Everyone wants less government. But in most cases, all they want is to get rid of the part that they don't like. Would it be possible to place universal restrictions on a government so as to make it a truly limited government? In view of the fundamental characteristics of the institution, such restrictions are clearly impossible. A "limited government" would not, in fact, BE a government, but would instead be the equivalent of a private police force. Regardless of what it is called, any organization with the potential of implementing force MUST be structured in a way that provides protection for those who are subject to its power.
Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers did not include in the Constitution a provision that would have made it a criminal offense for the government to interfere with the lawful behavior of a free citizen. That would have made a tremendous difference in the structure of our society. The revolt against England should not have gone so far as to reject many eminently sensible provisions of the British scheme of government. Such as the Coroner's Jury, by which police behavior is subject to citizens' evaluation.
In the final scene of ATLAS SHRUGGED, Rand makes this proposal for an amendment to the Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade."
An extension of this might provide a more sweeping limitation:
"Government shall have no authority whatsoever over the freedom of production, transportation, communication, and trade."
Another broad restriction could be patterned on the Ninth Amendment:
"The enumeration in the Constitution of certain activities which are forbidden to government, shall not be construed to permit the government any activity not specifically designated by the Constitution. Government shall have ONLY the authority which this Constitution specifically grants to it. Any attempt to exceed this specified authority shall be construed as criminal behavior."
Here are two other suggestions that might have good effect:
Government shall pass no law that has not arisen directly from the populace via a ballot-initiative process.
It is forbidden for government to possess information about any specifiable individual person who is not a convicted criminal or a government employee.
In an attempt to protect people against criminals, it is necessary to enact laws which specify a punishment for criminal behavior. If a constitution is to provide for genuine protection of the people against government oppression, then surely that constitution should contain penalties for its own violation. Thus there should be a provision that would make it a criminal offense for anyone in government to violate the constitution. And, corresponding to this, a provision that would penalize the government for making any laws that violate the rights of the citizens, e.g., victimless-crime laws, or for in any way exceeding the authority granted to it by the constitution.
Immediately the question arises: How could such violations be judged?
Libertarians argue that the only proper functions of government are to provide Police, Courts and Military. Admittedly, these are indeed necessary social functions, but there is another function equally, if not more, important to a civilized society. This function is the protection of individual citizens against government oppression. This is a function that CANNOT be performed by government! There must be an independent procedure for judging government behavior and for adjudicating disputes between citizens and government - something other than the presently-existing court procedures. After all, the courts are themselves a part of the government, and when a citizen is mistreated by the government he has no redress except to take his case to the government itself. But as John Locke observed, "Any man so unjust as to do his neighbor an injury will scarce be so just as to condemn himself for it."
The "balance of power" in our Constitution sets each branch of government to be a counterforce against each of the other branches of government. What this "balance of power" does NOT do is provide a check on the power the government has over the freedom of the individual citizens.
I suggest that there should be an institution to provide such a check, and I see the jury as a likely basis for such an institution. I would set the jury up as an entity as separate from government as possible, and designed to act as an independent judge of government. The principle of Jury Nullification should be incorporated into the structure of the jury, and that principle should be extended to include these attributes:
Any conflict between an individual and the government, or any charge of misconduct against the government, shall be resolved by jury.
Juries shall be selected by lot (and ONLY by lot) from a panel of volunteers, none of whom shall be a member of government, a registered voter, or a lawyer.
All jury members shall receive a copy of the constitution (which shall itself contain a detailed description of the function of a jury) and a copy of the law which authorized the government's behavior in the conflict under consideration.
Although the government (in the person of the Judge or the Prosecutor) shall be permitted to advise the jury, the jury shall in no way be obliged to follow that advice. (It might be a good idea also to abolish most of the functions of a judge, a position which has grown to be more that of a dictator than a mediator. Perhaps the function of Jury Foreman should be extended to encompass any necessary judgeship functions. Such an arrangement appears to work quite well in the operation of the Supreme Court, which might itself be considered as a 9-member jury.)
