The Legitimacy of Government 
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The Legitimacy of Government

The Legitimacy of Government

By: Ernest Hancock

Written back in 1994 by Ernest Hancock
4700 N. Central #201
Phoenix, AZ 85012
(This was the address of the first of now our 5th Workshop)
 
 
 

Watching Larken Rose’s Whole Problem (and Solution) in a 2 minute explanation reminded me of my awakening almost 20 years ago (in 1994). This was under the S.A.F.E. (Second Amendment is for Everyone) email account back then when I was representing S.A.F.E. on an Arizona gun rights email list, which is where this conversation happened.
 
Here’s the article I wrote in 1994. I was having a very similar conversation with another very dedicated individual to freedom. This post was picked up by others and widely distributed (thankfully they corrected grammar and spelling :) Almost 20 years ago I knew what to do. Enjoy... 

 
 
Frederick Mann writes: A discussion rages on at high speed with great passion here in Arizona regarding the "social contract" we're all supposed to be forced into. While the discussion continues, I was compelled to share this article with you all due to the impact it had on my ability to understand the issue and how I might share it with others.
 
Mark F. Writes

What are you proposing? Anarchy? Government has a legitimate role of protecting your life, rights and property. Its existence may cost money. Whether it is a direct or apportioned tax to cover that existence is another argument, but even if government were doing all it should do - you still have jurisdiction issues which may not be consensual.

The only option which would be available in that case would be sudden war by the government against you due to your unwillingness to clear up a minor problem. It could only be war because we're not under the jurisdiction of the government's legitimate role of clearing up such issues in the name of protecting life, rights and property.

I'm really not familiar with any time in our history that things worked like this, and I always conclude that Anarchist Libertarians wish to go beyond our origins to something else. Maybe I misunderstand.

Ernest Hancock

Speaking for me, you're correct. I wish to go beyond your origins to something else. Colonial-era slogans aside, let's see what those political origins actually are. You're recommending that people not abandon the instutition called government, on the grounds that this might entail confusion over jurisdiction, and possibly even violence - a small but "sudden war by the government against" me in the event that I couldn't get along with my neighbors.

But when referring to even the recent past, we find that government is by far history's greatest peril.

Confusion over jurisdiction: Find me a year that goes by without men being sent to die in a border dispute. Know anybody who went to Grenada? Know anybody who went to the Gulf? Know anybody who's going to go to Bosnia? Know anybody who went to the European Theater?

I can point to a hundred and fifty million political dead this century alone. You can point to a hypothesis about confusion over jurisdiction in the case of a burglary.

A time in history that things worked like this? Guilty. There's conjecture about ancient Iceland and more conjecture about the American West, but nothing all that convincing, even to me. I'm not convinced there'll be a 300 Mhz desktop computer, either; I'll believe it when I see it. (This didn't take too long)

Here's what we do know, though: All States nova. All tribes disperse. There is no historical precedent for a permanent State, or a stable one. Of the extant States today, the exceedingly young USA may be the oldest, which says nothing good about the advance of the science of statism.

When States nova, which they invariably do, they usually do a very bloody job of it. I've never seen a war. I've never seen a mass grave. I've never seen corpses accumulating in piles. I hope I never do. Above all, I see no reason to manufacture rationalizations for the institution that never fails to accompany wholesale slaughter. Without a government, Mark, the worst you can do is a riot.

Mark F.

Government has a legitimate role of protecting your life, rights and property.

Ernest Hancock

Hence, the elaborate theories about something called a "social contract." The difference between a contract and a social contract, of course, is that the former is consented to by both parties while the latter is imagined by one but binding upon another.

(Ain't it strange how we've learned to look for hokum wherever a derivative of The S Word comes up? Social Democrat. Social Justice. Social Contract. National Socialist Party. The world is filled with strange coincidences.)

If government is legitimate, merely tell me whence it derives its legitimacy.

