464 Lost Years

Column by Jim Davies.

Exclusive to STR

Recently I re-read part of that seminal essay, Discourse on Voluntary Servitude by Etienne de la Boëtie, written in 1548, or 464 years ago. He said that if you want to topple a tyrant, all you need to do is to withdraw support. No violence, no sweat, just stop helping him.

Yet 24 years later there was a massacre of Huguenot Protestants, indicating that tyranny in 16th Century France became worse, not better, and here we are in the Land of the Free with tin-god tyrants infesting every corner of the country. What happened?

Most of the blame belongs on the heads of all who failed to follow de la Boëtie's perfectly sound advice, and who fail to follow it right now, today. Notice, he nailed the objective exactly right; he wanted the tyrant to tumble. In that recent re-read, I did find a couple of aspects where, helped by 464 years of hindsight, he might have done a bit better. Not to blame him, but I wish he'd said more about what kind of support withdrawal will be most effective in toppling the tyrant. He scorned those who helped the tyrant collect taxes from them, and let him control their children's upbringing, and who worked for him, but it seems he'd not worked out which was the most important to withdraw. My own view puts labor at the top of the list. Government can print its own money and get by with less youth indoctrination, and readily endure minor protests like refusals to sport an approved vehicular label. But without labor--people willing to work for it--it is toast.

Incredibly, some of the passengers on the good ship STR have ridiculed, from the comfort of their deck chairs, the mini-site I launched a few months ago to help accomplish that aim. Now, there is zero hope that it will suffice alone; indeed, it may have only a very minor effect, and I said at the time that it needs to be used in conjunction with other resources. But those government workers who do pay it a visit will learn things they almost certainly never considered before, and when (over time) those thoughts combine with others they will have learned, it will have handsomely repaid the work of creating it. Doing something to start the avalanche of resignations from government service is infinitely better than doing nothing at all. There's some old advice about lighting candles, not cursing the dark.

That ridicule would be fair enough if the task of toppling the tyrant were plainly impossible – if any such attempt were equivalent to tilting at windmills, or if that objective just could not be attained, as if one set out to abolish the law of gravity. That is, however, not at all the case, as de la Boëtie clearly believed. Some may have a different or lesser objective as below, but the total removal of government is entirely feasible; it must be so, because the human race lived for about 80% of our existence without any.

Notice that de la Boëtie's advice is addressed only to those who recognize government as a terrible thing. Those who suppose they can peacefully coexist with it, or that it's not really all that bad – the great majority of our neighbors, in fact – he sees as the core of the problem, as collaborators even if they aren't on the tyrant's payroll. Should there be any such reading this, I can best suggest they spend an unhurried half hour reading any reports picked at random, from the archive of Will Grigg. There can be no faster way to learn that to “govern” and to “leave in peace to govern oneself” are always polar opposites.

So, his prescription applies only to would-be topplers. If one is a secret tyrant-toady who wants to trip topplers up, then there's no call to consider who needs to withdraw what kind of support. Such Trojan horses want to see more support, not less. And what kind of Root Strikers would we be, if we didn't have among us a government infiltrator, a Trojan horse or two, or an agent provocateur?

That's why in the middle of my recent What a Time to Be Alive!, I reproduced five very well-tested principles of strategic planning that are good and necessary for any project or objective whatever, the first and foremost being:

“1. Define and describe the objective.”

It's very simple and obvious, and analogous to a journey; there is no point putting the car in gear without a clear idea of the destination. Among apparent market anarchists, I have noticed that sometimes lesser objectives are held, for example, the following:

To retreat into denial. Some have said that there's no reason why free folk should not live alongside a group whose members wish to be ruled by a government, so long as the free ones are left alone.

This is to withdraw, period; to hide one's head in the sand. It hardly qualifies as an “objective”--it's rather the absence of one, and is pathetic and naïve. It misunderstands completely the nature of government – which is, to govern – and suggests the holders are in urgent need of some radical, rational re-education. It is based on a premise (that a government with the ability to aggress will not, in fact, aggress) which is known to be false – to pretend that the tyrant is not a tyrant. Unlike some below, I see in it no merit whatever.

To survive proudly in an age of supposedly untopplable tyrants--which would probably involve withdrawing visibility. Go on the lam. Destroy all records that might reveal one's existence, shred credit cards, cancel Social Security numbers and US passports, sell the car and buy the kind of moped that needs no licenses, rent rooms to live in – possibly using an alternative name--trade for cash instead of working for a salary, etc. This would have no great effect on the tyrant, but might induce him to pursue easier (more visible) targets. It blends well with nature; the better the camouflage, the more likely is the prey to survive and reproduce. It's very costly, so in my opinion as a former salesman, it would not be saleable to anyone outside a very particular type of person, so it would not topple the tyrant – but if that's not the objective here, but rather just to survive proudly, it would facilitate it very well.

To harass and annoy the tyrant is another possible objective one might have, and there are many ways to accomplish it. One might “obey” his laws many times over, such as filing corrected tax returns every month each time some trivial rounding error is “discovered,” so as to monkeywrench his administration; alternatively one might withdraw obedience to his more loathsome laws, for example by refusing access to his property-tax assessors as in the Tamworth Millionaire Program. I also recall Paul Jacob telling me how he had, in the early 1980s, refused to register for a draft and, when hauled into a government court, worn a T-shirt calling on readers to “F**K THE STATE.” That garment was a heap less dangerous than the judge's plain black robe, whose wearer gave him several months in Club Fed. Perhaps Hizzoner took it personally.