Nullification of a law shall repeal the law - permanently. Nullification shall also immediately and permanently remove from office all those legislators who sponsored the law, render ineligible for re-election all those legislators who voted for the law, and subject to criminal prosecution all armed members of government who implemented the law.
To enforce these provisions, there shall be established a force of Jury Marshals (financed by some means completely independent of government control - perhaps by fines imposed by juries on government agencies) whose jurisdiction shall extend only to members of government. Control over the Jury Marshals shall be exercised only by a jury.
In a more anarchist arrangement, the jury shall appoint a Marshall and he shall select a posse from a panel of armed volunteers. This group shall carry out the verdict of the jury, and the posse shall be dissolved immediately afterwards.
America is drowning in an avalanche of legal pollution that could appropriately be called hyperleges. But hyperleges is inevitable under the present legal system: it is the natural function of a congress to pass laws, just as it is the natural function of a mosquito to suck blood. We have legislatures at the federal, state and local levels whose only function is to pass laws, thus the inevitable result of 200 years of legislative function MUST be a plethora of laws. After two centuries, what could you expect but that the American court system would be drowning in laws? This is a situation that can only get worse as time passes and congresses keep performing their natural function.
These laws are the structure of the culture of our society. It is universally observed that this culture is deteriorating - that there is more crime and less personal safety than there used to be in this country. But have the people themselves changed all that much? Are you yourself any less civilized than your grandparents were? I really don't think individual people have changed; what HAS changed is the social context in which we live. We have thousands, if not millions, more laws than our grandparents had. But we are people, just as our grandparents were. The difference is not in the people, but in the rules which limit our individual choices and govern our social interactions.
What does this mean in reference to my proposed Covenant? Shall we have an institution to create, amend and interpret the Articles of Implementation that I suggest? And thus open the door to eventual hyperleges? To ask a more general question - Why do we need all these laws that the congresses have laid upon us during the past 200 years? Why, exactly, do we need an institution that continually creates laws? Why should we need Articles of Implementation at all?
What I see a need for are guidelines for applying the principles contained in the Covenant. I don't see a need for anything other than this. Suppose we had no legislatures, no congresses, no senates, no councils - in short, no gangs of goons continually passing laws supposedly "for the good of the people." Suppose the implementation of the Covenant were to arise spontaneously from the people themselves. Thus:
The verdict of the jury shall be delivered in writing, and shall include the principled rationale for that verdict.
The collected verdicts of all the juries will constitute the "body of law" of the community and selected verdicts will provide guidelines for applying the principles of the Covenant, just as today we consult selected Supreme Court cases for legal guidance. But notice that there is nothing binding in this corpus. Each individual jury can decide each individual case solely according to its interpretation of the Covenant.
Through such an extention of the function of the Jury, we would truly have a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people."
Government is a Mistake
Clearly, the suggestions I offer are not a comprehensive formula for the establishment of a limited government, but I do think they contain the major elements that any such formula must incorporate.
But should limited government be the libertarian goal? I think not! ANY government, no matter how it is constructed, is by its fundamental nature an evil institution - because the essence of the concept "government" is coercion. I believe the very idea "government" is a mistake. In the same category (but with much more devastating consequences) as "flat earth" and the "geocentric cosmology."
There was once a time when men believed the earth to be flat. As long as they held to this belief, they could not successfully navigate over long distances. Only when they had abandoned this belief could they advance and extend civilization over all the planet.
There was once a time when men believed the earth to be the center of the universe. As long as they held to this belief, they were restricted to a very limited and inaccurate view of reality. Only when they had abandoned this belief could they acquire a comprehensive knowledge of the cosmos.
Today, men believe that civilization is impossible without government, and they give their highest loyalty to their nation. This mistaken belief has spread misery, famine, and the wholesale destruction of war all over the earth. Someday in the future, when people stop lying to themselves about the nature of government, they will achieve the greatness of soul to see a higher loyalty: reality. They will then recognize the mistake and government will be abandoned, just as other mistakes have been abandoned. The scourge of nationalism will recede into history, like other diseases that have been conquered by advancing knowledge. Only then will it be possible for men to live together in peace and security.
