Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Bill of Rights and Political Anarchy

As I argued recently, political anarchy is the absence of unrighteous dominion. The state, characterized by its monopoly on the use of force and/or the coercive nature of its collection of funds, is one form of unrighteous dominion. Before a number of American colonies would ratify the United States Constitution, they demanded that it be amended to include what is called the "Bill of Rights". Even though the Constitution was designed to grant only certain powers to the Federal Government, these colonies understood how nearly futile it is to "chain" down the state from exercising power beyond its granted authority. They understood that political anarchy, relative to the central state, must remain in certain spheres of action. As I will argue, the Bill of Rights was designed to protect the political anarchy of these spheres, and we should be diligent in expanding political anarchy into other spheres of action.

What Are Rights?

There are two ways of looking at the concept of rights: positive and negative. The term positive rights means you are justified in doing something. The term negative rights means you are not justified in doing something. For example, a positive rights approach to life means you are justified in defending your life, a negative rights approach to life means you are not justified in taking the life of someone else. I believe a safer and less abused approach to justifying my actions and the actions of others is through the concept of negative rights. The positive rights approach taken by many supporters of liberty have led to such ideas as "a right to good housing" and "a right medical-care". Of course these "rights" can only be granted by infringing on the rights of others, therefore, they are not rights at all. Through the lens of the concept of negative rights, we can understand that someone only has a right to do something because it would be unjustified for anyone else to prevent them from doing it. I have a right to my life because no one else has a right to end it. And I have a property right in my body because no one else has a property right in my body. Therefore, when justifying an action that involves someone else, it must be shown that you have authority to do it.

The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is essentially a list of "thou shalt nots" for the Federal Government. The First Amendment states,

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

In other words, the people, through the First Amendment (and the others) are telling the Federal Government, "Thou shalt not make a law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof," "Thou shalt not abridge the freedom of speech, or of the press," and "Thou shalt not abridge the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Federal Government for a redress of grievances." This all means that the Federal Government is powerless to pass laws that would interfere with the people's ability to do these various things. The Bill of Rights contains many other "thou shalt nots", including the Ninth and Tenth Amendments which state,

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people," and "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Not only does the Bill of Rights list spheres of action the Federal Government has no power over, but it even goes so far as to clarify that the Federal Government also does not have power over the people's actions the Bill of Rights does not enumerate, other than what the Constitution specifically gives the Federal Government power over. So what does this have to do with political anarchy?

A Bill of Political Anarchy

Another way of looking at the Bill of Rights is as a bill of political anarchy. Whenever two or more entities exist without a higher power exercising unrighteous dominion, these entities are in a state of political anarchy relative to each other. Two governments under the absence of a higher government exist in a state of political anarchy relative to each other. Neither are ruled over by a higher power, nor is their a higher power imposing itself to settle their disputes. Further, where there exists unrighteous dominion between two or more entities in only some spheres of action, the other spheres of action between the same parties exist in a state of political anarchy. The reason I consider the Bill of Rights a bill of political anarchy is because it protects the political anarchy of certain spheres of action between two entities: "the people" and the Federal Government.

According to the Bill of Rights, the Federal Government has no power to make laws within certain spheres of action. The First Amendment seeks to preserve the political anarchy between the people and the Federal Government in the spheres of religious worship, speech, the press, peaceable assembly, and grievance redress. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments seek to preserve the political anarchy between the people and the Federal Government in every sphere the Bill of Rights does not enumerate and those that the Constitution has not been given the authority to make laws in. It is because the Bill of Rights seeks to keep the Federal Government from exercising unrighteous dominion within these spheres that it in essence protects the political anarchy of these spheres. The Bill of Rights is in fact a bill of political anarchy.

Expanding Political Anarchy

The Bill of Rights protects the political anarchy between the people and the Federal Government of a great many spheres of action, and I am very grateful for this protection against the Federal Government. The Federal Government has grown beyond the bounds set by the Constitution, and historians and economists have shown the disastrous consequences of this growth in areas such as drug prohibition, retirement savings and disability insurance, and foreign policy, to name just a few. Expanding the Bill of Rights protection of political anarchy to even more spheres of actions is a desirable goal for those who love peace and liberty. There really is not a sphere of action that the Bill of Rights should not be expanded to protect the political anarchy of. It is my belief that it should protect the political anarchy of free enterprise and commerce in every market, including national defense. The Bill of Rights should abolish the unrighteous dominion exercised by the Federal Government in every sphere of action.