Such brave acts of civil disobedience do a nice job of irritating the tyrant and perhaps of drawing public attention to his misdeeds, but unless done by large numbers of people, they don't withdraw vital support and hence will not topple him. To get them done by large numbers is again the key, and it would need a sales tongue a great deal silkier than mine, to sell this proposition widely; but again, no matter: If the objective is not so much to topple the tyrant as to annoy him, such techniques serve splendidly.

To earn a martyr's crown is another objective some seem to have, by attempting something impossible, such as “withdrawing from the State” – though it's hard to tell, they may just be repeating some ill-understood semi-idea ad nauseam like demented parrots. But in case they mean it, note that it uses the same verb as de la Boëtie, but in a different sense; it's not withdrawing support, which is transitive, but withdrawing from something, which is intransitive (if I recall the rules of grammar). To withdraw from a club is easy – just send in the letter of resignation and cancel the standing order for the annual fee – but withdrawing from the state cannot be done, short of emigration to another, any more than an antebellum slave could withdraw from his plantation. One can send all the resignation letters one wishes, and even spurn its offered benefits in large measure (though certainly not in total), but the letters will be ignored when the State comes a-calling for tax payments or other forms of obedience or submission.

With luck, “income” and Social Security taxes may be avoided by working for cash in the underground economy, the White Market. Good. But sales tax cannot be avoided if one buys anything above ground, the inflation tax cannot be avoided if any government “money” is used, and property tax cannot be avoided at all (short of claiming “exemptions” by jumping through hoops). Live in a tent in the “wilderness” (all such land is claimed as government property) and when discovered, rent will be demanded even if you're allowed to continue. You live in a house or apartment – owned or rented -- you will pay property tax, directly or via the landlord. Refuse it, they will seize the house. Refuse them entry, they will kill you. Ed and Elaine Brown know that, as does Randy Weaver; the former did what Paul Bonneau suggested and became “dangerous” by preparing an armed home defense – but Ed lost his nerve at the last moment (for which I don't blame him at all) and was caged for 40 years. But for the intervention of E-Day, he would die there; should he decline to accept the benefit of government food, he will do that sooner rather than later.

Hence, withdrawal from the state is impossible . . . presuming one wants to go on living. But if the objective is to join the pantheon of libertarian saints in the wild blue hereafter, that is no obstacle. Attempted total withdrawal from the state furnishes a fast way to achieve it.

To Topple the Tyrant tops the lot, though, in my opinion. Some reasons for the pick:

  1. Things will otherwise get far worse. In de la Boëtie's France, there came the massacre of Protestants, then a steadily tightening grip on the economy by the ruling class, then the bloodletting of the Revolution, then the unprecedented slaughter of the Napoleonic Wars, then those of 1871, 1914 and 1940. In our part of the world, personal liberty has been decreasing at an ever faster rate, as far back as the eye can see, since 1781. There is no reason to think this trend will not continue as long as government continues – and by “government,” I include non-state fanatics who may acquire WMDs with which to commit suicide and mass murder in retaliation for past FedGov outrages. The probability of total slavery gets ever closer, and that of nuclear annihilation gets ever more likely. The “do-nothing” option is utopian; the current status is wholly unstable. Freedom will shrink, fast, much further, unless this objective is aggressively pursued. It's no exaggeration to say that survival of the human race depends upon it.
  1. Nothing less will suffice for self-defense. This objective has nothing to do with altruism, rather it's to get the tyrant's boot off one's own neck – see The Duty to End the State.
  2. Freedom fits human nature. We are not fully human until we are fully free.
  1. This objective was de la Boëtie's choice also, and he was pretty smart.

  1. Human nature also cherishes children, and wants the best for them. To endow ours with liberty is the greatest legacy we could provide.
  2. Done right, it takes very little work or time, no cost at all, and is a bunch of fun. One introduction to the method is shown here.

Once done, the first three of the four alternative objectives above become moot anyway, so I need apologize only to enthusiasts for the fourth; when the State has evaporated, that particular route to martyrdom will vanish with it. Real sorry about that.

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Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched http://TinyURL.com/QuitGov , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?"


Suverans2's picture

What government office do you hold? Is it the office of "voluntary servitude", i.e. the "office of citizen".

    "All governments must have citizens in order to exist." ~ tzo

Have you resigned from that office? Then how can you, with a clear conscience, ask anyone else, with possibly more to lose than you do, to resign?

    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Do you classify this as ridicule?

Samarami's picture


    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

I'm a late comer again due to lengthy truck run. But Suv, you know I agree totally with your quotation.

I am a sovereign state. Wanta argue? (Surprising how many "anarchists" do).

Here's the introduction to Delmar England's "Insanity as the Social Norm":

    ANARCHISM IDENTIFIES the coercion of the State as the main hindrance to freedom and liberty. Yet most anarchists fail to break free from the government-centered way of thinking with which we are indoctrinated from birth. How is this, and what value is there to anarchism if it is simply a no-State hierarchical blueprint for society? The influence of the corrupted mind and in-the-box thinking on anarchist theory, is the main target of analysis in this essay. How deep is this corruption in our thinking and to what extent does it impinge on the way we see the world, anarchists and statists alike?

I'm at a loss to see how anyone can argue Jim's thesis reviewing la Boëtie's discourse without first digesting England's essay -- not a real easy read, because it flies in the face of many "anarchist's" sacred ideas.


helio's picture

What is your proscription for convincing people to stop working as state employees?