Social contract is currently fashionable, in the ebb and flow of on-line political debate. This is a contract I never signed, that I've never seen, that has no terms, that is binding upon me but not upon the other party, that can be dispensed with at will by the government but must submitted to by me upon pain of incarceration, whose terms may change on-the-fly or even retroactively, from which there is no escape clause, which is binding in perpetuity, which binds my ancestors and descendants, which requires fealty but guarantees no consideration.

And it's bullshit on its face. But that's not the interesting thing. There are a thousand intricate dodges designed to cover the ass of statism, and refuting one of the lot isn't that fun or that illuminating, at least if you've been working these boards for a while. There will always be another transparent cloak for the Emperor to wear.

What's interesting is that there are a thousand cloaks, but there aren't a thousand-and-one. Here's the thousand-and-first, and you'll never hear it from a statist:

Because they have guns and if you don't obey, they'll shoot you. [emphasis added]

I'll come clean. I'm not writing to Mark F.. I have no hope of showing him anything, because I think he's determined not to be shown. But for those who aren't solely concerned with building dungeons out of cards, this is useful.

Statism can't be justified. I can give you a list of minds bigger than mine who wanted it so badly they were willing to torque their own brains, and a longer list of folks who didn't know any better. Mark's own Locke, and Rousseau. And Blackstone. They had a common ancestor, Hugo de Groot. Back to Aristotle and all the way to Thales, forward to Rand, and even to Nozick, Jefferson, Madison, Marx, Mill. All of you have read some, and some of you have undoubtedly read more than I.
 
 

None of them said it, because all of them are beehive-busy trying to find another reason for this: "If you don't obey, we'll shoot you." That's not legitimacy, so they had to find another way. Social contract. Consent of the governed (probably the most opaque self-contradiction of the millenium). Will of the majority. Threat of descendence into chaos. Greatest good for the greatest number. Progress. Good of the Motherland. Throwing off dominion of the ZOG. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

If government is legitimate, merely tell me whence it derives its legitimacy. Why does it need so many different justifications?

If government is legitimate, why does it need guns?

Mathematicians don't need guns. We think they're legitimate. Physicists don't need guns. Biologists don't need guns. Musicians don't need guns. Tool and die makers don't need guns. Copy editors don't need guns.

Government needs guns because it isn't legitimate. It cannot persuade you, and it cannot base its appeals in reason, because there cannot be a basis in reason for an appeal to dumb savagery.

I don't care whether it claims to be instituted by my consent, or for the sake of my welfare, or as the product of some non-evident contract, or in response to the prospect of mass starvation, or for the protection of life and liberty and property. None of that matters. It cannot be justified in reason. It has not been justified in reason in four thousand years, despite all the effort of all the courts of all the despots of all the centuries. And the hand-waving of your next encounter with yet another electronic acolyte in the cult of the State will prove this yet again:

Government is not legitimate. You can tell by the effort people must go to to make up rationalizations for it.

Now, here's the dirty little secret. I said, all their rationalizations are a veneer, all their happy-babble is cover for what's really going on: "If you don't submit, we'll shoot you." [emphasis added] That's true, but to any proposition there is a converse.

The converse to the proposition in question is this: If they could compel you, they'd have no need to convince you. [emphasis added]

[Frederick Mann added this comment on his web page where one of the copies of this exchange was posted: This is one of the central aspects of discovering that you are inherently free, free by nature. Through your ability to make decisions, you control the energy that animates your mind and body. The terrocrats (terrorist bureaucrats) really cannot control or compel anyone. So they have to brainwash people, program them like robots, to believe and obey. Above all, they must brainwash their victims into believing in the "legitimacy" of the terrocrat system.]

If dumb savagery were all it took, statists would have it made. They could simply announce, "do it our way or we'll smoke you. We have an army." And that would be that. We'd be wandering around in loincloths carrying digging sticks.

But they don't say that. Governments throughout human history have employed a procession of yes-men long enough to circle the moon. A plethora of Prime Ministers, a rick of Rasputins, a cord of courtesans. Why bother with all that, when all it takes is weaponry? If militaries were enough, we've have had no emperors and no Presidents - and if simple brutality were enough, we'd have no militaries. Write this in your notebooks:

They do not seek dominion.

