Patriot Pauls and Patriot Acts, Part II of II

Column by tzo.

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Part II: Get Real
Reality check: There is little I can do to change society as it is currently configured, and the Constitutionalist must come to grips with the fact that he is in an identical situation. The Voluntaryist is ridiculed for holding a position that hardly anyone understands or is aligned with, but the same may be said of the Ron Paul Constitutionalist camp.
Let’s both admit that there is a strong possibility that neither one of our philosophies will be widely accepted in our lifetimes. We’re both hoping for a longshot. But it seems the similarity of our predicament here does not lead us down the same path of action.
There is an assumption that the Voluntaryist and the Constitutionalist are aligned in their missions—natural allies in the fight against big government. Both agree that less government is better than more government. So while the Constitutionalist works towards reducing government—a good thing—then the Voluntaryist should be on board with him.
You know: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Perhaps at some point in the future the Constitutionalist will be satisfied if he succeeds in reducing government to what he believes is its proper scope, and at this point he and the Voluntaryist will part ways as the Voluntaryist continues on the path to zero government. But we are far away from that, and so the two should join forces against the common enemy—big government—and not squabble about their differences just yet.
The Constitutionalist demands action! Things must be done! The machine must be jiggled, levers must be pulled. Get out the vote! Grease the skids! Wheel and Deal! Step out of the way and let me work in my element, Voluntaryist. All I ask is that you support me while I beat down Leviathan.
The Voluntaryist looks downright slovenly in comparison. He won’t vote. He won’t compromise. He won’t participate. He is seemingly only concerned with himself. That won’t get it done!
Yes, it will.
The Voluntaryist subscribes to an ethical philosophy, and the society he envisions must be composed of individuals who understand and value true freedom. It is not possible to force a population to be ethical. That is the cart before the horse, and in such arrangements the order is ultimately important. Horses do not push carts.
Forcing people to obey an ethical structure against their will may provide an illusion of a free society for a short while, but the force needed to make them conform is unethical. When means do not align with ends, the end will not be reached. Means are ends in progress, and so if unethical means are utilized, unethical ends will be reached. That is failure, and that is not the Voluntaryist goal.
So it actually becomes quite simple to determine what action needs to be taken. The Voluntaryist must help educate the people so they understand and value true human freedom and will want to defend their right to live it. Persuasion, not coercion. Done and done.
In contrast, the Constitutionalist is compelled to use force to shape society into the Constitutional mold. He discovers that he has no choice but to use force, as society really doesn’t want to get into the nice box that he has fashioned for it. So he gets busy rolling up newspapers, and goes out looking for snouts to cuff.
His goal is not to change the minds of the individuals in society, his goal is to get a sufficiently-sized coalition cobbled together so as to influence legislation. This can be done with a small fraction of the populace’s support. The rest will have no choice but to obey or face the consequences.
There is very little common ground in the actions proposed by the two dissident philosophies, because the intended destinations are not actually the same. Persuasive means do not lead to the same ends as do coercive means. The means are merely the ends in progress—not separate entities—and so voluntary society cannot be achieved though coercion. Only another version of a coercive government can be the end result of coercive political action, and even if that version is new and improved, it is not good enough because, as the point has been made, it cannot be made to last.
So as I mentioned before, contrary to superficial appearances, the natural alignment is between the Big Government and the Minimalist Government folks. They both share the same philosophy, differing only in degree. The Voluntaryist is on a different track altogether.
The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy: Nothing more.
The same old, same old must be discarded. The Constitutionalist is just conducting business as usual when a paradigm shift is being called for. Governmental business as usual cannot lead to freedom and always leads to a shorter and shorter leash. You are watching it happen right now all around you. This monster cannot be rehabilitated. It is downright delusional to believe that Leviathan’s behavior can be changed for the better by getting key individuals to scribble certain phrases down on pieces of paper. Those are actual guns they are holding—this is not a high school debate competition.
If the Patriot Act goes away tomorrow, do you really believe that some government agent would be restrained from doing something that was legal under the Patriot Act but no longer is? Why? Because it is now illegal? According to who? Whose law? Whose interpretation? You don't think that there are a couple of thousand laws on the books that, in effect, "allow" the government to do whatever is in the Patriot Act so that they don't really need the Patriot Act anyway? Executive Orders? National Emergency/Security? War Powers? The General Welfare clause? Because I Said So?
Haven’t you seen what the police have been up to lately? Pieces of paper are no better than parchment at stopping bullets. Using government law to curb government law will not work.
The Second Coming of Thomas Jefferson Who Shall Roll Back Legislation to Curb the Overgrown Federal Government is not, I repeat, the answer. As a matter of fact, I believe the status quo politicians just love that wadical wascal Won Paul. He has lately injected interest and downright vigor back into the political arena. He is re-inflating the previously-sagging government ideology. This is a boon to the system and the status quo, which depends completely upon public support for its continued existence. Ron Paul can change things for the better! Our system is basically good, but it has temporarily gotten off track. Ron Paul can save it!