I see this as a more difficult proposition than convincing average, non-state employed persons from ceasing their obedience and cultural support.

State employees have more job security for a reason; the state needs them more than anyone else and thus protects the civilian employees more than anyone else, even more-so than their military co-workers, I believe.

Driving a wedge between the state and its minions is resisted by their absolute dependence upon the plunder given to them for their services.

I do not believe this is a broad strategy that should be heavily invested in. Sure, some small measure of outreach should exist for state employees who become jaded at their lot in life. Once a while, a state employee does become disgusted with what they do and seek exodus. We should be there for those people and help them. That is why I advocate being polite to state minions in general; those few who come around will be less intimidated reaching out to us if we treat them as human beings in spite of their past deeds.

But as for devoting what precious time I have to handing out fliers in front of IRS offices to state workers and other such wasteful enterprises, I think the opportunity cost is too high.

Jim Davies's picture

Hello helio, and I quite agree; and handing out leaflets is not at all what I prescribe.
To see what is proposed, please study the article to which this article links by "mini site," and follow its outbound links in turn.
However, please note: either government workers will eventually quit, or else government will continue. If you want a free society, there is no choice.

Suverans2's picture

Please note: Trying to get all government workers to quit with your "mini site" is like trying to eliminate all the flies with a fly swatter. For every government worker that quits, there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, (or more?), on waiting lists to take his, or her, place. You're spinning your wheels.

alaska3636's picture

I have to agree here. I'm beginning to think that a liberty-minded human is a genetic anomaly, a minority mutation. Too many people past and present have been all too willing to give up liberty for the illusion of security and to give up self-reflection and personal growth for the hierarchical organization of a perceived God-man.

In America, especially, in decadent a culture that I think reflects the moral/economic decline of an over-stretched imperial civilization, most people just don't care to understand the status-quo; their ideal remains elevation within the status-quo. Ipso facto, self-reflection and a desire for changing the status quo remains moot.

As someone, expressed earlier, most people become angry when you discuss the decline of liberty in the world or challenge their presuppositions about what the state really is. They just don't want to hear it; when the anger comes from people who have been close friends and family it makes sense: you are showing your willingness to opt out of the perceived lifestyle choices necessary for success, it looks crazy to someone who only seeks advancement within the status-quo. When it come from strangers on message boards at The Atlantic and NYT, it just goes to show that humans, in general, seek to confirm their beliefs and deny what they believe to be false.

No thought necessary, just keep taking the blue pill every morning while the people in charge go about arranging the perfect, benevolent socialist utopia for our benefit.

Can I see the wizard?
No one gets to see the wizard!

Suverans2's picture

"...most people just don't care to understand the status-quo; their ideal remains elevation within the status-quo. Ipso facto, self-reflection and a desire for changing the status quo remains moot." ~ alaska3636

Unfortunately, your entire assessment is correct, in my opinion.

Jim Davies's picture

The yearning for freedom is powerful and universal, even though admittedly it may be twisted in form - even the warriors for American liberty wanted it as a group, rather than as individuals. So I have a hard time accepting your verdict that "a liberty-minded human is a genetic anomaly."
Further: the self-ownership premise underlying individual freedom is an axiom, it cannot be denied. Human nature itself centers on individual sovereignty. Therefore again, any genetic anomalies would be in the opposite direction.
I'm not belittling your perception, though. Ten thousand years of government have messed up human minds something terrible - including more than one mind in this forum. What's needed though is not the abandonment of hope, but some clear thinking about how the situation can be fixed.
If I may suggest it, a re-read of my article above would be a fair place to start.

alaska3636's picture

I would posit that human nature stems from a species whose survival was based on the family unit, not individual sovereignty. As man's chief asset in survival against predators is reason, it follows that the division of labor is the best means of attaining the foundation of living: food, water and shelter.

Admittedly, one man alone could attain those things, but the family unity would be better insulated against random threats by the pooling of resources. Under those circumstances, conformity would be the dominant allele and individualism would appear occasionally as the anomalous, recessive allele to ensure the processes of "creative destruction, "evolution" or "the invisible hand" did not become stagnant. In a changing world, change begets survival.

I believe, once humans are assured survival, then freedom becomes the next step towards more esoteric fulfillment like art, love and spirituality; but without first having survival, subjectivism is biologically redundant.

Now that I look at it, it sounds like the platform for a very statist agenda. But I'm talking about early man's paleolithic survival. Once the human pool of knowledge grew to reasonably assure survival beyond a collective arrangement, I think man set off to find meaning beyond basic survival towards either internal or external comfort - a highly individual feature of reason.

I don't think my perspective is hopeless I have just learned that it is better to not become emotionally invested in a particular outcome. I also think that evolution only seems clear in retrospect and the invisible hand works in ways beyond the knowledge of one person, beyond even the collective knowledge of humanity.

I will pursue liberty as I understand it and I'm glad that the internet has enabled many more people to gain a perspective on liberty and orient themselves towards that ideal; but the way I see it is that navigating based on history is akin to driving by looking in the rear-view mirror. Though it gives me great satisfaction to see efforts towards enlightening, as it were, the conformist people in society, part of me wonders if anything needs to be "fixed." Everyone wants civilization to move towards their preferences, and if most people preferred individualism we'd be in a much happier world (to me, and probably most people on this forum.)

