The internet, the NSA, and Brazil’s President

otE0bGEThe NSA has upset Brazil’s president by spying on her, her government, and the state’s major industries. I wonder, did she think that Brazil was exempt from the NSA’s drive to spy on everyone on the planet? Regardless, she was furious and launched a verbal attack on the U.S. and the NSA at the United Nations. Did she think that the Evil Empire was above spying on the industries of other nations so as to give our favored industries a competitive advantage? Where has this woman been?

The Raw Story tells us:

Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, has launched a blistering attack on US espionage at the UN general assembly, accusing the NSA of violating international law by its indiscriminate collection of personal information of Brazilian citizens and economic espionage targeted on the country’s strategic industries.

Rousseff’s angry speech was a direct challenge to President Barack Obama, who was waiting in the wings to deliver his own address to the UN general assembly, and represented the most serious diplomatic fallout to date from the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Rousseff had already put off a planned visit to Washington in protest at US spying, after NSA documents leaked by Snowden revealed that the US electronic eavesdropping agency had monitored the Brazilian president’s phone calls, as well as Brazilian embassies and spied on the state oil corporation, Petrobras.

President Rousseff is furious because the NSA spied on her personally as well as on Brazil’s state oil corporation Petrobras and others. I agree with her that Brazil and the rest of the world should be upset that the U.S. and the NSA are spying on people, organizations, industries, and most everyone else all over the globe. They are truly committing evil wherever they go. But what does President Rousseff propose that we all do about it?

Rousseff called on the UN oversee a new global legal system to govern the internet. She said such multilateral mechanisms should guarantee the “freedom of expression, privacy of the individual and respect for human rights” and the “neutrality of the network, guided only by technical and ethical criteria, rendering it inadmissible to restrict it for political, commercial, religious or any other purposes.

President Rousseff thinks that the would-be world government should handle it. She says the United Nations should “oversee a new global legal system to govern the internet.” Well there is a novel idea to retain privacy and liberty! I can’t imagine a more dystopian solution to a problem. A more frightening scenario for “protecting” the internet would be hard to imagine.

It would have been nice if she had told the United Nations that the U.S. had committed an act of war upon Brazil and that she demanded sanctions against the Evil Empire for such unwarranted acts of aggression. A new supper agency to control the internet is certainly the wrong medicine when the correct path is to ask the international community to censure the U.S. for its illegal and immoral acts.

Rousseff said:

“In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy. In the absence of the respect for sovereignty, there is no basis for the relationship among nations.”

Who could argue with that? We all want the NSA and the evil Empire to stop spying on every living thing on planet Earth. But the UN? My goodness the woman has lost it. She wants a collection of international bureaucrats to control the internet and every living person’s communication right. What could go wrong with that?

We realize that as head of state president Rousseff is a big part of a “criminal gang writ large” and so will look to expand power of the common people at every chance. It is in her nature and forms her world view. But surely this woman can realize that an international bureaucracy of untouchable and unelected power mad bureaucrats is not the solution but rather an extension of the problem.

Any “solution” that makes the state (or collection of states) stronger is a step closer to total tyranny and not to be favored.

Can a constitution put limits on a government?

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John C. Calhoun, was one of North America’s first political theorists and he wrote about the inability of a constitution to limit government. He points out that no document, not even if written on a hallowed piece of parchment, has the inherent power to bind officials to read it correctly or follow its strictures. As time goes on it gets even weaker in this ability as language changes and governments build up their power.