But the mere removal of government, although a necessary prerequisite for the existence of social sanity, will not suffice to bring it about. A positive is not merely the absence of a negative. We can see evidence of this in Yugoslavia and the regions of ethnic strife in the former Soviet Union. Just as in the application of any other moral or ethical principle, it is necessary to LEARN how to implement social health.
I hope to make a small step toward preparing for that future by suggesting an alternative to government, an alternative which would in fact perform the valuable social function that government merely claims to perform. I will present the fundamental principle which is accepted by all libertarians, show that even in a purely anarchic society there would be a need for an explicitly stated code of behavior, and present an approach to the problems of formulating such a code.
Arguments Against Anarchism
James A. Kuffel:
Jurisprudence is difficult and complex, and it is farfetched to assume "competing governments" would deduce exactly the same "laws" in all areas, not to say in one. Imagine the consequences of various "governments" attempting to apply different "laws" within the same territory....Equality before THE law would be impossible, that is, justice would be impossible. Government may function improperly, taking invasive action on a large scale. But, as a corollary, it is the only form of organized force which can ensure the protection of rights on a large scale.
[Kuffel is attacking a straw man. It is not only "farfetched" to assume different governments would promulgate the same laws, it is obviously false - as you can easily see by observing the governments throughout the world today. One need not "imagine" the consequences of various governments' attempts to apply different laws - one need only observe the plethora of civil wars continually being waged. To equate Justice with "equality before the law" is absurd. Justice and Law are only accidentally (and rarely) related. Government not only "may" function improperly - it always does! And in fact it has NEVER ensured the protection of rights on a large scale.
But in any case, the argument Kuffel attributes to anarchists is NOT what anarchists propose! We conceive proper laws as being enunciations of principles of justice, not as being - as Kuffel implies - the arbitrary pronouncements of a government.]
While driving home from work one day, my wife was sideswiped by a motorist who was in a hurry to return home. After taking her car to the garage for an estimate, she notified the insurance company (Nationwide) that it would cost some $112 to repair the minor damages. It was then that we realized to our horror that the other driver was insured by Allstate insurance - a rival firm. Demanding that our rights be protected, we pleaded for action. Nationwide dispatched a squadron of crack troops to the home of the guilty driver. He, true to form, certainly did not permit rival agents to enter his home as he distrusted Nationwide. He was able to hold the Nationwide units at bay for the several hours that it took for Allstate troops to arrive. Now the two rival firms faced each other across a battleline. In the conflict which followed, seven were killed and twelve wounded - but Nationwide carried the day. Out of the charred ruins of his home the $112 was recovered and we were repayed.
[When did you ever hear of Pinkerton facing off in a gun-battle with Wackenhut? But in 1861 two rival GOVERNMENTS faced each other across a battleline, and the result was 680 thousand deaths.]
Each party may attempt to secure the services of whatever court would favor his point of view and, consequently, there would be the emergence of courts seeking clients some of whom hold different, antagonistic beliefs and viewpoints (there might even emerge courts soliciting individuals with certain religious, political, and moral views along with courts emphasizing different principles in tort, liability, and contract disputes). The conflicting parties could also look for protection agencies which would enforce their views and opinions. Now if one argues that the protection agencies would force the disputants to abide by the agreements with and the decisions of the private courts, then one is no longer describing a system of voluntary interaction but rather a system of coercive interaction comprised of agencies with the power to defy the wishes of their clients (or coerce individuals who are not clients who have for some reason antagonized other individuals who hired these agencies).
[This is an excellent description of the inter-relationships of federal, state and local courts, each with its own sheriffs and marshals.]
As for the courts, it seems to me that they would be inclined to render the most popular verdicts - that is, those that would gain the arbitration agency the most paid members - and the most popular decisions aren't necessarily the most just ones.
[As for the elected judges, it seems to me that they would be inclined to render the most popular verdicts - that is, those that would gain the judge the most votes - and the most popular decisions aren't necessarily the most just ones. (See the movie "Miracle on 34th Street" for an excellent fictional portrayal of this phenomenon )]
Arguments against competing defense agencies overlook the fact that there is a de facto state of competing governments presently existing in the USA. Every area of the country suffers under the burden of at least three governments, and in some places four: Federal, State, County, and City.