Indeed. If Ron Paul did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
Yes, Ron Paul leads some to the promised land of Voluntaryism. He also sinks the hooks of government into or more deeply into others. Is he a net plus or minus to true human freedom? I don't know, but there he is. I will check the “whatever” box.
But if Ron Paul can “fix stuff” because as an elected individual he wields so much power that he can transform the nation, then the next evil person to take that power can undo everything, and more. This is a reasonable way to organize society? Rolling dice with your human rights?
I realize I am repeating the same theme over and over again, but I know that for many of you, these arguments have been insufficient to persuade you to change your minds. Constitutional representative government is still the ideal to be striven for.
So where does that leave us?
One can hope for a massive change away from government, but perhaps this will never come to pass. There are literally millennia of human history to overcome. Should this possibility leave the Voluntaryist hopelessly depressed? But what does the Constitutionalist have to hold on to? He hopes for a massive and orderly change to a minimalist government, another event that has no historical precedent. Not much to look forward to on that front, either.
Longshots, both.
If wishing for a Voluntaryist society is actually a Utopian dream because the fact of the matter is that it may not come to pass in your lifetime, that should not discourage you from living your one and only life as freely and as happily as you can. The main ingredient in that happiness is avoiding violence and coercion wherever possible. This is something that everyone can control. You can carve out a life that matches up well with those principles even in a world that does not accept their validity. You can disconnect yourself as much as possible from the violence and coercion.
Wishing for a Minarchist society is perhaps also a Utopian dream because the fact of the matter is that it may not come to pass in your lifetime. The methods you must use, however, rely on utilizing coercion to make your vision come true, and relying on forcing masses of people to obey your way of thinking. Sure, it’s not a good long-term solution. Yeah, the odds are next to zero that any real success will result. Ultimately, you have very little if any control over what society will actually do.
And much, much less control over those who are in power. The ultimate Minarchist goal here is to take power away from those who currently possess it, but the political process does not allow for such reversals. You can’t stuff the mushroom cloud back into the bomb casing once it has been let loose.
The pen is not mightier than the assault rifle. It will always be deemed legal for the power to operate as it pleases and illegal to challenge it. Brute force eventually becomes the last resort in the attempt to stop or reverse political power—a last gasp effort at self-defense in the face of the raging Leviathan.
If this self-defense—this violent revolution—succeeds, then those that were capable of overpowering those in power now come into power possessing more power than those they overthrew. What might happen then? D’ya think?
These types of revolutions are akin to the revolutions of a wheel that move a point on the circumference along a circular path from the top to the bottom, then back to the top. The point itself always remains a fixed distance from and bound to the central government axle, and the only destinations available are those that have already been visited in the past.
This is the old paradigm that must die if real progress is to be made toward a truly free society. It won’t be fast, or easy, but it will be necessary.
Liberty is slow fruit. It is never cheap; it is made difficult because freedom is the accomplishment and perfectness of man. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
So I hope I have succeeded in giving you some ideas to which you will give some consideration. A quick summary:
• The Constitution grants powers that cannot be restrained.
• The powers granted by the Constitution are not legitimate. Individual human beings cannot justly grant powers they do not possess individually, no matter how many of them get together.
• Government power corrupts, regardless of if it is held by a king, by the masses of a democracy, or any combination in between. A Constitutional Republic rejects monarchy and democracy while implementing an oligarchy. Tomatoes, tomahtoes.
• Power does not voluntarily relinquish its power. Ever.
• Constitutions cannot countenance ethical arguments. A Constitution is a cover for offices of coercion and violence, utilizing notions of noble intentions, writ in flowery prose. Beneath the façade, its core component remains The Divine Might of Kings Makes Right.
• No matter how you gussy it up, government is the sworn enemy of human freedom.
And so, realizing that we find ourselves immersed in a world of governments, what are the options?
• Politics as usual with a revolution as the last resort, is the stock answer and the last refuge of the unimaginative. This path guarantees the suboptimal result of restarting the self-destructive process all over again, but at some distance farther away from the critical failure point. Sure, my great-grandchildren’ll prolly get blowed up on down the road, but I should be long gone by then, so it’s not my problem.
• Reject the current government paradigm. Individuals must replace governments as the sovereign entities upon the Earth. You are one of those individuals. Understand, accept, and value the innate authority that you possess. Recognize the injustice that accompanies anyone’s assumption that you have granted him authority when in fact you have not. Teach your children well. Spread the word to all who are willing to listen. These are the things you can control. The rest, not so much. Do what you can. Start with yourself.
The paradigm: Shift it.


