Thursday, May 16, 2013
It is of course outrageous that the IRS selectively targeted groups liable to be hostile to the administration for special scrutiny. But this is by no means the only such incident of its kind. As this article reminds us, almost all administrations since the 1970s have done something similar. The right wing media tries to convince people the problem is Obama, just as the left wing media in the 1970s tried to convince people that the problem was Nixon.
They are both wrong. The problem is not merely the man, the problem is that the very purpose the tax system was designed for is abusive. It is designed to allow for the federal government to reach its tentacles into the lives of each and every citizen to either reward them with favors or hassle and punish them. Where as most political commentary today does not even correctly describe the problem, localism provides the answer.
Consider that we have a fiat currency. Localists are opposed to fiat currency, but if a nation has one, there is no need whatsoever to tax either the income or the purchases of its citizens. They could simply print the money they needed every year. So long as the growth in the economy matched the spending, the value of the currency would not even necessarily fall any faster than ours has. Income taxes are not needed to fund the national government. They were not needed prior to 1913, when tariffs did the job, and they surely have not been needed since we severed the last link with the gold standard in the early 1970s and we could print fiat at will. We this do right now for forty cents of every federal dollar we spend.
Income taxes on individuals are not needed to fund the federal government and I believe that they are not even intended to do so. Instead, the purpose of an income tax is to give the central government power over each individual citizen, so that its minions can reward who they wish and punish who they wish. Congressmen will have favors to sell with tax breaks. The executive branch can instill fear and silence people who get too far out of line. It is a tool of control rather than a necessary tool for funding the government. It is a way for them to put their finger on you.
Some people think the solution is the so-called "Fair Tax." It isn't. It would just turn the IRS from an agency which audited your income to one which audited your spending. There are other problems with it as well. For a more through deconstruction of the tax, there is the last half of this audio.
Given that taxation is necessary, and I know there are some who disagree but that is a different discussion, what system of taxation is least prone to abuse? This is particularly so in the smaller states. In localism, individuals cannot be directly taxed by the federal government, whether via income or sales taxes. Nor can corporations which do business in only one state. The Federal government can only be funded by taxes on multi-state corporations, tariffs, and contributions from the states, who would pay for their share of the excess costs.
Naturally this arrangement will hold spending down, and turn the states from lap dogs for the federal government to watch dogs over them. But the best thing about the arrangement is that individual and small business is thus shielded by the state from the federal government. The relationship between the federal government and the individual becomes much more like it was prior to 1913- they did not even know you existed unless you sought them out for something, or engaged in interstate commerce.
The astute reader may then ask what will keep state governments from abusing income tax laws or sales tax laws? Isn't it strange how even now we don't hear about the same magnitude of abuses and problems on state sales or income taxes as we do federal taxes? This is particularly true of small states. California has had some problems, but the Localist opinion is that California for one example, is too large and diverse to be run effectively from a single capital and should be split up.
The truth is that the individual has much more power to resist abuse by state tax agencies than they do federal ones. The government officials are closer, one's elected representatives are more accessible and easier to un-elect on a budget, and most of all the magic of the market place is at work. As a last resort, you can simply leave the jurisdiction of a state which abuses its taxation system. It is much more difficult to leave a country. Basically localism lowers the transaction costs of escaping bad government, which sets the market place to work producing better government.
Changing who runs a system that is designed to mete out rewards and abuse won't stop the abuse. Nor will shifting the abuse channel from oversight of income to oversight of expenditures. The closest we can get in this imperfect world to fixing it is shielding individual citizens from taxes by the federal government and making all such taxes subject to the market place by collecting them at the state, or even local, level. That's the localist answer.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
There is an increasing trend toward centralization of government power which is the exact opposite of personal liberty. I think in the end it is going to come down to a conflict between those who want a government which has centralized power and those who want government power decentralized (right down to self-government ideally).
Jefferson noted that the natural order of things is for government to grow and liberty to yield ground. Localism makes an effort to determine why this is so. The result is that fourteen doorways through which governments over time consolidate power are identified. The centralizers are constantly operating through them and trying to widen them. Shut these doors, and centralization of government and political power is no longer the natural order of things. Some of those doors will be very familiar to readers and some will probably be eye-openers.