Conclusion

As I have explained, the Bill of Rights is really a bill of political anarchy because it prevents the Federal Government from exercising unrighteous dominion in a number of spheres of actions. I have argued that the number of spheres of actions whose political anarchy is protected by the Bill of Rights should be expanded, until every sphere of action boasts the absence of the Federal Government's unrighteous dominion. I believe only then will we have true liberty relative to and protected from encroachment by the Federal Government.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Absence of Unrighteous Dominion

We are taught in holy writ that "when we undertake...to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves". Also, that "it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." That is because to control or dominate over another unrighteously is evil, and where evil is, God is not. It is my belief that political anarchy is the absence of this "unrighteous dominion". I am completely aware of the objections that such a statement of belief as this may create. As I will show, these objections are misdirected, the word anarchy has been misused in contemporary thought, and a state of political anarchy is actually desirable for a righteous people.

Anarchy and Tyranny

From politicians to religious leaders, anarchy has been used synonymously with chaos, confusion and tyranny. John Adams, one of the founding fathers of America used it thus, "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence." And former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Fielding Smith said, "The Constitution is our assurance against anarchy and despotism." Now, I don't blame the users of this word for their misuse, the misuse of the word anarchy is commonplace. But I also feel that if we are to understand the important contributions made to advancing the cause of liberty by libertarian anarchists such as Lysander Spooner, Murray Rothbard, and Hans Hoppe, we must have a correct understanding of the word anarchy itself, as well as the way in which these theorist employ it.

Political Anarchy Defined

As I will now demonstrate considering the foregoing, anarchy is one of those words that has taken on a meaning wholly absent from its etymological construction. This word is comprised of two parts: an-, meaning "without" and -archy, meaning "a ruler", which comes from the Greek -arkhon, meaning "ruler" and -arkein, meaning "to rule". Anarchy, therefore, means "without a ruler". By comparison, monarchy means "a single ruler", minarchy means "minimal rule", and autarchy means "self-rule". There is nothing inherently objectionable to the word anarchy. What do we understand is "a ruler"? A ruler must be contrasted to a leader. The difference between these two is consent: a ruler rules without the consent of the ruled, or in other words, exercises unrighteous dominion, whereas a leader leads with the consent of his followers. Political anarchy, then, can accurately be defined as "without, or the absence of, unrighteous dominion".

Does Political Anarchy Work?

Many proponents of liberty have an incorrect understanding of political anarchy, as I have shown. Those that have an understanding of political anarchy closer to its real meaning oppose it on the grounds that "it won't work". To believe that political anarchy "won't work" is akin to believing that peace or liberty won't work. It's not a matter of what works or not. It's only a matter of desiring the absence of unrighteous dominion, because it is true that for the peace and liberty-lover, unrighteous dominion does not work.

Unrighteous Dominion

Men such as John Adams and Joseph Fielding Smith use anarchy incorrectly (technically). It is true that a state of political anarchy can pave the way for someone bent on exercising unrighteous dominion, to rule over others. But as soon as that were to happen, the people now being ruled over would no longer be in a state of political anarchy. They would then be under any number of forms of rule. If the ruler ruled tyrannically, they would be under a rule of tyranny, desiring, I am sure, a return to political anarchy. As then the tyranny, or unrighteous dominion, would cease. Put another way, where unrighteous dominion exists,  political anarchy is absent, and the inverse, where political anarchy exists, unrighteous dominion is absent. This is the framework used by liberty-loving political-anarchy-theorists like Spooner and Rothbard. It is also this framework that I believe those who desire peace and liberty, and fight against the use of unrighteous dominion, are in a true sense political anarchists.

