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Archive for December, 2010

Taxes as slavery

There has been an interesting discussion on the Lew Rockwell site and blog, including Charles Burris and Michael Rozeff, about whether libertarians can accurately be described as tax-abolitionists. Burris starts with his article, “Taxes and Slavery: A Parallel“, which he follows with a blog entry. Rozeff then responds with his own blog entry. Burris argues that libertarians are tax-abolitionists, while Rozeff argues from a panarchistic perspective that a person could choose to be taxed, since many people seem perfectly happy with taxation (though I  feel rather certain that would change dramatically if it got around that people could opt out!)

I would like to weigh in with the following:

slave = taxed citizen
slaveholder = government

Mike, if you see the parallel Burris is talking about in the above way, panarchy is not contrary to tax-abolition, because acknowledging that ANYONE has the human right to be free from involuntary servitude (taxation) effectively enables ALL people to make that choice for themselves. Once there is the possibility for true consent by every individual, the very definition of tax as involutary servitude yields to tax as fee-for-service, and the very definition of government as “territorial monopoly of coercion” is no longer accurate. The semantic problem is that we always define taxation as being involuntary, while panarchy changes the definition of the term by restoring the idea that the power of government requires real consent by every individual. Any government that operates with the contractual consent of the governed does not inflict taxes, but operates on a fee-for-service basis. Panarchy is pro-tax-abolition if taxation is defined as involuntary servitude to a monopolistic government. The realization of panarchy would end taxation (involuntary servitude), replacing it with a system of fee-for-service. I don’t think you and Burris are really in disagreement about any of this.

Need for a detailed plan

Today I got a very interesting email from a fellow by the name of Brad.

I am a businessman, or at least I was in the previous “normal”. I have no political experience. This is very interesting. How would I go about defining the concept into a step by step procedure? Obviously starting at consensus, and hopefully ending at cessation of local, state, and even federal taxation for it’s members, but the plan must be laid out in detail from start to finish in order to gain consensus.

To which I would respond:

Brad, all good questions. You present me with a challenge I may not be up to, since I myself am not a businessman. I see the need for change. I see why politics cannot effect positive change. I understand why government-by-coercion is demeaning and does violence to human beings. I am putting these things out there, hoping others will recognize their role in fixing the situation.

Here is my high-level step-by-step plan, such as it is.

1) Introduce people to the idea that government by cooperation is better in many ways than government by coercion.
2) Get people to create and join cantons, voluntary associations of people who want to find a real way to reduce their taxes and recover the level of freedom that is their birthright as human beings.
3) Get cantons to band together to exert pressure on governments at every level to allow greater freedom in determining how their taxes are spent, even to the point where they are spent only on those services they need and desire.

I wish I could offer more, but I don’t think I have the skills. I don’t even know if what I am hoping for is even possible. My hope is that I will be able to reach enough people that some of them will recognize what needs to be done, and can and will do it.

I’m not sure what you mean when you say “starting at consensus”. If there is any consensus, I would expect it to be about something very small, such as, that cantons could be a means to finally give people real control over government, and that they would be willing to try it. Other than that, how cantons would evolve over time is something about which I have no clue.

Why join a canton?

Although the canton movement was spawned by people who desired greater freedom in society, that is not why the majority of people will join cantons.

Most serfs today are happy serfs. They hold on to the illusion that things might be getting better, and soon we will be back to normal. They have a fairly comfortable life, and don’t see themselves as oppressed by government, so long as the government appears to provide some services at a cost that does not seem unreasonable.

But all that is about to change. As every level of government becomes more burdened by debt, as people feel the weight of government taxation grow heavier on their shoulders, while government services wither and die, the practical serfs will start to grumble, then complain, then rebel.

Up till now they have sought something for nothing, or next to nothing, from governments, and governments have been happy to play along. When local and state governments start to become bankrupt, the people will still want something for something, but government will only be able (mostly because of the overhang of enormous, expensive pension commitments for public employees made during the fat times) to provide a very little for very much.

“But we have rights!” the people will say with loud indignation. Certainly they have long been told by governments that they do have rights to many things, but that illusion will shortly be unsustainable. We are moving inexorably from good times to bad times, from wealth to want.

When that time comes, and it is not far off, we will not be able to afford the waste inherent in government by coercion. We will not be able to afford politicians creating giveaways for their special list. At that time, people will join cantons as a way to exercise some control over their lives, a way for them to push back against self-serving governments.

And push back we will. People, through the cantons they belong to, will pay only for those services THEY consider important, and they will pay only what they consider a fair price for those services, and only when the services are provided in such a way as meets their needs. They will do this, not because of deeply held principles about freedom, but because they won’t be able to afford anything else. The time to spend lavishly based on the whims of prodigal politicians is coming to an end.

So for now, we organize and wait. Our numbers will probably not grow large overnight. But, given the direction that things are going, the worst things get, the more serfs will seek a way out. Let’s get ready to welcome our fellow serfs. They will be joining us very soon.

The first canton named

Yesterday morning, as I traveled by train across the Ben Franklin bridge to my job in Philadelphia, I saw upriver a freighter. It was probably painted red, but in the early morning light, it looked coral to me. I then thought of the recent article by Michael Rozeff, Do You Really Want To Be a Republican or a Democrat?  in which he describes a national option for government based on panarchy, where the initial non-territorial governments are Red (Republican), Blue (Democrat), and Coral (Libertarian). Liking the idea of multiple non-territorial governments, and the color coral, I decided that the time has come to name the first canton, the Coral Canton of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. So far it has only one member household, but I hope that changes very soon.

