Words Poorly Used #141 — Leviathan

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “leviathan” is described and historically accounted for:

leviathan (n.)
late 14c., “sea monster, sea serpent,” sometimes regarded as a form of Satan, from Late Latin leviathan, from Hebrew livyathan “dragon, serpent, huge sea animal,” of unknown origin, perhaps from root l-w-h- “to wind, turn, twist,” on the notion of a serpent’s coils. If so, related to Hebrew liwyah “wreath,” Arabic lawa “to bend, twist.” Of powerful persons or things from c. 1600. Hobbes’s use is from 1651.

An aquatic animal mentioned in the Old Testament. It is described in Job xli. apparently as a crocodile; in Isa. xxvii 1 it is called a piercing and a crooked serpent; and it is mentioned indefinitely in Ps. lxxiv. 14 as food and Ps. civ. 26. [Century Dictionary]

Both Higgs and Hobbes use the leviathan as metaphor to discuss government, the former as an anarchist, the latter as a statist — first as a bad thing, second as a boon to civilization.  Consulting the above Biography WWW site, its authors contend that “Hobbes argues for the necessity and natural evolution of the social contract … .”  While Goodreads.com quotes Higgs as follows:

In debates between anarchists and statists, the burden of proof clearly should rest on those who place their trust in the state. Anarchy’s mayhem is wholly conjectural; the state’s mayhem is undeniably, factually horrendous.

What images come to your mind when you encounter the word, “leviathan?”

— Kilgore Forelle

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The Fired Next Time: A “Shutdown” Proposal

The longest partial “government shutdown” in US history ended on January 25. To get Leviathan’s gears turning at full speed again, President Donald Trump said uncle on funding for his pet border wall project in return for a three-week “return to normalcy.”

More interesting than the (quite possibly temporary) end of the “shutdown” is the direction things were taking right before the wall funding came tumbling down.

Transportation Security Administration employees called in sick en masse, creating long delays at major airports. IRS employees called back (without pay) to process tax returns followed suit.

At the other end of the spectrum, self-organizing volunteers, as well as employees/contractors sent by tourism-reliant businesses, turned out to clean toilets and so forth at national parks. The parks were “closed,” but visitors showed up anyway and enjoyed their time with nature.

A few days before the temporary truce, Association of Flight Attendants president Sara Nelson asked AFL-CIO leaders to call a general strike: A walkout by workers (especially union workers) across all industries, all over the country, in support of getting federal employees back on the job and back on regular paychecks.

Had the matter dragged on for a few more weeks, or even a few more days, Nelson’s call might have fallen on more supportive ears. And if the curtain goes up on “Shutdown Theater Part II: This Time It’s Personal” at the end of the three-week timeout, there’s a distinct possibility of something resembling just such a general strike.

But I’ve got a better idea. Instead of taking off work in support of furloughed federal employees, why not seize the jobs those employees are doing and free the employees, and the customers, from the competing manipulations of Donald Trump, Charles Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi?

The air transport sector is the most obvious place to start.

Airline and airport operators should get together during this three-week ceasefire and put together a plan to provide airport security, airplane safety inspection, and air traffic control whether the government is on the job or not.

Such a plan would work like this: The instant the federal government “shut down,” airport/airline representatives would inform Washington that flights will continue, and that they will continue on time and without undue passenger delays for security screening, period.

If TSA shuts down security screening points for lack of personnel, the airports will either re-open those lines with their own screeners (perhaps hired from the ranks of unpaid TSA employees), or simply wave passengers through.

If the FAA inspectors aren’t available to inspect planes, the airlines will use their own mechanics.

If federally employed air traffic controllers aren’t willing to work without pay, the airlines will hire and pay them.

But either way the flights happen, unless armed troops are sent in to stop them. And if  the airlines/airports take over those jobs, no backsies. Once they go private, they stay private. Washington, you’re FIRED.

Time for a gut check to see if politicians really want to keep playing the “shutdown” game.

