Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Usings Part 2: Users And Borders

The esteemed Charles Hill linked to this piece, and added a spot-on observation:

The “free and open market” is the problem, according to proponents of this foul proposition: in any such market, there is competition, and therefore there will be unequal outcomes, which are deemed unacceptable in this day and age. “Fairness,” doncha know.

Of course, if life were actually fair, then your below-average outcome is, by definition, your fault. So there’s a definite disconnect between fairness and “fairness,” which governmental mutts are more than happy to exploit, knowing that Smith and Jones have day jobs and therefore aren’t able to spend forty hours a week inventing grievances for the government to redress.

Commenter fillyjonk chimed in with yet another gem:

I guess I prefer the image of a mutualism – yes, the bee has to do work to get fed by the flower, and vice versa, but without transferring pollen, the bee is gonna wind up starving, and without feeding the bee, the plant is gonna wind up without offspring. And in many mutualisms, each gives up something that’s easy for it to get, in return for something that it’s hard for it to get.

Which brings me to the subject foreshadowed by the title of this tirade.

Imagine, if you can -- I'm sure it's hard for any Gentle Reader of Liberty's Torch -- that you're a user by character and preference. Given the choice, you prefer force and / or fraud to honest, voluntary trade: a la mode Screwtape, "to get the man's soul, and give him nothing in return." With that as your established preference, if we assume you command force and / or fraud enough to work your will on your victim, what is your next most pressing tactical need?

Exactly: keeping him from getting away.

If your target can't flee, he must fight. If you can overwhelm him at will, you need not fear forceful resistance. So foreclosing his avenues of escape is paramount.

Users-by-preference are a small minority of Mankind: 10% is an upper bound, and might not be the least upper bound. But as with all of us, they will gravitate to those habitats in which their natures will afford them the best chance of flourishing. The "habitat" best suited to the user is, of course, the State: employment as an agent thereof.

The Constitution of the United States specifies a small number of topics -- seventeen in all -- over which Congress has power to legislate, and therefore, for the management of which the federal government has the power to coerce the citizen and his voluntary associations. Under the contractarian assumptions on which the Constitution is based, We the People have agreed to this as the price for the provision of certain "public goods," including secure borders, stable money, post offices, and so forth.

(I might need new glasses, but nowhere in the document can I find the power to defraud delegated to any of the three branches of the federal government. So we can skip that possibility.)

How are those secured borders, that stable money, those post offices and so forth working out for us all? Has Washington held up its end of the contract? And if I may assume -- may I? -- that the answer is "Hell, no," how shall we curb the federal government's aggressive expansion beyond its delegated authorities and responsibilities?

While there was a land frontier, the answer was "Go west, young man." What is it today?

The more tyrannical a government becomes, the more tightly it controls the movement of its subjects. In particular, it straitens the rules governing emigration, such that "desirable" subjects are prevented from leaving: on occasion by bribery, but more often by simple prohibition.

The reason is obvious: a mobile populace will possess numerous avenues by which to elude the grip of the State. A populace that can exit the country completely, when the coercions and exactions reach a certain, difficult to predict level, will "vote with its feet." So the mature tyranny will control its borders with maximum concentration.

It's not always a matter of barbed-wire barriers and armed men with their guns pointed inward. Some countries -- the United States is one -- impose a confiscatory exit tax on a man who renounces his citizenship. Others will permit temporary departures, but never without a "surety:" a beloved family member held hostage to ensure the traveler's return. And of course there are the pure-garrison states that use naked force to prevent anyone from leaving, as was the case with East Germany before reunification.

The shocking aspect of these measures is the high degree of cooperation many nations routinely accord one another in the effort of retarding emigration. Not all countries are as eager to see their people depart as Mexico.

If we cannot flee, we must fight. But what are the odds? This is the critical question about the prospects of a return to individual freedom and Constitutionally constrained government. It breaks down into several "smaller" questions:

  • What development would finally trigger a violent revolution against the federal Leviathan?
  • Assuming that development, what fraction of the able-bodied population would willingly take up arms?
  • Should such a revolution occur, what would its probability of success be?
  • Should the revolution succeed in overthrowing the federal government, would the successor government (or lack thereof) be any better?
  • Should subsequent conditions prove substantially preferable, what would be the most likely threats to them?

Each of these questions demands an answer. With the possible exception of the last one, the answers as the general public perceives them must all be favorable for a revolution to occur and succeed. It's a problem in what Douglas Hofstadter called "superrationality," or, alternately, "renormalized rationality" (Martin Gardner). Only when an adequate majority of the nation is persuaded that an adequate majority of the nation is persuaded that an adequate majority of the nation is ready to revolt will an adequate majority of the nation be ready to revolt.

Barring a shattering of Leviathan's controls over emigration, those are the conditions required for a pro-freedom resurgence. Until they're realized, both in objective reality and in the minds of Americans generally, we will continue to be used. In the interim, let him save himself who can.


F.J. Dagg said...


The Power to Defraud is, I believe, delegated equally to the three branches in the Penumbras. No, wait...the Emanations. Well, anyway, I'm sure it's in one of those (...and in either case, the possible obsolescence of your glasses is irrelevant.)


Francis W. Porretto said...

(chuckle) James, you are inimitable. Apropos of nothing much, do you have any new stories on the horizon?

F.J. Dagg said...

Nothing very close, Fran, I'm afraid. A consulting gig fell out of the sky a few weeks ago and that, along with some family stuff, has kept my fiction writer's hat on the hat rack. I do appreciate your interest, though--I'll keep you posted.