In his A Disquisition on Government, Calhoun explains the problem:

A written constitution certainly has many and considerable advantages, but it is a great mistake to suppose that the mere insertion of provisions to restrict and limit the powers of the government, without investing those for whose protection they are inserted with the means of enforcing their observance, will be sufficient to prevent the major and dominant party from abusing its powers. Being the party in possession of the government, they will… be in favor of the powers granted by the constitution and opposed to the restrictions intended to limit them. As the major and dominant parties, they will have no need of these restrictions for their protection. …

The minor or weaker party on the contrary, would take the opposite direction and regard them as essential to their protection against the dominant party. … But where there are no means by which they could compel the major party to observe the restrictions, the only resort left them would be a strict construction of the constitution. … To this the major party would oppose a liberal construction—one which would give to the words of the grant the broadest meaning of which they were susceptible. It would then be construction against construction—the one to contract and the other to enlarge the powers of the government to the utmost. But of what possible avail could the strict construction of the minor party be, against the liberal interpretation of the major, when the one would have all the powers of the government to carry its construction into effect and the other be deprived of all means of enforcing its construction? In a contest so unequal, the result would not be doubtful. The party in favor of the restrictions would be overpowered. … The end of the contest would be the subversion of the constitution… the restrictions would ultimately be annulled and the government be converted into one of unlimited powers.

Nor would the division of government into separate and, as it regards each other, independent departments prevent this result… as each and all the departments—and, of course, the entire government—would be under the control of the numerical majority, it is too clear to require explanation that a mere distribution of its powers among its agents or representatives could do little or nothing to counteract its tendency to oppression and abuse of power.

The weakness of limits on governmental power guarantee that a state will grow in power. After all, why would you expect a criminal gang like the nation-state to honor its own rules and founding documents? It is the nature of the government of a nation-state to grow in power and control day after day until it becomes a tyranny. The U.S. government is becoming a Dystopian nightmare — a vast police state of unimaginable brutality and power. Every village in the land has a SWAT team now! This was never the intention of the document called the U.S. Constitution — or at least that is what the authors claimed back then.

When I was young there was a military draft in the U.S. in spite of the fact that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution states:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Back in the early 20th century there was a court case over this issue during WWI. The draftees challenged conscription on the grounds that being forced to serve in the military was a form of involuntary servitude and hence is clearly unconstitutional under the 13th Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the question in Butler v Perry (240 US 328 [1916]) thusly:

The 13th Amendment introduced no novel doctrine with respect of services always treated as exceptional, and certainly was not intended to interdict enforcement of those duties which individuals owe to the state, such as services in the army, militia, on the jury, etc. The great purpose in view was liberty under the protection of effective government, not the destruction of the latter by depriving it of essential powers.

The U.S. Supreme court gets to “interpret” the words of the written document in whatever manner it so chooses; and hence the words themselves are no barrier to the nation-state doing whatever it pleases to do. While the document might slow the state down in times of great public outcry, there is no protection to be found there. Consider that since 1945 the U.S. has been continually at war and yet the constitution has not been followed in any of those aggressive, illegal, and undeclared wars. What good did the Constitution do in those instances? It is for this reason that those who advocate for a smaller government should place little faith in the power of a “god damn scrap of paper” (the Constitution) to constrain the state. That is true even with brand new amendments or even a whole new Constitution written in the clearest, most modern prose possible. To restrain politicians in their pursuit of power and control is beyond the power of a piece of paper.

Lies, damn lies, and “Exceptionalism”

In an op-ed piece published in the New York Times, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin warns the people of the United States against further interventions:

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

The Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, nails it with that portion of his New York Times essay.

He goes on to mention the American caused horror that is today’s Libya. It is now “divided into tribes and clans” and in a state of confused conflict. That illegal war was the U.S. government “helping” the people of Libya? Of course not, that war was just another in a long line of the U.S. destroying all governments in the middle east that were not toadies to the U.S. and its partner in crime Israel. Like the other interventions, the Libyan war was built on lies, deceptions, blunders, and massive propaganda. Libya is today a failed state reduced to lawlessness and ruin.

We can hope that twelve years after 9/11 that the U.S. is ready to see that its interventionist policies are morally wrong, unlawful, counterproductive, and ruinously expensive. Not only do these ridiculous interventions destroy the poor men, women, and children that we are supposedly helping, but it is destroying the U.S. itself. As has been famously observed, both sides lose in every war.