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Why I Prefer Freedom

Evil lives in dark corners. The more dark corners exist, the more it thrives. Competition tends to squeeze out dark corners. Monopolies on violence, backed by propaganda and fear, create more dark corners.

Anything deemed too important/necessary to question or face competition is a giant web of protected dark corners. This is why the myth of authority and the myth of the rule of law are so dangerous. They create shelters and havens for scoundrels.

The desire for openness and competitive governance isn’t borne out of a naive belief in the goodness of human nature or ignorance of the evil in the world. The opposite. It comes from recognition of evil, and the fact that markets allow fewer dark corners than monopolies.

A free world is not a perfect world. It’s a world with an incentive structure that makes it harder for evil to thrive than it can in an unfree world. It’s incumbent upon individuals to resist it in both cases. But one makes it harder than the other.

It’s too easy, and too dangerous, to be lured into the comforting fiction that some final arbitrator Leviathan will keep us safe. The creation of any such Final Authority enables more dark corners, not fewer.

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What Do Judges Maximize?

Public choice theory, a subfield of economics developed extensively over the past sixty years, has sought—in the words of its foremost developer, James Buchanan—to take the romance out of the study of politics and government action.

For a long time, a public-interest theory had held sway among scholars and students of political science. In this perspective, people in the general public respond to ordinary economic incentives and seek ordinary, personal economic goals. Thus, for example, consumers seek to maximize their consumer satisfaction, or “utility,” from the consumption of normal goods and services, and they are constrained by their incomes and by the prices of goods on the market. Producers seek to maximize their wealth—the market valuation of their firms—and they are constrained by technology, the costs of inputs, and the competition of other sellers. And so forth for other private economic actors. But once a person leaves the private sector and takes up a position in the government, he is transformed from a utility or wealth maximizer into a public-spirited actor who seeks to do whatever serves the general public interest best. This idea is so prima facie preposterous and counterfactual that one wonders how anyone ever embraced it sincerely, but many people, even scholars, seem to have done so—indeed, many still appear to do so today.

Public choice analysts proposed that this theory ignores the universality of human motives. People do not become transformed from ordinary, money-grubbing actors into angels merely by entering the government. Indeed, even if they sought to do so, they could not; it would be impossible, for example, for any one of them even to know what “the public interest” consists in. Competing ideologies define the concept quite differently, and general agreement is impossible to attain even on matters so seemingly incontestable as a preference for peace rather than war. Public choice analysts proceed on the assumption that no transformation occurs when people leave the private sector and enter the government; they are as motivated by private, personal interests as they were before, and they act accordingly, though now subject to a different set of constraints.

So, public choice analysts developed models of voters, elected officials, and bureaucrats. In these models, voters seek maximum transfers of income via government redistribution, either by direct monetary transfers or by indirect transfers resulting from regulations, subsidies, tariffs, and the way in which the government spends its funds. Elected officials seek reelection. Bureaucrats seek to maximize the budgets, personnel, and discretion placed at their disposal.

Public choice analysts did not develop a standard way of analyzing the actions of judges. For the most part, judges were simply ignored. Of course, if the judges were elected, they could be analyzed in the same way as any other elected officials, but in regard to appointed judges, especially those appointed for life terms, as the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are, public choice had little to say.

I spent some time thinking about this matter. In my own study of the growth of government, I paid considerable attention to the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, regarding it as an essential element of the story. I read many histories of the court and of particular justices, and I read many court decisions—which, by the way, are among the most intellectually contemptible works that purport to be sound, sophisticated argumentation—and I weaved the courts’ history into my overall account of how the U.S. government grew from the late nineteenth century onward. I continued to ponder the question, What do judges maximize?

Thirty years ago, I was invited to present a paper at a small conference held in Barbados on the U.S. and Caribbean countries’ constitutions. The conference was a delightful occasion, given the participation of leading judicial officials from the newly independent, former British colonies of the region. I found these men highly educated, articulate—most had been trained in London—but warm, friendly, and outgoing as people tend to be in the Caribbean. So I had a splendid time during the several days I spent with them, at social occasions and meals as well as in the conference sessions. And I took advantage of the fact that two American judges were on the program there, too. One was a judge of the California Supreme Court and the other a judge at the federal court at Philadelphia.

