home of the canton movement

So much that is done by government today is done because it is, according to the government, morally correct.

Take, for example, the public school system. Its whole rationale is that the whole citizenry, thru their taxes, must support the schools because of those who would not be able to afford an education otherwise. This is a statement of morality, and a policy of action based on that morality. This is government as secular religion.

Are not all the religions of the world, especially the myriad protestant churches, divided over interpretations of doctrine and morality? And don’t we declare a freedom of religion because people disagree about these things? Yet the government does not allow dissension from its declared doctrine and morality. You must contribute to the public schools thru your taxes, regardless of what you think about them. You must contribute to various other “good” services that the government provides, regardless of what you think about them. You must agree to the rightness of gay marriage, regardless of what you think about that, because the government has declared it morally correct. You must provide contraceptives and abortifacients to your employees because the government has declared that the morally correct thing to do. Against the moral teachings of the government no freedom of conscience is allowed. It is the one exception to the First Amendment.

There is an on-going debate between those who believe in the power of free markets versus those who believe in the power of government regulation. Let’s look at the pluses and minuses of these arguments.

Government regulation pluses:

  • quick results are possible, as political force is brought to bear
  • initial results may be positive, making the politicians and bureaucrats appear effective

Government regulation minuses:

  • decisions are political, with actors usually acting on their own personal best interests (consistent with human nature)
  • decisions are arbitrary, based on the judgement of a person or group of limited size
  • decisions are based only on information available to the limited number of actors
  • business failures can be politically painful, resulting in inefficiencies as resources are redirected to politically-powerful elites
  • long-term results tend to be negative because of the other minuses

Free market pluses:

  • decisions are based on the judgements of many persons (the whole market) each acting on their own best interests, using the whole pool of information
  • competition reduces the power of any person or limited group to dominate, resulting in impartiality
  • the failure of any entity within the market strengthens the market as a whole, improving efficiency, resulting in a growth of widely-distributed wealth
  • long-term results tend to be positive because competition weeds out failures and inefficiencies

Free market minuses:

  • initial results may be negative, such as the failure of inefficient businesses, with its dislocations of jobs and sources of supply
  • allowing the market to work may make politicians look like they are not doing anything constructive

Free markets can only exist within the context of limited government. We had that once, for about four score and seven years, resulting in an era of unprecedented growth of general wealth. With the growth of government has come the growth in the disparity of the (politically well-connected) rich and the poor, and the slow but consistent shrinking of real wealth. To see for yourself, go to this website (http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp-growth), set the “From” year to 1947, click on the Trend checkbox, and see where we have gotten to because of years of government regulation of the economy.

Will this be our legacy? It’s not too late to fix this. I’m not talking about “de-regulation” as it has been known in the past, since it still allows the few to micro-manage the economy. I am talking about a distribution of power (via cantons) that will allow the economy to once again be free of arbitrary political control.

Why juries?

Did you ever wonder why we have such a thing as “trial by jury”? Why not just let the judge decide? Throughout history there have been judges, and there have been evil judges, those who would rule unfairly for nefarious reasons (such as bribery). The natural solution to this problem is to “distribute the power” into the hands of twelve peers. It is far more difficult to bribe (or threaten) the whole jury, or even to successfully influence a majority.

The same wisdom applies to all those who exercise power over others. When the powerbase becomes too small, as it is now, we need to redistribute power to a larger base. That is basically what cantons are all about. Elsewhere on this website I noted that, to maintain the same relative number of legislators to population that was stipulated in the US Constitution, Article 1, Section 2 (1:30000), we would now need just over 10,000 members of the House of Representatives! The one thing that might accomplish is to make it more difficult for the majority to be influenced unduly by the army of lobbyists. It would, at the very least, make lobbying more costly. The problem with that still remains: the “representatives” still represent (at best) a majority of those who bothered to cast a ballot. And once elected, they can largely ignore those who elected them in favor of the special interests who more directly control them.

Cantons, which actually represent the people who freely choose to join them (unlike the so-called congressional “Representatives” who represent the special interests), can create just the redistribution of power that would free us from the dominance of the few to a very great extent.

I had a dream.

I had a dream that I was on a plane flying … somewhere. Not important. I was in a middle seat, and the fellow in the aisle seat, dressed in jacket and tie, was Congressman Ron Paul. We had a great time discussing the value of freedom, and the future possibilities of living in a truly free world. I, of course, spent a good deal of time explaining cantons to him. He was interested, and had lots of penetrating questions. Yet, even by the end of our conversation and flight, he appeared to be skeptical of the concept’s potential. We shook hands as he quickly exited the plane.