It was the competition between the state and federal governments that resulted in the Civil War. Has there ever been an instance of Pinkerton, Wells Fargo, and Wackenhut engaging in armed conflict?
Such arguments manifest the fallacy of Reification of the Existent.
A Covenant for a Union of Sovereign Americans
From CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE by H. D. Thoreau:
I heartily accept the motto, - "That government is best which governs least;" and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, - "That government is best which governs not at all;" and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.
All libertarians, whether they are of the Anarchist persuasion or of the Minarchist view of social organization, hold to the same basic ethical principle - the libertarian ethic of non-aggression:
John Hospers: "Libertarianism...is a philosophy of personal liberty - the liberty of each person to live according to his own choices, provided that he does not attempt to coerce others and thus prevent them from living according to their choices."
Ayn Rand: "Both parties hold as their moral absolute that neither exists for the sake of the other and that reason is their only means of trade."
Robert LeFevre: "I will contend that each individual may rightfully do as he pleases with his own person and his own property without asking permission from anyone, and so long as he confines his actions to his own person or property he cannot be morally challenged. What may he do morally with the person or property belonging to another? Absolutely nothing."
Karl Hess: "Libertarianism is the view that each man is the absolute owner of his life, to use and dispose of as he sees fit; that all man's social actions should be voluntary; and that respect for every other man's similar and equal ownership of life, and by extension, the property and fruits of that life, is the ethical basis of a humane and open society."
Many Anarchists believe that no explicitly codified statement of the libertarian principle is necessary, and that no formal system of social organization is desirable to ensure its implementation.
The Minarchists believe that an explicit statement is very much necessary (in the form of a constitution) and that society would be impossible without the existence of a formally-structured social organization possessed of the monopolistic power and authority to enforce the basic ethical principle.
I disagree somewhat with both positions.
I do believe that an explicit and formally accepted statement of the basic ethical principle is very much necessary. Anarchists err in considering Rights, Justice, and other ethical concepts to be market phenomena. They are NOT market phenomena, they are facts of reality, and as such their correct identification is NOT arbitrary. Robert Bidinotto pointed out precisely the mistake underlying the anarchist position: "anarchists sincerely believe that they are merely advocating 'COMPETITION' IN THE PROTECTION OF RIGHTS. In fact, what their position would necessitate is 'COMPETITION' IN DEFINING WHAT 'RIGHTS' ARE."
I am swayed also by Rand's contention that an explicitly held conceptualization is infinitely more reliable, useful, and enduring than one that is held in a merely implicit manner. Implicit knowledge is not a substitute for explicit knowledge. Values which you cannot identify, but merely sense implicitly, are not in your control. You cannot tell what they depend on or require, what course of action is needed to gain and/or keep them.
And by the arguments of many other libertarian scholars as well:
Rose Wilder Lane: "I think there is a natural necessity for a civil law, a code, explicitly stated, written and known; an impersonal thing, existing outside all men, as a point of reference to which any man can refer and appeal. Not any form of control, for each individual controls himself; but a law, acting as a nonhuman third party in relationships between living persons; an impersonal witness to contracts, a registrar of promises and deeds of ownership and transfers of ownership of property; a not-living standard existing in visible form, by which man's acts can be judged and to which men's minds can cling."
Ayn Rand: "Even a society whose every member were fully rational and faultlessly moral, could not function in a state of anarchy; it is the need of objective laws and of an arbiter for honest disagreements among men that necessitates the establishment of a government."
Robert James Bidinotto: "In any society, human life and well-being mandate that there be a set of objective procedures to distinguish aggression from self-defense, and some way of imposing the final verdicts upon the victimizers on behalf of the victims."
Joel Myklebust: "'The market will handle it' amounts to little more than a disguised form of majority rule. That the identification of justice is not a market function seems clear from the fact that, given a demand, the market will supply murder, theft, and arson, in addition to protection. It will not determine right and wrong, it only reacts to supply and demand. Any attempt to deal with complex problems of right without recourse to basic ethical principles is hopeless."
