“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” – Thomas Jefferson
“Democracy is the worst form of government—except all those other forms that have been tried.” – Winston Churchill
I am a longtime admirer of Ayn Rand, and an advocate and practitioner of her philosophy, Objectivism. Ayn Rand turned over two millennia of philosophy on its head in virtually every branch of philosophy. Rand’s unique ingenuity lay in her ability to ferret out unchallenged and incorrect premises underlying almost every philosophic question. (She called it “checking your premises.”) It enabled her to reject a plethora of false dichotomies in philosophy, such as: mind vs. body; reason vs. emotion; the moral vs. the practical; theory vs. practice; altruism vs. exploitation; art vs. commerce; private interests vs. the public good; and on and on.
Rand’s greatest achievements as a philosopher (in my humble opinion) were:
- her moral system of rational egoism (or rational selfishness), which is based on a teleological (means/end) examination of the needs of man as a biological organism;
- her theory of concept formation, based on a mathematical approach of measurement-omission;
- her theory of the basis of art as fulfilling a profound conceptual (not emotional) need in man; and
- more widely, the example she set in her consistent use throughout all her writing and speeches of what I call “the objective-inductive” approach to ideas.
Ayn Rand is one of those rare philosophic visionaries who have only appeared a few times in history (Plato, Aristotle, and Kant being the predominant others.) And as a profoundly original and challenging thinker, she is of course as adored by her fans as she is reviled by her detractors.
Despite my profound admiration for Rand, especially the many contributions she made to the cause of freedom, I began to realize over time that there was something missing from her revolution. “How could it be,” I asked, “that Ayn Rand stood virtually every department of philosophy on its head, yet in terms of practical politics, she more or less advocated a return to the original ideas of the founding of America, with just a few corrections?” Although there were many good thinkers and men of action that led up to the American Revolution, there were also myriad bad ideas extant at the time in every area of the humanities. And giving further consideration to both the political system erected at that time, as well as those that exist now, I realized that many “unchecked premises” continue to underlay these systems, and the political beliefs of even very staunch contemporary defenders of freedom. So I made it my aim to rout out all those unchecked and incorrect premises, correct them, and formulate a new political system that was wholly and completely based on the principles of reason, egoism, and political freedom that Rand had explicitly formulated.
The following essay is an introduction to the resulting system. I make and explain my points in sufficient detail for a rational, independent thinker to give them due consideration. In essays that will follow, I will cover the central points I outline here in more detail, including addressing some objections I commonly receive. I will also discuss what I believe are the most important priorities to focus upon in order to achieve a government based on the principles I outline. I will also point out some mistaken premises I think many on the right hold today, that are interfering with our ability to achieve freedom.
Although I believe the essays that follow can be read on their own, I would strongly recommend that the interested reader have at least read the following works of Rand:
- Atlas Shrugged (because it dramatizes Rand’s entire philosophy, and she believed it was important for philosophic ideas, particularly moral ideas, to be concretized dramatically, so they could be fully apprehended);
- The Virtue of Selfishness (particularly the essays “The Objectivist Ethics”; “Man’s Rights”; and “On Government”).
The United States (and the world) is a bleak place today for those who love freedom and individual rights. We continue in the quagmire of an interventionist-induced global recession that has ominous signs of getting worse. Unprecedented levels of government deficit spending have heaped trillions of dollars onto the national debt, threatening the nation’s solvency and even global stability. The Obama administration and the Democratic (and Republican) congress have been instituting shocking and sweeping new incursions of government into the economy and lives of Americans, including a health industry bill (the Orwellian-named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare) all but guaranteed to destroy private insurance and lead to a government takeover of medical insurance, if not medicine entirely. Taxes are being raised and are sure to rise even higher as debt payments start coming due, and unfunded social program liabilities become current. The economy continues to stagnate under ever-increasing regulatory regimens.
Even worse than the immediate economic crisis is the ever-expanding intrusion worldwide of government into peoples’ lives. Environmentalism gains ever more control over government policy, restricting development, and increasing regulation and taxes. Even though the recession was caused by government intervention, it is being blamed on private businesses that are now facing more regulation. Censorship and “speech codes” continue to gain traction. The so-called “war on terror” is being lost miserably. A nuclear-armed Iran is now being sold to us as something we should accept. The liberals are out of control…
Of course not all Americans are taking this sitting down. The Tea Party movement seems the best evidence that many Americans are fed up with the Obama Democrats and their extreme left-wing agenda. But the problem is that many of these people are likely “conservatives”, who may be against Obama & Co., but don’t have a clear idea of what they are actually for. Many doubtless dislike the left, yet when conservatives are in power, they are just as likely to maintain or even increase all the liberal social and pork programs, and impose their religious morality on everyone, to boot. (Note that the biggest expansion of the welfare state since LBJ was Medicare Part D1, sponsored by George W. Bush, a Republican.)
Of course those who advocate the Objectivist philosophy believe that there is long-term hope, as a philosophy of reason, egoism, and individual rights (hopefully) gains wider purchase in the culture. But is it actually reasonable to expect true freedom to prevail and maintain in a democracy? (And let’s drop the quaint notion that America is a “constitutionally delimited republic” can we? That hasn’t been remotely true for generations…) Can that philosophic “revolution” in which so many rest their hope even take hold in a corrupt mixed-economy democracy?
I would say that this question deserves the answer popularized by Ayn Rand, “Check your premises!” I would ask, is democracy itself (“constitutionally limited” or otherwise) even a moral system? Should the question be, “How can we achieve freedom in a democracy?” or should it be, “What political system is necessary for achieving and protecting freedom?”
I intend to answer the question. But before I get to my answer, let us start by considering the question of government not from our presently disastrous and bogglingly complex situation, but from a smaller, personal (if somewhat unlikely) example. Although it may be unlikely, I think that considering political systems in the context of their origination is actually a useful mental exercise, much as Ludwig von Mises liked to use his fictional example of the “evenly rotating economy”2 as a construct for explaining economic issues.
The Rise and Fall of Lost Gulch
Let’s say that you, your family, and some of your liberty-loving friends and acquaintances decide to found a new community somewhere based on the principles of individual rights and property rights, perhaps inspired by “Galt’s Gulch” from Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged.
So let’s say you all move to a nice lush valley with plenty of room and natural resources, and have agreed to an extremely delimited government whose only purpose is protecting your individual rights, basically your rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as your freedoms of expression, association, production, and trade—all in pursuit of your own happiness. You have appointed a “sheriff” who has little to do beyond herding black-sheep cousin Billy Bob off the streets when he occasionally has a few too many. You have also appointed a “judge” who will arbitrate disputes. You have all agreed to (voluntarily) come to each other’s aid in case of external attack. You agreed that you would make community decisions preferably by consensus, but at the very least by majority vote, with the clear understanding you would never attempt to consider binding measures beyond those relating to protecting your individual rights and property. Taxation is of course completely off the table.
And for a while, your little community flourishes—yours is an eminently practical and simple “utopia”, and in fact is a model of how life mostly worked in the expansion territories of the early American frontier. And contrary to the left-wing Marxist intellectuals who argue that an almost infinite number of taxes and regulations are needed to “fix” the “defects” in Capitalism, you all get on quite fine, trading things with each other, using whatever form of money is convenient to all of you, and having little difficulty figuring out how to respect your neighbor’s property rights—you all just leave each other free to go about your respective business. (See my essay Doggy Social Ethics wherein I point out that most property rights are so simple and concrete that even a dog can apprehend them!)
It really is not complicated, nor even “utopian”. It is not hard to keep off someone’s property unless invited. It is not hard to refrain from theft, assault, and other such offenses. It is not hard to realize you have to get up in the morning and do productive work because no one else is going to do it for you. It is not hard to offer your goods or services in voluntary trade for those of others, and parse the words “Yes” and “No” that may come from others’ lips.
