Showing posts with label natural rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label natural rights. Show all posts

10/09/2015

In Defense of Common Sense Gun Control


In the wake of the latest mass shooting tragedy in a gun-free zone by yet another anti-depressant popping psychopath, we see two responses that have become just as linked as night following day.  First comes grand-standing by the politicians and media to push the idea of "common sense" gun laws, a.k.a. total confiscation through the Australian model, despite the inconvenient fact that gun violence has been cut in half in the last 20 years.  This action, designed to lower the number of guns in America, instead provides a delightful Newtonian equal and opposite reaction that makes September, 2015 the 5th month in a row to set all-time record-high gun sales.

Whether these new guns are purchased for stock-piling, profit-making, or preparing for the 5th "easy" step to create a Gun Free America, there is one form of gun control that even the most radical supporter of the 2nd amendment can and should get behind, and that is self-control.

This is not a push for state-mandated licensing, education, or any other type of governmental restriction on the natural right to protect oneself.  Instead, this is an example of the radical libertarian tactic of persuasion, a plea for a voluntary application of common sense.  If you're going to take on the awesome responsibility of gun ownership, it is in your own best interest that you train both mind and body to prevent a senseless tragedy, whether through a negligent discharge or by having the mental acumen and tactical skills required to respond to an active shooter.

Having not grown up with guns, taking a basic firearms safety class was the first step I took before assuming the responsibility of firearms ownership.  Since then, I have taken multiple safety and training classes for both the handgun and the rifle.  For those that have not expended the time or money in such training, this post will review the key mental and tactical concepts that I have learned, not at all meant to serve as a substitute for such training, but to pique your interest and convincingly prove it to be a worthwhile investment, one that could even save your life.

The Mindset

All the background checks, mandatory classes, and child safety locks in the world will not prevent an accidental injury or death from a firearm from a reckless and indifferent gun owner.  On the flip side, every conceivable disaster that resulted from a negligent discharge of a firearm could have been prevented if the participants had adopted a religious adherence to the principles of gun safety.

While different organizations have their own flavor of gun safety rules, by far the most adopted, simple, and comprehensive are Jeff Cooper's four rules:
  1. All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. (For those who insist that this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.)
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target. This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for about 60 percent of inadvertent discharges.
  4. Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.
These rules should not merely be read over once, reflected on for a moment, and then discarded in the excitement of gun ownership.  Every member of the family in a gun-owning household should know these rules backwards and forwards.  While rule #1 may be the hardest to adopt for the uninitiated, it is by far the most important.  Just like mindful repetition is practiced so that the desired behavior becomes automatic, rule #1 should be so ingrained that one would cringe upon seeing a child's brightly-painted toy gun pointed in an unsafe direction.  A dedication to rule #1 should provoke a sense of unease when looking at a mere picture of the muzzle of the gun as evidence that the cameraman practiced unsafe behavior.  With this level of determination to consistently follow the four gun safety rules, even to the point of these extreme measures for safety, you greatly reduce the likelihood of you or your family befalling an avoidable firearms accident.

You - or your family - those additional three words add another level of sobriety to the equation that need to be considered.  While most states have passed legislation to make it illegal to have firearms unlocked or otherwise accessible to children, we need to remember the determination each child has when searching for birthday or Christmas presents when the parents are out of the home.  Merely hiding and locking the guns aren't enough, all members of the family, including children, should be inducted into the seriousness and responsibility of firearms ownership.

Consider two homes that contain firearms and children.  In the first house, the child is taught the rules of firearms safety and made to memorize them before they are allowed to use a gun under adult supervision.  In turn, they are taught how to shoot as early as the parents think their maturity allows, perhaps starting with a BB or pellet gun first, but moving to the 22 LR caliber as quickly as possible.  After all, a BB or pellet gun may not even break the skin, and you risk setting an example counter to the rules of gun safety to teach a child that some guns can be shot without serious consequences.  The children will feel the pride and maturity that comes with the trust and responsibility expected by the parents, and while the guns are locked up, the parents are more than happy to take the children out shooting to reinforce their skills as often as possible.  These children don't have an interest in toy guns, they have the real thing.

In our second house, all state and local laws are followed to a T, and that's about it.  The guns are stored behind child safety locks, and all the children know about guns are what they see in movies and video games - point it and go bang!  This ostrich with his head in the sand approach may work fine, that is, until the day the child is rummaging through the closet, looking for Christmas presents.  Maybe that day passes without incident, but what about when a friend is over, and the child wants to show off what he found?  In which house is a tragedy more likely to occur?  The question should answer itself.  To reemphasize the point, if you're going to own firearms, it's not just you that needs to be educated and responsible - everyone in the house needs to take on the same mentality.  Firearms ownership is truly a family affair.

The Art of the Handgun

Between firearms introduction & safety classes, basic & advanced handgun classes, and the legally required concealed carry course, I'd probably gone through six separate 1-2 day training sessions before going to the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute's 4-day defensive handgun course.  While the four stages of competence is generically used to describe the progress that a student makes through any discipline, the trainers at Front Sight described a fifth stage applicable to firearms, which is that of the student who is "Intentionally Incompetent".  This type of firearms owner knows he is incompetent, but chooses not to do anything about it either through laziness or fear.  From there we move on to the traditional categories of the Unconsciously Incompetent, the Consciously Incompetent, The Consciously Competent, and the Unconsciously Competent student.

Going into Front Sight, I knew I didn't fall into the Intentionally Incompetent, as by definition, I was trying to do something about my skill level.  I thought I'd humbly rank in the "Consciously Incompetent" category, so I was very surprised to hear the Front Sight instructors claim that 95% of all gun owners, including those in the police and military, should be regarded as Unconsciously Incompetent.  How could that be?  After all, I competed monthly in IDPA matches and had earned the rank of "marksman" - how could I simultaneously be unconsciously incompetent with my firearm?  Needless to say, I was very skeptical of the claim, but amazingly, by the end of the training I became a believer.

