Posts tagged No Treason

Happy Lysander Spooner Day!

To-day — 19 January 2013 — is the 205th birthday of the militant abolitionist, philosopher and individualist anarchist Lysander Spooner (b. 19 January 1808, Athol, Massachusetts; d. May 14, 1887, Boston, Massachusetts). In honor of his life and work, the Ministry of Culture in this secessionist republic of one is happy to once again mark to-day as Lysander Spooner Day.

This is from Spooner’s first letter to Thomas F. Bayard: Challenging His Right — and That of All the Other So-Called Senators and Representatives in Congress — To Exercise Any Legislative Power Whatever Over the People of the United States.

1. No man can delegate, or give to another, any right of arbitrary dominion over himself; for that would be giving himself away as a slave. And this no one can do. Any contract to do so is necessarily an absurd one, and has no validity. To call such a contract a ‘Constitution,’ or by any other high-sounding name, does not alter its character as an absurd and void contract.

2. No man can delegate, or give to another, any right of arbitrary dominion over a third person; for that would imply a right in the first person, not only to make the third person his slave, but also a right to dispose of him as a slave to still other persons. Any contract to do this is necessarily a criminal one and therefore invalid. To call such a contract a ‘Constitution’ does not at all lessen its criminality, or add to its validity.

These facts, that no man can delegate, or give away, his own natural right to liberty, nor any other man’s natural right to liberty, prove that he can delegate no right of arbitrary dominion whatever—or, what is the same thing, no legislative power whatever—over himself or anybody else, to any man, or body of men.

. . . All this pretended delegation of legislative power—that is, of a power, on the part of the legislators, so-called, to make any laws of their own device, distinct from the law of nature—is therefore an entire falsehood; a falsehood whose only purpose is to cover and hide a pure usurpation, by one body of men, of arbitrary dominion over other men.

. . . For all the reasons now given, and for still others that might be given, the legislative power now exercised by Congress is, in both law and reason, purely personal, arbitrary, irresponsible, usurped dominion on the part of the legislators themselves, and not a power delegated to them by anybody.

Yet under the pretense that this instrument gives them the right of an arbitrary and irresponsible dominion over the whole people of the United States, Congress has gone on, for ninety years and more, filling great volumes with laws of their own device, which the people at large have never read, nor even seen nor ever will read or see; and of whose legal meanings it is morally impossible that they should ever know anything. Congress has never dared to require the people even to read these laws. Had it done so, the oppression would have been an intolerable one; and the people, rather than endure it, would have either rebelled, and overthrown the government, or would have fled the country. Yet these laws, which Congress has not dared to require the people even to read, it has compelled them, at the point of the bayonet, to obey.

And this moral, and legal, and political monstrosity is the kind of government which Congress claims that the Constitution authorizes it to impose upon the people.

Sir, can you say that such an arbitrary and irresponsible dominion as this, over the properties, liberties, and lives of fifty millions of people—or even over the property, liberty, or life of any one of those fifty millions—can be justified on any reason whatever? If not, with what color of truth can you say that you yourself, or anybody else, can act as a legislator, under the Constitution of the United States, and yet be an honest man?

. . . I trust I need not suspect you, as a legislator under the Constitution, and claiming to be an honest man, of any desire to evade the issue presented in this pamphlet. If you shall see fit to meet it, I hope you will excuse me for suggesting that — to avoid verbiage, and everything indefinite — you give at least a single specimen of a law that either heretofore has been made, or that you conceive it possible for legislators to make—that is, some law of their own device—that either has been, or shall be, really and truly obligatory upon other persons, and which such other persons have been, or may be, rightfully compelled to obey.

If you can either find or devise any such law, I trust you will make it known, that it may be examined, and the question of its obligation be fairly settled in the popular mind.

But if it should happen that you can neither find such a law in the existing statute books of the United States, nor, in your own mind, conceive of such a law as possible under the Constitution, I give you leave to find it, if that be possible, in the constitution or statute book of any other people that now exist, or ever have existed, on the earth.

If, finally, you shall find no such law, anywhere, nor be able to conceive of any such law yourself, I take the liberty to suggest that it is your imperative duty to submit the question to your associate legislators; and, if they can give no light on the subject, that you call upon them to burn all the existing statute books of the United States, and then to go home and content themselves with the exercise of only such rights and powers as nature has given to them in common with the rest of mankind.

