The government with Only One Law
by Ronn Neff: part four

Getting ahead of ourselves

Is all this really an issue? Surely the state is so strong, so tyrannical, so great a usurper of authority, that we should be willing to reduce it, to weaken it, and to join in any coalition and alliance that would achieve that end.

Sheldon Richman writes:

The federal government was once limited, even if not perfectly. But it was able to break through the limits and gobble up chunks of our liberty. Putting it back in the cage is challenge enough. But the tougher task will be finding a way to keep it there. To borrow a conundrum from philosophy: Can the polity tie a knot so complex that it cannot untie it? I don't know that it can. But we can worry about that after we get the beast caged once again. ("No One Is Qualified," Freedom Daily, December 2000, p. 18.)

Is he right? Can we worry about that after we get the beast caged once again?

I submit that we cannot. We are blinded by the fact that we are so accustomed to the beast's depredations, so hungry for liberty, that we imagine we will be satisfied with something less than a banquet of liberty. We will not be gluttons; we will not let those few dishes that do not make it to the table interfere with our enjoyment of what is set before us. We are so hungry for liberty that we are willing to pay for it with a few liberties whose loss we shall hardly notice. The result is predictable: when we settle for less than complete liberty, it is less than complete liberty that we shall certainly get. Ever.

There is another reason we must worry about the beast's cage now. The beast is abroad and whether he roams free or is caged, it makes no sense for him to be the guardian of our liberties.

We must keep our eye on the ball — authority. As long as we feed the beast even a little of our liberty, he will not lose his appetite for it. If we may press this metaphor even further, let us not lose sight of the fact that the reason the beast was able to break through his limits was that he was the architect of his cage in the first place.

It was by the usurpation of authority that some men constructed a government and its limits in the first place. Anarchists have long pointed out that the state is born in pillage and plunder. Advocates of limited government imagine that such is not logically necessary, that they can design a government not founded in conquest. What they do not understand is that even the most peaceful effort, the most high-minded effort to found a government must begin with acts that have no authority, with acts that amount to a usurpation of the liberties of others. Even sending delegates to a "constitutional convention" presupposes the existence of an authority that simply cannot arise.

And that means that the Libertarian Party's end — a state with only just laws — is a chimera. Either it must work within an existing state and attempt to reform it, or it must somehow start from scratch. In the first case, it plugs into existing usurpations (at the very least, an election with rules that have no authority), participating in them, profiting from them, and being shaped by them. In the second case, it itself creates the illegitimate procedures that designate some as law-givers and exclude others. It creates procedures without authority.

Authority is always the ball. If we keep our eye on it, we see that no political party can advance the cause of liberty. It may make tyranny less onerous, but that is quite a different thing. The cause of liberty is radical. It is sui generis. It alone merits our loyalty. If it cannot be served by political processes, then the organizations and institutions that work within political processes and by means of them are also our enemy.

They are allies of the beast they purpose to cage. At their most successful, they will be his keepers. That may sound as though it means that they will keep him in check. On the contrary. It means that they will keep him alive.

To the concluding part: "The most precious right."

© 2001 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

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