That is why I am committed to a philosophy of government called Localism. It is impossible to describe in a few words, but it takes measures to shut all fourteen doors and keep power decentralized. It relies on lowering the transaction costs of escaping bad government and harnessing the power of the market instead of attempting to force liberty even on areas not ready for it. The market will then do the punishing,
Basically the transaction costs of escaping bad government decisions are extremely high when they are made at the national level- immigrating to another culture is expensive and not just in money, and that's if they let you go. The transaction costs of escaping a local government that goes astray in respecting freedom is very low- you can keep the same job, same friends, stay in the same culture. What happens when the transaction costs of escaping government stupidity is low is that the market very swiftly punishes government stupidity. This will push all governments toward liberty without even saying "this one set of rules is what constitutes liberty and we will go around from Central HQ enforcing this one set of rules everywhere"
Maybe Cali is not ready for the same rules as New Hampshire yet. Maybe San Francisco is not ready while Bakersfield is ready. San Fran needs the two by four of reality to smack them in the forehead a few more times until they learn you can't use law to make people love the planet or whatever.
Under localism I believe that Socialism in all forms will very quickly get destroyed because they will that much sooner run out of "other people's money". When an area population is not ready to accept the premise of liberty and the limits of just government then there are two approaches. One is to send in people with guns to impose it on them- and therefore justify their sending in people with guns to impose their morality on us, or the other way is to set up a framework where they get their way- good and hard. We don't have to do anything to destroy their tyranny. The market will do it for us. Tyranny needs captives to function. Freedom doesn't need to try and impose its rules to win, al
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Monday April the 8th is Holocaust Remembrance Day. The slogan "Never Again!" is a reminder to Jewish people, and all people, that Government Genocide is a real possibility. It can happen, and it has happened. In fact the holocaust was not the only occurrence of government sponsored genocide, even in the modern world. Governments have decided to eradicate whole populations of disfavored ethnic minorities on various occasions. The Turks did much the same thing to the Armenians, in fact Hitler used that Genocide as evidence to his reluctant toadies that they could get away with wiping out the Jews.
Though we get caught up in Normalcy Bias, we need to be able to escape such bias and remember what big government is capable of. History shows us that big, centrally controlled governments are a threat to whole segments of their population. By saying "Never Again" we remind ourselves that it happened before, and that we need to take measures to prevent it from happening again.
It is my contention that the Holocaust could not have happened in a Localist nation. For a government to carry out a genocide, several factors must be present. The other way of looking at it is to say that it would be almost impossible for a government to perpetrate a genocide if that government has certain restraints in place.
After all, perpetrating the Holocaust was no easy matter. There were just under 70 million people in the German nation prior to the start of World War II, and of course they lost millions during that war. Of that 70 million, many were Jews or of other disfavored groups who were also interned. Six million Jews were killed, but there were many more who were not killed. They hid, they fled, or they survived the camps until the end of the war. What I am getting at here is that there were maybe 60 million Germans who had to round up and eradicate six million Jews, and persecute millions more. That took a substantial amount of their manpower and resources at a time when they had a lot of other issues. Maybe you can pick-on, persecute, and send to the ovens a population one-tenth of your own, but its not easy. It takes a lot of state intervention.
So what sort of government makes genocide easy, and what sort makes it hard? Before I answer that, let me hasten to say that there is no substitute for personal virtue in a population. There is no "system" of government which will prevent a population of wicked people from turning on one another, casting aside any Rule of Law they might have, and ending in bloodshed. At its best, it can limit the harm which come from private threats to individual rights while refraining from becoming a Public Threat itself. Government can only help people within the limits of their own virtue, or hurt them to those limits.
That said, Genocide is much easier to pull off under some forms of government than others. A dictatorship makes it easy, and a republic makes it hard. And when I say "dictatorship" I include a pure democracy, because "the will of the people" can become mob rule. The people become the dictator. On the other hand a Republic is a society organized around an agreement that government power will be limited, that certain things will not be subject to majority vote. These normally take the form of recognized rights, which are claims against the government/the majority by individuals. A list of rights, such as our Bill of Rights, were an agreed-on list of things that the central government was prohibited from imposing on citizens, even if the majority wished it.