So all is bliss for some years until, as was inevitable, some members (or their children) start drifting towards statist ideas, and people with such ideas start moving into the territory, attracted by its peaceful existence and prosperity. Sounds like the plot of a 50’s B-horror thriller: “Statists Among Us! They look like us! They speak like us! But they aren’t like us!!!!” No kidding…
This is where I now ask you to make this little parable personal, and ask yourself what you would do in this situation. At your town meetings, you now regularly start hearing people calling for all manner of “community” projects and undertakings to be initiated by “the community”, along with growing calls for “everyone” to start paying “their fair share” of various expenses, even though there is no actual shortage of funds. At first, such calls were few, and the requests were plausible (“Shouldn’t the Sheriff’s office also help respond to the mudslides? Shouldn’t they help putting out fires? It isn’t right that X is selling marijuana…” etc.) But with the recent influx of outsiders, more and more these voices are stridently calling for the “backwards” and “regressive” community to institute the same laws and agencies that “civilized” communities everywhere else have. They call for creation of a “community council” and soon you have “city councilors”, some of whom have been elected by the statist members of the community. Before long, they have inveigled themselves into what was the tiny government of your peaceful, prosperous community, and have starting instituting all the things you originally sought to escape: taxes, government welfare programs, government takeover of utilities, roads, and other infrastructure, zoning, regulation of commerce, various morals laws regulating private behavior, and so on.
In a word, the single greatest evil in the political history of freedom: Democracy.
More specifically, the thing that went wrong was allowing those who didn’t completely agree with individual rights to have any controlling say in the use of government force. As long as those socialists were merely voicing discontent, but abiding (however grudgingly) by the strictures of your free society, they were not a threat to your freedom. On the contrary, to the degree they engaged in productive activity and traded with you (when not complaining about the freedom and government that enabled them to live, have property, produce and trade) they were a net benefit to you, as proven by economics theoretically3, and demonstrated in practice throughout history.
Now you might say, “Oh, we should have had a constitution! That would have protected us!” And constitutions cannot be amended? What if the council simply ignored it? Your “Supreme Judges”? How long before your elected council simply stacks the “Supreme Judges” with their own cronies? (More on this later…)
So let’s rewind and correct your mistake… Let’s say that the founders of your community were wise enough to realize it was improper for those hostile to freedom to be given any control over government force. The statists grumbled, but decided to move in and stay in your community anyways, because of how nice it is. Is any right of these people being infringed? I say, no. The most important thing to a person is having his rights protected, not having a vote in government. Note that even today, in our supposedly inclusive democracies, there are many categories of people who don’t have the vote, such as youths near age of majority, visitors and tourists, those on temporary visas, recent immigrants, etc. No one has ever suggested we practice “tourist apartheid” because we don’t let tourists vote in elections that happen to be occurring when they visit. Nor does anyone try to argue that seventeen-year olds are an oppressed minority because they can’t vote until they are eighteen. The important issue is that tourists and seventeen year-olds are equally protected by criminal and civil law, and enjoy equal standing in the courts.
Proponents of capitalism are fond of pointing out how socialist systems fail utterly everywhere, asking rightly how something alleged to be so good “in theory” could fail so consistently in practice. The answer of course is that it is profoundly flawed in theory! But it might behoove these implicit apologists of democracy, even granting their pleas it be a “constitutionally delimited” democracy (such as the United States???) to check their own premises and ask themselves why “constitutional democracy” has so consistently delivered its citizens into socialism and statism…
I argue quite simply that not only is democracy “worse than all other systems”, it is profoundly immoral and cannot and must not be the basis for a fully free society. My utopian example gave an informal suggestion of my view, but let me make it more explicit—what follows is a description of a completely new (to my knowledge) political system that I call Juristocracy. I chose the name based on the root “juris”, which means “of Law” from Roman Law4. It is a system based on fundamental legal and moral principles.
Before continuing, I should explain the important distinction between a “political philosophy” and a “political system”. A “political philosophy” is a fundamental set of principles about man’s correct social system; it embodies basic ideas about the nature of the individual and the state, the relevant moral principles that guide questions of right and wrong in the realm of social structure, and basic conclusions about the appropriate general form or forms of government. A political philosophy does not prescribe a concrete manifestation of its principles. A political system by contrast, is a particular form of socio-economic system, based implicitly or explicitly on a political philosophy (or mixtures thereof), prescribing or recommending specific institutions, offices, and laws. As examples, “collectivism” is a political philosophy; Communism, Fascism, and Socialism are political systems that are based on it. “Enlightenment liberalism” (such as of Locke, and Jefferson) is a political philosophy; a democratic republic is one embodiment, but one can also have parliamentary democracy, limited monarchy, and so on. I assert that Juristocracy is the first, and so far only, political system that is entirely compatible with the moral and political philosophy of Objectivism.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, This is Juristocracy Speaking”
“A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.” (Ayn Rand, “The Nature of Government,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 107)
This is not a prescriptive definition, it is a descriptive one, and is true regardless the nature of the society or its political philosophy. And if there is no one agency with this monopoly, there is a term for that: “civil war”. (I will discuss “anarchy” in a future article.)
Although this organization has a unique role and mandate in contrast to all other types of organizations, it is nevertheless in many other important regards still an organization like many others, with personnel, property, goals and mandates, rules of conduct, and most importantly, members (its citizens) who constitute its main decision-making body.
What exactly is citizenship in a country? Should it be unconditional, simply based on having been born in that country? Is the concept of “unconditional citizenship” even valid? If citizenship is purely viewed as a set of rights held by a person on account of being born in a country, then it is at best superfluous, at worst suspicious.
Historically, citizenship has largely been viewed as a claim by the state upon the individual, rather than an individual’s voluntary assession to the country. As such, citizenship has been used as justification to impose unchosen obligations, such as taxation, conscription, jury service, even compulsory (!) voting5! And at least in democratic countries, citizenship is invariably viewed as membership in and control over the government. I assert that there is no justification for this unconditional view of citizenship—except on collectivist premises.
In a free society, all relations are voluntary, including membership in control of the government. It really bears emphasizing just how revolutionary is Ayn Rand’s conception and defense of individualism—an individualism that is justified by reference to an individual man’s biological, psychological, and existential need for freedom6, not a utilitarian or grudging defense based on what is good for society as a whole. Mankind’s entire history has been based on an implicit or explicit view of collectivism; even the liberal, humanistic ideas of the Enlightenment did not refute major elements of the collectivist premises. Politically, they have never been rejected to this day.
Voluntary, Restricted Citizenship
This leads to the first defining characteristic of Juristocracy: voluntary and restricted citizenship. Citizenship is never automatic, as it is now to those born in the country—it always requires application. Only those who swear a solemn oath to support delimited government that defends individual rights and property rights, and who can demonstrate sufficient knowledge of their government and to what they are attesting, are morally and legally entitled to become citizens. Anything else is a contradiction. There is no such thing as a “right” to violate rights. Government is the institution whose sole purpose is protecting rights, and holding the official monopoly on the use of force, is (as demonstrated throughout history) uniquely positioned to be the worst violator of rights if not managed carefully. A person whose intent is to use government to violate rights is morally disqualified from participating in control of that government.
Citizenship is a great responsibility and a great honor in a fully free society, since it represents a formal affirmation of one’s own rights and the rights of one’s fellows, along with the assumption of responsibility of maintaining the institutions and standards necessary to defend freedom. However, apart from enabling the right to vote or hold certain government offices, citizenship offers no formal privileges, and not having citizenship incurs no official penalties. Citizens and non-citizen legal residents alike are free to enter, leave, and remain in the country, to own property, work or operate businesses, and so on. After all, on what basis can anyone use force to prevent others from doing so?
