It is popular in Congress nowadays to make endless sound-bytes decrying an alleged rise of dangerous “extremism” in America. But what I call living a peaceful, normal, moral life, those people define as “extremist,” and since they’re experts at everything, I must be an extremist. How awful!
On the other hand, maybe the label should be worn with pride. Barry Goldwater, a senator who was unfortunately a Cold Warrior, penned an excellent phrase which stands today in spite of his own limitations: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” I echo that sentiment wholeheartedly.
Every Fourth of July Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But that celebration is becoming an empty parody of itself more every year, as the sentiments of the Declaration have been eroded and finally discarded. Government now robs us of nearly half our income and ladles the money out to itself first (of course), and to the bomb-makers and other big-money lobbyists next. Finally, it doles a little bit back to the people it originally stole it from, if they dance to the right tune or belong to an officially favored victim group. Meanwhile, it presumes to run our lives down to the smallest detail.
As a nation we have lost our connection to first principles, and it is costing us dearly.
To illustrate first principles, consider Solzhenitsyn’s quote in which he regrets that he and others did not physically oppose Stalin’s security operatives who broke into their homes, assaulted them, and left them dead or jailed. Most Americans would probably nod in agreement at Solzhenitsyn’s sentiments, but it is worthwhile to ask, why? After all, those security operatives were “just doing their jobs” and were “upholding and enforcing the law.” In other words, they were employing the same rationales as American cops do when they break down someone’s door for smoking pot. But many who would support any fate for Stalin’s police would, I dare say, be horrified at the assertion that Americans have a right to physically oppose cops who are enforcing pot laws. Where is the disconnect? It is that many are blind to the near-complete illegitimacy of American government today.
As that dusty old document we pay lip service to correctly states, the legitimate function of government is to secure the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for its citizens. It is very much not to micromanage our lives or to drain money out of our pockets incessantly; those kinds of activities are not legitimate and are forbidden. Any government official who works to enact or enforce an illegitimate edict is a criminal, according to the higher principles upon which law is supposed to be based, and upon which any honest judgment of a society must follow.
As for the common assertion that everyone must everywhere and always respect “the law,” we need merely observe that tyrants in every country always see to it that they have “the law” on their side, but that doesn’t make them anything other than criminal thugs whose unwarranted actions deserve to be ignored when possible and repulsed by other means when necessary. Any law that violates basic natural rights carries no moral strength whatever, and the enforcement of that law is a crime.
Am I in favor of violence? Quite the opposite: I vehemently oppose it. Violence is never justified except in self-defense, where it is absolutely called for in measure proportionate to the threat. That’s why when government officials initiate illegitimate violence, they should not be shocked if their violence is met by necessary self-defense. It is they, and no one else, who are responsible for the illegitimate violence they initiate, and when it is returned to them in equal measure, they have no one to blame but themselves.
At least 95% of what the government does today is bloated or outright illegitimate.
If you are sick, you have the right to be treated by whomever you please, for a price negotiated to the satisfaction of both parties, without government intrusion.
If you have services you wish to offer to the world, you have the right to do so without asking permission from the government. Only if you engage in force or fraud does the government have a right to intrude.
The government has no right to enslave you or your children to fight and die in some trumped-up war. If the nation were ever in genuine danger, there would be no shortage of volunteers to defend it.
The government has no right to tax an amount approaching half of your earnings. The legitimate functions of government can be financed by a tiny fraction of that.
The government has no right to rob you in order to pass out money to some favored victim group. Genuine charity is voluntary, but when the government gets involved, waste and fraud and theft are built in.
The government has no right to force you to pay for the worthless indoctrination centers called “public schools.” That money rightfully belongs to parents so they can make an informed decision for how best to educate their children.
The government has no right to deprive you of the means of self-defense. Any government official who attempts to use force to do so is committing the worst order of crime and should expect an appropriate response.
The government has no right to pull your car over on the highway and steal any cash you may be carrying. Any criminals who participate in this practice should expect an appropriately enraged response from those they seek to rob.
The government has no right to condemn and raze your home to enable some private developer to build a shopping mall.
The government has no right to lock you up if you have committed no crime, on the pretense that some people are irrationally frightened of some microscopic bug, and therefore everyone must hide until the last traces of irrational fear have vanished.
The government has no right to shut down your business for any reason, unless you have been found to have engaged in force or fraud by a non-corrupt court of law.
The government has no right to require you to wear a diaper on your face, or to be injected with an experimental biological agent.
The government has no right to force you to do business with someone you don’t want to do business with. It’s not nice to be a bigot, but bigots pay for discriminating through higher labor costs, lost trade, and a general echoing back of the world to the spirit one projects onto it. For the law to criminalize bigotry merely bottles it up, where it achieves higher and higher pressure until it explodes. It also creates a lawsuit-happy nation where everybody is terminally aggrieved over some perceived slight and wants to whine about it endlessly. The right to freedom of association is absolute.
The government has no right to apply coercion in any way to stop or influence anything you are doing, unless you are violating someone else’s rights. A free individual runs his own life, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Anything else is tyranny.
But can’t we at least be happy when the government helps needy people? No, we can’t. The more goodies the government doles out, the more violent society becomes. That’s because it becomes more and more vital to be at the head of the line for those goodies; without them, you’re left with a crippling tax bill and nothing to show for it. The higher the fraction of people’s income that comes from the government, the more intense becomes the jockeying. You do your best to smear anyone who is claiming to be more worthy of largess than you. Society becomes spontaneously pulverized and at war with itself, all thanks to “help” from the government.
Those who advocate the strategy of “elect better officials” are deluding themselves. Candidates for office always promise to be the new, different, actual, genuine representative of the people who would never violate anyone’s rights. But once they’re elected, it’s only the biggest donors they give a flying consideration about, and they have taken care to ensure that there is no way to sue them for breach of contract. They are accountable to no one but themselves and their own selfish interests, financed with what used to be your money.
Ever-larger government peddles itself as the solution to society’s problems, but intrusive, thieving government is the source of a huge fraction of society’s problems. We do of course need to deal with actual private criminals in order to keep people secure in their homes and property, but when the government turns criminal we have a much bigger problem, and we are left to ourselves to deal with it.
My message to Congress and every other official at every level of government: you have an extremely limited mandate, beyond which you are prohibited from treading. If you are taking any actions which exceed that limited legitimate mandate, you are enacting or enforcing evil, and therefore you are evil. You are on the wrong side of history, and no matter how popular you may be today, in the passage of time your name will be universally reviled, as it deserves. The sooner you get out of the service of evil and find honest work, the better for you and for the nation.
To paraphrase a line from someone who also loved his country and hated the illegitimate government that presumed to rule over it, “If this be extremism, make the most of it.”
John deLaubenfels is a 72 year-old programmer and observer of the nation’s flirtations with despotism, living in Colorado.