As the saying goes, government is based on the consent of the governed and who am I to say what everyone else wants. Maybe those people don't know what they want; but 10,000 years of human history makes me think most people want top-down hierarchy.

ll I know is that I know nothing.

Be the change that you want to see in the world.

Can I see the wizard?
No one gets to see the wizard!

Jim Davies's picture

Alaska, it's surely true that the family unit is strong and valuable - as a defense against larger groupings like governments, which often systematically set out to break them down (think government schools, and encouragement for kids to snitch on parents by Nazis and Communists and drug warriors today.) It's also true that voluntary groupings are efficient - for hunting in older times, and for business today.
But might you not agree that the individual self-ownership premise is undeniable? - if not, how would you deny it, without implicitly assuming it to be valid?
BTW, your sig-block is far too modest. You know a heap more than nothing!

Suverans2's picture

alaska3636 sig-block is a variation of the Socratic paradox. A more understandable variation, in my opinion, is; "The more I learn, the less I know."

alaska3636's picture

Truly. A master of the yin & yang might say: The larger the circle of perspective, the greater the sphere of possible understanding.

alaska3636's picture

Individual self-ownership is axiomatic. Time is scarce; ends and means are represented by opportunity costs. Man acts towards a chosen end by selecting, as appears to his rationale, an appropriate means. The entire process of the perspective of man's rationale is individually subjective. Actions stem from the self for reasons only the self understands. That's my Miseian take on it anyway.

"Men living according to reason, without a common superior on earth, to judge between them, is properly the state of nature.” That's the Lockean view. I suppose Mises builds on Locke, but Mises wins on the strength of his argument.

You're correct, but I'd qualify it: it is rationally (italics?) undeniable. I think individual rationale is the best means to choose if a person wishes to organize their life in ways with predictable results; but it is not the only means available. I guess that's another point altogether: Why would some people choose means and ends that puts the responsibility for their actions in the subjective perspective of another person? - Especially since it denies a person the feedback they need to adjust insufficient means and ends, and they still have to make the choices anyway!

You must admit the strong desire inherent in human behavior for irrational conclusions. The human brain seems to be an instrument of organization. Even when it lacks the sensory input to give it rational conclusions, off it goes abstracting and abstracting, looking for meaning in the meaningless. My opinion is that some people are more aware of this process than others and can act accordingly to the apparent whims of consciousness.

Can I see the wizard now?
No! He is busy. GO AWAY!

mhstahl's picture

"But might you not agree that the individual self-ownership premise is undeniable? - if not, how would you deny it, without implicitly assuming it to be valid?"

You are saying not only that 1(individual) =2 but also that 2=1. The result is a meaningless circle. Unless, of course, you believe in an undefinable mystical entity called "self", which sounds suspiciously like "soul". Ownership is nothing more than a legal term, and as such requires the abstract, and arbitrary, concept of "law" to have any meaning.

I don't own myself-"I" am simply a collection of chemicals and chemical reactions-that's it.

I'd like to think that there is indeed some spiritual entity that is "me" that might exist independant of the body called Mike, despite the total lack of evidence of it. I recognize, though, that such a desire is very likely nothing more than a coping mechanizim for dealing with the impossibility of "nothingness." In any event, if such an entity does exist, I sincerely hope that it is inextricably linked to the corporal being known  as "me" for as long as that being survives, because other wise that same entity might "own" "you" as well. The implications are not particularly cheerful for the notion of "individualism."

There you go. Denied.

For what it's worth, I don't know anything either-but I like to learn, and the more I learn, the less I "know."

Perspective is the key.



alaska3636's picture

I didn't interpret it as a tautology. If we define ownership of an action as the entity that controls the means of production of an action, then the individual is the entity and self-ownership is the action. There can be no collective self-ownership as some Rawlsians would have it - except, maybe in hive creatures.

In all situations, it is the individual thought-process which affects the direction of the action of the self. To take an extreme: someone puts a gun to your head and tells you to kill another person. No external can remove the inherent choice of acting under coercion or dying. If they put your hand on the gun and force your finger to depress the trigger, then no action has been undertaken by the self as there has been no choice for the individual to choose between. Another example: being pushed off a bridge is homicide; jumping off a bridge is suicide. You can not shift the ownership of the means of the production of the action.

As you say, there is no "mystical entity". There is, however, a distinction between thinking and action and if the self is the acting entity, the individual is the thinking entity. No one but the individual does the choosing for the action of the self. Like I said above, if there is no choice, there is no action on the part of the self.

"'I' am simply a collection of chemicals and chemical reactions-that's it."
This is biological determinism. It implies a lack of conscious choice that is evident in the expression of preferences from individual to individual. Whether there is a spirit or soul or an ego is logically moot, as the self is merely a collection of individual actions. Without acting we die. A choice has been made one way or the other. It is axiomatic. It is logically "undeniable."

Consciousness perceives scarcity of time and resources. Choices must be made and what your individual thought-process looks like determines the actions you take. There can be no outside entity that defines your preferences for the choices you make and, hence, individual self-ownership is the only logical conclusion of the ownership of actions.

In reaction, a person has no choice. That is, if someone pushes someone else from a building - a choice that you did not make - you might flap your arms unconsciously. It takes no conscious choice, and it won't help the situation, it is merely biological reaction to a situation that you did not choose to be in.

Can I see the Wizard?
The Wizard is not in, please go away.

mhstahl's picture



"I didn't interpret it as a tautology."

Jim does. Or, at least I'm pretty sure he does-he can clarify.