The former training had been given by state-licensed professionals that included former police and military, and while I had been taught how to load the weapon, how to hold it, how to align the sights, and how to fire - I came to find that just about every technique I had learned was either incomplete or inadequate for a truly tactical situation.  It's one thing to shoot paper targets with all the time in the world, but not only will a "bad guy" not bless you with that luxury, but your own skills seriously degrade when your heart beat is accelerating, your palms are sweaty, and your mind is racing with adrenaline and fear.

HARD focus on the front sight… Pressssssss

So while I learned many new techniques, such as changing my stance to use isometric pressure to "push" my firearm with my trigger hand while "pulling" the firearm with my secondary hand, how to apply a consistent squeeze for a surprise break and slowly releasing the trigger until it resets, a 7 step draw from concealment, and to always aim for a fist sized pattern from any distance (if your pattern is larger, slow down, but if you're too accurate, speed up!); the most valuable lesson I gained from Front Sight is the realization of how much I didn't know.

While it was rewarding to learn how to consistently put two shots to the thoracic cavity from concealment in 2 seconds, the most impactful lesson is to find out what it's like to be in a life or death scenario, both from the perspective of staying alive, and the consequences of having to take a life in defense of your own.  Through discussions you play through several scenarios: if you hear a window crashing in your house at 2:00 A.M., what do you do?  Perhaps some would say to lock n' load and search the house, but after going through a live-fire drill in a Front Sight house, you come to a different perspective after you see how your hands shake, your heart beats through your chest and your accuracy degrades.  Now the option of barricading yourself in your room and call 9-1-1 seems a little more appealing.  That is, unless you hear the cry of a loved one somewhere in the house and you have no other choice - at that point the police are minutes away and seconds count.  In this case the house scenario provides the jolt of reality of how little prepared you really are to deal with such a scenario, and just how critical it is to regularly partake in serious tactical training.

The Rifleman: an American tradition

While I have not yet had the opportunity to attend Front Sight's practical or precision rifle course, and therefore recognizing that I am likely an "Unconscious Incompetent" in the rifle in the same way that I was for the handgun, nevertheless I highly recommend the training I received from the Appleseed Project.  Volunteer run, only charging $30 a day or less for ladies and minors, the Appleseed Project seeks to pass on the heritage of the American rifleman by teaching 1-3 day classes on the fundamentals of precision rifle shooting while mixing in stories of the revolutionary war and Paul Revere's ride.  By teaching the techniques necessary to match the Revolutionary War rifleman's precision of head shots at 250 yards, the Appleseed Project scales back the size of the targets in order to shoot at 25 yards, making it an accessible class that can be offered everywhere in the country.

Going into that class my groups were the size of a basketball, and by the time I left I was overjoyed to hit the 1 inch square / 250 yard "head shot" in a timed shooting drill.  In order to achieve this feat in just 3 days of training, we focused on proper shoulder and cheek placement, trigger control, the rifleman's cadence, and the natural point of aim, all the while learning how to properly use the sling to stabilize the prone, sitting, and standing positions.

The Sling: Who knew it wasn't just for carrying your rifle?

However, it wasn't until taking a Barrett long range rifle class that I saw how these techniques that can accomplish a great deal at 25 yards require some refining at long distances.  While short distances can be forgiving of the occasional slip-up, those little things add up in a big way when going out to distances of 600, 800, and 1,000 yards.  If every component of every shot isn't perfect, then it's immediately obvious at those distances.

For instance, rifles with a pistol grip stock are generally held with the trigger finger wrapping the thumb around the stock.  The Barrett instructors suggested that we defy common sense and instead keep our thumb aligned with the rest of our hand, such that the rest of our hand is pushing the stock into our shoulder, and avoiding the slightest pressure from the thumb to squeeze the opposite side of the stock as the trigger finger executes it's slow squeeze.  Sure enough, we saw one shooter was able to adjust his grouping by a few inches from right to left merely by making this adjustment.

In another case, we saw how the prone position traditionally taught needed some adjustment as well.  Instead of adopting an off-center relationship between the body and the rifle, they recommended that we ensure our body is center of mass is perfectly perpendicular to the plane of the rifle.  In other words, as you watch the reticle of your scope rhythmically move to your breathing when timing your rifleman's cadence, you must ensure that the path of the reticle is exactly up and down.  If there is any left-to-right movement, then your body needs to be adjusted to correct this, as otherwise it is going to show up down range.

Speaking of the scope reticle, a proper understanding of the scope was the biggest lesson learned from long range rifle training.  While we were taught the calculations for target size, distance, and adjustments for both the MIL and MOA style reticle and adjustments knobs, the lesson begged the question, why on earth do nearly all scopes have MIL style reticles but MOA adjustment knobs!  Ok, it's good to know that 1 MIL is roughly 0.3 MOA, but why force these rough calculations, especially if you actually had to make that determination when it counts.  Instead, wouldn't it make sense to be consistent and get a MIL-MIL or a MOA-MOA scope, where the dots on the reticle perfectly align with the adjustment knobs, removing the need for rough math and rounding errors?

However, even this solution isn't complete for variable power scopes.  Again, most traditional scopes are "Second focal plane", meaning that the reticle stays the same size as the sight picture shrinks and grows according to the power setting.  The problem then, is that the MOA or MIL reticles are only accurate at one particular setting, usually the highest magnification.  If you are at a lower setting to acquire your target, you'd have to again resort to quick math to make a shooting opportunity.  Instead, one could look into "First Focal Plane" scopes, where the reticle grows and shrinks in relation to the target, such that the markings of the reticle are always constant.  With 1 MIL always equaling 1 MIL, the shooter can make distance adjustments or hold-over at any magnification on the fly.  While these scopes are generally more expensive, the price might just be worth it.

