Showing posts with label Libertarian Party. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Libertarian Party. Show all posts

6/29/2015

Should Libertarians Celebrate the SCOTUS Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage?

The Supreme Court of the United States has made several headline-generating decisions in the last week.  In a 5-4 ruling, this august body of the country's premiere jurists issued an irrevocable command to 13 states that banned same-sex marriage.  Going forward, all states will be required to license same-sex marriages and recognize those marriages entered into from other states.

The Libertarian Party has used this opportunity to showcase how forward-thinking and ahead of the times they are, publishing the headline "Libertarian Party's 40-yr marriage equality advocacy pays off with US Supreme Court decision".  Nicholas Sarwark, Chair of the Libertarian National Committee, said "we applaud and celebrate this victory" and that he's "glad to see the Supreme Court has upheld the equal rights of all Americans."

Certainly, libertarians can be happy at the outcome of the SCOTUS decision.  Unjust laws that forcibly prevented consenting adults from engaging in voluntary contracts have been reversed.  What's not to like?  Perhaps the optimum libertarian solution would have been to remove the violence of government from the marriage business completely, leaving it to churches and individuals to create their own contracts as they see fit.  Nevertheless, individuals are freer than they were before.  How could this not be a clear-cut win for liberty?

Libertarian Means and Ends

This question brings us to examine the means and ends of this event.  We might be happy with the outcome, but should we be wary of how it came about?  For the constitutionalist, this is likely to be no time for celebration.  Under an intellectually honest view of the constitution, there is no language that gives the federal government the power to infringe on state legislation in this way.  As one dissenting judge wrote,
“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision…  Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal.  Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner.  Celebrate the availability of new benefits.  But do not celebrate the Constitution.  It had nothing to do with it.”
But of course, being a libertarian does not make one a constitutionalist.  We have a much brighter lantern to guide our way than our weak and powerless constitution.  Using the dual lens of self-ownership and the non-aggression principle, it is clear that consenting individuals have the right to enter into whatever sort of contract among themselves that they'd like.  On the flip side, individuals do not have the right to force their contract onto others, which is why getting government out of the marriage businesses would be the ideal solution.

In a free market of marriage that respected the property rights of everyone, perhaps some religions would offer same-sex marriage contracts while others would not.  Maybe new institutions would offer this service completely outside the religious temple.  From there, various voluntary solutions and market-based incentives would meet everyone's preference accordingly.  If some don't like it, there are plenty of non-violent options available that don't infringe on the rights of others.  Certainly this would be the outcome most aligned with each individual's rights being respected.  "Live and let live", it's a beautiful mantra.

In lieu of this optimum scenario, the question is again asked, should libertarians celebrate a ruling from the Supreme Court of the federal government that forces the states to license and recognize same sex marriage?  Without any regard to the merits of the constitution, the answer would be a qualified no.  The SCOTUS ruling brings about a libertarian end, but the means involved is quite counter to our long term goals.  Ultimately, this deference to 9 black-robed individuals governing 318 million people from D.C. is just one more precedent that is sure to be harmful to the long-run prospects of a free society.

Beware the Hand that Feeds You

Despite the LP's celebratory announcement, we should be hesitant to shout hosannas when a Supreme Court ruling dictates law to the states.  Every decision from that unelected and virtually unaccountable group that gives the federal government greater power is a net loss for liberty - even when libertarians are happy at the particular outcome.

Today, the SCOTUS issues a decree that happens to be consistent with libertarian principles, but literally the day before it issued a ruling that the federal government can pass laws requiring citizens of the 50 states to purchase a product from a private company.  How can we celebrate any decision passed down from such a bold and audacious body?  Why give any respectability to their decisions?  We are just shooting ourselves in the foot.  What happens to our credibility if we say that a supreme court decision "paid off" when they will not doubt issue 99 rulings that violate libertarian principles to every 1 decision that goes in our favor?

We can't just celebrate the outcome of this decision in a vacuum; all the factors must be examined before popping the champagne.  In a world where virtually every square inch is claimed to be the domain of one evil government or the other, in most territorial battles between rival gangs of costumed officials we are safe to say "a pox on both their houses".  But when one of those gangs is infinitely more powerful, more ruthless, and more arrogant than the other, we should seriously consider rooting for the underdog.  In other words, if we are stuck in a world of governments, the greater good is federalism.  I would rather have 50 separate rulers that each have a kingdom of 500 thousand to 38 million people than one supreme ruler that dictates the lives of 318 million people.

As much as I'd like to just ignore the evil doings of the criminals who presume to rule over me, I do so at my own peril.  If we want to fight back in the political arena, let's choose our battles wisely.  Individual libertarians can actually do something at the local level, whereas we have virtually zero control over what happens in the district of criminals.  So if we want to fight for marriage equality, or more precisely, the right of individuals to enter into voluntary contracts, then let's fight those laws where they exist.  If we find them at the city level, fight them there.  If they are at the county or state level, then bravely go forward into battle.  But if the struggle seems insurmountable, don't be so foolish as to celebrate when an even greater threat to liberty takes on your foe.  That hand may feed you today, but it will certainly strike you tomorrow.

A Dream for Soundbites

Do things have to always be so damn complicated?  It seems the prudent and principled libertarian is doomed to never accept simple, one word answers.  We can never say just "yes" or "no", it's always followed by a "but".  This isn't the result of a complex philosophy - what could be simpler than the self-evident proposition that individuals should control their own lives as long as they respect the rights of others?  Unfortunately, it's a result of the statist climate we live in, where every question seems to presuppose a government answer.  We're constantly asked the no-win question, "have you stopped beating your wife?"  While we carefully explain our position with logic and attention to detail, our opponents keep things simple by playing on the ignorance and desire for immediate gratification of the American boobousie.

As the nation collectively knee-jerks into total insanity by banning the confederate flag, even at relevant historic sites, we find ourselves in the same nuanced situation.  Libertarianism is the foremost philosophy against the evils of slavery and we obviously condemn the Confederacy for their crimes.  But the Civil War wasn't a fight over slavery, it was about secession.  The North invaded the South to prevent their independence, and we can only speculate into the realms of alternative history as to how things would have turned out if the slaves were freed at a different time and under different circumstances with the noble right of secession left unscathed.  Instead of an easy question such as, "are you against slavery", we ask the more complex question, "did the happy outcome of freeing the slaves outweigh losing the right to secession?"

There was a day when the phrase "I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight for your right to say it" was pure Americana.  Now things aren't so clear.  Rather than wanting to be free to exercise one's rights while respecting the rights of others, now serious talk is made of putting limitations on our rights to prevent hurt feelings of self-worth or entitlement.  In the era of victimhood, the desire for privileges to remedy some real or imagined inequity trumps all.

How ironic that during these side-show events with the SCOTUS ruling for same-sex marriage and the extreme PC battle against the confederate flag, the main event is getting the faintest attention.  Of course the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be passed by the Senate while the legacy media covers such critical news as the defacement of statues and changing the names of lakes.  After all, it's just a secret treaty that that will create an international governing body that, once created, will be a living thing - dictating laws to contracting nations just as the European Union forces policy on the nations of Europe.

Just as there was once a day long past when state sovereignty was respected and the constitution was a real barrier to the inclination to power in Washington, we may quickly be coming to a time when we will fondly remember the days when the Supreme Court made the laws for our nation - at least they claim to be American!  If our cries of righteous indignation barely register a whisper to our elected representatives at the federal level, what hope do we have as we transition to a regional government, let alone a world government?