"There can be no collective self-ownership as some Rawlsians would have it - except, maybe in hive creatures."

Why? How do you know what selves do when they aren't running you? If something other than you pulls the strings of you-why do you think you would tell you everything? Speaking of hive creatures-two are known for making armies, ants and humans...coincidence?

"'I' am simply a collection of chemicals and chemical reactions-that's it."
"This is biological determinism."

No, it isn't-it is a statement of fact. Produce evidence otherwise. I wrote nothing about behaviour whatsoever.

"It implies a lack of conscious choice that is evident in the expression of preferences from individual to individual."

Not a word was said about conscious choice, or any other personality trait. What it does imply is that those "choices" are actually electrical impulses that can be measured-and they can be so measured. They are either driven by the soul, or by indigestion. My guess is the latter, though I'm rather fond of the former-and I'm not afraid to call it by it's proper name.

"Whether there is a spirit or soul or an ego is logically moot, as the self is merely a collection of individual actions. Without acting we die. A choice has been made one way or the other. It is axiomatic. It is logically "undeniable."

Everything is deniable-even existence itself. Also, most of the actions that the human body takes to survive occur without conscious control, and are outside of conscious control-they can't be stopped by will, so not even the self owns itself. I wonder if there is a "self" of breathing and metabolism? Which one owns who?

Again, welcome-I look forward to your thoughts.



Jim Davies's picture

What an interesting discussion! - how did we get here, having started with the toppleability of tyrants?

About my commitment to a certain tautology, I'll have to beg off - I got lost somewhere along the way.

I'll put in a couple of cents though about biological determinism. Yes we're merely a collection of chemicals, that's rather obvious, but I agree with Mike that that does not lead to biological determinism. In fact this is what I think is most amazing about life: as a collection of subatomic particles developed over time by the blind process of chance-driven evolution, we have become a species that actually questions what we are doing here and makes conscious choices about what to do! There's a vast difference between worship and wonder, but to stand and wonder about the marvel of all that is a thrilling part of life.

Perhaps one day hom, sap. will understand all about that and even write program code that reduces "wonder" to binary bits. I hope not. Perhaps a modicum of ignorance is bliss.
However I must part company with Mike over "Everything is deniable-even existence itself." How dare you deny that you exist? - if you did not exist, you could not even tap your keyboard, let alone formulate a profound thought. Cogito, ergo...

alaska3636's picture

"How do you know what selves do when they aren't running you? If something other than you pulls the strings of you-why do you think you would tell you everything?"

I guess that has a lot to do with your view on consciousness: individual consciousness vs collective consciousness. I like to think that I am a collection of the actions I have consciously taken, irrespective of the motivations, preferences and, in general, thought-processes of others. I suppose I am more solipsistic than nihilistic on the epistemology front: I'm more inclined to trust my own thinking over someone else's, but I wouldn't go so far as to deny the existence of another person's rationale. In terms of my views of economic nature, I don't buy into the idea that our my understanding falls under the whim of any external; nor do I find that line of reasoning predictive in terms of the capacity for spontaneity in the human mind.

In my view, the human perspective is shaped by too many variables for anyone to ever truly understand someone else's viewpoint. For instance, I have friends who are color blind, but what does that even mean? They see green street lights as red. Their eyes are wired to receive wavelengths differently than most other people. Is the difference objective or subjective? Are they lying to me (or themselves) or do there eyes perceive a different reality?

Another difference in perspective is evident in language. We communicate by language rather effectively, and I think this technology gives man a giant blind-spot in terms of what ideas people think can be effectively communicated. How do I know when I have made my point that you understand what I'm thinking and feeling and not just agreeing to the general idea; or disagreeing not with the idea, but my perspective of it. Whoa! I just blew a mind gasket!

I don't know much about ants, but human consciousness displays an awareness of temporality. It is also aware of the scarcity of resources, otherwise any whim would be fulfilled and there would be no recourse to selecting means and ends. Again, since individuals are not hive minds, their ends are selected based on highly individual preferences for satisfying some things sooner than others and giving up one means in the selection of another to accomplish their goals. Ants, here I conjecture, do not display individual preferences, they act according to the end selected by the hive queen. There would be no room under collective consciousness for a rogue ant to decide it wanted to be a warrior not a worker or an explorer for that matter - all references to Disney aside.

You: "'I' am simply a collection of chemicals and chemical reactions-that's it."
Me: "This is biological determinism."

I jumped the gun here. Certainly, humans are made of the stuff of the universe, and the stuff that drives the universe involves the interaction of (unconscious?) particles and waves. In some sense, most animals display an unconscious adherence to the "unseen hand" of evolutionary physics; but humans display a conscious awareness of their environment and the interplay of causality. I don't think it's necessary to call a soul or indigestion into account for the fact that people have choices in life: eat or spend the money on drugs; drink or take out a girl; buy a blue shirt not a red one. Time is scarce, life is (infinitely) complicated, ends are aimed at and means are chosen to adequately satisfy them.

"Also, most of the actions that the human body takes to survive occur without conscious control..."

Awareness of the human situation is elusive. Survival takes precedent over rationale. That doesn't mean that all survival occurs outside the consciousness of people, just (I'd argue) most of them. Elites have used this fact against most of humanity for as long as civilization, in order to live off the productivity of others. A small percentage of people have always been aware of this and have wanted to be left alone. But, for example, monks who can consciously slow their heart rate, and meditation that changes the patterns of brain-waves are just a few of the examples of the mind (whatever it is - soul? - or however it appeared - indigestion?) displaying a conscious control of supposedly unconscious mechanisms.

