Here and There: Everywhere

Column by Paul Hein.

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Jurisdiction! What a wonderful word! It’s easy to see why it is used so often by lawyers and judges; its meanings allow such broad interpretation--and application.

For instance: my dictionary gives this as its first definition: “the power, right, or authority to interpret and apply the law.” The words “power,” “right,” “interpret,” and “apply” jump out. Who has that power? How did he/she/they get it? If the law permits of interpretation, isn’t it vague, and therefore null and void? Can it be applied, or not, by the one with the “power” and “right”? A right is a status granted by nature, not bestowed by some human dispensation. Are there people born with the right to interpret and apply the law? If someone has a right to apply the law, doesn’t that suggest a corresponding obligation to respect that right? Is it selective in application?

A second definition: “the authority of a sovereign power to govern or legislate.” Surely the power (that word again!) to govern is inherent in the concept of sovereignty. How does one become sovereign? Does becoming a public servant bestow sovereignty upon you? What a twist: a sovereign servant!

A third definition is particularly interesting: “the limits or territory within which authority may be exercised.” Now we have the involvement of geography. There is a line on the earth’s surface which divides Missouri from Nebraska. The line is invisible, but its presence is nonetheless unquestioned, and its importance undenied. If I, for example, step across that line, the “authority” and “power” which may be exercised over me by various strangers changes from a gang of Missourians to a gang of Nebraskans. What I could not do in Missouri may be allowed to me in Nebraska, or perhaps it’s the other way around: I can’t do in Nebraska what I could do in Missouri. The assorted strangers who have “jurisdiction” over me take very seriously these invisible lines, and go to great lengths to observe them. If I am standing with one foot in state A and the other in state B while shooting someone, (who collapses onto the very border!) there might arise a question of jurisdiction. It may be a question easily settled, but the very fact that it might arise means that geographical location is an important aspect of jurisdiction.

I recall an episode of “The Honeymooners” in which Ralph berates his long-suffering wife Alice, claiming, “I’m the boss; you’re nothing.” Alice replies: “Big deal: boss over nothing.” There’s no use having power, authority, sovereignty--i.e., jurisdiction, over nothing. Government, which via its various agencies claims jurisdiction over all of us within its territorial limits, piously affirms that it governs by consent of the governed. That assent is assumed, of course. The Rulers who give little significance to an unwritten contract attach life and death significance to an assumption of consent, and thereby, their jurisdiction over us. Just think: If you set out to walk across this vast country, every single step you took would place you within the imaginary boundaries of some group claiming dominion over you, based upon the geographic coincidence of your presence there. English author Hilaire Belloc wrote, in 1931, that the modern state “acts as though it had complete, unlimited, and eternal rights over the soul of man.” It makes the expression “land of the free” sound rather hollow. Free? Where? The following scenario comes to mind.

Ruler: You must obey the laws of Missouri, sir.
Person: Why?
R: Because you are within the State of Missouri, and Missouri law applies.
P: In other words, if I’m within a given territory, I’m subject to its rules, etc.?
R: Exactly.
P: We are, at this moment, within the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Are you subject to the Archbishop?
R: We’re not talking about that.
P: We’re within the Missouri Synod. Do accept the authority of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod?
R: Flippancy is hardly appropriate here.
P: I’m standing. Do you see the circle around my feet?
R: What are you talking about? Of course not.
P: That circular line, enclosing my personal territory, is as real as the one which delineates “Missouri.”
R: You are trying my patience, sir!
P: Within that line I am sovereign, sir, not you! My zone of sovereignty is as real as yours, I assure you. I no more recognize your authority within my boundaries than you recognize that of Uganda, or Illinois, within yours. I, not you, have jurisdiction in my zone of sovereignty, and within that zone, I am subject to no one save my God, my family, and myself. Do you expect me to believe that you have greater jurisdiction over my person than I do?
R: I am going to hold you over for psychiatric examination.

In the final analysis, jurisdiction attaches itself to the one with the largest gun.

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Paul Hein's picture
Columns on STR: 150


Persona non grata's picture

By casting a vote people grant consent to be governed by the state (loss of personal sovereignty).

When enough people have had their narrow-mindedness and bubbles of cognative dissonance burst via contrary events  perhaps they will wisen-up and leverage the power of non-cooperation, non-compliance and peaceful resistance while revoking their consent to be governed by the tyranny of the state.

