Spooner Lives! by Bill Buppert

The “National” system so called, is in reality no national system at all; except in the mere fact that it is called the national system and was established by the national government. It is, in truth, only a private system; a mere privilege conferred upon a few, to enable them to control prices, property, and labor, and thus swindle, plunder and oppress all the rest of the people.

-Lysander Spooner

I was amused to be at the Freedom Summit in Adam Kokesh’s room in early December with some other friends and at one point one of the fellows was haranguing us about “getting back to the Constitution”.  As if we ever left that wretched compact with leviathan government.  At one point, another worthy said that maybe we should pay more attention to Lysander Spooner.  Indeed.  For plenty of freedom advocates, it begins with Rand or von Mises or Rothbard and a host of other luminaries who saw through the collectivist sham.

For others, Lysander Spooner is the strike of the match.  I was introduced to Spooner through a great book by the magnificent James J. Martin in Men Against the State. Among the several forgotten heroes from the 19th century, Spooner stands as a titan.  He made a rather interesting point concerning the Constitution in that he claimed that no document can bind a man if he is not an active signatory.  You can see where this would be rather problematic for a government and why the concept is roundly condemned in a court system staffed by robed government employees for whom honor and fidelity for justice will be observed as long as their masters approve.

Spooner is the gateway drug for maximum liberty.  If you pay close enough attention to his arguments and patterns of thinking, you come away thinking that the entire rotten collectivist project is not only desperately lacking in intellectual rigor but is founded first and foremost in an evil premise.  The premise of all collectivist and statist projects is initiated violence against ALL humans.  For the system would collapse if the fear of the monopoly of force were not the schwerpunkt of all actions from the enforcement of tax collection and aggression to the most banal of offenses, if one citizen not a member of the nomenklatura got away with it, revolution would follow shortly.

We here in Arizona are obliged to stop at US Border Patrol suspicionless checkpoints to establish citizenship bona fides.  One must answer the question of your US citizenship status or you are detained.  If you simply drive through the checkpoint without stopping and ignore the revenue officer’s flashing lights (you paid for through taxes), you will be subject to maiming or killing if you continue to disobey.  Cops are the clearest explication of what government is in all its naked glory, there is no more compelling example of what is wrong with government. Period.

 

I realize that this violates the Fourth Amendment but when has a mere piece of paper ever stopped a government?  As I have mentioned before, we are as much a nation of laws as Zimbabwe is the premier example of prudent fiscal and monetary policy.  You are a citizen of a nation that officially tortures, kills US citizens without a trial and uses a quaint fiction of democratic consent as the usual suspects drive the economy over a cliff with all the driving experience of a four-year old’s first navigation of a car.  The point is that a nation of laws is a misnomer.  No nation has or is presently not bifurcated with two sets of laws – one for the cattle in the tax jurisdiction and one set for the rulers who manage and administer the feedlot. If you doubt this, find the answers in this pop quiz:

  • In every case of police brutality in which the death of the victim at the hands of the police results, what proportionate criminal finding on the part of the cop(s) implicated is served on the heads of the guilty cops?  Good luck…
  • What American President or Cabinet member has been held responsible for the policies enacted during their tenure that results in the material impoverishment of the nation which would include every administration since Grover Cleveland and many of his predecessors like the vicious proto-Stalinist Lincoln?
  • Take a careful look at the criminal gallery of misfits pardoned by the Presidents when they leave office.  I do thank Gerald Ford for his pardon of Robert E. Lee 110 years later.

Spooner has this whole system pegged and pinned down in the nineteenth century with an aplomb that still leave s one admiring the breadth and depth of his achievement.  Of course, it is not common knowledge because the inclusion of Spooner in the pantheon of accepted American thinkers would quickly show the system for the evil and malignant sham that it is for freedom at the individual level.

Spooner avers on contracts:

To say that the state legislatures have power to declare what the obligation of contracts shall be, or what contracts shall, and what shall not, have an obligation, is equivalent to saying that they have power to declare what the Constitution of the United States shall MEAN. And us this meaning would of course be arbitrary, the legislature of each state separately might declare that it should be something different from what it was in any of the other states – and we might consequently have, in every state in the union, a different constitution of the United States on this point. Not only this, but every state legislature might alter, at pleasure, the meaning, which it had itself given to the constitution of the United States. The constitution of the United States, there­fore, might not only be different in every different state, but it might be altered in each state at every session of the legislature. Such is the necessary consequence of the doctrine, that the state legislatures have power to prescribe or determine what the obligation of contracts shall be, or what contracts shall be obligatory.

He establishes rather elegantly that obligatory contracts can take place between consenting individuals but not imposed on them without their consent.  Most reasonable men would agree to this but the moment the government or the Constitution is intoned, most folks lose their minds and in essence say that, of course, armed men may compel me through the threat of fining, caging, maiming and killing to whatever THEY claim I must do.

