The State that finds its hegemony threatened almost always responds with violence. Violence, after all, is the State’s stock in trade. It’s the characteristic method of rulers to use force and violence to work their wills upon us. In the majority of cases, they could get their way in no other way.
Americans are familiar with the concept of the consent of the governed. The phrase appears in the Declaration of Independence. The concept is (supposedly) reified by the election of our public officials, said officials then being said to “represent” us. But there are several fallacies built into that notion. The most blatant such fallacy lies in the official’s freedom to do as he pleases once he’s been installed in office. The “representation” appears to be confined to the electoral process itself…and given the scandalous state of our elections, none too strongly, at that.
It has begun to seem “obvious” to me that we must withdraw our consent from American governments of all levels, both in appearance and in fact. The core problem, of course, is averting any negative consequences as far as possible. Few of us are actually eager to shed our blood for the cause of freedom. But there may be an alternative to violent revolution. If so, it would be founded on an attribute that individuals possess but governments usually lack: agility.
All political power, as it is called, rests practically upon this matter of money. Any number of scoundrels, having money enough to start with, can establish themselves as a “government;” because, with money, they can hire soldiers, and with soldiers extort more money; and also compel general obedience to their will. It is with government, as Caesar said it was in war, that money and soldiers mutually supported each other; that with money he could hire soldiers, and with soldiers extort money. So these villains, who call themselves governments, well understand that their power rests primarily upon money. With money they can hire soldiers, and with soldiers extort money. And, when their authority is denied, the first use they always make of money, is to hire soldiers to kill or subdue all who refuse them more money.
For this reason, whoever desires liberty, should understand these vital facts, viz.: 1. That every man who puts money into the hands of a “government” (so called), puts into its hands a sword which will be used against himself, to extort more money from him, and also to keep him in subjection to its arbitrary will. 2. That those who will take his money, without his consent, in the first place, will use it for his further robbery and enslavement, if he presumes to resist their demands in the future.
[Lysander Spooner, No Treason]
Spooner’s famous essay, 152 years old this year, is still the most penetrating treatment of political power that’s ever been written. Murray Rothbard, may he rest in peace, could not have done better. The cited paragraphs are the sword’s point of the essay. I named a trilogy after him in tribute to his acuity. But let’s focus on his assertions above:
- Coercion requires coercers.
- Coercers won’t work for free.
- Thus, they must be paid – but with what?
- The money to pay them must be amassed beforehand.
- The money must come from their intended victims: the to-be-coerced.
- But without coercers, how can we mulct the to-be-coerced for their own coercion?
The circularity “should” be “obvious.” How do governments usually force their way into the circle? Take a moment over it. The answer isn’t hard to find, merely shocking and mind-expanding.
In classical times warlords promised those who would go raiding with them a share of the loot. That was one of the earliest methods for assembling an army on credit. When weapons were expensive and therefore scarce, men who owned them could be seduced into service by this method. Moreover, they would already have the assurance that resistance to their pillaging would be infrequent and easily overcome.
These days, soldiers and other enforcers are paid with currency: “dollars,” most tangibly in the form of Federal Reserve Notes. Now, while it’s unobvious, the Federal Reserve Note is a promissory note. Its “value” is exactly and only what it can be exchanged for. Today, 99.99% of all commerce is exactly such an exchange: Federal Reserve Notes, or their electronic equivalent, for goods and / or services.
Find the weak link in that sequence and you have the key that would lock the door of Spooner’s Circle against the State’s desire to hire myrmidons.
Just now, I have an image in my mind of a well-dressed, neatly-groomed man – obviously a white-collar type – standing along an expressway entrance or exit ramp, bearing a boldly lettered sign:
No, I haven’t seen anyone like that lately, but then, I seldom leave the house. Still, let that image tickle your imagination. Transform it to signs in shop windows:
DOLLARS NOT ACCEPTED HERE
PAYMENT IN GOLD OR SILVER ONLY
Granted that it might make banking a wee bit harder…if you feel a need for banks when safes are so cheap these days. It would certainly make things harder for the “tax authorities,” especially considering how dependent they’ve become on electronic banking as a source of information and a channel for confiscation. As for large corporations…who really wants to make things easier for them?