Citizenship can only be denied for objective reasons, primarily the inability to demonstrate a true understanding of and allegiance to the defense of individual rights, but also for corollary reasons, such as a criminal record (for legitimate offenses against rights, not any of the plethora of “crimes” today that don’t involve a victim or violation of rights.)
If someone is going to be a citizen it is reasonable to expect them to demonstrate an understanding of freedom, individual rights, capitalism, and the history, geography, and political institutions of their country. Therefore, a citizenship exam is appropriate in addition to an oath. (It is immensely ironic that today, a person who wishes to become a naturalized American citizen has to take such a test, and is probably better versed in the topics as a result than many native-born Americans!) It is also reasonable that a potential citizen be literate in the official language of the country, since one cannot make informed decisions on questions under debate otherwise.
The question of whether citizenship can be denied purely on the basis of prior statements or non-criminal actions by the applicant is a thorny one. On one hand, intellectual repentance must be accounted; but on the other, especially early in a new Juristocracy, there are likely to be many applications by unrepentant “liberals” (and conservatives), socialists, and anarchists. Since the admission of new citizens has a potentially adverse affect on the lives and property of existing citizens, the process should rightly be a matter of public record, with the opportunity for objections. So it would be reasonable to require those who have publicly supported statism (in words or actions) to demonstrate repentance for some period of time.
Likewise, once a person becomes a citizen, their citizenship can be revoked for anti-rights behavior, including acts of speech or intent. This could include writings or speeches specifically calling for the introduction of statist measures, as well as attempting to become candidates for office running on a statist program. Being stripped of citizenship in a Juristocracy would be a great dishonor and mark of shame.
Although citizenship offers few tangible official benefits, this does not mean that citizenship would not have ancillary benefits or that lack of citizenship could lead to impediments. It should be emphasized that there are no “human rights” laws that restrict the right of individuals or groups to associate in a free society, so private individuals and groups are fully free to make citizenship a requirement in any kind of private relation or contract. Remember, an oath of citizenship is an oath of respect for the rights of others—those who have taken such an oath may rightly have reason to question the motives, premises, and character of those who have not or cannot.
Restricted citizenship is likely to be one of the most controversial elements of Juristocracy, however its second fundamental element, limited government, is likely to be less so, at least amongst those already favorably oriented to freedom. But it bears describing exactly what a limited government is—and what it is not, especially since it is likely to be much more limited than various “socially liberal but economically conservative” people will conceive.
Limited government starts with the concepts of individual rights and property rights; it is based on the premise of the supremacy of the individual, and the individual’s absolute right to exist for his own sake and happiness. Individual rights cannot be divorced from the facts from which they arise—in particular, they are not “granted” by society, nor, most especially, do they arise due to the arbitrary edicts of some mythical “supreme being.” As Ayn Rand pointed out, rights are conditions of social existence that are necessary for man, the rational animal, to objectively survive (Ayn Rand, “Man’s Rights”, The Virtue of Selfishness.)
Man has no automatic code of survival. His particular distinction from all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives by means of volitional choice. He has no automatic knowledge of what is good for him or evil, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. (Ayn Rand, Galt’s Speech, Atlas Shrugged)
In social terms, it means that man must be free from the initiation of physical force on the part of others, and must be free to produce and keep the products of his actions. It means property rights in goods and the limited resources of nature, and it means various freedoms, particularly the freedom to use his mind, hold whatever ideas he deems necessary and appropriate for his happiness and survival, and most especially, the freedoms to engage in voluntary production, association, and trade with other individuals (and of course the corollary freedoms to also refrain thereof.)
In a free society, all individuals must renounce the initiation of force, and agree to have their disputes and claims to property settled by an objective legal process. The only alternative is a state of war amongst men. If I claim a certain tract of property and my neighbor also claims it, our only choice is peaceable resolution between us, arbitration by a formal legal process, or war.
A fully delimited capitalist government has almost no relation to the governments of today. It is almost impossible for us to even comprehend such a system, so ubiquitous is government in the lives of everyone on the planet today. Perhaps the best way to describe it is to first outline what of today’s system it would still do, then move on to an abbreviated list of the innumerable things it wouldn’t do.
At a local level, a free society would still have police, as we do today. All the normal things we think of as personal crime would obviously still be illegal: trespassing, theft, robbery, fraud, assault in all varieties, rape, murder, and so on. “Offenses” purely related to moral considerations would not be illegal, which includes (for those of legal age) things like drugs, prostitution, gambling, and so on. Police would enforce the law as they do now, and pass offenders on to the criminal courts (which I discuss shortly.) These aspects of contemporary government are necessary and for the most part not broken.
A second important function of government is providing title to property. It has been observed for example that countries that have not had proper systems of land titles have had limited economic development because, logically, no one wants to invest much capital in a private endeavor like a house or business without clear legal title to the property (see this excellent article: Property Rights: The Key to Economic Development.) The details of this process are beyond the scope of this article, but the principles are clear. When some resource or aspect of reality comes to be used and exists in a limited amount, then it is appropriate for the government to create a process of formal legal title to tracts or pieces of that whole. This applies to things like land, water rights (both for drinking/irrigation, and navigation), minerals and resources underground, fisheries, flight lanes in the skies, radio waves, and so on. (For a good example applied to, waterways, see: The Practicality of Private Waterways. Ayn Rand discusses radio waves in “The Property Status of Airwaves”, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.)
The criminal and civil courts are another obvious (and important) need of a free society. The criminal courts have been mentioned, and can work in a manner similar to today’s. The big difference is that there can be no criminal laws that do not strictly have protection of individual rights and property rights as their end. But as long as the criminal code is properly delimited, the current processes of habeus corpus, and an adversarial judicial system with presumption of innocence, are appropriate. Fines, restrictions on freedom, and incarceration are appropriate punishments. For the most serious offenses, capital punishment is also morally appropriate, although the overall benefits and risks of this measure can be debated.
Civil courts are equally important, since this is the venue where otherwise rights-respecting individuals settle disputes and claims of damage in an objective, civilized way. Again, I believe that current court systems are reasonable models for a free society, with some caveats. First, I think it is entirely reasonable that the parties to such disputes bear at least some, if not all of the cost of the courts—a “loser pays” type of system may be appropriate. (More on the topic of revenue later…). As now, decisions of the court can be enforced by armed court officials (e.g. bailiffs, sheriffs, etc.) or the police.
Free people of course have a right to defend themselves against external threats from hostile countries or groups, and so a military is perfectly legitimate, and in today’s world necessary. But some caveats again apply. Foremost, is that the military must be entirely voluntary, not just in peacetime but perhaps most importantly, in times of war. No one has the right to make another free person their slave or servant, in any circumstances. The military of a free society may only be used in defense of the country or its allies; it may never be used for altruistic or charitable purposes—this puts the service members at unnecessary risk, and also encumbers residents with an improper moral choice: between funding improper use of the military or having no military at all.
Anything else? Well, some kind of legislative function is needed to create and maintain laws, but the statutory body of law in a fully free society would be quite static, only needing augmentation or amendment when truly new issues of rights arise, such as via technological developments such as radio broadcasting, flight, biologically engineered organisms, etc. Once various enabling legislation governing operation of police, courts, municipalities, and so on have been formed, they typically require little maintenance. There was a reason the Founding Fathers required Congress to meet at least once a year (imagine!)—they never anticipated that a full-time legislature (and army of civil servants working on their behalf) would be a necessary part of a free society, and it isn’t.