Cantons by spring?

Brian Wright, proprietor of The Coffee Coaster had lots of nice things to say about Government By Contract (GBC).

I was hoping you were as young as your fabulous ideas because mainly it’s just the energy factor, plus at least in the Old Paradigm world, people tend to listen to you less as you exceed a certain age, usually right around 40. Interestingly, my best and unique ideas, too–I’m the author of the Sacred Nonaggression Principle (SNaP), which is an fully integrated political ideology and strategy for liberty–came to me when I was in my mid-50s.
Basically, I’ve read your posts and articles on the subject of panarchy and GBC, and find the idea EXCITINGLY positive. I had just finished reading and reviewing The Sovereign Individual when I bumped into one of your Google ads, then the word itself simply expressed what I now call “constructive anarchy.” None of the anarchists we know will have to eat crow by going forward and working out practical arrangements for government services–because all the services are voluntarily obtained. (Besides, too many ‘anarchists’ dwell in the world of the negative and attach a self-worth to their rejection of coercive government out of proportion to how it serves to further their practical existence.)
The Sovereign Individual does not make the moral case at all, rather the economic case that the nation-state model is breaking down and people will be selecting governments on a service basis. The authors do not imagine the canton concept, which I feel is potentially HUGELY beneficial and can have relatively immediate impact. What you have done by presenting a few concepts in a calm and passionate manner is start people thinking about how to build a new, free society in real time. In the process of building “those forms that shall seem to them to best effect our safety and happiness” the old forms basically fall away. People start laughing at them. No more jackbooted thugs roughing up good people, in service to an imperial international oligarchy of banking and corporate criminals.
Thanks for the nod on your page for the Coffee Coaster. Interestingly, on your blog you have Travels with Brian and Forrest. Forrest is the name is my dear late brother whom I lost three years ago to a heart ailment. I am working on a column (Panarchy Papers III) in which I give a shot at a ‘declaration of independence’; I hope I have it by Monday. I have had the idea of ‘associations of sovereign individuals’ and your canton concept really helps me to concretize how that can play out in reality. You work on a family and/or household basis, which is good, too, because that will no doubt be the way our voluntary society unfolds.
Anyway, Dwight, kudos. This could get really large. I actually think if you plant the seeds in a few Free Staters who are on site over there in New Hampshire, some of the young ones, especially, you will see people forming cantons by spring. They’ll just do it. That’s where the formation of cantons actually becomes a form of civil disobedience. We can’t expect the existing coercive governments to let us go without putting up some kind of ruckus. But by the time the government figures out what’s going on, it will be too late. Quite possibly, Dwight, you may have created the Killer Meme I was trying to generate with the SNaP. [The problem with the SNaP is it’s too much of a thought; your version of GBC is a “do”, and the average fellow likes do’s more than thoughts.

Brian is a gifted writer, and obviously modest, but also a person with vision. He saw the word “panarchy”, found out what it meant, and immediately saw it happening. Let’s see if he is also prophetic, and that several young Free Staters and others around the country and the world will start “forming cantons by spring”.

USA vs America

It is understandable that the word “America” is often used interchangably with “the United States of America”, but the two expressions do not describe the same thing. “America” describes the place on the North American continent that many of us call home. “The United States of America” describes a national government that was ratified back in 1788. Before that, America had a confederation form of government which lasted from March 1, 1781 until June 21, 1788, when the State of New Hampshire became the ninth state of the original thirteen to ratify the new constitution. America has thus far had two national governments.

The current national government, the United States of America, has become delusional. It refuses to face the fact that it is deeply in debt, continuing to operate as if nothing is wrong, spending money it doesn’t have at a huge rate on disordered military misadventures around the world, as the throbbing empire it has become. The people of America, meanwhile, are beginning to see the reality, as the bracing ice water of a crippled and disintegrating economy puts more and more of us in the grip of personal impoverishment. There is nothing quite like being out of work for over two years while struggling to sustain oneself and one’s family without diving into depths of despair to help a person see things as they really are. How much longer can the monster government, the United States of America, survive, dragging the people of America down with it?

If only the simple solution, UN-ratifying the constitution, would fix the problem. Certainly that would go a long way to fixing the problem, since what is left in America is the fifty states. But would all those states, some with multiple nuclear missile silos, play well together? Would they go back to a confederation form of government, or perhaps start over again with the US Constitution? Would the people have learned enough from the current experience to realize that they have been living under an oligarchy that has made them serfs, that any government that imposes taxes on them makes them victims of involutary servitude?

In short, have we had enough of government by coercion? Are we ready to build governments based instead on cooperation? Are we finally ready to realize the truth spoken so clearly in 1776 that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”, a consent that must be personal, real, measurable?

If I thought we knew enough not to make ourselves slaves again of another coercive government, I would not have created this website. But clearly all around us either remain in the delusion that all is well with “the United States of America”, or that government by coercion is just fine. I am here to say, “it’s not”! Every permutation of government by coercion is a form of slavery and an affront to human dignity.

The Immorality of Coercion

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.

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