February 25th, 2011

Analyzing Authority Through Anarchy

photo credit: L’imaGiraphe

Objecting to the near-limitless expansion of government authority, people of all political persuasions question, at times, the specific program or policy with which they take issue. Whether the criteria for judgment is the Constitution, statutory code, precedent, or other sources of affirmed legal authority, a comprehensive discussion regarding what government is and should be allowed to do cannot occur, however, when limited to the man-made “rule of law.”

The reason for this is simple: man-made law can be changed by man. What one day is legal can be outlawed the next; authority is created or denied by legislative, judicial, and/or fiat declarations. Thus, the discussion of government authority, when based on these criterion alone, shifts along with changes in the code as they are made. To truly question whether the government can morally act on any given issue, a more principled and sure foundation must be established.

This foundation becomes apparent when one removes government out of the equation altogether. Instead of looking at statute or even the Constitution, contemplate a scenario in which all such legalese is completely non-existent. Consider the question of authority in a society freed from the previously existing institution of government, and returned to the individual components which themselves comprise, consent to, and empower the government just eliminated. In short, anarchy.

The Declaration of Independence states that governments are (justly) instituted to secure the rights of those creating it, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” As government is not an eternally-existing entity (though at times it may feel otherwise), the question of what authority such an organization may morally and justly possess must be addressed at this fundamental and underlying level before proceeding to erect and empower that government.

Stripped of positivist, man-made laws, this society of free and sovereign individuals would each possess their individual rights—life, liberty, and property chief among them. Any aggression would, as under any situation, be immoral and improper. Individuals would not be justified in stealing from their neighbor, coercing their neighbor into engaging in commerce with somebody they would rather not, or punishing their neighbor for consuming a plant, building a home without their permission, or failing to purchase a product.

The creation of government—an entity to defend and enforce each person’s individual and inherent rights—cannot exceed its creator in authority. This institution may only morally be empowered with authority that its various members themselves possess. In all questions of government authority, then, it is insufficient to superficially check the action against the limits of the man-made laws that govern. While this initial scrutiny is in and of itself harmless, it becomes destructive when such laws provide the government with authority for something which its members themselves would not, in the absence of that government, be able to do.

8 Responses to “Analyzing Authority Through Anarchy”

  1. Spencer Morgan
    February 25, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Right on, Connor. Political rituals and scribblings of legislatures do not alter morality. Statutes, and actions taken based upon them only have validity when they are in congruence with the underlying justice and natural law as applied in a given situation.

  2. Charles D
    February 26, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    “… it becomes destructive when such laws provide the government with authority for something which its members themselves would not, in the absence of that government, be able to do.”

    3 Questions:
    1) Isn’t that the role of government after all? Without government, we couldn’t defend the nation from attack for example.
    2) Is it also destructive when the government fails to do something that its creators want it to do?
    3) Aren’t “justice and natural law” subjective concepts that vary between cultures and over time?

  3. JJL9
    February 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    3 Answers:

    1. No. As for your example, we all have the natural right to defend our own rights, our own life, liberty, and property. In the absence of government we have this natural right.
    2. Only if what “its creaters wnat it to do” is within their rights to want it to do, ie to defend their inherint rights.
    3. No.

  4. Charles D
    March 2, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    1. Well, JJL9, let’s just disband the military and the intelligence apparatus altogether and if anyone attacks we’ll all just go out in our front yards and shoot at them. That’s our right and we don’t need big gummint interfering.
    2. The government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed and any restriction on the government derives from them and can be removed by them.
    3. Well last I heard Bin Laden’s concept of justice might differ a bit from yours and mine.

  5. mormonconsecrationist
    March 4, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    I am in agreement about disbanding the military–

    “intelligence” is not intelligence, it is Gadianton meddling–

    I guess there are a lot of viewpoints on here–

    the original constitution was against ‘standing armies’, and *our* armies stand throughout the world–

    Bin Laden was trained by U.S. “intelligence”, so he should be good at whatever it is he does.

  6. Clumpy
    March 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Stripped of positivist, man-made laws, this society of free and sovereign individuals would each possess their individual rights—life, liberty, and property chief among them.

    Wait, how can property rights exist in a state of anarchy? If I call “dibs” on a particular tree or cave, and then vociferously defend my right to it, it would hardly be “immoral” for my fellow hunter-gatherers to think me a loon and ignore my claims of “property” entirely.

    “Property” itself is an abstract concept, enforceable *only* through a government (or a populace completely willing to honor some common definition of property with no bad apples). Those with wealth do not exist in a state of “natural rights” to their own property, but are in debt to the government who maintains their legal claims to ownership.

    (Oh, and “rule of law” is a man-made concept, owing its existence to post-Enlightenment thought eschewing the role of kings, but means only in its essence “nobody is above the law” and “nobody who has not broken the law should face legal punishment.” It’s used interchangeably with “habeas corpus” for good reason.)

  7. Isaac
    May 4, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    Glenn Beck also worries about “the anarchists” and “anarchy,” but when he says anarchists he means those black-clad socialist buffoons from Eugene, and when he says anarchy he means chaos. They are not synonymous. Property is another term that needs to be defined in order to have a beneficial discussion.

    You seem to be saying that property originates from government, or at least can only exist with a government strong enough to protect it on behalf of the citizenry. I see two problems with this. The first problem is that government couldn’t exist without the pre-existence of property. Governments function through the reduction of private property in the form of taxation or tribute. If government can’t function without property to tax,how can it the taxable property originate with government? Government is actually a property consuming mechanism.

    The second problem is that property is the result of the use of capital, whether it is labor, intellect, both, or something else. Using these types of capital takes time, which is the most non-renewable resource a person has. Take time from a person and you have taken a part of their life. Take labor from a person and you have taken a portion of their life force. To say that property is owed to government (the state) is to say that life is owed to government, which is a repulsive idea to say the least.

    Property is a person’s capital, and a result of the previous use of capital. The owner of the property has the responsibility to protect it from theft. For the state to claim a portion of an individual’s property just by virtue of existing doesn’t make sense.

  8. Isaac
    May 4, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    Charles D,
    I might be spitting into the wind here, but anyone who might attack us probably has a reason, a reason better than “they hate us for our freedoms.” And anyway, last I heard, the multitude of intelligence agencies affiliated with the US government had more interest in stirring up revolutions in foreign countries, overthrowing foreign governments, and installing puppet dictators than in protecting anything domestically, except maybe their own data collecting enterprises. So sure, I have no problem getting rid of the alphabet soup of murderous agencies, along with the bottomless pit of debt that comes with them. Then all of the former spooks could get a job and do something useful with their lives.

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