Over dinner one evening, I put the question to them directly: what do judges maximize? I explained how in public choice analysis it is presumed that elected officials seek re-election, voters seek income transfers, and bureaucrats seek funds, staff, and discretion. So, as a general working assumption, what should we assume judges seek?

The California judge was reluctant, or so it seemed to me, to give me a forthright answer. He answered that judges seek to do justice. This answer struck me as too much like something lifted from a public school civics textbook. Judges are human beings with beliefs, desires, and ideologies just the same as those of people in the private sector. Do they suddenly become dispassionate, angelic seekers of impartial, clearly defined justice the minute they sit behind the judicial bench? Not likely, it seems to me.

The federal judge, however, gave me what seemed a more forthright and thoughtful answer. He explained that people want to be judges in order to move the world in certain directions; they know that judges have extraordinary power to do so, especially when they make constitutional decisions about the scope and limits of government power. In effect, this judge was confirming a conclusion I had reached from my own study of the U.S. Supreme Court during the preceding years of the 1980s. (On these findings, see the historical chapters of my book Crisis and Leviathan, originally published in 1987.) In a sense, judges of constitutional courts are ideologues in chief or, as it were, the government’s chief ideologues, because they need not seek reelection nor can they do much to feather their own material nests by deciding one way or another. They are almost unique in the government’s apparatus in their degrees of freedom and unconstrained power. (At the same time, however, we must recognize that in national emergencies, particularly during wars, the judges are likely to step aside, deferring to the executive branch of the government. I describe a number of such incidents in my Crisis book.)

In a formula, we might conclude that constitutional judges seek to maximize their control over the rate and direction of socio-political change. In so doing, they of course act as their ideologies impel them, because their ideologies tell them how the world works, how it ought to work, and how the government might be employed to move it in a better or worse direction. They continue to live in the political world; they mingle with other leading figures in the government; they read the news; they are not immune to how their decisions are received by other governing officials and the general public. It is a useful myth that they seek justice, but justice is never well defined except within the framework of an ideology. Judges, therefore, illustrate perhaps as well as anything, the power of ideological convictions in shaping political, social, and economic life.

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A Primer on Challenging Jurisdiction

At some point in your life you will be attacked by people who call themselves “government“. This attack will consist of these people making certain claims, claims which must be challenged. If the claims are proven true with verifiable facts and evidence, then the attack is no longer an attack, but an act of self-defense.

These claims are usually of the nature that a debt is owed, a service must be performed, or that your liberty must be surrendered. Each of these begins with a claim of jurisdiction, that these people’s rules (they call them laws, legal codes, Constitutions, et cetera) apply to you. It is supposed that this jurisdiction gives these people the authority to enforce their rules against you.

This foundational claim of jurisdiction must be challenged before moving to the next step of determining whether their rules were violated, because jurisdiction is the first claim these people make in their attack. They know that without jurisdiction, their rules do not apply. One cannot logically say both “You have violated my rules” and “My rules do not apply to you”, as such would be a contradiction. Therefore, claiming “You have violated my rules” is simultaneously claiming “My rules apply to you” or “I have jurisdiction over you.”

Challenging jurisdiction is not a difficult thing to do (at least, on paper). When these people say something to the effect of, “You have violated my rule that says you may not possess the cannabis plant” the first reply should be something like, “How do you know that your rule applies to me?” Observe the following dialogue:

Them: You stand accused of violating legal code 123-45, “Prohibition of a Control Substance – Cannabis”.

Me: Is it your claim that legal code 123-45 applies to me?

Them: It applies to everyone, including you, within this territory.

Me: How do you know that legal code 123-45 applies to me just because I am physically located in this territory?

