Sunday, March 7, 2010

The "State"

Today's entry shall focus upon “the state”.  But as has been the habit thus far, let us first consult the dictionary for the relevant definitions of the term.  These from a contemporary online source:
            state: - noun
1.  a politically unified people occupying a definite territory; nation.
2.  (sometimes initial capital letter) any of the bodies politic which together make up a federal union, as in the United States of America.
3.  the body politic as organized for civil rule and government (distinguished from church).

And perhaps more significantly, from the Samuel Johnson dictionary of 1785:

8. Civil power, not ecclesiastical

9. A republick ; a government not monarchical.
"They feared nothing from a state so narrow in compass of land, and so weak, that the strength of their armies has ever been made up of foreign troops.C

16. The principal persons in the government

17. Joined with another word, it signifies publick.
a."I am no courtier, nor versed in state affairs: my life hath rather been contemplative than active" - Bacon
b."Council! What’s that?  A pack of bearded slaves, the scavengers that sweep state nuisances and are the greatest."
c."I am accused of reflecting upon great states-folks." - Swift

For completeness sake, let us include definitions of “republick” and “publick” from the same 1785 dictionary:

Republick - noun
1.      Commonwealth.  State in which the power is lodged in more than one.
2.      Common interest; the publick.

Publick – noun
1.The general body of mankind or of a state or nation; the people.

Notice that in every definition the term “state” refers to either an abstract concept or to individual people.  In not a single case does “state” refer to anything that stands on its own or with a reality apart from that of individual human beings.  As we shall see, this point holds a singular and central significance regarding the truth about “the state” and should be understood and borne in mind by all people interested in freedom and individual liberty.

Given the preceding definitions, it shall be the goal to demonstrate that current notions of “the state,” as commonly held by people and employed by those wielding political power, is a pure, yet very dangerous fiction that has been foisted upon the people and has served mainly to diminish individual freedom and the prosperity of the individual, his communities, and the nation as a whole.  No doubt some readers will already be looking askance at the very notion of labeling “the state” in such a manner, but as Voltaire once observed:

“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”

It may have served better to use the term “the ignorant” in place of “fools”, but delicacy was not always Voltaire's strong suit,.  In any event, if one is to accept a condition of existence imposed upon them by others whose moral authority to do so is questionable or absent, it should at least be done with a proper recognition of that which is being accepted, why, what the results are, and by whom or what it is being asked, or more likely, imposed.

There is also the quote attributed to Frederic Bastiat, who keenly observed:

            “The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.”

Such sage observations, once substantially common opinion, have largely fallen away from the awareness of the great body of those we call “the people”.  We shall come to see why in short order.

Freedom and servitude are not the same things; they are in fact diametric opposites and should never be confused.  This is where Voltaire's acerbically couched observation reveals one of the saddest truths about human behavior: people will often accept a “dog” as a “fish” and deadly poison as vital sustenance at the command of any perceived authority for the sake of fooling themselves into believing something which, were they not to accept it, would by reason dictate their refusal.  Rebellion against even the most absurd demands of “the state” is generally regarded as too frightening or inconvenient to undertake.  The attendant conflict of conscience is usually too much for individuals to tolerate, causing them to respond by receding into various states of self imposed deception, which serve as lubricants and cushions, enabling them to accept that which would otherwise be clearly unacceptable, were truth and reason allowed to run their course.

Cowardice and lassitude are not, however, the sole causes for accepting a situation that might otherwise be resisted.  Good old fashioned ignorance, often instituted through the instrument of misinformation and miseducation, is perhaps the most common basis.  It can hardly be claimed that the American people are mainly cowards or lazy.  Quite the contrary, they are on the whole very courageous and industrious people, as well as warm, kind, friendly, and generous; all these almost to a fault in many cases.  And yet, most Americans live in a state of servile bondage imposed upon them by “the state”.  Not only do these people accept such artificially imposed circumstance, many of them revere it, to use Voltaire's characterization, and would defend those who have imposed it upon them even unto their own destruction to preserve that to which they have acceded and to which huge emotional and psychological investments have often been made.