On the Constitution (of No Authority):

What was true of our ancestors, is true of revolutionists in general. The monarchs and governments, from whom they choose to separate, attempt to stigmatize them as traitors. But they are not traitors in fact; in-much they betray, and break faith with, no one. Having pledged no faith, they break none. They are simply men, who, for reasons of their own — whether good or bad, wise or unwise, is immaterial — choose to exercise their natural right of dissolving their connexion (sic) with the governments under which they have lived. In doing this, they no more commit the crime of treason — which necessarily implies treachery, deceit, breach of faith — than a man commits treason when he chooses to leave a church, or any other voluntary association, with which he has been connected.

In a fashion matched only by the pen of Murray Rothbard, Spooner makes the clear case for the immorality of fashioning a yoke on later generations without their consent and the concomitant evil and corruption that emanates form governments that practice this more subtle form of enslavement.

Randy Barnett, whose work on the Ninth Amendment is truly groundbreaking and liberty enhancing runs the lysanderspooner.org site at which most of his works are available free of charge.  We should be indebted to Dr. Barnett for doing this valuable service.

There is a three volume compilation of everything Spooner wrote [the staff at Zero Gov will gladly accept a donation of this set if any reader feels generous] but it is rather spendy and Barnett provides a good start electronically.  I would urge all my readers to set a goal for yourself to read Spooner on a weekly or monthly basis and make your way through his canon.  He not only was a great champion of liberty but provided a quite interesting and rigorous lesson in how to think critically on very complex issues and take them apart with alacrity.

As Benjamin Tucker says:  He was our Nestor in the pursuit of liberty; he was truly a weapon of mass destruction against big government, or for that matter, all government.  As abolitionists, we may be in the minority but we will always hail from the moral high ground.

His writing is a muse for freedom and a vital arrow in the quiver of liberty and abolition.

“What was true of our ancestors is true of revolutionists in general. The monarchs and governments, from whom they choose to separate, attempt to stigmatize them as traitors. But they are not traitors in fact; in-much they betray, and break faith with, no one. Having pledged no faith, they break none. They are simply men, who, for reasons of their own — whether good or bad, wise or unwise, is immaterial — choose to exercise their natural right of dissolving their connexion with the governments under which they have lived. In doing this, they no more commit the crime of treason — which necessarily implies treachery, deceit, breach of faith — than a man commits treason when he chooses to leave a church, or any other voluntary association, with which he has been connected.

This principle was a true one in 1776. It is a true one now. It is the only one on which any rightful government can rest. It is the one on which the Constitution itself professes to rest. If it does not really rest on that basis, it has no right to exist; and it is the duty of every man to raise his hand against it.

If the men of the Revolution designed to incorporate in the Constitution the absurd ideas of allegiance and treason, which they had once repudiated, against which they had fought, and by which the world had been enslaved, they thereby established for themselves an indisputable claim to the disgust and detestation of all mankind.”

-Lysander Spooner

Bill Buppert
thirdgun@hotmail.com
2 Comments
  • roy fox
    Posted at 17:29h, 19 January Reply

    Lysander Spooner was the spark for my conversion from minarchism to anarchism almost a decade ago. The key to the argument was his refutation of the “social contract” theory of government in No Treason No. VI:

    The Constitution not only binds nobody now, but it never did bind anybody,
    because it was never agreed to by anybody in such a manner as to make it,
    on general principles of law and reason, binding upon him.

    It is a general principle of law and reason, that a written instrument binds
    no one until he has signed it. This principle is so inflexible a one, that
    even a though a man is unable to write his name, he must still ‘make his mark’
    before he is bound by a written contract.

    Spooner clearly identified the illegitimacy of the sacred cow we call government, and his genius is in his unassailable logic and arguments based on universally understood legal principles. It is unfortunate that our government school miseducated population has never heard of Spooner. It is sadder still that only the rare exceptions among us are able to even understand the basic legal principles that are the basis of many of Spooner’s essays. That’s because most college students of today do not possess the anywhere near the level of literacy that the average 12 or 13 year old commanded in the 19th century.

    Author and radio talk show host Marc Stevens is probably the closest thing there is to a 21st century reincarnation of the spirit of Spooner. Like Spooner, Marc is able to point out the inherent legal flaws in the concept of government with clear and unassailable logic. Because people tend to understand government as the ’embodiment of justice’ and ‘guarantor of peaceful society’, the powerful arguments exposing the illegitimacy and illegality of government are compelling. Lysander Spooner is a must read for anyone interested in really understanding principles of freedom. Anyone interested in achieving freedom in our lifetime would do well to visit Marc Stevens’ website http://www.marcstevens.net and catch his weekly radio show “The No State Project” which is podcast/broadcast on LRN.

    • Bill
      Posted at 14:07h, 20 January Reply

      Thanks, Roy for the testimonial and the link to Marc Stevens, he is wonderful.

      Spooner along with Ben Tucker are the great titans in this kind of thinking in the 19th century.

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