A Society of Contract and Consent
This is a powerful essay against the monopolistic compulsory government of the United States of America; however the argument applies to any territorial government that imposes itself on all the people living in a specific region, that they like it or not.
The solution put forward in this essay also applies universally and is a solution that everybody not blinded by the deforming spectacles of state indoctrination should have reached long time ago: voluntary non-territorial governments chosen for himself/herself by each and every one and not by majority vote.
Sooner or later, this solution, that seems extraordinary to many people, will appear as a plain foregone conclusion.
No, not a national government as we know it. Not in the current compulsory form. Not a government that has powers to tyrannize those Americans who have no wish to be tyrannized.
The British in the 1700s had press gangs that scoured taverns and hauled men off to serve on naval vessels. The War of 1812 between the U.S. and Great Britain was fought, in part, over the British impressment of Americans who were forced to work on British ships. In like manner, each of us is impressed into serving the federal government. We are made to pay its taxes and obey its regulations. Why should any of us be impressed into a governmental arrangement?
We cannot opt out of mandated government programs and activities, such as Social Security and Medicare. We cannot opt out of the collective choices made by national government for 300 million Americans, such as to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each of us cannot get out from under our government voluntarily. Why is that bad? It is bad because we are made to support and do things that we think are not proper and right, and this HARMS us.
Our Declaration of Independence says that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Consent of the governed cannot mean voting and majority rule according to the rules constructed for us and imposed on us by others. Where is the consent in that? Consent has to mean our willing affirmation to live with a government. If that consent is lacking, it follows that a government is able to exercise unjust powers over us. Those unjust exercises of power harm us. We do NOT have consent of the governed.
Each of us may have different reasons for liking and disliking some of what the federal government does to us, but there is almost nothing effective we can do about it. A good many Americans will argue that if we do not like the government, then get out. Leave the country. This underscores the fact that we certainly cannot opt out without moving from the country. But WHY should WE have to move? What did WE do that was wrong? The shoe is on the other foot. The government is imposing on us. We are not imposing on it. Does the land we occupy belong to the national government? Does it get to dictate to us merely because we are within its supposed territorial domain? Do our lives, persons, land, and property belong to the national government to do as it will, without our consent? Such a situation, such a government is TYRANNY.
In the Middle Ages, vassals and lords entered into a contract at a formal commendation ceremony. Land possession was granted in exchange for fealty and military service. We have no such contract. We are automatically inducted into a malleable and open-ended arrangement. The national government gets to interpret a pseudo-contract (the Constitution) as it pleases. It can extend its powers over us, and it has. What is worse is that it can use its powers to create a pliant and docile population. What do we have that even remotely resembles a contract? A vote? A vote is only useful if many people organize. The barriers to its effective use are enormous. A vote turns each of us into a powerless atomistic unit. A vote is not a contract. A vote does not substitute for a contract.
Many Americans support the national government and its powers. Many Americans do not. There are two opposing sides. The right and wrong of this conflict are clear, as is its solution. Neither group should be ruling over the other. Supporters of the national government should not be imposing their will on non-supporters, and non-supporters should not be seeking to abolish the national government that others want.
MUST WE HAVE PERPETUAL CONFLICT AND ATTEMPTS AT DOMINATION?
Let us aim for a better situation. Let each have the government of their choice. Let there be consent of the governed for both. For this to happen, a significant change in thinking is required. Government cannot be conceived as a principle of operating by compulsion over everyone who lives and breathes in a given region of the earth’s surface. We have tried that and we see the results. They include greater and greater compulsion, greater and greater injustice, and greater and greater harm. Isn’t it time to work toward a better direction? Isn’t voluntary contracting a more peaceful and productive means for each of us to achieve our aims? Isn’t this what we mean by the blessings of liberty?
When each side attempts to make government over in its own image, each is presuming that government must be territorial. Each is presuming that might makes right, or that majority rule makes right. Each side is abandoning the idea of contract. A contract involves willing signers who agree on terms that govern their exchanges and arrangements. A contract involves liberty on both sides. A contract involves consent. Both parties agree to be governed by mutually agreeable terms. Each has the power to decline from signing.
To realize consent of the governed, there has to be voluntary consent. Consent means that people form and choose governments for themselves. They do not compel others to obey the programs, wealth redistributions, social insurance schemes, and manifold rules and regulations that they may impose on themselves. To realize consent of the governed, we cannot continue to think that we must all be in the same national boat. We can live safely, peaceably, and securely without being compelled by national edicts that are forced upon each of us.