We can cheer the fact that Putin’s gambit to have Syria turn over all chemical weapons to the U.N. seems to have stopped Obama and led to his defeat in Congress over getting their backing for war. We can also cheer Obama’s defeat over Syria  in the public opinion polls and welcome this very positive sign of the times, but we must still yank out the evil weed of “American Exceptionalism”.

Putin’s condemnation of “Exceptionalism”:

I would rather disagree with a case [President Obama] made on American exceptionalism, stating that United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

It is amazing that it takes an ex-KGB man from the Soviet Union to remind us that all people are created equal and no one has the right to aggress against people who are not attacking you. Libya never attacked the U.S. and yet we utterly destroyed that poor nation. Now we see Syria in the same light. What have they done to the U.S.? They have done nothing at all to the U.S. other than be a country on Israel’s hit list and a stepping stone to their dream of destruction of the Persians in Iran.

Make-Work Programs and the MIC

The military industrial complex in general, and Lockheed Martin in particular, now have a replacement vehicle for the famous Hummer. It is called the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and is billed as a breakthrough in fighting in those insurgencies in other countries that the U.S. seems to always be involved in. The Empire will be bringing this vehicle to the latest invasions, brutal occupations and other attacks on innocent women and children throughout the world.

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This “light” vehicle weighs seven tons and costs nearly a half million dollars a copy. It is advertised to have better bomb blast protection than the Hummer it replaces and should allow the evil Empire to chase its prey with even less worries about getting its mercenaries and soldiers killed or maimed. They will build this monstrosity by the thousands and Lockheed Martin and all its subcontractors will make billions in profits. And don’t forget the jobs. Thousands upon thousands of jobs for the civilians who help Uncle Sam kill brown people worldwide. As a side benefit, the Department of Defense (the war department) will have far more of the Hummers to donate to local police forces nationwide to use against the people as this new vehicle makes the Hummer obsolete. Yes, the people paying for all this will be the target of the program also. Karma, my friend, Karma.

Jobs. As most of my readers know, the military-industrial complex sells these multi-billion dollar weapons systems as jobs programs. They put subcontracting parts of these programs in as many states as they can to guarantee support by the congress representatives of these districts and states.

If the central government was not staffed almost one hundred percent by economic illiterates they would understand that this massive intervention into the market does not make jobs but rather it destroys jobs. But even the Keynesian fools in the central government should realize that if make-work jobs is what you want then there are much easier ways to provide these “jobs”. If nothing else the central government could issue everyone a shovel and pay them to dig holes and then fill them back in. Think of the many new shovel factories that would be built! And all those high paid shovel-soldiers working night and day to meet the five year plan.

The central government has long been enamored of the Keynesian gospel that only a strong government with high deficit spending could keep a market economy running. But why do these idiots have to spend their stolen loot (tax money) on war machines? Hell, lets make children’s toys instead; at least that would produce something useful and not kill anyone in the process.

The real answer to our economic woes is to remove all anti-competitive laws, regulations, taxes, and fees from the marketplace. A real free-market, not the fascist facsimile that we have now, would bring prosperity and harmony to the society. Prosperity? Yes, it was the classically liberal laissez-fair free markets that built the wealth of the west in the first place. It worked even though there was never a totally free market. It is time to let the people and their ingenuity re-build the society and stop killing people as a jobs program.

Because mankind’s wants can never be satisfied, there is always work to be done. We live in a universe of wants and needs always exceeding what is available to satisfy those wants and needs. Not only is there always work to be done, there is always productive work to be done. We don’t need “make-work” jobs programs. There should be no mass unemployment nor should there be “jobs programs”. Indeed, there should always be a shortage of available human labor.

Then why is mass unemployment such a problem? If there is always work to be done then why do we see high unemployment rates decade after decade? It is because the central government intervenes in the market at every point. We have child labor laws preventing teenagers the right to work. We have minimum wage laws that prevent the least qualified from finding any work that they can do. We have laws, rules, regulations, fees, barriers to entry, and all manner of other anti-jobs legislation to keep the economy from preforming its function freely. We have, as anyone can see, a centrally planned economy. And like the U.S.S.R. we have a poorly preforming economy that leaves millions and millions of men and women without the hope of a decent job.

