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Social Chaos—Part IV

In the first three sections I emphasized the observable consequences of order imposed on society by law. Men write laws and set up agencies to administer and enforce them because they believe they will improve various aspects of society. In reality, everything a law is supposed to improve or correct, it makes worse, and has consequences that are ultimately devastating to society. Order imposed by law is the order of death, to men and societies.

In this section I explain why laws have this effect and show that it is the inherent nature of laws themselves that is the reason for their failure.

Why Laws Do Not Work

The ultimate requirement of human behavior is conscious choice. Choice is only possible where one is free to choose. In any area of human life where freedom of choice is restricted, the very basic requirement of human life is restricted. Every law is a limit on the available choices one has in the area covered by that law, a limit on the basic requirement of human life.

It is this limiting factor of law that is the ultimate principle laws violate and the essential reason they are always detrimental to any society. The violation of this principle results in certain inherent characteristics of law which contribute to their failure

Laws Arbitrary

Some laws are an attempt do codify certain principles, such as the principle of non-initiation of force or "property rights." Most laws, however, are specific and meant to address some particular supposed wrong or problem in society, or to implement some specific program supposed necessary to society (think highways).

Such laws are always arbitrary, and assume a power which does not exist—the ability to predict the future. Every law meant to address some supposed problem (lack of health insurance by the poor, for example) whatever specific measure is legally put in place to solve the problem ends any possibility that people will solve the problem themselves if left free to do so.

More importantly, such measures never solve the problem they are supposed to solve. Reality is reality, (despite the bureaucrat's belief they can change it by passing a law), and resources are limited, (no matter how much is confiscated from the productive citizens), and there will always be some "needy" people not covered by the law. There is always some arbitrary boundary that must be set for any such laws—everyone with an income under such'n'such, for example, which leaves everyone with a penny or more income out. Since incomes, cost of living, inflation, employment, and individual situations are in constant flux, no law, even if perfect today, would apply to tomorrow's economic and social conditions.

I've already addressed the inherent unfairness (read oppressiveness) of laws because of their arbitrary nature, and the fact that everyone is different.

Laws Are Not Principles

When someone says, "it is wrong to do that because it is against the law," it is an expression of a very discouraging superstition, held by most people, that what they regard as "morally" right and wrong is determined by the law. Some laws may be the attempt to codify what people regard as moral principles (such as the prohibition of murder), but if murder is wrong (and it is) it would be wrong no matter what the law says. If, tomorrow, a law were passed allowing murder (which ought not to be thought impossible in this postmodernist age, since murder by the police is already generally sanctioned), it would still be wrong to murder. Right and wrong are determined by principles, not laws.

Laws cannot be used to determine which choices are right and which are wrong, because laws are not principles, they are proscriptions and prescriptions one is required to comply with without choice. There is an even more serious problem with proscriptions and prescriptions; they are inherently without context. In real life, no act is without a context, every choice is made in a different situation, with different considerations. There is no way to write a law that covers all possible conditions.

Laws Must Be Interpreted

One of the arguments for a system of laws is that they are necessary to a government of laws, not men. However, because no law can be written to cover every possible situation, and because social relationships, businesses, products, services, technology, markets, and the economy constantly change, laws must be interpreted to determine how they apply in every new context and every new situation. They are interpreted by men.

In the end, it is not a government of laws at all, it is a government of men who interpret the laws. Most laws can and are interpreted to mean anything those men choose. Just as those who discover they can use force with impunity are bound to abuse that power, those with the authority to decide what law means are bound to abuse that authority.

Laws Violate Principles

Ultimately those with the power to interpret the law will use it for their own purposes, to garner power, wealth, or influence. In the end, the laws are used to violate the very principles they are supposedly meant to codify and preserve.

The intended purpose of laws to protect individuals and their property from abuse or violence is thwarted by the very laws meant to protect those things. When lawmakers and courts collude to take citizens' property from them in the form of taxes or by eminent domain and give it to others, like welfare recipients or developers, the law is used to violate the very principle they are supposed to preserve. Those who receive this government largess would never dare take your property from you by force, which even they would consider immoral, but when the government does it for them, "legally," they not only have no moral compunction about receiving what they have not earned, but resent any suggestion there is anything wrong with it. It's the law, after all.

You may feel protected by laws against murder and kidnapping, but if you become a bother to someone, they do not have to murder you to get you out of the way. They only have to hire a psychiatrist to declare in court you are insane or incompetent and need to be institutionalized; or they can take the short route and simply have you lobotomized, the way Joe Kennedy did his daughter. After all, it's perfectly legal.

Laws Always Grow

Because laws are not contextual, because the make-up of societies, social relationships, businesses, economies, even customs constantly change, and all laws never work or do what they are supposed to do, new laws are continually written to correct the earlier failures. Old laws are almost never done away with, because it would be an admission they do not work. It is never admitted it is the laws themselves that fail; it is assumed the laws would work, only they didn't go far enough or were not administered correctly. All that is needed is one more additional measure of control, a little more power, a little wider authority, another program, a little more funding—then they will work.

