The Illegality, Immorality and Violence of All Political Action
LeFevre’s Journal (Vol. 1, No. 3, Summer 1974, pp. 1-3).
There are only three arguments possible by which to try to justify the concept that some men may rightfully rule over other men and other men’s property. Probably the earliest, and the most frequently employed, relates to force.
If I am big and strong enough, I may be able to rule you. Whether the force is obtained by superior military might, or by the presumed might of the most numerous group of voters expressed at the polls, the argument is the same. I’m big enough to have my will over you in any case; hence, my rule of you is just and proper.
The second to emerge is the appeal to a theological justification. God wills it; therefore, I have divine rights and may rightfully rule over you. I am special, set apart by the Almighty. Hence, I may rightfully seek to control you and your property, even if I should happen to lack the military force to do so.
The only other argument possible is the contractual one. You have voluntarily, as your own free act and deed, entered into an understanding with me in which you grant me certain decision-making functions over you and your property.
However, if we wish to be precise at this point, a contractual rule is not rule in any logical or legal sense. The separate contracting parties are always in a position to abrogate the contract and to renegotiate, whereas this is never true with government as we presently know it. The contractual argument is the gist of the Declaration of Independence.
The plight of the people of the United States is best summed up by recognizing that it is popularly believed that all three arguments are quite properly employed in our case.
It is presumed that (1) our government is strong enough to rule, therefore it may properly do so. (2) The Constitution is a divine instrument, the explicit result of heavenly supervision over the revolutionary leadership which brought about our separation from England, and thus, as a curious extension of that argument, while God has dethroned the king, God supervises elections and the voice of the people is the voice of God. (Vox populi, vox dei.) Further, (3) the creation of the governmental structure was contractual in nature, hence everything the government does is the result of a social contract to which we have all implicitly or explicitly agreed.
There is only one of these arguments that has any substance. The government is very strong and thus, because of its power, it may very well manage to rule. However, any pretense that the government has been divinely ordained or that some kind of social contract, explicit or implicit, exists between the government and those governed is pure nonsense.
Let me deal with the theological implications first. The very core of the resistance which led to the formation of this country as a separate nation, inspired by such men as Sam and John Adams, Jefferson, Hancock, Henry, Franklin, and a hundred others, rested its case on a denial of divine rights reposing in any man or body of men. It was the argument of those who signed the Declaration of Independence, or the Virginia Bill of Rights, and of Tom Paine in “Common Sense,” that divine rights which raised some above others didn’t and couldn’t exist.
On the contrary, the position was taken that all men had precisely the same rights, no one having, or being able to obtain, any moral ascendancy over any other.
It is important to note that the documents referred to, which represented the axiomatic base to be established, clearly showed that all men’s rights are inalienable. That can only mean that rights cannot be alienated. What these men were seeking to establish was the validity of a contractual government and the invalidity of any other kind of government. By no possible process whatever could any man obtain a right to rule any other—either by force of arms, by the voting process, or by other practices.
The denial of divine rights reposing in anyone, or obtainable by anyone, became the most dominant characteristic making up the belief of an American. Any pretense to divine rights was, hence, un-American, archaic, and relegated to the ash heap. It is on this point alone that we fought and obtained our independence.
Unfortunately, thirteen years after the signing of the Declaration, the entire concept of a contractual government was put aside. Instead, a single political party put together a governmental structure embodied in the Constitution which was not and never has been a social contract, and which has never been a statement coming from “we, the people of the United States.”
Beginning approximately in 1785, a couple of years after the signing of the Treaty of Paris which brought about our legal severance from England, a political party calling itself the “Federalists” was organized. This small but determined group put together the so-called Constitutional Convention of 1787 and managed to obtain a majority approval of the instrument they had designed as a new form of government. The delegates were bound to return their findings to the state legislatures which had authorized their sojourn in Philadelphia for the convention. But this was never done. The Federalists well knew that the instrument they had framed would be disapproved by every state legislature then in existence. Hence they wrote into the Constitution, Article VII, the process of ratification, specifying that the Constitution would obtain ratification from the conventions of nine states. This made it possible for the Federalists to avoid virtually certain rejection by the state legislatures and also placed control of the conventions in their hands. As the only organized political party, they carefully packed the separate conventions, making certain not to convene any of them until they were reasonably certain of a successful vote. This procedure, by itself, wipes out any possible assumption of legality or moral obligation.