The final lesson was the importance of data sheets.  The combination of a unique gun, a precise brand of ammunition, as well as the elevation, pressure, and temperature all come into play for long distance shooting.  On the one hand, trial and error could slowly but surely achieve precise data sheets that can be collected and used in the future.  On the other hand, spending $15 on the "Ballistics AE" smart phone app paid for itself many times over within an hour of shooting match grade ammunition.  After entering the temperature, elevation, pressure, information on my rifle, and selecting my ammunition, it presented a data sheet that made me feel like I was cheating.  All the way out to 900 yards I could rely on the elevation adjustments to be perfectly spot on, allowing me to focus only on wind adjustments.  Never having shot farther than 200 yards prior to this experience, it was incredibly rewarding to learn the techniques required to hit a 12" target at 700 yards and a 24" target at 1,000 yards.  It may not be a skill likely to come into play in a life or death situation, but it's definitely rewarding in it's own right!

Who cares if it's practical?  Long range shooting is just plain cool.

Conclusion

For the principled libertarian, the right to firearms is absolute.  There are no misguided arguments of practicality, history, or statistics that can override my right to life and property, with the logical implication that I can protect them from deadly force, with deadly force.  Anything less denies my self-ownership and makes me a slave to those who would disarm me - but all that aside - these principles, admirable as they are, will not prevent a negligent discharge or win a single gun fight.

Yet, as important as it is to have a quality weapon and be properly trained in its use, we must conclude by going back to the great Jeff Cooper, who argued that the most important tool for surviving a lethal confrontation is not the weapon or the martial skills, but the combat mindset.

Especially with the introduction of smart phones and the walking-zombie effect it brings, nearly the entire nation spends its time in condition "White", completely unaware and unprepared.  By taking on the responsibility of firearms ownership, and especially for those that decide to conceal carry, you must be willing to make the conscious effort to live in condition "Yellow".  To be "Yellow" is to be relaxed but alert, aware of the world around you.  From condition "Yellow" you are capable of identifying a specific threat and moving into condition "Orange", and if need be, to condition "Red".  Hopefully, if you are ever faced with a harrowing situation that requires a fight to save your own life or the life of another, you will be able to rely on a solid investment of mental and tactical training.  It may not be the "law" to take such training, but ultimately, it's just common sense gun control.

2/02/2015

Secession, Slavery and the Civil War: Causation, Correlation or Mass Confusion?


The Ludwig von Mises Institute recently hosted their annual get together in Houston on the heroically controversial theme of secession.  Mises Institute President Jeff Deist opened the morning with a speech advising us to secede in our local capacity, starting at the individual level.  Dr. Brian McClanahan detailed America's rich history of secession, from the 13 colonies' war of secession from Great Britain to Texas' war of secession against Mexico.  Lew Rockwell contrasted the rich libertarian history of secession to the regime libertarians' knee-jerk reaction to such an unapproved opinion.  After lunch, New York Times best-selling author Tom Woods highlighted the absurdity of viewing secession as blasphemous while the decision to kill half a million children is a matter of public policy.  Finally, Dr. Ron Paul closed out the afternoon by speaking of secession as just one tool to be used in the greater contest for liberty.

It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with so many like-minded people from all over the country that chose to travel long distances for a one-day seminar on a topic that is viewed by the mainstream as antiquated and unorthodox at best.  In retrospect, the most amazing part of the event is how we were able to have a rational, thoughtful dialogue on this topic without ever bringing up the elephant in the room: slavery and the civil war.  It's like we all took it for granted that everyone was familiar with the works of authors like DiLorenzo and didn't need to rehash the history taught in public schools that Lincoln heroically fought the civil war to free the slaves and save the Union against the traitorous secessionists of the South.  We didn't need to waste time analyzing that myth; we could immediately jump to more productive and enlightening dialogue.

However, the sad reality many of us faced traveling home was that it is nearly impossible to continue that rational conversation on the merits and challenges of secession with most of our coworkers, friends and family.  Raise the specter of secession and the Pavlovian responses of "racism", "slavery" and even "neo-confederate" predictably follow.  But what else should we expect in a society with 12+ years of government indoctrination and a mainstream media that foams at the mouth and is undeniably dishonest when someone has the gall to question the necessity of the war considering that slavery was peaceably ended in every other country without requiring the loss of 620,000 lives and billions in damages and debt.

The civil war was fought to free the slaves.  The secessionists were traitors.  These are the commonly held myths we must dismantle before the rest of society can join us in a reasonable and common-sense discussion on the right of secession.

Why was the Civil War fought?

The government-approved history of the Civil War goes something like this: the Southern states illegally seceded from the United States to protect their institution of slavery.  This prompted a Civil War, causing a tremendous loss of life and property on both sides, but ultimately ending with Lincoln fulfilling his quest by preserving the Union and freeing the slaves.

This narrative may seem undisputable but it suffers from fatal errors once you scratch the surface.  On the first point concerning the cause of secession there is no major disagreement.  While the Southern states did have grievances against the Federal Government like protective tariffs that unfairly benefited the North at the expense of the South, the major reason cited in the state's secession documents was the issue of slavery.  Thomas Fleming's A Disease in the Public Mind points to the colliding forces of unrelenting abolitionism in the North and the South's fear of a race war which made it impossible to find an agreeable end to the system of slavery.