Days later he called with more questions. I did my best to answer them. When we had finished the conversation, I sat there, wondering what was up. He actually seemed interested in the whole idea. I, naturally, was thrilled, but hesitant to get my hopes up that anything would come of it.

About two months later, he called again. He and his lawyer had worked out the details to create a canton as a non-profit organization. He was going to name it the “Paleo-libertarian Canton of America”. Within a week’s time I began to see ads on various websites offering memberships to the canton. He had hired Trevor Lyman to do the publicity.

What a great dream.

So many people today are walking around in a daze. They don’t understand what is happening to our world. They don’t understand why everyone in the world seems to hate Americans. They don’t understand why we are living in another Depression era. They are living in denial of what is ahead, so glibly referred to as the “fiscal cliff”.

There are two economies that define our world today. The first is the productive economy, the business of buying and selling goods and services. This is where all profit is made.

The second economy is the parasite economy. It lives off the productive economy, eating what it does not produce. This is epitomized by the vast majority of government functionality. Not only does it consume in such a way as to diminish the power of the productive economy to be productive, but it generally works against it, in favor of benefiting (in the short term) a minority (the elite in power both in government and in business).

Sadly, for us, the parasite economy has been able to grow very large, living on the reserves of a very productive past. In the US especially, where the dollar benefits by being the world’s reserve currency, we appear to be artificially wealthy. But we are living off stored fat, and it is quickly being used up. Soon there will be no reserves left, and the economy of the whole world will abruptly change for the worse. Or actually, for the better. Why better? Because we will be forced to face reality finally. We will be forced to kill off the parasite that has been killing us, and make sure the productive economy can grow. As with any medical treatment, the pain is inseparable from the cure.

Cantons provide the best means for ensuring that the parasite dies quickly, and that it never comes back.

Slow learners

We have met the enemy, and he is us. — Pogo

Tyranny can only exist because people are willing to support the contention of governments that they have nearly unlimited power over people but can be trusted to use it appropriately. Yet people are always surprised by tyranny, especially when it sneaks up on them. Government tells them that they are a free people, and the people for the most part believe what the government tells them, until government turns on them, and then it becomes clear that the confidence in the “good will” of government was sadly misplaced. This has occurred repeatedly throughout history, yet people are still surprised when it happens to them.

What to do to prevent tyranny? Examine the role of coercion in society, and see what limits to it should exist. Then make sure those limits are adhered to. The basis of the political philosophy called libertarianism is the examination of coercion in human society, and an attempt to determine its best limits. Often this is expressed in the Non-aggression Principle (NAP), a principle of natural law.

Here is one of many definitions of the Non-aggression Principle: “No one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.” — Murray Rothbard (as cited in the Wikipedia article on the Non-aggression Principle).

The principle first of all acknowledges that coercion is necessary at times in human society, which is an acknowledgement of the weakness of the human person. It is the recognition that there must be hard consequences to certain evil actions.

To propose that coercion in human society ought to be severely limited, as this principle surely does, is a further acknowledgement of human weakness. To extend the right to use coercion against another beyond the scope of the NAP is very nearly the definition of government as we have known it throughout history. Taxation is the use of coercion contrary to the NAP. Nearly every law created by legislatures is contrary to the NAP. All of this coercion exists because people became convinced that it was alright to allow governments such expansive power, probably under the notion that, with the controls of democracy, they could keep it from getting out of hand.

But what they didn’t count on was democracy not working as advertised. They didn’t count on a host of special interests getting control of the government, making democracy nearly powerless to restrict the power of government over the people. But that is what happens, whether the special interests are the upper nobility of ancient England, the landed classes of South America, or the mega-businesses that find government power useful.

So, in the end, government power grows, and the people are inevitably the losers. It seems that we are slow learners. We continue to allow government lots of power over us, because we presume that it is really for our own good, there really is no alternative, and somehow we will be able, this time, to control government which, as George Washington put it, is “like fire, … a dangerous servant and a fearful master”.

The solution to tyranny is just this: to limit coercion in society to its bare minimum, as put forth in the Non-aggression Principle. To continue to deny human weakness, to continue to assume that, this time, we will be able to control the blazing fire that is government, is hubris and willful self-deception.

Our federal government (U.S.) is supposedly founded on a separation of powers, vested in the three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. Turns out, these three tend to pull together like sled dogs. The real power in all governments is the coterie of special interest groups and their huge army of lobbyists. Though each interest group tends to pull their own way, they find ways to divide the pie up to their general satisfaction.