Conclusion

As much as I'd be delighted to celebrate a victory without reservation, we need to keep our eyes on the bigger picture.  It's not enough to simply support every event that claims to be a win for liberty, we must ensure that the means by which it is achieved is also aligned with our best interest.  If given a devil's choice between a world government with a "libertarian" dictator and what we have today, I'd begrudgingly but wisely side with the latter.  Hayek showed us why "the worst get on top", and once a governmental mechanism is created it is nearly impossible to dismantle.  Like some suicidal robot programmed for destruction, the benevolent dictatorship will attract every form of sociopath who will attempt to seize those reigns of power.  If history is to be our guide, whenever this happens hundreds of millions die as a result.

Let's be smarter than that.  We cannot accept the easy victory on a minor battle when it ensures that we will lose the war.  In a world full of competing states, the crafty libertarian learns to pit his enemies against each other.  While we unambiguously denounce all forms of force and violence against the innocent, we learn to make unlikely alliances to fight the greatest evil: the nation over the world government, the state over the nation, the city over the state, and most importantly, the individual over them all.

10/15/2014

Lawyer Tricks & Vampire Ethics

One of the most important ways to get involved with the Libertarian Party is to run as a candidate for public office.  In 2010 I had a great time running an educational campaign for State Representative for District 49.  I wasn't in it to win it, but I was able to spread the message by answering questionnaires and with newspaper, radio, and television interviews.  The most rewarding part of the experience was being invited to a local middle school to give a presentation about libertarianism.

Unfortunately, this year I couldn't make the commitment to run an educational campaign, so instead I signed up to be a "paper candidate" for a local office.  This means I'm not actively campaigning, but still helping the LP by giving a libertarian option for voters that will help get our numbers up in the aggregate.  This November we will have 132 candidates on the ballot across Texas and I'll be running for Justice of the Peace for Travis County, a position that I would seem to be totally under-qualified for and would seriously impede my career in IT Consulting if I were to win.

However, the law is something that I've been studying for a number of years and if I somehow won this race I would be willing to put my career on hold to serve out the term.  The local chapter of the League of Women Voters sent a questionnaire concerning the race, but only two questions allowing 450 character answers didn't leave much of an opportunity to explain my platform.  Nevertheless, I was able to give a standard libertarian answer for the question of how I would ensure that the role of "the people's court" is fulfilled:
"As JOP I would radically change the goal of the JP court from focusing on revenue generation for the state to protecting the rights of the individual.  This means rightly prosecuting crimes that are malum in se, evil in themselves, while vigorously defending people accused of "crimes" that are malum prohibitum, illegal by statute.  In this way the people will see the court as a tool for seeking justice, not as a device for taking their liberties."
In other words, if you're going to have a state, use it as a tool for defensive purposes only.  Don't use it for enforcing statutes against victimless crimes just to steal people's money.  That's pretty basic libertarianism 101 stuff.  It was the second question that I found more interesting.  What changes, if any, are needed in court processes and procedures to make the court more efficient and effective in fulfilling its duties?
"The entire court system is engaged in a variety of scams and conspiracies to rob the people of their liberties.  Lawyer tricks confuse people into waiving their natural rights and volunteering into oppressive contracts with the state.  I would not seek to make the court more efficient in these corrupt machinations, instead I desire a court that effectively presumes innocence and honors due process rights of the defendant from agents of the state."
Scams and conspiracies?  Lawyer tricks?  Corrupt machinations?  These allegations require some explanation.

Boss Hoggism or Legal Sleight of Hand

During my process of waking up, Aaron Russo's documentary America: Freedom to Fascism had a big impact on me, particularly the segments on the constitutionality and legality of the income tax.  It's one thing to look at black operations by CIA type groups, they happen in the shadows and don't require many people to execute.  But these allegations made about the income tax were something else entirely, a conspiracy of an entirely different nature.

One of the most credible people interviewed in the film on this topic was Joe Banister.  Like other former IRS agents, it all started when he heard of the $50,000 challenge to show the law that required the average person to file a 1040 and pay a tax on his labor.  As a special agent of the Criminal Investigation Division for the IRS, Mr. Banister thought this challenge was something he could easily accomplish to dispel the rumors.  Months later, Banister submitted a preliminary report to his supervisors with his startling conclusions regarding the income tax.  Instead of proving the "anti-taxers" wrong, he ended up giving his resignation to his longtime employer and becoming one of the leading figures in the tax honesty movement.

But for people like Mr. Banister it doesn't end there.  The most credible and prominent people in the tax honesty movement are invariably drug before a kangaroo court and indicted on something, anything.  Even when they win on appeal it is only through a long fight over multiple years that drains their life savings.  It's a battle that destroys marriages, lives, family - and for what?  It takes a special kind of person that holds their integrity above all else to choose to fight this battle rather than to just give in and let the tax man have his cut.

Seeing people like Irwin Schiff, Sherry Jackson, Joe Banister, and others relentlessly prosecuted to make an example for the rest of us has a real chilling effect.  What is to be done when the system is so lawless?  How do you fight a system with a clique of boss hoggs running things at the top that don't give a damn what the law actually says?  If you try to fight back and stand on your rights you are subject to their army of useful idiots that follow orders and don’t know any better.  It's a pretty depressing and shameful situation we're in.

It was through only after reading Peter Eric Hendrickson's Cracking the Code and listening to the Rule of Law Radio show for several years that I've slowly come to a different conclusion about our predicament.  Rather than seeing the conspirators as brutish criminals that are totally lawless and respect nothing but violence, I see them as intelligent criminals that use complex legalese and magician's sleight of hand tricks on the meaning of words themselves.  They have an entirely different lexicon of legal terminology that's completely different from the common meaning of words and from their perspective if you're ignorant enough to fall for their elaborate scams then you deserve what you get.

They aren't completely amoral, they have their own system of ethics - the ethics of a vampire.  Just as the mythical vampire can't feast on your blood unless you are foolish enough to invite him into your home, even if you do so under mistaken pretenses, this criminal class preys on people's gullibility and faith in government to trick them into volunteering into private contracts that have no legal, lawful or ethical foundation.  Buyer beware.  Read the fine print.  These are the mottos that give their conscience sanction.  Ignore them at your own risk.

Define Your Terms

Words have meaning, and when words are put to parchment and signed by powerful people to become "laws" they have the force of the state behind them.  This means that if you violate these laws, whether deliberately, through ignorance, or even innocent misunderstanding, men with guns will follow orders and steal your property, kidnap you, lock you in a cage, and even kill you.  Clearly, the first step on the path to avoiding the violence of the state is to understand the meaning of the laws to know what duties, responsibilities, and constraints bind your actions.  But the meanings of words change all the time - look at any page from the Urban Dictionary and you'll find examples of words that have a radically different meaning then they did 50, 20 or even 5 years ago.  The point being, if a law is created that imposes certain duties on the governed, then new or different duties cannot be created simply by the result of certain words having their meaning changed over time.

My favorite example of this is the word "regulate".  Today it means that 100,000 bureaucrats can tell you what to do in virtually every area of your life, but in the time of the Constitution it meant "to keep regular."  For example, "regulating the value of coin" instructed the congress to keep it from overly fluctuating through inflation and deflation, "regulating commerce among the states" allowed the federal government to prevent the states from enacting tariffs against each other, and having a "well regulated Militia" meant the individuals compromising that militia were well trained and had properly working firearms.

It's hard enough to comply with all the laws when there are so many that it's even impossible for the federal government to give an estimate, but it would be impossible if the law constantly changed as the common usage of words did as well.  Lucky for us, words have special meanings when they are specifically defined in statutes, and if they are not defined there you look for the meaning in a law dictionary like Bouvier's or Black's Law Dictionary.  Unlucky for us, this double-edged sword is the source of the lawyer trickery that fool hapless saps into volunteering into contracts, submitting to jurisdictions, and otherwise opting themselves in to requirements and obligations that have no legal basis.

