August 21, 2014

Individual Secession and Lysander Spooner on Taxation

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

One of the hilarious contradictions of the mainstream conservative (I consider myself very conservative by the way –and I’m also a consistent libertarian) is that he wants to make sure that everyone knows how much he is against individual secession, which is a libertarian concept.  And yet at the same time it is often these folks who are more attracted to American folklore, the independent cowboy, the Western Hero, the Daniel Boonesque frontiersman.  It is my understanding, though, that what makes these things so appealing is that they all exist in the absence of the State.  Can you imagine a frontiersman’s reaction to some government schmo following him around the wild country (if you can convince a bureaucrat or politician to leave his air conditioned office) trying to “protect him?”  No, what makes these Tall Tales and exaggerated American stories so interesting and exciting is that these are manly men who can take care of themselves!  They took their families across the wilderness in covered wagons, armed with rifles and the like.

This is a excellent example of individual secession.  Today’s neoconservatives shriek in horror when one suggests State-level secession from the Federal government and about have a heart attack when they hear “county secession.”  But why do they pretend to have a cowboy appeal? Perhaps they like the movies that carry the theme of the “man’s man” who goes out on his own to explore God’s green earth.  But when it comes down to it, they despise the adventurer, the person who wants to live his own life and explore unknown territories (not that they exist anymore, but you get the point).  In short, they want to make sure everyone is “protected” at all times and conveniently, they require a tax for their “services,” and quote Romans 13 when the individual just wants to be left alone.  What exactly is the individual being protected from if he is prevented, by the strong-arm of the State, from going his own way?  Talk about a Protection Racket.

Lysander Spooner was a mid-nineteenth century natural rights philosopher and lawyer.  Desiring to conduct a free-market competition in the mail delivery services, was was soon shut down by the government, who, naturally, wanted its own monopoly.  He was in many ways one of the most vocal supporters of taking the founders’ philosophy to it’s logical conclusion.  Below he is in all his brilliance on the subject of taxation compared to the action of theft by a robber.

lysander-spooner-new
Lysander Spooner

“The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: “Your money, or your life.” And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.

The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.

The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these.

Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com