This view is radically different from the present arrangement. So be it! We need a radically different view if we are to get out of the interminable cage we are in. We need to move in a new direction.
The national government exercises its powers unilaterally with, at best, a patina of legality brought about by periodic votes under a pseudo-contractual document known as the Constitution. This arrangement is anti-contractual. The outcome is that the government dictates terms.
Why do many of us want to see the powers of national government be matters of choice (contract) for those governed, while allowing those who dislike these powers to opt out of government mandates and arrange their own contracts? What kinds of problems do many of us have with the national government?
What we call the federal government is actually a NATIONAL government spreading centralized and collective control in every direction. A national government acts directly upon the persons under its rule.
Congress, really a mere handful of people, forces 300 million people into uniformity. Why is this bad? Their actions lack our consent, because voting is not contract; and voting according to a pre-ordained system that lies beyond our control is even less of a contract. The national government imposes ITS WILL on us. Our own values are obliterated.
The national government does not serve us. We serve our Congressional masters.
The national government is a giant pork barrel machine. The national government rakes in and proceeds to WASTE enormous amounts of taxpayer wealth. Does each of us have a meaningful say about this? Can we opt out?
The national government bails out group after group that do not deserve access to taxpayer funds. Do we get to approve or disapprove of this?
Using our wealth, the national government SUBSIDIZES the enterprises and groups it favors. National government is a scheme of utter corruption. Are we not forced to stand by and powerlessly watch this happen?
The national government forces redistributions of enormous amounts of wealth. Why is this bad? It destroys incentives to progress and ethical living. Can we prevent our taxes from being used in ways we disapprove of?
The national government produces little more than one expensive failure after another. Can we withdraw our hard-earned money from programs we disapprove of?
The national government regulates viable enterprises out of existence and sustains its favorites that have political influence. Are we able to escape the effects?
The national government tampers with and controls innumerable businesses, products, and services. Why is this bad? The national government stifles innovation and growth. The national government ruins industry after industry and market after market, driving American companies offshore.
The national government has ruined our money and produced inflation.
The national government burdens us with enormous DEBT. Why is this bad? The government wastes the funds and creates an endless stream of future tax payments for us.
The national government burdens us with all manner of high and rising taxes and with all manner of counterproductive regulations. Why is this bad? It discourages the accumulation of wealth. It prevents us from realizing our own values. It is a form of slavery.
The national government destroys wealth and ruins our economy.
Overseas, the national government butts into countless foreign countries and foreign controversies for no reasons that benefit us. Are we able to stop the nation from its wars? Are we able to withhold our support?
The national government entangles America in needless alliances and treaties. Does American security really depend on American soldiers being stationed all over the world?
The national government forms coalitions with other national governments over which we have no say. Is there even a shred of consent of the governed when international organizations act upon us?
The national government gets America into many and NEEDLESS WARS that have nothing to do with national defense. The national government CREATES NEW ENEMIES of Americans.
There is no element of national defense that cannot be done in other and better ways.
There is truly no thing that the national government does that cannot be done in other and better ways.
The national government OVERPOWERS state and local governments. WHY IS THIS BAD?
The national government runs roughshod over local needs and preferences. It imposes mandates on state and local governments.
The inept immigration policies of the national government combined with its mandates impose unwanted burdens on local communities.
The national government’s drug policies make our land and especially our cities more dangerous. They create a huge prison population. They are creating powerful gangs. Soon they will be creating home-grown terrorists and alliances of gangs and terrorists.
The national government pulls funds out of cities, redistributes them, and lowers the quality of city life.
The national government DIVIDES communities and people, creating a competition for the funds that it collectivizes. This is a negative sum game.
The national government continually centralizes control and adds to its power. It grows in size and reach.
The national government rewards special interests and ignores the public interest.
The national government passes a profusion of bad mandates and edicts that it calls “laws.”
National government has corrupted the meaning of law.
The national government’s size and power are a magnet for enormous corruption.
The national government’s “social” programs ruin people and undermine the society.
The scandalous national election process and party system dilute the influence of the public on their government.
The national government rules us without our consent.
The national government invades privacy. It expands control of travel and movement. It expands control over financial transactions of all kinds. Why is this BAD? America is being transformed into a police state.
The national government decimates the Bill of Rights.
The national government continually INVADES our lives, our liberty, and our property. It does NOT PROTECT them.
The national government has corrupted and rewritten the Constitution to suit itself.
The national government becomes more and more totalitarian.
