Government Belief Is Suicide

Column by Alex R. Knight III.

Exclusive to STR

During my sojourn as an undergraduate student, I had the pleasure of studying under the tutelage of a fine poet. Ben was a likeable enough guy: Literary, musical, humorous, and easy to work with. My study project title that semester was The Craft of Poetry, and so I read and wrote lots of both, which was also agreeable enough.

But during our in-class discussions at weekend residencies, the topic would often turn to politics and philosophy, and it was then I learned that Ben was a socialist. And an ardent one. Beginning around 2004, he had been on the electoral ballot in Vermont a number of times, variously as a candidate for U.S. Senate, state senate, and governor, on either a socialist or Liberty Union (what difference?) ticket.

Predictably, this led to a lot of sparring. The situation was in no way aided by the fact that an absolutely execrable individual, who shall remain nameless here, was also a student in that class, and whose Marxist views were perhaps even more pronounced – if such a thing were even possible – than Ben’s.

It was a volatile time. My drinking was certainly no assistance in this respect, either. I had a meltdown of sorts when the unmentionable person above finally succeeded in pissing me off past the boiling point. Did I say meltdown? A verbal explosion was more like it. This was in class, mind you, and while it heralded a life-long bitter animus against an absolutely sworn enemy in Mr. Antagonism – about which I still and never will make any apologies whatsoever -- Ben and I somehow managed to stay on good terms. For a while.

After that semester ended, our discussion continued on Facebook. I walked him through the Non-Aggression Principle and Voluntaryism – how it had applied, even in the aforementioned case of a loud and venomous temporary lack of self-control, since there was no physical violence – non-defensive or otherwise. We talked about voluntary interaction versus government coercion. In all cases, though he conceded frequently that I’d made a good case, he continued to extol social democracy and Marxian economics as the highest of virtues.

Looking back, I probably should’ve recognized Ben’s cognitive dissonance for what it was, and let it go at that. He also had a fair degree of inherited prejudice as well: Reputedly, a grandmother of his, who’d worked for the U.S. Postal Service during the McCarthy era, had been investigated for her own socialist views, and possible ties to communist organizations. But alcoholics can become both abundantly self-righteous and obsessive at times, and I had in any case not yet come to this conclusion. So I pushed things. I pushed for an admission from him as to the untenable and inconsistent nature of his statist socialist views. And as a result, instead, Ben eventually blocked me from his Facebook profile. And that was pretty much that.

Until I recently came across this webpage. Please give it a good read before you return here.

Leftists of all stripes are famously enamored of bashing corporations and “corporatocracy,” and with some great measure of justification. Where they fail grossly in connecting the dots is to not heap equal or greater blame on government – since of course corporations are nothing but government constructs, and would not even exist as such otherwise. Just as any “state” is a complete legal fiction, so too are corporations. Observe that the Latin etymological root corpus means “of the body,” and that to “incorporate” something – like a “town,” “city,” “state,” or other fictitious entity – is to attempt or purport to make it corporeal – to allegedly give tangible substance to that which had none such beforehand.

VSAC (Vermont Student Assistance Corporation) is just such an entity – a Vermont government construct, courtesy of the legislature. It does not even pretend to be a private entity, any more than does or can the aforementioned U.S. Postal Service. And it is correspondingly quite vicious, as Ben’s webpage (made possible by at least quasi-free market activity, not socialism, incidentally) makes perfectly clear. Private lending institutions must first seek recourse through judicial channels before wages can be seized, liens imposed, etc. These are, at present, admittedly government monopolies, but their intervention must at least first be solicited when two private parties are at dispute. In the case of a government monstrosity like VSAC, the judiciary powers, it would appear, are already presumed to a large degree – similar to the way the IRS, or other government money-collecting schemes operate with near-total impunity.

Ben long ago bought into the idea that government – so long as it is a democratically elected one – is a good and benign idea. That it can protect, safeguard, provide for, and “empower” those under its yoke. That while there may be abuses, these are largely because the “right people” have not been elected, and socialist goals have not been advanced with sufficient zealotry to make the mechanisms of government function the way they should.

And now, to be perfectly blunt about it, this sad rhetoric has come to bite him in the ass. Hard. The devil is literally demanding his paycheck, and will not stop aggressing until he has received it, and women and children be damned.

There are those, I realize, who, Darwinistically, feel that this is but a turn of natural justice – that Ben is reaping what he has sown. I can’t argue with that. And if I were entirely of the same cynical and gloating mindset I was back when I drank, I might make this a most enthusiastic opportunity for I Told You So.

But that’s not me anymore. At least, not most of the time, when my characteristically alcoholic personality isn’t busy asserting itself. I have much inner work to do, and am not about to go casting stones I would not want hurled at me.

