Government Propaganda

The Concord, New Hampshire police department requested an armored vehicle to deal with “domestic terrorist” threats. Whom are these domestic terrorists? The libertarian ‘Free Staters‘! Any government intent on preserving its power will inevitably engage in a propaganda effort determined to label any group that opposes its ever expansive power as a threat; in the 21st century, this means slandering these groups as terrorists. It’s especially ironic when the groups being labeled as potential terrorists are libertarians whose central axiom is the non-aggression principle which condemns the use of aggressive force!

The application reads:

The State of New Hampshire’s experience with terrorism slants primarily towards the domestic type. We are fortunate that our State has not been victimized from a mass casualty event from an international terrorism strike however on the domestic front, the threat is real and here. Groups such as the Sovereign Citizens, Free Staters and Occupy New Hampshire are active and present daily challenges. Outside of officially organized groups, several homegrown clusters that are anti-government and pose problems for law enforcement agencies.

It is not even propaganda to state that New Hampshire’s experience with terrorism has been of the domestic type, it is a downright lie. New Hampshire has never, and will likely never, experience a terrorist attack, so the thought that they have “experience” with domestic terrorism is a falsehood. They are one of fifteen states who has not convicted a single individual since 9/11. They are also “one of 15 states and territories that the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. intelligence agencies assess as having no specific foreign or domestic terrorism threat…and is one of 18 states that have no metropolitan area that has been designated by the federal government as “high-threat, high-density” with regard to acts of terrorism.”

I’m sure they’ve actively been engaging in surveillance of groups they believe to be terrorist threats, which in all seriousness they claim libertarian groups to be, but this in no way amounts to any “experience” with terrorism. If this amounts to experience, I can watch my neighbor cut his lawn and claim to have experience with terrorism too, since based on his clear history of violence (toward grass) I think he could be a potential terrorist.

This scheme isn’t in any way original. Not too long ago, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point published a report concluding that today’s anti-federalist groups were potential terrorist groups. It is a typical fear-mongering tactic by which the government finds any excuse it can to protect its own neck (figuratively) and scare everyone into a police state. Governments act on the commonly-held democratic viewpoint that “we are the government.” They rely on us to believe that a threat to the government is a threat to the citizenry; that these individuals are treasonous or are traitors (see Edward Snowden). In reality, there is a sharp disconnect between our own security and the security of government power which they will never acknowledge and are deathly afraid we will find out. This is why anytime someone advocates cutting spending anywhere, they malign these views as harmful and dangerous (see Christ Christie). This trend is most pronounced in military spending, but happens across the board.

 Propaganda campaigns have always been determined to paint an antagonistic picture of those “outsiders” who either don’t conform to the typical government ideal of a servile citizenry or are physically different. Whether it’s Nazi propaganda through WWII of the Jewish “threat,” American xenophobia, or racism, the campaigns rely on ignorance or just plain stupidity in order for the message to engross the masses. Don’t be so naive and fall prey to these delusions.

On the Question of Scarcity

I recently listened to the Robert Wenzel and Stephan Kinsella Youtube debate on intellectual property and it was interesting to say the least. A lot of it was laughable in their arguing back and forth and Bob Wenzel’s high pitched yelling, but it did get interesting at the 1 hour mark, when they started talking about scarcity.

When arguing over whether an idea was scarce or not, Wenzel brought up this scenario: suppose you have a formula which only you know, and you write it down on a piece of paper and sell that piece of paper (the formula) on the condition that the formula doesn’t get sold or otherwise divulged to any third party. The buyer then proceeds to violate that contract and sell the formula to someone else. Wenzel then says doesn’t the fact that he is the only person privy to this formula and the only two places the formula occurs are on the sheet of paper and in his head mean that the formula is scarce? This is an important example that demonstrates the essential difference between a layman’s conception of scarcity versus the economic conception of scarcity.

From a layman’s perspective, it does indeed sound as if the formula is scarce; there are only two places in which it exists. This means that no one else has the information and is therefore incapable of acting on it. Since not everyone is in possession of this formula, it is scarce, in this view. Wenzel is right that the formula is scarce in the sense that no one else possesses the knowledge of the formula.