Something about the Wizard.
Blah, blah, stop asking.

Samarami's picture

Jim Davies:

    "...either government workers will eventually quit, or else government will continue. If you want a free society, there is no choice..."

Once "government" (an abstract -- it does not exist) topples its workers won't have to quit, whether I want a free society or not. This current gang of infighting psychopaths called "U.S." is apparently in its death throes. Its "workers" are in jeopardy as we speak.

So I'd better get and keep myself free, whether you (or "they") get free or not. I hope you (and "they") do, but my freedom does not depend upon your (or "their") being "free" -- whatever "freedom" means to you (or "them").

I's the only society I got. If it's gonna be, it's up to me.


Jim Davies's picture

Sam, there is truth in what you say, which is (reasonably) a conditional: "if.. then."  If government collapses, then its workers won't need to quit and...
You're especially right to say it doesn't exist, it's an abstract. Yes. Or as I've put it, it consists only of those who work for it.
There are a couple of problems with this, all the same:
1. Unfortunately, government has been extraordinarily clever at prolonging its miserable existence. Recall: the Feds got through the Depression a mere 75 years ago, and that was a far worse mess than they have created this time. So while it may happen tomorrow, I'll not hold my breath.
2. Over all of history so far, when a government collapsed (or, more frequently, when it was defeated in war with another) some other government took its place.  If you don't want that to happen, a passive strategy will simply not cut it. Without violence of course, those who want it toppled have to take some action. De la Boetie was not wrong.
I mentioned these in para 5 of How We Can Get There in 2006.

Samarami's picture


    "...If you don't want that to happen, a passive strategy will simply not cut it. Without violence of course, those who want it toppled have to take some action. De la Boetie was not wrong..."

"Passive" I ain't. Few of us who've found our way to STR are not "passive".

"Strategy" sounds ominous to me. "Strategy" for thee, or "strategy" for me, or "strategy" for "them"??? Each of us has his "strategy" -- hopefully, as you insist, "..without violence.." -- to acquire and maintain liberty.

I don't doubt your sincerity. But I also accept the fact I can't "change" you (nor would I want to!) -- and I probably can't "change" anybody else effectively. Certainly I can't change governmentalist mindsets. And I'd be frustrated indeed in any quest to encourage even a modicum of government employees to give up their lucrative jobs for the quest of "freedom". I have a daughter, about to retire at 53 (I think some "glitches" have arisen over severe state budgetary cut-backs -- we don't discuss that -- and the ages and amounts extended) from earning as a state bureaucrat more than I've ever earned -- even crunching inflationary numbers to scale. In fact, I suspect her retirement checks will (or should as long as projections pan out) exceed my truck-driving earnings after frn 4.00 + fuels are deducted.

My primary stock-in-trade is the freedom I amass from yours and the many other excellent writings, my willingness to change when change is indicated, and the example I set.

"If we build it, they will come".


Jim Davies's picture

Sam, please don't take my words way out of context. I did not accuse you of being "passive" in the sense of "complacent" or "idle" or "insincere." My earlier answer was quite specific and pointed out that waiting for government to collapse from its own incompetence is a passive strategy. I said that, I say it again now, and that's all I am saying. You must surely recognize that it is? It's what the word means?
I supported that characterization by pointing out that so far, governments have proven they are very adept at surviving crises far deeper than the one the FedGov is now in, and that no government in dire trouble has ever been replaced by zero government. Yet you answered neither point. Why not? If you think I'm wrong, as of course I may be, respond with evidence and reason! That's how rebuttals work!
De la Boetie did not advocate pushing the tyrant (a very active, probably violent strategy) - just withdrawal of support; that's not doing much, but it is doing something. It's not passive. 464 Lost Years was about taking his advice.
I also referred you to How We Can Get There. Did you revisit that? Do you see any flaw in its reasoning, and if so what?

helio's picture

I invoked the leaflet dispersal as tongue in cheek. I did read the follow on article and went to your 'mini-site'.

I want you to know I support your efforts and believe such 'nets' should be cast for those fish who are trying to jump their way out of state employment.

My criticism is only that the vast overwhelming majority of those people simply will not respond to such arguments. They operate on a wholly different moral framework and culture. Breaking away is almost an impossible task for them because they have to change their entire moral view of their actions. It isn't even their fault that they can't break away; they lack the mental capacity for self reflection. I wholly agree with Stefan Molyneaux when he says, "The state grows out of the family".

Let me give a concrete example. I have three close family members who are state employees; My sister, her husband, and my nephew. My sister is a school system administrator. Her husband is a science teacher. My nephew teaches a technology class, but has taught math.

All three are devout Christians. My nephew and brother-in-law are both ministers, with my brother-in-law pastoring a church.

Now, you would think that 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' would be a great inroad toward moving their moral compass, but you would be wrong. They are able to hold two simultaneously contradicting beliefs of 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' and 'Pay your taxes for education'. How can they believe both of these mutually exclusive concepts?

The answer is simple. When I have pointed out such simple inconsistencies, the reaction is anger. The reason they cannot be reached through the external means of argumentation is that they have been conditioned all their lives to have an emotional response to information that is counter to their worldview. The Pavlovian response of anger to contrary information short-circuits any other mental process that might lead to introspection and evaluation. So they go about their lives with a compartmentalized view of the world and get very upset when those compartments collide. First they get mad, then they hurl insults.

