The constitution and our rights

I have tweeted the following Lysander Spooner quote to friends on Twitter (in modified form due to length) on many occasions. It may be one of his all time best quotes.

But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

~ Lysander Spooner

And to think that Spooner never lived to see the age of Obama and the NSA!

Lysander-Spooner-Quotes-5One of the most disappointing things in political discourse is to hear so many claim that the constitution if followed “as it was written” would “guarantee our rights”. This is almost as bad as those who think that the American constitution grants us our rights in the first place.

I believe in natural rights as did Murray Rothbard. We have certain rights that are inherent due to our humanity, and they can be summed up by simply saying we have the right not to be the victim of aggression. We might argue a bit over what, exactly, those inherent human rights are and how best to enforce said rights, but we must believe that natural rights predate the state and its constitution or we are believing in “rights” that are really just privileges bestowed by the state at its whim. After all,  if men can bestow “rights”, then they are not rights at all, because they can just as easily be taken away.

The right to life and liberty in our time is most often threatened by the state — the very institution that so many think is supposed to protect our right to life and liberty. They think that if only we would just “follow the constitution” that everything would be just fine again in this country. But how does one expect the state to be constrained by a piece of paper that it enforces itself? Has it ever really followed the constitution in all matters? Have all men and women in the USA ever been protected from the state?

Ron Paul did run a magnificent campaign for the nomination of the GOP by calling for the nation to follow the constitution in countless matters where the state is presently not following the constitution. In doing so, he was calling for an end to our overseas empire, and end to the drug war, and a drastic downsizing of the central government of the US. For this he was attacked and marginalized on many occasions by the “leaders” of our nation-state.

The simple fact is that the U.S. constitution is not a document that will “protect our rights” even if we follow it as it was written. After all, consider this part from the constitution:

Article 1; Section 8

1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

2: To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

3: To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

4: To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

5: To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

6: To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

7: To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

8: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

9: To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

10: To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

11: To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

12: To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

13: To provide and maintain a Navy;

14: To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

16: To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

17: To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;–And

18: To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

That part by itself puts lie to the belief that the constitution limits the power of government.

But the main problem is that the constitution in no way supports the non-aggression principle. The NAP says that we may never comment aggression against someone who has not first attacked us. We may never use force, fraud, or intimidation against the innocent to get what we want and yet the U.S. constitution authorizes just that.

If we ever are to live in peace and prosperity, free from the coersive force, fraud, and theft of the state then we must come up with a system that does not have as its very foundation the monopoly use of force to control the population. One would think that is obvious to even the most dense and propagandized person in the country.

We must work to create a voluntary society where men are free to interact with each other in voluntary cooperation; and the U.S. Constitution is a roadblock to that goal not a pathway to it. Stop worshiping the constitution, it is not worthy of veneration.

Collectivism vs. Voluntaryism

I have an eternal hostility to collective thinking and some think that should mean that I want to be some sort of loner. Far from it. I think the key to people living well is to recognize that humans are social beings and that they have a deep physical, psychological, and spiritual need for cooperation with others. We are meant to be members of a tribe. But we also are meant to fulfill our own individual nature and direction in life. We are meant to cooperate voluntarily and not by coercion. Slaves cooperate under the lash of the overseer — that is not what humans need or want.

When groups of people rise up in a mob and act emotionally, what they do is rarely ever something to be proud of. Often the most heinousness of atrocities are committed by the mob. But what is the state and its continuous war making but mob violence? Wars destroy lives, property and take away opportunities from everyone but even worse they diminish all the qualities that go into making us free and humane. But we must see that all forms of collectivism do that to one degree or another.

What should be the interplay between the individual and the group? It is obvious that humans need to form groups and cooperate with the group. We are simply so wired. We must have some form of society. The simplest one to understand and the first we normally associate with is the family. Then comes our immediate neighborhood and community; and then often some organization like a church. It is when our membership in the collective becomes mandatory and the rules of behavior for membership are dictated from on high that the trouble begins. I can go into a Church and I can behave during services in a manner acceptable to the members there — and if the rules of behavior are to onerous for me then I can leave and go to a different church. I can associate voluntarily with the group that I desire to associate with.

