Explaining how the inherent contradictions of the questions I listed in part one relate specifically to government is the purpose of the remainder of the posts in this series. Today’s post will examine question one.
1. How shall we enslave them to set them free?
A wise man with whom I used to regularly associate, John Immel, once said that government is authority and authority is force—his point being that coercion is not merely a characteristic of the State, but is in fact the state’s most fundamental characteristic, and likely the only truly relevant one. Absent force there is literally nothing about the State which has any meaning whatsoever. I agree with this completely, and the only thing I would add to John’s aphorism concerns the Law. I might put it this way: The Law is government, and government is authority, and authority is force. Meaning that once Law is declared or implied as the guiding societal principle then government is established to compel obedience…because law absent forced compliance is not law, but suggestion. Government is the physical incarnation of the Law’s right, or Authority, to compel obedience. No citizen gets decide for himself whether he shall obey or not, for if this were the case then the law would, again, not actually be law, but suggestion.
This goes to the heart of why I have for the last several years assiduously asserted that legality is a fundamentally distinct ethic than that of morality, and that, in fact, the two are mutually exclusive. To build a society rooted in the ethic of legality—that men’s behaviors shall be bound and constrained by law—is to ensure that that society is not and never shall be a moral one.
Morality is an ethic that necessitates that men must will and choose; legality is an ethic which declares that choice and will are fundamentally irrelevant…men will do what the law demands or they will be disabled or destroyed. Period. Legality deals in punishment; morality in consequence…and the difference between them is not in the least bit subtle. Consequence is earned; punishment is meted out. You cannot earn a punishment; you cannot be dictated a consequence. The law cannot acknowledge that you earned your punishment precisely because it does not acknowledge the legitimacy of your will and choice. You will obey or else; what you want, what you will, and thus to what end you shall exercise your choice, is utterly meaningless to the law. The law dictates your behavior, and you will act. You have no choice in the matter. Law is not cooperative. “Cooperative law” is a contradiction in terms. You don’t earn. You act, or you are in some sense or literally erased from society. You act as the law demands or you don’t exist. There is nothing for you to earn. The law IS, you act. That’s all. There is no “consequence”, nothing is earned; nothing is given to you or happens to you because you don’t have any real individual autonomy under law.
The law says how you must or must not behave, period. Further, any behaviors not specified by the law are still obliged to it, for the entire context of all behavior is framed by the law. If the law can demand your compliance in one behavior, it can demand it in all of your behaviors. At the root of all your relevant actions is your volitional Self, and this Self is utterly singular. Thus, to claim to own just one of your behaviors is a claim to the ownership of all of YOU, entirely. The law implies that at any point it may demand any behavior from you, full stop. The law is the basis for the authority over the race of men by those who are called, elected, installed, etc. to enforce it.
Let’s look at the following example:
Person A attempts to rob person B; person B shoots person A as person be B defends his property.
Now, both Morality and Legality will value the act of robbery and the act of self defense according to a given standard, and the standard is simply that which the action can be said to ultimately serve. This is where the two ethical systems diverge, never to be reconciled—where their utter incompatibility is illustrated. With morality, the standard is the individual, and thus is likewise that which must be preserved in order that the individual may have actual, rational, objective, meaningful existence. In other words, the moral standard is that which must be preserved in order for the very existence of the individual to be possible on both the physical and metaphysical levels. The moral standard then is Self, and, by extension, that by which the Self is made manifest in reality: life (being alive in the world), liberty (being consciously and willfully active in the world), and property (the means by which being alive and being active can efficaciously occur). In short, the individual is the moral standard, which necessarily makes choice an integral component of ethics, as choice and will are ineluctably integral to the individual. We can therefore value the action of defending one’s property as being a moral action because it is in service to the individual; and the consequence of being shot in the attempt to rob another person as being a moral consequence.