Before visiting three of the biggest scams that rely on legal sleight of hand, let's review a word that is central to understanding all of them: include, includes, including.  In common language, the word "includes" would be translated to "such as".  For example, "I enjoy eating fruit, including apples".  Under a normal context I may also enjoy eating oranges, but in the world of legalese we may find that this word is not one of enlargement, but one of restriction.  Instead of translating to "such as", includes is defined as "means".  The impact is that, for the purpose of that sentence, the common definition of "fruit" no longer applies and now "fruit" means apples and only apples.

There is a Latin term for this, inclusio unius est exclusio alterius, "the inclusion of one is the exclusion of another."  According to Black's Law, "When certain persons or things are specified in a law, contract, or will, an intention to exclude all others from its operation may be inferred.  Under this maxim, if statute specifies one exception to a general rule or assumes to specify the effects of a certain provision, other exceptions or effects are excluded.”  There are websites filled with quotes from supreme court rulings, hundred page treatises, and finely written essays dedicated to this seemingly innocuous term because of how this word can create multi-layered definitions that have to be carefully analyzed to have any chance of arriving at the correct interpretation.  As we'll see, it is the cornerstone of some of the most invasive laws that impact us every moment of our waking lives, but with a correct understanding of what it means in legalese they just melt away like snow on a sunny day.

Cracking the Code

The income tax: is there a more destructive, unjust, or idiotic law?  It is a fact that taxes are used to deter behavior, hence we have "sin taxes" like those on cigarettes.  So why would any society seek to deter productivity?  The harder one works, the more one earns, the more is taken away, not just proportionally but progressively.  How much wealth was never created because doing so would bump one into the next "bracket" and cause a net loss, incentivizing those to choose leisure instead of labor?

The income tax exposes the presumption of our political leaders: that they are our masters, that they own us.  The fruit of my labor is not mine, but the governments, and those men with guns will choose how much will be returned to me.  In the "land of the free", where we supposedly fought a civil war to abolish slavery, it is a sad lesson how quickly we accepted new masters.

A direct tax on income is also blatantly unconstitutional.  The constitution gives two and only two types of taxation: direct and apportioned or indirect and unapportioned.  In the first case the federal government can only directly tax the people if the tax is apportioned by the state populations.  In the second case it can only tax the people without regards to state enumeration if it is indirect, such as a tax on tobacco that one can avoid by growing their own tobacco or refraining from its use.  As described in America: Freedom to Fascism, Supreme Court rulings declared an income tax unconstitutional before the 16th amendment and after its passage they ruled that it granted no new powers of taxation.  So if they didn't have it before, and they didn't get it, then how is it that we all sign self-confession forms under penalty of perjury every year (5th amendment, anyone?).

But what if it didn't have to be this way?  When the tax code was put on the internet, for the first time allowing one to quickly execute key word searches across its hundreds of pages and three million words, Peter Eric Hendrickson claimed that he cracked the code to this mystery.  By finding every use and definition of terms like "income", "wages", "employee", "employer", and "trade or business", he discovered that the income tax could actually comply with the constitution and the supreme court rulings but under this legalese interpretation the income tax laws no longer applied to the vast majority of private individuals.

As quoted and explained in detail throughout the book chapter and verse, the income tax is filled with particular definitions and circular logic that results in it only being applicable to the payment of federal government workers.

"Wages" is defined as "all remuneration... for services performed by an employee for an employer", where employee is defined as including "an officer, employee, or elected official of the United States, a State, or any political subdivision thereof, or the District of Colombia, or any agency or instrumentality of any one or more of the foregoing."

Similarly, the term "trade or business" includes "the performance of the functions of a public office".  "Wages" is defined as "including personal service as an officer or employee of a State", and then "state" is "construed to include the District of Colombia".

Remembering the legalese definition of "includes", does it sound like you work for an "employer"?  Are you engaged in a "trade or business"? Do you earn "wages" or "income"? You may not if you don’t work for the federal government!

Why would it be constitutional to put an income tax on federal government workers but not the rest of us in the public sector?  Remember that one of the constitutional taxes is indirect and unapportioned, and that government workers don't really pay taxes, they consume tax money.  If someone gives you $20, and then takes $5, did they "tax" any money, or did they just give you $15?  That is the crux of the issue - when the same entity is paying "gross income" and "withholding" a certain percentage and then paying "net income", then what does it matter what bookkeeping mumbo-jumbo is happening, the net result is that entity, the federal government, is paying its workers.  Working for the federal government is not a right, it is a privilege, and therefore it would fall under the indirect and unapportioned taxing power of the constitution.

So when millions of people file 1040 confession forms and say "I'm an employee", "I make wages" and "I'm engaged in a trade or business" the government sits back and nods, happy to keep the fantasy going.  If you're willing to make these claims the government won't be correcting you - that's up for you to figure out.

Drivers License: Transport or Travel?

One of the fundamental differences between rights and privileges concerns the requirement for a license to use property.  The owner of property can exercise all the rights associated with the property, with the only limitation being not to violate the rights of others.  The owner can extend a privilege concerning the property in the form of a license, which is permission to perform some action that, without such authorization, would constitute an illegal action or trespass.

Thus, what do we make of the situation when a libertarian activist asks a traffic officer if he's being detained on a warrantless DUI checkpoint which he believes to be unconstitutional, and the cop snarls, "driving's a privilege, not a right!"  Here we have a dilemma.  Do you own your vehicle?  If you did, you'd have certain rights over it, not privileges granted by a license.  The Supreme Court has ruled that we have a right to travel, a right of locomotion, a right to move from one place to another according to inclination, a right of free transit from or through the territory of any state.  It seems plausible, after all we pay for the roads with the tax on gasoline, but this conflicts with our daily experience that a traffic officer can pull us over, demand our license, and impound our vehicle on the flimsiest of pretenses, especially since the militarization of the police and the escalation of the war on drugs.

Once again, it seems we might have a conspiracy of lawyer tricks run by criminals with vampire ethics and enforced by useful idiots that have never read or understood the law they believe to be rightly enforcing.

Eddie Craig is an Air Force veteran and a former Nacogdoches Sheriff Deputy that has spent the last 12 years researching various Texas Codes, especially the Transportation Code.  I first heard him on Rule of Law Radio where he described the myriad violations that occur during every traffic stop according to the Texas Transportation Code.  Eventually he compiled his research into a workbook and traffic seminar, and I was able to attend his first presentation at Brave New Bookstore.  Unsurprisingly, his findings echoed many of the same themes I had already found when researching the income tax.  It seemed there was a code to crack concerning the traffic laws as well, and Mr. Craig had found it.

Assuming we have a right to use our property, our personal vehicles, the first question to ask is what is a drivers license and who needs one?  The Texas Transportation Code defines it as "authorization issued by the department for the operation of a motor vehicle" and claims that a person "may not operate a motor vehicle on a highway in this state unless the person holds a driver's license."

The next question is, what is a motor vehicle?  It is consistently defined as "a device in or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on a public highway".  Unsurprisingly, we consistently see the word transportation used in these definitions, but what is surprising is that it's never defined anywhere in the Transportation Code.  According to our hierarchy of legal definitions, this means we need to look at legal dictionaries and the case law that goes with it.

In Black's Law Dictionary, transportation is defined as "The removal of goods or persons from one place to another, by a carrier."  And this is where it gets interesting.  According to every legal dictionary a carrier, a common carrier, a contract carrier, and even a private carrier are all referencing the act of transportation of passengers or freight for pay.  Carriers are in the "regular business of transporting people and / or freight".

So if we put this all together, one needs a driver's license to operate a "motor vehicle", which is a device used in "transportation", which is the act that a "carrier" engages in when operating a business of transporting people and / or freight for payment.  I don't drive a taxi.  I'm not hauling semi-trailers across the country for a living.  So why again do I have a driver's license?