Them: You are in this territory, and possess cannabis, isn’t that correct?

Me: Those facts are not under dispute. What is under dispute is your jurisdiction over me. I will rephrase: do you have personal first-hand knowledge, such as facts and evidence, that legal code 123-45 applies to me just because I am physically located in this territory?

Them: You are a human being, are you not?

Me: Is your claim that your legal codes apply to human beings?

Them: Yes, that is my claim.

Me: Okay. How do you know that claim is true? (ie. What facts and evidence do you rely on to support your claim?)

The purpose in this line of questioning is to challenge the claim of jurisdiction, a claim which should not be allowed the light of day without accompanying facts and evidence. (Here’s a longer dialogue on challenging jurisdiction.) If these people have jurisdiction, as they claim, then it should not be difficult to prove. They should have no need to engage in dishonesty or in issuing threats. When they become non-responsive, dishonest, and threatening, you know that they know that their claim of jurisdiction is without factual merit. Simply put, they are initiating an attack against you, and you have the right to defend yourself by publically and explicitly challenging their claims.

At every point, you are asking them for the facts and evidence they rely on to support their claim of jurisdiction. In every case of an accusation that a rule has been violated, jurisdiction can be challenged. Without jurisdiction, their rules are without effect. This should be made very clear by challenging their claims. They must be forced to resort to dishonesty and threats, on the record, or to drop their attack. These tactics are violations of the codes of conduct they have explicitly agreed to, and as such are grounds for effective appeal.

When the accusation is based on jurisdiction, it must be challenged. However, not every accusation is based on jurisdiction. Many accusations are based on damages suffered. The rule of thumb is to remember what is being claimed, the violation of a legal code (a crime), or damages suffered (a tort). In the latter case there is an alleged victim who may or may not be able to provide facts and evidence supporting their claim that you have damaged them and are owed restitution. In the former, there is no alleged victim, merely a group of people who call themselves “government” asserting jurisdiction and claiming you violated their rules and must be punished.

When you receive a traffic citation, are targeted by the so-called “tax authorities”, or accused of violating their rules in any other way, the first step is to challenge jurisdiction. This takes practice, and thankfully there are plenty of resources and role play groups to assist you. Contact me here or Marc Stevens on Skype at frankrizzo3 to get started. I highly recommend listening to the No State Project radio show and podcast, recorded twice a week by Marc, to get familiar with this process. I also highly recommend reading Marc’s book Government Indicted, available on Amazon here. And checkout Marc’s “5 Tips to be Effective in Court” published recently. Challenging jurisdiction has proven effective in several States and countries.


More on this topic by the author:

Evidence of Jurisdiction
On Jurisdiction
Is Taxation Theft? Yes and No
Stop Lying about Laws Applying
What the Response to the Challenge of Jurisdiction Should Tell You
The Facts on Government
My Ongoing Battle with Leviathan
Not Requiring Evidence of Jurisdiction is a Violation of Due Process
Dreamers’ Parents Never Sinned
The Essence of the Ruling Class

More on this topic by Marc Stevens at EVC:

Debunking Territorial/Personal Jurisdiction – Why it Doesn’t Exist
Don’t Let Prosecutors Intimidate You – Overcoming Their Flawed Opposition

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Astute Socialists Opt for Participatory Fascism in Practice

Astute socialists (if that’s not an oxymoron) opt for participatory fascism, not outright socialism, in practice. They know that outright socialism—the nationalization and central control of all the major means of production—is a ruinous system. By opting for participatory fascism, they can get the bulk of what they seek, by means of pervasive regulation, heavy taxation, and floods of government spending, while allowing the fettered capitalists enough room for maneuver that they keep the economy from going straight to hell. Moreover, when anything goes wrong—and it will—they can blame the problem on capitalism, the fraudulently so-called free-market economy that remains in hobbled operation.

(For more on this idea, which I have been discussing for more than thirty years, see chapter 10 of my book Crisis and Leviathan or, in brief, this article.)

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