So while seven of the Southern states seceded over the slavery issue, the reason for the war given by Lincoln himself was not slavery, but to prevent secession.  As Lincoln repeatedly said,
"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.  If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.  What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union."
Lincoln made this point numerous times such that it cannot be directly challenged by regime historians, but what happens instead is a logical fallacy built under the guise of the familiar mathematical axiom that if a = b and b = c, then a = c.  In other words, "if the cause of secession was slavery, and to prevent secession was the reason for the war, then the reason for the war was slavery".  This may seem a trivial point, but it is imperative that the undisputed good of ending slavery is not used to cloud our judgment when considering the true motivations for the ugly and brutal war that preceded it.  Any fantasy that the North was fighting a war of racial justice must be dismantled so that we can objectively look at the agreed upon reason for the war, secession, in an unbiased light.

First of all, if the Civil War was about slavery, why would there have been 7 slave states that stayed loyal to the Union while the Confederacy was formed?  The fact is, the people of the North were largely no better or even worse than the southerners when it came to racial equality.  The Northerners enforced fugitive slave laws, kept child slaves for 25+ years during manumission, denied free blacks suffrage, and generally did all they could to make their states white only.  Conversely, Fleming noted that only a small minority of Southern men owned slaves or otherwise had a direct financial incentive in the practice - so why would they fight over it and risk their lives and everything they owned?  The simple answer is they wouldn't.  So what would they fight for?  Of the seven slave states that originally stayed in the Union, four of those states only seceded after Lincoln had put out calls to raise an army of invasion and the first shots were fired at Ft. Sumter.  If it war was over slavery, can we imagine that Lincoln would have called it quits if the seceded states had freed their slaves?  Of course not!  It wasn't slavery that drove Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee out; Lincoln made it clear he had no quarrel with that institution in any loyal state.  They joined the confederacy and fought out of disbelief that Lincoln would declare war and invade the southern states which they believed had every right to peaceably withdraw from their government, just as their great-grandfathers had done 90 years earlier from King George III.  It might have been slavery that prompted the first 7 states to leave, but that's not why 11 states fought a long and brutal war - they fought for self-government.

Unbelievably, it is the fine print of the Emancipation Proclamation itself that best shines a light on the dubious claim that Lincoln freed the slaves.  Proving Lincoln to be the master politician, that document only applied to the states in rebellion, specifically exempting the states that had stayed loyal! So the slaves that Lincoln had the power to free were to remain slaves, but he supposedly freed the slaves in states that had already left the Union and formed their own country.  H.L. Mencken said it best,
"Even his handling of the slavery question was that of a politician, not that of a messiah... An Abolitionist would have published the Emancipation Proclamation the day after the first battle of Bull Run.  But Lincoln waited until the time was more favorable - until Lee had been hurled out of Pennsylvania, and more important still, until the political currents were safely running his way.  Even so, he freed the slaves in only a part of the country: all the rest continued to clank their chains until he himself was an angel in Heaven."
Ultimately, there are many contending theories of precisely why the Federal government invaded the Confederacy.  While Thomas Fleming discusses the "diseases in the public mind" that fueled the Civil War, Thomas DiLorenzo unmasks the real Lincoln, showing how his ideology favoring a strong central state led him to launch an unnecessary and illegal war to destroy the doctrine of state's rights.  John Avery Emison takes just about everything we were taught about the Civil War and turns it on its head, first showing us that it would be more accurate to call it America's second war of secession, and from there demonstrating how our first "total war" paved the way for the horrors of the 20th century's world wars and set the precedent for the most egregious violations of federal power today.  As if it couldn't get any worse, John Graham makes the case that it wasn't historical accidents that caused the War for Southern Independence, but "antagonisms… deliberately agitated during the 1850s by great international banking houses with a preconceived motive of provoking secession" to generate unpayable debts and establish the financial empire that still rules this country.  Regardless of these various theories, we should all be able to agree with Walter Williams when he unequivocally states, the Civil War wasn't about slavery.

Were the Secessionists traitors?


With the end of slavery properly understood as a happy by-product of the Civil War, but not at all the reason that 620,000 fought and died, we can examine the legitimacy of the war through fresh eyes.  Was Lincoln justified in waging a war against the Confederacy to preserve the Union, and just what did he preserve?

First, it might be instructive to take a step back and examine the points made by Emison concerning just what we should call this decisive event in American history.  Unlike the civil war in Spain, the American Civil War was not a battle of two competing factions fighting for control over a common central government.  The Southern states had no dictates to the North, no terms other than to be left alone.  Jefferson Davis even sent a peace delegation to promote friendly ties between the two countries, which Lincoln refused to see.  So what do we call a war when one side has formally withdrawn and entered into a state of self-government and the other side invades that country to bring it into submission?  A war of independence or a war for secession certainly fits the historical circumstances better than a civil war.

At this point our government indoctrination might be kicking in - am I possibly making the argument that the traitorous South had the moral high ground in this war, the exact opposite of what the victorious Federal Government has led us to believe?  Indeed, Murray Rothbard concluded that there are only two American wars that have met the criteria for a "just war", that being the first war of secession against Great Britain, and the second war of secession of the Southern states.

But how could this be?  The Southern states seceded for slavery, the act of depriving individuals from exercising their free will, one of the greatest crimes that man can commit.  Doesn't this fact tarnish secession?  But consider the reverse scenario.  If secession is to be judged by the worst vices of those that endorsed it, shouldn’t we also look at the crimes of those that did not believe in secession but instead in an all-powerful central government?  Adolf Hitler himself wrote in Mein Kampf that secession was illegal because "it was the Union which formed a great part of such so-called states."  Similarly, the violence wrecked by omnipotent central governments that were no fans of secession counts some 200 million dead in the 20th century alone.