Now on to the long—very long—list of things that governments currently do that they would not be allowed to do in a free society. Today, this is pretty much everything government does. The government in a Juristocracy is specifically forbidden to engage in any activity or to attempt to regulate any action not having protection of individual rights as its end. So the government may not: engage in charity or welfare programs; regulate commerce in any way, including minimum wages, working conditions, mandatory labor union regulations, anti-trust, regulation of banks and financial markets, etcetera; operate roads, the post office, or any similar commercial activity; operate certification agencies, such as the FDA and USDA; operate or fund schools or colleges, or issue grants or loans for tuition, research, or the arts; engage in broadcasting or other publishing (apart from publishing its own activities); operate banks or engage in central banking; operate the money supply or enact legal tender laws (legal tender is a matter of common law and practice, not a proper subject of government regulation); operate transportation services or utilities; own nature preserves or parks; … phfew!
Most government regulations and activities today violate individual rights. The ones that don’t, such as welfare and other social programs, are illegitimate government activities, since they do not involve protecting rights; and to the degree they are funded by coercive measures like taxation, they directly violate the rights of those from whom the funds are expropriated. But even under voluntary financing, these are not appropriate activities for government, and one can obviously point out that if they were being fully financed voluntarily, and government’s coercive power was not otherwise being employed (such as to forbid or regulate private provision of the service) then there is no reason the activity cannot be performed by a private individual or group. And of course even if the activity was funded voluntarily and operated without coercion, there is always the immense temptation to start using coercion. Also, it is not fair to those funding government to have their contributions mixed in with illegitimate purposes—this can easily lead to “white blackmail” wherein, for example, an increase in the number of police can only be purchased by a much larger donation that also funds the school for homeless kiddies.
For some reason, most people, even those who favor laissez-faire, seem to have a curious fixation on roads, and at best confess to having no idea how private roads would work, or at worst, guffaw as if the idea were such a nutty absurdity as to eject the holder from the realm of serious consideration. But in actual fact, roads are very simple, no more complicated than stairwells and elevators, parking lots in shopping malls, or similar shared elements. Terminal roads in things like residential subdivisions can easily be owned and operated the same way any other common element is of the subdivision. Roads in denser city streets principally benefit the owners of the buildings abutting them, who obviously need them so the tenants and customers of the buildings can come and go. We already have private toll highways for longer-distance travel, and anyone who drives on these in comparison to the public interstates can attest to their general superiority. Utilities like electricity, gas, water, and sewage need rights of way, and following road rights-of-way is natural, so these parties all have mutual interests. The main feature of a fully private road system is that those who need and want roads can build and maintain the size and quality of roads needed for their purposes, without a Soviet-style planning bureaucracy trying to centrally plan, fund, and operate all the roads. And there is no question of road owners being able to forcefully prevent access to private property, since rights of easement are a central feature of proper private property law.
There are of course an endless list of alleged complaints about a free market, which all boil down to the complainants not liking the organization of affairs when people trade and act voluntarily. A free society is an ideal society, on principle. If you don’t like something about your own circumstances or that of others, you are perfectly free to take action to change it. You can speak, you can act, you can recruit others to your efforts. But the one thing you can’t do to realize YOUR ideal, is to use coercion against others. Every single complaint ever directed at capitalism is either a complaint about the effects of statism and prior coercive measures, not capitalism, or else a personal assertion of how the complainant wishes things were different, and thus feels entitled to coerce or in many historical cases slaughter others to try to achieve that outcome. That just isn’t very nice.
As just a single example, medical services used to be affordable and accesible to people. You paid for the service, and were typically able to negotiate a payment plan for more expensive procedures or treatments. But several generations of increasing intervention by government has resulted in dramatically escalating costs and an increasingly bureaucratized service system. Every new intervention, especially Obamacare, has caused major cost increases, reductions in quality, and cries for further intervention to “fix” the broken system. It is insane. Literal psychotics are in charge of our system–the more it is destroyed, the more they claim, “Good thing we intervened–imagine how much worse it would be if we didn’t!” It invokes images of the movie Brazil, with the dark running gag of the woman who started with a minor cosmetic procedure, then getting increasingly incapacitated with each new “fix”, all the while cheerily saying “just a small issue, the next procedure will fix me up right as rain!”
The best feature of Juristocracy is that it prevents Economic Psychopaths who hold what are arbitary and essentially religious views about economics from using force against innocent people. It would be bad enough if force could actually achieve their aims–then we would at least only have to argue with them over their ends; but the fact their means always achieve the opposite of their ends completely dismisses them from all need of consideration.
Secure Borders and Restricted Immigration
No topic seems to engender as much acrimony amongst Objectivists and Libertarians (but thankfully much less amongst Conservatives) as the related questions of borders and immigration. In this section, I will explain the relevant facts and principles of this issue, and the corresponding principles of Juristocracy.
Let us start with an assertion and a reminder. A country is not a mere federation of private property. That describes anarchy, not a country with a government. Establishment of government entails a host of (reasonable) restrictions on individuals, when it comes to questions of property, law, adjudicating disputes, creating contracts, and so on. For example, the construct of “treason”–a legitimate criminal offense–is based on the existence of the country and government as a whole, and putting ALL the citizens’ rights at risk by consorting with enemy countries. A military defends the entire country, not just some of it. Protection of rights is enforced everywhere in the country, not just willy-nilly on the whims of locals to an area. And so on. A country is a new construct, a new existent, that greatly alters the context in which principles of rights need to be considered.
The question of borders and immigration is a complex, abstract topic. People who claim they can go from an abstract moral principle (“people have rights”) to detailed concrete political principles (“therefore no borders!”) in one step, without deeper analysis and examination of all the relevant facts are engaging in a fallacious process of reasoning (rationalism.) We can arrive at reasonable conclusions in this area, but only by considering many facts and principles, and integrating them into a non-contradictory whole.
A free country is an immense achievement. It is so precious and rare, that a full, proper instance has not yet been achieved in all of human history. Ideas of freedom have been available worldwide for centuries now, millennia if you include antiquity. Yet in all that time, all those cultures, all those areas in the world, not ONE fully free society has yet existed. Even the relatively free societies of the last few centuries, such as the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and so on, are all regressing into various stages of statism. What does this say about the challenge of creating and maintaining a free society?
A free society is not based on a piece of paper—it is a living organism, based on the values and ideas of the people comprising it at any point in time. The institutions and attitudes that nurture and protect freedom must be continuously renewed. The most painfully concrete example of this is the way that the United States has degenerated into a overtaxed, overregulated hydra, in which government intervention has gone so wildly beyond what was explicitly spelled out in the Constitution, that the Founders wouldn’t even recognize it. It is true that some aspects of the Constitution were ill-conceived and sometimes vague (e.g. what is “the general welfare”???) but the overall intention was absolutely clear, and any question as to whether the Constitution permitted some government action should clearly have been resolved on the side of skepticism. The bleak outcome was NOT a product of an insufficiently precise Constitution, it was a product of changing ideals (actually, ideals that were never fully and widely embraced consistently in the first place.)
I am currently writing this section in the sleepy resort town of Winter Park, Colorado. Thousands of people live here, and many thousands more pour in for the summer and for skiing in the Winter. What keeps the peace and civility here? There are only a handful of cops, and we are very far from any others. The main reason I’m safe here, is not the protection of a few cops, but a shared set of values on the part of everyone (hopefully everyone!) here that involves respect for the property and person of others.
What happens to a civilized, free community when even a few people invade who don’t respect rights, or worse, are comitted to violating them? Observing the impact of the waves of Middle Eastern and North African “refugees” pouring into Europe is telling. Rates of rape have skyrocketed. Women are no longer safe walking the streets. Property owners along the migration routes are trespassed and vandalized. Riots are now commonplace. And long-standing policies of un-selective immigration have resulted in the establishment of Sharia “no go” zones in many European countries, where even police are afraid to go.
