Foundering in the Morass

Column by tzo.

Exclusive to STR

<Voluntaryist decides to troll Statist in order to illustrate the contradictions inherent in government:> Guess what? I own a slave now! It's great! He has to do whatever I say! You should get one, too!

What! That's completely illegal!

No, he voluntarily signed a contract and now I own him.

But the 13th Amendment makes slavery illegal. Period. No contract—voluntary or otherwise—can override that.

Yeah, I'm gonna have to stop you right there. The 13th Amendment does not make slavery illegal. Have you actually read the text of the Amendment?

Well no, I haven't memorized it or anything, but it abolished slavery—everyone knows that.

Section One reads, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

OK, so if you are duly convicted of a crime, you are subject to involuntary servitude. That's a reasonable exception, and it doesn't apply here. You couldn't have convicted this poor fellow, and so you have no legal basis for keeping him as a slave.

So you do agree that there still is a Constitutional basis for slavery, it's just that the government currently claims a monopoly on that market?

Hey now, losing freedom while being punished for a crime is not unreasonable.

But who defines what is a crime?

The government, through its laws.

And how many laws are there?

Pfft. Millions, maybe.

Isn't it reasonable to suspect that you probably have broken at least a few of them recently?

Yeah, probably.

So then you are subject to being a slave to the government right now under the monopoly it granted itself under the 13th Amendment, yes?

You're being ridiculous. Do you see me being arrested?

Not at the moment, no.

Ooooh, should I fear black helicopters in the night? Do you really worry about such things? But you've gotten me off track here. You cannot—I repeat—absolutely cannot, have a slave.

Actually, the track led us exactly to where we were. But I’ll back the train up and restate that slavery is involuntary servitude, while this gentleman has agreed to voluntary servitude.

Well then, technically he's not a slave right now regardless of the wording in your contract. But if he ever changes his mind, you have to let him go.

No, I think I'll keep him chained up just the same even if he does change his mind.

I’m speechless. What kind of monster are you?

Monster? Look, I'm actually helping the fellow out. He agreed to the slave contract because he knows I'll keep him well-hidden. You see, he has to lay low because he deserted from the Army.

A deserter? You're housing a deserter? You have to turn him in! That traitor broke his contract with the Army! He needs to be put in prison or to be shot if he deserted while in combat!

But he decided to quit.

Doesn't matter! He voluntarily signed up and he knew what he was getting himself into.

Just like when he voluntarily signed the slave contract with me?

Yes! I mean no! That's completely different.

Different? The 13th Amendment makes slavery illegal except as punishment for a crime. What crime did he commit?

Duh, he deserted. That's illegal.

Well then, if my slave breaks his contract with me then he, too, commits a crime subject to the 13th Amendment punishment.

But you can't convict a person, only the government can!

So they in fact do have a monopoly on slavery and can enslave anyone for anything they define as a crime, including breaking a voluntary contract?

You're loopy. If you really are holding someone against their will, I'm calling the police.

Are you threatening me? Because I can have my slave go kill people whom I feel may be posing an imminent threat to me.

You're threatening to murder me?

No, I'm threatening to declare war on you. Murder is illegal, war is not. Slaves can kill whomever their owners set them against and those killed are not victims of illegal murder, but casualties of legal war.

You. Cannot. Declare. War. You. Lunatic. You.

The Constitution states quite clearly that Congress has the power to declare war.


Powers? How did they get powers?

From The People!

So The People don’t have the powers that the government has?

Of course not! That’s why it’s the government!

So how did it get its powers, if none of the individuals within its claimed jurisdiction could have delegated those powers? If I can’t have slaves, then how can I delegate the power to have slaves to someone else? If I can’t declare war, then how can I delegate the power to declare war to someone else? And if I in fact have the power to delegate those powers, then why would it be wrong to simply delegate those powers to myself?

It’s the system we have here buddy, and you’re free to leave it any time you like.

But just about the entire planet has some type of government claiming the land and subjecting people to their arbitrarily-acquired powers. What you’re saying is that I must submit to a government or die. Nice non-answer, by the way.

Oh, like your life here’s so rough. If you don’t want any government, just move to Somalia. ‘Cause that’s what you get without government: Mud huts, diphtheria, and warlords.

And with governments you get North Korea.

Sure, there are horrible governments. But that’s why you should be thankful that you live here and not there. The people there really are oppressed and they don’t have the option to just leave. If they did, they’d all come here!

And the government here would let them all in?

Well no, we couldn’t have a sudden influx of a few million non-English-speaking burdens on the economy that exists here due to the people who have helped build it with their taxes. That would be unfair.

So they would have to sit and rot in North Korea even if they might have a chance to escape?

It’s the people’s job to watch over their own government. They made the problem and they have to deal with it.

