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Capitalism and the Proper Role of Government

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Governments and Individual Rights

Capitalism Requires a Strong Government

Copyright 2011 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

12/03/2011

Some of my FaceBook friends and others I know via the Internet seem to think that if only we didn’t have a government, then people would get along and no rights would be violated. Hence, they are for what they call “anarcho-capitalism” – a type of freedom from force that would occur if there were no governments. I think this is an incorrect assessment of what would happen if there were no government or no agency of force to protect oneself from criminals.

Basically, individual rights are a moral concept – it means that it is morally right for individuals to lead their lives as they see fit, so long as they do not use force or fraud against others. The recognition of individual rights is required for one to have the moral stance that one ought to be left alone to be able to act on the decisions of one’s own mind. The individual mind is paramount, since man has no automatic code of action and must think things through to find out what is beneficial to his life and what is detrimental to his life. It is morally right for a man to live according to his own judgment, because the human mind is the source of his survival qua man and qua individual. The mind is individual, and hence each man has to be free to use his own mind to live his own life.

The only way to violate individual rights is through force or fraud (an indirect use of force) – otherwise a man would be free to live his life according to his own standards without interference from others. And the only way to defend oneself from the initiation of force is via protective force – force used against those who would take away one’s property, one’s freedom, or one’s rights. Force is necessary for self-defense, and its only moral justification is for self-defense against those who would use force against oneself. Hence, there is a need to be able to protect oneself from the forcers in order to have freedom to act according to ones own judgment. So, unless one wants to spend a lot of time defending oneself against one’s attackers, some agency of force or counter-force is necessary. And this is the role of a proper government.

Those who don’t want a government would still need some agency of force to defend themselves against attackers, they just don’t want it to be some official agency with that sole power of using force legitimately. But in this state of affairs, with each person choosing their own agency of force, there would be no overriding agency to control the use of force or counter-force, leading to gang warfare – of one private agency of force acting against others, leading to no objective control over the use of force.

So, a carefully controlled agency of force is necessary for a society not to break down into gang warfare. This is the role of the government, with clearly defined areas of operation and carefully controlled operations, generally via a constitution specifically spelling out what the government is permitted to do. Some wonder how this control over the government would operate, and the basic answer is that the people would have to know their rights and have a stance of eternal vigilance against a force welder running amuck and violating rights instead of defending them. In other words, the government requires the consent of the governed, and it is the governed who have to be ever-watchful that the agency of force is not violating rights, but is defending them. The original constitution of the United States was a great document spelling out the role of the government, but it did have some flaws and was not entirely consistent in the defense of rights, and when the concept of rights began to waiver due to the influence of bad (irrational) philosophy, that agency of force began to violate rights instead of defending them. As I’ve said before, the only solution is eternal vigilance and for the people with the right ideas of rights to control the government, primarily by speaking out against the rights violators and voting rights violators out of office. I don’t think there is any other solution to this problem, but I certainly think that getting rid of government is the wrong approach and will lead to gang warfare.

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"

If we abandon the collectivized mindset, we see that anarchism would mean any individual can "take the law into his own hands." But when he uses what he feels to be retaliatory, and thus morally justified, force, he is taking exactly the same action to which anarchists object when taken by a government: attempting to forcibly exclude the "competing" use of force by the initiator of force (e.g., the gunman). If it is morally proper for an individual to defend himself by force, it is morally proper for him to band together with others to do so—i.e., to form a government.

The same facts that make individual self-defense moral—i.e., the right to self-defense—makes governmental force moral if it is used in defense of the rights of individuals." - from this excellent articel ( by Binswanger ) here : http://www.hblist.com/anarchy.htm

The above alone proves that anarcho-caps are a bunch of hypocritical, pacificist fools that are not talking about capitalism but what you see in Mad Max.

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Don't look now, but there's government a'plenty every which way one looks -- and plenty of gang warfare to go along with it.

Government is in fact its own gang protecting itself from other gangs, including me, the eternally vigilant.