Murray Rothbard: "In my view, the entire libertarian system includes: not only the abolition of the State, BUT ALSO the general adoption of a libertarian law code."
John Hospers: "They (private protection agencies) should be able to enforce only THE LAW OF THE LAND... - a body of law already enacted, and known in advance, so that one would forsee the consequences of any violation. In other words, laws should...be ENACTED by the state, even though the ENFORCEMENT of them might be left to private agencies."
Brick Pillow: "I agree with you that people should solve their own problems....But at some point, if there isn't a peaceful procedure to settle the dispute, it will be settled without being peaceful, and quite possibly the violent solution will not be a just solution. What I envision is that...when the antagonist refuses to yield, decent folks will need an authority that they can turn to....Of course, this presents the next level of perplexing problem: What prevents our pristine Justice League of America from exceeding its mandate, from becoming as evil as the government it replaces?"
Nicholas Raeder: "It makes no difference whether the consumers desire automobiles, frozen foods, heroin, murder or censorship; if allowed to do so, the market will provide them. The market is not a slave to the good of the individual, and it does not dispense justice. The market follows desire. It will act rationally in fulfilling desires, but it is the desires of the consumers that it follows.... Neither human nature, rights, justice nor rationality are market phenomena. The actions of the market, as well as the actions of every individual within the association, must be in adherence to a certain standard of conduct in order to make justice and the exercise and protection of human rights possible."
These are indeed powerful arguments for the establishment of some code of basic principles, existing in visible form, codified and publicly known. But how can such a code be made acceptable to a conscientious individualist? A man who finds repugnant ANY externally-imposed social organization? Surely a reasonable man would consent to an individually-chosen contractual arrangement of such a nature that a libertarian anarchist would have the OPTION of ignoring it completely, whilst de facto still living within its jurisdiction. It would have to assert no influence over, nor contact with, his life at all - so long as his behavior was non-aggressive.
The problem is one of providing a social organization that can effectively combat aggression and ensure the rights of the people, but that will not itself be able to encroach upon non-aggressive citizens. What we must strive for is an arrangement wherein the necessary power (to combat aggression) is so balanced against other, independently existing, power (to prevent encroachment) that the probability of its misuse becomes as small as it can be got. Can this be done by means of a government? Either a constitutionally "limited" government, or several government-like, competing defense agencies? I think not.
When I examine the idea of government and contemplate the nature of governments as they have existed and do exist in the world, I see their fundamental distinguishing characteristic to be "the strongest group of aggressors in a given area at a given time." Herein lie my objections to both the Minarchist proposal for a government limited by a constitution, and the Anarchist proposal for competing defense agencies. In fact, there is no limit to the power of a gun except another gun. A constitution cannot limit the power of an armed group that chooses to ignore it. A "limited" government would in fact be limited only if its members chose to adhere to the constitution - and as we Americans have seen very well, this is no real limit at all. LeFevre observed that "experience over the past ten thousand years reveals clearly that governments are never limited." I think it inevitable that any "limited" government would eventually become a tyranny. I am strongly opposed to any social organization that has a monopolistic power to compel - no matter what formal documentary restraints may be placed on such an organization. There is a good deal more promise in the Anarchist scheme, but it too is open to such a degeneration if one (or a consortium) of the defense agencies should become "the strongest group."
There is a fundamental structural flaw in the American Constitution: the principles upon which the government of the United States was based, as well as the plan for the construction and operation of the government were contained in the same document. To allow for the possibility of future improvements there was a provision placed in the document allowing it to be amended. This provision left the basic principles upon which the government was founded also open to alteration.
Obviously the PURPOSE of governance should not be changeable, but on the other hand, the MEANS used to fulfil this purpose must be changeable so as to take advantage of new, more efficient technology and to correct errors.
To permanently fix the purpose of governance, it is necessary to state thepurpose in a binding form that cannot be altered or eliminated short of revolution. Once this binding form is enacted, and the purpose of governance thereby fixed, one can turn to constructing an agency to carry out this purpose. But these two things, Purpose and Agency, should be explicitly recognized as two separate phenomena. Thus governance should have two foundation stones, rather than one: a fixed and immutable statement of purpose - and an amendable implementation of that purpose.
