Trouble in Paradise

I've written romantically before about what a nice place I live in. But, it seems that one of the locals is threatening to take away the property of a neighbor and lock him in a cage for a non-crime.

The original posting is at Doug Thompson's Blue Ridge Muse.

One of my longer cross-posted comments follows below:


I was not arguing for legalization of one particular substance: marijuana. I don't particularly care how dangerous it is or isn't to the person who decides to use it. I also don't care how dangerous any other substance is--alcohol, heroin, red meat, tobacco, pharmaceuticals or herbal remedies--it is not a crime for someone to ingest these substances. Further, I argued that it is expressly forbidden for federal legislators to make laws against substance use by the Constitution they all voluntarily agree to uphold upon taking office.

What I call a crime is when a person undertakes some action with intent to do harm to another party. According to the link you posted, Ted Bundy was a mass murderer. He should be punished and forced to make restitution to his victims' families. I am not arguing that nice people should not be punished. First and foremost, I am arguing that it is wrong to punish people who do not take some action with the intent to harm others, and you and I and your readers should not give such unjust punishment a shred of legitimacy.

Second, I am arguing that any federal laws that were created against ingesting substances are unconstitutional and were made "illegally". I put the terms in quotes, because we now have diverging meanings of the term "legal". Elected officials who were part of the legislative process you allude to took a solemn, voluntary oath to abide by the Constitution when they took their job. If they thought it was important to write laws against a substance, legislators had the means through the amendment process to do so, as was done with the 18th amendment prohibiting alcohol use. But this prohibition was reversed by the 21st amendment and never repeated for any other substance. The war on drugs uses government guns, jails, and confiscated revenue for a purpose the Constitution never authorized.

Contrast the legislators' "illegal activities"--violating a voluntary oath so they could lend legitimacy to violent actions--to the "illegal activity" you say we must avoid. I don't know the facts of the case against Patrick Fenn, but from your posting, I don't see mention of anything he did that was intended to harm another person. You said that he was growing marijuana for his own use, and that he was also giving it to friends. Even if he were selling it to strangers, this would be a voluntary exchange between consenting individuals. As far as I know, he is not accused of giving it to minors against the wishes of their parents, or misrepresenting what the product is that he is selling, or failing to deliver goods after accepting payment (each of which might fit my definition of crime). The things you say Patrick is accused of are only "illegal" by the decree of the authorities.

So, there seem to be two types of "illegal activity". Rulers are allowed to violate a solemn voluntary oath and authorize force against those who have committed no crime. Under what I take to be your view, this "illegal activity" is allowed. All's fair within the DC beltway because it makes up the "legislative process". But for you and I and Patrick, "illegal activity" is the result of that process, and we better follow it whether we like it or not, otherwise expect a gun in our face while our neighbors cower in fear. Our input into the "legislative process" is to vote for red team or blue team every few years and hope that whoever gets the spoils of our confiscated wealth doesn't find our lifestyle objectionable. Are there two types of people--rulers and ruled? Or are "all men created equal"?

Thirdly, I alluded to the argument that once you empower people to legitimately use force beyond self-defense, it is abused.

You say that you don't advocate "blind obedience to authority" but rather "obeying the law". Maybe you object to my use of the word "blind"--maybe you advocate obeying authority under the full understanding that the authoritarian is wrong, but still we should submit. This would be inconvenient for pot smokers in this case, and home-schoolers, homosexuals, conscripts, and various buyers and sellers in others. But I hope that you don't characterize Stephanie Shortt as "obeying the law". In her case, she is undertaking actions intended to harm another--threatening to lock Patrick in a cage and take his home. Such actions are criminal, and having a fancy title and the sanction of the federal government does not change this. Do you approve of Stephanie's choice (if she were to act upon it, your article suggests it is still under consideration) to prosecute Patrick?

I sincerely hope that the passion of my convictions hasn't alienated you or other readers. I spent years living under different governments, reading, and pondering before arriving at these views. In retrospect, it seems I should have known from the age of six that initiating force and fraud are always wrong. But we receive a lot of conditioning to obey our rulers, and it is too easy for us to succumb to peer pressure and think that we can take a shortcut and use violence to achieve our well-intentioned ends. I hope that, after consideration, you will agree that it is wrong to steal from an innocent, even if you disapprove of his choices in life.

You have your opinion about marijuana being dangerous and Patrick and his friends have their opinion. I believe you volunteer to help people deal with marijuana and other addictions and I find this very admirable. You should be allowed to live according to your opinion and Patrick should be allowed according to his, so long as neither of you intentionally harm another person.

I don't believe I even know Patrick. What is upsetting me in this story is that it is destroying a myth I held about Floyd--that the inhabitants of this small mountain community would value the peaceful choices of their neighbors above the decrees of Washington. It is probably too late to save Patrick, but we all better consider these ideas seriously. The steady accumulation of federal power over decades seems to me ready to collapse upon itself over the next few years. We had better decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong before we hurt each other any more by "obeying the law".