When considered from a distance, such seemingly absurd behavior quickly leads one to ask, “why?”  Why would an individual or population, any individual or population, accept conditions imposed upon them that were in any way detrimental to their own welfare, happiness, and general quality of life by their peers?  One answer, as noted in the previous paragraph, is cowardice and lassitude, but as stated above, the more common cause is ignorance or miseducation, often the product of intentional acts of deception by those in whose interest it stands to ensure a compliant populace.  If one does not know that their water is laced with poison, what reason do they have not to drink it down eagerly when they thirst?

This leads the honest man to the need for a close and careful examination of the causes of such misapprehensions of truth, which are great in number and would require many large volumes to address sufficiently.  The purpose here, however, is to focus on one of the centrally significant instruments of misinformation used by the culprits who would ultimately see to the subjugation of every human being on the planet while labeling it far less unattractively.

In order to set the scene properly, we must first make explicit a tidbit of truth that many people sense only tacitly:

The interests of those exercising political power are most often in conflict with those over whom the power is exercised.

Such conflicts are not always diametric.  The interests in question, in fact, most often lay at some minimally opposing angle to each other such that the collision between them is perceived by the governed as insufficiently significant to warrant exerting effort against it save, perhaps, some initial complaining, after which the point is usually ceded to the governors.  This is most carefully orchestrated so as not to arouse the strong and possibly violent dissent of the governed.  At the very least, in America it is arranged and executed in order to best guarantee reelection to office for as many cycles as possible.

Equally significant, such action is not necessarily the product of deep, dark conspiracies where the explicit intention is to subjugate and destroy.  Rather, it is most likely the product of those well-intentioned people who are so steadfast in their certainty that what they know is best for all, that they are therefore morally authorized to force their designs of universal salvation, order, and progress upon the people, usually exempting themselves at the same time.  Furthermore, they do so with the material ability at their disposal, as well as the willingness to destroy those who pose credible opposition to them.

Bearing in mind this conflict of interest between those governing and the governed, the demand and expectation that people do as the rulers command, no matter how absurd, comes under some scrutiny particularly when labels such as “governor” and “governed” are used, which connote no inherent differences between the classes, save arbitrarily defined relative positioning that connotes no inherent authority of the one over the other.  Even relatively uninterested people understand that “governors” are human beings just as they are, sensing no inherent station of superior moral authority.  Average people understand that there is no well-reasoned basis for one standing above another with regard to the authority to command people, especially where violations of the latter's civil rights are in question.  This truth poses very real practical problems to those who wish to rule without the inconveniences of notions such as equality, civil rights, due process, and limitations on their power.  Such problems require eminently practical solutions and the ruling elite have devised one that, as we shall soon see, works fabulously well for them.

In ages past, the solution to the highly inconvenient notion of individual “equality” (a staple concept in tribal life, by the way) was to sell the masses on the notion of a “divine” ruler.  The notion of the divinity of a human as separate and superior to all others incorporates as part of its very fabric the idea that such an individual is inherently superior to the others and thereby entitled to what practically amounts to unlimited authority.  Such individuals were magically endowed with characteristics above and beyond that of all other men so as to confer to them superior rights and thereby the absolute and unquestionable authority to command and dispose.

This concept worked well enough for thousands of years whereby the lives of countless individuals were corralled and most often delivered into the hands of misery and destruction in accord with the whims of a select few.  History abundantly illustrates that the stewardship of the interests of the governed has most often been carried forward in eminently questionable fashion, judging by the overwhelming body of examples of the caprice and crimes of small numbers of people whose tenures as “divine” rulers produced, as a rule, endless bloodshed, poverty, suffering, and general misery for those over whom they exercised power.

A major hitch for the ruling classes came with the Renaissance, which may be argued to have inevitably led to the “discovery” of the scientific method, which in turn paved the way for technological advances in thought, method, and material, which further began to expose the “divine right of kings” for the utter fraud that it is.  Later, the “Enlightenment” saw quantum advances in human thought, further exposing the fraud of divine rule under which countless people had suffered and ignominiously died for thousands of years.