Their brains are wired to reject our arguments through the rise of negative emotion and handle the bearer of bad tidings with an onslaught of social castigation.

It is classical conditioning. Contemporary parenting and family structures, entertainment, educational institutions, and the work place are the areas where this conditioning occurs. That is basically every aspect of modern life. Every one they know and care about supports the same mental framework, save for a few outliers.

You have to figure out how to break the conditioning before you can even talk to people about alternatives.

Now I don't mean to be a negative nancy. You shouldn't be discouraged because people break their conditioning all the time. I am one such case. It is how I went from right-wing warmonger neo-con to voluntary, peace-loving, lets-help-not-hurt anarchist.

What broke my conditioning? Seeing the government fail spectacularly during the boom-bust and coming to terms with the quagmires of the middle-east. Then I found some weird austrian folk and did some reading out of curiosity. My shields went down and the information flooded in.

These people have to fail spectacularly at fulfilling their employers aims. They have to become jaded and cynical and lose their passion for 'insert noble cause here'. When that happens, then we can have a little chat with them and it will just magically click.

Jim Davies's picture

If I may, helio, don't be too fast to declare what "has" to happen before people will re-examine their worldview. I grant everything you say about the angry refusals to listen; we know all that, and have designed a path to liberty that takes account of it.
You might have seen it if you'd followed those outbound links a little further, but if it still seems elusive email me on jimdav {at} copper <dot> net and I'll try to explain.

Suverans2's picture

Bottom line: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

There are only two reasons anyone would make a major change in his or her life: fear of loss or hope of gain. And, we all know, (though most of us dares not openly admit), that "the fear of loss is greater than the hope of gain".

There is a gun in the room, so to speak, but it's not pointed at anyone's head, (just yet); it's pointed at their wallets, (as I have stated here before). When I speak to men about individual secession, it's not fear of incarceration, or fear of death, that they first mention, it's, "Why I'd lose all the stuff I've worked so hard for, I can't do that!!" The fear of loss of freedom (incarceration), and the fear of loss of life (death) are, in the majority of cases, cover-ups for admitting that the fear of loss of wealth is their greatest fear.

    "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
    "...sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me."

Please know that I understand, and that I am not criticizing your decision, just sayin', we need to be honest.

    "And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful..."
Paul's picture

"the total removal of government is entirely feasible; it must be so, because the human race lived for about 80% of our existence without any."

This hardly constitutes a proof, since the invention of agriculture and stationary cities changed things so much. We are not small hunter-gatherer bands after all. Additionally, some human tendencies that worked voluntarily in that earlier period may now work against us: http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2009/tle544-20091115-06.html

Your fishing for government workers is not a bad idea. Gene Sharp says that contacts with government insiders is extremely important, as is getting many of them to at least have some doubts about what they are doing.

" To retreat into denial. Some have said that there's no reason why free folk should not live alongside a group whose members wish to be ruled by a government, so long as the free ones are left alone...This is to withdraw, period; to hide one's head in the sand. It hardly qualifies as an “objective”--it's rather the absence of one, and is pathetic and naïve. It misunderstands completely the nature of government – which is, to govern – and suggests the holders are in urgent need of some radical, rational re-education. It is based on a premise (that a government with the ability to aggress will not, in fact, aggress) which is known to be false – to pretend that the tyrant is not a tyrant. Unlike some below, I see in it no merit whatever."

First, dispensing with your disparaging remarks which are mere opinion, we are left with nothing but a straw man: "that a government with the ability to aggress will not, in fact, aggress." Of course it will; no one ever said otherwise. The point is, can they get away with it? Will they be successful? You yourself call on Boetie, so why can't I? If people become tolerant of anarchists, then it might become very hard for government to move against anarchists, fearing loss of support from the people. How many Wacos have there been since Waco happened? There are other factors that might make government people reluctant; for example the enforcers might fear serious armed retaliation.

Your own position seems (correct me if I'm wrong) to be that government, if it exists at all, is omnipotent. Well, I don't think so. Typically it is the lowest quality people who get into government. Government incompetence is not merely because of a systems problem, but also due to the quality of the people involved. If government is incompetent in everything it touches, how can it be omnipotent in keeping everyone under its thumb?

BTW, one little problem with Boetie is that he speaks collectively. I here modify one bit of his verbiage to speak individually - notice what the effect is:

"...I should like merely to understand how it happens that ONE WOMAN... sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has no other power than the power SHE gave him... who could do HER absolutely no injury unless SHE preferred to put up with him rather than contradict him."

Of course, it is individuals who think and act, not collectives. The problem is not so easily solved as Boetie imagined when one dispenses with collective-speak, because tyrants certainly can harm individuals. But I still think there is a good lesson there, and that Boetie is essentially correct, that tyrants are supported by their peasants.

Persona non grata's picture

There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear discussion. ~ John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, Letter (23 January 1861), published in Lord Acton and his Circle

Contrary qualities are coming to neighborhoods near us, thanks in large part to the US (and state) government and it's proliferate deficit spending run amok.  The ability of the government to meet it's "obligations" in the not so distant future is in serious doubt. 

When the fiat (US dollar) runs out and/or when it becomes as worthless as a Weimer Republic Mark the end of the US government will be nigh.

As helio so astutely points out the majority of Americans have been conditioned via government schooling to respond to certain stimuli with Pavlovian obedience. 

