Thursday, June 24, 2010

How Libertarians Should Live in a State-Run World

The arms of the soccer club AC Milan, which contains the arms of the City of Milan on the right, which are based upon the "Vexillum Ecclesiae" of Pope Alexander II (1061 to 1073), the bloody cross of Christ, which William the Conqueror used as a consecrated banner to justify his rape and pillage of England

Thank goodness for Uncle Murray, for helping us to understand how to remain sane in a world of statist madness.

Just to add to his thoughts, some of us occasionally encounter the argument from statists that the state 'owns' the country we live in, and that if we don't like the state's rules, then we have three choices; (1) Leave - though this is often either difficult or impossible and there's nowhere left in the world anyway, which isn't in the clutches of some state, or which one state or another won't rule out from invading at its own will, so that even your own ship in international waters can be invaded by a state in hostile violent mode with the statist press defending them for their heroic actions; (2) Stop complaining, and buckle under; (3) Commit suicide.

Well, I feel that the state 'owns' its own territory in the same way that a Mafia mob 'owns' its bit of turf in Manhattan. Yes, some of these mafias have 'ruled' their bit of turf for a long time, but that doesn't make it any better or any more morally legitimate when they 'ask' you for protection taxes. In fact, so weak is their position on their original 'ownership' of a territory, that states usually turn to some deity or other to justify their possession of a controlled territory in which they run a monopoly on forced payments in return for monopoly 'protection' provision.

A case in point is the British government. Duke William of Normandy got the distant Pope of the day to give him 'permission' (presumably on behalf of the Christian God) to invade England. Even today the flag of England, the bloody cross of Christ, is that same papal emblem, the Vexillum Ecclesiae, which William carried into battle with him at Hastings after it was sent to him by Pope Alexander II.

It does seem rather ironic, of course, that the same flag that millions of Englishmen are draping themselves in as they watch the World Cup, is the same flag that was used to wrap them in chains; it must be some kind of Stockholm syndrome writ large. But I digress.

Having decapitated the previous regime, William then took over England, slaughtering, taxing, and regulating, as he went, handing over massive parcels of stolen land to his lieutenants, keeping the best lands for himself. Oh, and while he was at it, he got his state-appointed judges to declare that he did in fact own all the land he could see (and much land that he couldn't see), and that all of these grants of land to the Dukes of Northumberland, Montgomery, Norfolk, et al, could all be revoked at the King's pleasure.

To this day, the Queen of England still 'owns' every square inch of land in England, by right of conquest emanating directly from William. It is at her blessing that the 'freehold' you may possess underlying your English castle is not revoked back to her, at her discretion. Hence, the British government can legally (under the British state's common law ruled upon by British state judges who work for and who swear allegiance to the crown) put a motorway through your back garden, should they so choose to do so, at any time, and if you die without any heirs, then 'your' land goes back to the crown.

But William was a murdering raping bandit. And although it has admittedly been a long time since his band of robbers decided to swing by England and settle down, cataloguing the people as tax cattle in the Doomsday Book, this time effect does not make the English crown's 'ownership' of England any more legitimate. Just as the Romans were not the legitimate 'owners' of Britain by conquest when they raped this land, or just as the EU - the modern descendant of the Roman Empire - is not now the current legitimate 'owner' of Britain, because the crown's ministers signed us over to them in the Lisbon treaty; we weren't theirs to give away in the first place, as they are basing this right to hand us over on the right of conquest a thousand years ago, which was a criminal act.

In the same way, the US government does not 'own' the Moon, just because they planted a few flags there, paid for with stolen money, and does not own virtually the entire western half of continental America because Jefferson used stolen money to buy a piece of paper from a corrupt French government, in the Louisiana purchase, covering millions of acres of land no Frenchman had ever seen, let alone any King called Louis.

Forget John Locke and mixing your labour with previously unowned land. Buying everything from a bankrupt French King, from the Mississippi to the Pacific, without any European having seen much of it, with money stolen from the American people, is a neat trick if you can get away with it; I wonder how the native American peoples who occupied the land at the time thought about this? Let's face it; they probably didn't even know about this piece of paper going from one white man to another for fifty years, until some more white men turned up in their village with guns to shoot them up, one day, while waving this grubby piece of paper as justification for the slaughter.