I believe the best, and safest, arrangement would be a modification and linking of BOTH the Anarchist and Minarchist ideas into a scheme that would place that ultimate power DIRECTLY into the hands of the individual members of society. I believe, with Jefferson, that there is "no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves." I am NOT, however, an advocate of majority rule. I do not mean "a majority of voters," I mean each and every citizen.
It is claimed that a constitution limits a government. What is it that gives a constitution its power? Nothing but the behavior of the people who have chosen to abide by its specifications. A statement of authority, according to which a country is governed (such as our Constitution), is only as valid - as faithfully enforced - as the fidelity of those individuals who implement it. Thus the Constitution of the USA is implemented only to the extent of the honesty, competence and reliability of those who have taken the oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." The foundation of our government, in its actual implementation, lies in the behavior of those individuals who have taken this oath. They possess the power (the guns) to assert governmental control, and they (should) refer to the Constitution as a guide in the exercise of that power.
The ultimate democracy would be one in which all adult citizens have taken such an oath, in just the same way in which physicians take the Hippocratic Oath. I envision a confirmation ceremony such as the Bar Mitzvah, passed through by each person as he (or she) becomes a fully-adult participating citizen of the society. A ceremony in which an oath of fidelity would be taken, NOT to an institution or to a document, but to a set of clear and explicitly stated ethical principles. An oath expressed in the form of a contract between the individual and the community in which he lives; a formal social statement that would specify a libertarian restraint on individual behavior; a statement making explicit the principle of non-aggression as the foundation of social organization and interconnecting the individual to the organizational structure of society in such a manner as to commit him to support, uphold and manifest this ethical principle in his social relationships. An oath that would make the individual consciously aware of his responsibility to ensure the perpetuation of a free society. This oath would be a Covenant formally establishing the principled basis of relationships among individuals, rather than a Constitution setting up a potentially dangerous coercive institution. It would establish a society based, not on command and coercion, but on consent and contract.
I envision the Covenant as the "statement of purpose." It would state ethical principles, but not deal with the specific implementation of those principles. The Covenant would be an absolute, not open to amendment, but the accompanying Articles of Implementation would be amendable so as to accomodate technological and social changes in the culture. Thus there might be several institutions (defense agencies among them) established for the implementation of the principles, but each agency, as an organized institution, would be bound by the Articles of Implementation. And each agent, as an individual citizen, would be bound by the principles of the Covenant.
The next step in this line of endeavor is, of course, to formulate such a covenant. Here there are two basic problems. One is to conceive the structure of a libertarian society and embody its principles in a specific statement - the other is to establish a transition procedure that would carry us from the presently existing state of affairs into that libertarian society.
A procedure should be established whereby the new society can grow from a small kernel. My suggestion is to establish an association similar to something like the Black Muslims or the Quakers. This would be an inward-directed society that withdraws as much as possible from participation in the coercive world and in which each member lives as much as possible in accordance with the ethical principles of the Covenant. I propose the name "Union of Sovereign Americans" as a label for this association.
I envision the long-term goals of The Union of Sovereign Americans as being the perpetuation of the libertarian ethic, being the seed of a new society, (either to replace the present one if it should collapse, or perhaps growing through time to the extent that it would extinct the present one) and being a social group in which people of good will could find companionship.
To begin the Union of Sovereign Americans there must exist a Covenant and some guidelines (Articles of Implementation) on how to live one's personal life in accord with the principles of the Covenant.
