"It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder." ~ Frederic Bastiat
Freedom Is Not Found on Paper
Column by Alex R. Knight III
Exclusive to STR
One of the good folks at Gun Owners of Vermont (I like spelling that out much more than the acronym – GOVT – for what should be an obvious reason) recently sent me, along with my 2012 membership card, a piece published not long ago in a small freebie newspaper called The Shopper. It hails out of Ludlow, Vermont, and the editor himself, Bob Miller, was the author. The title is: “Wake Up America – The Bill of Rights is Dead.”
Now while such dramatic headlines may not be trumpeted by any of the major Lamestream Media outlets – and don’t hold your breath – it has become pretty much common fare over the last decade or so in Freedom Movement quarters. So this fact, at least in my estimation, begs two very important questions: Why hasn’t such well-founded alarmism produced much in the way of tangible results? And, why is most of Middle America so ho-hum about it? And I further think, in a nutshell, that the answers are that it can’t, and that this kind of thing is nothing new, respectively. I’ll expand by citing a few brief quotes from Miller’s editorial, because I think they are fairly commonplace within the minarchist camp:
He begins by stating that the “funeral of the century” took place last New Year’s Eve when Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, because now American “citizens” (who don’t really exist, see Marc Stevens’ Adventures in Legal Land for a brilliant expose’ on that) can be detained indefinitely without trial or charges on mere suspicion of plotting or conducting “terrorism” – something every government on earth and throughout history engages in freely. Of course, the PATRIOT Act already authorized this for anyone entering America who fit this arbitrary profile, but after government thugs tried going beyond that in Chicago with Jose Padilla, I guess they figured they’d better openly announce that in the future, they really can do things like that without having to back down to their own courts in the face of public pressure. Likewise, the NDAA 2012 now allows for the outright murder of American “citizens” who are suspected of “terrorism” – and this provision has already been tested overseas:
(From the ACLU’s website): “On September 30 , the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) jointly carried out the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen born in New Mexico, using missiles fired from unmanned drones in Yemen. A second U.S. citizen, Samir Khan, was killed in the same attack. Two weeks later, Anwar al-Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman, a 16-year-old U.S. citizen born in Colorado, was killed in another U.S. drone strike elsewhere in Yemen. The administration has not adequately explained the legal basis for these strikes, and it has not explained the factual basis, either.”
Unarmed drones are now being used within America – most famously in a case in North Dakota, and also in drug smuggling cases and along the Mexican border. Any bets on just how long it is before these aerial drones are armed – first with “non-lethal” weapons . . . then with the same ordnance payload they currently carry in the Middle East and elsewhere?
But is this and this alone, as Miller suggests, the Bill of Rights’ death knell? I’d say it’s a little late for a funeral, myself. Like 221 years too late. As Lysander Spooner pointed out so indefatigably way back in 1870 in “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority,” such arbitrary documents never had any legitimacy from square one. And they didn’t in 1870 either. And they sure as hell don’t know. Who ever willingly and explicitly consented to them? And after all, as Spooner further pointed out: “The Constitution has either given us the government we have, or has been powerless to prevent it.”
So let’s further dissect some key portions of Miller’s text: “Americans in general have not noticed Washington’s increasing isolation from the people who they govern. They have said nothing when our leaders have enacted laws from which they have exempted themselves, and no one paid head [sic] when presidents have signed executive order after executive order, consolidating power within centralized bureaucracies.”
I hate to sound trite in reaction to Miller’s words, but: What else do you expect? Of course those who are given or who usurp political power are going to work towards their own self-interests and not those of you or I. They share a lot more in common with each other than “We the People” after all. There is no amount of voting, or letter-writing, or outrage that’s going to change that. It’s the inherent nature of the system of government itself. And as long as people continue to consider themselves, in relation to the political class “the people who they govern,” and the politicians “leaders,” this backwards, self-destructive pattern will continue unabated.
More: “In essence, The [sic] Bill of Rights, which makes up the first ten amendments of what was our Constitution, has died. Do you still have the right to bear arms? What about your speedy trial, your right to council, your freedom of speech? These rights were given to Americans by the founding fathers and ratified on December 15, 1791, and were in good working order until December 31, 2011.”
Wow. A lot to correct here. The provisions of the Bill of Rights were not “given” to Americans. The “founding fathers,” such as they were, meant those “amendments” to be a declaration of the natural rights all men (at the time) before anyone even gets to the question of creating any government . . . which they were then either so foolish or so malicious so as to do. The fact that some of these things are now still partially intact has very little if anything to do with what kinds of laws are on the books or not, or what kind of politicians are in office or not. It has a whole lot more to do with tradition. Enough people are used to owning guns and speaking their mind that they would significantly balk at anything changing dramatically in either of these arenas. Consequently, bureaucrats chip away at the edges of these things, but otherwise leave them be. People are also used to filing and paying income tax – and be damned what the laws say or don’t say about it. They are long accustomed to being threatened with numerous unpleasant things if they don’t comply, hence, they do it. What words on pieces of government paper have to say about these matters is of little consequence. It’s the tradition that sticks, the conditioning, be it positive or negative. It’s the way the world works. In fact, it’s the prime reason why any government continues to exist at all. People are accustomed to it. They learn to live with it. They ignore it. Life goes on. Ho-hum. But the part about “good working order”? Later in his essay, Miller further states: “If the nation rises as one, it may not be too late to amend our Constitution. This Constitution had a 220-year track record that was flawless.”
Well, aside from the fact that it has never been “our Constitution,” I’d love to see just how “amending” it is going to somehow magically reverse or change anything, given the facts I’ve already illustrated. And while it’s none of my business where Mr. Miller has spent most of his life, I’m wondering if it might not have been a deep cave, Antarctica, or the dark side of the moon. The Constitution has been anything but “flawless.” It has been violated, twisted, trampled on, misquoted, misused, abused, ignored, and generally rendered of not much more use than a Popeye comic strip since just about day one. Try holding up a copy of the Constitution or Bill of Rights when the cops are smashing down your door one fine day and see how much good it does you. Try raising it in a government court and listen to the district attorney snicker while the judge either smirks at you or screams bloody murder and threatens to hold you in contempt. Do you honestly think any amount of “reform” is ever going to stop or change that? Do you really?
A couple of other segments: “We had the best civil government devised by man.” Which is to say that no government is ever a good or helpful thing, as demonstrated aptly by the fact that Miller even felt compelled to write his piece to begin with. No government has any legitimate right to exist. This is because no one has any legitimate right to control the life, liberty or property of another. Ever. End of story.
And finally: “A government of the people, for the people and by the people can only be in force if the people know what they are doing.” And since, once again, history has shown that there exist precisely no such hypothetical people – nor are any likely to be born anytime soon – this too demonstrates that government itself, in any form, is completely illegitimate. If I need “force” to defend myself, I’ll use it. But I sure can’t use and don’t want it when it’s directed at me.
In short, freedom can’t be found on pieces of paper – any more than Federal Reserve Notes possess any actual value. They only buy you things for the time being because the violence of government prevents competition with them. Same goes for government laws. They’re just arbitrary creations backed up by weaponry to compel the compliance of others, whether those others consent or not. Markets rely on volunteers. Governments don’t. And governments rely on nothing but words on paper for any façade of legitimacy they manage to maintain. Would that the paper those words were printed on was just a bit softer – then it might actually serve a functional purpose.