"Refusing to Be Counted" (6/18/10)


  Nice article, thanks for posting. I wrote a response to Vijay Boyapati, which I am including below.

Excellent presentation of libertarian principles, focused around the census.

By Vijay Boyapati



  I just read your piece on LewRockwell.com about refusing to comply with the Census (http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig11/boyapati2.1.1.html). Thank you for your principled refusal to submit to this unjust law, and for eloquently sharing your experiences with that refusal!

  However I wanted to point out an option I believe you overlooked when listing the options available to those who oppose the use of aggression and recognize the inherently aggressive nature of government (at least as government is presently constituted in most if not all places).

  In your essay, you list three options:

"One may simply refuse to comply and face the financial and legal consequences of doing so. Thoreau – along with later adherents of his philosophy such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior – was an advocate of such peaceful noncompliance..."
"A second approach is to flee and seek refuge in a country whose impositions seem less burdensome. Escape has long been a popular choice of those seeking to avoid the brutality of war, such as the estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Americans who moved to Canada during the US invasion and occupation of Vietnam – or, more recently, Americans wishing to avoid redeployment to Iraq. There are many costs to leaving one's country, including the loss of home and separation from friends and family, plus punitive taxation of assets."

"Finally, the libertarian can comply, recognizing that while submission may aid the state in its various aggressive activities, the burden of guilt does not fall upon the libertarian but upon those who tacitly or explicitly accept the legitimacy of the state."

  I believe there is a fourth option, which I endorse as the most efficacious for most people in most circumstances: Refuse to comply, but seek to *avoid* any negative consequences of doing so.

  Just as the laws in question are illegitimate, so are the punishments and consequences for violating those laws. Thus there is no moral requirement for a conscientious objector to submit to such consequences, and there are usually good practical reasons for not doing so.

  When you pay a government fine, you are effecting a monetary transfer from the voluntary sector of the economy to the involuntary sector, increasing the resources at the disposal of those who employ legal aggression (or, in some cases, aggression which is falsely claimed to have a legal basis) and decreasing your own monetary capacity to aid pro-freedom causes. When you submit to be jailed, you are likewise in most cases decreasing your own capacity to work for freedom.

  For a person of extraordinary courage, willpower, and commitment to principle, such as Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, or Martin Luther King Jr., voluntarily submitting to the punishments of government for violating unjust laws as part of a principled pattern of conduct may be the best course of action, if their submission does more good for freedom in the long run than the ill that comes as a result of giving up their money and liberty to the State. These men and others like them are rightly seen by history as noble and righteous, in part for a willingness to face the legal consequences of their principled non-compliance. But they gained these reputations not from a single action, but by steadfastly exhibiting this uncompromising will to sacrifice over a period of time. How many of us have that strength of character and will to consistently place a principle above our own personal comfort and well-being in the face of serious persecution?

  Occasionally there may be times when it makes sense for those of us who are not saints of freedom to voluntarily pay a fine or go to jail for reasons other than seeking to avoid additional future penalties. But these should be carefully chosen -- for instance, paying a fine entirely in pennies as part of an event staged for the media, or turning yourself in to be jailed for a short period of time for violating a law like jaywalking for which people are not normally jailed, in the knowledge that it will be an inconvenience and embarrassment for the State and cost it resources to incarcerate you, while not greatly inconveniencing yourself or reducing your long-term capacity to be an activist for freedom.

  But most of the time, for most people who are unable or unwilling to live their lives in the model of a Thoreau or a King, a better course of action is to render as little as possible to Caeser, including the time, money and property the law would take from you for your failure to render what it demands.

Love & Liberty,

        ((( starchild )))