19 May 2010

Lysander Spooner - No Treason

I just finished reading Spooner's "No Treason" in print form (also available in its entirety online) and have to admit to being impressed by his argument that we are governed by a constitution of no authority. Spooner was a man of many talents- entrepreneur, abolitionist, proponent of individualist anarchism and philosopher. In addition, he was well known in his home state of Massachusetts as an excellent examiner of real estate titles which is something near and dear to my heart as it is how I make a living. "No Treason" isn't a difficult read, in fact you can quickly get through it in an afternoon although a second, and third, reading is necessary to pick up some of the nuances of the work. Spooner's language is clear and concise as he lays out a devastating attack on the very document that rests at the heart of the American system of government- the constitution.

The impetus for the work was the Civil War. Although Spooner was a staunch abolitionist, he was attempting to make the case that the South had legally seceded from the United States and that the leaders (and soldiers) in the southern cause, could not be legally tried and executed for treason. Spooner's argument rested on two pillars. First, the constitution itself (which names treason as a capital offense) was itself invalid because it was never consented to by the citizens alive at that time (or today, in fact.) The document was not properly executed, signed and assented to and would not pass muster as even a simple contract (in this argument I see Spooner's background as an examiner of real estate titles coming to the forefront.) Moreover, when the constitution was ratified, it was not ratified by the entire population since it excluded blacks, women and non-property owning whites. Second, since the south gave proper notice to the north of its plans for secession, and did not hide its intentions, it was therefore hypocritical of the north to ignore the fact that the declaration of independence clearly made the case for the populace having the right to secede from a nation that no longer represented their interests.

The number who actually consented to the Constitution of the United States, at the first, was very small. Considered as the act of the whole people, the adoption of the Constitution was the merest farce and imposture, binding upon nobody.

The women, children, and blacks, of course, were not asked to give their consent. In addition to this, there were, in nearly or quite all the States, property qualifications that excluded probable one half, two thirds, or perhaps even three fourths, of the white male adults from the right of suffrage. And of those who were allowed that right, we know not how many exercised it.

Spooner discounted the theory that we were all taught in school, that the north fought to free the slaves, and instead saw the influence of big business and war profiteers as driving the north towards inevitable conflict (does any of this sound familiar ?) In addition, once the war began the authority of the government no longer rested on the consent of the populace, it rested on force.

On the part of the North, the war was carried on, not to liberate slaves, but by a government that had always perverted and violated the Constitution, to keep the slaves in bondage; and was still willing to do so, if the slaveholders could be thereby induced to stay in the Union.
The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: That men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and criminals.

I find Spooner's arguments to be pretty thought provoking and I wouldn't be too quick in dismissing his works. Are we as citizens of the U.S. bound by the constitution ? Did the men who ratified the constitution have the right to bind their descendants to this document ? If not, what does that mean ? I'm not a legal scholar, but I would imagine that Spooner's position supports the view that the constitution is an evolving document (should it be ratified by every generation ?) rather than an absolute authority that can't be modified. If the constitution has no authority, the entire bedrock upon which the government rests is nothing more than quicksand and it has no right to assert control over any part of our lives. Food for thought to say the least.

18 May 2010

Home Grown

I constantly daydream about living off of the grid. My thoughts are filled with a hand built house on some acreage in the wilderness, solar power, a big garden and smokehouse full of fish and game living free of the annoyances of modern life. "Mother Earth News" has replaced "Playboy" in terms of my fantasy reading as I eagerly read articles about really cool projects like building alcohol fuel stills.

Reality, usually in the form of a conversation with my wife, soon comes crashing back in and dispells these visions of grandeur. I did, however, take a recent small step towards self sufficiency by planting a deck garden. Whether or not this venture yields anything worth eating remains to be seen, but we have been happy to see the seeds sprout and the plants starting to grow above the top edge of the planters.

For around $ 10 bucks worth of seeds, we planted lettuce, spinach and a good assortment of herbs (cilantro, dill, chives, parsley and basil- I suggested another more profitable herb but was met with an icy stare of disapproval from my spouse.) I built the planters out of cedar boards and bolted them to the deck rail which proved prudent after a couple of severe storms roared through our area. I drilled holes in the planter bottoms for drainage and we filled them with a layer of rocks at the bottom to also help the roots from getting waterlogged. The three planters are all 4' long and cost about $ 40 total to build.

A Grim Milestone in Afghanistan

The New York Times reports that 1,000 American soldiers have now been killed in Afghanistan.

"On Tuesday, the toll of American dead in Afghanistan passed 1,000, after a suicide bomb in Kabul killed at least five United States service members. Having taken nearly seven years to reach the first 500 dead, the war killed the second 500 in fewer than two. A resurgent Taliban active in almost every province, a weak central government incapable of protecting its people and a larger number of American troops in harms way all contributed to the accelerating pace of death. "

Once again, I ask for what.

17 May 2010

Ed Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania, Defends Orwellian Commercial

I blogged earlier about a disturbing commercial being aired by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. Recently, our soon to be thankfully booted by term limits governor, appeared on Fox News to defend this abomination. I gotta hand it to old Eddie, he can spin better than any politician out there, and half way through this interview he even had me convinced that this type of blatant intimidation of the populace is a great idea.

Rendell uses the same excuse that officials within the Department have been saying- that the commercial is targeted at the 3 % of the population that didn't pay their state taxes, not the other 97 % of the sheep that meekly hand over a portion of their hard earned wages to the black hole known as our state government. I disagree. The original ad was clearly meant to intimidate both those that owe money and the rest of the population that might think of getting out of line. The message of the ad was clear- the government is all seeing, all knowing and watching everyone.

In the interview, Rendell floats the excuse that although he approved the ad, it was based upon a "focus group" that recommended it and, in fact, thought it was not harsh enough. One wonders who made up that focus group, perhaps retired Stasi officials who were on a bus trip in central Pennsylvania or, more probably, a bunch of Department of Revenue employees who showed up to watch the commercials in exchange for a free lunch. As for the commercials that didn't make the cut (the Gov stated that the ad that was aired was the least offensive) one wonders what they showed. Perhaps cruise missiles hitting delinquent tax payer houses ? Children being sold into bondage to satisfy tax liens ?

I realize that this ad was aired in Pennsylvania but it is obviously symptomatic of the entire country and the rise of abusive, invasive and completely out of control government. Somewhere in the past, our "leaders" began to perceive themselves as omnipotent and above the power of the citizenry- a new ruling class instead of servants of the people. Many of the parasites that inhabit the bureaucracy have never held real jobs, never employed people, and never created anything remotely beneficial to their fellow citizens. Make no mistake my fascist friends, we're watching you too.