Kent State: So Little Learned in 40 Years

1970. Tricky Dick was still in the White House. The Beatles had just recently thrown in the towel. Vietnam raged on. In America, the spirit of so-called “revolution” was thick in the air. Draft-dodging, mass street demonstrations, and college campus takeovers were everyday headlines. And on May 4th of that year, four students at Kent State University were shot dead by the Ohio National Guard. Another nine were wounded – one of whom was permanently paralyzed. Sixty-seven rounds were fired in thirteen seconds of shooting. These were American kids shouting slogans and throwing rocks. You’d’ve thought it was a scene from southeast Asia.

While much in the forty years since this atrocity occurred has been discussed at great length – books have been written, documentaries filmed, speeches given – it seems that few if any who have opined about the Kent State Massacre have ever given thought or voice to its most foundational ramifications. Yes, much has been said, over and over, about the brutality of the Ohio guardsmen who opened fire that day; about the injustice of the draft; about the inflammatory presence of ROTC on the campus; about the unjustifiable nature of the Vietnam Conflict.

But what about the existence of government itself in the first place?

Little, if anything, gets said about that.

A far less well-known event took place in 1970 – one which, while perhaps not as starkly dramatic, may arguably have more far-reaching implications. That was the first publishing of Morris and LInda Tannehills’ book “The Market for Liberty.” Arguably the quintessential modern free-market anarchist text, the volume describes in detail how a governmentless society – operating on a strictly voluntary contractual basis – could and would provide all of the essential goods and services needed and demanded by an open society. It conversely demonstrates the inefficiency, waste, and violence inherent to state-sanctioned compulsory “services” paid for by mandatory taxation. Taxes, in other words, collected by the same means and philosophy that ended up killing and wounding those kids on that horrible day forty years ago.

The sad irony is that (I would be willing to bet) of those self-styled countercultural folks who are still alive, and who were there that day, perhaps not one of them believes in a complete and total renunciation of the State. Even if some of them have grown into middle or old age feeling a bit more conservative (or even small “l” libertarian-leaning) since the days of flower-power, most still almost certainly believe that certain aspects of the self-same beast that butchered their fellow brothers and sisters are legitimate; that welfare programs, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schools, public parks, public roads, etc., are somehow immune to being bound up with the same hypertrophic violence displayed by those soldiers so long ago.

But it isn’t so. The IRS, like all other taxing agencies, carry guns just like the Ohio National Guard, or the DEA, or the local police, or any other government agency. In fact, back in early March, the U.S. Department of “Education” publicly placed an order for 27 Remington Model 870 Police 12-gauge shotguns with 14 inch barrels – forbidden for sale to mere “civilians.” Because of course, everyone with any common sense knows that it’s necessary to kill a few people once in a while in order to “educate” them, right? Things haven’t changed that much since Kent State.

That’s because most of that generation, and the ones that have come since, fail to understand that without government, there is no Vietnam Conflict, hence no need for riots. There is also no national guard, no Governor James A. Rhodes to deploy them, and no military draft. There is instead, what the baby-boomer generation was supposed to have been all about: Peace, freedom, and liberty.

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