Initially, rulers attempted to retain their deep investment in the institutions of divine rule through threats and applications of force in the face of the ironclad results of proper science, but in time it became clear that the tide was turning away from their favor and the futility of their efforts became apparent.  The rulers slowly began to realize that another approach was required if their hegemony was to be preserved.  To what better solution could they have arrived than to co-opt the very science that threatened their positions and make it work for them rather than against?  This is precisely what was done and one of the single greatest advances in despotic rule came as the result of this adaptive shift: the concept of “the state”.

Though morally neutral in character, the notion of “the state” lends itself at least equally well to the establishment and maintenance of tyranny as it does to free living.  The neutrality of the concept, having been altered in a subtle and fundamental way, enabled it to be used so as to most fully serve the purposes of despotic rule.  This key shift came when the concept was (largely tacitly) imbued with the characteristic of a material reality of its own.  One may have to think about that awhile and with some care before its significance becomes apparent.  The truth about “the state” is that it exists in one place and manner only, as a concept within the confines of the human brain.  That is it.  There is absolutely no other reality to its existence. 

One may be tempted to protest, pointing to a city such as Washington DC and proclaim that “the state” holds abundant material reality.  Yet those people would be sadly and gravely mistaken in that they misidentify buildings, equipment, badges, titles, and words written on paper, etc. as “the state” rather than as nothing more than a collection of material items, ideas, and agreements gathered together and employed as instruments for the purposes of discharging certain functions of governance.

“What is the difference?” one may ask.  The difference is fundamental because in accepting an implicit, unsubstantiated assertion of the material reality of “the state”, one then positions themselves only a tiny fraction of a step away from accepting other equally false and even more absurd and dangerous characteristics as part and parcel of it.  For example, people speak of “states' rights” as if “the state” were an individual imbued by birth with civil rights.  “States” are ideas with no inherent material reality.  How can an idea have rights?  It would be sooner acceptable that one's kitchen sink had rights, for at least one can reach out and touch it.  Yet people have been taught to accept the insubstantial reality of “the state”, albeit tacitly, as a living entity possessing not only a material existence separate and apart from the people, but also opinions, feelings, interests, plans, possessions, and most significantly, rights just as do individual human beings.  But who can touch “the state”?  Upon what can a man lay his hands and say “this is the state” and not be in absolute, wholesale error?

To anyone in disagreement, the challenge may be made: demonstrate the absolute material reality of “the state” such that it is placed before the world for all behold and lay hands upon.  Demonstrate the existence of “the state” as separate and apart from the people whose very existences convey that of “the state” to succeeding generations.  Demonstrate the seat of the so-called “interests, desires, and the rights of “the state”.  Demonstrate where “the state” exists unto itself apart from the existence of the very individuals who make up “the people”.  Is it not the apex of irony that those whose very existence lends “the state” its only claim to exist are the ones against whom its power and authority are turned to the erosion and destruction of their rights, freedoms, prosperity and even their lives?  Anyone demonstrating a separate and standalone reality of “the state” will be the first to have done so in the history of humankind.                                                                                              

If reason and truth have thus far failed to convince, then try a thought experiment where one waves his magic wand and for some period of time, perhaps 1day, every human being on the planet, save the waver, disappears as if they had never existed.  Where, then, shall he find “the state”?  Nowhere.  Why?  Because “the state” never existed in the first place, save as an idea that provided the conceptual framework upon which a set of behavioral conventions was hung, and according to which people would comport themselves pursuant to notions deemed beneficial to each and every individual living under its duly constituted authority.  And be clear that such granted power and authority can only be considered as “duly constituted” when every it serves every individual citizen equally and only while fully respecting and demurring to their inherent rights.

In a free society, the set of conventions we call “the state” is granted but the smallest handful of narrowly specified powers pursuant to the legitimate roles they are to fulfill in service to all the citizens.  Those roles of universal benefit to the people include the guarantee and enforcement of respect for individual civil rights[i] the administration of justice, the promotion of the general welfare[ii], the common defense, and the enforcement of contracts.  Beyond this small set there is precious little else that could be offered in the way of “services” that would in fact serve every citizen or to which anyone could reasonably claim entitlement.  Therefore, one is by virtue of their inborn rights and the attendant status as an equal with their fellow citizens, entitled to have their rights guaranteed and protected by one means or another.  We have chosen law and a duly constituted authority of “the state” to so guarantee and protect those rights.  One is not, however, entitled to having “the state” provide them with a yacht, should the citizen desire one.  The citizen is, however, entitled to acquire that yacht as the legitimate application of his talents and abilities will allow, without interference from any third party.  Our nation is rife with interference by “the state” in the private affairs of the citizens and it must be stopped if our freedoms mean anything to us.