Conclusion

The purpose of writing this short essay was to clarify a misunderstanding that I believe separates peace and liberty-lovers from like-minded political-anarchy-theorists. Though there may be some whose desire for political anarchy is merely a step towards establishing their own form of unrighteous dominion, this is not a flaw of political anarchy. This is a flaw of those men. The word anarchy is understood erroneously by the common person, and so labeling oneself an anarchist will not help one's image or message, I have found. To the common person, I am simply a "liberty-lover", or as Walter Block has put it, I desire that you "keep your mitts to yourself," and I will keep mine to myself. I want to live in a free society, free from unrighteous dominion. I believe Heaven is this way, and so exists in a state of political anarchy.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Defend the State, Defend Socialism

The state is an institution of government that receives wide-spread support among all sorts of political philosophies. The difference, however, is that different political philosophies support different sizes and scopes of the state. A few examples: your typical "conservative" favors using the state for military and national defense, as well as enforcing morality among the people; your typical "liberal" (in the modern sense) favors using the state to regulate the economy and provide social services; even your typical "libertarian" who is generally opposed to the state in favor of liberty will support using the state in a limited, defense and crime prevention capacity. As I will argue here, so long as the state can collect funds by force to pay for national defense and crime prevention, it can collect funds by force to pay for anything, and so long as the state can legitimately enforce it's monopoly of the defense and justice services, so too can it enforce a monopoly of any service.

Taxes

One of the primary characteristics, though not a required characteristic, of the state is its ability to tax. Taxes are necessarily collected by force, for if force were unneeded for the collection of such funds, they would not be taxes, but voluntary fees. Why must taxes be collected by force? Because not everyone consents to the government taking their money. Again, if they did, the funds would merely be voluntarily-paid fees. The various political philosophies I briefly outlined above all support the state's ability to tax. They just disagree on how those taxes are to be used. The flaw in their arguments, however, is that if the state can tax to pay for national defense, then it can tax to pay for social services, such as food stamps and medical-care. Why?

Funded by Coercion

The typical argument in favor of using taxes for national defense (to pay for an army) is that the people have the inherent right to defend themselves and others. Therefore, they can delegate that authority to others. What is overlooked is that the people also have the inherent right to "feed" and "fix" themselves and others. Using the same logic that justifies using taxes for national defense, the people can legitimately delegate the authority to feed and fix themselves to others. In other words, if funds can be collected by the state by force to provide national defense, then it can also collect funds by force to provide food stamps and medical-care. An argument for using taxes for national defense is also an argument for using taxes for social services. Let us now turn to my second point.

Monopolized Services

Another primary characteristic of the state, this one required to qualify as a state, is its monopoly of the services of defense and justice. Defense and justice are the only legitimate uses of force according to the non-aggression principle. Within the state's territory, it only permits itself to provide defense and administer justice for the people. If enforcing this monopoly of the services of defense and justice is justified, then the state is justified in enforcing a monopoly of any service. These services could include anything that the people can provide themselves (see my first point), such as grocery and medical-care services. In other words, if the state's enforcement of it's monopoly on the services of defense and justice is justified, and if it were to enforce a monopoly of the grocery and medical-care services, then that too would be justified.

Defending Socialism

Let me put this in other, more offensive terms. Socialism is a political philosophy whose goal is the equal distribution of wealth, and its vehicle the state. It seeks to accomplish this by having the state own the means of production. (This usually includes monopolizing the means of production.) Any good or service produced by the state is a "socialized" good or service. Education produced by the state is socialized education. Roads produced by the state are socialized roads. Likewise, defense and justice provided by the state are socialized defense and justice. If the state is justified in socializing education, roads, and defense and justice, then it is justified in socializing the production of any good or service.

Conclusion

Before anyone thinks I'm defending the state, let it be known that I am not. In fact, I am attacking it. I have used the foregoing logical deduction to demonstrate the fallacy in the various arguments in favor of the state, of any size and scope. It is a matter of logical consistency that in defending the supposed justified actions of the state, one is defending all actions of the state under the two characteristics explored: using taxation to do what the people already have the right do (defend, feed, and fix themselves), and/or monopolizing those services. It is my political philosophy that the state is not justified in either collecting funds by force, taxation, nor in monopolizing the services of defense and justice within it's territory. Socialism in any degree is unjust and always fails. To allow any good or service to be socialized is a concession that Socialism is justified. This must be fought against if we are to have genuine liberty.