Slaves of the Law


Column by Paul Bonneau.

Exclusive to STR

It’s been noted many times, that to obtain liberty, the first and most important thing that must be freed is one’s own mind. I don’t know who first recognized and stated it. Of course the reverse is true as well; the most important thing for the ruling class to do is to enslave people's minds. And the way that is done is to make those people imagine they have no choices--that “the law is the law.” Self-enforcement of laws is infinitely more important to the state than physical force; without it, the state would immediately collapse.

What may be less obvious, though, is how the enforcement of mala prohibita turns those slaves into victimizers, into evil people.

Consider the usual malum prohibitum in which there is no actual victim (it seems to be a necessary feature of such an action--if there were a victim, it would be mala in se). For example, a man carries a gun “illegally.” Now imagine that someone else sees this infraction and calls the police. The police come, and haul the man away, to be subjected to the tender mercies of the criminal “Justice System.” There was no victim before; but isn’t there one now--the hapless victim of that system? He is certainly harmed by it. So, the person who called the cops created a victim, where there was none before! That makes him a victimizer, and evil. He, and the cops who make the arrest, and the people who jailed him, and the judge who ran the trial and sentenced him, and the slaves on the jury who found him “guilty,” are all evil. They all victimized this individual, who harmed no one. Many of them actually make their living by doing so, to multiple victims.

Vin Suprynowicz has commented that voir dire, the process of jury selection, is “a French term for jury stacking.” This is where the perpetrators in the system search through the jury pool to find the most slave-like individuals, those most willing to aid and abet the continuing victimization of the defendant. Free people are not wanted in juries!

Sometimes, members of the jury show distress after the trial, that such harsh punishments are meted out to the victim they themselves convicted. Perhaps it is tinged with guilt at their participation in the victimization process. It is natural to feel remorse after having harmed someone.

The funny thing about mala prohibita, if you read about them, is that the term usually includes the notion that being convicted of violating such laws is supposed to yield only minor punishments--naturally, since there is no victim. Not that I agree with the premise, but following such logic as is there, certainly suggests a “slap on the wrist” is appropriate. Yet the current reality is that they can lead to ruined lives and decades of incarceration. Both drug and gun “crimes” carry particularly harsh penalties. One has truly to be a slave, to not see the problem here, much less to support such draconian strictures.

In fact, the very presence of a harsh penalty would seem to move a measure out of the category of malum prohibitum and into that of pure tyranny. Isn’t a felony malum prohibitum an oxymoron?

It is commonplace to see the slave mentality in action on Internet forums. In the gun forum I frequent, there is even a sub-board dealing with the intricacies of the law, where members debate endlessly over the fine points and jump through hoops in an often futile attempt to stay on the “right side” of laws for which there is never any victim--except for themselves if they get caught violating one. These same individuals will endlessly exhort everyone to get to the voting booth so that even more such laws are not imposed on them--never guessing, apparently, that they have a choice whether to obey them. Their frantic admonitions only reveal the extent of their slave mind-set, and suggest they will be the first to turn their guns in when the confiscation order finally comes through. The law is the law, after all. It never seems to occur to them that the best laws are the ones that are so outrageous that everybody flouts them. These laws strike at the imagined “legitimacy” of the rulers most effectively. These laws are most effective in freeing the minds of the formerly-enslaved.

Of course it can be argued that the people dashing madly about in a futile attempt to stay on the right side of the law are simply avoiding the bad consequences of violating them, and that they are not really slaves after all. However, the risk of getting caught may be less than it appears, the consequences not very likely. After all, don’t we inadvertently already commit three felonies a day? Yet most of us remain outside of jail. The risk of getting into an automobile accident is substantial, yet we all jump in our cars without a qualm to go to work. And there is a 100% chance we will die some day. When the risk of getting caught violating law is exaggerated in one’s mind, that is self-enforcement. That is the slave mentality. Anyway, the slave probably does not make such calculations; instead, breaking the law never enters his mind at all.

<a href="">Frederick Douglass</a> apparently, at an early age of 12 or so, but certainly by age 16 when he fought and conquered his slave master, had dispensed with his slave mind-set. But he remained nominally a slave until age 20, when he was successful in that escape attempt, and legally until age 28 when he bought his freedom from his former master. But, was he a slave until age 16, or 28--when the law said he was?

The law is an institution of slavery. Laws turn men into slaves.

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Paul Bonneau's picture
Columns on STR: 106


Samarami's picture

Anybody who knows me would be disappointed if I ever did a thing -- or refrained from a thing -- because it was a rule, or a law, or a regulation, or a policy. If it don't make sense -- to me -- I ain't a-gonna comply. "Voluntarily", that is.

I might comply if confronted by jurisdiction. The only jurisdiction in existence anywhere on this pale blue dot is force of arms. I believe a man with a loaded gun. Or woman (l-rd have mercy! :-]). Especially those wearing state costumes. They're definitely the most dangerous of the armed.