But I feel no shame in being sad over the folly of an otherwise good man whose diamond-hard belief in government has now led him to a place where he would possibly rather die than continue living. Alcoholism has brought me to the same place, many, many times. Different diseases, same results.

Am I a good man? I suppose that’s debatable, and up to others to decide in any case.

I can say that I hope that Ben Mitchell does not choose to go through with killing himself.

But that might require him to also change some beliefs.

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 111

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales, including Tales from Dark 7.  He has also written and published poetry; non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues; and is former Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.  In 1998, he was awarded Activist of the Year for that organization.  He now lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University, and looks forward to living in a governmentless society of liberty.

Comments

Southern Wolf's picture

A very good essay. Government and everything it creates is a legal fiction intended to make it real and tangible. And the realer and more tangible it and it's creations become the more freedom minded people wish it were merely a fiction. That brings me to a sentence or two I must disagree with:

"There are those, I realize, who, Darwinistically, feel that this is but a turn of natural justice – that Ben is reaping what he has sown. I can’t argue with that."

I can. As pointed out here and here, the Nazis drew heavily on Darwin's ideas and we all know the Nazi government was quite real and tangible. Darwin is at least as culpable as any socialist or Marxist for the state of things today. And try to persuade one of those that Darwin's ideas are wrong. Hopeless.

Jim Davies's picture

Southern Wolf, it seems to me you're giving Darwin an undeservedly bad rap.
 
Brilliantly, Darwin uncovered the fact that mutants survive if suited to their environment as well as or better than their parents, otherwise not. That has been how all life has progressed.
 
No denying it, there is cruelty in that process. That cruelty is, as Jacques Monod observed, hard indeed to reconcile with the notion of a benevolent creator. Darwin saw that too, and shrank from it; he hesitated to publish his findings for a couple of decades, because he believed in a creator and knew his findings would conflict with that.  It's a great tribute to his intellectual integrity that he did so anyway.
 
The Nazis may have claimed some legitimacy for their repugnant ideas on race, from Darwin's discovery - by grossly extrapolating it. That does not reflect at all on Darwin, who died seven years before Hitler was born; nor on the undeniable fact that if a new variant is less able to feed, or more vulnerable to predators, than others competing with him then his kind will die off.
 
The truly wonderful thing about this random and cruel process is, to me, that it has produced a species eager both to understand the universe and to practice kindness.  The Nazis were an anomaly, ill suited to survive in the human environment, and in fact they did not survive.
 

Jim Davies's picture

Alex, since you know Ben you might be able to persuade him to find a better solution than suicide.
 
It's true enough that he sowed the wind and is reaping the whirlwind, but if this government savagery has left him willing to reconsider his faith in it, surely there is a way to escape.
 
He says that his SS check will be garnished, but this law says it cannot. We know that government courts can and do re-write laws any time they see fit, but that wording is pretty strong and would at least give him some basis on which to fight.
 
Then there is the possibility of emigration. He's a teacher, and speaks English (well, American...) so his services will be in demand in many parts of the world. Can VSAC pursue him to the ends of the Earth? - probably, but again it would give him a deal of breathing space.

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Jim:  Unfortunately, I've not been in contact with Ben for quite some time, as indicated.  I don't know what he would think about this essay, either.  Your advice might be of some assist, but it would be awkward for me to be the one to pass it along, in any case, given his prior desire to terminate communication with me.

Jim Davies's picture

Well... he says he expects to die five weeks from now.
 
Perhaps he'd not welcome a told-you-so letter from an old friend with whom he had a falling-out, but would that really be worse than dying of starvation?
 
I'll check his web site again, for I think I saw a feedback link. Might send him something myself too.

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Addendum:  I note from Ben's webpage that he may have now had second thoughts, or otherwise made progress in resolving his dilemma.  Time will tell, I suppose. 

Paul's picture

There is only so far that one can go with persuasion. I have discovered that as well; quite a few of my past contacts have fallen out over the fact that they did not believe as I did, or vice versa. And these are all honest disagreements over firmly held basic beliefs. That's not to say I think I am wrong about these things, or that they are right about them; but where can one go from there?

It's why I keep getting back to Panarchy. Let people believe as they want to believe, and let personal experience be their teacher. Maybe they will learn, maybe not. If anarchy or agorism or voluntaryism are eventually to prevail, it will be mostly through personal experience, and (for the most part) not through persuasion. Although I will qualify that, in saying that persuasion is valuable during those rare "teachable moments" that happen every now and then; but one has to be even then pretty reticent about it. People generally shy off from the hard sale.

BTW it is very wise to refrain from "I told you so" impulses.