Correct. Freedom requires eternal vigilance of those who want to gain and keep their political freedom. It also requires that every man be armed and capable of defending said freedom. The Founders understood this and gave us the Bill of Rights to help us in that effort.

Are you armed? Why or why not?

Do you know your rights and how to exercise them? Why or why not?

Are you capable of and willing to defend them? Why or why not?

Yes, the Constitution has flaws, but no other document has even come close to it in the history of mankind in thought and action. I'd be careful of tossing it to the scrap heap. Not saying that you are. But all too often people are willing to talk about the flaws of the Constitution as opposed to its strengths and what it does in fact give us.

People are all too willing to claim that we need government and the "protection" that it gives us, but not too quick to talk about what they can do for themselves in that effort. If we stand up and take responsibility for ourselves, government will shrink in proportion to that effort and that fact and will find its proper place in our society by our putting it there. It's not only our right, it is our duty, our job, our moral imperative.

But we have shirked the task. And now we are fighting to protect ourselves from government instead of seeing to it that government is doing its job -- and we are very quickly losing this fight.

Edited by Thor

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I certainly agree that past a certain point it is moral to use force against one's government. The trick is to clearly define that threshold -- and I think that line crossed is when the government becomes a dictatorship, shutting down any other route to change the government for the better (like cancelling free speech and free associations). We are not at that point yet in the United States, which is why I do not endorse armed rebellion against the government.

By the way, the most definitive essay on rights that I am aware of is posted to the Ayn Rand Center website, "Man's Rights" by Ayn Rand:

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=arc_ayn_rand_man_rights

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I certainly agree that past a certain point it is moral to use force against one's government. The trick is to clearly define that threshold -- and I think that line crossed is when the government becomes a dictatorship, shutting down any other route to change the government for the better (like cancelling free speech and free associations). We are not at that point yet in the United States, which is why I do not endorse armed rebellion against the government.

By the way, the most definitive essay on rights that I am aware of is posted to the Ayn Rand Center website, "Man's Rights" by Ayn Rand:

http://www.aynrand.o...rand_man_rights

Who said anything about armed rebellion against the government?

"The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave."

That's one of the things I just love about Rand. She spoke not only of slavery in history, but of slavery in its other proper context: the present tense.

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Governments and Individual Rights

Capitalism Requires a Strong Government

Copyright 2011 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

12/03/2011

Some of my FaceBook friends and others I know via the Internet seem to think that if only we didn’t have a government, then people would get along and no rights would be violated. Hence, they are for what they call “anarcho-capitalism” – a type of freedom from force that would occur if there were no governments. I think this is an incorrect assessment of what would happen if there were no government or no agency of force to protect oneself from criminals.

I don't know about your facebook friends, but to be fair, there is literally no libertarian or anarcho-capitalist intellectual that has ever said this. (Unless there is some Tolstoyan anarcho-capitalist I have never heard of.)

But secondly, you never explained why gang warfare would break out if there is no official agency with sole power to use force legitimately, or how this differs from the gang warfare that already exists in society, or the kind of gang warfare that already exists in the form of "pressure group warfare."

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I'll have to think about it some more, but I think I disagree with Binswanger's position that using force in proper self-defense is imposing one's rational morality onto the attackers. Under Objectivism, rationality is the highest virtue and the basis for all other virtues -- and one cannot force another mind to think. Hence, one cannot force another to be rational -- i.e. to be moral. Under the emergency conditions of responding to an attacker with force, one is stating that life is the standard and one is rational enough to be aware of that and to defend oneself, but one is not forcing the attacker to think. If I was still on the HBL (Harry Binswanger list) I would certainly challenge him on that view.

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The position that everyone would get along under anarchy and be rational is implicit in the idea that one choosing one's retaliatory agency would lead to peace because those agencies would operate within reason. I don't think they would. The gang warfare aspect would come about because Joe and Sammy would each have their own agency of retaliatory force, and when pitted against each other in a disagreement could not lead to anything except these agencies of force fighting it out in the streets.