Let it be understood that nearly all “state” enforcement power ultimately boils down to the ability to take the lives of citizens with impunity.  This fact cannot be overstated and it should be considered carefully until it is fully understood.  For those not seeing it, consider any trivial situation where an individual wholly refuses to cooperate the state.  The example of a parking ticket may prove illuminating.  A citizen is issued a parking ticket, which he refuses to pay for some reason.  Eventually a bench warrant is issued and he is arrested during a traffic stop.  The citizen’s continued refusal to “cooperate” will ultimately result in the application of physical force.  Further refusal will see an escalation in violence that, if continued, ultimately results in the death of the citizen.  Death for a parking ticket?  That is the universal logical conclusion underlying the position of the authority of “the state”, and in no case will that citizen's death have been about the parking ticket, which is an incidental triviality.  The citizen will have been murdered by a "government" goon squad under the imprimatur of "the state" because he refused to obey even the most trivial command.  The message there is clear: thou shalt not disobey the state lest thy destruction be visited upon thee.

In the 1936 science fiction classic “Things To Come”, the character known as “The Boss” openly reveals the fraudulent, corrupt, and violent sham-nature of “the state” as commonly practiced around the world.  When pressing Dr. Harding after his refusal to cooperate in the manufacture of fuel and poison gas for the “air force”, The Boss lays it out on the table most unequivocally when he says:

        “The Combatant State is your father and your mother, your only protector, the totality of your interests. No discipline can be stern enough for the man who denies that by word or deed.”

Later in the same scene he declares:

        “You are conscripted. You are under my orders now and under no others in the world. I am the master here! I am the State.”

--> In another exchange, this time with the protagonist, John Cabal, The Boss asks:

“What Government are you under?”

To which  Cabal responds:

“Common sense. Call us Airmen if you like. We just run ourselves.”

That last bit about “just run[ing] ourselves” is the single greatest affront and outrage any man could commit in the eyes of “the state”, for it suggests the position of central importance they occupy may be something less than people believe it to be.  That, of course, cannot be tolerated in any way or measure, necessitating that the notion and all others even remotely like it be eliminated from the thoughts of the people such that in their minds they constitute cardinal sacrilege and heresy.  The one thing above all others of which the state must convince everyone is that without it, they are lost.

And so we see the truth about “the state” as commonly practiced - the grandest shell game ever contrived and set into motion - that it is nothing more than an individual or mob acting under the charade of a mere word, whose purported authority renders them immune from accountability for their actions regardless of whether they are moral or corrupt and whose envelope of powers is almost universally expandable to allow for the wholesale violation of human rights.  The only reason this turns out to be the case is because enough people buy into the lie of the material “state”, possessing morally superior authority over its very creators.  Those who give life to “the state”on the presumption that it will serve their best interests at all times consent to its operation even when it involves their own destruction, that of their progeny, and of posterity in general.   There is absolutely no reasoned justification that any “state” should be empowered to rob, beat, imprison, persecute, murder, or otherwise violate the rights of “its” citizens.  There is no rational basis for the agents of such crimes not to be held accountable as criminals, whether those who issued the orders, or those who participated in their execution.

Yet, so many people either believe that the crimes of “the state” are morally acceptable, necessary expedients to some “greater good”, or simply unavoidable.  Such belief can only be characterized as the apex of folly and insanity, as well as intellectual dishonesty and lassitude, particularly for those people who claim to believe in the concept of equality among people.  For them, it is so much more the flight from truth and reason, so much more violent a contradiction in, and a nonsequitur of, logic and justice to claim the belief while idly accepting the crimes of a select few who flash the imprimatur of “the state” while lifting the peoples’ wallets, cutting their throats, or throwing them into prison cells.  If we are all equal, then on what morally legitimate and properly reasoned basis does one arbitrarily-constituted group of individuals come together and impose restrictions and mandates that violate the rights of others, employing violence to force compliance?  Equality and the violation of natural rights cannot coexist in even the smallest measure.  Something has to give, and most often it is human rights that do so.