Rather than only focusing on the worst qualities of those that believed in secession, let's recall that one of our most famous founding fathers was explicitly in favor of secession and nullification to combat the growth of centralized government in the Principles of '98.  Thomas Jefferson postulated that it was "not very important to the happiness of either part" of the country if the United States broke up.  In a live and let live fashion, he said that in separation "God bless them both, and keep them in the union if it be for their good, but separate them, if it be better".

At the time Lincoln invaded the South there were five living ex-presidents, every one of which opposed the war in one way or another.  Some did not agree with the decision to secede and did their best to convince the Southern states to remain in the Union, but they ultimately believed in the right of secession.  After all, Vermont seceded from New York, Texas seceded from Mexico, and West Virginia seceded from Virginia during the Civil War itself.  And as previously mentioned, the United States itself seceded from Great Britain in the Revolutionary War.  You'd think that would count for something.

Historical precedents aside, we can also look at this logically and constitutionally.  An established precedent of law is known as legislative entrenchment, meaning that what one legislative body has the power to do, another can do or undo.  A prior legislative body cannot rule from the grave and if the state legislature of 1787 has the power to ratify the constitution, so then can the state legislature of 1861 choose to repeal that ratification.  Indeed, Virginia's secession document explicitly stated it was a lawful repeal of the ratification of the Constitution.  Can we imagine that the 13 colonies, having just had their full sovereign nature individually acknowledged by Great Britain, really joined a union that they could never leave?  Every historical precedent from the federalist papers to the state ratifying conventions says otherwise.

The Southern states were not traitorous when they seceded; they had every right to do so.  The only traitor was Lincoln, who declared war without congressional approval and violated a hundred other constitutional provisions and laws of human decency in his battle to "preserve the Union".  He may have reclaimed the Southern states as captured provinces, but he certainly didn't preserve our republic.  What we had was a voluntary association of independent states united under the contract of the Constitution.  Lincoln's war of aggression most assuredly killed that system of government for all the states, replacing it with the federal leviathan that knows no boundaries and gives no thought to the consent of the governed.  He won the war and we still suffer the losses.

What is Secession?

Secession - it was the foundation of the American Revolution against King George III.  Even today, it is the most radical concept of the last 500 years.  As stated in Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, when a government is destructive to the ends of the people that created it, it is their duty to institute a new government.  That wasn't an idle threat; secession is the means to do so.  It is the true enforcement mechanism to ensure that we have government by consent.

Just think of what a glorious preventative check the threat of secession is to the limitless goals of our federal masters.  Imagine the contrast with a "marriage union".  Even though it is a document signed "till death do us part", all modern states recognize the right of divorce, the equivalent of secession.  As Emison questioned, would an abusive husband treat his wife better or worse in a society where divorce was legal or illegal?  The question answers itself, and it also explains why the federal government is able to propose increasingly egregious legislation on battered, defenseless states that have nowhere to run and no hope of retaliation.

How bizarre that in a country founded on the principle of secession time has allowed this cornerstone of liberty and bedrock of freedom to be marginalized and disgraced.  After all, as Tom Woods noted in his speech at the Mises Circle, its practical effect is nothing more than to say, "maybe this imaginary line should be drawn up here instead of over there."

Lew Rockwell defined secession in more human terms, reminding us of the moral obligation we have to our fellow men and the responsibility we carry when we endorse our political agents to carry out violence in our name.  He summed up the the libertarian perspective this way:
"It is morally illegitimate to employ state violence against individuals who choose to group themselves differently from how the existing regime chooses to group them. They prefer to live under a different jurisdiction. Libertarians consider it unacceptable to aggress against them for this."
View the right of secession as a moral imperative to not aggress against others that want to go in peace.  Recognize the arbitrary nature of all government boundaries and the absurdity in going into hysterics if one of those lines should change.  Acknowledge secession as the foundation of this very country and think of how it could be a very realistic solution to the issues we face today.  But above all, rescue secession from the dustbin of history that ignorance has placed it.  Secession is a noble, practical and moral idea that deserves our attention and respect.

Conclusion


Around the world people want freedom and if they can't have that, a more representative government will do.  The CIA and military industrial complex provides us with all kinds of "approved" secessions and revolutions around the world from despots who have inexplicably leaped from the ally to the enemy category - but dare suggest that Texas may be better of seceding if the federal government continues its unsustainable path, or that the citizens of California would be better represented if certain counties seceded to create new states - well you must be a closet racist!  This hypocrisy and doublethink can’t go on forever.

As Thomas DiLorenzo recently documented, secession is a global phenomenon that isn't going away:
"There are 32 secessionist movements in Africa; 114 secessionist movements in Europe; 20 secessionist movements in North America; 83 secessionist movements in Asia; 11 secessionist movements in South America; and 26 secessionist movements in Oceania.  Neo-Confederates are everywhere!"
However, the most exciting thing about secession isn't just the prospect of replacing one government with another one, but the larger philosophical impact for the libertarian movement.  Followed to its logical conclusion, when the state can secede from the country, and the county from the state, and the town from the county, we can envision a practical path to our anarcho-capitalist utopia.  But ultimately, if the right of secession is accepted and respected, we could imagine a government that has an actual incentive to stay within its delegated boundaries, a government that actually serves its supposed purpose of contributing to the happiness of the people instead of to their destruction.  It may be impossible to keep the state with its monopoly on violence within the boundaries set by those that consented to its jurisdiction, but if it were to be possible, it is certainly only so in a society where the right of secession is alive and well.  Let us fight to create such a society, not through violence - that is the government’s specialty, but in the war of ideas.

12/12/2014

The Political Mysteries of Easter Island


It goes by many names: "Easter Island" or "Isla de Pascua" both refer to the day the Dutch stumbled upon this mysterious island in 1722.  About 50 years later a Spanish explorer named it after his king but "San Carlos Island" didn't stick.  According to lore this land was named "Te Pito O Te Henua" meaning "The Navel of the World", but today the locals refer to their home with a Polynesian name given in the 1860's: Rapa Nui.