As to our current form of government, which is a mixed economy heading rapidly towards fascism, yes, I agree that they use unjustified force, and this needs to be stopped. When I defend capitalism, I am not talking about what we have currently, but what we had at the beginning of the country, whereby a man was free to live his own life and engage in trade to mutual advantage, without the government interfering.

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When it comes down to the use of force, which may only be used in retaliation and is a last ditch effort to save oneself, there is no thinking involved at all.

The thinking, i.e., the training, should have been done before the use of force was necessary.

Thus, the old saying, "the best use of a gun is simply having one".

In other words, if you are not armed now, you won't be when you'll need to be.

If you don't know your rights now, you won't know them when you'll need them.

If you are hesitating in learning and having these things because you believe your government is going to come to the rescue and protect your rights and your property in the event you need protection...

... you deserve exactly what is coming to you.

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I disagree that there is no thinking involved in self-defense. True, under the emergency situation of having a gun pointed at oneself one is not going to try to figure out the proper role of the axioms, but one should certainly not just fire off a few rounds without thinking about it. The proper training is necessary because there is a lot of reflexive reactions involved, so I agree that one ought to learn self-defense (and possibly even carry a gun). But I haven't ever had to use the karate I know against an attacker, and I got my training about 30 years ago.So that is 30 years I have gone without having to use it. And the only time I felt threatened enough to get a gun was when I was being stalked and harassed in 2005. I seriously thought about using it, but so long as they were not shooting at me, I couldn't do much about it -- like shoot the bastards. Besides, many state have laws on the books that if one even just shows a gun one can go to jail for brandishing a weapon. I don't think these laws are rational, but yet, that is what we have to deal with in our current anti-gun / anti-self-defense culture.

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The position that everyone would get along under anarchy and be rational is implicit in the idea that one choosing one's retaliatory agency would lead to peace because those agencies would operate within reason. I don't think they would. The gang warfare aspect would come about because Joe and Sammy would each have their own agency of retaliatory force, and when pitted against each other in a disagreement could not lead to anything except these agencies of force fighting it out in the streets.

As to our current form of government, which is a mixed economy heading rapidly towards fascism, yes, I agree that they use unjustified force, and this needs to be stopped. When I defend capitalism, I am not talking about what we have currently, but what we had at the beginning of the country, whereby a man was free to live his own life and engage in trade to mutual advantage, without the government interfering.

Really? If two agencies disagree, it could not lead to anything but fighting it out in the streets? Ever?

If you say, okay well not every time, then how do you square this away with the contention in the second paragraph, that you yourself seem to be saying that you want a society in which everybody will at least by and large get along and be rational? Why couldn't it be, by and large, the same way in the other case? Of course no anarcho-capitalist says that no agency could ever fight with another. What they say is that we can make a distinction between outlaw agencies and legitimate agencies, and there are better incentives for dealing with potential outlaw force users under competition, namely that if they fight, the fighting is limited to their customers who voluntarily choose to fund it, and people who don't agree with the fighting can choose to withdraw their funds. But having only one agency which can also become outlaw (i.e. a mixed economy) is a worse incentive structure. If you think people will be rational enough to avoid corrupting the one single agency and use illegitimate force, but will always in every disagreement use illegitimate force in the later, then how does this make sense? I just don't think the whole "there will be gang warfare" ends up being a good objection.

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I'm certainly not making the claim that everyone (in government or not) would be rational under capitalism and a limited government. But with a properly defined government (i.e the Constitution) the limits of the law are spelled out and a whole system of resolving disputes (i.e the court system) is clearly defined and operative. I don't see that happening under anarchy, despite some anarchist's having good intentions (the protection of their rights). In other words, we do have a clearly defined system of taking on the government right now, it's just that so many people do not understand their rights and so do not defend them in the courts of law. The only solution is to educate individuals as to their legitimate rights and encourage them to defend them in the law courts or the voting booth. The bottom line is that rationality needs to be seen as a virtue, and egoism as the proper stance of the individual. It was irrational philosophy that led us down this wrong path, and only a rational philosophy can correct it.