— Lysander Spooner, A Letter to Thomas F. Bayard (Boston, May 22, 1882)

And this is from No. 6 (The Constitution of No Authority) of his most famous pamphlet series, No Treason

The payment of taxes, being compulsory, of course furnishes no evidence that any one voluntarily supports the Constitution. . . . [T]his theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.

The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the road side, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.

The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.

— Lysander Spooner, No Treason, no. 6: The Constitution of No Authority (1870)

And this is from the end of the same pamphlet:

Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

— Lysander Spooner, Appendix to No Treason, no. 6: The Constitution of No Authority (1870)

See also:

Happy Lysander Spooner Day!

To-day — 19 January 2008 — is the 200th birthday of the militant abolitionist, philosopher, and individualist anarchist Lysander Spooner (b. 19 January 1808, Althol, Massachusetts; d. May 14, 1887, Boston, Massachusetts). In honor of his life and work, the Ministry of Culture of this secessionist republic of one has declared that 19 January shall be celebrated as Lysander Spooner Day.

This is from the end of Spooner’s famous pamphlet No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority:

Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

— Lysander Spooner (1870): No Treason No. 6: The Constitution of No Authority

And this is from an earlier number of No Treason:

But to say that the consent of either the strongest party, or the most numerous party, in a nation, is sufficient justification for the establishment or maintenance of a government that shall control the whole nation, does not obviate the difficulty. The question still remains, how comes such a thing as a nation to exist? How do millions of men, scattered over an extensive territory — each gifted by nature with individual freedom; required by the law of nature to call no man, or body of men, his masters; authorized by that law to seek his own happiness in his own way, to do what he will with himself and his property, so long as he does not trespass upon the equal liberty of others; authorized also, by that law, to defend his own rights, and redress his own wrongs; and to go to the assistance and defence of any of his fellow men who may be suffering any kind of injustice — how do millions of such men come to be a nation, in the first place? How is it that each of them comes to be stripped of his natural, God-given rights, and to be incorporated, compressed, compacted, and consolidated into a mass with other men, whom he never saw; with whom he has no contract; and towards many of whom he has no sentiments but fear, hatred, or contempt? How does he become subjected to the control of men like himself, who, by nature, had no authority over him; but who command him to do this, and forbid him to do that, as if they were his sovereigns, and he their subject; and as if their wills and their interests were the only standards of his duties and his rights; and who compel him to submission under peril of confiscation, imprisonment, and death?

Clearly all this is the work of force, or fraud, or both.

By what right, then, did we become a nation? By what right do we continue to be a nation? And by what right do either the strongest, or the most numerous, party, now existing within the territorial limits, called The United States, claim that there really is such a nation as the United States? Certainly they are bound to show the rightful existence of a nation, before they can claim, on that ground, that they themselves have a right to control it; to seize, for their purposes, so much of every man’s property within it, as they may choose; and, at their discretion, to compel any man to risk his own life, or take the lives of other men, for the maintenance of their power.

To speak of either their numbers, or their strength, is not to the purpose. The question is by what right does the nation exist? And by what right are so many atrocities committed by its authority? or for its preservation?

The answer to this question must certainly be, that at least such a nation exists by no right whatever.

We are, therefore, driven to the acknowledgment that nations and governments, if they can rightfully exist at all, can exist only by consent.

— Lysander Spooner (1867): No Treason, no. 1

And this is from A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on His False Inaugural Address, The Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the Consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People, perhaps the finest letter ever written to the President of the United States:

Let me then remind you that justice is an immutable, natural principle; and not anything that can be made, unmade, or altered by any human power.

It is also a subject of science, and is to be learned, like mathematics, or any other science. It does not derive its authority from the commands, will, pleasure, or discretion of any possible combination of men, whether calling themselves a government, or by any other name.

It is also, at all times, and in all places, the supreme law. And being everywhere and always the supreme law, it is necessarily everywhere and always the only law.