Liberals are in deep denial over this. They believe in cultural relativism and “diversity”, so of course are paralyzed when their doctrines literally come true as “diverse” savages enact their own cultural norms. And these liberals display such intense, concerted hostility to everything good about Western civilization, one wonders they aren’t dancing in the streets when these savages attack Western communities.
But many Objectivists and Libertarians are hardly better. They preach a contextless policy of “open borders” under a Pollyanna assumption that anyone wanting to enter is a friend of freedom and liberty, and besides you can’t prejudge anyone can you? You have to give everyone the benefit of the doubt right? You can only take an action if someone commits a crime right? 911 will save us all, right???
Well let’s concretize the importance of cultural values in the context of our small community example. Rather than inventing a fictional scenario, you couldn’t find a better real world example than that of liberal South African couple Andrew and Rae Wartnaby, who took in 143 African “refugees” on their family farm. Despite all their help, a group of the mostly-Muslim migrants eventually became very hostile, attacked some of the other migrants and the Wartnabys, attacked their home, and threatened to kill the couple.
What happened to the Wartnabys and what is happening all over Europe (and to a lesser, but growing degree in the United States) is entirely the result of cause and effect as applied to cultural upbringing and religious ideology. Most of the countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East are dominated by Islam and have deeply ingrained xenophobic tribalistic cultures. They are deeply conservative and expect fellow citizens to obey the code of their culture. I can think of no better introduction to these cultures than the inspiring autobiography of Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Infidel: My Life, Free Press, 2006.) Aayan documents the fiercely tribalistic and caste-driven culture of Somalia, and how fundamental Islam is entwined in the culture to create an environment so cruel, so stiffling of the individual (especially women) that it is remarkable she withstood its assault and emerged as a sovereign, liberated person. Her own father, a model (within that context) of a “progressive”, educated, liberal man, himself tried forcing her into an arranged marriage that repelled her. And despite forbidding the genital mutilation of his daughters, he stayed with his wife after she had it done over his prohibition while he was away for some weeks. The best type of man in that culture, is still a monster according to the reasonable values of ours.
The “Pollyanna” view of immigration is that people from these backwards cultures yearn for the freedom and liberation to be found in the West. The reality is that the vast majority of people who leave these countries simply want better economic conditions, but want everything else about their belief systems and culture to be preserved. They deeply resent our freedoms and the liberal societies to which they’ve led. They have no intention of supporting freedom in their new country, and many will do everything they can to subvert it.
The actual disastrous facts of even semi-open borders (witness Europe) should cause any rational person to conclude that open borders cannot be a correct policy. It can only be possible to hold something as an ideal that has disastrous life-destroying consequences in practice by dogmatically clinging to “ideals” in spite of all facts contradicting them. This is the policy of rationalism (a term coined, in this context, by Leonard Peikoff, a long-time associate of Ayn Rand, and teacher of her philosophy.) It involves a process where one starts with abstract ideas, such as very broad, abstract moral ideas of freedom, then tries to deduce without reference to relevant facts, the proper application of these ideas in more concrete contexts, such as formulating political ideas about borders and entry.
Let us proceed to offer a better, more inductive and integrative approach…
The correct answer relates to our analysis of citizenship. The citizens of a free society have both the right and the responsibility to insure that control of the government stays in the hands of individuals who understand the ideals of a free society and agree to only use government force to protect rights. Likewise, the citizens who secure a territory and place it under the jurisdiction of a proper government have the right to decide who can enter that territory, and under what conditions. Because quite contrary to the absurd, utterly refuted fantasies of the open border advocates, the people who come into a country DO have a decided impact on the life and rights of those legally residing there. And the argument that only some (large) minority of those from irrational culture X may actually violate rights in no way legitimizes admission of hoardes of people from culture X–unless a person is 100% understanding of and comitted to individual rights, they have no claim whatsoever to enter a free country, not even to visit, let alone live permanently.
Let’s get this 100% straight: the purpose of a free country is to secure the benefits of freedom to those who fought for it and pay for it. And it is theirs to enjoy and control. Those who want to bestow the benefit of rights and freedoms upon everyone else in the world are invited to emmigrate to the pest holes which comprise most of the rest of the planet, fight mightily for freedom there, and then munificently bestow this freedom upon the residents therein. (Good luck.)
The open border advocates claim that individuals posses some inherent right to wander wherever they want on the globe. Where in the world did this alleged right come from? All rights are contextual. My right to property is not unlimited, but based on a contextually delimited set of freedoms with regard to some specific property. I have a right to justice, but in a free society, I may only exercise that right by way of the objective legal mechanisms of the government. People have a right to seek freedom and to undertake actions to achieve it, but they don’t have a context-less right to enter the territory of others who have painstakingly undertaken to create a civilized society.
Open border advocates act as if freedom were some free manna that rains magically down from heaven. What happens to policing in an area when savages with no respect for rights descend upon it? Police have to double, treble, quadruple, and even then if the savages riot (as they now do regularly in Europe) the National Guard or Army has to be called in for backup. Who pays for all this? Why are these men and women of law enforcenment and armed services suddenly expected to become sacrificial pawns to the drawing-room ideals of liberal-minded intellectuals? Why should the benevolent, hard-working, rights-respecting people already resident in an area be suddenly called upon to sacrifice their tranquil neighborhoods, to pay vastly more for riot-level police, to live in danger and fear… The inhumanity and evasion is truly astounding.
One of the galling contradictions of the open border advocates is that on one hand, they demand that there be open borders “for moral reasons”, but then in the next breath they assert, “except for known criminals and people with communicable diseases.” They make a related and likewise contradictory complaint that if we have standards of letting people in, then for consistency we would need to apply them to kick people out.
There is so much wrong here, we have to unpack all these fallacies and the sloppy reasoning involved.
First, there is a fundamental difference between the way that a government must treat those legally resident under its jurisdiction, and how it may treat those seeking to enter. These are two categorically different contexts. The first concerns people who have a moral right to continue living where they lived from birth or prior to the advent of the government, and against whom the initiation of force would need to be made in order to somehow eject them from the territory. A person seeking entrance to the territory is in the exact opposite moral and existential position—they are attempting to enter an area under free jurisdiction, with specific laws, a culture of freedom, very many advantageous protections of rights, yet also (to be frank) easy victims and easy pickings to anyone with malevolent intent. Such a person properly needs to meet certain objective standards to be permitted entry.
The contradiction of the open border advocates is clear, when on one hand they complain that entry standards aren’t applied within a country, yet on the other hand, stridently demand that standards we don’t apply within the country be applied at the border. We don’t kick people out of the country who commit a crime and serve their sentence; yet the open border advocates claim right of refusal (on that one point.) We don’t kick people out with a communicable disease; yet again they claim right of refusal of entry. And they also in contradiction both claim the government has no right to impede entry, yet also claim the government has the right to impede entry… in some cases.
I’ve also seen these people start wandering all over the map. They will opine there is a moral right to cross borders, but for some countries or in our age, this is “impractical” and so we need some controls. This is shocking. It is like saying that we should be free from unwarranted searches and seizure, but gee, it was probably ok for house-to-house searches for the Boston Marathon bombers. What happened to allegiance to principle?
In fact, Juristocracy is perfectly consistent and principled on this matter. People who are legally resident within the country enjoy complete protection of their civil liberties, including the right to leave and re-enter the country. The citizens of the country have the moral right and the moral obligation to establish standards governing entry of visitors and especially of immigrants.