The list does not have to be inclusive. For example, the last amendment to the Bill of Rights basically said that "we can also have rights not on this list, just because we can't think of anything else right now does not mean that we can't think of some more we will want to claim in the future, and we reserve the power to do so." Libertarian thought, of the minarchist variety at least, takes the idea of a Republic to its limit. Instead of providing a list, even an open-ended list, of recognized individual rights wherein government may not legislate, it produces a short list of areas where government is permitted to legislate, declaring all the rest of life off-limits to government intervention.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of the concept, it is a Republican form of government which is most likely to protect individual rights from government abuse. Genocide is hard for a government to pull off when people have the right to life, and the right to keep and bear arms. And make no mistake about it, the right to life, or any other right, is of no consequence unless there are deterrents to the government for violating those rights. The right to bear arms is an essential protection for both public and private threats. A government may ignore people's right to life and attempt a genocide anyway, but though they may wish to violate that right, doing so to an armed population would be problematic. If they faced armed resistance every time they tried to round up a family to ship to the camps, the government might have trouble filling their job-openings for rounder-uppers!
So a Republic which recognizes the right to keep and bear arms is less likely to perpetrate a genocide than a government which lacks these features. But in this day and age, when the firepower possessed by the military is so much greater than that held by civilians, even that deterrent may not be enough. What are some other features of a government that would make it hard for it to carry through with such heinous acts?
A decentralized government will have a much harder time committing genocide than a centralized one, especially if this de-centralization includes military ground forces, as it would under localism. Even if a central government wanted to go on a rampage against its own citizens, it would have no ground forces of its own with which to do so. Not all states would join in such a crime, and those who did not would be safe-havens, with their own means of defending themselves, from such an encroachment.
A central government without its own money could not hide the costs of their efforts through debt or inflation. The vast resources that would be required for such an undertaking would not be available, again unless obtained through the states, and again one could count on some states to push against the central government to defend the rights of the would-be victims.
The central government in a localist nation lacks its own army to bully the states, and lacks its own money with which to hook into dependency and blackmail the states into getting with their program. Nor would there be a centralized political party running the states who could be leveraged into going along with such a plan. Political, military, and financial power would all be too de-centralized for any such campaign to be organized.
Governments that are centralized and hierarchical are prone to becoming Public Threats to the liberty of their citizens, the most grotesque example of which is genocide. Localism organizes a nation not as a hierarchy, but as a network of cooperating states. They cooperate for economic and military benefits, but they compete with each other for citizens, unleashing the free market to this area of human life.
Never again! Never again should national governments, whose just function is to safeguard the rights of their citizens, be used to round up and violate the rights of some dis-favored group within their borders. The closer a nation is to the Localist ideas, the easier it will be to make sure that genocide never happens again.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." - James Madison in the Federalist #51Almost everyone agrees that a valid function of government is to protect individual rights. Indeed some would consider it the primary or even solitary legitimate function of government. Even people who have different ideas about what one's "rights" are or the what the outer limits of how they ought to be exercised might be can still agree that protecting the rights of the individual is a valid function of government.
Those on the far anarchist/voluntaryist end of the spectrum might say that it is the persistent tendency of government to abuse and move beyond this solitary function which makes government's existence more trouble than it is worth! Yet even they would say that if a government has any business at all existing, it would be to protect individual rights.
While the rise of the post-modern central state has shown the state itself to be the biggest threat to the rights that it is supposed to protect, were there no government at all it does not mean that violations of our individual rights would vanish altogether. Rather, it would mean that private threats to our rights would gain a freer hand.
As a Localist, I understand that there are two sources of threats to individual rights- Public Threats and Private Threats. Public Threats to rights include government oppression (frequently in cahoots with private interests). Private Threats are extra-legal threats to individual rights, i.e. - crime or invasion from outside groups.
