The Tyranny of the Obligation by Chris Dates

Liberty, then, is the  sovereignty of the individual, and never shall man know liberty until  each and every individual is acknowledged to be the only legitimate  sovereign of his or her person, time, and property, each living and  acting at his own cost.”
~ Josiah Warren

The argument of the Collectivist seems to be premised on one basic point: an obligation.

The excuses may be different for the obligation they claim I have, but this premise is shared by Collectivists of all stripes. The Minarchist and the the full-blown Statist may be vastly different in their theories and practices, but in principle, they are exactly the same. Their arguments reduce to this: I owe something to someone for some reason.  The tactic of the Collectivist is to try and cloak their aggression in nobility and morality. They may claim I am obligated to pay for the “rule of law”, or I need to help the less fortunate. I have no doubt that they may have honorable intentions, but are they good enough “reasons” for aggression? I’d like to take a deeper look at my so-called obligation.

For thousands of years the single Tyrant stood alone and his will was commanded into law. Lysander Spooner had this to say about it in No Treason:

The single despot stands out in the face of all men, and says: I am the State: My will is law: I am your master: I take the responsibility of my acts: The only arbiter I acknowledge is the sword: If anyone denies my right, let him try conclusions with me.”

A look at the tyrannies of ages past proves Spooner to be correct; tyranny is born with the sword and it is kept with the sword, and with the every swipe of the sword your obligation is born. The aggression of the Tyrant is the midwife of your obligation.

We all remember the part in Braveheart where William Wallace is charged with treason against “his” King. Wallace proclaims that never in his whole life did he swear allegiance to the King, and the response is, “it matters not, he is your King.”
You see, It matters not, you have an obligation of allegiance. The obligation is thrust upon you, and a dissenting opinion would almost surely cost you your life. This is how the Tyrant stayed in power; by crushing dissent and rebellion through ruthless aggression. A gruesome show of force is what maintained the Tyrant’s Kingdom, and throughout history the aggression tended to be thinly veiled in Divinity, but it was always covered in blood.

But these were the ways of the Old World, right? Why would I revisit this bloody past to uncover the source of my so-called obligation? Even though the Tyrant was banished from America long ago, the concept of the obligation lingers on like an infected wound. The banishment of King George from the Colonies did nothing to remove the tyranny of the obligation, but is it the same? Did anything change? Or is it the same old blood-soaked obligation?

We have already established that the Tyrant demanded an obligation of allegiance through the sword, but how can any normal “citizen” still claim I have an obligation in a democratic society? The tyrant’s claim was completely subjective and absolutely false, but there was always the threat of force to back up his claim. As I mentioned, I’ve had many people claim I am obligated in some fashion or another, but what makes their claim true? I’ll give some examples of some of the “reasons” I have come up against in past discussions.

The government has the consent of the governed; I am obligated to follow the “Law of the Land”: I’ve heard this one many times, and it very quickly breaks down circular reasoning when the claim is put up against a little Socratic questioning. The analogy I always liken it to is this: The slave master owns a chattel slave, and this slave gives birth. Does the master automatically have the consent of the child? How is this any different than our situation? Because there is some parchment protected in a glass case that begins with WE THE PEOPLE? Apparently, in the minds of the slaves, this changes the morality of it all, and now it’s not slavery; it’s democracy, the pinnacle of human government. When consent is used in the context of sexuality, we are all very clear on what consent means, but this concept is lost on the masses when used in the context of government. We should be thankful that consent has still retained its original meaning when speaking of sexual matters, otherwise there could be no rape; just a little rough sex.

I am my Brothers Keeper: I have an obligation to help the poor, the elderly, and the sick. I have been in arguments with Collectivists who claim this very thing, and it always makes me think of what Murray Rothbard said:

The great non sequitur committed by defenders of the State, including classical Aristotelian and Thomist philosophers, is to leap from the necessity of society to the necessity of the State.”

The error that is committed by the Collectivist is this: they do not have confidence in the other members of society to do what they imagine to be moral. Since they assume this to be true, they turn to the violent entity known as the State to force others to be their so-called “Brothers Keeper”. These Collectivists imagine themselves to be the stalwarts of society; the defenders of the poor, the downtrodden, and the sick. To them, the ends justify the means. It does not seem to matter to them that in their quest for morality, they engage in immoral means. The Collectivist who advocates for “social justice” commits the same logical error. The State is not society, but the Collectivist looks to the State as the source of social justice. Social justice can only be found in one place, and that place is within society. The State does not know what justice is, because it is founded in injustice; it is founded in immorality and deceit. Putting power into the hands of a few, and excluding them from the morality pool will never deliver justice; it has never delivered justice. It is irrational to expect moral ends from immoral means. This is the reason for the continuous failure of the State, and it will continue until this truth is realized. Sadly, the Collectivists that believe this strongly in the State will not stop until they are shot in the head with bullets they paid for by guns that they advocated for.