Lawmakers, as they call themselves, can add nothing to it, nor take anything from it. Therefore all their laws, as they call them, —- that is, all the laws of their own making, —- have no color of authority or obligation. It is a falsehood to call them laws; for there is nothing in them that either creates men’s duties or rights, or enlightens them as to their duties or rights. There is consequently nothing binding or obligatory about them. And nobody is bound to take the least notice of them, unless it be to trample them under foot, as usurpations. If they command men to do justice, they add nothing to men’s obligation to do it, or to any man’s right to enforce it. They are therefore mere idle wind, such as would be commands to consider the day as day, and the night as night. If they command or license any man to do injustice, they are criminal on their face. If they command any man to do anything which justice does not require him to do, they are simple, naked usurpations and tyrannies. If they forbid any man to do anything, which justice could permit him to do, they are criminal invasions of his natural and rightful liberty. In whatever light, therefore, they are viewed, they are utterly destitute of everything like authority or obligation. They are all necessarily either the impudent, fraudulent, and criminal usurpations of tyrants, robbers, and murderers, or the senseless work of ignorant or thoughtless men, who do not know, or certainly do not realize, what they are doing.

— Lysander Spooner (1886): A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on His False Inaugural Address, The Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the Consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People

Further reading:

International Ignore the Constitution Day festivities

Today is the 219th annual International Ignore the Constitution Day.

Here’s William Lloyd Garrison, in The Liberator, on December 29, 1832:

There is much declamation about the sacredness of the compact which was formed between the free and slave states, on the adoption of the Constitution. A sacred compact, forsooth! We pronounce it the most bloody and heaven-daring arrangement ever made by men for the continuance and protection of a system of the most atrocious villany ever exhibited on earth. Yes—we recognize the compact, but with feelings of shame and indignation, and it will be held in everlasting infamy by the friends of justice and humanity throughout the world. It was a compact formed at the sacrifice of the bodies and souls of millions of our race, for the sake of achieving a political object—an unblushing and monstrous coalition to do evil that good might come. Such a compact was, in the nature of things and according to the law of God, null and void from the beginning. No body of men ever had the right to guarantee the holding of human beings in bondage. Who or what were the framers of our government, that they should dare confirm and authorise such high-handed villany—such flagrant robbery of the inalienable rights of man—such a glaring violation of all the precepts and injunctions of the gospel—such a savage war upon a sixth part of our whole population?—They were men, like ourselves—as fallible, as sinful, as weak, as ourselves. By the infamous bargain which they made between themselves, they virtually dethroned the Most High God, and trampled beneath their feet their own solemn and heaven-attested Declaration, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights—among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They had no lawful power to bind themselves, or their posterity, for one hour—for one moment—by such an unholy alliance. It was not valid then—it is not valid now. Still they persisted in maintaining it—and still do their successors, the people of Massachussetts, of New-England, and of the twelve free States, persist in maintaining it. A sacred compact! A sacred compact! What, then, is wicked and ignominious?

… It is said that if you agitate this question, you will divide the Union. Believe it not; but should disunion follow, the fault will not be yours. You must perform your duty, faithfully, fearlessly and promptly, and leave the consequences to God: that duty clearly is, to cease from giving countenance and protection to southern kidnappers. Let them separate, if they can muster courage enough—and the liberation of their slaves is certain. Be assured that slavery will very speedily destroy this Union, if it be left alone; but even if the Union can be preserved by treading upon the necks, spilling the blood, and destroying the souls of millions of your race, we say it is not worth a price like this, and that it is in the highest degree criminal for you to continue the present compact. Let the pillars thereof fall—let the superstructure crumble into dust—if it must be upheld by robbery and oppression.

— William Lloyd Garrison, The Liberator (1832-12-29): On the Constitution and the Union

Here’s Lysander Spooner, in No Treason (1867-1870):

The practical difficulty with our government has been, that most of those who have administered it, have taken it for granted that the Constitution, as it is written, was a thing of no importance; that it neither said what it meant, nor meant what it said; that it was gotten up by swindlers, (as many of its authors doubtless were,) who said a great many good things, which they did not mean, and meant a great many bad things, which they dared not say; that these men, under the false pretence of a government resting on the consent of the whole people, designed to entrap them into a government of a part; who should be powerful and fraudulent enough to cheat the weaker portion out of all the good things that were said, but not meant, and subject them to all the bad things that were meant, but not said. And most of those who have administered the government, have assumed that all these swindling intentions were to be carried into effect, in the place of the written Constitution. Of all these swindles, the treason swindle is the most flagitious. It is the most flagitious, because it is equally flagitious, in principle, with any; and it includes all the others. It is the instrumentality by which all the others are mode effective. A government that can at pleasure accuse, shoot, and hang men, as traitors, for the one general offence of refusing to surrender themselves and their property unreservedly to its arbitrary will, can practice any and all special and particular oppressions it pleases.