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Well, right, so some people would be rational, some irrational in each case. But now that's changing the argument from "there can't be anything but gang warfare" to a focus on the morality and stability of the law. If we're going to win this, we just need to have arguments a little bit better than "there will be gangs fighting it out in the streets," I think. It's not like they haven't responded to that and will just laugh at us.

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I'll have to think about it some more, but I think I disagree with Binswanger's position that using force in proper self-defense is imposing one's rational morality onto the attackers. Under Objectivism, rationality is the highest virtue and the basis for all other virtues -- and one cannot force another mind to think. Hence, one cannot force another to be rational -- i.e. to be moral. Under the emergency conditions of responding to an attacker with force, one is stating that life is the standard and one is rational enough to be aware of that and to defend oneself, but one is not forcing the attacker to think. If I was still on the HBL (Harry Binswanger list) I would certainly challenge him on that view.

I think Rand stated it quite eloquently in Galt's Speech: "It is only as retaliation that force may be used and only against the man who starts its use. No, I do not share his evil or sink to his concept of morality: I merely grant him his choice, destruction, the only destruction he had the right to choose: his own."

If I am imposing my rational morality onto the attacker, it is only by administering justice to a situation where justice needs to be executed here and now due to the immediacy of having to deal with an irrationality which has escalated to a physical threat at the moment.

Was Binswanger's position only stated on the HBL, or is it available for first hand observation elsewhere?

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. Was Binswanger's position only stated on the HBL, or is it available for first hand observation elsewhere?

He posted his essay and a follow-up to his HBL website. The link was presented earlier, but here it is again:

http://www.hblist.com/anarchy.htm

I'm no longer on the HBL email list due to a personal falling out between Harry and myself when I got him involved in a personal dispute, which I deeply regret.

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"If one must avoid imposing moral ideas by force, then one must renounce force altogether—i.e., practice pacifism."

I do not think this is the position he is advocating, rather it is taking the anarchist view to the extreme to reveal the contradiction. Proper moral ideals established in the context of the recognition of individual rights permit the intervention by force when an individuals rights are violated, which can only happen by the initiation of force by another.

Your earlier assessment of "It was irrational philosophy that led us down this wrong path, and only a rational philosophy can correct it." could be restated in Binswanger's words from "Consciousness As Identification" where he stated the anti-conceptual mentality (irrational philosophy" cannot grasp (not easily anyway) the conceptual mentality (built via a rational philosophy.) Capitalism, including the privatization of schools, and the proper role of government should wholly embrace that education is far too important to be left in the hands of government.

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If you accept the need for objective law, and the protection of individual rights as being the only legitimate use of force, it would logically follow that you believe in an agency with a monopoly on the legal use of force (government).

My reasoning is this: if there are competing agencies with access to force, it would mean that there would be a variety of different standards of what constitutes a moral application of force being played out in a sort of marketplace for private "security" agencies. If all of these agencies accepted the concept individual rights then there would be no need for them to compete. Unless they are competing to offer a better service than their competitors while sticking to the protection of individual rights... but that's precisely what a democratic government backed by a proper constitution is (or should be) to begin with. If one party fails to uphold the constitution, then the public votes in (hires) a different one to take its place. But in anarchy, these agencies would be offering different services from one another, meaning some might accept individual rights and the others not. If you are someone who believes in individual rights, you would hire and support that agency which strives to protect those rights, and you would also want them to beat out the rest of the competition and have a monopoly so that you could live in freedom. Hence, you would want them to form a government.

Edited by Reason_Being

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If you accept the need for objective law, and the protection of individual rights as being the only legitimate use of force, it would logically follow that you believe in an agency with a monopoly on the legal use of force (government).

Why would there necessarily be extensively different standards? The Internet runs fine and many companies do use standards of communication. You could use the same idea of having a variety of standards available to claim there should be a government-defined Internet. Varying standards in the moral application force might not lead to radically different moral viewpoints. It probably wouldn't.