Regardless of one’s politics, most people often think in a coersive and collective manner. Often people (even some libertarians!) want to enact laws and use the raw force of the state to force people to “do the right thing”. The whole point of “collectivism” always boils down to using force, fraud and intimidation to make the individual follow the rules of the collective. And yet only individuals act, not organizations; so that means that there must be someone or some small group at the top making decisions. So in a collective you end up with, no matter your stated goals, a tyranny run by a small elitist minority.

A “voluntaryist” society on the other hand is one where members of the society interact with one another in a mutually voluntary manner. Everyone comes to agreements on who does what and how one should act by an ever evolving natural interplay of people’s beliefs and opinions. This is the only real democracy — one where everyone votes every day with every action he takes. But what about crime? That has been dealt with in societies over time in many different ways in the absence of a monopoly collective. The Irish did that for, perhaps, 9,000 years. The key here is the non-aggression principle that tells us that it is immoral to initiate aggression against anyone who has not attacked you first. You may retaliate but not initiate.

The impulse to apply the force of the collective to coerce the individual to obey the rulers has a long history, and yet it is exactly those places where peaceful and voluntary cooperation was allowed to flourish where mankind found the most happiness and prosperity. Why then do we not see that a “voluntaryist” society is the best model to follow? I think it is the envy of the egalitarians that can explain most of the troubles.

Once upon a time not so long ago in this country there was near unrestricted freedom of entry into various trades and occupations. This was way of life was consistent with ideas of self-ownership which is a concept foreign to men and women of collectivist persuasion. This allowed for much better economic progress and stability as well as giving people much more control over the shape of their own lives than the totally regulated economy of our present police state. Economic decision-making was much more decentralized and mainly in the hands of individuals rather than centralized in institutions. Since most transactions and decisions were made between individuals face to face there was a much more personal nature to the interactions and this reinforced the concept that men and women were the authority in their own lives.

The collectivists and egalitarians, eaten up with envy as they are, have promoted the primary social evil of our time and that is the lack of respect for self-ownership rights. This lack of respect underlies the crimes perpetuated by the state as well as the millions upon millions of rules, regulations, laws, and other impediments to a laissez-faire free market where each individual interacted with others in a voluntary way. We have seen radical collectivism lead to the state claiming the right to total control over how your body is to be used.

It is time for you to choose to “live and let live” and not seek to use the raw force of the gang of criminals writ large that we call the state (or government) to make others act as you would have them do. Do not support the state in any manner. Withdraw your consent to be ruled by the evil of the state. The first thing a slave must do is realize in his own mind that he is born a free spirit and that his condition of slavery is morally wrong in the extreme. Realize that it is you who owns your own body and the fruits of its labors.

Reject the state today.


Withdraw your consent to be governed

The “voluntaryists” are forever telling you to withdraw your consent to be governed and so are many other flavors of anarchist to boot. But what the heck does that mean exactly? Can I do it from my sofa or do I need to get beat up by a cop in the street? Withdrawing your consent to be governed by the state means more than some one time act or marching in a protest march.

To withdraw your consent from the state is to divorce yourself from the state as much as you can; having no loyalty to the state and having nothing to do with the state except when you can not avoid it due to the state’s power and aggression against you. You must see the state as fundamentally unfair and immoral: “a gang of criminals writ large”. You must seek to dissociate yourself from any of the rituals, myths, and symbols of the state as you have no respect or loyalty to the entity that is so hostile to peace, prosperity and your family. Abandon all forms of patriotic worship of the state with its adoration of the state’s flag, its pledge to the flag,  its parades, songs and monuments. Never think of yourself as a “citizen” or member of the state’s minions; and certainly never have good feeling about any of the state’s victories over others.

To withdraw your consent to be governed means to, much as possible, avoid all interaction with the state and its government. This does not mean you need to become an anti-social loner. No, it means being very social and living with your friends, family and neighbors in voluntary cooperation. Help to build society and its natural order.

Try to learn as much as possible about the natural order and what voluntary cooperation among free men and women means: see this post about the old west in America for example. There are historic examples of anarchy or near anarchy that show that people can and do build orderly societies in the absence of the predatory state. Remember that the artificial legal order of the government with its legislator made law is vastly inferior to the system of laws made by the people themselves; see here and here.