Another example of how the concept of “the state” is falsely bestowed with human characteristics may be drawn from legislative bodies, the courts, and prosecutors' offices who so often speak of the “interests”, and most absurdly the “dignity” and “rights”(!) of “the state” as if it worked in an office and went home at night to its wife and children.  Preposterous!  The only material reality even remotely related to “the state” is the collection commonly called “the people”.  If anything materially existing could be called “the state”, it is each and every individual, just as we are “the government”, another entity whose material reality has been falsely forwarded by those in power and accepted by an electorate largely ignorant on, or otherwise disinterested in the point.  We are the closest thing to material reality that “the state” shall ever possess and “we” do not exist as a mono-bloc, sentient entity, but only as a collection of individuals who have come freely together to act in common in certain narrowly defined and strictly limited ways while always retaining our rights to dissolve those associations and covenants with equal freedom.  Not a single one of us may claim the moral right to violate the rights of our fellows, yet that is precisely what we do when we allow "the state" to act as such an instrument of violation and denial.  Consider carefully, then, where that leaves the guilt laying.

As long as one believes that “the state” actually exists separately and in material reality, possessing human, or rather superhuman characteristics entitling it to govern at its pleasure rather than our own and most often according to whim rather than within the limits of powers granted it by individual human beings and pursuant to respect for the natural law, there is little possibility of being able to limit “the state”, much less fundamentally alter its conceptual structure, far less still to dissolve it.  That group of people claiming to represent “the state” will always respond with chicanery and violence to protect, maintain, and if possible expand their powers to rule.

What we have demonstrated here is that “the state” is in no way real beyond its status as a concept.  References by individuals to “the state”, specifically its human-like or even superhuman qualities, characteristics, and most ridiculously its “rights” as cited by those in positions of power and others to justify the violation and denial of individual rights, are without exception made in grave error.  We now see that as a concept, “the state” provides nothing more than a framework within which people go about their daily lives.  This framework is important to free living, but it is not materially real and therefore carries with it no moral authority to deny or disparage the natural rights of men.  The framework and its trappings, in order to be just and morally legitimate, must fully respect and defer to the rights of the individual in all ways and cases; anything other than this is corrupt by definition.  The conventions of “the state” are supposed to provide us with behavioral guidelines pursuant to the ostensible goal of coexistence while remaining free to live our individual lives according to the dictates of our consciences, even when our choices are potentially self-destructive and stupid.

In other words, the purpose of accepting and complying with these conventions is to serve the individual citizen and not to rule him, especially in violation and denial of his rights as a freeman.  “The state” derives its limited powers from the consent of the individuals that comprise the body of “the people” and as such cannot legitimately exercise powers beyond those limits.  Yet “the state” routinely assumes and exercises power far beyond its grant.  “The state” continually trespasses upon the private property of the inalienable rights of the individual with ever greater claims of entitlement to act.  People, in the main, sit idly by and allow ever deepening incursions onto the property of their individual civil rights, effectively ceding those rights to those who have no authority to trespass upon them.  This is due in large part to the misguided acceptance of the bald-faced and wholly absurd lie that “the state” is an actual entity possessing superhuman characteristics including rights that entitle it to engage in all manner of arbitrary and immoral acts.

It will better serve the people of the United States if they acquire truthful knowledge about “the state” as we have begun uncovering it here.  Develop and cultivate the mental habit of always bearing the truth in mind and never accepting or otherwise falling for the implied assertion that “the state” possesses a separate reality that stands on its own, apart from humanity; apart from you.

It will further help the cause of individual freedom to openly challenge all the tacitly assumed characteristics of “the state”, especially those that imply sentient qualities such as “dignity”, “interests”, and especially “rights”.  Challenge law makers, administrators, and so-called “enforcers” at every level and opportunity and apply your own power of force to compel them to explain themselves when you see their actions to be unjust and in violation of rights and of reason.  Force them to demonstrate how law and their actions comport themselves in full and uncompromising compliance with the natural rights of men and, secondarily, the Constitution, accepting no “double-speak” responses.

