Column by Paul Hein.

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If I correctly remember my high school Latin, the word “jurisdiction” is from two Latin words, “dicere,” to say, and “juris,” of the law. So if you have jurisdiction, you can “speak” the law. What you say is the law. A synonym for jurisdiction is “authority,” referring to a creator, an author. What you create, or authorize, is the law, which you announce and promulgate.

Of course, being able to create and announce the law amounts to nothing unless you have the power to enforce it, so that “power” is another synonym for “jurisdiction.”

The concepts of jurisdiction, of authority, of power, form the very root, the essence, of government, for what is government but a group of men who claim that they have jurisdiction over everyone else. They will tell us what the law--i.e., their will--is, meaning what we must do, or not do. They alone, so they say, have this authority, this power.

The obvious question is: How did they get this power, which the rest of us lack? After all, I cannot compel my neighbors to support the schools I prefer, but government--the rulers--can. I cannot forbid my neighbors from buying liquor on Sunday, or smoking in the airport, but the rulers do it routinely. Why, of course! They have jurisdiction!

It does not require exhaustive research to discover the source of this power. It is self-bestowed! They have the authority because they gave it to themselves. To be sure, they can argue that it is theirs because they were elected to the seats of power which they now occupy. But those who created those seats in the first place did so for the purpose of bestowing power upon those who would subsequently occupy them. This far precedes the Founding Fathers, of course. Governments have plagued men for millennia. Indeed, this may be the prime reason governments are allowed to exist: countless generations have been raised to believe that certain people have the power to control their lives and property, and having grown up with this assumption, they’ve never given the matter any thought.

What is absolutely astounding is that these “authorities,” upon taking office, swore an oath stating that they derive their power from the governed, who are the source of political power, and who delegate power to their rulers. So an absurd contradiction exists: the rulers have derived their power from those lacking power, who have, in other words, delegated an authority which they do not have!

The only way this situation could exist in a rational word is if, as Thomas Jefferson declared, the power of the rulers hangs upon the consent of the governed. If, believing that the protection of the rulers is necessary, the ruled consent to the authority of the rulers, all is well, and the ruled must accept the rules of the rulers. This accounts for the repeated assertions by the rulers that their taxation, for example, is based upon “voluntary compliance.” How could it be otherwise? If your property is demanded, without your consent, by those claiming the power to punish you for withholding it (a power, incidentally, which they have sworn was delegated by you!) how are those demanding it any different from ordinary thieves? The situation becomes even more preposterous when you realize that, by law, as well as by common sense, the government has no duty to protect you at all. For one thing, how could they protect your right to your property if they claimed a greater right to it than your own? Mustn’t every government do the same?

An inevitable question: If legitimate government is based upon the consent of the governed, what about those who do NOT consent? The answer, so far as I have been able to tell, is that those who do not consent will be compelled to consent, or face dire consequences. So much for the land of the free!

Government has existed this long because, in the beginning it was tolerable and perhaps even desirable. But today it is neither. It is the king, unclothed, but not perceived by a population blinded by generations of acceptance and indoctrination. What is required is the little boy who sees what is there, not what he’s been conditioned to believe. There are 318 million people living in the United States. They are ruled from Washington by .00014% of that number: Congress, the President, and Supreme Court. Of course, there are tens of thousands of bureaucrats doing Uncle Sam’s work, but they wouldn’t exist but from the .00014% who hire and direct them.

It makes you wonder what would happen if the 318 million were to simply ignore, or laugh at, the “jurisdiction” of the .00014%!

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Paul Hein's picture
Columns on STR: 150


Samarami's picture

Good essay and good topic, Paul.

Probably the very best 1 minute treatise on "jurisdiction" is encapsulated in this video that everyone has seen at least once: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWyCCJ6B2WE

There are two ways one might acquire "jurisdiction" over another: submission, and might. Some of us will argue over "might-makes-right", but the very act of bickering about it implies to me that they have already in their mind submitted to "jurisdiction" by psychopaths acting under the guise of "authority" -- no force of arms necessary.

I often present the only legitimate jurisdiction: the human family. All other jurisdiction emanates from coercive interlopers. Jurisdiction of violence or threats thereof. Newborn infants are totally under control ("jurisdiction") of Mom and Dad. They would not survive without it. Aging parents often accept jurisdiction from adult sons and daughters in those sunset years. Jurisdiction of love.


Paul's picture

"Some of us will argue over "might-makes-right", but the very act of bickering about it implies to me that they have already in their mind submitted..."

You mean me, Sam? :-)

We can make two statements:
1) Might should not make right.
2) Might actually does make right (where "right" is used in the sense of ability, not legitimacy).

Both of these could be true at the same time. The first is "ought", the second "is".

The stronger is always able to make the weaker conform to his wishes, and usually does so. I guess the point is to not be weak.

Samarami's picture

You're being facetious, I know. And no, I was not pointing out personalities, especially you. I forget the last time any of us argued over "might-makes-right". You and I are fairly well in agreement with the "right" of that phrase ("rights" controversy) that has caused so much angst amongst anarchist potentates.

But my point (not worded the best) was that "jurisdiction" can only exist through submission and/or force of arms (might). Often there is a combination of the two -- or one follows the other -- as in Stockholm syndrome. I believe Stockholm syndrome, or capture bonding, is the condition among the masses at an extremely high percentage (90% to 95%???) that has given rise to and sustains each and every nation or country that has ever come into being and that now blankets the earth. The superstition that always keeps a "nation" in place is called "jurisdiction". Murry Rothbard in "Anatomy of the State" outlined it boldly.

That the only legitimate governing unit is the family unit.

Parents, in anarchist setting, have jurisdiction over newborns (might, if you will) until adulthood, or "age of consent" (variable -- can only be legitimately determined by joint resolution between parent and child or, in some situations "either/or" -- for instance if the kid gets big enough either to run away or to whip the old man's butt :-[ and take over the farm, throwing her parents out into the cold). Later, the child might assume "jurisdiction" over aging and feeble parents. Sam

Thunderbolt's picture