To withdraw your consent to be governed can include joining an “underground economy” but it does not mean you have to do that. It would mean talking your children out of the government’s indoctrination camps (“schools”) if you can find some way to do that. You should also avoid believing the main stream media’s account of any story as they are a propaganda arm of the state. Support alternative media.

It is not necessary to “take to the streets” in ’60s style protest marches to withdraw your consent to the idea that the state has some legitimate right to own you and your family. You can first just stop voting. Don’t watch any movies or TV that glorify the military, police, or the state. Don’t support the state in any manner. There is no need to engage in violence; just work to educate others that the state is mankind’s most powerful and hostile enemy.

To withdraw your consent from the state means to have faith in the natural order and that people form lasting societies in ways that rely on voluntary cooperation without the coercion of the state. Murray Rothbard and others have written extensively about how society in the absence of the state can function. We must seek to eliminate the state in all its forms and that first means stop supporting it in any manner. We must somehow educate people that their ancestors the Classical Liberals who built a relatively free country in the beginning were on the right trail — even if they did not see that any state at all, no matter how small, will ultimately become a tyranny.


But the main thing we must do is remain optimistic in the face of the growing power of the Empire and its police state. We may not live to see the end of the state but it is coming as the trend lines are clear. Once upon a time in America is was said that all the libertarians in the country could fit in Murray Rothbard’s living room and did often meet there. We don’t face as hard a task as the original classical liberals did in the 1700s in working for a free society because we now know that it can be done. We have every reason to be optimistic for the long run even as we fear the brutality and horror in the short run as the dying beast can be very dangerous in its death throes. I once wrote that the Austrian School of Economics is enjoying its most spectacular surge in growth in my lifetime. It is obvious that Ron Paul awakened many to the ideas of liberty and the ideas that Austrians have been putting forth ever since its founding by Carl Menger. Now a new generation of young people are reading Austrian economics. The economics of the Austrian school informs these young folks that government is the eternal enemy of peace, prosperity, and liberty. The Mises Institute is now an important and powerful force for good on the internet and there are many, many others as well. The philosophy of liberty sells well.

It is time to live your life in as many ways as you can without any consent to be governed. It starts in your mind. Begin today.

Central planning, light bulbs, and the problem of information

Updated below

At the very core of the idea of central planning is a fundamental mistake that can not be overcome. It is a mistake involving information. All proponents of central planning ultimately believe that if they could assemble a bright and selfless crew of planners then these brilliant saints-on-earth could dictate the “best” course of action to the multitude. This fallacious assumption by all believers in central planing is not just the belief that planning committees are smarter than the average citizen or that they are smarter than an Einstein: no, the fundamental error is the belief that they are smarter than the united brainpower and experiences of the entire multitude.

Let us put aside for a moment the fact that planning boards are notorious for being corrupt and easily pressured or bribed into passing rules and edicts that harm the majority as it helps the small special interest groups. Even if the planners were men and women of extraordinary moral fortitude and keen insight, they still will be led astray by the fads and myths of the times into making horrendous decisions.

In just the USA we have about 315 million people and these people make hundreds of decisions every day. There are billions of decisions to be made and there is no way for any centralized bureaucracy to address all the issues. There is no way for a planning board to even understand all the issues involved. There is no way to assemble all the relevant information. In fact, the central planning group is most often so far removed from understanding the real situation of those who they seek to tell how to live that their edicts almost always make matters worse.

To give on concrete example, consider the new year and the rules taking effect that ban yet more incandescent bulbs.


It is said by the minions of the state that the incandescent light bulb is only 10 to 20 percent efficient and that compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs) are much more efficient. How much more? I had to look that up. It is said that fluorescent bulbs are 4 to 6 times more efficient than incandescent bulbs. But these figures are only for converting electrical energy into light. There is no consideration of what else I might want from the light bulb, nor any thought as to how they are manufactured and later deposed of.

