Some years ago I gave my expression to my own feeling — anti-patriotic feeling, it will doubtless be called — in a somewhat startling way. It was at , when, in pursuance of what were thought to be “our interests,” we were invading Afghanistan. News had come that some of our troops were in danger. At the Athenæum Club a well-known military man — then a captain but now a general — drew my attention to a telegram containing this news, and read it to me in a manner implying the belief that I should share his anxiety. I astounded him by replying — “When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.”
I foresee the exclamation which will be called forth. Such a principle, it will be said, would make an army impossible and a government powerless. It would never do to have each soldier use his judgment about the purpose for which a battle is waged. Military organization would be paralyzed and our country would be a prey to the first invader.
Not so fast, is the reply. For one war an army would remain just as available as now — a war of national defence. In such a war every soldier would be conscious of the justice of his cause. He would not be engaged in dealing death among men about whose doings, good or ill, he knew nothing, but among men who were manifest transgressors against himself and his compatriots. Only aggressive war would be negatived, not defensive war.
Of course it may be said, and said truly, that if there is no aggressive war there can be no defensive war. It is clear, however, that one nation may limit itself to defensive war when other nations do not. So that the principle remains operative.
But those whose cry is — “Our country, right or wrong!” and who would add to our eighty-odd possessions others to be similarly obtained, will contemplate with disgust such a restriction upon military action. To them no folly seems greater than that of practising on Monday the principles they profess on Sunday.
John Lopez of No Treason asks a tough question or two of the “Constitutionalist” tax protesters:
What does someone say when they claim that the Constitution doesn’t authorize income taxes, and therefore the IRS is in the wrong for collecting them? They’re saying that if the Constitution in fact authorized income taxes, then you’d be in the wrong for not paying them.…
Because those are the only two choices on the table, here: either government law is in fact the arbiter of right and wrong, or it is not. If it is, then the government of the United States can rightfully pack up every person it wants to into cattle cars and stuff them into the ovens — as long as the paperwork is correct. If government law isn’t the arbiter of right and wrong, then the arguments about what “the law” purports to authorize are meaningless for determining what ought to be done.…
Now, some of the folks in the tax-protest movement admit that their endorsement of government isn’t honest, but claim that it’s merely a means to an end. Most people can’t or won’t understand the moral arguments, they say, so they feel that they need to lie in order to spread their ideas. They don’t call it lying, of course, they call it “making arguments.” But calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it so: words do in fact have meanings.…
They’re offering a lie. But their opponents are offering better lies: free stuff on everyone else’s dime. Sure you pay a little in taxes, but Senator Fatbottom’s getting Frogdick County twenty million bucks in Federal grants because of it! What, you wanna get rid of all the things that the government gives you?…
It’s up to you what you want to be: Henry David Thoreau marching to the beat of his own drummer, Bill Clinton eagerly fleecing the masses, or some pitiful myope dropping his shovel and petitioning his masters because they aren’t whipping him according to regulation.
And then I found Bob Black’s essay White Man’s Ghost Dance, which is even more fun to read:
Constitutionalists look upon law as the word-magic of lawyer-necromancers who draw their wizardly powers from grimoires, from books of magic spells they have selfishly withheld from the people. Constitutionalists have extracted from these books — from judicial opinions, from the Constitution, from legal dictionaries, from the Bible, from what-have-you — white magic with which to confound the dark powers of legislation, equity, and common sense. Never mind what words like “Sovereign Citizen” or “Lawful Money” mean — what does “abracadabra” mean? — it’s what they do that counts. Unfortunately, Constitutionalist words don’t do anything but lose court cases and invite sanctions. Constitutionalism is the white man’s version of the Ghost Dance. Believing you are invulnerable to bullets puts you in more, not less, danger of being shot.…
In Egyptian mythology, the god Osiris was slain by his brother Set, and his dismembered pieces were scattered far and wide. But these parts could no more die than could immortal Osiris, although, dispersed and hidden, they were separately impotent. Once his limbs were retrieved and reassembled, mighty Osiris rose from the dead and vanquished the forces of evil. That’s how Constitutionalists regard the Common Law. Now that their treasure-hunt has turned up the missing pieces, all Americans have to do, according to the Oklahoma Freedom Council, is get it all together and “the country would be free overnight.” And they all lived happily ever after.
The tragedy of Constitutionalism is that it hopes to evoke by its magic an idealized imagined earlier version of the very form of society — our own — that was the first to banish magic from the world. With growing commerce came calculation, quantification, and the distinction of “is” from “ought.” Myth is timeless, but when it comes to the performance of contracts, “time is of the essence.” Money is merely a generally accepted medium of exchange, not some sacred “substance”; whether it’s gold, silver, tobacco, or paper is a matter of convenience. Law is any application for the official use of coercion that succeeds. The proprietor or trader is indifferent to whether his invocation of the law against a thief, a trespasser, a business rival, or a communist revolutionary owed its effectiveness to immemorial custom, legislation, the Ten Commandments, or a well-placed bribe. Myth and magic are merely tactics to try on those who believe in them. Judges don’t believe in Constitutionalism and neither do very many other people.
Nor ever will. Constitutionalism combines the worst features of superstition and reality without the attractions of either. Like real law, it’s dull as dirt; unlike real law, it doesn’t work. Like superstition, it’s inconsistent, irrational, obscurantist, and ineffectual, but it entirely lacks the poetry and pageantry that often enliven myth and religion. Very few people espouse belief-systems this complicated and crackbrained unless, as with Catholicism or Mormonism, they grow up in them. We seem to be in prime time, sad to say, for cults both old and new, but not this one. It isn’t even tax-deductible.
For more information on the topic or topics below (organized as “topic → subtopic → sub-subtopic”), click on any of the ♦ symbols to see other pages on this site that cover the topic. Or browse the site’s topic index at the “Outline” page.
- How you can resist funding the government → other tax resistance strategies → Constitutionalist tax protest stuff (“show me the law!”) → dumb, incorrect, and doomed
- ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
- Have things really gotten that bad? → U.S. citizens aren’t rising to the challenge → public acquiescence / approval / collaboration
- ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