politics what Atheism is to Religion. Both Anarchy and Atheism are views or positions within the broader fieldpolitics or religionbeing discussed. Anarchy is also used as a verb in some contexts.)
One of the erroneous preconceptions I had about anarchy was a common and popular association or "package deal" of anarchy with chaos, disorder and destruction, which put anarchy in conflict with my explicit moral code. When I recently read Butler Shaffer's excellent article "What is Anarchy?", I encountered a proper definition and a study of the etymology of the word, and I realized thatlike the words "atheist" and "selfish""anarchy" has been badly maligned. "Archos" is Greek/Latin for ruler, tyrant, or dictator. "Anarkhos", "an-archos" or "Anarchy" means "without a ruler". Civic life experienced without a tyrant or dictator telling us what to do is hardly an undesirable state of affairs.
Anarchy is not chaos, in spite of what some dictionaries claim. (They are also guilty of confusing a Republic with a Democracy). Chaos and anarchy are polar opposites. To the extent that you have one, you have less of the other. Anarchy is not disorder or destruction. It is simply the absence of a 'government', a king, a dictator or a political State. A free market, guided by the "invisible hand" of price feedback is the classic example of anarchy. "Anarchy" in a free market is peaceful and orderly, with a rather smooth progression of increasing prosperity.
By far, most human interaction is an-archic. Examples include interactions with families & friends and shoppingnone of these require governmental intervention or oversight. Even driving on the streets and highways can be considered anarchic. Traffic violations sometimes make sensational news, but the vast, overwhelming majority of driving activity is governed by (mostly) reasonable rules and completely unsupervised by rulers of any kind. Indeed, attempts to enforce unreasonable driving rules are often viewed with distain and disobedience. Shaffer's article contains well-considered detail and examples regarding driving behaviors.
As Butler Shaffer points out: "If we dealt with our colleagues at work in the same coercive and threatening manner by which the state insists on dealing with us, our employment would be immediately terminated. We would soon be without friends were we to demand that they adhere to specific behavioral standards that we had mandated for their lives. Should you come over to our home for a visit, you will not be taxed, searched, required to show a passport or driver's license, fined, jailed, threatened, handcuffed, or prohibited from leaving. I suspect that your relationships with your friends are conducted on the same basis of mutual respect. In short, virtually all of our dealings with friends and strangers alike are grounded in practices that are peaceful, voluntary, and devoid of coercion." He also writes "A very interesting study of the orderly nature of anarchy is found in John Phillip Reid's book, Law for the Elephant: Property and Social Behavior on the Overland Trail. Reid studied numerous diaries and letters written by persons crossing the overland trail in wagon trains going from St. Joseph, Missouri to Oregon and California. The institutions we have been conditioned to equate with "law and order" (e.g., police, prisons, judges, etc.) were absent along the frontier, and Reid was interested in discovering how people behaved toward one another in such circumstances. He discovered that most people respected property and contract rights, and settled whatever differences they had in a peaceful manner, all of this in spite of the fact that there were no "authorities" to call in to enforce a decision. Such traits went so far as to include respect for the property claims of Indians. The values and integrities that individuals brought with them were sufficient to keep the wagon trains as peaceful communities."
Chaos is disorder. We see chaos as a result of unreasonable driving rules; governmental interference in the market economy such as price regulations, trade restriction and "progressive" taxation; pogroms; genocides and wars between governments of States. The agency most people identify as 'government' today is in reality a gang of lawyers, armed thugs, and con artists backed by an army of bureaucrats, which operates an immense array of protection and other rackets financed through tax extortion and fraud.
Quoting again from the Butler Shaffer article: "Nor can we ignore the history of the state in visiting upon humanity the very death and destruction that its defenders insist upon as a rationale for political power. Those who condemn anarchy should engage in some quantitative analysis. In the twentieth century alone, governments managed to killthrough wars, genocides, and other deadly practicessome 200,000,000 men, women, and children. How many people were killed by anarchists during this period? Governments, not anarchists, have been the deadly "bomb-throwers" of human history!"
Those who still fear anarchy should ask themselves the following four questionsand answer them:
1: If the government magically disappeared overnight, would you immediately rush out to rob, rape, pillage, murder?