You've outlined the religion -- the superstition -- called "state" quite adequately:

    "...slave mentality in action on Internet forums. In the gun forum I frequent, there is even a sub-board dealing with the intricacies of the law, where members debate endlessly over the fine points and jump through hoops in an often futile attempt to stay on the “right side” of laws for which there is never any victim--except for themselves if they get caught violating one..."

You've put your finger on the enemy, Paul. Most libertarian forums have virtually gone to seed, literally and figuratively. Unless there are some I've missed. I counted only ten comments posted here over the last two weeks. Half were mine. In past years I've seen (don't know that I've ever counted) at least 25 or 30 -- and probably more -- comments in a single day. Granted, some were needless squabbling -- particularly when "religion" entered the topic. Or "rights".

And I fully agree with your conclusion: like Frederick Douglass, my goal must be to "...dispensed with (my) slave mind-set...". Unlike Douglass in his day, I'm old. I ain't got that much time left to become free. I'd better do it now. Here. Today. Where I'm "at". Sam

Jim Davies's picture

Has STR "gone to seed", Sam? - there's evidence each way.
Yes, compared with only a few years ago there are far fewer reader comments (despite your own sterling contributions) and far fewer original articles. But that's not all it does.
The Editors present each day a selection of stimulating articles to be read elsewhere. There is a link to STR's "Blog", where others, including my own, can be found - along with links to interesting videos and some original comments. And there's a huge archive of previous "strikes", organized by author and, to some extent, subject.
Most of all, STR keeps the faith, more or less. A few really bad articles do somehow get past our primary Editor's scrutiny, but not often; here, there is nothing like the wholesale sellout to the Trump phenomenon, for example, that has characterized this year, in which not a single LRC article I have seen rebuts the outrageous argument of Hoppe regarding immigration.

Samarami's picture

My use of the phrase, "gone-to-seed" may have emanated from a forlorn countenance of the moment. I'm prone to those emotional outbursts.

I linked to the old "Daily Anarchist" forum, which appears to have now gone belly-up, along with "", which I think was Per Bylund's old forum (and Per seems to have moved on to bigger and better haunts).

Talk about emotional outbursts -- it's really difficult for me (and I surmise that might apply to any of us) to accurately predict just how freedom is going to play out. Your "2025" prediction (can't put my finger on the link to your article[s], and I'm late for work) might be quite realistic. I suspect, subconsciously, my definition of "freedom" is when everybody agrees with (or is agreeable toward) me. There is only so much we can lament over the current lack of freedom -- and so much "anarchist theory" that can be presented.

Just how land titles, disputes, etc., will be recorded, surveyed, etc., in the absence of central political authority is subject to speculation and debate. You won't need "county recorders" in the absence of government robbery, but there will need to be equitable means by which to settle disputes.

I miss the old "White Indian" days here at STR. He came aboard, bad-mouthed libertarianism, aroused the ire and the angst of many participants of the moment. Then he apparently quashed his bivouac, folded his tent, and left the battlefield for more lucrative engagements.

"Indian" was a fun sort. Sam

Samarami's picture

Additional thought (adding to my predominance of late to the "comments" section on STR). This from a "Lew Rockwell" article this morning -- most of which stray solidly into the realm of "minarchist", or "mini-state" mentality:

    " now more than half the population in most Western democracies draw half or more of their income from public administration, as government employees, recipients of social programs, and/or retirees..."

Paul Gottfried, author of the article, probably leans more heavily to libertarian thinking than most who reside in academe. But never assume that Gottfried is anarchist by any sense of the imagination. Whenever I see a term like "...public administration..." in vocabulary, I recognize mini-statism (if not full-blown governmentalism). Many of these writers (including most of the articles posted at STR) do relatively decent work pointing out the fallacies and malfeasance of monopoly state. But in their whimpering and their grumbling is embedded the idea that "we" must "elect the right people" in order to make things right again. In order to "...GET OUR COUNTRY BACK!..."

How many of these writers could recognize "income-from-public-administration" as robbery, pure and simple? How many understand that there is no such thing as "public-administration" -- that the phrase points to a mindless abstraction???

The way I think and express myself determines how free I can be -- or become.


Paul's picture

"The way I think and express myself determines how free I can be -- or become."

Exactly. It's all part of that self-enforcement.

dhowlandjr's picture

Hey Paul! This is a good one! With your usual feistiness, but hey! Slavery is objectionable even though you can't tell so much by looking around these days. And Sam, thanks for all your comments, I read the Delmar England material you recommended and really enjoyed it! I agree about the forums, I guess currently they think libertarian ideas need to be dumbed down or something. After all, it's an election year, LOL

Paul's picture

"After all, it's an election year, LOL"

Yes, people go temporarily insane during the silly season. I suspect that is why STR et. al. go begging at times.

KenK's picture

The whole ancap thing is kinda falling apart. Many of the ones I know/knew have dropped out of activism altogether, a few have become alt-righters. (Look at Stephan Molyneaux, et al.) I don't know about ancapistan ever happening but anarcho-tyranny is a real possiblilty. 