Which category of threat seems the largest to you is mostly a function of your environment. If you live among gentle and intellectual types in Suburbia or small-town USA, you likely have known little of the gross deprivation of rights which is suffered from Private Threats in areas where there has been a break down of civil government. If you are such a person, then you likely have the freedom and intellect and curiosity to take note of the ongoing, serious, and systemic Public Threats to individual rights. To you, Public Threats are the greatest and most immediate danger.
There is no serious Private (extra-legal) threat to your liberties from a foreign government if you live in America. We have been the lone super-power in the world for at least 30 years. Many of us are surrounded by people who are prosperous enough that they don't have to rob and steal to survive, and by habit and moral training would resist such an inclination anyway. Though we are not exactly angels, it is easy to see why, from such a viewpoint, no government would be necessary. If we live in a near-bubble, protected from external Private Threats and surrounded by other individuals like ourselves who are not much of a Private Threat, then we might not see government as anything but a threat to rights.
My point is that if you come from such an environment you are likely to understate the Private Threat to our liberties, and develop a philosophy of government which reflects that deeply affected risk assessment. If you live in Somalia or inner city Detroit, you see a general breakdown of government. Private Threats to your individual rights would abound. Private gangs, not government gangs, rob and kill. A person in such a situation would be more like almost all persons were before the rise of the modern central state- one who viewed Private Threats a great danger and government power as a protector and defender of individual rights.
Ultimately, a moral population will not need much government. They have little use for it. For an immoral population, even a harsh and repressive central government might protect rights better than having no government at all. Thus the best defense against big government is a virtuous population. The closer men get to angels, the less they need rulers. But for right now, we live in a world with both good and bad people, and where even usually good people can do bad things. We live in a world where there are both Public and Private threats to liberty. One or the other may seem dominant to you, depending on your life experience and view of history, but either threat can become the dominant one depending on the ebb and flow of one's circumstances and public morality. A workable philosophy of government is one that accounts for both Public and Private Threats.
Localism is the balanced position. That is, it is in the center. From there it can defend against the loss of individual rights which tend to occur when either of the two extremes rule a society. The extreme statism currently practiced by central governments around the world leads to various sorts of Public Threats to individual rights. The extreme anarchist position results in gross Private Threats all but the most decent and civil people on earth are without government. Anarchy creates conditions where most people cry out for even a dictator. They will accept a loss of freedom for the promise of restored order! I am a Localist because this is the philosophy which best avoids the threats to human rights posed by the extremist positions of the state-ists and the self-ists.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The sociopaths who run D.C. want even more power than they have now, despite the prima facie evidence that they cannot run well all the things they are currently attempting to manage. Few of us would be so foolish as to turn control of our family's healthcare over to these schemers if they did not have what amounts to a "magic money machine" at their disposal. This is the most powerful weapon they have to convince you to turn more and more power over your life to a group of people that most of us recognize are deeply flawed.
This "magic money machine" is the Federal Reserve System. In effect, it enables them to expand government for what appears to be "for free". Of course it is not free. There is no free- there are only things whose costs are deferred, transferred, or mis-stated. Millions of Americans thought they got houses for a "bargain" price when they deferred payments into the future or took "teaser" interest rates. They were lured into debt they could not afford because the initial terms seemed like such a bargain. These people now constitute the growing former middle class in America.
The ruling class in D.C. does not care that this expansion of health care is unsustainable. They do not care that the wealth does not and will not exist to fund these promises. This conclusion is not a "close call". It is obvious that the wealth does not exist to fund these promises. Washington cannot keep its current health care promises to the elderly and the very poor, much less these newer ones.
So why are our rulers going through this charade? It is simple really, and completely consistent with all the other actions of the ruling class in Washington D.C. for the last one hundred years. They don't care about keeping the promises they are making in exchange for getting control, they just want control. Once they control enough of your life, they know it won't matter if they don't keep their promises. It won't matter that they will not do the things for you that they said they would do if only you let them control one area of your life after another. At a certain event horizon, you dare not call them to account for the lies they used to gain control over your life, because these are the people who now control your life. You will content yourself with the crumbs they throw you, because you dare not do anything else.