However, Wenzel ignores the insight that the formula is not rivalrous. Wenzel brings up that when person A sells the formula to B who illegally sells it to C, it now creates a ‘rivalry’ between A and C. But, he confuses the concept of rivalrousness with rivalry; his use of rivalry here means nothing more than competition. As Kinsella correctly pointed out that because of B’s unlawful divulging of the secret formula, A and C are now competing against each other to attract consumers, but that this doesn’t mean that the good is rivalrous. Rivalrousness means that a good cannot be simultaneously possessed (enjoyed) by 2 individuals at once. Clearly, we can see from the example, that the formula is capable of being possessed by both A and C as well as B all at the same time, and no one individual’s use of the formula even minutely prevents the others from using the formula. C’s use of the formula may affect A’s ability to profit and derive monetary benefit from the formula, however, it does not prevent A from using (consuming) it.

I also think that if we’re discussing intellectual property and regard homesteading as the legitimate means to acquiring property, it’s useful to recognize that homesteading is a rule that depends on scarcity as a given to homesteading unowned resources. I’m sure we could say that someone might have ‘homesteaded’ the air by breathing it in and thus occupying it first, but we don’t apply property rights to it because it fails to meet the qualifying criteria of being scarce which in turn depends on rivalrousness.

Property rights are only useful in a world where resources are not superabundant and there can be conflict over those resources; there cannot be conflict over breathable air (generally), nor can there be conflict over the use of an idea because they are not scarce. The conflict only comes into play when the idea is used to compete with someone else using the same idea; the conflict only occurs over the value attached to the idea viz the ability to profit from it. And Kinsella proved beyond a reasonable doubt in his book Against Intellectual Property we have no right to any “values” attached to an object since these values are subjective and depend on others for any values to be actualized. Just as we have no right to our reputation because a reputation is what others think of you, we have no right to any value in a piece of property, only in its physical integrity.

This concept is difficult to wrap one’s brain around, particularly when we use terms interchangeably and vaguely, such as the way the terms scarce and rivalry were used during the debate. However, with clear thinking and clearly defined terms, the idea becomes much easier to grasp

Is Corrective Democracy Our Saving Grace?

Can We Correct Democracy?, as The Freeman’s Tom W. Bell poses, is one of the most pertinent questions facing modern democratic nations, which I will begrudgingly label the United States. I say begrudgingly because it makes me cringe when i hear the rhetoric that “we are a democracy,” and attaching a stamp of approval on this as if democracy yields desirable results.

Going back to the birth of our nation, our founders (with almost no divergence) expressed their misgivings regarding the inherent deficiencies of a democratic state. They knew, before John Stuart Mill famously expressed it, that there were two kinds of tyranny: tyranny of the magistrate and tyranny of the majorityA democratic system such that a voting majority may grant positive rights (rights which we cannot enjoy unless we force someone else to provide them for us) or take away natural rights because “the people will it” is not a system any righteous lover of liberty would feel safe under.

The mythical quote from “Alexander Tyler”expresses this view aptly when it decrees, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a louse fiscal responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship.” As long as government is able to maintain a monopoly on force and expropriate its people at the barrel of a gun, it doesn’t matter whether a king or a majority are causing the mischief; it still lacks legitimacy so long as the results mean violations of individual rights.

We must also remember that the Constitution did not guarantee a democracy; rather, it guaranteed “a republican form of government,” because, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, democracy is “nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine percent.” It is no more just for a democratic majority to decree that (to use Murray Rothbard’s famous example) all redheads must be put to death than if a totalitarian ruler does the same, and this principle extends down to the minutiae of any individual rights violations.

In light of all this, we must ask: Are these defects of democracy capable of being corrected, or at least subdued, by some process so that each individual will be able to live a free and prosperous life? Tom Bell uses an example involving ice cream to show that under democratic decision-making it is difficult to arrive at a consensus of what action should be taken or, in his example, what flavor of ice cream they should buy, since they can only buy one. However, his example shows that although agreement on what should be done is difficult to achieve, even in small groups, what not to do or what mistakes can be avoided tend to prove easier to achieve unanimity. For example, we can observe that it will be difficult to reach a consensus on what single beverage everyone should drink, but it will be easy to come to a consensus that the single beverage everyone should be drinking is not bleach.