They seek legitimacy.

[Frederick Mann: In my opinion, they seek both dominion and legitimacy. But their dominion is largely based on perceived legitimacy. Undermining their legitimacy is one of the most powerful strategies for removing their dominion.]

Why does the Ayatollah seek to have Salman Rushdie murdered? Not to keep his subjects from the prose - he could ban the book easily enough. It is because Rushdie threatens the Ayatollah's legitimacy, even in the eyes of people the Ayatollah has never met and never will.

Why does Bill Clinton seek to stifle dissent by branding it right-wing hate-speech? Not because he fears overthrow, or even being denied a second term. In the unlikely event he has a second term, we all know he'll be even more likely to repress contrarian speech, not less. This is because he seeks legitimacy, seeks it above all things.

Mark F. constructs his tortured case for social contract for a reason, and that reason is not ignoble. He wants to be right. He wants to persuade you. The Ayatollah and Bill Clinton want to persuade you. They wish to find a basis in reason because, above all things, they want to be right.

This is what spin control is about: Pretending to be right. This is what posturing is about. If force of arms were adequate, there'd be no need to waste time on spin-control, but think about it: the world's most repressive regimes were those with the most insistent "education" programs. Witness the Soviets, witness China, witness Cambodia, witness medieval Spain.

They want legitimacy, crave it desperately. So do you. So do I.

And we all seek legitimacy in the common ground that is reason. If we seek this, we cannot start with a justification or a conclusion to which the argument must be torqued to match.

Mark F.

If there is not a supreme law to protect the life, rights and property of individuals (through delegated powers) then you have individuals doing what they please with impunity, as in a state of nature.

Ernest Hancock

There's only one state of nature, the only one that ever was. And in this state, people can go wandering around doing whatever they want. With impunity! This is the nature of the human organism: we are each exclusively self-controlled. [emphasis added]

[Frederick Mann: Again, this is the essence of discovering that you are free. You exclusively control yourself - whether you realize it or not. Nobody else can control you. However, if you're like most people, you've been brainwashed to believe that the "government system" controls you and the only way to escape this "control" is to change or remove the "system."]

Mark regards this with such revulsion that he considers the mere prospect of it to be a horror, and it certainly will wreck the web of the spider spinning social contracts. In the face of a fact obvious to any observer - that each of us is intrinsically free to do as he wills - he prefers to wax about a contract that each of us knows damn good and well doesn't exist and never did. That which is obvious and evident and verifiable is to be ignored, dismissed as nonsense. That which is ludicrous is to be cultivated as "supreme law."

[Frederick Mann: In my experience, it's obvious to fewer than one in a thousand individuals that they are intrinsically free to do as they will.]

But freedom is unavoidable. Discretion is the nature of organisms; we are individuals by the very way we are made. We are exclusively self-motivated; we have no other way of operating. We can be coerced, but we cannot be enslaved. This is evident, and it is irrefutable. And this is the basis for a rational conversation about human affairs.

[Frederick Mann: Humans allow themselves to become enslaved by buying into irrational statist ideas, superstitions, lies, concepts, terms (words), definitions, and arguments.]

This is the observation that is the basis for a legitimate argument about legitimacy. When people persist in basing arguments for a "civilized" state in the imaginary, while they persist in gaping at reality itself as too monstrous to be contemplated - is it any wonder that the streets of "civilizations" never fail to run red with blood?

Frederick Mann's Comments

In a fund-raising letter to their members, the National Rifle Association (NRA) used the term "jackbooted thugs." George Bush resigned his NRA membership. Bill Clinton repeatedly denounced the NRA for using this term. Why? What do these terrocrats fear most?

Answer: The loss of their legitimacy. Terms like "jackbooted thug" destroy their legitimacy. This is the major reason why we use terms like "terrocrat." (Interestingly, The Arizona Republic used the terms "law-abusement officer" and "law-abusement agent" in an editorial on September 18, 1995!)

Using such terms and persuading others to use them is phenomenally powerful because it destroys legitimacy.
 
 

 
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