Consider that the electricity in a incandescent bulb is converted into both heat and light and that for a goodly part of each year I am trying to heat my house and don’t consider the heat given off by incandescent light bulbs “waste” at all.  The heat put off by the incandescent bulb is helping to heat my house.  This consideration has not been included in the justification for the draconian laws banning incandescent bulbs in favor of the “more efficient” florescent bulbs. This erroneous thinking is typical with the overly constrained and simplified engineering perspective of the central planning process. The central planners will always fail to take into consideration all potential use cases and in the case of the “waste heat” they missed a large and obvious one.

It is also the case that the florescent bulb costs more than the incandescent bulb and does not give off good descent light. If the florescent bulb were competitive to the incandescent bulb then people would have incentives to use the fluorescent bulbs and there would be no need for laws or ‘light bulb police’. If we were to rely on the market incentives and the wisdom of 300 million Americans then the best bulb would win out over time. Perhaps both bulbs have their place and people would figure out which application is best for which bulb. It is quite easy to imagine scenarios in which a compact florescent bulb does not save the citizen any money or is more trouble than it is worth but the law-giver bureaucrats can not figure that out. (or don’t get a damn) Since the public’s choices will be forcibly constrained so that some hypothetical citizen X may save a small amount of money using his light bulbs in a particular way, we will lose the collective experience and wisdom of the entire population using the various types of bulbs in diverse ways.

Florescent light bulbs contain mercury sealed within the glass tubing as part of the technology of the devise and must be recycled and deposed of properly. The incandescent bulb has no potential for mercury poisoning. So now we have to pay extra to dispose of the mandated-by-law bulbs. Was a bulb recycling industry part of the planning board’s calculations on which bulb is “more efficient”? You know it was not.

UPDATE: Incandescent bulb ban leaves bird care centre with dim hope — and yet another unintended consequence from the “brilliant” central planners.

Greed, Envy, and Taxes

A guest post by Mickey Ellison:


We have all heard of the seven deadly sins. Wikipedia breaks them down simply. Wrath, greed, sloth (lazy), lust, pride, envy, and gluttony. We could spend hours discussing each of these, but for the purpose of this writing, we will focus on two: greed and envy.

In my opinion, the state and federal income tax is possibly the greatest hindrance to economic growth. To have this conversation, some of you will have to open your mind because envy will creep in to cloud your judgment. How many times have we heard that the rich should pay more and our way of doing that is through the income tax?

The US tax code is well over 70,000 pages in length, so forgive me if I don’t have everything perfect. Check this out! According to the Small Business Association, in 2012 small businesses made up about 99.7% of U.S. employer firms. That isn’t 99.7% of employees, but rather 99.7% of those that employ people. If I read that right, .3% of actual employer firms are large businesses. Yet, only 49.2% of employees work for small businesses which means 50.8% of the employees work for large firms. Now, let’s not get caught up in the numbers, but if you want more information on the statistics, visit this site.

This is where your mind must open. Small businesses with new innovative ideas can become a real threat to large businesses. How many of us that were alive in the 1980s would have ever thought Walmart could ever squash K-Mart? That was unthinkable, but fast-forward 30 years and that is exactly what happened.

Every large business we see out there like Walmart, GE, and Microsoft started out as small businesses. Sam Walton started the largest retailing company in the world in — of all places — Bentonville, Arkansas. Do you think K-Mart was worried about this hick in nowheres-Ville becoming a real threat? Of course not, but Sam Walton did become a major threat to K-Mart non the less.

Now, if I were a large business that didn’t want to become the next K-Mart, what could I do to prevent that from happening? One way would be to continue to get better at what you do, or another would be to influence laws that make it impossible for the next Walmart to even exist. Unfortunately we can see the choice that most make is using the power of government to protect them. Influencing politicians can possibly make it easier to squash the competition privately while appearing to be on the side of the little guy. I think a 70k page tax code is proof of that! Greed!

Those evil large companies that we love to hate, along with the help of politicians, prey on another of the seven deadly sins, envy. They can get the ignorant masses in such an uproar, that the companies’ greedy scheme can be pushed by the envy of those same masses, and do it all in under the idea of fairness. Seeing how this could work will take some understanding of the tax code, and hopefully you can see how the income tax can kill the entrepreneur that could eventually threaten the behemoth that we also love to hate.