A corrective democracy, which Tom Bell lays out in his article, is one where a law, regulation, or ordinance may be struck down if a majority (or other agreed upon percentage) of voters decide it’s deleterious. This system would offer an added protection to our liberties because if a representative should violate some right the people believe they have and impose an onerous and/or costly law or regulation, they may vote it down. It allows a greater oversight of our government’s activities than simply waiting to “vote them out” of their office, which does not (and likely will not ever) correct the error made by the official.

Particularly concerning federal government, any new law or regulation added to the books becomes nearly impossible to remove and new regulations end up being piled onto it. Robert Higgs discusses this idea in depth in Crisis and Leviathan and shows how government initiates massive amounts of legislation during crises (such as wartime) as temporary measures, yet these measures never end up being temporary. The functioning corrective democracy would be able to alleviate the burden caused by these permanent-temporary measures through the power of the ballot box.

However, the downside of corrective democracy would mean that voters could use the ballot box to strike down measures that were in favor of protecting their freedom and their natural rights. What if, through the corrective process, the people struck down these “good” laws rather than the “bad” ones? Historically, it has been the case that the masses are generally in favor of “free handouts,” of one kind or another, so what is the likelihood that they would eliminate measures that provide benefits to their special interests?

If, Congress today eliminated Social Security, but, through a corrective democratic system, they struck down the law repealing it, wouldn’t we consider this as a hindrance rather than a help? We have seen the historical outcomes of laws or systems which were intended for one use, but ended up being used for other, more nefarious intentions. Our own Constitution is the prime example of intent versus reality. For example, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the government insists the Interstate Commerce Clause means Congress may regulate anything they want, even down to the wheat grown on your own farm for only your own use, because it can roundaboutly “affect” interstate commerce (Wickard v. Filburn).

The question of whether democracy can be corrected is an important one to ask, from a practical standpoint. The ability to eliminate the worst excesses of (democratic) government would be of immense benefit to the general public, and if corrective democracy can do this, I would wholeheartedly support it.

Constitutional Interpretation: Not for the Weak of Mind

This article at AlterNet, claims that the 10th Amendment, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” doesn’t mean that the Federal Government has limited powers. Sounds like someone’s a little confused? I’d day so. It probably doesn’t deserve much of a response, but it’s so wacky I felt compelled to write something.

First, Jada Thacker (who, no surprise, has a doctorate degree in Education, not exactly a Constitutional scholar) says:

The Constitution’s grant of essentially unlimited power springs forth in its opening phrases: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”… If the object of the Constitution were to establish “limited government,” its own Preamble must be considered a misstatement.

Last time I checked, a preamble has no legal weight to it; it only sets out the purpose of the document. Sure, the preamble doesn’t state that the purpose of the document is to establish a limited government; but then, why would it? A limited government, in and of itself, is not an end. A limited government is the means to an end; ends which the preamble delineated. Remember, we do not buy a shovel for the shovel itself; we buy a shovel because we want a hole dug. For the Constitution, the shovel (means) is limited government and the hole (end) is “a more perfect Union”…etc.

Next, Dr. Dolittle, I mean Dr. Thacker, states:

Article I establishes Congress, and Section 8 enumerates its powers…“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States…”No attempt is made here, or at any other place in the Constitution, to define “general Welfare.”

He states further that the Elastic Clause means:

Congress shall have power “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

Thus the type, breadth and scope of federal legislation became unchained. When viewed in light of the ambiguous authorization of the Article’s first clause, the importance of the “necessary and proper” clause truly is astonishing. Taken together, these clauses – restated in the vernacular – flatly announce that “Congress can make any law it feels is necessary to provide for whatever it considers the general welfare of the country.”