Once they have the control, all those good things they promised to do with that control doesn't matter. You will rely on them for too much to ever really cross them. They will regulate and do major business with the company where you work, no matter where you work. They control your children's education. They control the media that you watch, and monitor all of your formerly personal electronic communications. They decide if you are paying enough taxes or not (and no one but them can say what the right amount is, so this is a sword hanging over ever income taxpayer's head). If you are retired, they already provide much of your income, and your healthcare. Now they want to control the rest of it.
Think of it. The government will provide health care to you and your children. How do you ever defy the people that control whether or not your children get health care? Once they start rationing it, and it will be rationed, do your really want to risk losing that by being classed a "potential domestic terrorist" or whatever other term they use for non-violent people who are aware of and object to what they are really doing to this country?
So far, their magic money machine at the Fed has allowed them to tax the next generation for benefits paid to this one. This is grossly immoral, but again, available evidence strongly suggests that many members of our ruling class are sociopaths and simply do not care if they are turning the next generation into debt slaves. They accept no moral restrictions whatsoever on their relentless obsession to centrally control more and more of mankind. If anything, they prefer the population to be heavily in debt, as another means of control. People with net wealth are too hard to rule. They have the resources to resist infringements on their liberties. Debt slaves don't. They have to beg for crumbs and that's what I think these people want for almost all of us.
This proposed expansion of health care is immoral. And like almost all moral decisions, it will have long-term consequences, even if in the short term it appears to be a "gain." Using debt, and taxes on "the rich" means that you expect other people to pay for your health care. It is not like Social Security, where you paid in when you were young in order to take out later. The use of debt and taxes on income groups you don't expect to be a part of makes this theft. It is just as immoral as finding someone's wallet and using the money in the wallet to pay for your doctor's visit rather than returning it to the rightful owner. Perhaps more immoral, because you did not just find the wallet, you voted for people to go take it.
This constant expansion of government has turned almost all of us into liars, beggars, and thieves as we each genuflect before our government arbiters and make our case for a bigger share of the loot. We think it is the next generation that is mostly getting looted, but that generation is now here. Our masters will not take "the hit" on the debt we have built up over the decades. Rather, they will squeeze it out of us. Our promised "benefits" (share of the loot) will not be paid, but the control system will remain in place. And the little thieves will have lost all moral high ground, all community with our neighbors, and all means of resistance, to the Master Thieves and Master Controllers in Washington.
Obamacare in Arkansas has been made much more palatable by the decision to enact it by means of subsidies to "private" health care plans in a "state" exchange rather than direct expansion of Medicaid. The poison is much more palatable in this form, but no less deadly. It is still unsustainable, still funded by debt, and still cedes control to the centralizers in Washington. There are some shell-games by which the centralization of power is hidden, but it is no less present. The "state" exchanges will be funded and regulated by Washington, just as they have done with "state" education. This plan merely deputizes the states to act as agents of the federal government in regards to their health care, it does not let the states "control" health care, if even that were a good idea. Some are calling it the "private" option, but that is just another deception. The public money simply passes through one more set of private hands, it does not change the fact that this is still a government takeover of health care.
Suppose two years after this began, the feds demanded that all health care exchanges fund abortion for any reason. Do you really think that Arkansas politicians would withdraw from the exchange and turn down the money once vast swaths of the population benefited from the generational theft and began to look on it as their "right"? Two years after that, the health plans might be required to "advise" abortion for certain pregnancies. Two years after that, they could pay for abortion in such pregnancies but deny coverage for delivery. What about funding sex-change operations, or bizarre fertilization efforts for homosexual couples who wanted to procreate? Once you are hooked on the heroine of easy money, your dealer decides the terms.
The insurance companies and interests will love the Health Care Subsidies, because it compels people to purchase their products, so I am sure the "compromise" has a lobby in Little Rock. The hospital lobby will love it too, and that is an interesting case. Hospitals get ripped off a lot, and in turn they rip others off a lot. By law, they cannot deny emergency room patients care regardless of their ability to pay, medical debt is harder to collect, and medical debt is discharged in bankruptcy.
