Brad Miller

Is Washington Governing Against the Will of the People?

In True nature of the State on August 5, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Is the State (I include federal, state, county and city governments in this term) governing against the will of the people? Are we slaves to the State and if so do we voluntarily attach our chains ?

Etienne de La Boetie a Frenchman who lived in the 16th century wrote in his essay “Discourse of Voluntary Servitude”  that in fact most people  enslave themselves.

“In short, the bulk of the people themselves, for whatever reason, acquiesce in their own subjection. If this were not the case, no tyranny, indeed no governmental rule, could long endure. Hence, a government does not have to be popularly elected to enjoy general public support; for general public support is in the very nature of all governments that endure, including the most oppressive of tyrannies. The tyrant is but one person, and could scarcely command the obedience of another person, much less of an entire country, if most of the subjects did not grant their obedience by their own consent.”  

The reason why the majority of people so easily give their consent to tyranny  is explained by Boetie :

“It is true that in the beginning men submit under constraint and by force; but those who come after them obey without regret and perform willingly what their predecessors had done because they had to. This is why men born under the yoke and then nourished and reared in slavery are content, without further effort, to live in their native circumstance, unaware of any other state or right, and considering as quite natural the condition into which they are born . . . the powerful influence of custom is in no respect more compelling than in this, namely, habituation to subjection.”

 Boetie wrote that tyranny must rest on mass consent and all that is needed to overthrow tyranny is for the majority to withdraw their consent.

But what about the minority who  believe as Albert Jay Nock did, that our enemy is the State.  What recourse do we have who love liberty?  How should we resist? Should we push for reform of immoral laws or immediately stop obeying them?

Henry David Thoreau in his essay “Resistance to Civil Government” written in 1848 gives us an example of man who has given a lot of thought to the subject. He wrote this essay because of his opposition to slavery and the U.S. military incursion into Mexico.

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?  Men,
generally, under such a government as this, think that they
ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to
alter them.  They think that, if they should resist, the
remedy would be worse than the evil.  But it is the fault of
the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil.
_It_ makes it worse.  Why is it not more apt to anticipate and
provide for reform?  Why does it not cherish its wise minority?
Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt?  Why does it not
encourage its citizens to put out its faults, and _do_ better
than it would have them?  Why does it always crucify Christ and
excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington
and Franklin rebels?

The question then is not should we resist the unjust laws but what if the men that Thoreau listed above had not. What kind of world would we live in if everyone always obeyed the laws of the State? We see a world today where more and more people blindly do. 

Just like Christ, Copernicus, Luther, Washington and Franklin individuals are not powerless against the State in fact the truth is just the opposite. It was their indomitable will and the  ideas that these men embodied that the State could not surmount.

 As Albert Jay Nock wrote in “Our Enemy the State”

“It is unfortunately none too well understood that, just as the State has no money of its own, so it has no power of its own. All the power it has is what society gives it, plus what it confiscates from time to time on one pretext or another; there is no other source from which State power can be drawn.”

To regain our power that the State possesses  all we have  to do is put an end to  that transference of power and reassert our God-given rights of Life, Liberty and Property. If people can enslave themselves then they also can free themselves.

In Resistance to Civil Government  Thoreau begins with:  “I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.  Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe–“That government is best which governs not at all”; and “when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have”.

Our goal then is to prepare ourselves and others for that day when a Free Market Society is possible.

Thoreau went on:

  “I am too high born to be propertied,
     To be a second at control,
     Or useful serving-man and instrument
     To any sovereign state throughout the world.

Our task for those who love Liberty is to open the eyes of those  born under the yoke of tyranny and explain to them how their obedience to the State is nothing more than slavery.

In order for individuals to withdraw their consent from the State and disobey it’s unjust laws they must first learn why they are unjust. They must first learn that they have the God-given rights of Life, Liberty and Property and that no man has a claim on their life or the product of their labor.

Leonard Read, the great champion of individual Liberty abhorred politics and instead focused on education.  He always  stressed peaceful persuasion as the only key in advancing the Freedom Philosophy. So until those who love Liberty become experts on the Philosophy of Freedom and withdraw their consent or support of all things anti-freedom, those who don’t understand the ideas of Liberty will never be persuaded.



If you want to read the works I referenced check out my Advocates of Liberty post.

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