Last week, I received a letter from the Electoral Registration Officer. How nice. He insisted I provide him with personal information or else he will force me to hand over £80. That’s not so nice. Actually, it’s immoral and a crime against me.
This stranger was violating my human rights and yet the law of the land permitted him to. If I called the police to report this crime against me they would, of course, tell me to stop wasting their time.
This was a minor act of extortion compared to other major government forms, such as taxation. But this threat to steal my money unless I input my details into a government database, which was expressed without the slightest recognition of the wrong being done to me, angered and saddened me. It reminded me of something that I sometimes forget in the course of my daily life: I’m not free and I don’t live in a free society.
Despite enjoying a standard of living stupendously higher than all my ancestors, I live under the rule of a group of men who can rob me, imprison me and even kill me. Just like my ancestors. Sure, the justifications are different now, God’s will has been replaced with the will of the people, but the fundamentals of the situation are the same.
The material and technological progress of humanity over the last few centuries has been staggering, but the philosophical political progress has stalled. Humanity is stuck on the stone age concept of might equals right.
The letter was a reminder delivered by post that most criminals work for government agencies, that most crime is done by government agencies, and that all government employees are involved in criminal behaviour. It’s the great ethical contradiction of the age of statism: the people who exclusively enforce morality are the greatest violators of society’s widely held moral laws.
Democracy has this reputation among common men for being peaceful and liberating, which it is compared to other political systems you can have in a state-ruled society. But, in reality, it’s little more than soft communism and, historically, it’s always lead to totalitarianism in the long run.
If democracy is about peace and liberty, then why was I being forced to participate in it? Good ideas don’t require force. How long before I’m being threatened with a fine unless I go along to a polling station and vote? It could easily happen in my lifetime. Just like non-consensual sex cannot be loving or romantic, non-consensual democracy cannot be peaceful or liberating. It’s just force.
Coercion, just like theft and murder, is an act that is prohibited by common law in the UK. If I did it, I would be arrested. So why is this person, whoever he is, allowed to commit crimes against me and thousands of other people with impunity?
His criminal behaviour goes unpunished because, according to conventional political theory, he is acting on behalf of democratically elected individuals who in turn act on behalf of the majority of the nation’s people and enact their will. In short, he’s been given permission to coerce me into doing things by a majority of the people in my community.
But the fatal and fairly obvious flaw in this ethical theory is this: you can’t delegate powers or rights you yourself don’t possess.
I don’t have the right to murder, so I can’t grant someone else the right to kill people. If I was up in court for murder and in my defence I said “my neighbour granted me permission to kill that guy” I would be thought of as criminally insane. “A majority of people gave me permission to coerce you,” the defence implicitly offered by the Electoral Registration Officer, is equally irrational.
Consider this. Agents of Islamic State commit crimes with impunity against the Syrians and Iraqis under their rule because they claim to act on behalf of IS, which religious legend has it is God’s deputy on Earth. (And only God decides what is right and wrong).
Moreover, Muslims who murder innocent people on the streets by blowing themselves up or driving cars into crowds do so because they believe they are acting on behalf of God. The only difference between an Islamic terrorist and the Electoral Registration Officer who demanded money from me under threat of theft is the severity of their violent actions.
The former wants to kill me for disobeying God’s will, the latter wants to steal money from me for disobeying him and thus the will of the people. Obviously, the latter is preferable to illegal deadly violence, but that doesn’t make legalised coercion a good thing.
If we accept that all human beings are equal in regards to their rights and we all want to be free to peacefully pursue our own ends in life, then institutionalised coercion, i.e. forcing someone to behave in a certain way by threatening them with theft or violence, should not be a legal possibility in society. In a state-ruled society, however, it always will be. (This implies the future of freedom is state-less societies).
Now consider that, without exception, every person in government power or seeking power in the UK today believes the state can be a force for social good. This hidden ideology is called statism. It prevails throughout the western world and is why the political spectrum has a horizontal relationship to the state (left-right) and not a vertical one (power-freedom).
As an idea, statism is a far bigger threat to the health of western civilisation than Islamic Extremism or any other external force, because it comes from within. It’s in our society’s laws and it has infiltrated our morality. The only philosophical defence we have against statism is the libertarian private property ethic, but as a truth, it is still a long way off being absorbed into the hearts and minds of the masses.
Like cancer, statism is slowly eating away at the vital organs of our society – property rights/individual liberty. If enough of us don’t start recognizing it as evil, as a violation of human rights, then statism and the function of statism – the transference of power over our own property and our own lives to other people in power – will stop the heart of our world and send it into cardiac arrest.