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tzo's picture
Columnist tzo
Columns on STR: 64

tzo now lives in your head.


Scott Lazarowitz's picture

You said it in a nutshell:

"But if Ron Paul can “fix stuff” because as an elected individual he wields so much power that he can transform the nation, then the next evil person to take that power can undo everything, and more. This is a reasonable way to organize society?"

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

Tzo, thanks for the follow-up on part 1! Excellent as usual!

golefevre's picture

The only way to win is never to play the game. That's why I can't understand how people like Roderick Long, Tom Woods and others can so incredulously dismiss these points about voting, telling us participation in politics would be defensive. If a principle is sound and rooted in reason, it is never worth giving up.

helio's picture

Great article, and I want to add something.

Those of us who hold the view that participating in politricks is a violation of the non-aggression principle should keep one thing in mind, however. Be kind and respectful to minarchists since they are more likely to become voluntaryists. I was once a minarchist, but no longer. The difference? A further years worth of reading and the positive encouragement from the many 'noble' voluntaryists on the web, such as Tzo.

As Sun Tzu said, "Victorious warriors win first, and then go to war while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win." I have minarchist friends and I have learned that the best strategy is to be silent until they bring up a topic that can be used to demonstrate how minarchism fails. Rather than starting arguments, I wait till they step into a contradiction, and then calmly show them a way out. Always be mindful that to them, the state is their parent and family and we all know what happens when you insult someone's momma. Only they can convince themselves that momma don't love them.

Statism's contradictions are its weakness and imbalance and when a statist takes an unbalanced position, throw them like the anarcho-aikido master you are.

Suverans2's picture

Like this: "Always be mindful that to them [citizens], the state is their parent and family and we all know what happens when you insult someone's momma. Only they can convince themselves that momma don't love them."

Samarami's picture

Mighty fine follow-up, Tzo. When I read your work I'm reminded of a line from one of our old friend Jim Davies' essays:

"...No government anywhere, at any time, has ever brought net benefit to any society, and there is no desirable function that any government performs that could not be performed better, or less expensively, by free people operating on a voluntary basis for profit or for charity..."

~Jim Davies

Glen Allport's picture

Another terrific column, Tzo. And it's worth saying that we've HAD a minarchy, right here in River City and the rest of the USA. We KNOW how minarchy turns out over the long run, because we're living in the result. I'm still in the camp that believes Ron Paul does more good than harm, partly because I know so many voluntaryists (me, for one) who came to that position by way of either Paul or some other minarchist. For most people, the road from statism is long and like all journeys it has to start SOMEWHERE. But that doesn't mean I disagree with your points about the ultimate wrongness and stupidity of the coercive state, regardless of size or rationale: you are exactly right and you've written an excellent description of why institutionalizing initiated (non-defensive) coercion in a body of any size is morally wrong and impossible to restrain.

Paul's picture

There is too much generalization in this article for my taste. For example:

"...the Constitutionalist is compelled to use force to shape society into the Constitutional mold."

Well, no. The Constitutionalist is not so compelled. It would take only a minor adjustment to the constitutional model, that of letting people be who prefer to opt out, to remove all force from it. And many individuals who happen to be Constitutionalists would be willing to make such a change. In fact changing the Constitution is a favorite mental pastime of most constitutionalists, because they are well aware that people in government ignore it with impunity (which makes them want to add some teeth to it, to use against those in government). If they can go along with modifying it that way, why not on modifying it to allow opt-outs?

In fact, there must even be big government fans, communists, etc who wouldn't mind the notion of opting out, as I've mentioned before. We have to be willing to co-exist in some fashion with such people.

It's a much easier task to convince others to let you be, than it is to convince them to drop their world-view entirely and adopt yours.

It's not a good tactic to divide ourselves from others. Better to find what common ground we can, and work to enlarge it.

Glen Allport's picture

A great comment, Paul, and an idea worthy of spreading around -- if only because it shows up the "We gotcha and you can't leave" mentality of the State for the criminal behavior that it is.

Suverans2's picture

Like this: "It's a much easier task to convince others to let you be, than it is to convince them to drop their world-view entirely and adopt yours.

It's not a good tactic to divide ourselves from others. Better to find what common ground we can, and work to enlarge it."

B.R. Merrick's picture

"Persuasive means do not lead to the same ends as do coercive means." This is why I can't be a minarchist. The premise is not life-oriented. This article, however, is.