But this begs the question: if this clause gives the Federal government unlimited power to make any laws in the general welfare of the people, then why did the Constitution list anything else? Why did the document not just say simply, “Congress shall have the power to make any law benefiting the general welfare of the United States?” Naturally it is because the document set out a government of limited, enumerated powers. Also, the General Welfare clause is declaratory of what purposes Congress may use its taxing powers for. Read Section 8 again with this in mind, and you can see the clear error in thinking. “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to…provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” In this light, it is a delineation of the taxing power, not a sweeping grant of power. The General Welfare clause was seen as a limit on the taxing power. If you want to gain a clear understanding of the Original Meaning of the Necessary and Proper Clause, as well as the General Welfare Clause, this paper by Randy Barnett should lay any question about its meaning to rest:

According to Madison, Congress could use taxes to provide for the common defense and general welfare only when exercising the other powers that were enumerated in Article I. The taxing power could not be used to pursue any end that might be thought conducive to the common defense or the general welfare. Why not? “To understand these terms in any sense, that would justify the power in question, would give to Congress an unlimited power; would render nugatory the enumeration of particular powers; would supersede all the powers reserved to the State Governments.”

The Necessary and Proper Clause Dr. Evil completely misinterprets. The Necessary and Proper Clause specifically limits itself to those “foregoing Powers,” ie. specifically enumerated. It then proceeds to list the powers Congress may exercise. It is blundering drivel to assert that these two powers together render the whole enumeration of powers null. Again, why go through the trouble of enumerating all the powers of Congress if they are infinite and indefinite?

Dr. House next says that:

“Limited government” advocates are fond of cherry-picking quotes from The Federalist Papers to lend their argument credibility, but an adverse collection of essays called the Anti-federalist Papers unsurprisingly never gets a glance.

The point of picking quotes from The Federalist Papers rather than the Anti-federalist Papers is because the writers of The Federalist Papers were intent on explaining to the American people exactly what the Constitution’s provisions meant.

The Anti-federalist Papers is a collection of writings from those people who opposed the Constitution based on how they thought certain provisions could be misconstrued, or how the government was going to lead to monarchy, aristocracy, etc. Although the Anti-federalist papers proved to be strangely prophetic (and I would have certainly agreed with them if I was alive contemporaneously), the Anti-federalist papers were not what the provisions were intended to be. If we want to actually understand the provisions of the Constitution we need to go back and investigate the debates on the Constitution. The Anti-federalist papers, although great for understanding the conflict between the Federalists and Anti-federalists, are not a relevant source for understanding the Constitution’s meaning. The choice between choosing between the two sources is a choice between what the Constitution means versus what the Constitution’s provisions could be (and in many senses were) construed to mean.

The author continues:

The Tenth does not say that important powers remain to be delegated to the United States. It merely says that powers “not [yet] delegated” are “reserved” to the states or the people. This sounds like a terrific idea – until we realize, of course, that all the important powers had already been delegated in 1787, four years before the Tenth Amendment was ratified.

As we have seen, the first and last clauses of Article I, Section 8 made the Tenth Amendment a lame-duck measure even as James Madison composed its words in 1791 – and so it remains today. The sweeping powers “to make all laws necessary and proper” in order to “provide for the general welfare,” had already been bestowed upon Congress.

Again, since we have made it clear that the Necessary and Proper Clause and General Welfare clause do not confer sweeping powers onto the Federal Government, the author’s point on the Tenth Amendment is moot. Nothing in the history of the Constitution or the Tenth Amendment suggests that the Tenth Amendment has no meaning; the only thing ever suggested about the Tenth Amendment is that it is superfluous. It is superfluous in the sense that it was common wisdom at the time that unless a power was specifically granted, the government does not have that power. It means that without the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, the Constitution would have exactly the same meaning.

The very essence of the Constitution was that certain powers were enumerated in it and that the Federal government has only those powers; most people believed the Tenth Amendment was stating what was already true. Also then, in some sense, the Tenth Amendment may have been said to hurt this doctrine because by feeling the need to add this Amendment, the assumption would be that the government would have all powers, even those not specifically enumerated, and that is why the Amendment was needed.

He mentions that:

Gov. Rick Perry and his far-Right cohorts who believe a state may reclaim power by withdrawing its consent, in effect repossessing their previously delegated power through state legislation…

But a close re-reading of the Tenth’s wording nixes such reasoning. Oddly, the Tenth Amendment does not say the states delegated their powers to the federal government – although it may be argued that it probably ought to have said so. It says “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution … are reserved to the States. …”

Thus, according to the Tenth Amendment, the Constitution itself delegated the power to the federal government. Superficially, the ending statement alone that the Constitution itself delegated power to the federal government is totally inane. The Constitution is not a person; it cannot act. Taking his statement at face value, how would the Constitution obtain any powers to delegate to government in the first place? It is not as if the Constitution magically appeared with some powers to grant. Simply: the States, who were the parties to the Constitution, delegated their powers to it.