The reason the government can license and register the act of running a business off the use of the roads is because those individuals are exercising a privilege.  This is in contrast to private individuals that have a right to travel in their personal property on the public roads.  Those roads are owned by the people and are for the general public's convenience and pleasure.  Using the roads for business is an extra-ordinary use of the public roads and that is why they can be licensed, because those people are engaged in using publicly owned property to make money.  In other words, they are engaged in commerce.  Regulating ("keeping regular") interstate commerce is a power that is specifically delegated to governments to do - not to infringe in the rightful use of our private property.

So the next time you get pulled over for speeding, take a look at the statute that authorizes the department of transportation to erect speed signs and ask, "who do speed signs apply to?"  Maybe the traffic officer is confusing you for someone engaged in commerce.


Gold Fringe Flags, Strawmen, and Billion Dollar Birth Certificates

You're not an "employee", you don’t earn "income", you don't operate a "motor vehicle", and you don't engage in "transportation".  Still following along?  If so, this next topic may stretch your credulity to its limit.  It has its origins in the beginning of the country, leaving the gold standard, and the moment you were born.  It includes gold fringed flags, admiralty law, your name in all capital letters (Capitis Diminutio Maxima), your birth certificate, treasury bonds, your "straw man" or "legal fiction", and every interaction you've ever had with government, police officers, courts, and corporations.  This one goes down the deepest trails of the rabbit hole, and sometimes you'll wonder if the proponents of these theories are government agents trying to entrap you, but if you take the time to survey the information and take a step back the resulting landscape comes together consistently, and it just figures that we'd live in a world where something this crazy could be true.


The best place to begin might be with your strawman, your legal fiction, the corporate entity that was created the moment the ink was dry on your birth certificate.  If your parents named you John Doe, your straw man might be named JOHN DOE.  This character is a "person", but unlike a flesh-and-blood human being, he is a legalese "person", a n artificial person or corporation.  This corporate person can sign contracts, assume duties, incur penalties, and it has the unfortunate tendency to get people confused with you, the flesh-and-blood human being.

That bad side of this situation is that this elaborate scam is what gives all the lower courts such as traffic courts, family courts, and tax courts the jurisdiction to act upon you - because you volunteer into it!  Whenever a summons appears that asks for "JOHN DOE" and you show up saying, "that's me" no one is going to correct you.  Whenever they ask you if you "understand the charges" you are agreeing that you "stand under" their jurisdiction and from then on volunteer into their private contract.  Instead of living under common law, your straw man operates under admiralty law because a birth certificate literally hands over the new born's straw man to the government as a ward of the state, just as a ship wrecked in the sea can be found and claimed by new owners.  This is why court rooms have a gold fringed flag, because they are operating under admiralty law.  This explains why a judge can say "I don't want the constitution brought up in my court", because his court has nothing to do with the constitution, it is all private contracts through color of law like the Uniform Commercial Code.

This isn't just about tricking you to get jurisdiction for petty fines and fees, your straw man is also worth money, a lot of money.  This is where the theory gets into the creation of the country and leaving the gold standard - that without lawful money of gold and silver to discharge debts the government had to create a way for citizens to discharge their obligations in the new world of fiat money.  Hence, you find the curious phenomenon that your birth certificate will have a serial number and a stamp or seal from an entity like the American Bank Note Company.  Once the birth certificate / bank note is signed, it goes to the Department of Commerce, and from there to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  At this point it's listed as collateral for the UNITED STATES CORPORATION so that the gold ole USA can take out a loan for millions with our birth certificate as collateral.  Why would they think of our birth certificate as collateral?  Because we are going to be good cattle for our masters, we'll volunteer into contracts, work as "employees", pay "income", submit to registration, apply for licenses and pay all kinds of penalties and fees for activities that should be absolute rights.

If there is a good side to this scenario, it's that in the farthest depths of patriot mythology you'll find references to "commercial redemption", the "secured party creditor process", and "reclaiming your strawman".  The idea is that there are certain forms you can sign and actions you can take to reclaim your "legal fiction" from being a tool of the state and use it for your own purposes - and that also includes those millions of dollars of fiat currency tied to your birth certificate / bank note.  The UCC1 Financing Statement tells the public that you officially reclaim control over your Agent in commerce, your strawman.  Your parents may have abandoned him to the government, but now you're ready and willing to take him back.  File a few more forms and you'll have direct access to an account at the Treasury in your strawman's name, you'll be filing tax forms on behalf of your strawman, and you'll regain your status as a sovereign human being, a secure party creditor, at the same level of states, banks, and the gods themselves.

Conclusion

Now the question comes, after you've thoroughly researched these claims for yourself, what do you do about it?  If the answer is nothing, then it doesn't really matter whether the men behind the curtain are lawless thugs or just clever schemers.  If you knowingly continue to volunteer into contracts, assume obligations, and opt-in to taxes that don't apply to you then the only thing that's changed is you no longer have the right to complain about any of it.

That said, there is a risk / reward tolerance for everyone, and these are important decisions that should not be taken lightly.  I ran into Joe Banister at the Austin airport once and asked him what he thought about Cracking the Code.  He said it was 100% accurate, but the question remains, is this a battle that you are willing to fight yourself, or are you going to instead support people that are fighting it on your behalf?

Accepting the risk really depends on the magnitude of the reward.  With cracking the code the risk comes if you lose your nerve and admit that you make "income" after all, then you could be slapped with a $5,000 frivolous filing fee.  But if you stick to your guns you may instead receive a hefty check from the Treasury department and have your return added to the Bulletin Board displaying the $11,000,000+ from the tens of thousands of returns that have used the CTC method.

If you're going to cut up your drivers license, burn your registration, and throw away your license plate it seems like you are in for some battles ahead.  Even doing everything right, traffic cops will take you to jail and impound your vehicle out of ignorance, and only through fighting legal battles, suing the county and police departments, and battling lengthy appeals will you finally get to the situation where a patrolling cop radios in your suspicious car that doesn't have a license plate only to have HQ radio back "don't mess with him, he's not worth the trouble".  That is the price to travel as a free man.

When I first heard about the strawman / Secured Party Creditor strategy on Rule of Law Radio I categorized it as patriot mythology that was more likely to be a Federal sting operation than anything real.  Since then I've met someone that's gone through the process and has shown me his documents and explained how he has paid his taxes, utility bills, and even purchased real estate through his reclaimed strawman.  He also warned that if you don't do it correctly you could go to jail for securities fraud.

Do the research, weigh your options, and make a decision: will you continue to invite the vampires in, or will you kick them out once and for all?

5/31/2014

A Libertarian Party Platform for Libertarians

I recently spent a weekend locked in an Indianapolis Hotel with 20 other libertarians from around the country.  We were either appointed by the Libertarian National Committee or sent as delegates from our state parties to create a report of recommended changes to the Libertarian Party Platform to be submitted to the delegates at the upcoming national convention.  Organized within the framework of Roberts Rules of Order and Parliamentary Procedure, we debated how libertarian principles, policy recommendations and marketing strategy should guide our party platform.  While serious points of contention revolved around grammar, style and the use of oxford commas, there were many fierce debates that got to the heart of what libertarianism is and isn't, putting our very name on the line.

I volunteered to be the representative for the Texas Libertarian Party not because I feel passionate about any particular planks I want to see changed in the current platform, but because I pretty much like it the way it is.  I've previously written on the dilemma that many principled libertarians face, which is whether or not to vote or otherwise engage in the political process.  The authors that contribute to the best-read libertarian website in the world seem to be almost unanimous in condemning political action, even within the LP.  I'm of the opinion that as long as the Libertarian Party does not misrepresent their core message to appeal to the masses and truly deserves the name "the party of principle" then the majority of the arguments against joining and supporting the LP don't hold water.