The national government reduces our security and happiness.
The national government GROWS ever more in INJUSTICE.
Despite this lengthy and incomplete catalog of negatives, there is no existing political coalition in a position to control and limit the powers of the national government. The existing limits are primarily a result of political in-fights, rivalries, divisions, and jealousies within the national government. This is a plus, but the compromises and convergence of interests of the major parties are producing a larger and larger and ever more totalitarian national government.
And even if such a coalition arises, it is likely that it will attempt to institute its own program for all Americans. The proper path to peaceful and productive change is not abolishing national government. The most profoundly revolutionary and transforming step is to make it OPTIONAL. This can be done stepwise, program by program and department by department, by making each program and the funding of each program OPTIONAL. It can also be done even more radically by allowing Americans to sever all their ties to the federal government in one fell swoop. It can also be done by the actions of individual states.
Only a MAJOR change in process can alter the situation in which we find ourselves.
Because there are so many divided and opposing interests in America itself and so many people dependent on the national government, a coalition to reduce the national government’s power, size, and destruction has so far proven too difficult to construct. There are too many political and economic obstacles to overcome. The only feasible way to end the ills is to cut the Gordian Knot.
END THE FORMAL RULE OF THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT.
I do NOT mean ABOLISH it.
I mean MAKE IT VOLUNTARY.
We do not need a national government forced upon everyone. The only available course is to terminate the powers of the national government over us. Dissolve the formal rule of the U.S.A. by allowing those who wish no longer to be U.S. citizens to resign their citizenship while maintaining their homes and livelihoods.
The U.S.A. can go on for those who want it. One or more survivor or legacy organizations - nonterritorial and nonmonopolistic - can be formed and maintained by and for those who voluntarily want to participate in them.
There cannot be liberty while forming legacy governments on the principles of territory, force, and involuntarism. There is no liberty as long as people are inducted into a government based on where they happen to live. Liberty has to be based on the principle of choice of government, that is, on personal approval or disapproval of joining into one’s government.
By dissolving the mandatory powers of the U.S.A. and making participation in it voluntary, Americans have the opportunity to engage in a peaceful second American Revolution based on the principle of the government of one’s choice. If people attempt to replace the U.S.A. with any new, single, and monopoly national government with power over everyone on the current territory of the U.S., they will be throwing away a golden opportunity. We should not be aiming to replace one national government with another. It will once again enslave those who are outvoted or otherwise force them into becoming subject to this new government. And to form several national governments on the basis of compulsion and territory does the same on a regional scale.
Let those who want a national government like the old U.S.A. keep it and continue its systems and programs for themselves. Let others opt out. Let us reach for and effect a new concept in organization. Let those who do not want this national government be able voluntarily to get out from under it, while remaining where they live.
The principle to accomplish this is opting out. Those who dissociate will stop paying taxes, stop being regulated, and stop receiving cash payments. Those who wish to mail letters through UPS will, and those who wish to use the USPS will. Those who wish to sign up for Social Security and Medicare in a new form may do so, and those who do not can sever their relations with these programs.
National governments, if they survive, will become like corporations. Major companies often have a presence across the country, but they do not control its inhabitants. Their relations with people are strictly voluntary. Think of insurance companies like Aetna, Allstate, Travelers, Geico, Nationwide, Liberty Mutual, and State Farm, who enroll those who choose to enroll. Each has a nationwide organization and presence, but none exists on a territorial principle of inducting members by force. A large portion of what national government does today can be restructured along the same lines. Those activities that large numbers of Americans regard as worthy of being conducted by government can still be national in scope, but they will be funded by voluntary means. This will make them far more efficient and responsive to the values of those who willingly support them.
If this national government’s powers are ended, those who want national governments can reconstitute national governments for themselves. They can operate something like insurance companies operate, but with different services. They can open nationwide offices if need be and enroll willing customers; or perhaps some will be regional. If people form up several new national governments, perhaps the latter will enroll applicants for one or more of their programs while the same people also purchase services from other national governments. Everyone can have their own choice of national governments without infringing the rights of those who do not want them.
Unlike the U.S.A., however, these governments will have no power to make anyone a citizen. Unlike the U.S.A., these governments will have no claims on persons by virtue of their living in a particular region. Unlike the U.S.A., these governments will not claim sovereignty over everyone and everything in a given territory. They will have to earn the patronage of their adherents, because the latter will have the right to stop using their services.
