Friday, May 13, 2005

Canarchy

For those who haven't been following it, Canada is currently embroiled in Adscam, perhaps its biggest political scandal since Tunagate broke 20 years ago. It's a very Canadian kind of scandal, which unlike the American ones is entirely devoid of hungry interns, Nicaraguan death squads, or even stylishly ugly post-war office buildings. Long story short, Parliament voted 153-150 for what the opposition is characterizing as a no confidence vote, and the government is characterizing as a routine procedural motion. If the former view is correct, the government must resign or hold an official confidence vote as soon as possible; if the latter is correct, it can wait as long as it wants (which is until next Thursday). The opposition Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois have essentially shut down the House of Commons in protest, demanding that the Liberals acknowledge that they lacks the moral (and arguably also legal) authority to govern.

This state of affairs has led the right wing of the Canadian blogosphere (of both the statist and the libertarian varieties) to wax uncharacteristically indignant. I, Ectomorph calls it: "a national constitutional crisis, in which the very legitimacy of the national government is being questioned..." Andrew Coyne is even blunter when he observes: "At present we have no government..."

Hold on a second there... what on earth is wrong with that? Taking Ectomorph's point first, everyone should be questioning the legitimacy of every government every day. If it's taken a dull accounting scandal and a recommended committee report amendment to arouse most Canadians' skepticism about their government, well, it's about time. As to Coyne's point, he's correct, and three cheers for it. This minority government has from the beginning been wonderfully feeble and powerless, and now it's reached the point where it can honestly be said that the government no longer so much as exists qua government. Canada is for all practical purposes not currently being ruled. Isn't that wonderful? Think of the possibilities afforded by this parliamentary "state of nature." Canadians could decide to reconstitute their system of government any way they choose, making it more democratic, fairer, more humane... Better yet, they could decide not to reconstitute their system of government, but rather experiment with a stateless system of individual, consensual self-rule. Unfortunately none of this is likely to happen. Rather, this Parliament will likely be replaced with something either exactly the same, or even worse (a majority government, or a Conservative minority government).

What the Westminster fetishists fail to grasp is that Paul Martin's government is now illegitimate not because 153 MP's say it is, a state of affairs which depends only upon the respective treatment schedules of Chuck Cadman and Darrel Stinson. No confidence votes, parliamentary convention, Parliament itself; that's all pageantry. It's artifice. The reason Paul Martin's government is illegitimate is that it's nonconsensual. Like every government around the world and throughout history, it has bestowed upon itself a monopoly on the legal use of force, in order to use that force against individual human beings who would much rather that it leave them alone. No government is anything more than a cabal of thieves and murderers which attempts to justify its plunder and slaughter by convincing people that it is acting as their agent, with their consent, doing their bidding, protecting them... Nonsense. Poppycock. Balderdash. Anyone who still believes blatant statist propaganda like "social contract" theory should read Lysander Spooner's 1870 treatise No Treason No. VI: The Constitution of no Authority (starts about 1/3 of the way down the page). Spooner brilliantly and completely demolishes the sloppy, casual collectivism inherent in fatuous notions like representative democracy being government by "consent." I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Anyway, despite this lengthy apologia for the current state of the Canadian Parliament, I hope that the reader (and I use the singular advisedly) won't get the impression that I have any particular partisan zeal for Team Valeri, or whatever it's calling itself this week. Those who were forced to listen to my tirades (which, pre-blogger, were quite audible) during the years that the media was bleating on incessantly about how Jean Chretien was "yesterday's man" who didn't "understand" "Quebec's" "needs," in contrast to the Knight-in-Shining-Earnscliffe-who-could-do-no-wrong, know that I've not historically held Paul Martin in particularly high esteem. But since the regic... I mean transfer of power, I've actually been pleasantly surprised by him. His speech in the House on same-sex marriage was admirable, and demonstrated a belated appreciation of the importance of individual rights and the Charter (where was that Paul Martin in 1990? But I digress...). In fact, the current government has, by my admittedly unorthodox standards, been one of the best in Canadian history, in that it's been one of the most ineffective, inane, and ridiculous in Canadian history. That government which spends so much time fighting off no-confidence motions that it has no time to actually govern, governs best. So basically, I agree with the blogging Tories that this Parliament lacks moral legitimacy and must dissolve. But where I disagree with them is that I don't think it should be replaced by a different Parliament, which would be equally illegitimate. It should be replaced by nothing. (Insert witty post title here.)

On an unrelated note, this will be my first post in a month not to mention David Blunk... Doh!
Comments:
So let's hear a bit more this system of individual and consensual self-rule. Where do I read about your unruled paradise...in some long-lost "No Treason CCCLXXVIII"? Why are you anarcho-whatevers so reluctant to sketch out the details of what you're proposing (Robert Nozick excepted)? You seem to be purveying a pig in a poke.

Interesting post nevertheless.
 
I can't speak for any other "whatever"s, but I'm not personally "proposing" anything. I'm opposing the state. First, do no harm. And the state not only does harm, it by definition is harm.

As for what a stateless society would look like, I really don't know, nor do I particularly care. Presumably, the Rothbardians would set up large insurance companies backed up by private court systems, and the Chomskyites would set up worker's collectives to run factories. And when either of those two groups start acting like states (ie, using force against non-consenting individuals), it would be up to the pacifists like me to get up on our soapboxes and tell them to stop. Perhaps, speaking of pigs, by remind them of how "four legs good, two legs bad" quickly became "four legs good, two legs better."

My position is simply this: I prefer to live my life without kidnapping or murdering anyone, and therefore I don't appreciate having governments take money from me by force to use for kidnapping and murder. Especially when they try to vest such crimes with artificial legitimacy and claim that they're committing them on my behalf, with my consent.

I'm not some starry-eyed utopian who thinks human nature can be changed. But as bad as human nature is, government nature is even worse. See, Century XX. I oppose the state not because I think that its absence would solve all the world's problems, but because I know that its presence causes so many unnecessary problems. Basically, all government is evil, and therefore I oppose it no matter what the consequences of its abolition would be. And, purely as an extra benefit of my position, it just so happens that a stateless world couldn't possibly be any worse than a statist world is. Just ask the people of Hiroshima. Oh wait, that's right... you can't.
 
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