In other words, government intervention caused the problem of hospitals losing money by mandating free care. This problem, caused by government intervention, has become the excuse for even more government intervention. People who use the care ought to have to commit to paying something. At least the hospital would have some debt to sell to a collection agency. But this is not in the controller's Master Plan. They prefer to use the problems caused by one government intervention as reason for the next.
If Arkansas "Just Says No" to the dealer's offer of "free money" in exchange for control, there could even be a near-term upside. Yes, we would miss out on the next few years of "high times" the other junkies were enjoying, but there is some indication that states which refuse to set up an exchange are exempted from certain provisions of the law. They may be free of the employer mandates to provide coverage under the law. Their citizens may be free of the "tax penalty" for failure to have Washington-Approved health care coverage. Some legal scholars note that this appears to be what the text of the act itself says. If so, saying "no" to the plan will cause an influx of companies and jobs and real honestly-earned money as companies flee the socialist states and expand operations here.
James Madison once noted that the very definition of tyranny is when all power is gathered together in one set of hands. Freedom then, would be the dispersal of power as much as can be practically accomplished while maintaining a state of civilization. This plan is centralizing control into one set of hands. It is tyranny, and it lays the groundwork, once the population is suitably addicted, for future injustice. Oklahoma, Alabama, and many other states are just saying "no." We should too.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Localism is compatible with most libertarian thought,because it is just a framework to protect local autonomy. Instead of government devolving into one big box containing one set of rules, there are many little boxes which are protected from being swallowed up into the one big box. But what people put into those boxes is up to them. One state could be libertarian, another limited-government conservative another, for however long the free market of government would permit it, could even be liberal. In that sense, Localism could be useful to minarchists who could accomplish in little steps what they could not achieve all at once- the actual implementation of their ideas.
Anarchist philosophy is more absolutist, and is only with great difficulty incorporated into any other framework. The logic of anarchist thought is sound, but I do take issue with some of the premises, and of course faulty premises will lead to the wrong conclusion even if the logic is sound.
I have already described my issues with "self-ownership" as understood by anarchists. Why do we own our paycheck? Well, we worked for it, we created the wealth it represents, we chose to provide a service, etc. I can't help but notice that none of these things apply to self-ownership. The reasons that we might give to say we own things don't apply to ourselves. But please read the article on that one and let me move on to the subject for today- the concepts of Ethical Symmetry and Delegation of powers.
Ethical symmetry is the concept that what is moral for one man is moral for another. If one man claims rights or privileges that another man does not have, then we have ethical asymmetry. Anarchists attempt to apply this principle to make the case that government agents should not have any powers that an individual does not have, since any power a government has (according to this view) are powers delegated from other people.
That brings us to the related concept of delegation of powers. Under this view the government of the people cannot logically have powers or rights not delegated to it by the people. If I do not have the right to steal, nor does the government via it's IRS agency. Someone must have the right to "steal" via taxation for the government to have that power.
I believe that both these concepts in a subtle way deny the existence of an absolute moral order. It is my position, and that of many others, that such a law exists, and that the Lawgiver (God) exists. In such a case ethical asymmetry also exists if one is acting on behalf of the higher moral law. In other words, ones authority to be the upholder of the higher moral law might be delegated to them by other persons, but the authority of the law itself comes from a higher source than fellow citizens.
What I am getting at is that if there is a transcendent moral order, it "owns" us in the sense that it is our moral superior, not our equal. It owns the state too. That is to say, each individual does not get to re-create moral reality for his or her self from a blank sheet of paper. Nor does the state get to do so. Both the individual and the state start with a blank sheet of paper, but the moral order of the universe is what they are obligated to try and write out on that blank sheet of paper, though we all do so imperfectly. The state is not supreme over the individual nor the individual over the state, both are fallible humans and neither are sovereign in a transcendent sense of the word. Both are subject to the moral law.
But if there is a Creator (and the Founders believed there was, and He was the source of all rights) then, while we have freedom of choice in this life as to whether we care to recognize Their sovereignty, they would still be sovereign on the same basis that you claim ownership of something you create. A Creator-Created relationship does not need to be symmetric in order to be just.