2: Would you expect your family and friends to immediately rush out to rob, rape, pillage, murder?
3: Would you want to be able to protect yourself and your family from those who would act that way?
4: Don't you have to be able to protect yourself and your family even now while waiting for the 911 calls to be answered?
As someone half mockingly asked, "Oh. So you mean anarchy is pretty much like what we have now, except we wouldn't have to pay half of our income in taxes for it?"
Being an Objectivist, I was understandably interested in Ayn Rand's view of government. After defining the moral principles underlying a proper political system, she really had little to say about the specific form it would take.
It is well known that Galt's Gulch as described in Atlas Shrugged has become THE prime model for those seeking relief from our current culture of ever encroaching tyranny. In The Letters of Ayn Rand, The Later Years (1960-1981) page 626, May 2, 1964, commenting about Galt's Gulch, Ayn Rand said:
"I must mention that Galt's Gulch is not an organized society, but a private club whose members share the same philosophy. It exemplifies the basic moral principles of social relationships among rational men, the principles on which a proper political system should be built.
"It does not deal with questions of political organization, with the details of a legal framework needed to establish and maintain a free society open to all, including dissenters. It does not deal with specifically political principles, only with their moral base. (I indicate that the proper political framework is to be found in the Constitution, with its contradictions removed.)"
In 2003, after reading The Real Lincoln by Thomas DiLorenzo and with the goal in mind of addressing the questions involving a better political organization, I created Judge Narragansett's New Constitution Project based on Ayn Rand's description of the Judge's activities in the closing pages of Atlas Shrugged. (The site is still active and open to anyone interested in pursuing Ayn Rand's suggestion or reviewing why I abandoned that effort). After spending considerable time working the Project and then reading Lysander Spooner's 1870 comment that "The Constitution has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it", followed by Kenneth Royce's Hologram of Liberty, I concluded that indeed, the Constitution is not broken, it is working as it was intended and that without nullification by secession (thanks to Abraham Lincoln), the Constitution is unenforceable.
It should be obvious to anyone who cares to look that the Constitution no longer limits U.S. Government actions. Therefore, the (alleged) legal source of the U.S. Government's authority is defunct, null, void, gone, and what we really have is an "archy" with a bunch of thugs and con-men running around impersonating Government rulers as officers and agents. The people in control of the U.S. Government have no legitimate authority (if indeed they ever did), they cannot be held accountable because they are the enforcers, and therefore the Constitution is unenforceable. I cannot see how a revised, "improved" Constitution can correct that situation. It became apparent to me that the best way to "remove the contradictions" in the Constitution is to follow Jefferson's advise in the Declaration of Independence "...whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these [protection of individual rights] ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it"and to completely abandon (i.e. abolish) the Constitution, to begin again with the Declaration of Independence and to fulfill the promise of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" found therein by understanding and adopting, on a personal level, L. Neil Smith's Covenant of Unanimous Consent (also see http://tinyurl.com/7xpvb for a copy of the Covenant, supporting articles and discussions in one place).
Galt's Oath and the libertarian Non Aggression Principle (NAP/ZAP) are moral/ethical principles. The Covenant of Unanimous Consent is a political statement of interpersonal relationships based on those moral principles. Unlike the U.S. Constitutionwhich was created by a committee of Lawyers to replace the (much better) Articles of Confederation, while both Jefferson and Adams were in EuropeL. Neil Smith's Covenant actually FULFILLS the promise of individual freedom in Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. The Covenant is simple, rational, personal, easy to understand and even short enough to memorize. The Covenant also satisfies the objections noted by Lysander Spooner. Instead of being a document that describes how the government shall act, and a document YOU did not sign, the Covenant is a document that describes how YOU will act and is a document that YOU voluntarily sign, if you agree. Those who do not sign (the "dissenters" mentioned by Ayn Rand above) are not punished, they are simply and clearly warned what to expect if they violate the rights of Signatories. It is indeed the political foundation, the "legal framework needed to establish and maintain a free society open to all, including dissenters" as was suggested by Ayn Rand. Recently Hans-Hermann Hoppe addressed this same issue in his essay "The Idea of a Private Law Society" at http://www.mises.org/story/2265 and does an excellent job of showing how such a society could and would function. It is remarkably similar (without giving credit) to that described by L. Neil Smith in The Probability Broach. (If you study these same items and reflect on the "no rulers" nature of Galt's Gulch, you may come to a similar conclusion.)