With descendants of the indigenous people also known as Rapa Nui and their ancestral language sharing that name, early explorers concluded that there may not have been a distinct name for this remote island in the Pacific.  Since it is a single landmass and not a chain of islands there is no other landmark to compare it to.  More than 2,175 miles from mainland Chile and a similar distance from Tahiti, it is a mystery in itself how the Polynesian sailors of over a thousand years ago first came to inhabit this land.

Rapa Nui's beautiful weather, deep blue ocean, white sand beaches, gorgeous volcanic peaks and welcoming, hospitable locals would make this island worthy of any tropical vacation - but throw in one thousand 10-70 foot tall ancient statues scattered across the island and you have a must-see "bucket list" destination.  It was these mysterious statues, the moai, which drew me to the island.  The stone giants sit upon monolithic platforms built with ten ton perfectly cut hard basalt rocks that rival the engineering secrets of Egypt.  The largest moai known to have stood upon such a platform weighed over 80 tons.  Upon the moai's heads sat top-knots known as pukao carved from red scoria rock, themselves weighing 20+ tons.

Many different theories exist as to how a few thousand people without large animals could obtain the resources, tools, techniques and willpower to carve these wonders out of volcanic rock and transport them to the farthest points of the island - and every few years new scholars seek to make a name for themselves by proposing a new explanation.  Some say the Rapa Nui walked the statues from the quarry to their platforms using nothing but manpower, team work and ropes.  Others look at evidence that indicates they must have had more advanced engineering techniques, with one curious book claiming that Easter Island is the tip of a lost continent called Mu that was home to an advanced civilization.  While many locals still believe the oral tradition of their ancestors using "magic" to move the moai, the longtime residents of the island agree - there is no consensus.

I went to Easter Island anxious to hear the mysteries of the ancient moai but instead found myself drawn to the modern political problems that confronted the Rapa Nui people.  Talking to tour guides, businessmen and artists I discovered wonderful new and unexpected things: there are no taxes, virtually no crime and in 5 days I never saw a single police officer.  Yet, the same dismal outlook concerning Easter Island's politics reappeared in every conversation, whether from native Rapa Nui that were born and raised on Easter Island, foreigners that had married into a Rapa Nui family or travelers that fell in love with the island and decided to never leave.  The moai may remain a mystery forever, but I'm confident that libertarian answers are exactly what the fiercely independent people of Rapa Nui need to solve their modern problems.

A History of Violence

To understand the present one must understand the past, and the past of the Rapa Nui includes famine, disease, war, slave raids and cannibalism.  Ask when the first Polynesians settled the island, when the moai were created or when their construction ended will bring answers differing by hundreds of years - so all we can reasonably conclude is that there is no consensus for these questions.  What is known with certainty is based on the records of western explorers.  The Dutch and Spanish only wrote of standing statues in 1722 and 1770 respectively, but starting in 1774 and continuing for 60 years thereafter reports of toppled moai were recorded until none were left standing.  Again, what exactly lead an advanced commercial society to collapse into cannibalism and civil war is up for debate, but by the time the missionaries of the 1860s appeared the islanders were already separated into competing tribes that respected clear-cut property lines.  Their legends spoke of the first king that divided up the island among his sons, eventually resulting in these clans.  At some unknown point the class system of the king and the royal family were disposed by military leaders that instituted the cult of the birdman, where a representative from each clan would compete in a yearly ritual that would result in one clan gaining power over the island.  One way or the other, a population that scientists believe peaked at 15,000 came to be estimated at only 3,000 by western explorers in the 18th century.


But by the 1860s cannibalism and inter-clan warfare became the least concern for the Rapa Nui.  Peruvian slave ships captured about half the islands population and sent 1,500 men and women to work in guano deposits and plantations.  A few years later the well-meaning bishop of Tahiti intervened and demanded the Rapa Nui be returned home.  Unfortunately, the survivors brought smallpox and tuberculosis back to Easter Island that wiped out the other half of the population.  By 1877 only 111 people were still living on the island, only 36 of them having children.

As if things couldn't get any worse, less than a dozen years later Easter Island became a territory of a modern state.  A representative of the Chilean government duped the supposed king into signing the "Treaty of Annexation of the Island".  Like all social contract theories, this act by one "king" is now interpreted as having been signed with the Rapa Nui people as a whole and somehow implicitly transferred onto future generations in perpetuity.  Even postulating that such a contract could be morally or legally justifiable, it is doubtful that the signer of this treaty of no authority realized what relinquishing his people's sovereignty meant.  While the first king of Rapa Nui allegedly foresaw Easter Island in a dream and led his people on a triumphant voyage towards a great civilization, this last king couldn't even anticipate the misery that would immediately follow signing a contract with the State.

With the ink barely dry on the annexation treaty, the Chilean government leased Easter Island to the Williamson-Balfour Company in 1888, which then created a subsidiary company to imprison the islanders in the town of Hanga Roa and turned the rest of the island into a giant sheep farm.  With a name that is unbelievably honest to our modern ears, this company was called "Compania Explotadora de la Isla de Pascua" or "The Easter Island Exploitation Company".  While the company carelessly destroyed sacred Rapa Nui relics to build stone walls for the sheep, the people lived in a veritable concentration camp - and this continued for 70 years!

While the rest of the world partook in an industrial revolution, supposedly rid the world of slavery, mastered the secrets of the atom to harness great energy and raced to land a man on the moon - the Rapa Nui people lived and died without ever leaving the few square miles that comprised the island's only town.  The sheep ruled until 1953 and then the Chilean Navy took over only to run business as usual.  It wasn't until 1966, the same year Californians elected their first movie star as governor and cigarettes were first mandated with warning labels, that the Rapa Nui were allowed to roam outside of their open-air prison.  Needless to say, this experience has given them a healthy mistrust of the State.

