The right to choose your government.

Rules — Max Borders’ and mine

Max Borders gave a talk at the John Locke Institute about the need for rules, and provided his set of the three rules he thought essential with regard to panarchy. I agree with him entirely about the value of rules, and accept without question the value of the three he proposed. However, my list of rules is slightly longer (five). Here they are.

1. the dignity of the human person

Everything in society must relate correctly to real human beings, as they are. Government must exist to serve the human person, and not the other way around. Governments cannot sacrifice some persons for the benefit of others. Only human persons have natural rights. What rights exist for groups in society, including governments and parties, apply to them only because the human members of those groups bestow them temporarily on the group in question. We more and more are hearing the term “individual sovereignty”, and that is a wonderful thing. We spoke in the past of the sovereignty of states and nations, without always clearly understanding that sovereignty can exist for a state or nation only when it is bestowed freely upon it by the real human persons who comprise that state or nation, because governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed”, and that consent must be freely and explicitly given, or it is not consent. The right to bestow one’s sovereignty on a state or nation includes the right of the individual to withdraw that right from the state or nation. This incorporates Max Borders’ first macro rule: the right to exit.

2. the right to life and property

The basis of a free, peaceful, and prosperous society is the fundamental recognition by its members of the twin rights to life and to property.

3. the right to defend life and property

There is a gentleman by the name of James A. Donald, the holder of the internet domain “”. That in itself is an amazing thing. His very simple website is an eclectic collection of documents and links that relate to “liberty”, what he modestly calls “James’s Liberty file collection”. One of his articles speaks of the right to defend our life and property. Understanding this natural human right puts so many things in proper perspective. First, it makes clear exactly what the second amendment is truly about: that each person is responsible, by nature and nature’s God, for the defense of his life and property, as well as that of his family and neighbors. When the second amendment was written, it was well understood that “militia” referred to every able-bodied man who had the ability to defend himself, his family, and his neighbors, because that was both his right and his responsibility.

This right also makes clear the proper role of police in society. Today police work for the oligarchs, the elite, the Lords of the Manor, and not for the serfs. This has become abundantly clear in recent years, with the militarization of local police which has progressed with alacrity, and as more and more incidents of police brutality against what William Grigg refers to as “mundanes” take place everywhere.

A corollary of the right to defend is that there is no right to do harm to another. This is Max Borders’ third macro rule: do no harm. If defending one’s life or property requires taking away the property, freedom, or even the life of the one who seeks to do you harm, this is not the equivalent of doing harm to another, assuming the defensive action is proportionate to the original harm done. Max Borders also makes clear that doing harm is not the same as failing to improve the situation of another person. Is it morally reprehensible to see another in need and fail to do what you can for that person? Of course. Does it then follow that the way you must come to the aid of that person is through government action? Absolutely not!

4. subsidiarity

Max Borders also includes subsidiarity as one of his mega rules (the second), and I wholeheartedly agree. Here’s how he puts it: legitimate functions of the state should be handled at the most local feasible level. Another way to express the principle of subsidiarity is that no higher level of society should perform a function that can be handled by a lower level of society. If a lower level requires assistance in performing some function, the higher level of society must be explicitly invited to provide assistance. This principle certainly precludes a higher level of society, let’s say a federal or national level of government, from forcing lower levels, such as states, to participate in functions that the lower levels could substantially accomplish themselves. We certainly have the newly-proposed national healthcare initiative to provide an example of a repudiation of the principle of subsidiarity. With the principle of subsidiarity, it always comes back to the individual human person as the proper locus of political action.

5. freedom of association

The right to freely associate with others is also fundamental to the proper working of society. Everyone generally agrees that they should have the right to freely associate with other persons, forming groups of like-minded people in order to carry out various purposes within a free society.

What sometimes becomes problematic is the flip side of the right of free association, which is this: that a group of people may, for any reason they wish, exclude a particular person from their group. This right was often used by governments in the past as the punishment of exile. It is likewise used by governments today whenever they put a person into jail or prison, forbidding that person to move freely. Rand Paul recently got into a pickle when he suggested that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 exceeds proper limits when it forces businesses not to refuse to do business with certain individuals based on race. What is missing from this discussion is whether it is the proper role of government at any level to enforce morality. If it is, then edicts of the Supreme Court become divine, and any contradiction of this position is blasphemy. Not taking the position that the Supreme Court is the voice of God, or that it is the proper role of government to enforce morality on others, Rand Paul took the proper position that the federal government was clearly right in insisting that government should not discriminate on race, but that it had no right to force the rest of society to do the same, however morally correct that position may be. Most people who do not worship government agree that the proper enforcers of morality, and this on the consciences of people only, are the various religious or ethical communities.

Freedom of association is what panarchy is: the right to be associated with government, or not, as we choose.


2010/08/19 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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