Sunday, December 16, 2012

1908 Edition of Where Thomas Paine Really Messed Up

By, Chris Rossini
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A few days ago, I wrote a post to correct a major mistake that was made by Thomas Paine in his famous work Common Sense.

Well...over on the Blog, Michael Rozeff shares some passages from Voltairine de Cleyre's 1908 pamphlet Anarchism and American Traditions.

She stated:
...the sin our fathers sinned was that they did not trust liberty wholly. They thought it possible to compromise between liberty and government, believing the latter to be "a necessary evil," and the moment the compromise was made, the whole misbegotten monster of our present tyranny began to grow. Instruments which are set up to safeguard rights become the very whip with which the free are struck.
The above was written at a time when the U.S. government was massively smaller than it is today.

Voltairine de Cleyre passed away in 1912. So she didn't get to see the formation of The Federal Reserve, The Income Tax, both World Wars, and the American Military Empire.

She had it pegged. The compromise and belief in "a necessary evil" was a fatal decision.

Her words coincide nicely with the end of my post, 104 years later:
Once the poison of coercive force is introduced, and accepted as necessary, it can only spread like a cancer, eating away at everything that is vital organ at a time. After 200 years pass, the realization starts to set in that the disease has become life-threatening.
So with all due respect for Mr. Paine, I'd like make my own statement to correct his error. Even in its best state, a coercive government isn't a necessary evil. 
It's just evil.


  1. Great post Chris. I agree with you all the way. Imagine if Anarchism and American Traditions was taught in private schools and at home across this country.

    In fifteen years, we'd see some real movers and shakers like the folks at Mises and Econ Policy Journal.

  2. Coercive force is necessary to maintain order. There are many occasions in life where people refuse to respect life, liberty, and property and they much be compelled to obey the law. People violate contracts, they steal, they defraud, they destroy property, etc. Individuals cannot be sovereign to do whatever the heck they want. Anarcho-capitalists all have this certain idea in their minds about a private property society, but that's not anarchism. Anarchism is total chaos, every man for himself, violence is fair game. You will have no authority to tell anyone otherwise. Individuals would also lack the ability to enforce any laws they envision. Government is a social institution. It makes and enforces the rules of society, much like a referee.

    1. So if there were no laws tomorrow, you would go out on a stealing/killing spree?

      Freeways are a great place to learn about how much faith humanity deserves. Are there drunk or reckless drivers? Sure. But why not let free people be free to do as they please so long as they do not transgress against others?

    2. He wants society to function with universal rules on the basis of addressing what is probably far less than 5% of those that commit true crimes(NAP violations) essence stripping freedom from the other 95% plus.

      "People violate contracts, they steal, they defraud, they destroy property, etc. Individuals cannot be sovereign to do whatever the heck they want." "You will have no authority to tell anyone otherwise. "

      He also mistakenly equates sovereignty with the notion that you can commit a NAP violation and not pay a price- he never recognizes that sovereignty includes the ability to defend yourself from the small % of the general population that engage in NAP violations. He points out that some people may not be able to defends themselves under such a system, but he doesn't spend time on the fact that still happens today under the current system.

      He also think government is a "referee"- but let's examine what a referee is in sports for example:

      He is a person paid by a league to officiate a game under the assumption the two parties playing it against each other are to be monitored for rules adherence.

      How well does that definition fit with our government today? Referee's are subject to removal by the league, which is paid for by the teams playing in it voluntarily, if they are not good referees. Is a similar process in effect today? If not, has it ever been and if it was how/why did it change?

      Most of us know the answer to those questions.

  3. Government is not inheritantely evil. People are.

    It's similar to "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."