I don’t have any idea where he came up with his absurd logic in the first place, however, even on the author’s own terms, it doesn’t support his argument (I find it amusing that he talk’s about a “close re-reading of the Tenth” Amendment, when it doesn’t appear he actually did).

The author next starts talking about how by ratifying “the Tenth Amendment, the American people endorsed the legal fiction that the Constitution – not the original 13 states, or “We the People” – authorized the power of the United States because the Constitution itself said so.” I’m in utter disbelief as to the logic behind this at all; it sounds like a college student’s ahistorical attempt to interpret the Constitution in some strange, novel way.

Moving on, another oddity in the article is the statement “The states and the people may amend the Constitution. But they may not do so by nullification,” but who would ever characterize nullification as “amending the Constitution?” That alone suggests a total lack of any understanding about nullification generally. Nullification is totally unrelated to the amendment process; it is simply a tool that theoretically would be used when Congress enacts unconstitutional laws under which a State wouldn’t be obligated to comply with the law since any law enacted in violation of the Constitution is null and void.

“Dr.” Thacker then talks about the paucity, or lack, of guarantees of specific individual rights in the Constitution. It is certainly true that, aside from a few iterations, there aren’t many enumerated rights mentioned in the Constitution for the people. But why is this? If the author hadn’t been so busy contradicting history and making up ridiculous theories, he may have noticed that the Constitution was designed so that all rights that the people possessed did not have to be enumerated. If the author actually understood the Tenth Amendment, it would become clear that the Constitution reserved all these rights the people. Thacker is so busy trying to read between the lines of the Constitution for some non-existent hidden wisdom that he is ignoring the obvious.

It was even thought that a Bill of Rights would be dangerous to include in the Constitution because it would, again, compromise the principle that all the rights not specifically granted to the Federal government by the Constitution were reserved to the States and the People.

Thacker then notes that the word power is mentioned much more often than the word right. As I’ve been saying all along, the Constitution was meant to be a limitation on government, not a declaration of personal rights. Thus, the word power is going to be mentioned a lot more because in order to define the boundaries of government, we must enumerate the powers that the Federal government is to possess. The undertaking of trying to list all the “rights” possessed by individuals would be arduous and could never be exhaustive. It is much easier to simply list the powers of government and reserve everything else to the people. 

He goes on to say, “The way the First Amendment is worded does not enumerate these as positive rights that people possess, but rather as activities the government may not infringe upon.”

First, the author confounds the definition of positive and negative rights with positive and negative liberties. A positive right is a right that one can possess only by laying claim to someone else, ie. we cannot have a positive right of healthcare unless we lay claim to someone else’s ability to provide it for us. A negative right is one that can be exercised without any reliance on other individuals, ie. we can exercise our freedom of speech simply by speaking, without the aid of another. What the author is actually talking about is positive and negative liberties. There ultimately is a difference between positive and negative liberties, but it has no bearing on whether or not something is a right, so I need not go any further. He finally makes a mention that a Bill of Rights was thought to be potentially dangerous by Alexander Hamilton, but doesn’t realize the implications this has for his own theories.

Of course the idea was to calm suspicions that people would possess only the half-dozen rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights (plus patents!) and no others. Even so, Amendment IX did not guarantee any un-enumerated rights; it just did not peremptorily “deny or disparage” any.

So, he starts talking about how the Ninth Amendment means that the Constitution cannot be construed to deny any un-enumerated rights, but at the same time doesn’t guarantee the un-enumerated rights. Does he not realize what the Tenth Amendment does immediately following this? It guarantees them! It says these rights not enumerated are reserved to the people. Stunning, isn’t it?

Life, liberty and property are not expressly granted status as fundamental “rights,” but only as personal possessions that may be deprived or taken according to “due process.” The crucial implication is that Amendment V exists in order to stipulate how the government may deny an individual claim to life, liberty or property. With due process, you life, liberty and property may be toast.