Nor would the "delegation" of powers be limited to actions one could justly take as an individual. The "delegation" comes from the Creator to the government, and from the Creator to the individual. The individuality may delegate powers to their government, but they are not solely the individual's powers. They are recognizing a power beyond them, and giving their consent to the state to wield those powers. One may be like Ron Paul and believe that the Creator's moral code is to grant the individual the maximum liberty possible without hurting others, but basis for such a view would not be individual sovereignty, it would be based on it being a key component of the moral code. I.E. the Sovereign gave the individual freedom to choose whether to conform to the moral code, not that the individual is the Sovereign over it.
The classic Christian position, which helped birth the governments which provided the most liberty in human history, did not share the premise that government is in a symmetric relationship with its subjects and that its powers were limited to those of its subjects. Romans 13 describes agents of the state as "God's ministers" who are authorized to "honor those who do good and bring wrath on evil doers."
That does not sound like a symmetrical relationship to me! Nor does it sound like the powers of government are limited to a delegation of whatever powers an individual can have, at least on a morally relativistic basis. God can do things to us that we can't justly do to Him, because He created us and knows more than us and is purer than we are. He is the parent, we are the child: Another well-known asymmetric relationship And if agents of the state are also agents of God, so can they.
Before one jumps to condemn me for trying to "impose my morality" I should point out that the Non-Aggression Principle itself, when used as a law, is itself an attempt to impose morality. It says the lines should be here, and not there. Of course, everyone says that the code they attempt to impose on all is the most reasonable. Yet we find that reasonable conclusions can vary based on the starting premises.
I am not even saying that the Non-Aggression Principle is wrong. I can't know that. Maybe the Non-Aggression Principle is also the moral principle that the Divine Moral Order wants governments to operate under. Maybe a government set up with the Non-aggression principle as the law would produce the best government the world has ever seen. I am all for its adherents getting a chance to try it, and under localism they can. My personal belief is that the Non-Aggression Principle is just that, a principle. That is, something that is generally true. This varies from the definition of a law, which is something that is always true without exception.
What I reject is "Ethical Symmetry" in the sense that "if you can't as an individual justly initiate force against me for something then you can't delegate the government to do it either." When one is acting on behalf of another who is greater than they are, then they can justly behave in ways that they could not were they acting on their own authority. If I am a middle manager for a company, I can't go outside my department and fire another middle manager and take over their department. But if the owner of the company authorizes me to do so, then I justly can.
Christians are told "do not take your own revenge." They are told that God will repay. They are also told that the State is His Minister to bring wrath on evil doers. In other words, in God's moral order this is an asymmetric relationship where the state can justly do things to an individual that another individual cannot justly do.
I have a similar objection to Delegation as used by anarchists. God raises up governments, and when they grow either too just for their population or not just enough relative to their population, He brings them down. The individual, when they elect, set up, consent to, or recognize a government, are agreeing that this is the body they will accept as executing God's will with the respect to the establishment of justice.
This view of government has been lost, but it is consistent with the view that Republican government was founding on. That view has produced a lot of human liberty, and I believe could have produced even more if it had been sustained. Now whether that produces a government that is libertarian, or limited-government conservative or whatever is a different story, or likely one-hundred different stories depending on the character and desires of the people.
The main thing I want people to take away from this is that there is more than one possible right answer to some very fundamental questions, depending on which premises are true. Because of that, whatever kind of government you want to have, I hope you will see the benefit of getting there through a localist framework.
I believe that localism represents the best chance libertarians will have of getting their philosophy implemented into practice. The most probable path to a libertarian government passes through Localism. That's because Localism is really just a framework for keeping smaller and smaller units of government free to organize as they see fit. It is designed to stop what Jefferson called "the natural order of things"- I.E. tyranny (the centralization of power) to grow and liberty to yield ground. Localism is simply a container to protect against centralization of political power. What is placed in that container is up to the people in each locality. Then the market will resolve what systems of government are attractive to people and which aren't.