Rapa Nui Problems

The good news is that the problems the Rapa Nui face today are not as drastic as those which faced their ancestors.  The flip side is that the issues are more subtle, they exist under the surface of everyday life which makes potential solutions more difficult to discern.  When your town is surrounded by barbed wire and you are denied the freedom to walk on the land of your ancestors because it has been taken over by a foreign army it is very clear where your righteous anger should be directed.  But again and again I heard the same despondent attitude towards the difficulties facing Easter Island, with the best hope being that a future generation could fix things.  This outlook of resignation and acceptance of failure does not mean that potential solutions don't exist - it only indicates that in a world of statism the answers are so unorthodox that they are never seriously considered.

The most obvious, alarming and disturbing issue that is readily acknowledged by the locals should also be one of the most clear cut examples of the tragedy of the commons to any student of economics.  After the islanders' status changed from prisoners of Hanga Roa to citizens of Chile their remorseful government mandated that going forward only native Rapa Nui would be eligible to own property, but of course the State itself was exempted from this agreement.  The entire coast line and the vast majority of Easter Island is owned by the government, with the predictable results being shocking to the conscience.


Priceless moai, platforms, and petroglyphs are constantly degraded by the elements.  While rain and winds are an excusable and inevitable challenge of an "open-air museum", the most insensible and egregious damage comes from the hundreds of roaming cows and horses that find themselves unable to respect the "no touching" signs infrequently posted across the island.  One of my guides could only shake his head when he noticed that a nose section of his family's ancestral moai had broken off since his last visit to the site, the culprit was most likely a wandering horse.

The cows are not used for their milk and the horses are not used for their meat.  There are plenty of cars on the island; some say too many, so no one is using these horses for transportation.  In fact, the largest and virtually only cause of car accidents on the island is from running into rambling horses.  To repeat: the outrageousness of the situation isn't that the horses are causing damage to cars, those can be replaced, it is that these thousand pound animals are doing tremendous damage to the hundreds of unique and irreplaceable artifacts that are totally unprotected.  At first glance it would seem that during the rush to industrialize the island with power generators, combustion engines and the internet someone forgot to introduce the technological wonder known as a fence.

But this is where the complications of the island politics and family history come to bear.  When the Rapa Nui population was decimated to 111 people the 36 of them that had children had very large families - with 20 children being common and the largest family containing 28.  These families all knew which ancestral clan they descended from and that knowledge has been passed on such that today the entire population of more than 3,000 Rapa Nui operates within their various familial networks.  All of them can trace their lineage back to one of the original clans that communally owned a certain piece of the island, each with their own sacred burial sites, platforms and moai to represent their ancestors - so in that sense they have a very legitimate claim to let their horses roam where they damn well please.  The tragedy of it all is that the government formally owns the land but knows that it can't get away with fencing it up or otherwise excluding the people (and their livestock) from their sacred sites - so we arrive at this quasi-ownership scenario where no one can enforce decisions that would protect the very artifacts that everyone is interested in preserving.


Occasionally the various Rapa Nui families are able to join together against the Chilean government and demand that their ancestral land is returned to its rightful heirs.  Whenever the protests and civil disobedience are threatening enough the Chilean government brilliantly cuts off a random piece of land in the middle of the island and sits back to let the families fight over it.  The majority of them don't want *that* particular territory, not only does it not belong to their tribe but it's probably the ancestral site of a rival clan.  Yet this technique to redirect their anger against each other and away from their government works every time.

You find this same misplacement of anger when it comes to the perfect example of what Hans-Hermann Hoppe calls "forced integration".  With Easter Island labeled a territory of Chile and the Rapa Nui becoming Chilean citizens, this opened the flood gates for Chileans to come from the mainland and set up shop in this tax-free paradise.  Just as Americans can move to Hawaii and live or work without any special permission, Chilean mainlanders are notoriously threatening the jobs and cultural identity of the Rapa Nui, with over 50% of the population of Easter Island now consisting of foreigners.  Their answer to this problem is to plead with the government to enact some kind of immigration quota.  Not only is this an example of addressing the symptom instead of the disease, it is far worse because the doctor prescribing the medicine is in fact the villain that dispensed the originating poison.

Libertarian Solutions


A tragedy of the commons, dubious property titles and forced integration, all originating from the acts of violence committed over 100 years ago against the Rapa Nui people that included fraud, theft, kidnapping and murder.  Before exploring the practical aspects of righting these wrongs, let's review what libertarian justice would demand.

The first crime to analyze is the signing of the "Treaty of Annexation of the Island".  Assuming for the sake of argument that the existing king was the rightful property owner of the entire island and had the capacity to sign it over to the government of Chile, it is seriously doubtful that there was a "meeting of the minds".  In other words, a reasonable person would not sign a contract that would immediately make himself, his people and his lineage slaves and prisoners on the land his fathers colonized.  The treaty should be considered fraudulent and granting no validity to the subsequent crimes of transferring the island to an "exploitation company" to imprison the people and steal their land.

With the current occupier and defacto owner of Easter Island having no legitimate title to it, we ask the question of who has the moral right of ownership.  The libertarian Lockean / homesteading principle of just property tells us that "everyone has absolute property right over previously unowned natural resources which he first occupies and brings into use".  This absolute property right includes the right to give it away or bequeath it to one's heirs, so common sense tells us that the clans that lived, worked, and "mixed their labor" with the island were the natural owners.  Furthermore, the property boundaries that they themselves established and respected should be seen as the legitimate borders for today.  For the vast majority of the island that is currently in the unjust possession of a criminal government, that land should be immediately returned to the families that can trace their lineage back to those clans.