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Not that the constitution

Not that the constitution matters though. It's a nice shortcut to be convincing, especially to those who have a superstitious respect for the law, but it's cheating.

Social Contract

I tried to be careful to say that it was binding on those who voluntarily agreed to it as a condition of taking office. I don't believe I suggested that it in any way bound people who never signed on to the contract.

I wonder if this wasn't the intent of those who designed the oath of office. If anyone has some historical background, it would be interesting to read.

No Virginian is bound by a social contract. Some clever guy wrote one that specifically said no social contract is binding on us. We've all been GPL'd.

That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Article I, The Virginia Declaration of Rights

Sure but if I were an

Sure but if I were an elected official, I'd probably rape the constitution, and I don't consider that would be an argument against the legitimacy of laws I'd push for.

Legitimacy is Subjective

Each individual grants legitimacy by their own volition.

I was hoping that there were a large number of people in the audience who would be persuaded that, if obedience was required of the ruled, but not the rulers, then that implied that there were two classes of people. But we are expected to obediently respect that "all men are created equal", so their heads would spin with the contradictions until, in a flash of light, they became Rothbardians.

As it is, I probably didn't change any minds. But I think I did help give some people the courage to speak out that already thought these things, and I met a few more Libertarian-minded people in the county.

As you say, the point is to be convincing. But I am gaining a new respect for how the writers of the Enlightenment gave us all these inoculations against Statist thinking.

My drug of choice was scotch

My drug of choice was scotch and I abused it and other alcohol for more than 30 years. My last use of that drug was 14 years, 11 months and two days ago.

This is all you need to read of the linked article. No person is more willing to restrict the behavior of others as the man who lacks any willpower of his own. You see, he had a bad relationship with alcohol, and assumes his own lack of discipline is shared by all others, who need to be protected from themselves, which justifies their persecution.

Doug Thompson is a fascist, yo.

I don't think so...

Doug Thompson is a fascist, yo.

He doesn't seem at all authoritarian on other issues. He just makes an exception for this one issue that's really important to him.

It seems to be a common human failing, and a good argument against monopoly rule.

marijuana use

Some 15 years ago, an impressionable 22 year old saw a man come through town, running for state senate, libertarian. His name was Barrie Konikov. His little seminars, however, were not about how he would make a fine senator. They were in fact about a system of "detaxing" oneself. They could quote every law why you are not required to pay taxes (or lack of law requiring to pay). This Barrie Konicov also introduced this impressionable 22 year old to a a John Modena, who also convinced him that - by law - you could set up trusts protecting yourself from "illegal" income taxes.

Before tying the above with the topic of the article, let me just explain what happened to this impressionable 22 year old. He filed all kinds of paperwork with the US government. They tried to garnish his wages for frivolous tax protestor penalties. He decided to go underground and find ways to make a living on the sidelines never holding a conventional job again. He got sort of good at doing that and prospered. He lived modestly and held all his assets in ways that were safe and unattachable. That 22 now 37 year old of course, was me.

I haven't paid income taxes for the last 16 years. At the time I believed, just as Mark does about marijuana, that the government can't make laws that violate the constition and (though I have no desire to rehash it all again), I'm sure I could probably spend an hour of research refreshing my memory and spit out all the reasons why the government's collecting income taxes is just as unjustified as them imposing penalties on people for using marijuana. (i.e 16th amendment never really passed, taxes are "voluntary", I'm sure everyone here has heard of and has some opinion about tax protestors.

Some observations from someone who has been living the life of fleeing persecution based on taking a conscientious objector stance for the last 15 years:

#1 - if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't. I made alot of sacrifices during most of those years, and pushing the government's buttons to be "free" was in fact not being free. There is no freedom in the United States, you can either be slave to the government's imposing improper arbitrary against-the-constitution rules against you and obey with a smile on your face, or you can be a fleeing slave trying to stay one step ahead of the government your entire life. Whichever path you choose, neither is freedom. (By the way, standing on the sidelines, objecting to it by writing lofty articles on the internet, trying to change the government back to the way it should be through being politically involved, meanwhile obeying the government's "illegal" rules under threat of force - that doesn't qualify as freedom either).

#2 - if you really want freedom, you can find it in your own way. I became an expat and moved to the Philippines. People could argue that the Philippines government is corrupt, and it is. However, I'm left alone. Not only am I left alone, I own property through my wife which is not even taxed. I actually own property that cannot be taken away from me by the whim of a tax man - what a concept for someone who couldn't own property his entire life for fear of getting an illegally applied tax lien slapped on it.