This gets to the heart of another topic on which I've written, whether the Libertarian Party should take a principled or a practical approach in the political process.  This foundational decision has many implications that don't always fall down the anarchist vs. minarchist party line.  What is the primary purpose of the Libertarian Party, to spread libertarianism or to get candidates elected?  Who is our target audience, libertarians or non-libertarians?  God help us, there are some that even disagree on what libertarianism is!  Only when those questions are answered do you have the framework for creating a cohesive and consistent Libertarian Party Platform - and when the delegates and leaders of the party are sharply divided on these issues we are setting ourselves up for some interesting debates in June.

What is Libertarianism?

George Orwell prophetically wrote on how language and the meaning of words can be used as a weapon in the political arena.  If you are able to influence culture enough to change or confuse the meaning of words you can thereby narrow the spectrum of allowable opinion and guide the masses without them ever realizing it.  One example of this phenomenon is the term liberal.  Thomas Jefferson's liberalism aligned to small governments, free markets, and natural rights while today's liberal supports big government, economic regulations, and privileges granted by "society".

Taking this lesson from history to heart, it is vitally important for the libertarian movement to not allow our brand to be misrepresented.  Without assigning motives to people I don't know, there are some trying to expand the term libertarianism to include things with which it has no concern, thereby diluting the core message into meaninglessness and creating contradictions where there should be none.

Quoting from a recent article by Laurence Vance on this very topic, "Libertarianism is a political philosophy concerned with the permissible use of force or violence."  But that can be said of all forms of government, as government is defined as a monopoly on the use of violence, and therefore the type of government you have guides how violence may be legally used.  Democracies adhere to majority rule, such that 51 people can vote to use violence against 49 others.  A Monarch can use violence against any of his subjects with impunity.  Under communist rule any individual can be aggressed upon if it benefits the commune in the eyes of the communist leadership.

Thus, Murray Rothbard defines libertarianism within this context:
“The only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal.  Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should be free to do as he sees fit except invade the person or property of another.” 
That is all libertarianism is about: when you can and cannot use violence or the threat of violence.  Because of this limitation some criticize libertarianism for not being what it is not and has not ever been: a comprehensive moral philosophy.  Libertarians are typically characterized as sexists, racists, bigots, homophobes and elitists because we do not believe in outlawing these types of behaviors.  Libertarianism says what you must not do, not what you should do.  We stand for the freedom of association, including the freedom not to associate.  We stand for the freedom of speech, including unpopular speech.  We stand for self-ownership, including the right to do things to your body that may be harmful.  Because of our principled stance to always protect individual liberty, even when liberty is used in ways some may disagree with, we are painted as endorsing these vices.  However, libertarians have a wide range of non-aggressive responses to vices.  Unfortunately, in this day of omnipotent government there are only two options for any given behavior, it should either be forced or forbidden, both carrying the threat of being locked in a cage or worse for disobedience to the state.

It is one thing to find this misunderstanding to be pervasive among the average voter, but it is far more serious and disappointing when people calling themselves libertarians display this same ignorance towards the most fundamental concepts of their professed ideology.  Sometimes it may be from lack of knowledge but at other times it is a deliberate misrepresentation.  At the Libertarian Platform Committee meeting suggestions were made to add and remove language to our platform planks to make them more appealing to the voters.  There is nothing wrong with being brief instead of wordy, using plain words instead of libertarian-insider words, and using proven salesmanship approaches - but only as long as you do not distort your message in the process.

One misguided idea that came up several times was to add qualifying terms in reference to who could and could not exercise certain rights.  For instance, plank 1.6 Self-Defense very boldly defends the right of individuals to own and use firearms in self-defense and correctly calls out our opposition to all laws that would infringe upon this right.  This is as libertarian as it gets - the right to own property, including firearms, is only limited by the duty not to infringe on the equal rights of others and any action to pre-emptively violate this right is itself an aggressive, unjust, and criminal action. Despite my best protests the committee voted to recommend a change in the current language from "individual" to "peaceful adult".  This might seem like a sensible substitution that doesn't materially change the plank, but let's explore the ramifications of this seemingly innocuous appeal to common-sense.

When we say that a right can only be exercised by a "peaceful adult" or use any other qualification it ceases to be a right and becomes a privilege.  The new language didn't say the use of firearms must be peaceful, that would be implied by the term "self-defense".  It described the type of individual who may exercise this right without prior-restraint through law.  Now we must define what is "peaceful" and what makes someone an "adult".  We are a political party concerned with the use of violence, so when we qualify a right in our capacity as libertarians we are not strictly speaking of the criteria we would impose in our private lives.  We're not simply saying, "it's a good idea for gun owners to have a history of being peaceful and mature enough to know the impacts of their decisions with firearms."  We are saying that only "peaceful adults" may exercise the "right" to gun-ownership, and others will be violently prevented from doing so.  When we beg the question of what is peaceful and don’t define it ourselves we are implying that government will define the answer - and today that answer is non-felons. When scholars report that the average person commits 3 felonies a day, tens of thousands of which are non-violent, we end up nullifying our entire plank with those two simple adjectives.  But even if we narrow our lens to felons with a history of violence, I believe that once they are freed from their cages they regain their right to own firearms and use them in self-defense.  In other words, I think that the current system whereby a mistake when you're 18 means you can't defend yourself or your family for the rest of your life is unjust and patently un-libertarian.  When you don't defend the rights of the marginal groups of society you strip those rights from everyone.  If this change is adopted it amounts to us saying that we defend the right of gun-ownership for some individuals, as long as the government says it's OK.  That is hardly a stance worthy of the name "the party of principle".


What is the Libertarian Party?

When all the libertarians in the LP understand the implications of our principles and are willing to defend them, even the unpopular ones, we still have some big questions to answer in the realm of tactics and strategy.  How do we market ourselves?  Who do we market to?  What are our goals?  These questions have very real impacts to how one constructs a party platform.

I believe that our primary goal is to spread libertarianism.  Unlike other libertarian groups that share this same goal, we explicitly use the political process, the political party, and candidates for political office as the channels for our message.  Every voting season there are millions of dollars worth of free publicity in newspapers, radio, and television.  Considering that libertarians are characterized for annoyingly pushing their message to unreceptive hosts at social gatherings, we must take advantage of every opportunity when we have an invitation to talk about libertarianism.  Journalists and special interest groups will invite libertarian candidates to speak to them and explain what libertarianism is and how it would solve our problems - and the only cost for this unprecedented opportunity is the time to fill out some paper work!

With our primary goal of spreading libertarianism and our means of the political process established our secondary goals naturally follow.  First, we need brave souls willing to run for office.  Candidates can spread libertarianism by speaking to voter groups, being interviewed by the press, and participating in debates.  In order to magnify the candidate's impact libertarian activists can help with their time and money.  This can take the form of block-walking a voting district, helping with a phone banking initiative, writing letters to the editor, or merely talking to friends and co-workers about why they are voting for the libertarian candidate when that question naturally arises.  For those that are short on time to donate, money can be used to buy advertising, mailers, yard signs, voter lists, and automated calling services.  Unfortunately, both time and money are needed in many states to collect signatures and fight lawsuits to get libertarians on the ballet, but this is worthwhile because it is a prerequisite to our means of engaging in the political process to achieve our goal of spreading libertarianism.

In order for the LP to do justice to the term libertarianism this prioritization of goals must be adhered to.  Unfortunately, a sizable number disagree with this approach.  During the Platform Committee meeting one member stated "I don't care about educating people, I want to get elected so I can make a difference."  Another member explicitly stated that the #1 goal of the LP should be to get candidates elected and pointed to the Indiana LP's "purpose and principles" as a reference, which states, "The mission of the Libertarian Party is to move public policy in a libertarian direction by electing candidates of the Libertarian Party to public office."

