Jeremy Parfitt is a longtime Santa Fe resident, a graduate of St. John's College, a custom-bicycle-wheel builder, a small-business owner and a part-time bloviator from an anarcho-libertarian perspective.
By Jeremy Parfitt
Imagine, for a moment, that you have purchased a service contract with a private company. Six months into the contract you receive a letter informing you that your rates are being increased.
Miffed, you call the company and inform it that you signed a long-term contract for a specified rate and that you expect it to honor the contract. At this point, you are told you have actually signed a "special" contract and the company can change your rates at any time, without your consent. Outraged, you inform the company that you will no longer accept its services and you will not continue to pay for them. There is a slight pause on the line before you are informed that you cannot cancel the contract and if you refuse to continue paying at the new rate, you may be arrested and imprisoned.
Flabbergasted, you stammer, "This is absurd. What is my recourse?" In a prim, condescending voice you are told, "Well sir, if you are unhappy with our service you should exercise your right to vote at our next board meeting, two years from now." Most people would find such a response ridiculous; yet, this is precisely the situation that faces us when we are exhorted to participate in the monumental farce known as American democracy.
The federal government no longer makes even a pretense of being bound by the Constitution. This situation did not begin during the last eight years, nor is it the fault of one party more than the other. Contempt for the Constitution is a bipartisan affliction. Its roots go back even before the reign of FDR, who packed the Supreme Court with political cronies to get approval for his unconstitutional economic agenda.
Since then, the two private corporations known as the Democratic and Republican parties have systematically destroyed our republic and eliminated all real political competition. They have achieved this through exclusionary ballot-access laws, campaign-finance laws that discriminate heavily against outsider candidates and by barring access to debates through the efforts of the bipartisan commission on Presidential debates.
All governments, if allowed to become powerful enough, transform into kleptocracies. The government robs us blind on behalf of itself and the connected corporations that perform the perverse dual role of host to ambitious politicians and parasite on the teat of government largess. Witness the recent theft perpetrated by the federal government on behalf of corrupt and poorly managed, but politically favored, financial institutions as an illustration of this fact.
In dictatorships, the illegitimacy of government theft is in the open, for all to see. Their authority rests solely on force. The perverse brilliance of the democratic form of government lies in fostering the belief that voting is sufficient to restrain government and to maintain freedom; it is not. Voting creates the illusion of citizen control of government, thus the illegitimate nature of our government is hidden from view. Marx once quipped that religion is the opiate of the masses. Today it is more accurate to say that democracy is the opiate of the masses.
Ultimately, every government rules through the consent of the people, and voting is the means by which we grant that consent. Voting serves to preserve the status quo, not to change it. The federal government no longer deserves our consent and it is time we withdraw it. One means of withdrawing consent is to refuse to pay taxes, since it is clearly moral to refuse to submit to theft; doing so, however, is also illegal and dangerous. Another is to refuse to vote; after all, each vote is an endorsement of the system that robs us, sends our children to die in illegal and immoral wars, and bankrupts our future through endless spending, debt and monetary inflation.
There are many positive, non-violent forms of resistance that could gradually return the balance of power to favor individuals, with whom it belongs. One example is for each of us to assume some responsibility for social duties government has arrogated for itself. As Gandhi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
Engage in personal charity, support private volunteer associations and try to settle disputes directly instead of resorting immediately to government adjudication. Apply the same standards of moral conduct we apply to ourselves, to government action. If it is immoral for me to use violence and imprisonment to force people to take better care of themselves, how can it be moral for government to arrest and incarcerate people for drug use or consensual adult sex?
In the early days of our republic, it was not uncommon for jurors to insist they had the right to judge both the facts and the law in any criminal trial. If the jurors found the law to be unjust, they could, and did, find the defendant not guilty. Such jury nullification was, and could be again, a powerful check on government tyranny. Today we are told that juries do not have the right to judge the law; if they find it unjust, their only recourse is to petition the legislature to change it. But how can it be moral to condone violence against another human being on the basis of unjust laws?
This is particularly relevant today as more states legalize the medical use of marijuana. Many people who provide this legal service to willing customers are being arrested and charged under federal law. In such trials, the jury is forbidden to consider the legality of the practice under state law as a defense against the federal charge. How can anyone maintain that this is just?
Ultimately, almost all that is good in the world results from the efforts of individual people, either working alone or cooperating with others for mutual benefit. To build the peaceful and voluntary society that is our birthright, it is necessary for us to replace faith in government with trust in each other.