Its a wonderfully odd feeling that I have here in the Philippines. I am of course subject to laws here, they actually put drug dealers to death here (this would not qualify as freedom to Mark I'm certain). But, I don't use marijuana, so I don't feel the persecution imposing on my freedom. Here - just about everyone avoids all taxes they can possibly get away with. Funny thing is, I don't make money in ways that are taxable by the Philippine government - and I'm exempt from taxes from the US government for the first $87,000 I make a year (just like every other US citizen living abroad) - so beyond filing a zero sum due I'm not even violating the spirit of the arbitrary inappropriately applied against-the-constitution US taxes. (Though I don't file even though I wouldn't owe new taxes if I did file). To me, this is my freedom. To the settlers of America, their freedom was escaping religious persecution. I suppose someone who has made their own personal freedom to use marijuana legally, if they really wanted to they could probably figure out how to escape persecution by moving to Amsterdam or Vancouver, Canada.

If you want freedom - the price is considerable but it is within your reach. I'm happy and I consider myself truly free. Those who fight against the US government aren't happy or free. For Barrie Konikov's life of struggling for what he thought was right, he concluded "My obvious advice is, don’t do what I did. The system will not allow you to take a stand for freedom. It will not allow you to state that your labor and the fruit of your labor is your property and cannot be taken away from you. In other words, don’t do what I did. You cannot win in court. Yes, I know that over the years several people have won, but they are the exceptions. If you try to do what I did, the outcome is assured."

In summary, the defacto government in the United States makes up its own rules. You can't cling to the constition for anything, the America where you could expect the constition to save you is long gone. There's really nothing that can save it - not too long ago here I had a little Ron Paul promotion going on here and felt like the notion that he was a good option for president seemed dismissed. If Ron Paul can't gain consensus amongst libertarians - there is literally zero chance change would ever come from all the philosophizing that could be done on libertarian websites, its all an exercise in mootness.

Good stuff

Good material. Depressing, but good.

As for the mootness of philosophizing - it's only moot if your goal is to change the world in your lifetime. There's an intrinsic pleasure in understanding the world at large, which is I think one reason why so many people try. As for its usefulness: from time to time there are political upheavals, and the ideas in circulation at the time have an opening at these times to influence the course of events. It's hard to know when these upheavals will occur, so there is value in being prepared. And on occasion it is useful to the individual to understand the way the world works. A lot of communists wound up dead, killed in internal purges, which they might have been less surprised by had they not been blinded to the nature of their government by their ideology. Several of the Western victims of Islamist terrorists placed themselves in the path of the terrorists as a result of their own political ideology.

Jack, I have far more


I have far more sympathy for your position than I can say.

In the past, I expected reason and laws to protect me from the government. I don't hold that illusion any more. Now, as I said in this back and forth on Doug's site, "I want to make each of us think deeply about under what situations we will or will not use violence against each other."

Ultimately, it's all about numbers. Some criminal will come to town and try to start organizing a gang. If most people see him for what he is, he won't get so far. But if they start bowing and scraping and become an apologist for him, he can build a political machine that takes on a life of its own.

Since marijuana isn't my fight, but rather some of my neighbors', I could afford to really stir things up. If the issue were something I could be locked up for, I would be more likely to keep my mouth shut and go to ground. As it was, I had a lot of fun trying to get the conservatives to think of substance deregulation as a patriotic issue, and the liberals to think of government as authority and violence.

no worries, I'm happy

Back then when I was 22, I hadn't ever really had a father figure shed any wisdom on me, and literally had no clue that doing something like this was a very unwise thing to do compared to the consequences I'd be facing for the rest of my life.

They went hardcore after anyone who taught these things, but they casually went after people who did the detaxing (if I owned property they'd slap a lien on it, if I took a job I'd get notice in about a year and a half they were going to start garnishing wages, beyond that I never really heard from the IRS except for an occasional letter).

My biggest obstacles were not being able to hold a conventional job, and not being able to own property. If you set aside the fear of going to jail ... those two issues alone are a pretty substantial loss of freedom. It was like taking 1 small step towards freedom and 10 steps back.

But there's no sympathy needed for me, the story has a happy ending. Like I said, I moved to the Philippines. I actually own my house. I have tropical trees all around me, banana farm in the back, a view of Mt. Apo out my front window. Society here is very conservative, the government very laissez-faire regarding any issue that concerns me. No property taxes, and a little money goes a very long way here. The girls here are awesome, my wife is 22 and I have a baby due in September. Given the choice of freely living wherever I want to, even if taxes or government were not an issue - I'd pick the Philippines hands down, so I don't consider myself exiled - I'm absolutely here by choice. Its beautiful here, the climate is wonderful, the society is very conservative, making a living here is like playing in a sandbox for how far a little money goes over here. So I'm happy and in my opinion, I'm a free man.

Freedom's just another word f -- HEY, DON'T EAT THAT!

I'm happy and, in my opinion, I'm a free man.

Heh. Let's see what the new baby has to say about that. :-)

But it sound's like a good life, jack. Congrats, and congrats on the kid.

acohol, heroin, red meat,

acohol, heroin, red meat, tobacco, pharmaceuticals or herbal remedies--it is not a crime for someone to ingest these substances.

sure it is – if that someone doesn’t own them.

i learned that back in 1983. i got lost in the woods, depleted my food supply and had to survive by eating herbs. which was all well and good until herb got back and started shouting, “hey, who ate all my food?”