The Constitution was drawn up by a single political faction, was subsequently read by fewer than 10,000 (that is a generous estimate—it probably fell far short of that number), and was approved by simple majorities with a total of fewer than 6,000 delegates participating in scattered conventions. Opposition was strong and the Constitution barely squeaked by in some states. Thus, the instrument was drafted and approved, in the main, only by a few people within a single political party. Yet the instrument purports to come from “we, the people of the United States.”
In view of the undeveloped communications system, the absence of roads, and the huge size of the rural populations, it is probable that a vast majority of Americans of European, Asian, or African origins didn’t even know that conventions had been held or that an instrument had emerged claiming to be a contract with them.
At the time this was occurring, the total imported population was approximately three million people. By no stretch of the imagination can the deliberations of some six or seven thousand of that number be presumed to bind the total number within a contractual agreement.
In further support of this argument, the evidence shows that popular voting for presidents, beginning with George Washington, was so meager that no effort was made to preserve the figures. Thus, for the first ten presidential elections the only figures available are those showing electoral votes. However, in 1824, when no candidate obtained a majority of electoral votes and the election was decided in the House of Representatives, for the first time the popular totals were retained. The four candidates running that year polled an aggregate of 352,062, while the population of the United States according to the census of 1820 had reached a total of 9,638,453. Only slightly more than three per cent of the total population was voting even at this late date. The winning candidate in 1824, John Quincy Adams, received 105,321 votes, slightly more than one percent of the population of 1820. It is reasonable to assume that popular voting prior to 1824 was considerably less. There is no way these facts can be construed as evidence of a contract with the people of the United States.
As a result of the constant barrage of propaganda to which we are subjected, both directly from government and through the governmentally dominated and supported public school system, we have been led to believe that the American government has some kind of divine right to impose its will on us and to take our money and property and lives if it chooses. And if the divinity of the election process is denied, then it is argued that the Constitution came into existence as a result of a contractual understanding in which well-meaning persons entered into a voluntary association for mutual benefit. The facts are to the contrary.
Therefore, there is only one argument that can be validly applied to the American government. It rules because it has the power to rule. This is the justification of brute force. Every law, ukase, rule or bit of legislation enacted at federal, state, or local level is backed up by the ultimate threat of death. That may sound like an extreme statement, yet it is true, and applies even to traffic citations.
Let us suppose that a person has received a summons because he has allegedly violated some statute, law, or ruling. He decides that the summons is unjust and that he will not obey. The men in government decide that they will compel him to obey.
Clearly, it is always possible for men in or out of government to change their minds. The government can fail to prosecute, and a man who decides he will not submit to prosecution may ultimately decide to do so. But let us assume that both sides remain adamant.
What ensues? Legal formalities will be followed, of course. The unwilling target of the prosecution will receive a series of warnings, each more harsh than the last. Finally, since he will not obey, he will be physically arrested. But if he submits to arrest, he is in fact obeying. Therefore, he must resist arrest or confinement. Ultimately, he will be shot for resisting arrest or for trying to escape. The shot may not be fatal. But unless the man submits, he must keep trying to escape. In the end, death will be inflicted.
The ultimate truth is that even a traffic citation is backed up by an appeal to ultimate force to the point where death makes obedience impossible.
To assume that the people of the United States entered voluntarily into a contractual relationship of such unbalanced character that specific performance on the part of one of the contracting parties is enforced under the threat of death while specific performance on the part of the other contracting party is totally unenforceable, is a patent absurdity. No sane or reasonable human being would voluntarily bind himself by any such contract.
There is no way in which a remedy can be found for government that exists only by force, until the people at large understand that that is the only kind of government they have. However, this most assuredly does not imply, nor should it be inferred, that a government of force should be overturned by force. In my judgment, such should never be attempted. A forceful government forcefully eliminated, leaves forceful persons in control. The result is not a cure, but a further extension of the disease. There are available far more efficacious methods than an appeal to arms. The first and most important of these is an appeal to reason and to peace.
We have long been aware that slaves can be the product of monarchs and dictators. It is time we realized that slaves can also be produced by legislatures, and by executive decrees.
Next: The Non-Voter’s Right to Ignore the State by Herbert Spencer