Let's consider the implication of this reversal of priority.  If the primary mission is to get candidates elected then any secondary goals must necessarily align with the primary goal or be sacrificed, by definition.  So if the voting population is not ready to accept the message of libertarianism, if a candidate who promotes a libertarian message cannot win a majority vote, then the candidate's message must be "softened" to increase the odds of electability.  But now we find ourselves indistinguishable from candidates of the two major parties - power hungry office-seekers who have no core beliefs but will modify their positions at the drop of a hat based on the latest polls.

Maybe that's a little harsh, but it is the logical implication of setting the primary goal as "winning".  As the saying goes, if we sacrifice our message we are more likely to lose twice, first because we won't win the election and second because we won't get our message out.

But let's suppose we do elect candidates with this "sneak attack" method.  Assume we have candidates who will adhere to their libertarian principles once in office but will water down their message when electioneering in order to trick the majority into giving them their vote.  In this scenario the elected closet-libertarians reveal their true intentions after taking office, after which they immediately roll back government excess and increase liberty in their district, in other words, "making a difference".  Based on the prosperity, peace, and other social goods that libertarianism provides, the voters then reflect that libertarianism is pretty great after all and are converted based on the experience of libertarianism, rather than by rhetoric and logic in the abstract.

In the best case scenario we can see this is a short term victory.  If we gain libertarians that like the utilitarian benefits of liberty but do not understand how the principles of self-ownership and non-aggression are the logical and economic pre-requisites, then have we really created an ally that's in for the long haul?  What happens when the opposing party promises more goodies?  Without the foundational understanding and truly creating a change in thinking and culture the best we could hope for is a few years of material improvement before regressing back to our current predicament.

But that thought experiment assumed something that would never happen in the first place.  A "liberty friendly" message that avoids the logical consequences of libertarianism for reasons of political expediency will never win under the banner of the Libertarian Party.  Wayne Alan Root was the most visible proponent of this "big tent" strategy, where he openly called for only appealing to disgruntled republicans and avoiding our beliefs that would not align with this voter block.  I attended Freedom Summit in 2009 where Judge John Buttrick debated this strategy head-on and pointed out its flaws.

Judge Buttrick's most compelling argument appealed to common sense and asked us to put ourselves in the position of a liberty-friendly disgruntled-republican.  Given all the options for spending one's time and energy, in what vehicle will such a person get the greatest returns for their activism buck?  Will they go to a party that fights to get more than 1% of the vote in a Presidential election and hasn't earned an electoral vote since 1972? Clearly not.  They will join Ron Paul and work to reform the Republican Party from the inside.

Making the primary goal of the LP to "get candidates elected" is a death-sentence for our party.  Not only will it cause us to fail in what our mission should be, to spread our message and increase the number of libertarians, but it will also never be successful in getting candidates elected by misleading the public into giving us their vote.  As Lew Rockwell pointed out in his essay what libertarianism is and isn't, "if we expect to trick people into becoming libertarians, we will fail."  Instead of trying to appeal to the masses we should stick to our principles, even the unpopular ones.  This leads me to a novel idea: the Libertarian Party should focus on libertarians.

Guiding Principles for a Libertarian Party Platform

Some believe libertarianism should include things that don't pertain to the permissible use of violence but fall in the category of fairness and egalitarianism.  A sizable number of LP leaders believe the primary goal of the Libertarian Party is to get candidates elected so we can pass bills and "get things done".  Both of these beliefs directly impact how one approaches what the LP party platform should contain, how it should be written, and who it should cater to.  For those that share my position about libertarianism and the Libertarian Party, I offer the following principles that drove my thought process when serving on the LP platform committee and will guide my voting at the convention this June.

Platform planks should logically flow from self-ownership and non-aggression.  Why do we oppose the war on drugs?  For the same reason we oppose taxation.  It's the same reason we support freedom of speech, the right to contract, and the right to associate: self-ownership and non-aggression.  There are plenty of causes, beliefs, and opinions that libertarians hold in their private lives but if they do not pertain to the use of violence in society they should be left out of our platform.  Yes, individual libertarians may believe that it is moral to donate to charity, offer fair wages, and operate without discrimination, but unless we are opposing government violence from forcing us to do these things we have nothing to say in our capacity as libertarians concerning what individuals should do in their private lives.

Platform planks should speak to timeless principles, not to specific policies or bills.  We are against aggression, and therefore theft, and therefore taxation.  We are not for "the fair tax", the "50 payer tax", excise taxes, or other taxes that would be less bad than what we currently have.  As individuals or even as candidates we might support these half-measures to ease our suffering.  However, we'd support them not in our capacity as libertarians, but as victims of current aggression that we would like to be relieved of, if even partially.  We are in the position of a concentration camp victim that would gladly take the opportunity to sign up for work under the supervision of a sympathetic guard instead of a psychopathic one known for his cruelty.  In this way we are not confusing the libertarian message by claiming that we are for "low taxes" when libertarianism is logically opposed to all forms of taxation.

Platform planks may be aligned with the Constitution, but that is not why we support them.  We are not the Constitution Party, we are the Libertarian Party.  It is one thing to say "Libertarians support the rights recognized by the Fourth Amendment", it is another to say that we support the Constitution unilaterally or to imply that we support a right because it is in the Constitution.  We don't need a piece of paper to guide our decisions, we have something far more powerful.

Abide by the Dallas Accord.  Frankly, non-aggression and government are polar opposites.  The only permissible "government" that would be logically consistent with libertarian principles is one where all services would be paid for voluntarily and any violence executed would be defensive in nature.  Of course, one could argue that in that case you are no longer describing governments but private businesses that are in the defense and arbitration industry.  It seems a fair compromise to ignore this bit of double-think in exchange for remaining silent on the need or "legitimate purpose" of governments and always allowing for an interpretation of no government without saying so explicitly.  Not everyone is ready to go full-blown an-cap so we should welcome the minarchists by allowing for the fantasy of the non-coercive "government".  At the same time, we should not turn away our most logically-consistent and principled demographic, the anarchists.

Golden rule: don't make candidates oppose the platform.  Some candidates might only support a bill that would repeal a tax completely, some might vote for one that would reduce taxation, but both operate under the same principle that taxation is inherently immoral and un-libertarian.  Some candidates might rest easy with a night-watchman state and others may not be satisfied until we live in our anarcho-capitalist paradise, but both can agree on the maximum role of government, because technically, a maximum without a minimum can give us a role of nothing.  The goal is to give libertarians a platform that teaches by example how our principles of self-ownership and non-aggression logically guide us to all of our policy positions, and from there give candidates the freedom to get more specific within the guidelines we've set.  Because the principles of liberty are timeless, an ideal platform would be as relevant and powerful 100 years from now as today.

Conclusion

The positions I've set forth would cause some to label me a "purist".  While I proudly wear that badge of honor, there is unfortunately some truth to the negative connotation that comes with it.  Many of the "purists" lack basic tact and social skills to such an extent that it seems they might actually enjoy arguing with people just for the sake of disagreeing.  If talking to a democrat they'll talk about gun rights, if talking to a republican they'll bring up gay marriage.  Instead of finding common ground and educating, they will latch on to the biggest point of contention and revel in being marginalized.

It doesn't have to be this way.  This is not a black or white issue.  It is a false choice between upholding a pure and consistent libertarian message and adhering to basic social etiquette.  We can utilize proven persuasion and marketing skills when speaking to the public without watering down our message and confusing our brand.

Having spent two years as a door to door salesman, and currently working in the consulting field, I have a few suggestions that apply to all areas of sales, including selling the message of libertarianism.