To an extent this is true; the 5th Amendment delineates the circumstances under which the government may deny your claim to life, liberty and property. From a libertarian perspective, simply having due process does not make the denial of life, liberty and property by the government just. Unless you have harmed someone else’s claims to those same rights, you cannot be denied your own.

The reasoning here, though, that life, liberty, and property are not established as fundamental rights, such as the freedom of the press, but as privileges, is backwards. The reason that life, liberty, and property may not be violated, except by due process, is because they are fundamental. If the Constitution said that the right to life, liberty, and property can never be violated, that would mean no one could be punished for any violent crimes, which is nonsensical. There must be particular circumstances under which someone can have their life, liberty, or property revoked due to their actions.

The author is correct in exposing the weak protections for property in the Constitution, particularly in the 5th Amendment where it is stated, “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.” This is a gross failure of the Constitution; private property cannot be considered secure as long as eminent domain remains under the auspices of government power. Property is an absolute right; so long as one does not engage in violating another’s absolute right, they cannot be justly be denied their property right, regardless of what their Constitution says or what powers their government may possess.

Also, as someone who believes that Intellectual Property is an artificial creation, I cannot support the protection provided in the Constitution for patents and copyrights, as these are not actual rights being protected; rather they are monopoly privileges. I wholeheartedly agree that property rights are sadly ignored in the Constitution, but this doesn’t lend support to the argument the author is making about limited government. Again, that property rights aren’t expressly enumerated in the Constitution doesn’t matter because of the Tenth Amendment, which reserves this right to the people.

In general, the article is a sophomoric attempt to reinterpret the Constitution without any reference to historical meaning using ostentatious wordplay to invent a new Constitutional interpretation that the actual evidence cannot support. The terms used in the Constitution were much more specific and meaningful than the author let on; every term in the Constitution is ambiguous and open to wide interpretation, by the author’s view.

In the end, the author expresses some good sentiments and clearly understands that the Constitutions has completely failed in its intentions. However, I would advise the author against doing any further Constitutional interpretation until he’s willing to reference the debates in the Constitutional convention as well as the several state conventions when making assertions as to its meaning.

Proportionality and Justice, and the Rule of Law

Secession is not an initiation of force. The principle itself is one of peace; withdrawing your consent to a government endeavoring to be left alone is not a violent act, as some would have us believe.
Timothy Sandefur’s view that secession is an act that can be put down by force, killing people if necessary, inherently assumes that secession is a violent act. 

It must necessarily assume this stance or Sandefur’s position could in any sense be construed as libertarian. If his position is not based on secession as a violent principle, it cannot have any validity at all. Any peaceful action met with force must be considered illegitimate. 
Sandefur’s position relies on the notion of positive law; that any law the legislators or magistrate passes is just. Positive law holds the rule of man-made law above any concept of natural law. Under natural law we would repudiate the use of force in situations other than in self-defense.
The notion that a government may do this because secession would affect all the other individuals still consenting to the arrangement and cause them harm is fallacious as well (this argument parallels Abraham Lincoln’s famous non sequitur that the Union would cease to exist if states were allowed to secede). One could say the same thing about an arrangement where someone voluntarily signs up for my gym, paying me twenty dollars per month and then decides to leave my gym; i certainly am harmed by this, but do i have a right to compel this person to stay a member of my gym and patronize my business? No; the decision of whether we will patronize a particular government is an intensely personal choice and is fundamentally no different than the decision of whether or not we will choose to patronize a particular business.

An example Murray Rothbard once used said:

A is a successful seller of razor blades. But then B comes along and sells a better blade, teflon-coated to prevent shaving cuts. The value of A’s property is greatly affected. Should he be able to collect damages from B, or, better yet, to enjoin B’s sale of a better blade? The correct answer is not that consumers would be hurt if they were forced to buy the inferior blade, although that is surely the case. Rather, no one has the right to legally prevent or retaliate against “harms” to his property unless it is an act of physical invasion. Everyone has the right to have the physical integrity of his property inviolate; no one has the right to protect the value of his property, for that value is purely the reflection of what people are willing to pay for it. That willingness solely depends on how they decide to use their money. No one can have a right to someone else’s money, unless that other person had previously contracted to transfer it to him.

