"As for adopting the ways which the state has provided for remedying the evil, I know not of such ways." ~ Henry David Thoreau
Question State Authority
It is often said that the state is a necessary evil and there is nothing that can be done about it. Why any type of evil would be considered necessary by so many people always puzzled me. Saying that nothing can be done about it challenged my spirit. As a kid, a popular bumper sticker was "Question Authority." This simple message inspired faith that there were others who had liberty in their hearts. These classic bumper stickers have been replaced by ribbons supporting the state, but now there is something better available: the Internet, with sites like Strike The Root and multitudes of classic texts available at the fingertips of those not yet rendered brain-dead by television. The ability of man to reason and his spirit longing to be free cannot be conquered.
The primary reason put forth for having a state is that in order for men to achieve a just society, a monopoly on the use of force is required to deal with the "bad guys"--to protect the sheep from the wolves. The state thus comes to be respected under the guise of offering order and security to an otherwise (supposedly) lawless and violent society. The codification and enforcement of generally accepted laws are said to require a "final authority" so that justice may finally prevail over man's sinful nature and the "war of all against all." Since crime is an enduring occurrence in most societies, the suggestion by elites that a state is needed appears legitimate at first. But when crime doesn't go away or even gets worse and mission creep prevails, then all bets are off on challenging the legitimacy of the state.
Those who run the state continuously claim that they need more treasure, more strict obedience and an ever expanding scope of control to make the sheep more secure. Law is no longer discovered by reason but dictated by rulers. Electing the rulers who dictate the laws does not change this fundamental relationship between the rulers and the ruled. It does not matter who you vote for, what matters is who gets to pick who you get to vote for. The pixie dust of democracy that is supposed to ward off the evil spirits of tyranny is used to justify it. The recent show of an election in Iraq is a case study of this phenomenon.
The general population is continually pandered to at the level of a beer commercial: "It don't get no better" than the state, so "trust us" and enjoy your bread and circuses. It seems to be working for a majority at this time. The elite have thus found an easy way to legitimize control over the masses by creating a majoritarian authority: the God of Democracy.
The rulers of today proclaim that there shall be no other Gods. The democratic state today is not only generally accepted as a legitimate form of government, but is literally worshipped as the only legitimate form of government even as respect for it wanes. This is due in large part to the acceptance of the authorities that existed at one's birth. Respect for the state is based partly on fear for some, but for most it is primarily based on emotional ties arising from the inheritance of our current system of government. Respect for one's immediate ancestors is transformed into respect for existing authority in spite of a long, rich history left to us by previous ancestors who threw off their chains and spread liberty. Our fathers before the most recent "Greatest Generation" that invaded the world to make it safe for Democracy, Corporations and Social Security have a lot to teach us.
Legal validity in a positivist sense should be unacceptable to reasonable people. To question authority is a natural right that emanates from personal sovereignty and is contained within the hearts of all men. To regard authority as legitimate just because your father did so should be intolerable to any thinking person. This should be especially so in a country where earlier generations did not accept the chains of their fathers. Future generations need to know of this history.
One of the great early treatises on voluntary servitude that is not taught in government schools today was The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude written by Étienne de La Boétie in the early 1550s. La Boétie commented:
"It is true that in the beginning men submit under constraint and by force; but those who come after them obey without regret and perform willingly what their predecessors had done because they had to. This is why men born under the yoke and then nourished and reared in slavery are content, without further effort, to live in their native circumstance, unaware of any other state or right, and considering as quite natural the condition into which they are born . . . it is clear enough that the powerful influence of custom is in no respect more compelling than in this, namely, habituation to subjection."
La Boétie explains how beast and man can be trained by habit and ritual to overcome their natural longing for freedom, concluding that "men will grow accustomed to the idea that they have always been in subjection, that their fathers lived in the same way; they will think they are obliged to suffer this evil, and will persuade themselves by example and imitation of others, finally investing those who order them around with proprietary rights, based on the idea that it has always been that way."
Those who take the time to learn what is not taught at the government schools know that it has not always been that way. Surely not all men succumb to the whiles of tyrants and the dictates of contrived custom. La Boétie writes, "There are always a few, better endowed than others, who feel the yoke and cannot restrain themselves from attempting to shake it off: these are the men who never become tamed under subjection and who always . . . cannot prevent themselves from peering about for their natural privileges and from remembering their ancestors and their former ways. These are in fact the men who, possessed of clear minds and far-sighted spirit are not satisfied, like the brutish mass, to see only what is at their feet, but rather look about them, behind and before, and even recall the things of the past in order to judge those of the future, and compare both with the present condition. These are the ones who, having good minds of their own, have further trained them by study and learning. Even if liberty had entirely perished from the earth, such men would invent it. For them slavery has no satisfactions, no matter how well disguised."
If you are reading Strike The Root, then you obviously have already seen through the "disguises" and seen for yourself that the "emperor has no clothes." I'm sure that many have read the Federalist Papers and recognized that their assurances were either naïve or misleading on purpose. The writers of the Anti-Federalist Papers turned out to be right. If you homeschool your children as I do, then Frederic Bastiat's marvelous treatise called The Law is a great starting point for them. Lysander Spooner was an American treasure of liberty who wrote No Treason No. IV: The Constitution of No Authority in 1870. Finally, written in 1935, one of my favorites is Albert J. Nock's Our Enemy The State. Have faith in man's ability to reason and his spirit longing to be free by spreading the word of Liberty .
The state may be evil, but it is not necessary. If men were not able to organize a society where peaceful exchanges, as well as respect for property and persons are generally recognized, then the human race would have died out long before the elite discovered the controlling mechanism that is the state. If a friend gave you this article and you still think that the system of government we have is "as good as it gets" in spite of its obvious decay and corruption, then I suggest reading some of the above perspectives instead of turning on the television this evening. Ignorance is not bliss, but freedom can be. Question State Authority and set yourself free.