It is time to try a real jobs program. Dismantle the central government piece by piece and watch the economy take off.

War; an ugly evil

Everyone would love to see the world and all its inhabitants peaceful, prosperous, and in harmony with all of creation. We would all love to see a peaceful and wealthy world. At least all the sane people would love to see that. What stands in our way of achieving that happy state of affairs? What stands in the way of ever-increasing social cooperation, wealth and a fuller development of civilization? Aggression, the initiation of violence, stands in the way. I mean aggression in all its various forms, but war is the worst of them all.

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I have always been anti-war. I have never seen a legitimate reason for starting any war. I think that state violence is a greater threat to social cooperation, liberty, and prosperity than private criminal violence or anything else that stands in the way of achieving an advanced, prosperous society. While a private criminal strikes you and moves on, the state settles down and robs you again and again, year after year. This domestic pattern of violence and aggression is also the blueprint for the nation-state’s relationship with other states. The U.S. Empire has been at war in some manner or the other for its entire history — especially if you include the hidden wars of the CIA in South America and around the globe. The state has an inherent tendency to grow in power and predation and as it becomes more powerful it becomes ever more aggressive. The very powerful Empires in history would not tolerate another nation that would not bow down in submission to its every wish. The U. S. is no exception.

I don’t see the state as primarily a protection from aggressors foreign and domestic as many of my fellow citizens do, but rather I see the state as the primary danger to our lives, liberty and property. It is the state itself that keeps voluntary society from organizing itself into the most beneficial mode of existence that it can. The state grows ever more powerful over time, but its growth rate really accelerates in times of war. Randolph Bourne’s observation that “war is the health of the state” is still true today. We should all recognize that states have an incentive to start wars. During wars the state is able to have the further justification of the war emergency it created itself to seize even more property, gain more power of its citizens, shred civil liberties, and generally grow in size and scope. All that plus the rich cronies to power get even richer off the blood, misery, and destruction of the innocent.

Is there any just war at all? Murray N. Rothbard argued that there were two American just wars in his essay “America’s Two Just Wars: 1775 and 1861.” Rothbard claimed that “a just war exists when a people tries to ward off the threat of coercive domination by another people, or to overthrow an already-existing domination. A war is unjust, on the other hand, when a people try to impose domination on another people, or try to retain an already existing coercive rule over them.” I think it is just to resist aggression and that the defending side in an invasion is morally justified in its defense only if there is a chance of winning and if the defending side is not going to get many innocent people killed by its defense. This means that I am not as sure that the two wars were as defensible as Rothbard thought they were. After all, Canada became independent without a war.

There are thousands of excuses that states use to tell their own side that the next war is morally justified and absolutely necessary. These excuses always turn out to be lies piled on top of lies, but they continue to work to the state’s advantage. In today’s world we Americans are often told that some group of people are having “their rights” violated and so the U.S. must go defend them. Some group of people may have rights, but it is their responsibility to defend or safeguard such rights and not the responsibility of the young men and women of the U.S. (or any other country) to go get killed for their rights. Our first priority given the anti-social destruction of war is to avoid war at nearly all costs. Even if justified in defense, a people are better off if some option of negotiation can be used.

Since wars are the wanton murder of the innocent, especially women and children, as well as destruction of society, we must oppose all war. Even the side that is clearly defending against an immoral and illegal invasion will almost always commit war crimes against the innocent, so we must be against all war unless the aggression is clear cut and of such magnitude that the defending side was left with no other realistic option.