At a minimum, entry to a free country should be restricted to those who can attest they fully support the principles of a free society and intend to uphold them. Even if a person makes such an attestation, any material facts that contradict such an attestation are sufficient to deny them entry. In today’s world, this would typically be allegiance to socialism (communism, etc.) or membership in some religions such as Islam whose core principles explicitly contradict freedom and rights. (And the ignorant leftists claiming this is “racist” are of course attempting to conflate an actually immoral position—judging a person based on a non-chosen characteristic such as race—with a moral and volitionally chosen characteristic, belief in and adherence to a specific religious or ideological sect.)
I do think it is important to respect the association rights of individuals within the country, and therefore special attention in entry policy must be made to accommodate specific cases of association affecting individuals, such as family members, spouses, important employees, and so on. There are no valid economic reasons to limit immigration, so provided an individual otherwise meets entry standards, they should not be impeded unnecessarily. This is perfectly in keeping with other principles of rights, wherein an individual possesses a right in the abstract, but must conform to a concrete political implementation of it in practice. (An example would be conforming to the county property registration procedures when transferring ownership of a titled property—people have the right to own and trade property without interference, but the implementation of that right involves specific administrative means, which a person is free to petition for change, but has no legal or even moral right to repudiate.)
It might be helpful to compare and contrast Juristocracy with current practice in the U.S. What is similar is that there would be borders, points of entry, and conditional entry. There could easily be different standards of entry for visitors based on country of origin, as today (for example, people from Canada could enjoy simpler procedures of entry, and not really be restricted in travel, but with the caveats I’ve already made about supporting freedom.) A distinction can and should be made between temporary visitors, such as business visitors and tourists, and those seeking indefinite or permanent residency. The country simply cannot let itself get invaded, and given there are 8-something billion people on the globe, quotas will still be necessary. (Maybe the U.S. could start doing a lot more to help promote actual freedom in other countries, so people wouldn’t have to leave simply to be free…)
One area of strong difference would be the Marxist/Keynesian labor restrictions currently imposed on visitors, particularly students or those awaiting permanent residence on temporary visas. The arguments against allowing people to work are utterly fallacious economically, and having no objective merit, cannot be part of the government policy. Unemployment and job shortages are caused by taxes and regulation, not an increase in labor (see Say’s Law) which the market can always profitably absorb to everyone’s benefit.
Before closing this section, I must make some editorial comments on what seem to be the underlying motivations of people advocating open borders. Some make valid points regarding their own rights of association (which I think do need to be adequately addressed in policy, although perhaps not to the complete satisfaction of everyone, just as policies regarding origination and categorization of property rights won’t please everyone.) But notice I said “about their own rights”… too much missing in many of these arguments is the personal, selfish, actual values of those making the arguments. Too often, they are generalized arguments that are focused on the alleged rights of people halfway around the globe, not the concerns of the person making the argument. Some go so far as to describe this as altruism. While there may be some vestiges of that in the thinking of some self-described egoists, I think what is more lacking is a concretization and personalization of ideas that is the hallmark of an inductive approach. The first thing that a person should think of when confronted with a policy is, “What will that policy do to ME?” In other words, it should be made concrete, and it should be evaluated in the personal value hierarchy of the listener. If you approach immigration this way, and are even somewhat apprised of the impact that mass immigration of Muslims into Europe (and increasingly the U.S.) has had, then your first reaction should be one of deep skepticism, not strident agreement. Most particularly, you should see a red danger flag if someone is saying, “Well, yes of course it is a disaster now, but in a few hundred years when we have an Ideal World, then it will start working…” What kind of principle is that? We could achieve full laissez faire here within a few short years if we could figure out how to do it. Markets adjust extremely quickly. Freedom is practical. It doesn’t require some Philosophic Rapture in the distant future. So if someone is telling you with strident moral fire that a certain policy is the “only” moral policy, yet it has and will clearly continue to lead to actual disaster, their idea must be false.
The moral IS the practical. There is no dichotomy between what is true and what is moral; and what is moral and what is practical. Under a rational philosophy with rational standards of value centered on the individual and his requirements for thriving in life, all truth is good, and all that is good is true. If you really want to help people in countries less free than your own, the very first thing you should do is get your own house in order, then do everything in your non-sacrificial power to promote freedom in other countries too. I can imagine a world where freedom and reason have prevailed, and borders can be reduced to mere formalities and markers, but clearly we are nowhere close now. And even then, the sovereign citizens of each country still retain the right to establish the standards of entry and immigration.
Now on to the final, and perhaps most important defining attribute of Juristocracy: voluntary financing. What does “voluntary financing” mean exactly? What it means is that the government may not use coercion (or some indirect variants that I will explain) to obtain the financial and other resources it needs to operate.
Before discussing the particulars of voluntary financing, I must discuss at some length the critical importance in principle of voluntary financing, since in this, I think I am probably in a very small minority even amongst Objectivists. Let’s start with Ayn Rand, the archetype of a radical innovator and advocate of acting on principle precisely because it is practical to do so. Even Rand argued that consideration of voluntary financing was “more than premature today” and as such a measure for a “distant future” (“Government Financing in a Free Society,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 116.) I think many others I have talked to also think this way, believing that somehow, reigning in government action is the “first” order of business, then bickering over financing (voluntary vs. coercive) being a final measure.
I disagree. Vehemently.
There are only two ways to view the relationship between government and the individual: the supremacy of one, or the supremacy of the other. In mankind’s entire history, government has always been supreme, and the individual has always existed at the permission and behest of government, not the other way around. Many might say, “Except for the United States!” I respectfully disagree. A social system is defined by its laws, institutions, and actions, not the documents and comments of its founders, or the claims of its supporters. The inspiring language of the Declaration of Independence is contradicted by many facts of the United States from its inception, including its flawed Constitution. The country that started with the claim that “all men are created equal and endowed … with certain inalienable rights” then proceeded to enshrine slavery, taxation, eminent domain, and (albeit initially limited) government control of the economy into its Constitution! One of the very early acts of Congress was passing the odious Militia Act of 17927 that formally instituted conscription (excepting conveniently of course, members of Congress…)
It is Either/Or—either you have a country and social system founded on the supremacy and the rights of the individual or you do not. There is no theory/practice dichotomy between these, and in fact whatever is your practice will ultimately become your theory, as the history of the United States has painfully taught.
At the outset, I should emphasize that this does not mean the government is limited to only putting a tip jar outside the police department or courthouse, nor does it mean that individuals who oppose the government will somehow be exempted from any indirect means of financing the government. I will speak at some length later about various methods of voluntary financing, but will start with a description of what the government may not do.
Most importantly the government may not enact any kind of taxation, whether on income, property, capital, or activities. Nor may it impose any other coercive financial instruments such as duties or tariffs (e.g. for imports or exports), imposts, and so on.
The government may also not use coercion to obtain any resources such as land or materials that it may want or claim to need. Thus there may be no statute or constitutional power of “eminent domain” that permits the government to take private property for its use, even if it compensates the owner. I have racked my brain trying to come up with a scenario in which eminent domain could even plausibly be necessary, and have been unable to do so. Certainly for common, local government operations such as police stations and courthouses, the government can buy or lease land and buildings and other equipment just as any other organization. One might imagine there being some sites or locales that might make particularly good locations for military installations or naval ports, but again, one is hard-pressed to imagine that there would never be choices or options. And like in so many other cases, the important, central issue is keeping the relation of government to rights in mind: the government exists by the will of the rights-respecting individuals who constituted it, and only has moral legitimacy to the degree it protects rights and doesn’t violate them.