Jim Davies's picture

Ken, I beg to differ. First, "anarcho-tyranny" is impossible, being internally contradictory. If there is no rule or ruler, there can be no tyranny. If, perversely, some anarchist loses his mind and starts ruling tyranically, he is by definition no longer an anarchist.
Then, "dropping out of activism" is not IMHO any indication that "the whole ancap thing is kinda falling apart." Depends what one means by "the whole ancap thing." Does it mean being active in a public sense, running meetings and demonstrations etc? - I don't think so.
It means first something internal: to know and understand that everyone rightfully rules him or herself. Not just as a casual passing fad or idea, but by deep conviction based on solid logic and meaningful study. Anyone who lacks a library similar to this one probably hasn't studied enough.
Then it means, I suggest, doing something positive to cause that true theory to come about in practice; and meetings, demonstrations, civil disobedience and other noisy "activism" is not, as I see it, the way to do that. Something much more quiet and simple, as suggested here. One could call that "activism", I suppose, but I doubt that it's the usual meaning of the term.
Coincidentally, today's edition of the Zero Government Blog touches on that theme.

rothbardian's picture

Is this any evidence that it is falling apart? Perhaps we should be glad that our fellow ancaps are doing less doomer blogging and preparing themselves for contingencies, and or being capitalists and improving the world.

Yeah I agree, with Jim, I don't even know what the throwaway line about what anarcho-tyranny even means. 

rothbardian's picture
KenK's picture

The late Sam Francis coined the term anarcho-tyranny . Francis was a paleo-con who was not steeped in an-cap nomenclature (which may annoy spergs who insist on a Stanford Encyclopedia  of Philosophy level 30,000 word definition) and so I paraphrase: The social controls against violent, anti-social, or aberrant behavior are relaxed or dismissed altogether while the full cultural and legal apparatus is deployed against people and groups that resist social engineering schemes by the left. To wit: The state won't help you with street crime, but it will land on you like a ton of bricks if you resist allowing strange people into public lavatories with your children.


I hope this helps. Don't complain to me if you have quibbles with Francis' definition. He made it, he owns it. Sounds like a pretty accurate discription of today's modern America tho.


Where I live activists walk around with guns and then record the proceedings when the cops show up and put it on youtube. Better than nothing, but still pretty weak.



Jim Davies's picture

So Francis evidently confused anarchism with the absence of "social controls against violent, anti-social, or aberrant behavior."
It's a common error, but explains why his term "anarcho-tyranny" is so hopelessly wrong.

Samarami's picture

Francis defined "anarcho-tyrany" by assuming a totally incorrect and erroneous definition of "anarchy":

    "...What we have in this country today, then, is both anarchy (the failure of the state to enforce the laws) and, at the same time, tyranny—the enforcement of laws by the state for oppressive purposes..."

As with most mini-statist anarchy theorists I've encountered, the presumption of "the state" lingers in their subliminal messaging apparatus to the extent their entire argument lacks merit.

Anarchy, properly and simply defined, is a society without a central political authority.

When the foundation is flawed, the structure fails. Sam

KenK's picture

It's good for the an-cap movement that this stuff goes on I suppose, (e.g., the possession and the open carrying of weapons needs to be re-normalized most places in American society), but I fear liberty ain't gaining any ground with it either tho. Really, it's just clawing onto what we already have, in terms of "legal rights". Laws are a lagging indicater, culture, history, and custom being much greater social normalizers.
Some of these things go better than others.
On the other hand,  many unintentional authority encounters go to shit right away.

How much these candid camera techniques help toward actually abolishing the state and holding gov police accountable is debateable. IMO an-caps don't need any more shitlording on social media, they need direct action. No blog post or instagram pic is gonna stop water flowing down hill. Only physically blocking and redirecting the water will. Make of that what you will.


Over & out.



Paul's picture

"but I fear liberty ain't gaining any ground with it either tho."

Missouri is now the what, 10th or 11th state to recognize "constitutional carry"? Progress is being made somehow...

Of course these are again, actions of the legislature. Better than nothing for them to decriminalize something innocent, but not as good as everybody just carrying despite what the law says about it.

Samarami's picture
    "...they need direct action..."

Having never identified with "an-cap" -- or any movements or isms -- I've taken the only (and the very best) action possible: I've become free myself.

I long to see the day when all 7 + billion sovereign states will have seceded from all political "authority". What we've always compliantly accepted as "the state" will have collapsed and disappeared once a critical mass of individuals declare their sovereignty. Sam

Paul's picture

As to where all the people are going, I've noticed too. The Free State Wyoming forum has gone pretty quiet, and Vanderboegh's forum is down (although he was always minarchist). The one forum I'm on that is hopping is NW Firearms, and the moderators do their best to keep overt political comment completely off, although that has got to be difficult with a subject like firearms. Maybe people are getting tired of being reminded they are slaves and powerless. Can't say I blame them. Maybe this article was a mistake!

But I don't think we should draw the conclusion that people are losing interest in liberty. Overall I see it going the other way.