For the above reasons and others, it should be obvious that I can only see the U.S. and President Obama’s threatened destruction of yet another country that has done us no harm as immoral and illegal. It is brutal, ugly, and bestial that the U.S. government is complimenting a war of aggression against Syria. Mr. Obama claims that because some children were killed by gas by criminals unknown that he is entitled to murder civilians by the bus-load in a country half-way around the world. This is bullocks as my English friends would say. Obama looks to be wanting to help the very people who may have committed the crime in the first place. Certainly the rebels had chemical weapons and the will to use them to further their ends.

It is time to end the criminal wars of the U.S. — impeachment would be a good start. Unfortunately thinking that some politicians in congress are going to do the right thing is just wishful thinking. We must re-double our efforts to get our fellow citizens to withdraw their consent to be government by criminal gang writ large called the U.S. government.

Irish Brehon: a legal system

I continually hear that the nation-state government must exist to provide security and justice. This in spite of the fact that we can find no example of real justice coming from the state; and precious little security. There are examples of the private production of law and my favorite example is Brehon, or Early Irish law which arose during the Irish anarchy of old. I have written about the Irish anarchy here and here.

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Brehon, the Irish legal system lasted until the mid 1600s and was a fully developed system prior to any invasion by other peoples. Those invasions only weakened the system, and certainly did not improve it any. It is thought that the legal system dates back to perhaps 2,300 BC. The laws were concerned with property rights, contracts, inheritance, and so forth. The code formed a body of civil, criminal, and military law which regulated the various strata of Irish society from the leaders down to the lowest member of the land.

There were many rules. They concerned all aspects of life that might come into dispute, even down to the relationship of foster parents and foster children. The various industries, farming, trade, waterways, property management and so forth were regulated.

This legal code survived, it is thought, for about three millennia and that is testament to the sense of honor of the people; after all, the law was the people’s law. The law’s authority came from the acceptance and moral strength of the people who were governed by the Brehon Code. In ancient Ireland an individual’s word was his bond. We can find testimony to the moral power of the Brehon code throughout all we know of ancient Ireland.

Some of the unique features of early Brehon Law, compared to our modern law, included recognition of personal responsibility scaled to ones position in society, the priority of individuals over property, equal rights between genders, environmental concern and lack of capital punishment. Most importantly, it was a system that required restitution for wrong rather than punishment. The effectiveness of the body of law is reflected in the great respect given it by its citizens. The law was so revered and honored by the people that there were neither courts needed nor police forces required to enforce it. ~ Michael Ragan

In that portion of the Brehon Code corresponding to what is now known as criminal law, the various offenses such as murder, manslaughter, assaults, wounding, thefts, willful damage are specified with the amount of compensation for the guilty party to pay the injured. The amount of compensation is laid down in detail for almost every possible variety of injury one could imagine.

Since the law arose out of the people themselves through their experiences and real legal cases, the law could not be changed without public approval. It took a majority of “free people” in a public assembly of the people to change any portion of the code. This was a law supported by the people because it was their law. It was not ruler made law handed down from on top but rather it was people made law. This is real “democracy”.

All polices were decided at an annual meeting of one of the competing tuaths. The tuatha were voluntary associations and each one had a “king” elected by the individual tuatha who could be voted out at any assembly.  But law enforcement was not a function of the king in the Irish tuath, rather it was dependent on each party in a suit to provide themselves with sureties who would guarantee that the monetary judgment of the Brehon’s court would be honored. There was an elaborate system of surety-ship which formed the basis of the entire legal system. Hence, a man’s character, reputation, and property were highly important in this society. Honor was highly valued since the honorable would follow the code. The Brehons were essentially arbitrators rather than judges and the system was essentially non-violent with restitution rather than revenge being the goal of the system.

The durability of the Brehon legal system is amazing given that it dates back perhaps 3,000 years. Why was the code so durable? It had to be the people themselves. Irish literature shows a great respect for the code and its administration. There was no trace of state-administered justice but rather justice administered by the people themselves. Imagine no police, no state courts, no prisons, no bailiffs, and no wardens. This was justice provided by the “private sector” and property rights were protected in a jealous manner.

