“In All Cases Whatsoever …”

“The bottom line is, having the government shut down is not an option,” says congresscritter Russ Carnahan (D-MO).

I beg to differ. It most certainly is an option, probably the best among those available to us. It’s also one that falls well inside the parameters within which the government in question was allegedly established: The right of the people to alter or abolish any form of government, even one that provides Russ Carnahan with a comfy sinecure, is a primary claim around which the Declaration of Independence was centered.

Unfortunately, the stakes in the game Carnahan is playing at the moment aren’t “keep the government running” or “shut it down,” but rather “have the government borrow more money” or “have the government live within its extremely ample means.” He was speaking to the US House’s passage on Wednesday of legislation to raise the US government’s “debt ceiling” from $12.1 trillion to $12.4 trillion.

As you may have noticed, I don’t normally use this column for the purpose of urging readers to contact “their” representatives. The Center for a Stateless Society isn’t a lobbying group or a PAC. Our purpose is not to affect policy, but to educate the public about the case against the state per se.

So, when I share the following letter to “my” politicians with you, please understand that I am not urging you to go and do likewise. I’m just sharing it with you as an introduction to a point I’d like to make. This is the version I sent to US Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Identical (except for the names) versions went to US Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) and US Representative Lacy Clay (D-MO):

Dear Senator McCaskill,

I notice that the US House yesterday approved a $290 billion increase in the government’s “debt ceiling,” raising it from $12.1 trillion to $12.4 trillion.

Presumably the Senate will take up similar legislation in the near future.

I am not writing to yourself, Senator Bond and Representative Clay in order to urge any particular vote or action on the matter, but rather just to inform you that I’m not responsible for, nor do I intend to pay off, your debts.

I’ll be publishing this letter in one or more public spaces so that your creditors will be aware of this fact. If they’re going to loan money to the three of you and your 532 colleagues in the House and Senate, they may want to run credit checks first. Just so long as we’re crystal clear on the fact that I won’t be co-signing for you, the rest is between you and them.

Best regards,
Thomas L. Knapp

Carnahan’s claim of the “non-optionality” of taking away his toys, and of an assumed power to borrow money in your name and mine, is a risible echo of King George III’s claim versus Britain’s colonies in America, to which Thomas Paine aptly responded in “The Crisis No. 1”: “Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to tax) but ‘to bind us in all cases whatsoever,’ and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth.”

George III learned the hard way that “his colonists” were possessed of more options than he had previously believed. Is Russ Carnahan aware that the descendants of those colonists are possessed of the same options … and then some?

The founding fathers were ahead of their time, and not only in a good way. When they brewed up their hot cup of successful revolution, Bastiat and Molinari hadn’t yet disproved the necessity and utility of the state. Paine, Jefferson, et. al. were thus constrained to feeling their way toward mere “better government,” not yet apprehending the possibility of Thoreau’s “best government” (“that which governs not at all”). Jefferson began to grapple with the idea later in life, but anarchism didn’t come into its own until later.

Those were the late 18th and early 19th centuries. We don’t suffer the same handicaps — or have the same excuses — that the founders did. We understand (or should understand) that Russ Carnahan’s power, and the power of his co-conspirators, is a function not of Jefferson’s mythical “consent of the governed,” but of politicians’ ability to hoax us into believing that we need them. And we should understand by now that we don’t.

Let’s keep all our options, even the ones Russ Carnahan can’t bring himself to admit the existence of, on the table.

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