Before discussing means of voluntary financing, it should be emphasized that government agencies that provide voluntary services are perfectly entitled to make a “reasonable” charge for those services. I put the word “reasonable” in quotes, because there is some imprecision to the concept “voluntary services”, such as civil court services, passports, land titles, and so on. The purpose of the government is to protect rights and enable a free society by providing the rights-protecting services necessary therein; so it would be somewhat of a contradiction if, for example, land titles cost so much that the owners couldn’t afford to pay for them, or if court services were so expensive that aggrieved parties were practically unable to sue. However these are more in the manner of implementation questions, not matters of principle.
There are several guidelines that can be offered in the realm of financing. There is no one single rule, but rather a set of general guidelines. First, it makes sense to keep financing close to the provision of a service. So, for example, it makes sense that the residents of an area should shoulder the cost of the police in that area, as opposed to, say, there being some kind of state police fund which is then distributed locally. It also makes sense, where possible, for the financing of the service to be related, even if somewhat indirectly, to the provision of the service. So, for example, Ayn Rand suggested “contract insurance” to help fund the courts (and possibly other government branches besides.) (“Government Financing in a Free Society,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 116.) Under this scheme, or a variant, businesses and individuals engaging in contracts could voluntarily pay insurance (a percentage of the contract amount) to enable them to sue for redress should there be a dispute. (Many variants on this idea have been suggested, such as a less draconian one in which insurance would enable recovery of legal costs in addition to damages.) Note that individuals would always be liable for criminal fraud—contract insurance would only cover civil damages. Likewise, individuals would also still be subject to all other manners of private sanctions, such as bad credit ratings, bad references, and so on. So individuals would be completely free to avoid paying the fee, but could always pay for the extra insurance. Rand pointed out that even if the percentage was small, the astounding volume of commercial transactions could result in sizable revenue, possibly enough to fund other government branches such as the criminal courts, police, or military. (However, I should add, this may not be desirable, for other reasons I will cover in more depth…)
Another viable method is lotteries—people already spend billions on lotteries and other gaming every year, and since they need the core government services and the military, there is no reason to think they wouldn’t prefer buying government lottery tickets, as a patriotic matter of civic responsibility.
Sponsorship programs are another possibility. This lets individuals, groups, or businesses make public notice of participating in the program, in exchange for meeting its requirements. So for example, a local vendor could add a small percentage on its sales, in exchange for displaying the logo saying it supported local government. Participation by vendors would be entirely voluntary, and then the market could help decide whether people supported this or not. I think most people would be happy to pay a few cents on their coffees and lunches knowing the money was going to support the local police. Likewise, a more national program could be used to help support the military. But again, note how market forces would help keep things in check—people would be happy to pay a few percent in total to support government, but obviously not 20% or more, and if the percentage were too high then some businesses would defect. And notice again how people would indirectly have fewer opportunities to “opt out” of paying for government, in a society in which most people wanted to support government and were willing to pay a small percentage—the number of opted-out businesses would be low, as it would be disapproved by most people. (So much for the obsession with “free loaders” I hear from people on the left AND the right…)
Regarding police, there may be opportunities to provide some “value added” or extra preventive service in exchange for fees, such as additional patrols in some areas. The basic protective services would be provided to all, but those who wanted some extra protection could pay, and in fact would then likely be paying much of the expense of those perhaps poorer individuals who didn’t pay. Uniformed police are currently allowed in many jurisdictions to provide security services for special events such as concerts and other gatherings, and it would be appropriate for the police services to charge a surcharge per officer-hour to allow this.
Another method of financing is bequests and sponsorships: things like government buildings (court houses, police stations, etc.) could be offered for sponsorship, as is done now for stadiums and concert halls, with the obvious stricture that the sponsor would obtain no special favor. An auction would be an appropriate way to grant these sponsorships, always thus conveying the fact that there are many other entities ready and willing to pay to sponsor, thus mitigating the fear that the winner would somehow get special treatment. (And keep in mind that unlike today, the government would have no power to grant any favors anyway, since it would not regulate commerce or engage in corporate welfare—it is only in a mixed economy that business and organizations end up lobbying government furiously for both defensive and offensive interventions and handouts.)
Several of these funding proposals are examples of what I would call the “benevolent funding” principle, which is pretty much the opposite of the “freeloader” view of things. The “freeloader” viewpoint holds that anyone somehow getting some benefit without directly paying constitutes the moral equivalent of a five-alarm fire. But if you look at how our society is structured, such benevolent benefits are the rule, rather than the exception. For example, some people pay much more at concerts and sporting events for merely marginally better seats. Those who shop and buy the most at nice malls and other public shopping areas make the entire area available for enjoyment even to those who buy little or nothing. The people who buy movie tickets in the evening make it possible for cheaper seats to be sold in the matinee. All of these and more are examples of how even partially free societies are tremendously benevolent places for even the poorest and weakest of individuals—opportunities and benefits are available to everyone, even to those who contribute very little. This same principle will apply to government financing as well.
This leads to a guideline, which is that many, diffuse sources of revenue are desirable, precisely so that funding of the government is not in some way usurped by a single entity or related group of entities. It also helps insure a certain measure of fairness, insofar as everyone (even anarchists) needs the government, and so should morally be prepared to help pay for it. In addition, distributed, overlapping methods of funding can help to insure that government operations are not subject to some dramatic change in a single source of revenue.
Notice how in all these suggestions, the funding is voluntary, but is often transmitted indirectly to others. For example, most landlords would probably buy contract insurance on their rental contracts, thus diffusing this expense to renters (regardless their ideology.)
Once one looks at the combination of seriously delimited government action, and the very many possible methods of raising revenue, it becomes impossible to dismiss voluntary financing on “practical” terms. Even a simple reality check should suffice: how could it be possible that people would voluntarily pay to erect and maintain scores of churches and full-time pastors in an area, an arguably optional value, but would not build and maintain a single police station and some police officers? People react with surprise and denial to the idea of voluntary financing, not because it is in any way impractical or implausible (once one looks at it in a sober and unbiased way), but, in my view, because it represents a rejection of the supremacy of the community over the individual, which unfortunately many people believe today. But again, this idea is one of the main things that Juristocracy seeks to neutralize.
(As a reality check on this entire suggestion, I should note that I did a “back of the napkin” calculation of the the cost of running the judicial system in the US, including police and prisons, discounting for invalid crimes–it turns out, this is in the ballpark of what Americans spend annually on restaurant tips and pets. Is it reasonable to believe Americans would value Filet Mignon and Fluffy more than their lives and property? I don’t think so… In another such calculation, I discovered the cost of running the Boulder County Sheriff’s department, including the county jail, is around $90 per county resident per year—a very small amount. So much for charges that voluntary financing would be “impractical”…)
There are many practical reasons to fight for voluntary financing sooner, and as part of a campaign for individual rights and a free society, rather than later. First and foremost, is that voluntary financing is a moral ideal, and is fully consistent with a free society. People cannot get fired up for an inconsistent moral cause. More importantly, is that taxation and other coercive financing measures are currently used to finance both legitimate government activities as well as a plethora of activities that help propagate the ubiquitous welfare state, most especially indoctrination of children in schools and colleges, and providing grants to academics who toe the line of the status quo. (Note that this includes not just specific adherence to particular fashionable statist ideas, but implicitly, the idea of ubiquitous state funding for academia as such.) Tax revenue enables funding of all the organizations that operate regulations against business and free trade. It is difficult for me to imagine how the statist edifice of today can ever be overturned when it is able to extract such massive resources through its “white blackmail” of taxation, and uses it to perpetually indoctrinate new generations of adherents. If history has proven anything, it is that good ideas and rational civilized societies are the exception, not the rule. Hundreds of years after the scientific and industrial revolutions, when we know how the universe works from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest galactic superclusters, and have an understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth from their inceptions, we still have the situation where the overwhelming majority believes in such irrational superstitions as God, life after death, souls, Astrology, the occult, and so on. I would assert that the facts actually support a view that rational people and societies are unlikely, not inevitable.
