Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
Suppose, for a minute, that several of your neighbors came to your door and presented you with a paper on which they had written, in quite formal language, their intent to build a playground for neighborhood children, and that this enterprise was to be funded by a “contribution” from you, among others. “No thanks,” you tell them. “My children are grown and gone, and besides, a playground, in my opinion, would be a noisy nuisance. Count me out.” “But,” they say, “just look at this impressive document. We’ve affixed our signatures to it, and our group leader has put his seal upon it. Just look!” You laugh and close the door; they leave, mumbling.
Or consider this: You park your car on the street, and another neighbor (you’ve got terrific neighbors!) runs up to you and says you must move your car. “You can’t park here,” he says, “because this is a no-parking area.” “Says who?” you ask. “Well, all of us decided it should be a no-parking area, and we even wrote it down and signed and sealed it, so it’s official, and you have to move.” “But I live here. Where do you expect me to park?” “There’s a parking area over there,” he replies, “but you’ll have to pay to park there.” You pat him kindly on the shoulder. “You poor, deluded fellow,” you say, and take your leave. You hear him cursing under his breath as you walk away.
There’s only one thing about these stories that makes them fantasies, or nonsense. That is that your neighbors walk away and let you keep your money, and park where you please. In the real world, as opposed to the fantasy world in which we find ourselves, groups such as your neighbors call themselves “legislators,” or some similar word, and fully expect you to obey them. This is because a minority of “eligible voters” in the district elected them to office, and on that very day they somehow acquired a power that they didn’t have before: the power to compel your obedience. Now when they present you with their wish list, and demand that you fund it, you can’t turn them away, because that wish list is now the LAW!
I’m not exaggerating. My copy of Black’s Law Dictionary, 4th Edition, defines a statute thusly: “the written will of the legislature.” “Legislature” is an imposing word, as is the building where they work and compile their opinions. But the legislators are simply quite ordinary (except, perhaps, for their ambition) men and women, not outstanding in virtue or wisdom, whose will is “law!” If most of them have a similar opinion about what you should, or should not, do, and they follow a prescribed ritual in writing and publishing it, you are bound! From childhood we are taught a sort of almost religious reverence for the “law,” and warned never, never, to take it into our own hands, although no reason is ever given why that shouldn’t be done, or what would be wrong with doing it.
But absurdities present themselves--if you ever actually think about it. These legislators will, upon taking office, swear allegiance to a “constitution” which, depending on the location, will contain words to the effect that the “people,” (meaning the unelected) are the source of all political power, which is then delegated by them to the elect. In the next breath, they will exercise powers which the public could never exercise, although those powers presumably originate with the people, and are only the legislature’s by derivation. They will also swear that the purpose of their activity--of government--is the protection of the rights of the people, who have the right to dispose of their government if it fails to serve them properly. But even as they take this oath, they must know that they could not function if they heeded it. Your right to your own property--such as your earnings--is unalienable, but they plan to alienate it whenever and as often as necessary. And should you even suggest eliminating the government, as ineffective in preserving your freedom, you would find them resistant to the idea—even to the point of executing you, if need be. This makes the idea that they “represent” you laughable, especially if you didn’t vote for them, and would prefer not to be “represented” at all.
Every Fourth of July, they will appear at picnics and spout patriotic platitudes, usually citing the Declaration of Independence, which refers to the operation of government by the “consent of the governed.” Neither they nor their listeners seem aware of the hypocrisy of that reference. If you withdraw your consent (assuming you’d given it in the first place), will they go away?
Let’s return to the question of how these men and women acquired their power to rule, when, only hours before they took the oath of office, they lacked it. Were you to ask them, they would likely cite the “LAW” as the source of their power. That sounds pretty weak, however, considering that we’ve seen that the law is whatever they want--in writing. In truth, the law has nothing to do with it, or with them, for that matter. They hold themselves bound by no laws, unless it suits their purpose to be so bound. Their power, in the last analysis, is the power of force, of violence. They may be the same neighbors who asked your funding of their playground project when unelected, and had to accept your rejection of their demands, but once they’ve taken that oath of office, you cannot say no without suffering at their hands. They refer to themselves, oblivious of the irony, as “public servants,” but they do not serve you, but you serve them. Their demands are no more reasonable or proper now that they’re in office than they were before; the difference is the ever-present threat of violence at their hands if you ignore them.
Freedom and government (save for self-government!) cannot co-exist. They are the pipers; we are the lemmings, being led to the edge of the cliff. If we were smarter than lemmings, we would simply stop marching to our own destruction.