Should several of these governments wish to engage in joint ventures, like offering defense services, they may. But they will have no power to make anyone buy their services. Once the principle of voluntary choice of one’s government is adopted, the system changes to market-based government; and in a market, the seller cannot force anyone to buy.
An earlier group of Americans dissolved the bonds between them and the sovereign who ruled them. The grievances of Americans today are not the same as those in 1776. If anything, the list of abuses today is much longer. Today’s abuses are much deeper and more pervasive. Dissolving the mandatory bonds that attach each of us to the national government is again called for.
This article does not propose specific means of reaching the objective. Its goal is to delineate and justify the objective - government of your choice - toward which we can work. Given the right object of our organizational aspirations, we can then find steps to take that bring us closer to achieving it. We will face the difficulties that arise, and there are always many of these, but at least we will know that we are headed for something better - liberty - and away from something worse - domination and slavery.
People invariably are apprehensive. They wonder how such a system will work. They come up with countless objections. The way to move forward is in workable steps while having a goal firmly in mind.
The two most common fears are that without a mandatory, powerful, and monopoly government, we will be insecure and face chaos. People do not seem to realize that with a mandatory, powerful, and monopoly government, we get insecurity and chaos.
Government teaches these fears in order to justify its powers. For example, a local government school kit, that of Canterbury in Australia, reads as follows:
“Why do we need to have Governments and why [sic] we need separate kinds?
“The answer is simply without government, life would be very difficult. Government ensures that people in our community can live together happily. Governments make decisions concerning what is best for our community.
“Imagine what would happen if people could do exactly what they pleased with no concern for anyone else. Imagine your own household, school or a game of basketball without rules. Picture the chaos and accidents on our roads if we had no road rules.”
There is no problem with asserting that we need government and that government has a useful role to play. This does not mean that we have to endorse government as we know it. It does not mean that we must conceive of government as a monopoly power that we submit to involuntarily by virtue of a territorial principle. The result of that concept is that government goes far beyond devising rules of the road and catching criminals, and even far beyond being an organization that handles community defense.
Surely most of us do not want the chaos produced by a government that rules at its own behest. Over-powerful government is surely a source of insecurity and disorder. It is surely to be feared. Surely people want to consent to whatever government they have and control it. And if people are capable of consent and control, then the premise of proper government is a voluntary stamp of approval.
There can be no control over government of a people, by a people, and for a people without the option of those people to withdraw financial support from that government and deny it power over them.
People are capable of consenting to a government and limiting its powers. They know they must do that to avoid slavery. People are very much concerned for social life and social order. They band together almost automatically to create the means of security and to avoid chaos. The school kit poses a false choice: government versus chaos. But the question is not government versus chaos. The question is not government versus no government. The question is not government versus no government equated to chaos, as the school kit suggests. The question is what kind of government people shall choose and consent to have. People always choose means of security and order. The question is how to organize the production of these two goods in a just and effective way.
The chaos argument says that no national government means chaos. The schoolchildren in every Canterbury are falsely being taught that liberty means that “people could do exactly what they pleased with no concern for anyone else.” They are being taught that government is necessary in order to bring about social order. This presumes that, without government, people are wild animals. In this view, either there are some superior non-wild humans who take over everyone else by forming a government that domesticates the population; or else the wild animals nevertheless are able to come together and domesticate themselves via forming a government.
Both these scenarios are false. People are not, fundamentally or in general, wild animals. People know instinctively that there is no subset of them that are superior beings. They know that traits and capabilities vary, but that every human being is far from having a perfect or even superior nature. People know that people are people.
Social order precedes government. The family, the extended family, the tribe, and the clan precede government. Domestication is closely tied in with who and what we are by nature and by nurture, by genetics and by upbringing. People are no more wild animals than other social primates such as gorillas, and gorillas have a family life and get along without government. If we were all wild, we would not be able to get together and devise means of governing ourselves. We are able to govern ourselves because we are not wild animals.
Liberty in producing and distributing goods and services does work, and cooperation is a vital element in making it work. By contrast, the most collectivist and controlling national governments have produced unimaginable poverty and misery. A minimal national government, which was the America of old, accompanied the most wealth creation and economic growth that the planet ever saw.
We have come full circle. Does America need a national government? Not the kind of national government we now have. It more and more closely is coming to resemble those collectivist and controlling governments that lower standards of living and prevent progress.
What do we need? To guide us toward betterment, let us work toward liberty in the choice of government. Let us work to realize a far more meaningful version of consent of the governed than we now have. At present, we have a pseudo-contractual society. Let us aim for the real thing, a society of contract and consent.