The result — and a natural one — has been that we have had governments, State and national, devoted to nearly every grade and species of crime that governments have ever practised upon their victims; and these crimes have culminated in a war that has cost a million of lives; a war carried on, upon one side, for chattel slavery, and on the other for political slavery; upon neither for liberty, justice, or truth. And these crimes have been committed, and this war waged, by men, and the descendants of men, who, less than a hundred years ago, said that all men were equal, and could owe neither service to individuals, nor allegiance to governments, except with their own consent.

… Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

— Lysander Spooner, No Treason No. 2 and No. 6

Here’s me, from last year’s celebration in the Rad Geek People’s Daily:

You, too, can celebrate Ignore the Constitution Day! Today, completely ignore all claims to authority granted in the Constitution. Live your life as if the Constitution had no more claim on you than the decrees of Emperor Norton. Enjoy your rights under natural law; you have them whether or not the Constitution says one mumbling word for them. While you’re at it, treat the Constitution as completely irrelevant in political arguments too; instead of complaining that unbridled war powers for the President are unconstitutional, for example, complain that they are evil; instead of reciting that damn Davy Crocket bed-time story again and complaining that government-controlled disaster relief is unconstitutional, complain that government-controlled disaster relief is foolish and deadly. (If the Constitution clearly authorized unilateral war powers for the President, or abusive and incompetant government-controlled disaster relief, would that make it okay?) And, hell, while you’re at it, quit complaining that forced Constitution Day celebrations may be unconstitutional; complain instead that they force children to participate in cultish praise for the written record of a naked usurpation.

Just go ahead. Ignore the Constitution for a day. See what happens. Who’s it gonna hurt? And if your political reasoning becomes sharper, your discourse no longer bogs down in a bunch of pseudo-legal mummeries, and you have a pleasant day without having to ask anybody’s permission for it, then I suggest you continue the celebration, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.

— GT 2005-09-17: International Ignore the Constitution Day

I think that legalism is an insidious error that liberals and libertarians alike are all too prone to fall into. In fact the rule of law is something to be hoped for only insofar as the laws are just: rigorously enforcing a wicked law—even if that law is duly published and generally formulated—is just relentlessness, not virtue. And in our bloodstained age it is as obvious as anything that many laws are very far from being just. But one way of trying to accomodate this point, while entirely missing it, is to throw your weight behind some Super-Duper Law that is supposed to condemn the little-bitty laws that you consider unjustifiable. Besides taking the focus away from creative extremism and direct action, and leaving power in the hands of government-appointed conspiracies of old white dudes in black robes, this strategy also amounts to little more than a stinking red herring. It diverts the inquiry from the obvious injustices of a State that systematically robs, swindles, extorts, censors, proscribes, beats, cuffs, jails, exiles, murders, bombs, burns, starves countless innocent people in the name of its compelling State interests, and puts the focus the powers that are or are not delegated to the government by another damn written law. As if the contents of that law had any more right to preempt considerations of justice than the subordinate laws supposedly enacted under its authority. Those who have spent their days trying to find a lost Constitution under the sofa cushions are engaged in a massive, sophisticated, intricately argued irrelevancy. I’d compare it to debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but that would be grossly unfair—to Scholastic metaphysicians.

Further reading:

Old Time Religion

The latest news from the Traditional Values front comes to us from Roseville, Michigan, where we find that the defenders of public decency are marshalling their forces to preserve our precious culture and heritage—by launching a legal assault against a local artist for his reproduction of part of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s ceiling for the Sistine Chapel:

In Ed (Gonzo) Stross’ eyes, his variation on Michelangelo’s Creation of Man mural is art.

In 39A District Judge Marco Santia’s eyes, it’s a crime.

Santia ordered jail time, a fine and probation — a sentence that sounds a little harsh to a state senator, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and fellow artists.

Santia ordered Stross, 43, to serve 30 days in jail, do two years’ probation and pay a $500 fine for violating a city sign ordinance. Roseville officials said letters were prohibited on the mural and Eve’s exposed chest is indecent.

Besides jail time and the fee, Stross is to tastefully cover Eve’s breasts before reporting to the Macomb County Jail on Monday morning, and to paint over love by May 1.

— Detroit Free Press 2005-02-18: Muralist’s vision has jail staring him in face

(Link thanks to Copyfight 2005-02-23 and No Treason 2005-02-22.)