In the computer world, software that has been modified over a long period of time to add new functionality and features, sometimes has so many layers of code, no one knows how all of it interacts anymore. When failures occur, the code is so convoluted the cause of the failures is frequently impossible to trace. Software that has reached that level of complexity is called spaghetti code.

Laws always become spaghetti code. No one really knows what the law says, for every law there is another law that contradicts it. It means, for you the citizen, no matter what you are doing, you are probably breaking the law.

Law Makes Living Morally Impossible

Even when laws prohibit things one would not choose to do anyway, or proscribe things one would do anyway, they still restrict an individual's freedom of choice. For anyone who would never even consider murder, a law prohibiting murder takes away the option of choosing not to murder and is an insult both to the intelligence and moral character of that individual. For any truly honest individual, laws prohibiting theft and fraud eliminate the opportunity to demonstrate one's integrity by choice, not only insulting the intelligence of the honest, but denigrating his character, by the implication that his "honesty" is merely compliance with the law. What would have been a moral choice, becomes instead, obedience, a contradiction of freedom which denies the individual the psychological requirement of knowing one's choices are virtuous.

Obedience Is Slavery

Obedience is not choice. Obedience is the opposite of choice. When the option of choosing is replaced by laws that dictate behavior, whatever one does, even if it were what they would choose if they had that option, it is not freedom, it is slavery.

It is true, one may choose to obey, just as one may choose to be a slave, but neither being a slave or an obedient subject of the realm is living a fully human life. Both are a surrender of one's life, one's volition, for something less, for security or guarantees.

Most people do not want to be free. The "order" that law imposes on society, though it restricts their freedom, is comforting and promises security. The very restrictions such laws place on the development of new products, processes, and methods of doing things, is exactly what most people want. They like the assurance that tomorrow is going to be pretty much like today, that they won't have to learn anything hard or new to live in tomorrow's world.

Many people are like the servant's of ancient Israel. According to Mosaic law, an Israelite could have another Israelite as a slave for purposes of paying a debt, but could only have that slave for six years, after which the slave would be free. If, however, a slave discovered he liked the comfort and security of his master's home he could declare his choice not to go free, and if the master was willing, before the judges the master would bore the slave's ear with an awl, and the slave would be his slave for life. (Exodus 21:5).

Most people choose obedience over freedom because they like the security and comfort; because the order their masters impose on their homeland is pleasant. Though it is the order of regimentation, stagnation, and death, it is a slow death, and hardly noticed by those who have surrendered their lives to it.

There Will Always be Laws

Laws kill. Laws kill everything that is necessary to human success and happiness, both individuals and the societies free individuals make possible.

There will always be laws, however, because there will always be governments. Most people do not want to live free—they would rather have their ears pierced and wear the ring of the law and forever be slaves of any government that promises to protect them from the risks of life and guarantee they will never have to work too hard. More importantly, they will never have to think too hard.

It is that aspect of law that is most appealing to those who lust after "law and order." Laws eliminate the need to think. So long as the law tells one what to do, they do not have to figure out what is right or wrong, they just obey the law, and so long as one equates "legal" with "moral," they have the added benefit of knowing they are good moral people—they always obey the law.

Freedom, Not Laws

Laws and freedom are incompatible; laws demand obedience and obedience is slavery. Most people are happy with that fact, delighted to be obedient citizens, and never know they are slaves.

Freedom is not for everyone, but for the self-sufficient, the independent who know they are competent to live successfully and happily in this world by their own wits and effort, who do not need anyone to tell them how to live their life or anyone else's approval of how they live, those who's sense of personal worth and worthiness would never allow them to seek anything in this world they did not earn or deserve, and who seek nothing from anyone else but what others are willing to exchange, or share, to their mutual benefit, or else to be left alone— for them, freedom is an absolute necessity.

For a very long time, those who truly sought freedom believed that somehow, government, which is the very antithesis of freedom, could be magically transformed into the protector of freedom by some system of laws. But laws, themselves, are antithetical to freedom and the belief that freedom can somehow be established by law is a baseless superstition.

What is Freedom?

Freedom is freedom to choose and to act on those choices. If you were the only human being in the world, you would have perfect freedom. You could choose to do anything and do it. What you could not do is evade the consequences of your choices.

Freedom is not freedom from risk, freedom from the necessity of thinking, or freedom from the consequences of wrong choices. Freedom is not a guarantee of success or happiness, though it is necessary to the pursuit of success and happiness. Freedom is not freedom from difficulty, disappointment, disaster, or the unexpected. Freedom is not freedom from danger, threats, or hardships. Freedom makes it possible for one to consider all of these things and discover ways to deal with them, but freedom does not ensure one can or will.

There is only one thing in this world that can take your freedom from you (or to which you, as most do, surrender it), that is other men. Freedom means freedom from other men.

When someone says, "you cannot do just anything you want to," they are admitting they do not know what freedom is. For the individual who truly wants freedom, freedom means doing just anything they want to, anything!

When that same fool says, "well then, you can just walk into someone else's house and help yourself to whatever you want if you're free," you know you are dealing with a second-hander who has no idea what freedom is. The reason why the individual who truly wants freedom can do anything he wants is because he knows freedom means freedom from other men, and the last thing he wants in this world is to be dependent on other men. There is no one in this world more dependent on other men than a thief.