The truth is, if a government proclaiming to be instituted for the purpose of the protection of our liberties and property is fulfilling its purpose, it wouldn’t need to resort to force to compel individuals to submit to it. If a government is doing its job well, it should be able to rely on the voluntary agreement and contributions of its citizens to sustain itself. Namely, the necessity of the monopoly of force that is central to any scheme of government is evidence that the government is inefficient and would be quickly eclipsed by more attractive arrangements if forced to compete.
Implicit in the theory of justice in the notion of proportionality; we ask ourselves “does the punishment fit the crime?”
Imagine walking down the street and you start to cross the street. A police officer decides to stop you because you didn’t use a crosswalk and charges you with jaywalking.  He decides that your punishment is to be hung on the spot; we easily arrive at the conclusion that the punishment is not proportional to the crime.
Often it is contended that we need to accept responsibility for our actions and take the punishment that comes with it. Implicit in this perception is the notion of justice. If we commit a crime and subsequently cause harm to an individual, our ability to accept responsibility for our action and bear the punishment is a recognition of its justice; it is the recognition that we are morally responsible and deserve to be punished.
However, in the case of the jaywalker, to accept responsibility for the crime and concede the punishment of death is to succumb to injustice. In this instance, where punishment is not proportional, we may say that man can consistently accept responsibility for his actions while at the same time recognizing the injustice of the law and repudiating the punishment. Even further, as man becomes aware that a vast quantity of behaviors are unlawful despite not causing harm to anyone else, he will lose respect for the law and consequently reject any and all arbitrary punishment as illegitimate.

There is no honor in submitting to unwarranted punishment; there is only honor in resistance to all that is unjust. To passively accept disproportional punishment is not only doing a great disservice to yourself, it is doing a great disservice to humanity. The more we are willing to accept injustice, the greater the danger of injustice becoming the standard. Henry David Thoreau said, Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” A society in which arbitrarily harsh punishment is customary is a society of tyranny and bondage. We must resist, by deadly force if necessary, every attempt of the government to dispose of proportionality and substitute a capricious system of despotism in its place. So long as we are at the mercy of arbitrary power, we can never be truly free.
As the tyranny of law becomes more prevalent, the greater the damage the rule of law does to the citizens. Under the rule of law, where no one is beyond reproach of the law, a citizen that commits victimless crimes must be punished regardless of whether the law itself is just or not. The rule of law is only just if we limit the scope of law to those actions that invade on an individual’s property rights; namely, violent actions. 

The more voluminous the law becomes, the more difficult it becomes to understand and abide by the laws. More law creates more classes of criminals who have done nothing to harm anyone else. Eventually, the law becomes so far reaching that all of society becomes a class of criminals; the only difference between a murderer and a jaywalker is a question of degree. If, under the law, everyone may be considered a criminal, it undermines the fundamental purpose of the law: justice. Further, it drastically skews the criminal justice system into a system where we are guilty until proven innocent.
The rule of law is important because as long as our rulers are subjected to the same laws and punishments we are, the greater the incentive there is against creating arbitrary laws. So long as the scope of our laws remains confined to strict limits, the rule of law remains beneficial; a system in which our rulers are subject to the same laws as we are ensures an equitable system of justice. However, once we surpass the limits defined by the non-aggression axiom whereas we define crimes to include actions in which we do not harm another we come to an impasse. 

I would much prefer a system of law where if I commit a victimless “crime” I am in no danger of punishment versus a system of law where a king is also subject to the same punishment as I for a victimless crime. The problem with the rule of law is that it may be used to justify gross excesses of positive law just the same as the most fundamental natural law. If we may define the rule of law simply as strictly recognizing the natural law principle of non-aggression and applying it to all citizens equally, I can approve of this conception of the rule of law. But if we are simply to define the rule of law as applying whatever law may exist to everyone equally, regardless of the content of the law (as we currently do), I cannot consent to the rule of law as a beneficial institution. If the definition of the “rule of law” can be used to justify positive law and not recognize natural law, the rule of law is a misguided principle.

