A Contract Between AmericansSubmitted by jabowery on Fri, 06/11/2010 - 14:22
As Lysander Spooner details in his essay, "No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority", contracts reached between individuals have no legitimate authority over other individuals. The practical conundrum this presents libertarians is rarely dealt with head-on.
Newt Gingrich's evocatively titled "Contract With America" struck a seductive chord with conservatives precisely because it seemed to present a proposal for a contract between Americans -- between individuals called "Americans" -- thereby establishing its legitimacy.
A far more powerful political force can sweep libertarians to victory if only they would ask themselves the following question:
"What would a natural individually sovereign American, in debt-free possession of his house, tools, land and weapons sufficient to defend and support his wife and raise his children to maturity, agree to if approached with 'a contract between Americans'?"
Answer that question honestly and libertarians will be on the road to victory. One thing is for certain: It is dishonest to claim that an individual sovereign, in a state of nature, would agree to respect the property rights agreed to by others if he, himself, were deprived of any land with which to support a wife and have a family. Yet that seems to be the contract offered by many so-called "libertarians" to the general public and the general public rightly rejects the transparently illegitimate proposal as placing the sanctity of property above the sanctity of life. Not only is this a loser's political strategy -- it is in naked violation of natural law. To win, libertarians must be more honest with themselves and others as to the natural interests of individual sovereigns.
I propose the following Contract Between Americans as the political platform that can, particularly in the present circumstances, sweep deep libertarian principles to political victory in the near term:
* Treat pollution as a criminal assault on the nation.
Pollution harms the national territory. Individuals that harm private property may be held criminally liable under some circumstances but if there is no intent to harm, it is usually up to civil courts to award monetary damages. Individuals that harm the national territory, however, must be held to a higher standard of discipline due to the greater harm. Mere tort law is insufficient as a remedy when what is at stake is the national ecology. If the choice is made to reduce regulation of private behavior because such regulations, although they prevent damage and are therefore quite economical, impinge on freedom, then those enjoying said freedom must, when abusing that freedom, suffer consequences sufficiently severe to serve as an effective self-regulating motive.
* Household bankruptcy protection is the median price of a home plus median capitalization of a job.
The origin of bankruptcy law is the recognition that a man’s homestead is as sacrosanct as his body since it is the means by which he sustains his body. A homestead entails not only a primary residence real estate holding but also the source of his other necessities. Hence personal bankruptcy protects “home and tools of the trade” from confiscation. Only a society that accepts slavery can accept confiscation of a man’s body for the use of others.
* Anyone or anything (including the government) can place money in escrow as a bid for any property right recognized by law, thereby establishing an in-place liquidation value for that property right.
Money differs from other property rights in terms of its liquidity—that is, its availability for trade upon demand. When money is “tied up in investments” that is simply another way of saying that the owner of the property right sees more value in the property right than do others with money ready to buy that property right. The more people who perceive a particular level of value in a property right, the more force must be brought to bear to protect it from confiscation. In short, if you have a big pile of gold sitting around that a lot of people know about, you are going to have to invest more in protecting it than, say, the Wright Brothers needed to invest in protecting their bike shop from theft, even though they could see that their bike shop was worth the dreams of men over thousands of years. The man with his pile of gold might very well find several bids for it that were comparable to his own valuation of it. There is no chance that the Wright Brothers would have received a bid for their bike shop sufficiently high to motivate them to give it up during their development of the first heavier than air powered flying machine. On the off-chance that someone (say Langley's backers) wanted to suppress the Wrights by escrowing an enormous bid the Wrights could not service from immediate cash flows, the Wrights could borrow against the liquidation value of their asset.
* Cease taxing economic activity except for international trade, which is taxed in such a way as to retain sovereignty.
Economic activity is human action. There is no reasonable way to justify a use fee for a human’s own volition in a society that rejects slavery. Sovereignty, on the other hand, demands independence rather than interdependence or “entangling alliances” with other sovereigns. It is therefore essential to national sovereignty that the nation control international trade so as to avoid vital dependencies on other sovereignties.
* National revenue is instead a use fee for property rights paid at a rate equal to the liquidation value of the property right times the short term lending rate to the government—but individual exemption is equal to one half of household bankruptcy protection. The owner can liquidate his property right at any time by accepting the escrowed bid for his property.
A natural man, outside of any government, must acquire minimal territory and tools to exist—and these are represented in household bankruptcy protection. If you take a certain amount of money and lend it to the government, you are assured of interest payments at some minimal level. This sort of income is the zero risk economic value of society. No one in particular can claim responsibility for generating it hence it is inappropriate to let it fall randomly on those who happen to benefit from general economic growth—typically the wealthiest and most politically powerful. The requirement for pair bonding is a singular dependence that must be accommodated or the very life of the nation is in severe jeopardy. Unless we are going to disenfranchise females, it is necessary to divide this minimal territory in two parts so that the pair bond is encouraged within a money-based economy. Corruption of assessment takes 2 forms: 1) Underassessment by the government of favored individuals and, 2) Over assessment by the government of disfavored individuals. In underassessment, a private individual may come in and offer more than is the government thereby raising the pressure on the current owner to transfer title. In overassessment, the current owner may escape payment of exorbitant fees by accepting the exorbitant bid.
* National revenue is sent in equal amounts to all citizens as monthly deposits in their bank accounts and all able bodied men are required to arm themselves and participate in county militia training for protection of private property rights as well as defense of country.
As the national revenue derives from the risk free economic growth of the society, it is the proper source of social expenditure. As political systems are notoriously corruptible when involved in deciding social expenditure, it is prudent to remove discretion from political systems, “the political class”, in allocating social expenditure—and this includes discretion in interpretation of complex rules of allocation. It is therefore essential that money gathered by the government be immediately dispersed evenly to all citizens so their personal market decisions drive investment capital toward serving the demands of the citizenry rather than some elite. The ultimate social expenditure that cannot be left to charity is military defense of national territory and, secondarily, private property rights. The Swiss model of defense, based around mandatory military service by all able bodied men, commanded by the Cantons has proven quite effective in defending territory while also avoiding entangling military alliances that result in world wars. Individual responsibility for using the citizen’s dividend stream to self-equip according to local standards under local command minimizes the likelihood of central government corruption of the military and maintains a force at-the-ready throughout the land for defense of the nation as well as the law.