Delegitimize: Do Not Repeal

George Smith

It is “not true that laws have to be repealed in order to be rendered ineffective. There are thousands of laws on the books today which are virtually dead, because the public would not tolerate their enforcement. … Laws will become ineffective or will be repealed when it becomes impossible to enforce them – when the public sentiment overwhelmingly opposes them. This brings me to a fundamental difference in our view of what libertarians should strive for. You wish to work directly through the political process. I maintain that this reinforces the legitimacy of that process. You tell people, in effect, that the way to assert their natural rights is to ask the government’s permission. When the government gives you permission to keep your earnings, or to teach your children, … then it’s O.K. to do so. It’s all very proper; the game is played by the State’s own rules. I maintain, on the contrary, that libertarians should breed a thorough and uncompromising disrespect for the government and its laws. We should tell people, in no uncertain terms, that decrees of the government have no moral legitimacy whatever – that they are on par with the decrees of the mafia. We must work to delegitimize and demystify the State. … We must tell people: you have certain rights, period; and what the government does cannot change that. The government is a thug and a thief; be on your guard, watch it with caution, for it is powerful. But do not be awed by it. Do not grant it respect or moral sanction. Treat it as you would any villain. I submit that if this disrespect could be inculcated on a wide sale, we would experience a rebirth of liberty in America. … We wish people to look elsewhere than government for their freedom. We wish them to view government with contemptuous indifference. This cannot be achieved through political action.”


from George Smith’s “Party Dialogue” in NEITHER BULLETS NOR BALLOTS (Baltimore: The Voluntaryists, 1983, pp. 26-27).