It is not necessary to tell the freedom lover that initiation of force is forbidden, it would never occur to those who truly want freedom to seek the unearned or undeserved in any way. They only want to be free to earn their way and know they deserve all they enjoy in this life because they have earned and produced it and are worthy to live their lives, and enjoy them. That is happiness, and only those who seek freedom know it.

Freedom and Reality

Reality cannot be evaded, avoided, or defied. Reality is what is, and truth is whatever correctly describes any aspect of reality. The first step to freedom is the individual resolution to ruthlessly adhere to the truth in all of one's thinking and choices.

With that in mind, I would like to quickly explore some real facts, short truths, for the sake of those who seek to live freely in this world.

1. Government and laws are never going to be the means to freedom, for reasons already explained.

2. Government is inevitable, also for reasons previously explained.

3. The competent, individualistic, honest, and self-sufficient have no use for a government. It can only inhibit and restrict their lives and creativity. If you are not one of these, freedom will be of no use to you anyway.

For the freedom lover, these three facts mean simply, any efforts to fix government or laws, as a means to acquiring freedom is wasted effort, and any effort to convince those that do not want freedom is wasted as well.

4. Those who truly want freedom are no threat to anyone else, including the government. They only want to be left alone.

There is only one effort that might be worth making with respect to government. There is a movement, which is bound to fail, to allow states or sections of states (in the US) to declare their autonomy and secede from the union. The idea, however, is not without merit. There is only one thing the freedom loving ought to seek from government, the option to individually, "secede." It would mean surrendering all government protection and "benefits" but also exemption from all governments laws and regulations. Since they do not wish to harm or threaten anyone else's property or person, there is no danger to the government or any other citizens, except for the government's loss of tax revenue.

5. There is nothing in this world any government "provides" that individuals and the free market cannot provide and provide much better.

At the present time, many individuals are, "opting out," not by seceding (because that is not yet allowed), but by becoming expatriates, or permanent travelers, or simply "disappearing." There is also a growing industry around the world that provides various services for those who choose to operate outside "government sanctioned" institutions and methods. For those who choose to live free there are off-shore and private banks, investment firms, independent protection agencies (of property and persons), specialized travel agencies, and vendors of products (that governments call smuggling). There is also a growing society of free individuals, again worldwide, who largely communicate by means of the Internet. Ultimately, there is going to be a free society, consisting of free individuals, providing for others in that society all of the things individuals in that society want, from protection (think police and army) to food.

It will be a truly free society, without a government and without geographic boundaries. When a large enough portion of the productive citizens in a country have left to become part of the world-wide free society, it just may dawn on government, that it would be better to have those free individuals living in that country, even if they could not tax them or expropriate their property, because they are producers, and also consumers, and are the real benefactors of any society they are part of.

In the end, governments will either allow those who choose it, to be free autonomous individuals, or lose their own economic base. The movement is inevitable and there may well come a time when governments will resort to the only method they know, the use of force. It will fail, because there will be no country, or agency, or organization for them to use the force against, and by the time they have become desperate enough to make that move, the free will have already anticipated it and prepared methods of defending themselves against it.

Chaos is Freedom

In the first article of this series, I compared a successful society to a shopping mall to show how the apparent chaos of a mall is the very thing that makes a mall successful, and that all attempts to impose "order" by force would destroy that success. The remaining articles have demonstrated how the imposition of order by force or law has the same effect on all societies—because all imposed order is oppressive and destroys the freedom of individuals which is required for human success both individually and socially.

The reason the Internet is and will play such an important part in the development of a free society is because it introduces the very kind of chaos required for human success. I want to emphasize, however, that the dreams of some, that the Internet itself is a kind of society, is a mistake. It is real people living real lives in the real world of which the presently growing and future free society consists.

Chaos on the Internet

The Internet is totally chaotic, and that chaos is the result of the principle that always results in that social chaos that is necessary to healthy prosperous societies. The use of force is not possible on the Internet. The Internet can only be used for one purpose, the communication and propagation of information. The Internet is a free market, a "shopping mall" of ideas.

The "freedom" of the Internet actually pertains to only one of those areas in which humans must be free to live successfully, freedom of speech in its widest possible meaning. Anyone can virtually say (write, transmit, show) anything on the Internet. While some countries attempt to impose restrictions on what the Internet can be used for, those attempts are largely unsuccessful within those countries, and totally unsuccessful worldwide. It is that freedom and the resulting chaos that is the reason for the Internet's success and why it is so important to the emerging free society.

That society, like the Internet itself, is chaotic. There are no geographic boundaries, no one language, currency, or customs, and no laws at all. All the members of that society live in different parts of the world, have different interests, and engage in different kinds of work. What makes them a society is that they communicate, trade, and interact freely with one another as they choose for their own individual mutual benefit. They are without any kind of imposed order, organization, or planning beyond what individuals plan or agree to between themselves. It is totally chaotic—it is totally successful.

—(06/25/05)