Simply agreeing about the concept of individual rights does not mean competition is pointless. If two companies agree about what the ideal mp3 player should look like, should they not compete? Even if the end result of the product was basically the same, are there differences in the functioning of the company itself? Good management? All that stuff.

Most of these arguments (in the post I quoted) could be used to call for government regulation of any and all industries. In this case, it's government regulation of the application of force, that's the only difference. A better explanation would require an explanation of what is so *different* about the application of force that a government monopoly is not only a good idea, but a necessity.

Edited by Eiuol

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And two more quibbles with this argument that the anarcho-capitalist would likely point out, that this is definitely not "precisely" what a democratic government is, and that having purchased services from any given company doesn't commit you to wanting your one company to beat out everyone else and have a monopoly. That's kind of silly. Just because I buy an iPhone doesn't mean I want Apple to have a monopoly and all the rest to go out of business so that everyone has the same phone. I might want free competition precisely because I don't want the standards and quality of Apple to fall, and I might want to buy a Japanese or Korean phone next, if they are able to put out something better, or switch between them as I see fit based on each striving to win over the consumer.

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In this case, it's government regulation of the application of force, that's the only difference. A better explanation would require an explanation of what is so *different* about the application of force that a government monopoly is not only a good idea, but a necessity.

Because we are talking about force and the application of force, and not the operations of the free market with value for value being freely exchanged. Besides, in the original conception of the United States Constitution, there were balances to the use of force, pitting, say, state governments against the federal government, but it was clearly defined as to how they would settle differences. Under anarchy, without such a mechanism to settle disagreements in place, what would guarantee that the disputing parties (the different agencies of force) would sit down at a negotiating table instead of taking up arms against a supposed rouge agency of force? And I don't think the anarchist, by and large, are all that concerned with individual rights anyhow. If they were, they wouldn't mind having a government to secure their individual rights. I think what they really want is the "freedom" to settle issues of force themselves, taking the law into their own hands, and not have to worry about justifying their use of force to anyone. This is very dangerous.

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Thankfully, here in America we have The Bill Of Rights.

The government shall not have a monopoly on the use of force.

They're trying hard to get it, but we have thus prevailed.

:-)

Oh, Joy!

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Because we are talking about force and the application of force, and not the operations of the free market with value for value being freely exchanged. Besides, in the original conception of the United States Constitution, there were balances to the use of force, pitting, say, state governments against the federal government, but it was clearly defined as to how they would settle differences. Under anarchy, without such a mechanism to settle disagreements in place, what would guarantee that the disputing parties (the different agencies of force) would sit down at a negotiating table instead of taking up arms against a supposed rouge agency of force? And I don't think the anarchist, by and large, are all that concerned with individual rights anyhow. If they were, they wouldn't mind having a government to secure their individual rights. I think what they really want is the "freedom" to settle issues of force themselves, taking the law into their own hands, and not have to worry about justifying their use of force to anyone. This is very dangerous.

But Thomas, we are too talking about the application of force, and also talking about the free market, namely about defense services being exchanged on the market, value for value. It does no good to the anarcho-capitalist argument to simply say "But we're talking about force here! Force!" as if that implies some conclusion without specifying it. We have to do better than that.

Now you say, what's to guarantee parties will sit down and negotiate instead of fighting it out in the streets. Well what's to guarantee it now? You and I are disagreeing and not fighting it out in the streets. Is it merely because the US government stops us from doing this? The incentives to peacefully cooperate are vast, namely because it is in your rational self-interest to. Self-interest is entirely sufficient to explain the phenomenon of peaceful cooperation and ordering of society. To contend otherwise is to advance a skeptical Hobbesian view of human nature that I don't think is compatible with the Objectivist view, that there will be permanent war among mankind unless we all submit ourselves to the sovereign.