Speaking to closeminded ignorant folk about leaving their nice cushie government positions that offer good pay and excellent benefits while enabling them to wield petty-dictorial powers would seem a zero-sum game.  True we may be able to persuade a small minority but the majority would remain.  It is human nature.    
Disclosure:  I have several close family members who are functionaries to the state and they could never dream of leaving the warm cocoon of US government job security that ensconces them in their misconceptions.  Whenever we sit and speak about how they act as enablers of criminality and tyranny their eyes glaze over like deers trapped in the headlights of on-coming traffic.  Their collective responses are, "well at least we have jobs".  In reading through archival interviews of Germans who worked within the German government before, during and after the National Socialists were elected to power a common response from the average German functionary was that at least they had a job to support their families this was even after the depravity of the German government became apparent to all (who wished to see).   

Peace through superior deficit spending, may Pax Americana smash upon the granite shoals of fiscal reality.

Glock27's picture

Cheers Jim.

Forgive me for skimming all of this, but it comes back to my original "Abarchy Old Time Revival Preacher Meeting". Now granted, you may not be up for the position, but your writings keep insisting of toppeling the government by not participating in it, yet all members must participate in some manner because it is the law. No Repeats. And by the way--thank you very, very much for the links. These are vital to substantiating your work like any good researcher would do.
I am just a red-necked, unwashed, gun totin, bible thumpin citizen who just wants to be left alone. I want the government out of my pockets out of my life and out of my way. I want to do what I want when I want, and where I want as long as I am not infringing upon someone else. No matter how unsetteling some of the comments are to me I am determined to see it through.
I know I am stupid. I write my legislators and tell them they are committing robbery, threat, coercion against the people. This in effect has become my job, but I am trying to be imaginative about it in imagining that i am going to strike home with one of these farts. I even write to representatives of other states, but I know the representatives will not see what I write--only their minions see my rant, but if that changes the minion to quit then hooo raaaa!
Iam not educted in Spooner, Bastiat, bootie or however his name is spelled. Anyway, I still sense and pick up from your writing that you are trying to call for some kind of action in order to help facilitate the toppeling of the King. I do not believe it will be possible, but I do believe that there is a probability that it could happen.

P.S. I am in Human and am having difficulty in accepting some of the concepts being presented. I am going through it again and making notes paragraph by paragrah


Return to: Homepage / Syllabus /

© T. R. Quigley, 1999

Suverans2's picture

"...Jim...your writings keep insisting of toppling the government by not participating in it, yet all members must participate in some manner because it is the law."

Correct! This is where the difference between "participating" and "associating" becomes apparent.

This why STR's mascot, Henry David Thoreau, declared, "How does it become a man to behave towards the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it."

ASSO'CIATED, pp. United in company or in interest; joined. ~ Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

If one is not associated with "the association", i.e. if one is not a member of "the association", one is not bound by "the law" of "the association".

Jim Davies's picture

You lost me there, Glock: "your writings keep insisting of toppeling the government by not participating in it, yet all members must participate in some manner because it is the law. No Repeats."
What "law"? And what "Repeats"? And where did I ever write that anyone must participate and not participate at the same time?
There are some who maliciously think me a moron, but you seem to be saying I'm an oxymoron. Really, that would be too much for a crisp, blue winter's morning.

Glock27's picture

There are a number of remarks you make in the piece that reflect or causes one to misconstrue that you are becoming more intersted in expediting the change of government, which I would not blame you for and would be willing to participate in a more expeditious removal of the morons and oxymorons residing in that palace. Part on me to was merely trying to be humorous, but it is clear that humor does not seem to be one of your suits.
For me I guess I am becoming one of Uncles targets because of my manner of withdrawl and that is through the process of Prepping. I read an article posted I believe yesterday on STR that Preppers are being mocked and that the government is taking an interest in them, so I presume that now I am of interest to them because I am not going along with the program as "Sandy" has clearly demonstrated "Where's the government. I am not convinced the government should be involved in such actions. It is human but that is not the purpose of government.
If we do not participate in the government whom then do they have to govern. Yes there are rules which probably everyone here follows and the law I speak of is that handed down by the U.S. Government.
By the way, What and why is it that you always feel that I am aggressing at you? Can you explain that? Can you demonstrate that this is a goal I have?

Glock27's picture

are you sure you are not misstaken me for Suverans2 above whom said the repeat of what you are accusing me of?

Suverans2's picture

I was quoting what you wrote in your first paragraph here.

Suverans2's picture

″Power [i.e. Authority] rests on nothing other than people's consent to submit, and each person [i.e. individual] who refuses to submit to tyranny reduces it by one two-hundred-and-fifty-millionth, whereas each who compromises [with it] only increases it.″ ~ Vladimir Konstantinovich Bukovsky

That is the sum of Étienne de La Boétie's treatise.

"The fundamental political question is why do people obey a government. The answer is that they tend to enslave themselves,
to let themselves be governed by tyrants. Freedom from servitude comes not from violent action, but from the refusal to serve. Tyrants fall when the people [individually] withdraw their support." ~ Étienne de La Boétie

Let it begin with me.


KenK's picture

When the letters and announcements that we all have 72 hours to turn in your guns*, and that all the gov goodies & freebies (i.e., pensions**) just can't be paid for any longer, all those good, smart, but totally obtuse people who currently "don't understand" suddenly will. It'll be too late, but yeah, they'll get it. "Good and hard" too.***

* Info from all those ATF Form 4473s
** Detroit, MI in about 24 days, just for one. Others to follow.
*** H.L. Mencken on public opinion