It is the Minarchist Collectivist who quite possibly makes the biggest error of all. The cry of the Minarchist is this: if we don’t plan for some sort of defense we will be overran by those who seek to do us harm. I do, at least, understand the position of the Minarchist, because most of them actually fear this sort of thing. They believe without the State, the land mass known as the United States will be invaded by millions of Chinese or Russian troops or some other rabid herd of bad guys. I don’t know if any of that is true, because I can’t get past the massive logical contradiction that is painfully evident, and it is this: in order to guard against the bad guys, the Minarchist must become the bad guy. The argument of the Minarchist always reminds me of what Marc Stevens says:

If the purpose of the State was to protect life, liberty, and property, they wouldn’t be the first ones to try and take it.”

The Collectivist who supports this approach is still a Tyrant, because if you refuse this obligation, you will be dealt with in the same fashion as if you were under tyrannical rule. I will say this about the Minarchist position; I have more respect for the Tyrant’s invading horde, than those Tyrants who claim to be my Countrymen. At least the invading Tyrant does not mask his aggression in Patriotism. Nope,it’s nothing but cold hard steel with this Tyrant, and his obligation is born out of the barrel of his gun, and he is not ashamed of it. The Minarchist cloaks the obligation in pretty pieces of parchment, but a peak behind the paper quickly reveals the same cold hard aggression that the invading Tyrant would use to demand my obligation of allegiance. The Minarchist is so sure of the State solution to defense that he is blinded to other options. The market is more powerful than the State, and if defense is valued by the people, then they will voluntarily pay for it; the market will provide it. The Minarchist has the poison of Collectivism running through his veins just a much as the Communist does. He has such little trust in the market that he is willing to become the thing that he allegedly fears the most; the Tyrant. This is the reason I do not fear the would-be Tyrant across the ocean, I have a Tyrant across the street.

It’s quite possibly the biggest scam ever pullled, Democracy I mean. When the slaves finally demanded that they have the same Divine Right as the King, they should have taken the ring of power and destroyed it in the fires of Mordor, but instead the slaves forged new rings by the billions and passed them them around and proclaimed democracy to be the apex of freedom. To the anarcho-abolitionist, nothing could be worse, because now instead of one despotic ruler, there are billions of them. Here’s the worst part–the Oligarchs who were always in control, bear no responsibility for the mess–now the Collectivist Kings blame each other. It’s a perpetual war of the Collectives, and the Oligarchs sit back and get rich beyond belief, and the slave who falsely thinks the vote has power will keep blaming the collective that he does not belong to. The Ruling class has found a way to retain power, and keep their heads out of the gullotines. Genius.

In closing, I also argue that the Collectivist has an obligation, and that obligation is to keep their guns holstered while trying to figure out how to organize and maintain society. The truth is this; the Collectivist will never, ever, have a good enough excuse for the tyranny of the obligation, because the Collectivist is the one who is choosing to wield the gun, and the anarchist is not. I need no excuse for my claim of an obligation, because my obligation is not backed by aggression, it is backed by reason.

“It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
Sounds like something Anonymous would say

11 thoughts on “The Tyranny of the Obligation by Chris Dates”

  1. Mentioning the consent comparisons between sex and government made me think of something. Locally there is a billboard that shows a girl passed out on a couch, with liquor bottles all around her. The caption says “Just because she isn’t saying ‘No’ doesn’t mean she is saying ‘yes’.” I’d like to apply that same standard to governance. Just because I am not shooting cops/bureaucrats/politicians, doesn’t mean I am consenting to their rule.

  2. Kent,

    I’ve used the consent comparison argument before, and it is usually pretty effective. There is a very big difference between the “consent of the governed”, and the “acceptance of the governed”. Indeed, it’s the difference between voluntary consent and rape.

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  4. The kind of thing I often hear is, “Because they said so” or “Well, that’s the way it is…. blah, blah, blah…”. To which I reply, “Says who?”. Honestly. The ones who defend this sort of collectivist swill are the ones who either directly or indirectly profit from it or are too fearful of living off the plantation. I think they actually LIKE being slaves even though they’d object to the term.

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  7. Good essay, Chris. Democracy is the genius of tyrants.

    I am a sovereign state. That statement used to bring flak — lots of it — even from “libertarians” and “anarchists”. Not so much any more.

    Rather than weeping, wailing and gnashing of my teeth over tyranny, police state, et al., I simply declared myself sovereign. With borders and (internal) border guards no less.

    Does that mean functionaries of state are no longer pains in my arse? No. More so, in certain cases — especially those bloodsuckers who want to prove I am subject to their “rule”. Many are in costume and dangerously armed. I’ve learned how to avoid them as I avoid free-market thieves and robbers.

    State robbers are more difficult, however, due to their acceptance by the vast majority of my neighbors, family and friends. However, I remain a free, sovereign state. Sam

  8. Thanks for the kind words, Sam!

    You’d better watch all of that sovereign talk, I hear folks are gettin’ thrown in jail for that nowadays. 🙂

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