Of course, a bare-breasted Eve wasn’t too much for Pope Julius II; he not only approved of its public display, but was glad to have it on the ceiling of the most important church in all of Western Christendom. You might have thought that some of our traditional values include glorifying God and Creation through beautiful art, or at least respect for the achievements of our forebearers. But when it comes to the community standards of our day—which are, after all, mostly set by reference to the sensitivities of the most obnoxiously vocal and litigious segments of the Religious Right—it appears that all of these pale in comparison to the importance of ensuring that no child see boobies, ever. Anyway, since when have traditional values had anything to do with history?

This, it seems, is the modern Religious Right: a horde of know-nothing busybodies, apparently hell-bent on making Mencken’s definition of puritanism look plausible, and going to the mat to enforce the values of a past that—fortunately for the achievements of Western civilization—never existed.

Further reading

The Day After Tomorrow

First of all, John Kerry is a douchebag, but I’m voting for him anyway.

Yes, I know he’s a statist, and a lame-o weak-kneed liberal to boot. Yes, I know that he voted for the authorization of force against Iraq, and that he hasn’t announced any plans to do what any rational and sane person should realize it’s time to do—withdraw immediately and completely. Yes, I know that the process I’m going to be participating in tomorrow has no legitimate authority whatsoever no matter who I vote for—and that strategically, replacing one creepy-looking imperial Executive with another slightly less mad one is no means to long-term change. That sucks, but it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter, because voting is a legitimate form of self-defense and I live in a swing state where a handful of votes may determine whether 17 electoral votes go towards throwing George W. Bush out of the White House or propping up four more years of the same.

Yes, most of the reasons I have for voting for Kerry are purely negative ones. He’s bad on the war, sure—but not nearly as bad as its big fat liar of an architect. Yeah, he’s an unreconstructed statist with a bad record on civil liberties—but not nearly as bad as George W. Bush, who has presided over the largest increase in State bureaucracy and spending since the Great Society, and who believes himself accountable to none save God alone. Sure, his campaign has treated feminists like crap, but, Jesus, it’s not like a second Bush administration is going to bode well for the success of feminist activism. And all of this is important. Given that Kerry is not even worse than Bush (and he’s not), one of the single most important reasons to take the time to get out and vote for Kerry tomorrow (if you’re in a swing state, as I am) is that after everything he’s done, George W. Bush must be thrown out of office. If he’s not punished after all of this, then that means one more blow to the fragile bulwarks remaining for justice and freedom in this country. We have precious few opportunities to pull back the reins on galloping Caesarism, and tomorrow is one of them; there’s no excuse, if you have the chance, not to pull as hard as you can.

And there are a couple of positive reasons to vote for Kerry. First, nearly all of his faults are faults that Bush shares or exceeds. But he is good on abortion; he won’t continue the present gang’s war for control over women’s bodies. Don’t think abortion’s very important? Well, you should; if you don’t think that the right of women—also known as “the majority of the population”—to control their own internal organs, or the use of systematic State violence against women to tread on that right, is a really big deal, well, you had better check your premises. And secondly, Kerry is bad on almost everything else—but a possibility for making things better exists under a Kerry administration that will continue to be vanishingly small in an entrenched, contemptuously secretive, smugly self-satisfied second Bush adminisration.

All that said, we need to remember, as it comes down to the wire, that tomorrow is not the Battle of Armageddon. The world will go on whoever wins, and we will need to figure out what we are going to do—because we are going to face some pretty hefty challenges whether Kerry or Bush is partying at the end of the night (or whether both of them are biting their nails waiting on further legal developments).

So I know what I’m going to be doing tomorrow—voting and then volunteering to go door to door for a few hours before I turn in. And I figure you know what you are going to be doing, too. But here’s the question: what are we going to be doing the day after tomorrow? Come November 3, what can we do that will move things forward whether it’s Bush or Kerry we’re going to have to be dealing with?

For my part, I don’t know entirely, and I’m interested in hearing what y’all think. (Comment away!) But I do know one thing for sure.

I sure am tired of following these assholes.

I’m tired of the two-party duopoly, and I’m tired of incumbents. pinning my hopes on blockheads like Kerry and I’m tired of listening to know-it-all professional blowhards speculate about the color of Kerry’s socks and its impact on undecided Soccer Moms. I know that we are going to need to keep organizing and take the fight to them no matter who wins, but I can’t take federal representative politics much longer and I can’t say that the prospects for meaningful, long-term change through picking between these guys look tremendously bright.