Legality offers us a different interpretation of the scenario entirely. The Law, as I have explained, rejects choice and will as having any ethical meaning whatsoever. The law is about obedience, and obedience is by definition the rejection of choice. “Choose to obey” is a contradiction in terms, as one cannot choose to have no choice. One can choose to cooperate, but not choose to obey. Slaves obey, free men cooperate. And no sane person would ever equate slavery and choice, because “freedom” and “slavery” are opposites. To say one is the other is, to put it mildly, complete nonsense.
So what is the ethical standard according to legality? Well, the ethical, or legal. standard is not the law, precisely, it is fundamentally the Collective Ideal, incarnate via the government (Ruling Class) and which forms the metaphysical basis for legal ethics, but for any truly meaningful purposes we can presume that the Law itself is the standard. We really don’t need to get bogged down in metaphysics to make the point here.
What is the point, then, you ask?
The point is that the action of defending one’s property and the action of getting shot whilst attempted to rob that person of their property are going to be valued according to the degree to which they are in compliance with the Law. The law is the legal standard. If this seems circular, or redundant, well, that’s because it is. The law is, I submit, a wholly irrational ethic…untenable because it’s at root perfectly senseless.
At any rate the law is the legal standard, meaning that if the law says that one must not rob, then the act of robbery shall be unethical…”illegal” is to legal ethics as “immoral” is to moral ethics. Similarly if the law says that one may, or must, shoot someone trying to rob them then the act of shooting the robber shall be deemed ethical. The act of getting shot whilst trying to rob another is thus likewise deemed ethical.
Notice that I did not make getting shot a consequence of the attempted robbery…there is the act of shooting and the act of getting shot. Legally speaking, there is no such thing as consequence. No two actions are necessarily ethically connected in this regard. There is no action-reaction, or choice-consequence, only action-action. There is no necessary ethical value which can be logically drawn from any given behavior to any reciprocal behavior.
Let me try to clarify this point.
The law may declare it unethical (illegal) to rob someone, and likewise declare that one may not defend his property. The law may declare that the act of defending private property (there is no such thing under law, by the way, but that’s besides the point) is the sole purview of the State, for example…the police we could say, and that while it is illegal to rob it is also illegal to defend one’s property. There is no contradiction here…the law demands what you shall do in service to the law, and if the law decides that it is in service to the law for you to both not be robbed and also to not defend your property then that’s what shall be demanded of you. The law defines the context for your behavior and thus your existence, and whatever it declares you must do you will do. If those things seem contradictory or incongruent to you…well, what is that to the law? The law doesn’t care what you want, it doesn’t give you a choice, and thus it doesn’t care what you think. It rejects your consciousness as having any legitimacy at all, so what things seem to you with respect to the law is utterly beside the point.
On the other hand, morality is not like this at all. In morality, it not only is possible but necessary that there be ethical value shared in actions which are reciprocal to other actions. Morality accepts as axiomatic cause and effect, choice and consequence, action and reaction, and this is because morality implies will and choice as necessary to human existence, and thus it understands that there are natural outcomes of behavior which are driven by choice, and that those outcomes are thus necessarily tied in value to one’s behavior. If it is considered to be of value that a man shall own property then it must, morally speaking, be of value that man shall defend his property from theft, which means that if a man must shoot the robber in order to defend his property then getting shot is a moral consequence of attempting robbery.
Now, I certainly understand the moral question of whether or not one should use deadly force in the prevention of the theft of some inexpensive thing, like a pencil or marble, for example…but that actually furthers to illustrate my point. The reason we can have ethical conversations like this is because of morality; such questions are not a remonstrance of it. It is because morality fundamentally values the individual that we can ask questions about things like whether it is a good thing or not to shoot a person who is trying to steal a pencil. With the law, the answers to such questions are simply dictated to you and I. If the law declares that yes, you must shoot, or are allowed to shoot, one who is attempting to rob you of your pencil, then that’s settled. The law says it, you obey. It’s not for you to ask questions…and don’t think. It’s not for you to think.
What has all of this to do with the question, “How shall we enslave them to set them free”?