Moving to a place like Wyoming (according to Bloomberg reports, Wyoming is the most "wealth-friendly" state in the Unionand has held that position of several years running!) may be a means to reduce the number of authoritarian types in my immediate vicinity and to increase the number of liberty minded people in my immediate vicinity. I seek to associate with other Sovereign Individuals who agree with and are Signatories to the Covenant of Unanimous Consent. Finding other Signatories has already enriched my life and made my life more free. I can establishwith my own effortas much liberty for myself as is possible in my lifetime, given that I find myself in the midst of an increasingly totalitarian society that is destroying itself. Furthermore, I need not openly confront that totalitarian society, I need only stand asidelike the heroes in Atlas Shruggedand let it fall of its own corruption, as did the Soviet Union. Any aid I may give to advance that fall is entirely at my own descretion.
I have observed that various "Free State" political efforts that ignore or deliberately reject the Covenant soon begin to suffer from a lack of cohesion and common political interest. "A little less government" or "Keeping your word" are vague, broad platitudes and are not sufficient for the creation of a freedom zone or a Galt's Gulch, especially if one person's idea of less government contradicts libertarian principles while mine does not, or "keeping his word" means that he pledges to some variant of Statism and then violates my rights, just as he promised he would. (I cited some examples in a previous article in The Libertarian Enterprise: http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2006/tle367-20060514-03.html).
The five fundamental Precepts of the Covenant are very explicit and avoid the problem of vague, fuzzy and conflicting political principles. And for those who agree with the five Precepts, the Supersedure clause of the Covenant (which long predates the various Free State efforts) provides an incremental way to create and expand free zoneseven where you currently live, even if only one room in your house or apartment. I have developed a "Notice of Supersedure" (see http://www.cafepress.com/artemiszuna/318652) the wording of which may be used (or modified) by any other Signatory without recompense, licensing or any other Statist permissions. Of course Supersedure alone won't guarantee you complete freedom from the police state that surrounds us. But it, along with the assertive attitude change it engenders, is a start.
*The final piece of persuasive knowledge about anarchy came to me from Scott Bieser (ScottBieser.com) when he posted the succinct identification and distinction that I used for the title:
Anarchy doesn't mean no rules, it means no rulers.
Well, the Covenant contains "the rules" and as a Signatory to the Covenant, the conclusion about "anarchy" became a no-brainer for me. Given the correct and proper definition, based on the etymology of the word, as previously stated, and based on Objectivist ethics, my conclusion is:
Selfishness is a moral virtue and Anarchy is indeed a moral political system.
Dennis Lee Wilson
P.S. If someone claims to be a Signatory, I am willing to take that individual's worduntil and unless that person proves not to be serious about the Covenant. Even a document as clearly written as the Covenant still has people who sign but do not understand or willfully ignore its Percepts. I have encountered one such "proud signer of the Covenant", who uses the pseudonym "NorthGunner", claims to live in Arizona, and has no reservations about using government force to prevent me from associating with people from Mexico.
As in all matters, the proof is in the person and his deeds, not just the act of signing.
In spite of such occasional disappointments, being a Signatory and announcing such in signature lines or by wearing a badge, has worked as a nice "filter" for meeting the kind of people I would like for my neighbors. That is why I pass out "badges" from my Cafe Press site at freedom events, such as the last Freedom Summit in Phoenix, Arizona.
I added this offer to the comments on Sunni's site where I posted the original, shorter essay that resulted in at least one new Signatory. I extend the offer to anyone who is a Signatory to the Covenant of Unanimous Consent.
I have a (free) badge for any other Signatory who sends me an email with his/her postal address or P.O. Box. I fully appreciate that many do not want to reveal a physical address in an email, even a secured "hush" email. I am reluctant to do so myself, which is why I have a P.O. Box. For those individuals, I intend to always have additional badges with me at freedom events, so keep a watch for people wearing badges and introduce yourself to anyone with a badge that says "Covenant of Unanimous Consent".