Yeah, Deaniac grassroots politics would help. Sure, we could use instant runoff voting and term limits and lowered ballot access requirements. Fine, I’ll put in my two cents’ worth in favor of building independent parties. I don’t dispute that that would help things a bit. But the more that I think about it the more I think that we (address this to my Libertarian comrades or my Leftist comrades or my Anarchist comrades, whichever you prefer) ought to re-think how we are trying to get things done when we’re working undercover in The System. Because I, for one, am about at the end of my rope.

I’m sure that Kennedy and the rest of the No Treason! crew will take this as as good an opportunity as any to argue that building movements is a dead-end game. I don’t buy that, yet, for a lot of reasons—I suspect that a rigid distinction between volunteer politics and businesses involves some confusions about the nature of the market in a free society, and I have a lot more faith in ordinary people and the historical record of people’s movements. For the time being, at least, I’m more than willing to sign on for political organizing, activism, and evangelism—even working in the belly of the beast, if need be, to help give people some space to breathe and a chance to defend themselves. But not the way we’ve been doing it.

When I go to the polls tomorrow, I won’t just have the chance to pick some idiot or another for federal races. I’ll also have the chance to vote directly on whether or not a number of proposals will be made law. I can do this because Michigan has voter initiatives; and when I vote on an initiative I don’t have to worry about spoilers, parties, trade-offs between candidates, or anything of the sort. It’s a simple up or down and I can make my choices on each issue on the ballot independently—rather than trying to figure out which dude will line up with more of my choices on the whole than the other (and whether that dude can get elected or whether I should vote for someone who’s a bit worse but in a position to win, and…).

Nearly half of the states in this country empower you and I to gather signatures and put laws straight on the ballot without having to lobby legislators or roll logs or hope the least-worst major candidate might consider making a speech about it sometime. Most of us who have been paying attention to voter initiatives have been spending our time fighting them—with good reason, when the initiatives being put out are idiotic stuff such as Amendment 2 in Michigan or Measure 36 in Oregon. But why are we letting these assholes make all the first strikes? We’ve been building a vast network of interlinked volunteers with a do-it-yourself political ethic, from the upsurge of the antiwar movement to United for Peace and Justice to MoveOn and the Dean campaign. So come November 3, how about we start putting those resources to work in the 20-odd states with voter initiatives? (And while we’re at it, bringing them to bear on the state legislature in states that don’t yet have voter initiatives.)

My suggestion would be to focus on campaigns that clearly put the case to the people that the government needs to get its hands out of the till and take its boots from off our necks. Medical marijuana ballot initiatives are a good start—they’ve been extremely popular where introduced and when they win (which they often do) that means one more state in which the federal drug goons have to either get mired down in extremely unpopular campaigns or else just give up. That should be expanded to an effort to roll back the racist War on Drugs more broadly. And here are some other ideas to ponder:

  • Initiatives to curtail corporate welfare—say, for example, abolishing corporate hand-out programs or restricting the power of state and local governments to use eminent domain for corporate development.

  • Death penalty moratorium bills

  • Ending taxes that disproportionately burden people living in poverty—for example, rolling back sales tax on food and other necessities.

  • Resisting the federal warfare State—by passing bills requiring the state government to refuse to comply with the PATRIOT Act, any future draft, or whatever other national security assault on our rights you’d like to single out.

  • Some resources for making it easier when we do have to deal with the party hacks—term limits, recall statutes, lowered ballot access restrictions, instant runoff voting, ….

All of these are simple, practical, incremental changes that would do some good, allow for coalition-building between Leftists, libertarians, and (sometimes, I suppose) small-government conservatives too. We have the resources to mount big door-to-door campaigns, with volunteers and with money raised from supporters; we have the resources to do some real good over the next four years whoever is in office. Better yet, we could start actually talking with each other like rational human beings about issues and whether or not some particular law should be made, instead of dickering over who looks more Presidential and whether Hordak or Smiley Face came off as more of a mindless hack in the latest tete-a-tete.

So, in that spirit, I’m resolving to pitch myself into grassroots politics come November 3. Real grassroots politics—not browbeating the grassroots into supporting some least-worst candidate’s politics, but rather writing letters to the editor, working more with local political organizations. And I’m going to start looking for, and talking about, and acting on, getting some voter initiatives that will make a real move forward on the ballot. I’m tired of following the idiots in the suits; it’s time to take the resources that we’ve got and take our case to the people.

Further reading