Well, it may not be entirely intuitive, but it’s not complicated to see the error implicit in the idea of the “benevolent State” as it applies to the rule of law…and I submit that law is implicit, if not explicit, in a slave-mater relationship. The master declares what behavior the slave must perform…this is the law for the slave. The slave obeys. It’s no more complicated than that…the only real difference is that in the state-citizen relationship, with our “free” and “democratic”, and “representative” government, with the smokescreens of “elections” and “constitutional rights”—the U.S. Constitution being the prototypical blueprint for the “benevolent state”—there are many masters and many millions of slaves.
Within the “benevolent state”, like every other state, there are rulers and there are the ruled, and this authority-submission dynamic is the very essence of the most basic forms of slavery. The benevolent state is nothing more, unfortunately, than a master who demands compliance from his chattel. The relationship is rooted in law…behavior is dictated, and obedience, not choice, is the only value the citizen brings to his government.
I understand that this is not a popular idea anywhere, not even in politically conservative or even libertarian circles, which stop short of declaring the state entirely bereft of morality and legitimacy. My perspective that it is entirely bereft of morality and legitimacy is said to be naive, oversimplified, myopic, purely ideological. I wish that were true…honestly I do. Unfortunately, a cursory look around the turgid nation where I reside, the U.S.A., reveals the objective reality, which is this: that what was once arguably the free-est nation on earth, the rights of the individual codified in its most fundamental of governing documents and heavily informed by individual-empowering enlightenment philosophy, has dissolved into nothing more than a pseudo-tyrannical, bloated, perpetually indebted, foolhardy, war-mongering peddler and exporter of neo-Marxist racist dogma which has decided that the apogee of virtue and virtue’s only meaningful objective is “social justice”, and that “social justice” is nothing more than at best doing to innocent white people the very same thing which was done to innocent black and brown people, which is about as lazy and stupid and hypocritical as is possible, and is literally less effective at creating a just society than doing absolutely nothing at all. Yet here we are. We fought a revolution over stamps and tea, but 30 trillion in debt, exploding inflation, World War Three, disintegrated borders, state-compelled “vaccinations” with experimental drugs, perpetually subsidized unemployment, government-sanctioned riots, and abortion rates of up to 70% in certain communities…well, hey, nothing one more election can’t fix. Give Trump four more we’ll be positively drunk on freedom.
The idea of the benevolent state and the rule of law is the idea that no one is above the law. Sounds good. We all cooperate together under law for freedom’s sake. No slave; no master. The government is a mere steward of that law which is established to enfranchise men to act out their natural rights. Law protects and promotes freedom…without it we are at the mercy of the whims of evil men.
Sounds good. However, it’s all just platitude. The hard, gun-shaped truth is that law is nothing without an authority to enforce it. That authority is the government, and the government which must enforce the law in order that the law can have any relevance and meaning whatsoever cannot simultaneously be obligated to that law. It is simply a contradiction and cannot work…which is precisely why it doesn’t. The reason the United States has dissolved into a black hole of corruption, greed, cognitive dissonance, and totalitarian fantasy is because of the fundamental philosophical premises which underwrite it, not because we simply don’t have the ‘“right people” in power. “If the slaves just had a different master they’d no longer be slaves” is a ridiculous claim, yet we continue to think that if we just elect the right men and women to political office we can turn the ship around and return to the halcyon days of beautiful individual freedom. No we cannot, because freedom does not and cannot proceed from the foundational documents which inform this nation. At root these documents speak to only two truly relevant things, and only one if we consider them mutually inclusive of one another: A government shall be established, and there shall be law. This demands, inevitably, that no matter how benevolent the intentions of the Founding Fathers, the nation will inevitably find its way to totalitarianism and collapse, just as we have seen time and time again in virtually all nations and all governments throughout history in all the world.
You cannot and will not free men by enslaving them…and government means slavery. Period. Benevolent or not. Benevolent government may be a benevolent master, which is preferable to a hateful master, surely, but a benevolent master is still a master, nonetheless; and you are still a slave; and just you wait and see how long your master remains benevolent once you decide that you no longer want to be a slave.