With that said, let me begin to explain why I am not a libertarian by noting that of the three generally accepted libertarian pillars, the only one I agree with fully is the Rule of Law. The other two pillars are the non-aggression principle and Self-Ownership. As a caveat, I recognize that not all libertarians consider Self-Ownership to be an essential philosophical foundation of the creed- they would substitute other things. Those other principles have weaknesses that I will not delve into here. Self-ownership is considered foundational by many if not most libertarians, so let's talk about Self-Ownership.
Here is the definition from Wikkipedia:
Self-ownership (or sovereignty of the individual, individual sovereignty or individual autonomy) is the concept of property in one's own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to havebodily integrity, and be the exclusive controller of his own body and life. According to G. Cohen, the concept of self-ownership is that "each person enjoys, over himself and his powers, full and exclusive rights of control and use, and therefore owes no service or product to anyone else that he has not contracted to supply."Who could argue with that? Lot's of decent people, once you apply that absolute to some sticky situations. An example might be whether a man who got a woman pregnant had any obligation to pay child support. Insisting someone share the bill for national defense, or anything else with "free rider" issues, might be another example.
The great Scottish writer George McDonald, who wrote both Children's books and works on Natural Law, once said "The first principle of Hell is 'I am my own.'" Understand I am not saying that the state owns us, or that we own each other. My position is that God owns us, and though He has placed us in this world and granted us much freedom to become who we want to be, we are and will be accountable to Him for the use we have made of our freedom.
If I asked you why you thought you '"owned" your paycheck, you might say to me that your labor created the wealth that it represents. You might say that you made a voluntary agreement to exchange your efforts for the money and that you lived up to your end of the bargain. That is, you choose to do the agreed-to work and have therefore earned the agreed-on price. You may be able to think of other good answers. But I can't help but notice that the reasons we might give to say that we "own" our paycheck cannot be applied to make the case that we own ourselves!
If you think about it, it's really hard to make the case that we "own ourselves." We did not create ourselves. We did not determine when or where we entered this world, and we do not get to decide whether or not we get to stay in this world. Others did many things to us and for us- some with our permission, some without, which permitted us to reach adulthood. Each day a thousand things we cannot control in the heavens and on earth are necessary to sustain our lives. Self-ownership does not seem a rational position.
A much better case for "self-ownership" can be made in any eternal afterlife that might exist. There it might be argued that our place of entry is determined by our own choices, that the being we have become is the result of our own choices. So while we may have had no hand in our own creation in this life, we would in the next. And the condition would be, unlike this world, permanent. What McDonald called "the First Principle of Hell" makes sense as a reality in Hell. In this life, if God exists, we can only be as children in the womb, preparing for the next life but no more "sovereign" in this one than children yet unborn.
The concept of personal sovereignty, in the absolute sense Libertarians present it, implies individuals get to determine their own morality (except for the few absolutes they attempt to impose such as the conditions under which force might be used). Again, measured against the vast scale of the cosmos, the enormity of time which has passed in all ages, and the value of wisdom which has endured for generations before us, the idea that the four pounds of grey matter in our skulls can be the final arbiter of right and wrong, even for ourselves, seems ridiculous.
We can try and discern right from wrong, and a worthy life will spend time doing so, but the idea that each generation, and even moreso each person, gets to re-write morality from a blank slate seems ridiculous. Any one of us is only a tiny part of the natural world. We remain in it only an infinitesimal portion of the total time it has existed. The idea that we can construct our own personal morality, to apply only to us, displays what seems to me an almost psychotic misinterpretation of our place in the universe.
That is why I am a Localist. Instead of fighting over who gets to hold the single gun that is pointed at the rest of us from sea to shining sea, the central government would get no gun for enforcing moral imperatives, be that gun libertarian, fascist, conservative, liberal, or whatever.
States and localities would, retaining their right to sanction moral behavior such as mandating child support. But let them be careful how they use such power! For in such an arrangement states who go too far (that is, impose rules for moral behavior outside the underlying moral reality of the universe or beyond the scope of government compulsion) are bound to lose productive citizens to states which do not. States and localities who did not go far enough would too. And in each case government would look more like what the citizens who live there would want government to look like,. Decentralizing power would make the government subject to the marketplace.