"THE GALLATIN DIVERGENCE" by L. Neil Smith (Ballantine book #30383) contains a covenant, (fictionally proposed by Albert Gallatin at the time of the Whiskey Rebellion and resulting in a complete alteration of the course of history). This covenant has been extracted from the book and widely circulated with a provision for registry of all signatories. It has been signed by dozens, if not hundreds, of people. But I observe something of critical importance regarding this covenant: in Smith's fictional account, the signing of the covenant always resulted in a profound change in the life of the signatory, because the people in Smith's story actually lived their lives according to their professed principles. However, in the real world of the present time, I am not aware that the behavior of any person has been changed in any way as a result of having signed this covenant. The signatories simply continue their previous lives - working to support government (and in some cases working FOR government) - with no causal connection between their stated principles and their daily behavior. This is not the fault of Smith's covenant, and I am not criticizing that covenant. I criticize the lack of integrity in the lives of modern-day people. This same lack of integrity is seen in Randites (who explicitly disapprove of Shrugging), and in many of those who take the non-aggression oath of the Libertarian Party: "I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals." These people grumble about the condition of the society they live in, but few of them choose to take the only effective path open to them for societal change: the transformation of their own lives.
So what can be said of any kind of covenant or oath that requires no more of a signatory than a mere verbal assertion? The world is filled with hypocrites! Is a man who works as a drug law enforcer really an advocate IN PRACTICE of personal freedom and moral self-responsibility? (Could a priest be a practicing abortionist?) Not hardly. Such a one would not be a suitable member of The Union of Sovereign Americans. One must not only assert fidelity, but also practice fidelity. One must establish a lifestyle suitable to the set of ideas he professes. My point is that no oath of allegience to any principle or vow of adherence to any set of ideas would preclude people for whom there is no connection between principle and practice (This is why the American Constitution has been betrayed over the course of two centuries). I believe that to be successful the Union of Sovereign Americans must involve a whole way of life - not just an oath. It must involve the learning of a set of ideas and the practiced application of those ideas in one's life. It must include not just an embracing of the libertarian ethic, but a resolve to combat - or at least withdraw support from - the coercive aspects of the society we live in.
My own belief is that a good place to begin would be with the act of Shrugging that Rand proposed. This would be a way to separate those who merely pay lip service to freedom while continuing to support the status quo, from those who are really serious in their intention to devote their lives to the practice of freedom.
This statement of principles might be a good starting place for the formulation of the Covenant:
Each individual is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others. Each has the right to use and dispose of his own life and his own property as he sees fit. The only real crimes are those activities which violate men's rights: activities which initiate the use of force against other people. The only proper use of force is in response to the prior use of force.
I will never initiate the use of force or fraudulent dishonesty. I will never tolerate the initiation of force by other people. I will in every way possible to me assist other people to prevent the initiation of force and to defend the inalienable right of each individual to resist coercion.
I will recognize no obligation to be binding among individuals except those to which each participant has voluntarily and explicitly consented.
I will recognize no group which claims to possesses rights in excess of those belonging to its individual members.
Any association acting to contravene these principles shall have forfeited its right to exist. I will consider such persons and associations as unworthy of my friendship. I will have no dealings with them, and upon all occasions treat them with the contempt they deserve. I request that my fellow citizens join me in ostracizing those who participate in or otherwise support coercive associations.
It has been almost 30 years since I shrugged in 1965, and after all those years of watching the Libertarian Party and the various new country/enclave projects, I am convinced that there is no seed population within the present culture of America that can give rise to the scheme I envision. The process of cultural value-deprivation has gone on too far for there to be any significant number of people willing to drastically alter their lifestyles to accomodate "mere philosophical principle."
Thus, I do not know what to propose as a practical implementation of the ideas I have presented. I don't see any real use for them, but have written them up and will circulate them in the hope that they will be preserved for some future generation wherein they might have some functional significance.
"Libertarians have one thing going for them that others lack: they are in tune with reality. Human beings are all that really count and libertarians know that. A man and his wife drinking coffee at the kitchen table, an old woman warming herself by the fire, a child playing in the mud: these are the only reasons governments should exist. All the giant industries and superhighways, all the wonderful technology and fabulous medical knowledge, everything that seems to stand so loftily above us is only there to serve these people and their desires. One of these days, people are going to understand what is real and what is illusion and that is the day when anarchy will triumph."
Men, women, of every nation, every race and condition: how much longer are you going to let yourselves be used? When are you going to tell your rulers, "Enough!" and claim the right to live your own lives?
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