So what incentives would there be to not constantly be clashing violently? It should be quite easy to see that two defense agencies coming to a conflicting conclusion would not just grab guns and shoot it out: because that would be a stupid idea. Instead, then economic and moral incentives compel people to do what they do already, which is to submit to a third party arbitrator. It would be economically and physically destructive, so the use of private court proceedings could be resorted to. There is, after all, no single world government, and so are there any more constant clashes and "fighting it out in the streets" between Canadians and Americans, or Austrians and Germans, who live on the border? No of course not. So this argument is useless.

Now you can say that some libertarian anarchists don't really care about individual rights and only want to use force at their whim, and you may be right, but what if you meet an anarchist that says, "No, I do care very much, and no I don't want anyone to use force without objectively justifying it." Then what? Such psychologizing doesn't work out. I agree with Eiuol that we should focus the argument on why it would be that there must be a monopoly in order to have objective law.

Edited by 2046

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I think you are forgetting something when you try to compare anarchy and the current different government that exist around the world not fighting it out. The governing idea behind the peaceful cooperation among different government is that of jurisdiction -- that their powers are specified and that they apply in a certain specified geographical area. This is the reason we can have Federal, State, and Local government operating together. Jurisdiction says that each has a limited domain and authority that is pre-specified, and not operable outside their authority or borders.

But you couldn't have that under private security agencies, because there wouldn't be any jurisdiction -- no pre-spelled-out jurisdictions. If there were, it would become a government. Besides, if Sally has one agency of force, Timmy has another, and Joe has yet another, and they are next door neighbors; can Timmy's agency of force prevent Joe's agency of force from crossing a border? This is what you have with governments -- the other government cannot cross the borders, unless it is spelled out ahead of time that the crossing can occur under certain conditions. Without that pre-agreement, then all hell breaks loose when one agency of force crosses some other agency of force's boundaries.

This is why there has to be ultimately a monopoly of the agency of retaliatory force. If you want to know what it is like without the pre-agreement or the monopoly, you only have to take a look at street gangs and how they operate. Anarchy wouldn't be any different. Why does it have to work out that way? Because they are agencies of force with no jurisdiction spelled out ahead of time (which would be a government anyhow, so it contradicts the anarchist position).

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I think you are forgetting something when you try to compare anarchy and the current different government that exist around the world not fighting it out. The governing idea behind the peaceful cooperation among different government is that of jurisdiction -- that their powers are specified and that they apply in a certain specified geographical area. This is the reason we can have Federal, State, and Local government operating together. Jurisdiction says that each has a limited domain and authority that is pre-specified, and not operable outside their authority or borders.

But you couldn't have that under private security agencies, because there wouldn't be any jurisdiction -- no pre-spelled-out jurisdictions. If there were, it would become a government. Besides, if Sally has one agency of force, Timmy has another, and Joe has yet another, and they are next door neighbors; can Timmy's agency of force prevent Joe's agency of force from crossing a border? This is what you have with governments -- the other government cannot cross the borders, unless it is spelled out ahead of time that the crossing can occur under certain conditions. Without that pre-agreement, then all hell breaks loose when one agency of force crosses some other agency of force's boundaries.

This is why there has to be ultimately a monopoly of the agency of retaliatory force. If you want to know what it is like without the pre-agreement or the monopoly, you only have to take a look at street gangs and how they operate. Anarchy wouldn't be any different. Why does it have to work out that way? Because they are agencies of force with no jurisdiction spelled out ahead of time (which would be a government anyhow, so it contradicts the anarchist position).

Genius.

You're catchin' on quick.

One of the biggest problems we have with our government today is the various agencies stepping out of their respective jurisdictions and breaking the very laws they are sworn to uphold.

But out here in the west, there is a growing movement underway that is striking at the very root of this problem and is helping to put the violaters back into their cages -- before it's too late.

Learn about coordination and how it is done and educate your local sheriff and community. It is probably the last hope for the United States.

Let's hope the people snap out of it before it's too late.

It's crunch time, folks. No doubt about it.

Educate, motivate and get in the fight -- or kiss this place goodbye.

Edited by Thor

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