So, let’s dive in. The average American that is an employee understands the income tax differently that the average American small business owner. Let’s look at the average American tax payer. You get your paycheck from your employer, and you have had your state and federal taxes withheld for you by your employer based on how you filled out your W-4 form when you were hired. After those withholdings are taken out, the employer also withholds the amount that you are required to pay for your benefits and what you have chosen to contribute to a 401(k) if you have one. After all of that is done, you have your take home pay. Sometime between January and April 15th, you file your taxes with the IRS, and you are told how much you will receive in a refund or if you owe more. That’s pretty much the extent of it. Stop for a moment to thank your employer for mailing that check to the IRS and state to pay your taxes. It’s an ingenious system because most people really have no idea what they really pay in taxes since they personally do not have to write the check, but that isn’t the point of this post.

Now, let’s take a look at the average American small business owner. Most of them are not your CEO that we see on television, rather they are often our next door neighbors. People like the local plumber, the local hometown restaurant owner, and back in the day the local gas station owner. Many of them have no employees or often less than 10. How does their taxes work? First they must make a profit, and that isn’t a given, but let’s assume that they do. The example that I will use is a plumber that makes $100k a year as a sole proprietor and has no employees. My first question is how many of you know what a self-employment tax is? When you get your W-2 income, your employer withholds social security and Medicare and that adds up to about 7.5%, but did you know that your employer is required to match that? Do the math! That’s about 15%. The real number for 2014 will be 15.3%. If you own a business as a sole proprietor that is an immediate 15% off of the top of your income. On $100k, he/she owes $15,000 and we haven’t even gotten to income taxes yet. After paying the $15,000, there is $85,000 left to be taxed according to our progressive tax system. Below I will do the math on that:

$0-9075 is taxed at 10% and that equals $907.50
$9076-$36,900 is at 15% that equals $4,173.75
$36,900-$89,350 is at 25%. Since he only has $85,000 that is subject to income tax, the amount due is $12,025.

And, if you happen to live in a state that has an income tax, he has that to pay as well. For this example let’s use 5%. In many states it’s higher, but this works for the example.
On $85,000 that comes up to $4250. For those of you being technical now, I know you can write off the state taxes against your federal taxes, but play nicely.

Now let’s add them all together:

$40,605.50 is your grand total, leaving him $59,394.50.

What would he do with that $40k if he could keep it? That’s anyone’s guess, but let’s look at some possibilities. First, he might simply spend it. Maybe he buys a car. Buying that car pays the salesperson a commission, the car lot makes a profit, and the manufacturer can make another car to replace that. They pay the assembly line worker, the mechanic, the company that produces the upholstery. The upholstery company makes a profit, and they have to employ someone to make the upholstery, but because $40k in taxes were withheld, none of this business takes place.

What if he hired another employee and paid them the 40k. The business may grow faster, creating more profit, and that results in more money being spent or maybe even another employee that could help the company grow even more. The employee will spend the money on something. Let’s say food at the supermarket, that can pay the cashier, the butcher, the baker, the truck driver, the packaging plant, the farmer, the seller of fertilizer, and the list goes on and on. None of this takes place because the government plundered the business owner for over 40% of his profits.

When income taxes are raised, these are the people that get hurt. Not Warren Buffett or Bill Gates! Not Walmart or Costco! What it does do is prevent some entrepreneur from creating something better than Walmart or at least makes it more difficult. In the end, the large companies are more likely to absorb these taxes by passing them on to the employees, but what really happens if the small business owner is priced right out of business. This discussion doesn’t even take into account the numerous regulations and rules that hinder economic growth.

If there is one thing to remember from this article, I would say think beyond the rhetoric of politicians and large mega-corporations. Think about the small business owner when you get caught up in the emotion that politicians use against us. The next time you or I complain about having to go to Walmart and we wonder where the local dime store went, hopefully you are starting to know now. Almost every new tax law or regulation will have the opposite effect than what is being sold. This is why the Walmarts can get larger, and this is why the too big to fail banks have gotten even bigger. The American dream of owning one’s own business will become a fantasy because we allowed greedy politicians and business men to cause us to commit one of the seven deadly sins, and that is ENVY.

by Mickey Ellison