Jim Davies's picture

PNG, I wonder if you might expand on that.
Paul's scenario looks rather realistic to me. The victim did with-hold cooperation and bravely asserted his right to govern himself, and peacefully withdrew his consent to be governed. What it earned him was some free accommodation in a nut house, and I dare say he was a bit lucky; it could have been a lot worse. If for example he had declined that offer, it would have been mere moments before his head would have resembled Swiss cheese.
There is (IMO) certainly a solution to this, but it looks to me as if peaceful noncompliance is not even on the table, as a credible one. So spell out, will you, how you see it succeeding?  With numbers and dates?

Suverans2's picture

Actually, Persona non grata, I believe that it is quite the opposite. It is only consenting members of the political association, i.e. those "who have [already] submitted themselves to the dominion of a government for the promotion of their general welfare and the protection of their individual as well as collective rights", who even possess the political right to vote.

Paul's picture

"By casting a vote people grant consent to be governed by the state (loss of personal sovereignty)."

Ah, that doesn't sound quite right to me.

There is this notion called "informed consent". If those in power explained to a person that by voting he gives consent to those in power to rule him, and if he actually had a choice to not be ruled by them by not voting, only then would your statement be true. But nobody ever makes such an explanation, with good reason - it's not so. He's going to be ruled whether he votes or not.

I think it would be more accurate to say that those in power use the fact of voting as an excuse to rule. They definitely prefer having the excuse because it helps keep the slaves in line (via self-enslavement), but they are going to rule whether they have that excuse or not.

The whole point of power is that consent is not necessary. Otherwise, it wouldn't be power.

Suverans2's picture

TAC'IT, a. [Fr tacite ; L. tacitus, from taceo, to be silent, that is, to stop, or to close. See Tack.] Silent; implied, but not expressed. Tacit consent is consent by silence, or not interposing an objection. So we say, a tacit agreement or covenant of men to live under a particular government, when no objection or opposition is made; a tacit surrender of a part of our natural rights; a tacit reproach, &c. ~ Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language


Suverans2's picture

Implied consent. That manifested by signs, actions, or facts, or by inaction or silence, which raise a presumption or inference that the consent has been given. An inference arising from a course of conduct or relationship between the parties, in which there is mutual acquiescence or a lack of objection or a lack of objection under circumstances signifying assent. ~ Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition (c.1990), page 305

"What you do speaks so loud, that I cannot hear what you say." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

You know, "actions" like applying for permission slips, like permits and licenses, using government ID's, using taxpayer identification numbers to acquire member-only benefits/privileges, et cetera.

Paul's picture

"What you do speaks so loud, that I cannot hear what you say." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Looks like Ralph was never robbed at gunpoint. Otherwise people would be forced to come to the conclusion that he wanted to hand his wallet over, despite all verbal protests to the contrary.

"Implied consent" is a notion much beloved by the state. In fact it appears the state cannot exist without it. I don't believe in implied consent, any more than I believe in rights. There is only either explicit consent, or no consent.

Suverans2's picture

Yes, Paul, many of us know that you don't "believe in rights", which means that you don't believe in self-ownership, because, as has been pointed out here a hundred times, (it feels), a right is a "just claim" to something, i.e. rightful ownership of some thing, or things, both tangible and intangible; things like your life, liberty and justly acquired property, for example.

As to your not believing in "tacit consent" and "implied consent", let's test that belief.

Have you ever had sex with a woman, without her "explicit consent", Paul? Have you always STOPPED right in the middle of foreplay, and said, "Wait!! I need your "explicit consent" before we can go any further". Or, did you believe you had her "tacit consent", and/or "implied consent", when you put your tongue down her throat and your hand down her pants, all she did was breathe hard, groan, and whisper softly, "Don't. Stop. Don't. Stop.", but actually did nothing to stop you? Be honest, now. ;)

My guess is that you presumed you had her "tacit", and/or "implied", consent, and went, lickety split, to your intended goal. lol

"What she did, or didn't do, spoke so loud, that you couldn't hear what she said."

Of course, there is the possibility that at least one of them fought you and screamed, "STOP!!", but you said, "I don't believe that you have the right to stop me, if you don't have the power to stop me. Might makes right, bitch!"

Without the natural rights to life, liberty and property, there can be no such thing as murder, slavery, and robbery. As one of my favorite mentors, Frédéric Bastiat, aptly put it, "Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place. ... Each of us has a natural defend his person, his liberty, and his property."

Suverans2's picture

"What you do speaks so loud, that I cannot hear what you say." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Looks like Ralph was never robbed at gunpoint. Otherwise people would be forced to come to the conclusion that he wanted to hand his wallet over, despite all verbal protests to the contrary.

    That's just plain ludicrous, Paul, and I believe that you are rational and coherent enough to see how ridiculous that is. No further comment necessary.