And what do we take away from this example after all? We can easily see that there is no need for the nation-State and its brutal, controlling, warlike force to have a legal system to provide for justice. In fact, we see that justice itself is impeded by the nation state and its ruling elitist class who makes “law” to dominate the masses. We can see that even in a society cursed with a state government the people would be far better off if they could keep the justice system out of the hands of the brutal and lawless rulers.

The idea of common law systems is one we need to resurrect.

The State versus Governance

The anarcho-capitalist or voluntaryist movement has been growing significantly over the last several years. There are many and varied reasons for that growth, and the anti-government speeches by Ron Paul during his nomination run were one of the many, many drivers of that growth. But I think we could do a better job of explaining anarchy.

One of the problems that gets in the way of many people understanding our position is that they confuse the ‘State’ with ‘governance’ or with ‘government’. As I have mentioned many times in the past, there is no one that I know of that wants total chaos. We all want there to be good ‘governance’. I want there to be a ‘government’ of individuals all cooperating with each other in a voluntary manner. There are many social clubs that have bylaws and methods of organizing their affairs in a voluntary way. All churches in this era are totally voluntary and yet have strict organizational principles. In other words, all nation-states are governments but not all government (or governance) is a state.

In a market anarchy there would be governance. The governance of the market anarchy would be by our peers though social and commercial ostracism and/or acceptance. Many people have written about societies that would be governed by competing courts and common law along with defense/security agencies and insurance agencies. These things would help us at the margin were the natural cooperative nature of man would break down and disputes arise, but mostly society arises by humans cooperating to make mutually beneficial trades that enrich our lives.

Of course business is governed by the customer satisfaction, supply and demand, the price signal, profit and loss, and the commercial ostracism of reputation, credit ratings, boycotts and so on. As individuals pursue their rational self interest in a free market there are costs for not being willing to abide by the prevailing group idea of how individuals should act. If you are unwilling to stand behind your product or service then the market can be brutal in punishing you for your lack of caring about your customers. In other words, there are many ways that a decentralized society can organize without a nation-state ramming its dictates down your throat.

Anarchism does not mean ‘no government’ but rather it means ‘no state’. The state is defined as that entity with the monopoly on the legitimate use of force in a given geographical region. In a purely free market capitalist society there would be no coersive authority ruling over you and all social and commercial relationships would be strictly voluntary. If you had an employer, he would not your ruler but only the other side of a mutually agreed upon bargain.

Voluntarism or market anarchy is the only moral, practical and workable way to abolish the State and maintain our modern industrialized civilization. Not just maintain our society but to maximize liberty, justice, prosperity, and harmony far beyond what we have seen so far in any nation-state.

For most anarchists the conflation of ‘government’ and ‘the State’ is probably more semantic than anything and does not get in the way of our understanding each other, but for most non-anarchists this conflating of ‘the state’ with an ordered society can destroy any chance of understanding what we are saying to them. We end up talking past each other.

The mini-archists and statists are correct that there would be chaos if by ‘no state’ we mean no governance at all. But ‘no governance’ is almost impossible in human society. We even see society assert itself in one of the many  failed-state situations like Somalia. The drive of man to make his life better by cooperation with others drives us to cooperate without the need for coercion. The rejection of the nation-state and its violent, brutal coercion does not mean the rejection of voluntary authority or self-governance, but rather the very opposite.

Voluntarists or market anarchists do not advocate rejection of voluntary, private governing rules, nor do we think they would be rejected absent the State. Justice, moral behavior, and prosperity would be maximized by mutual cooperation unhindered by the coersive interference of the nation-state and its parasite class. I think that we anarcho-capitalists and voluntaryists could do a much better job of communicating that we advocate a well ordered, voluntary society and not some version of the movie ‘Mad Max’.

The ‘government’ we reject is the nation-State government that Proudhon railed against:

“To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.” — Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

There is a large difference between the brutal, coersive state government that we all know and the voluntary governance that we wish ruled our society.