What is the moral thing to do with the property that is in private hands?  There are two scenarios.  First, assume we are discussing land still under the control of the Williamson-Balfour Company.  As their possession of the land was directly facilitated by the criminal state, not to mention the horrendous crimes that they directly committed, any land held by them on Easter Island should also be returned.  They have no rightful claim to ask others to respect their "private property" that was seized through violent aggression.  In an essay entitled "Confiscation and the Homestead Principle" in the June 15th, 1969 issue of the Libertarian Forum, Murray Rothbard wrote,
"What we libertarians object to, then, is not government per se but crime, what we object to is unjust or criminal property titles; what we are for is not “private” property per se but just, innocent, non-criminal private property.  It is justice vs. injustice, innocence vs. criminality that must be our major libertarian focus."
In a case that's not so obvious is the occupation of the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa.  A German family bought the land from the Chilean government and spent millions of dollars building a hotel on it.  Only after the construction was complete and the business was preparing to open did members of the indigenous Hitorangi clan occupy the hotel rooms claiming that the land was illegally taken from their ancestors.  The occupation lasted for several months until the police forcibly removed them. In this scenario a different passage from Rothbard's essay may be more applicable:
"Often, the most practical method of de-statizing is simply to grant the moral right of ownership on the person or group who seizes the property from the State.  Of this group, the most morally deserving are the ones who are already using the property but who have no moral complicity in the State’s act of aggression.  These people then become the “homesteaders” of the stolen property and hence the rightful owners."
While the Williamson-Balfour Company was certainly complicit in the State's offenses, it is harder to convict the owners of the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa of the same involvement.  Lacking the taint of criminality and considering the millions worth of labor and capital they invested, an argument can be made that they have a greater claim to that particular piece of land than anyone else.  Accepting that some cases of confiscation and restoration will not be as evident as others but that justice will be served when the State-occupied land is returned to the rightful and identifiable heirs, we can now review the likely benefits that will result.

With all of Easter Island being privately owned by the people that care the most about its preservation we can expect that the current practice of having horses and cows trample over their sacred artifacts will immediately cease.  Not only do good fences make good neighbors but with private ownership comes the incentive to be the best possible steward of a given natural resource- whether the land contains a white sand beach or sacred archaeological relics.  The motivation to provide proper short-term maintenance and ensure preservation for future generations may purely come from the love of one's ancestral land but it could also be enhanced by the desire to profit from the appetites of the nearly 100,000 tourists per year that travel from all over the world and are ready to spend thousands of dollars to marvel at the ancient moai.

Similarly, in the case of the forced integration of unwanted Chileans, in an island of private property everyone will either be a welcome guest or will not be admitted.  Perhaps some clans will choose to only employ native Rapa Nui while others will be eager to hire outside help and specialized talent from around the world - the market will ultimately reward those that best please the desires of the consumers.  While this scenario supposes that the Rapa Nui will choose not to sell their land, with full property rights free from the current state-mandated restriction they would have the choice to sell part or all of their land to anyone they wanted, regardless of nationality.  Perhaps not everyone will be optimally pleased with what the people of Rapa Nui decide to do with their rightful land, but two things are certain: justice will be done and the moai will be better preserved than they are today - it couldn't possibly be worse.

Conclusion


It would be dishonest to ignore an objection that will surely come to any mind that has been indoctrinated in government schools: with privately owned land Easter Island would be ruined!  Greedy capitalists would fill it with 5 star hotels, casinos and other monstrosities, utterly destroying the majesty, mystery and miracles that have come to characterize Rapa Nui and bring tourists flocking in larger and larger numbers every year.

Stated in this way, the objection answers itself.  Tourists that want that kind of vacation go to Tahiti, Maldives or Bora Bora while an entirely different type of tourist spends the time and money to travel to Easter Island.  Any successful entrepreneur will need to cater to what the tourists of Rapa Nui demand, and any that refuse to answer their wishes will be replaced with those that will.  Furthermore, a benefit of living on an isolated island with such a small and intimate population is that everyone knows everyone, such that libertarian techniques like social ostracism would work very well in discouraging someone from committing a serious taboo like building a McDonalds on Rano Raraku.

Another objection that is always brought up in any discussion of the stateless society is… you guessed it, who will build the roads?  The answer is that the same people that currently build them may continue to do so, only they will be paid by private individuals instead of the state.  Currently every tourist to Easter Island pays a $60 fee to the Chilean National Park Service.  Instead of that money going directly back into the island which drew the tourists in the first place, the money is first sent back to mainland Chile and then divided equally among all the national parks - whether they draw any visitors or not.  Tourists pay thousands of dollars in flights, hotels, and higher prices for just about everything in order to cross Easter Island off their bucket list - surely they would continue to pay $60 or more to the new non-governmental owners of Rapa Nui.  The art of building roads will not be lost like the art of building moai.

Finally, for those that are concerned that private ownership of the moai could mean the end of tourism or archaeological research on Easter Island, rest assured that this is highly unlikely.  I found the Rapa Nui people to be incredibly warm and welcoming, cognizant of how tourism is central to their entire economy.  This symbiotic relationship would likely continue with an even greater financial interest in keeping tourists happy.  If you are shocked at the idea of putting a dollar sign on "priceless" artifacts like the moai, remember that something is only "priceless" when it is not allowed to be privately owned.  In the realm of archaeology, one can imagine wealthy benefactors or immensely lucrative crowdfunding campaigns that would be very successful in persuading the Rapa Nui to sell or lease some of their land to a serious team of researchers that could potentially break new ground.  Ironically, only through solving the political mysteries of today may we have a chance at solving the ancient mysteries of the moai.

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?
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