Instead of talking, listen.  Try to do twice as much listening as talking.  Then three times as much, then four.  The harder this is for you, the more important it is to work on it.  If your goal is truly to wake up minds and change people's perspective, you first need to make them feel understood before they will actually hear your feedback.

Speak their language.  In other words, be adaptive to their interests.  It's perfectly alright to talk about "fiscally conservative" issues with republicans and "socially tolerant" issues with democrats.  The opportunity to educate comes with first finding that common ground and using that as an opportunity to explain how the principles of self-ownership and non-aggression align with their beliefs.

People hate to be sold, but they love to buy.  This has a lot to do with listening instead of talking.  Don’t push your ideas on people.  You may be 100% correct, but if the other person isn't listening to you because they feel like they are being sold something against their will then what good does it do?.  Ask questions, then listen to what the other person has to say.  What do they think about a certain problem that they are passionate about?  Why do they think it occurs?  What do they think should be done about it?  If the answer is "there should be a law against it" then the answer isn't to call them a statist.  Ultimately this person has the same end goals as everyone else - peace, prosperity and a higher standard of living.  When you find the opportunity to answer a question and explain how libertarian principles result in these social goods, you have created the condition where they might just want to buy what you have to sell.

Ultimately, the biggest lesson I've learned in my activism career is that the only person I can educate is myself.  Oftentimes when someone "wakes up" to the libertarian message they are so excited by this new world view that nothing seems more important than sharing this epiphany with everyone, all the time. This urge, while commendable, should be resisted.  The first step is to educate yourself, not just on your pet issue that aligns with libertarianism, but on all of the hard cases too.  Walter Block's Defending the Undefendable is a classic libertarian book that takes up this challenge head-on.  Of course, Murray Rothbard's For a New Liberty and The Ethics of Liberty are must-reads for setting the foundation and exploring the full spectrum of libertarianism.  When hard topics like environmental protection and child-labor comes up, we have the shoulders of intellectual giants at our disposal, and we would be foolish not to use them.

8/13/2013

The Libertarian Debate: Principled or Practical?

The big and powerful political parties must always guard themselves from being taken over by hostile elements.  Decades ago, small "s" socialists had a strategic decision to make: do we work to build the Socialist Party of America, or do we infiltrate the Democratic Party and take it over?  They made their decision.  Similarly, many small "l" libertarians have chosen to work with Dr. Paul on an outright takeover of the Republican Party.  Time will tell whether the Ron Paul Republicans will be as successful as the socialists have been.

Within the Libertarian Party we don't have as much to worry about from coup d'états and power grabs, but rather our infighting is like an honest and good-faith difference of opinion amongst old friends.  We don't like to air our dirty laundry to the public, but within the "big tent" Libertarian Party, where we may agree on 95% of everything worth talking about, that last 5% is a doozy.  Minarchism vs. Anarchism.

As I first found out at the 2012 LP National Convention in Las Vegas, an understanding was reached at the 1974 Libertarian National Convention regarding this divisive issue.  Known as the Dallas Accord, it was a agreement that would satisfy both the minarchist and anarchist factions within the LP by keeping the platform purposefully vague as to whether a state should exist at all.  The thinking behind the truce was that all libertarians can agree our present government needs to get dramatically smaller, so let's join together in that common goal where we have that 95% agreement.  Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good.  With a slogan like "Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom", each libertarian can define that minimum in his own mind, whether it be the minarchist "night watchmen state" or the true minimum of zero, a society that lacks an institution with a monopoly on aggressive violence.  As more conservative and constitutional leaning libertarians have joined the party in the last decade, 2006 and 2008 saw a swing in the LP power structure in favor of the minarchists, where our choice of candidates and changes to our platform disenchanted many an-cap libertarians.

The 2012 national convention saw a partial reversal of this power swing, making it an excellent time for the party to have an honest conversation with itself and revisit the reasons the Dallas Accord was made in the first place.  The Libertarian Party of Texas decided to host such a conversation in the form of a 2 on 2 debate this summer titled "The Ultimate Debate: Low Tax versus No Tax".  Since there are some that don't want libertarians to say the word "anarchism", let alone acknowledge such forces exist within the party, "no taxes" was chosen as a suitable marketing substitute for the "A" word.

One of the participants on the "No Tax" side could not attend due to a family emergency, and I was asked to take his place 2 hours before the debate.  "The show must go on".


Going into the debate I planned to focus on three lines of attack: the moral argument against taxation, the economic argument against taxation, and the naiveté of expecting "low taxes" to stay low in the long run.  My opponents were very clever.  They didn't challenge me that taxation was theft - they agreed.  They didn't challenge me that our ultimate aim should be to get rid of taxes altogether, they agreed that was a worthwhile goal.  One of my opponents didn't even resort to the "what about the roads" argument, he acknowledged that services like roads, defense, and arbitration could be supplied in a free and voluntary market.

So where did they get me?  The real debate came down to this: do we take the principled or the practical route on this journey to freedom?  A "no taxes" / anarcho-capitalist platform is not currently practical.  Can I get elected on this platform?  Could I get any bills passed?  Are the American people ready to entertain these ideas, let alone vote for someone openly advocating them?  I admit the answer is "no".  This is not a question of beliefs, but one of tactics and strategy.  More or less, the debate came down to, "Yes, I agree that "no taxes" is the correct moral choice, and I may even acknowledge it could work economically, but the people just aren't ready for it, so let's be reasonable or they won't take us seriously."

I didn't have a satisfactory answer to that line of attack during the debate, but now I offer a story followed by a few arguments for why libertarians should stick to our principled beliefs rather than water-down our platform or message to what is expedient or currently practical.  In short, why we should live up to the name "The Party of Principle".

The Story of the Practical Abolitionist

It's pre-civil war America, and a small minority of people have come to a radical conclusion: the institution of slavery is wretched, indefensible, and morally wrong.  They call themselves abolitionists, and their common goal is to end slavery.  They have quite an uphill battle.  Most of their countrymen do not agree with the abolitionists, either believing that slavery is a good thing (at least for the non-slaves) or that slavery is a necessary feature of this imperfect life.  Like death and taxes, you may not like it, but there is no escaping it.  The best you can hope for is to be on the right side of the whip.

We have established the abolitionist's common purpose, their goal, the vision that unites them and defines them as "abolitionists": the end of slavery.  Now comes the question of tactics and strategy, which is a topic that divides the abolitionists into different camps.  Some believe that education and persuasion is the right course of action.  Abolitionists should write letters, give speeches, and utilize every non-coercive means available to spread their message and change the hearts of their brethren one at a time.

Other abolitionists are not patient enough for this line of thinking.  Slavery is horrible, and people are suffering every day.  There is simply no time to wait for a slow conversion of hearts and minds.  Direct action must be taken to show these slave masters that we mean business.  Run-away slaves should be protected and transported to free lands.  Slave insurrections should be encouraged and nurtured.  Every law that protects this evil institution should be resisted and openly broken.  Anything less makes you nothing but an "Ivory Tower Abolitionist".

The abolitionists have a wide range of options in pursuit of their common goal.  Everything from peaceful persuasion to violent rebellion is a conceivable option in the fight against slavery.  But what is the right strategy in the short term vs. the long term?  The two may not be the same.

Another group of abolitionists recognize that their government's policy is a major contributor to the institution of slavery.  Fugitive slave laws make it a crime to assist run-away slaves, even when their masters are in far away states.  Since none of the major parties would risk going against the majority of the voters by taking a principled stand against slavery, this group wants to use the political mechanisms available to them to promote their cause.  By creating the "Abolitionist Party" they can not only use this vehicle to educate their countrymen when they go to the polls, but it is conceivable that they could influence other parties as they take away votes, and perhaps even someday win and implement abolitionist policies to end slavery.

