People v. State

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Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governing and from Justice.

July 09, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

So in the past week I’ve spent as much time “blogging” on Twitter as I ever have in a week “really” blogging here. That’s not necessarily a good thing, and Twitter has obvious limitations. This post is intended as a fuller response to some tweeters whom some of my tweets riled up.

Anarchy simply means “without rulers.” A society can have rules without rulers (and I suppose can have laws without lawyers). In fact, rulers are anathema to the Rule of Law. Anarchy also arguably means “without leaders,” and therefore I think favors, all others things being equal, the balancing and distribution and decentralization of political and economic power. (Ideally, no one “leads” others in political or economic power. Such “leadership” is a historically evident threat to the freedom of the led.)

There is no law other than natural law. There is no law other than Justice. There is no law other than the moral law of Right and Wrong, which applies equally to all, whether they purport to represent the People or the State or not, whether they join with a thousand or a million others to do some act or act alone. Anarchism is the rejection of the Divine Right of Kings. Even those who think we should obey the “laws” dictated by the U.S. government think we should do so because it is Right to do so. (Those who think this are of course Wrong, but this is what they think.)

Justice is the absence of crime. What is crime? Crime is aggression. It is the use of force and/or fraud to violate another’s rights. Now, force (e.g., imprisonment) and even fraud (e.g., income tax evasion) may be justly used to defend against or remedy past or imminent violations of rights. But it is important to remember that such uses of force or fraud only become arguably necessary because of force or fraud. It is fighting fire with fire. Force and fraud are inherently suspect. I would almost say they are “intrinsically evil,” except the Catholic Church uses that phrase to describe acts which are never justified. A perfectly Just world is a world without force or fraud of any kind. Therefore, the use of force (I will henceforth use “force” to stand for both force and fraud) should be reduced to the absolutely necessary. If “government” is a “necessary evil,” it should be limited to the truly necessary. A strong presumption of innocence and in favor of liberty should be its singular guiding principle. Even justified force has much of the ugliness of crime. Liberty is the absence of force.

One obvious way in which a “government” (which I define as simply a group of people who join forces to enforce rules) should limit itself to the truly necessary is to not fraudulently pretend to represent or speak for anyone other than the individuals who actually and explicitly and voluntarily make it up in the here and now. Among other things, this promotes transparency, accountability, and responsibility. Such a “government,” composed entirely of those who unanimously unite in support of the enforcement of this, that, or the other, will necessarily be quite small (probably no more than township-sized), although in the normal course of things it would be likely to confederate with other such “governments.”

An important thing to note about such a “government” is that, while it presupposes the consent of the governing, it doesn’t necessarily suppose the consent of the governed. In fact, if one “consents,” one isn’t “governed.” The very purpose of a government is to exert necessary force and compulsion, to secure rights. One can imagine a member of a community who unites with his neighbors in support of building a road and who the next day is discovered to have stolen money, and who will reap whatever consequences the rest of the community imposes whether he consents or not. As a practical matter, of course, such a government is likely to be more institutional and less ad hoc than this example suggests. But even if such a “government” adopts by-laws or customs whereby a vote of 51% or 90% in favor will decide the matter, it always remains for the minority to decide whether to “secede” and for the majority to decide whether to nevertheless attempt to impose their will on any who secede.

Do those who constitute such a “government,” no matter how small and how ad hoc, thus set themselves up as “rulers,” and thereby disturb Anarchy? After all, a lynch mob is a voluntary and unanimous association. A lynch mob indeed sets themselves up as rulers, as judge, jury, and executioner, and is therefore not Anarchic. The anarchic principle which led to the dissolution of government into small, unanimous “governments” — the presumption against force and violence, and against impressing the unwilling into a government — is diametrically opposed to the spirit animating a lynch mob. That is the fundamental Rule of a free, i.e. just, society. It is, again, a Rule which stands apart, and in fact in opposition to, would-be Rulers. It needs no Rulers to enact it. This Rule must pervade society. It will be the cause of the dissolution of governments into voluntary associations and at the same time the surest safeguard against lynch mobs. The fact that two or three or a hundred or a million are united in a common purpose does not of course justify their actions. The fifty who would join themselves in a lynch mob will find a thousand to stand united against them. The requirement of unanimity stands as a brake against violence, as the procedural embodiment of the presumption of innocence.

Finally, I should acknowledge that part of the reason I find it important to emphasize that governments do not derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, but rather from the consent of the governing and from Justice, is that I think that the most natural and just way for governments in Anarchy to secure land rights would be to enact and enforce the Single Tax on the unimproved value of land.

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