But just supposing for a second that we accept that the British state does 'own' Britain. Does that mean we must knuckle under and obey, tug our forelocks, and pay our taxes? Of course it doesn't.

If you are in a prison for a crime you didn't commit, or even if you have just been captured as an enemy combatant by some repulsive state or other, or even if you have been locked up just for disagreeing with the powers-that-be, then as far as I am concerned you are at perfect liberty to try to escape or to make the life of the guards as much hell as possible, or to burn down the prison camp to replace it with a better place, just as you would be if you were born in the Soviet Gulag, the biggest prison camp of all time.

The prisons the state has built to house us as tax cattle may be 'owned' by them. But the land they built these prisons on was stolen and the money they used to purchase the bricks and cement of the prison, and to pay the guards with, was stolen; often from us!

Everything the state builds and owns was done through either theft or violence, or both. Therefore, it can never be 'legitimate' if you believe in a system of morals in which theft and initiated violence are repulsive. Thou shalt not steal is at the bedrock of every form of law in the world; it doesn't become okay just because you call yourself a state rather than a gang.

The state is nothing but an immoral band of robbers writ large. And it should be treated as such.


Gekko said...

So as anarchists appear we appear to have two choices. We can either:
a) deny the legitimacy of the state's claim to allodial (ultimate) ownership of the land, based on the illegitimacy of the method of it's initial appropriation (i.e. they nicked it from someone else).
b) accept the legitimacy of the ownership and the implications that has for contract property rights.

Choice 'a' is fraught with practical issues, not least of which is that the state's courts will (unsurprisingly) uphold it's own claim to the legal ownership of the land. Therefore any attempt to displace the thief (or even to assert one's own claim to the land which itself will be illegitimate as the land was not unowned when the state stole it) will require force to be used as the state regards itself as the final authority.

However it's choice 'b' that was the source of the original question to you. If we do accept that the state 'owns' Britain (as you state at the end of your article) then doesn't that represent the degenerate case or anarchism whereby one 'entity' owns all the land, there is a single landlord. In my understanding of propertarian anarchist theory there is no limit on how much land one can own so in principle there is nothing wrong with that situation (again this is assuming that we have accepted state ownership of the land). That landlord sets conditions for access to it's land, among which are that you agree to pay an amount of money that they demand, effectively your 'rent', and that you agree to be bound by it's laws. If you do not agree to the terms then you are free to not access their land (i.e. emigrate). Equally, choosing to stay would seem to be an implicit contract that you agree. This would seem to be in keeping with any other property transfer transaction and in-line with libertarian theory. If you accept the conditions of residence then you accept the 'rent', and taxation no longer becomes illegitimate. Everyone understands that the Mafia does not 'own' the areas it preys upon and therefore their predations are criminal, but the state is generally viewed as the the 'owner' of the land. Therefore to withold tax becomes the act of aggression that the state retaliates to (since you agreed to pay tax by remaining resident and are welching on the deal so you are effectively stealing from the landlord).

For the record, my own position is 'a', that I do not accept the state's claim to legitimate ownership of the land. This of course puts me in a tiny minority and while I know that doesn't make it any less valid it does make it rather difficult to defend the anarchist position that the state is the aggressor, which is the position I found myself in recently.

Incidentally, if we claim that the state does not own the land, then does it become 'unowned' on the basis that those from whom it was stolen are no longer around to claim ownership? I would think that hereditary claim is not valid, as that would require a property transfer agreement which, by the nature of the situation, could never have been made. That surely could be the only valid claim that I could make to allodially 'own' the handkerchief of land I live on.

Gekko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Benderville said...

"Is not a kingdom without justice no more than a mere gang?" -St. Augustine of Hippo.

Gekko said...

It's still just a gang regardless.

Jack Maturin said...

Gekko, you'll have to get out your Walter Block as I haven't got the spare 15 hours needed to reply.

Search for the stuff where he talks about the criminal ownership of roads. That should get you into the rest of the material.

Essentially, if you beam down from outer space you can use government roads without asking their permission.

Because they built the roads with stolen pelf, and as you cannot identify the people who the pelf was stolen from, the state's property has effectively become unowned and can then be homesteaded by you.

Please don't respond to this half-baked reply. Just haven't got time to respond. Seek out the Blockmeister instead. He has all the answers on this.

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