Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
My wife likes to watch political discussions on TV, and from time to time, for as long as I can stand it, I’ll join her.
I am invariably puzzled and saddened by the vehemence exhibited by some of the commentators. Voices are raised, speakers are interrupted, and tempers flare. Why? These are all people with, I assume, some level of education and sophistication. Yet they are virtually screaming at one another about this candidate’s claims, or that politician’s policies. The question I would propose to them is simple: How can you take it seriously?
These pundits, and, for that matter, most people, seem virtually obsessed with the minutiae, while ignoring the elephant in the room. Arguments rage about the country of Obama’s birth, and its significance. But overlooked is the far more important question: Do we need a president at all? Or, for that matter, a Congress? Or government courts?
Why is it so difficult for people to see that the very nature of government is problematic? If asked what purpose it serves, they will reply that it is there to protect our rights, to guard our freedoms, to represent us via our elected Congresspersons. But surely the right to private property is one of the most basic and fundamental of rights, yet the people calling themselves “government” claim a greater right to our property than our own! No other group can force us to give them money in return for “services” which we may or may not want.
Does government keep us free? Freedom is a negative concept. If we are “free,” it means we are not subject to something or someone. To be “free” is to be free FROM something. What if I want to be free from those officious busybodies in Washington, or the state capitol? Will they protect my right to be free from THEM?
Does my “representative” know who I am, or what I want? If I am a free man, can someone represent me without my consent? The situation becomes even more grotesque in light of the fact that I didn’t vote for my “representative.” We’re also assured that government is based upon the consent of the governed. When did we consent? What if we don’t want to consent, or be governed? Will our rulers let us alone if we withdraw any consent they think we’ve given? The very concept of government is based upon wishful thinking, soothing platitudes, or downright lies. But there are “laws,” aren’t there, and mustn’t we obey them?
The law, we discover, is “the written will of the legislature,” i.e., whatever the people in those domed buildings want, so long, I guess, as they write it down according to procedures of their devising. Well, so what? Let them compile a wish list as long as my arm, and write down every word. What has it to do with me? They claim, with all earnestness and apparent sincerity, that I am subject to them because “it’s the law.” But the law, as we’ve seen, is simply what they want, written down. These rulers may be able to quote their laws--or maybe not--but they cannot answer how it is that they’ve gained authority over us by writing down their wishes. That, apparently, is a given. Just as in the days of overt slavery, when it was believed that certain unfortunate people were, by their very nature, destined to be slaves, so we seem to be destined to be “citizens” of the area that the rulers dominate. (And like those earlier slaves, we accept it!) If you don’t like it--move! Of course, they may not allow you to move, but even if you do, you’ll find yourself in another place with new and different rulers and rules. Do “frying pan” and “fire” come to mind? Or maybe “frying pan” and “different frying pan.”
Of course, rulers will, if pushed, resort to violence to compel our acceptance of their wishes, although they may be loath to admit it. But even this is only possible because this “right” of theirs to use violence against us is accepted. Although the ruled vastly outnumber the rulers, in any physical confrontation, the superior arms of the rulers would prevail. Resisting them by force would be ineffective, at best, suicidal at worst. But I often wonder why people, by the hundreds of thousands, don’t simply ignore them. It’s not necessary, and certainly not prudent, to challenge them to a fight. Rather, they could be asked, in a most friendly and non-confrontational way, “How did you, a stranger, gain authority over me? Have I ever agreed to be subject to you? Show me evidence of my acceptance of your sovereignty over me, and I’ll obey.” The rulers are usually windbags, but I think they’d be at a loss for words if confronted with simple questions that go to the heart of their demands, rather than requests for statutes or regulations. If there are men willing to have strangers exert greater control over their lives than they have themselves, so be it. Those referring to themselves as “government” will welcome them with open arms. But what of the rest of us?
The fundamental political question is why do people obey a government. The answer is that they tend to enslave themselves, to let themselves be governed by tyrants. Freedom from servitude comes not from violent action, but from the refusal to serve. Tyrants fall when the people withdraw their support. ~ Etienne De La Boetie, 1552