So you are watching over your government, making sure it can’t get out of control like in North Korea?

That’s right! I vote!

They vote in North Korea, also.

But that’s just for show! The dictator wins every time, almost unanimously. Other candidates don’t have a real chance.

Like Ron Paul didn’t have a real chance?

You are certifiably insane if you are likening the two-party representative government model with a military dictatorship.

Because the people are forced to pick from a pool of two candidates instead of just one?

But the people choose the candidates here, while in North Korea the government chooses. Can’t you see that basic difference?

So Ron Paul had the same chance of winning as all the other candidates, those chances being based on what the people wanted?

Of course.

I see. So do you approve of the direction in which your country is moving?

Not at all! We need to get back to the basic Constitutional principles as laid down by the Founding Fathers!

And which candidate in the last election did you feel would be most willing to move in that direction?

Ah, those guys who win are all the same. They tell you what you want to hear, but then they don’t follow through after they win. Politicians are such corrupt slime.

But by voting, you will be able to watch over the system and influence them to move back toward a Constitutional Republic with more freedoms?

That’s how it works, my friend. We are the government, and we have to take back control if they won’t listen!

By voting.

Yes. And if that doesn’t work—revolution! The Declaration of Independence says we have the right to revolt against an unjust government. So they have to worry about that. It’s time for the government to fear The People, and not the other way around!

But if The People are stronger than the government, why would anyone listen to anything the government says? How can the 98-pound weakling tell the bully on the beach what to do?

Well, the previous generations are at fault for not being vigilant, and now we have a real fight on our hands.

And if you succeed in this fight, the next generations will have to be ever-vigilant in order to make sure history does not repeat?

You got it.

So the vigilance thing failed before, but it will succeed in the future?

It’ll have to. People have to learn to be responsible for their government, or they will suffer the consequences.

So if The People keep the upper hand, why would anyone ever listen to the government, since it wouldn’t be powerful enough to enforce its laws? Why even have a government if The People are competent to judge what is right and wrong and have the power to enforce it?

But The People are not competent. That’s why they have to elect others to rule. Not having a government is simply not an option. No one wants anarchy, with bombs and blood in the streets.

So the incompetent people are to choose competent rulers? Chosen from the pool of incompetents? I don’t quite follow. Nice Aunt Sally, by the way.

The cream rises to the top. The most competent people are the ones who are able to assume political office.

You previously called politicians corrupt slime. Are you sure that the powers of political office don’t in fact attract the worst elements of society and not the best?

Well, that’s the responsibility of the people to choose wisely.

The responsibility of the incompetent people?

Well, it’s their responsibility to become competent.

But if they are competent, then they don’t need government.

You just don’t get this stuff, do you?

Sadly, I do get it.

Look, I get all your points as well and I see the logic behind them, but in this world, you have to be pragmatic: It’s the results that count. Idealistic systems that calculate well on paper just don’t always function very well in the real world. You have to give up some of the perfection in order to achieve the best results. Human beings are not perfect and you can’t ever expect a utopian system to work. It just can’t. You just have to grow up, Peter Pan.

<Glub, gurgle, glub. The morass has now swallowed up both of its victims, whose struggles against each other simply served to accelerate the sinking process. If you find yourself outside the clutches of the morass and see a person foundering within it, the first thing to determine is if the person really wants to get out or not. If he does, then calmly cooperating together to achieve the goal should be undertaken, and it is highly recommended that all the while you remain standing on the solid ground. Jumping in with him greatly increases the chances that neither of you will emerge. And if he really prefers to wallow there, you will only annoy him and all he will do is attempt to keep you down there with him.

The communication process can be difficult. You may persuade with logic. You may persuade with clever arguments. You may persuade with bluntness. But not usually. Often you will need a larger arsenal of communication techniques in order to increase your chances of success. You can be the best fastball hitter ever seen, but if you can’t hit the curve, you will not get very far.

Effective communication through human connection is more about emotion and empathy than logic and confrontation. Successful indoctrination through public education makes certain logical arguments inaudible. You must become an ally, not an adversary in order to make progress. The person supporting the State in the discussion above has valid gripes. Explore possible solutions with him that don’t include violating basic human rights. Explain how some solutions that seem to help one individual can cause harm to others. See if you can work together to solve the problem without inflicting collateral damage. Connect with and work with the individual. Be on his side. Combine your energies in the same direction—don’t set them against each other. Synergy creates net energy in excess of the sum of the combined energies, while resistance cancels them down to zero.

And after all is said and done, you can only expect success in a minority of cases. Deal with the strikeouts and move on. Keep in mind that the greatest hitters in the history of baseball are successful at the plate less than 40% of the time. They don’t dwell on the inevitable failures, they shake them off and looked forward to the next opportunity.>

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Columnist tzo
Columns on STR: 64

tzo now lives in your head.