Comrades, Hand Over Your Weapons!

Why do some people want to ban or restrict guns, particularly in the aftermath of tragedies like Sandy Hook? Because they believe by banning or restricting guns they will effectively reduce the supply of weapons, which will in turn reduce the incidence of violent crime.

If they believe that restricting guns will choke off the supply and do good by preventing violent crime, wouldn’t an outright ban on guns ceteris paribus do even more good? Ostensibly, the answer is no. Under the most totalitarian state imaginable, all guns could not be removed from the hands of private owners. Is the freedom of 330 million Americans the price we have to pay to reduce the (ever decreasing) rate of murder we have in this country? (From 1995 to 2010, the murder rate has decreased from 8.1 to 4.8 homicides per 100,000 people). Even the police don’t believe the absurdity that banning guns would be helpful.”In 1995, the National Association of Chiefs of Police polled the nation‘s 18,000+ police agencies. Of the respondents, 88.7% believed that banning all firearms would not reduce the ability of criminals to obtain firearms…and 97.4% of the responding Chiefs of Police agreed that even if Congress approved a ban on all rifles, shotguns, and handguns, criminals would still be able to obtain ‘illegal weapons.'” In general, in the United States, the cities with the highest crime rate have been those with the most severe gun restrictions.

Frankly, the trade-off between freedom and safety is a false dichotomy. Even in the totalitarian state where freedom ceases to exist, we would not achieve total safety. No police state, no matter how powerful and despotic, could ever eliminate murder altogether and whenever guns are banned from the hands of the people, the incidence of murder and imprisonment at the hands of the state will skyrocket to take it’s place, and then some.

Over (an estimated) 260 million people have been killed by government in the 20th century alone. Should we really allow ourselves to be disarmed and expect the government to protect us when their actions are plainly irreconcilable with this sentiment? Without guns, we are powerless to defend ourselves against both our fellow citizens and the government. 

Defensive gun uses in the United States are estimated anywhere from 100,000, to 250,000, to over 2 million times per year. Do we really believe that if defensive gun use wasn’t an option in these cases, the individual would have been better off?

If the drug war has taught us anything, it is that the outright ban of anything will not lead to the disappearance of the banned entity. In fact, the ban will cause any current supply of the item to increase in value. If economics has taught us anything, it is that higher prices mean that suppliers will be willing to produce more to derive a greater profit. It also means that entrepreneurs will be willing to take on more risks to be able to supply more items to those who are demanding it.

We can see this happening when disasters affect a particular region. Goods become scarcer, in turn driving the prices of these goods up. Higher prices mean a greater opportunity for entrepreneurs to make larger profits. For example, when gases prices skyrocket in the wake of a natural disaster, entrepreneurs will take more risk to deliver their supplies of gas to the area, in turn flooding the area with gasoline and in turn driving the prices back down (if they’re allowed to and not price controlled). It is these price signals that allow scarce resources to be allocated efficiently in our society.

Liberal critics of the drug war (usually) recognize that banning drugs has not led to a decrease in the supply of drugs and has only served to increase the number of criminals created. Yet, how do these same critics presume that banning guns will decrease the supply and make our society safer, with less criminals? I think, in many ways, it comes down to an ignorance of these basic economic principles and common sense. A candid assessment reveals it makes us more vulnerable to criminals and the large scale band of crooks known as the government and further, it is not a trade-off any self-respecting individual should be willing to make. As Thomas Sowell has said, “if evil people who care no more for laws or treaties than they do for other people’s lives are the problem, then disarmament makes decent, law-abiding people more vulnerable to evil people.”

Gun control advocates always say, “If it saves even one life it is worth it.” But what about all the crimes that could have been prevented if we had freedom from gun regulation today? How many murders by government could have been prevented by a well-armed citizenry ready to defend their rights? The always cogent Andrew Napolitano wrote, in his book Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History:

Gun control laws, one must ask, make it, “safer for whom? Safer for the criminals who rob, assault, and rape, all the while knowing that the probability of their victim being armed is slim and thus they do not have to fear a fight they cannot win? Safer for a tyrant who fears an armed citizenry? Safer as opposed to freer? If things continue this way, liberty’s tombstone will read, “This was for your own good.”