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So Simple, So Disturbing

(originally launched into cyberspace on 03/21/2007)

Dear Subscriber,

Sometimes very simple questions can cause profound cognitive
dissonance. Here is a series of very simple questions I like to
pose to people at random, especially if I want to make their heads
explode. (For the record, my head was long ago exploded by these
simple concepts, so I'm not claiming superiority here.)

1) Can you delegate to someone else a right which you don't have?
For example, if you don't have the right to punch me in the nose
(just for fun), can you GIVE the right to do so to someone else?

The answer is self-evident: no, you can't. If it's bad for you to
do it, you can't make it good for someone else to do it, whether it
be murder, assault, theft, vandalism, etc. If it's immoral for YOU
to do something, how could you possibly have the ability to make it
moral for someone ELSE to do it?

2) Can TWO people delegate a right that neither of them has? For
example, if TWO of you want me to be punched in the nose (but
neither of you has the right), can you GIVE a third person the
right to punch me? What if 50 of you wanted it? How about a million

Again, the answer is pretty obvious: no, the NUMBER of people who
want to do something bad doesn't make it into something good;
numbers cannot create the moral RIGHT for someone to do something.
And note, I'm talking about moral justification, not mere ability.
Almost everyone is ABLE to punch me in the nose--especially if
there are a million people who want my nose punched--but that's not
the same as having a moral RIGHT to do so. It doesn't matter how
big the group gets: if NO ONE in the group has a right to do "A,"
then they can't give that right to someone else.

Up to this point, most people follow along without much protest.
The answers seem patently obvious to almost everyone. However, if I
add a third, equally simple question, it sends most people into a
philosophical crisis:

3) If people cannot delegate rights they don't have, where did
"government" get the right to do what it does?

Sure, a few "laws" are just the exercising of rights we all have:
the right to defend yourself (or others) against thieves,
murderers, invaders, etc. We have the right of self-defense, so--if
we feel so inclined--we can delegate that right to someone else.
But consider how many so-called "laws" are things which you and I
would never dream of doing on our own, because we know we don't
have the right.

For example, do you personally have the right to demand money from
your neighbor, just because you want it? Do you have the right to
imprison him for smoking a leaf you don't approve of? To take his
money for driving his car without your permission? To tell him what
he can eat, where he can live, who he can work for, who he can
hire, who he can fire, how he can run his business, what he can
sell? And do you have the right to put him in a cage if he chooses
to disobey any arbitrary command you care to fling at him? If YOU
don't personally have the right to play intrusive control freak,
how did those in "government" get the right to do it? Who gave it
to them?

At this point, many people jump to the popular excuse of necessity.
"We NEED to have government doing those things, or there would be
.... ANARCHY!" That's nice, but it doesn't answer the question: from
whom did they get the right? Based on the self-evident answers to
my first two questions, they didn't get the right from YOU, or from
any of your six billion neighbors (none of whom have the right
themselves). So, where did it come from? A piece of parchment? A
magical voting booth? If we mere mortals didn't give them the right
(and we didn't), who or what DID?

We talk about "representative" government. What does that mean? If
someone really "represents" me, he may do only what I may do. For
example, I could authorize my "representative" to do business for
me. I could do it myself, but I allow him to do it instead. What I
may NOT morally do, however, I cannot authorize him to do either.
To be a "representative" just means acting on someone else's
behalf. If I have no right to do a particular thing, it should be
painfully obvious that someone "representing" me doesn't have that
right either.

So, upon whose behalf are the federal "representatives" acting? If
YOU don't personally have the right to "tax" me (and you don't),
neither does your "representative." How, then, did we reach a point
where almost everyone accepts as indisputable doctrine that our
"representatives" have rights that WE DON'T? On its face the idea
is absurd, and yet 99.9% of the country unquestioningly accepts it
as a given.

I'm going to stop there for now, because I have found, after doing
this little mental exercise with dozens (if not hundreds) of
people, that those few simple concepts are enough to stir up some
serious turmoil in the minds of 99% of the people who consider
them. Why? Because those few simple, obvious answers very plainly
lead to a conclusion that scares the existential heck out of most
people. It's so scary, in fact, I won't even say what that
conclusion is ... yet.


Larken Rose

[ March 21, 2007, 10:44 AM: Message edited by: 3rdEar ]