Cultivate your own powers of reason and hone them with others of a similar mind, developing your views and arguments such that the opinions, arguments, and justifications of those who would and do violate inborn rights embarrassingly dissipate before the world’s eyes when placed under the withering lights of truth and reason.  Be upon them relentlessly until either such time as they comply with what is morally correct, resign their offices, or unwisely go on the offensive against you; but never allow them even the slightest quarter to avoid you, ignore you, or serve up to you anything but well reasoned whole-truth in their responses to your rightful demands, for it is you whom they serve and not the other way around.

As dangerous as coming under the ire of “the state” may seem, there is safety in numbers and no matter how hubris-filled a given agency or agent may be or how willing they may be to bring you to harm, they will by no means be able to harm large bodies of citizens without incurring a significant risk of harm to themselves.  People must learn and cultivate new habits to actively, smartly, courageously, fiercely, and tirelessly hold all government personnel and their agents fully and strictly accountable for their actions and opinions in discharging their duties of service to “the people”.  Such actions and opinions must fully accord with, respect, defer, and demur to the Natural Rights of men, which is the centrally prime element of legitimacy to which any individual donning the mantle of government may lay claim to legitimacy in their discharge of office.

Make their offensive behavior a risk-laden proposition for them, fraught with danger and high cost.  If they are willing to apply unjust and possibly even lethal force in the violation of yours or your neighbor’s inborn rights, you must be ready to respond accordingly and without hesitation, equivocation, quarter, or mercy, for such people commit or threaten acts of war against the rights of man and this must never be tolerated in the least measure.

Raise up the interests of your neighbors’ rights equally with your own, because to idly suffer the violation of one man’s natural rights and liberties is to give tacit assent to have one's own violated.  You need not agree with what your neighbor does, but you should be very interested in his right to do it.  S. G. Tallentyre summed up Voltaire’s attitude on this very point:

            “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Voltaire well understood that where rights are concerned, your fellows’ interests are indeed your own and yours, theirs.  Bear in mind that the violation of any right for any reason is always arbitrary no matter how the targets are chosen and justified, and no matter how “reasonable” they may seem on the surface.  Given this, when one accepts the violation of anyone’s rights for any reason whatsoever, he opens the door for the destruction of his own.  This is a truth that cannot be escaped and it will be wise for all people to carefully consider it.

Call all government personnel to account for their actions and reject all justifications that assert “the state” and “the law” empower them to act criminally in violation of human rights.  Corner them such that they are unable to retreat into those false defenses and force the light of truth and reason upon them before the eyes of the widest community possible, exposing their crimes for all to witness.  Demand this accountability of all government employees from the local dog catcher all the way up the ladder to the President of the United States.  Demand it with the authority of the employer over the employee, the citizen over the civil servant, and be prepared to take necessary material action against those who evade, avoid, or ignore the moral and lawful mandate of Natural Law.

Finally, be aware that the lies about “the state” as being materially real and possessing the attributes of a living and sentient being are similarly posited with respect to other conceptual entities including “government”, “the law”, and “society”.  For example, how often does one hear “society has the right to…”?  Like “the state”, “society” possesses no rights whatsoever, nor does “government”, nor “the law”.  “Society” is nothing more than a word labeling a collection of individual human beings living in some proximity to each other and perhaps holding some agreed-upon association with each other.  It has no rights, fears, desires, interests, plans, possessions, mind, opinions, soul, or authority as such.  It only has its members, and those only by the consent of each individual.

Until the day comes that people disabuse themselves of these brazenly asserted and dangerously false notions, they will continue to accept the ever mounting assaults upon their rights.  Unless this circumstance changes, the day will come when one's ability to exercise his in-born rights shall have been extinguished from the earth in favor of the assumed and arbitrary powers of a small group of other, merely mortal human beings as they disparage the rest, all the while hiding like the Great Oz behind the curtain of that fiction we call “the state”.

[i] The only kind there are.
[ii]  Not provision of