Within this politically oriented group there is another question that divides them: how do we craft our message?  The "hardcore" and "radical" elements of the Abolitionist Party want to openly promote the complete end of slavery.  They boldly proclaim, "No man should be owned as the property of another.  The way to interact with each other is through commerce and voluntary association, not with chains and whips."

But another faction thinks otherwise.  The people will never take our party seriously if we advocate completely ending slavery over-night.  Yes, it's a worthwhile goal in the long run, but for the next election it would be disastrous!  Number one, it would destroy the economy that is built upon the institution of slavery.  Second, these slaves are not equipped with the responsibilities that freedom requires; who would take care of them?  Or maybe taking care of them is the last thing to be worried about, maybe some will be angry and we'll have violent riots on our hands!  "Don't get me wrong", says the practical abolitionist, "I'm with you on ending slavery, but let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  How about we endorse a measure to decrease slavery by 29%?  Today we have slavery 7 days a week, so if we grant 2 days of freedom a week, say on Saturday and Sunday, then that would certainly be an improvement over current conditions.  Once we have 2 days of freedom, we can work on a 3rd, 4th, etc.  That is certainly a more practical strategy given current conditions, right?"

Lessons from the Practical Abolitionist

How do we respond to the practical abolitionist?  With knowledge of how the past played itself out we can easily point out the error of his ways.  In fact, knowing that the abolitionist cause ultimately succeeds makes this story a little silly.  But the point isn't whether it's silly or not from our vantage point, but whether the parallel is a valid one.  If so, then perhaps the practical elements of our own party will seem silly to our descendants in the utopic libertarian future.

With 20/20 hindsight vision, it's clear that the "practical abolitionist" is his own worst enemy by endorsing a goal of "reducing slavery by 29%".  Given the conditions of that time, it may be more realistic to reduce slavery then to end it, but he is making the mistake of sacrificing the integrity of his long-term goal for a short-term win.  He is playing into the hands of his opponents.  Why should anyone else adopt the long term goal of "ending slavery completely" when even the so-called abolitionists seem to endorse slavery for 5 days a week? If slavery is a moral outrage, a crime against humanity, and a sin under god, then it must be totally wiped out.  But if the group that is most publicly denouncing slavery is satisfied with a mere reduction in this great sin, then there must be some flaw in the arguments.  Now the abolitionist brand has been compromised.  As "purists" in the Libertarian Party have been known to point out, when we water down our message we lose twice, first by not winning the election, and second because we didn't even get our message out.  By focusing too much on short-term wins in the political arena we forget about the long term goal of education and spreading the message.  Without that the big political wins can never be accomplished.

While it might bring charges ranging from rudeness to being a proponent of "abolition purity tests", the impact of the "practical abolitionist" is so disastrous to the Abolitionist Party that it may be prudent to question the sincerity of his beliefs.  After all, the practical abolitionist is confusing the abolitionist message in the minds of the voter, he is giving his opponents an easy line of attack with charges of hypocrisy and insincerity, and in some cases he even gives lip service to his enemy's propaganda rather than combating it when he uses it as the excuse for why people aren't ready for the "hard-core" message.

We should always advocate breaking the chains of slavery, never to make the chains more comfortable.  When we take the practical route we inadvertently advocate the very system we claim to fight.

It gets even worse than this.  If slavery is the evil that the abolitionists claim, why would they support any goal that would make slavery more tolerable to live under?  The more obvious the evil is, the easier it will be to recruit new abolitionists to combat it.  But if they are successful at "reducing slavery" then they will also be taking the wind out of the sails of their movement.  Those that were at the edge of pledging their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor" will now be placated with this bone thrown at them.  From this perspective, the message of the practical abolitionist isn't so different from the deviously clever strategy of "Mr. Smith" in Larken Rose's parable of "The Jones Plantation".

This brings up the next point, what inspires people to join a movement?  When you're up against the odds and looking to change hearts and minds, it's not prudency or the ability to compromise that converts people to your cause.  From my own perspective I can say with confidence it was the opposite; I fell in love with the logical consistency and principled stance of the libertarian message.  Here are people that when they say something, they really mean it.  But beyond my personal anecdote, which may be a fluke, we can look to the man who has undoubtedly turned more people onto the libertarian message than anyone else, Dr. Ron Paul.  When new converts speak of him, they don't get into the details of the libertarian message, they talk about his consistency.  Here is a man that I can trust because he stands for something; he says what he believes and he believes what he says.

Back to the abolitionist analogy, we see the same respect for the man of principle and disgust with the compromisers and hypocrites.  Say anything positive about the constitution or the libertarian beliefs of the founding fathers and the msm talking point is immediately relayed like a dog salivating to the ring of a bell: "The founders were hypocrites!  A bunch of white men that talked about freedom and equality but owned slaves, why should I trust anything they said?"

And the worst part is… they are right.  It was hypocritical to talk about freedom being an unalienable right granted by a creator from one side of your mouth while defending the ownership of slaves with the other.  It is cognitive dissonance, doublethink, and schizophrenic thinking at its worst.  Now the opponents of freedom can denigrate the idea completely.  If these so-called founders didn't even believe in freedom, then surely no one did… well, except for someone named Lysander Spooner.

A tribute to this heroic man deserves its own post, but long story short, here is an abolitionist that walked the walk.  He used every action available to him to further the abolitionist cause.  He wrote pamphlets and books to spread the message, including the very influential "The Unconstitutionality of Slavery."  He promoted plans for guerrilla warfare against slave holders and conspired with the "activist" members of his group to plot insurrections, even participating in one himself to free a fellow abolitionist.  And most obviously, he didn't own any slaves.  Today Lysander is a hero to principled libertarians.  His writings did not debate the petty issues of his day, instead he wrote about broad principles of liberty and justice that transcend space and time; hence his legacy will live on forever.  We want to be the Lysander Spooners of the freedom movement, not the "practical abolitionists".

No one remembers the practical abolitionists, but Lysander's memes will live in the internet forever.

Conclusion

The most compelling part of the practical argument for low taxes is painting the picture of what would happen to the less fortunate if we ended taxation tomorrow.  Most obviously, goods and services that have been monopolized by the government would take time to transition to being run by the private sector.  So think of all of the people dependent on these government services, including welfare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  These programs are paid via taxation, so what happens to them if that revenue stream no longer has a gun to keep it flowing?

Going back to the slavery / abolitionist theme, it reminds me of the following quote from the great British abolitionist Thomas Macaulay:
"There is only one cure for evils which newly acquired freedom produces, and that cure is freedom.  When a prisoner first leaves his cell, he cannot bear the light of day, he is unable to discriminate colors, or recognize faces.  The remedy is to accustom him to the rays of the sun.

The blaze of truth and liberty may at first dazzle and bewilder nations which have become half blind in the house of bondage.  But let them gaze on, and they will soon be able to bear it,…

Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition, that no people out to be free till they are fit to use their freedom.  The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water till he had learned to swim.  If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in slavery, they may indeed wait forever."
This quote is the ultimate answer to the "practical abolitionist" of the 19th century and to his descendants within the Libertarian Party today.  The flip side to freedom is responsibility, and the ability to take responsibility for your actions is a muscle that must be flexed from regular use or it will atrophy and decay to a shadow of its potential.  The "practical abolitionist" says the people aren't ready for freedom, so let's be reasonable and promote practical measures.  History tells us he was wrong.  If Dr. Martin Luther King was correct, and “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”, then we should look to the optimist within and have confidence that in time our message will succeed.  And when that day comes, we want to be standing on the right side of history.  The next viral video shouldn't be "Ron Paul was Right" or "Peter Schiff was Right", but "The Libertarians were Right!"
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...