What I am proposing with cantons is a new division of power. The first is the power of PROPOSING. This can be left to the “professional” politicians (I have to use the quotes around professional, otherwise the idea of a professional politician would be too absurd). Let those in government, specifically the legislatures (as well as those who behave like legislatures, which today includes far too many in the executive and judicial branches) to propose programs. But to offset their power, and correct their obvious lack of wisdom when it comes to deciding exactly how to spend government revenue, I propose that the cantons exist to exercise the power of DISPOSING. That is, it is up to the cantons to get control of government revenue proportionate to their memberships, and determine which programs actually get funded, and, much more importantly, which don’t.

Here is an excellent article from The Daily Bell that goes into great depth explaining why a government of cooperation is better than a government of coercion. He talks about the tendency of government-as-we-know-it to cause antagonism between people, to foster strife, and how the opposite, dealing with people according to the Golden Rule, fosters empathy and cooperation, even among people who have their differences (that would be all of us).

While the canton movement assumes that people have their differences, and that any particular territory would have multiple cantons that reflect these differences, it also assumes that these same cantons would work together for various causes that they share. This arrangement, of recognizing differences while at the same time looking for real commonality (as opposed to the horrid “bi-partisanship” that we hear so much about), can truly foster peace.

[I am reposting this article which originally appeared here in December 2010 because I like it.]

Some people see government as a positive force in human society. Others see it as a necessary evil, something that has its flaws, but that we need nonetheless. Still others, myself included, see that there is a terrible flaw in government-as-we-know-it, government that is based on coercion.

That terrible and fatal flaw in coercive government comes from the very fact that it operates by coercion, because it is this basis that runs contrary to basic human rights, rights we have by nature and nature’s God. In stark contrast to government by coercion is the type of government described by the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes human nature and the inalienable rights that come from it, and the government by consent that naturally follows from those rights.

Any government that does not recognize human nature, and the rights that naturally flow from that nature, is thereby unnatural, and has the seed of its own destruction within it. This would not be so bad if it was only the government that was destroyed by this failure to understand human nature. The great and enduring tragedy, however, is that this fatal flaw in government by coercion results in the destruction of human society to a staggering extent, and the enormous human suffering that comes with it. Failure to properly perceive the flaw in government by coercion results in war, tyranny, and the inevitable destruction of the livelihood of millions of people, if not the direct destruction of the people themselves.

The people who see government by coercion as either beneficial to humanity or no more that a necessary evil look upon the evils that seem to come so easily from the hearts of their fellow men, evils that they see government protecting them from, and fail to recognize how much of this evil comes from a reaction against the inhumanity of government rather than the failings of human nature. When government is based on a proposition that coercion is a necessary and core element of government, that people must, in fact, be forced to do what is right (beyond what is required to protect life and property), it is the government itself that produces in its unhappy subjects violent reactions. It is impossible that government by coercion could fail to produce revulsion and violence in many of the people it oppresses. The human rights written on the hearts of every person will recognize the evil of repression that government inflicts, and will oppose it, consciously or otherwise.

What will save us from this calamity? We need to recognize the flaw that exists in government that does not operate on the basis of free human choice, on the true consent of all governed. We need to create the structures of human cooperation that can replace government by coercion with government by cooperation.

We are so far from this, it seems to me that it might take centuries more of human misery to recognize the truth of the inherent flaw within government by coercion, and to have the courage and conviction it will take to build governments based on cooperation and consent. That would be tragic.

The Blame Game

When things go wrong, we look to blame someone. Very rarely do we blame ourselves. It’s a natural tendency not to want to look bad in the eyes of other people, so we look around us for someone else to blame.

It is too easy to look at the political and economic disasters in the world today and blame politicians, pundits, and business leaders. But the fact is, they only do what any normal person (yes, the one looking back at you from the mirror) would do in the same situation. In general, we are no better or worse than those we would like to place the blame on for our present sad state.

In fact, it is precisely that person in the mirror than you should be blaming. We are not without the ability to make things better. But to even begin that task, we have to take responsibility for the way things are now, and also responsibility for finding ways to fix it. At that point, blame is pointless and useless. Instead, we need courage and fortitude. We need to encourage one another to resolve to do something, based on our best judgement of what would be most helpful. And then we need to do it.

Creating cantons is first of all taking personal responsibility for the way things are in the world right now, and resolving to do something about it.

Go to a mirror and take a look. The person you see there is really to blame for the way things are. That person is also key to making things better.

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