On a more principled basis, voluntary financing is an essential element of Juristocracy given its other basic elements. The American Revolutionaries shouted, “No taxation without representation!” Well, they were partly right—the statement as a whole is correct, but the answer should not have been “without representation”, the proper answer is “No taxation!” If we are proposing a system of restricted citizenship, we cannot also sanction taxation, except as a temporary measure on the most limited time frame while the voluntary measures are put in place. (Remember, those who advocate freedom are not responsible for creating taxation, and cannot achieve their reforms overnight.)
When Jurists ultimately take over anywhere, they are morally obligated to rescind taxation as soon as can be achieved. One effective way of doing this quickly without necessarily having to immediately try to dismantle the administrative revenue bureaucracy (which would also jeopardize immediate solvency) is to announce a payback program whereby those currently paying taxes will be remunerated, with interest and bonus, if they continue their current payments voluntarily, during the transition. This will enable focus on privatization and deregulation efforts. The money raised by the sizable privatization sales and auctions can then help to pay back those who continued the now-voluntary payments systems. The government should also be able to raise money quickly by offering bonds that are backed by the impending cash to be made from the privatizations. Expenditures can be reduced almost immediately since sizable budget items are welfare-type payments that require almost no effort to stop. (And it is not like those previously receiving these payments won’t have been following current events and knowing about the impending cessation.)
Military readiness might require a somewhat more extended transition period, to insure that enemies would not make an assumption of military insolvency. I would say that military readiness is of higher short-term importance than achieving full voluntary financing, but again it must be emphasized that those operating this system were not morally responsible for its creation, and are not morally at fault for doing whatever is necessary in a short-term to protect the rights of Americans from foreign attack–nor would most Americans disagree.
There is another critically important reason to advocate voluntary financing. Voluntary financing serves as an effective check on government power. The problem with taxation is that there is no real practical way for people to change how much money they give the government. In theory, one can say there are elections, but in practice there are many forces that will tend to cause an inexorable increase in taxation and an expansion of government activity from the legitimate to the illegitimate, all funded by the taxes. And once constituencies of the improper spending arise, they typically become more powerful than the general desire for less taxes. In many cases the constituents of the largesse directly get the money and then funnel some of it back to the system to try to promote their cause.
Voluntary financing on the other hand provides everyone with direct and indirect choices of funding the government, and this includes citizens and residents alike (in fact, there is little distinction from this side of things.) If the government starts engaging in improper activity, people can alter their affairs to squeeze off some of the funds, necessitating that the government back off. Note that this is not “on/off” but graded. So, for example, even if fewer people backed off on contract insurance, many could back off from buying government lottery tickets. If legitimate threats to American security arose, there would be no shortage of volunteers and financing to help repel the threat; but would people volunteer hundreds of billions to try to clear the Taliban out of the mountains of Afghanistan, especially with their president spitting in our faces? Probably not. Again, we see the necessary connection between “principled theory” and “practical practice”—these two realms are always in alignment, once you have identified the proper basic premises and attributes of the actors involved.
I will close this introductory essay with some broader comments regarding Juristocracy, and the fight to achieve it. First, I will admit that Juristocracy will probably be shocking to some people (particularly left-wing liberals!) Even those who advocate freedom and individual rights may be surprised by the absolute demand of restricted citizenship, and the claim that freedom has to begin—not end—with the abolition of taxation and coercive financing. However for those who have concern on the point of restricted citizenship, I should emphasize again that citizenship confers very little in the way of actual privileges. It basically grants the right to vote, and to hold certain government jobs involving force. A near-majority of people don’t even vote now, so for them, nothing changes (and if they want to vote, AND intend to support the rights of others, rather than attack them, then they are entitled legally to apply for and receive citizenship.) And besides, it is a simple black and white construct: if you support individual rights, you can be a citizen; if you don’t, you can’t.
Freedom of expression and association are absolute. In fact, in a perverse ironic twist, those who are not citizens actually enjoy slightly more freedom of speech and association than citizens. Membership in the Socialist Workers Party of America entails no official penalty to socialists already ineligible for citizenship; but it could easily cost an actual citizen his citizenship.
Likewise, everyone already legally resident in the country enjoys the right to remain (on what basis could anyone eject someone?) and I would argue that a new constitution should enshrine the absolute right of existing native-born American citizens to continue residing in the country as a matter of right. (Of course if they break the law, they can still be sent to prison.) Landed immigrants and naturalized citizens could possibly still be subject to deportation back to their countries of origin, on serious crimes, as they are now.
A lack of say in government has often been associated with tyranny. But as we have witnessed now for centuries, democracy is merely another form of tyranny. Some say, “Oh, but it needs to be “properly” “constitutionally delimited!” The idea that a piece of paper, no matter how skillfully written, will defend you from the statist and left-wing rabble is an utter fiction:
- governments regularly just ignore the constitution, or read their own interpretation into it—these transgressions often don’t get challenged, or if they are, are not completely abolished;
- constitutions can be, and should be able to be amended—if everyone is allowed to participate, how long before the statist rabble start infecting it with their measures?
- if you’ve started with a semi-statist constitution, how in the world will you ever muster a majority to amend it for freedom? and finally,
- constitutions must constantly be interpreted, both as regards new legislation, as well as in interpreting and challenging existing legislation—who does this interpreting? Answer: the popularly elected officials, and the judges they have appointed. ‘A wolf and two sheep write a Constitution. While the sheep smugly pat each other on the backs, the wolf opens the barn door and yells to his pack, “C’mon in!”‘
Here are some final truths: statists will always institute and expand taxation, not because it might be necessary, but because the contrary is morally unacceptable to them: the idea that the citizen is primary and subservient to the state—they believe the opposite, and taxation is one of the best ways of symbolizing that. (Statists actually write blogs and editorials to that effect, celebrating taxation as a symbol of our common bond to one another!) Once they start getting their hands on this revenue they will expand the role of government, and the result will be to subvert society, by making hoards of handout dependents, taking over or distorting the realm of ideas in education and colleges, etcetera. (I should also mention that their fetish for public education derives from a similar premise, and thus government schools and school funding should be an early, not late target for Jurists. Likewise for free-market commodity-based money vs. central banks and government fiat currency—money is the core of a free economy and free mind, and it is inevitable that statists will want to take it over.)
The four essential attributes of Juristocracy form an inseparable tetrad—you cannot have any one without the others. The only moral government is a completely limited government devoted to protecting individual rights. The only people who are morally entitled to control government force and participate in operating the government are those who agree with its only moral purpose: protecting individual rights. Those who use government for any other ends are immoral and have no moral right to participate; those who do hold moral premises and who do use government power for its only moral purpose would be immoral if they turned control of such a dangerous and important institution over to those who would use it for evil purposes. Those who develop a territory and secure their lives, property, and culture of freedom with a rational government do so for their own personal, selfish ends—they do not do so to create all the benefits and opportunities of freedom for those with evil cultural and moral ideologies to invade, parasitize, and destroy. And finally, not only do the ends not justify the means, as regards taxation and other coercive measures, but once you exclude some people from legal participation in controlling government, you have completely lost whatever moral sanction may plausibly have existed for the existence of taxation. And as a practical matter, and also one of demonstrable historical fact, taxes inevitably go up, and inevitably lead even the most noble of societies to improper expansion of government.
Future essays will elaborate the elements of Juristocracy, and measures to fight for its achievement. Until then, I hope I have at least in some small way inspired you, the reader, to consider an ideal society as within our grasp, and Juristocracy as the political system to govern it.