Jury Nullification and Voluntaryism

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“One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing most Mondays at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here.

A tax cheat on trial for lying on his tax return. A music pirate on trial for illegally downloading music. A pothead on trial for dealing in marijuana. A car thief on trial for boosting cars. A rapist on trial for attacking women. A murderer on trial for killing bums. What do all of these “perps” have in common besides being charged by the state for a crime? Their trials are worthy targets of jury nullification. Yes, even the latter three, and here’s why.

What is Jury Nullification?

When a jury – a group of “peers” judging the guilt or innocence of someone charged with a crime – votes to acquit not on the basis of the facts of the case, but rather on the justness of the law the defendant is being accused of breaking, they have, in effect, made that law null and void as it concerns the defendant. Hence the term jury nullification. I leave the history of the practice to Wikipedia, but suffice it to say that jury nullification has a multi-century, common law history. I consider it a beautiful thing. When one is on trial for what amounts to the breaking of an unjust law, say dealing in marijuana, or even less controversial, raw milk, the jury has it within their power to keep the alleged unjust-law breaker out of the rape factory known as prison. But what about nullifying non-unjust laws? Laws against robbery, rape, and murder, for example?

State Laws

No, those are unjust, too. Why? Because they’re state laws. The state is an illegitimate authority in society as a monopolizer of law and order. It uses it’s authority to decree law, some of it compatible with property rights, most of it not, including where it gets its funds to incarcerate or execute criminals. Taxation pays for the maintenance of courts, prisons, and the hangman’s noose. But taxation is theft. Robbing others to pay for the state’s twisted notion of justice is wrong.

What’s a Voluntaryist to Do?

Jury nullification is a powerful tool to keep the state’s hands off of peaceful people, like tax cheats, music pirates, and potheads. It’s also a powerful tool to keep the state’s hands off those who would be forced to pay for the incarceration or execution of real criminals. The voluntaryist would not be acting consistent with his principles if he were to vote as a juror to send someone to be dealt with via the coercive expropriation of noncriminal others. In other words, the voluntaryist should nullify as a juror not only unjust state laws, but all state laws that are enforced through the coercion of peaceful people.

Final Thoughts

This may be the most controversial column I’ve written. Good and well, I say. Jury nullification is a worthy practice, made complete under voluntaryist insight. Nullify every illegitimate state charge and leave the real criminals to be dealt with by vigilantes and the rest of society. Murderers, rapists, and robbers are given a free pass on their provisions, paid for by the state robbing and threatening to murder everyone else. Rather than seeking justice, state departments of “justice” create more injustice that juries have it within their power to prevent.

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Ender’s Game, Logic Fallacy, Waco

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“Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here.

Here goes a new year of columns for EVC — and a heartfelt Thank You goes out to Skyler Collins, and all who make EVC what it is, giving me an opportunity to participate.

In this essay we will talk more about Ender’s Game, an extremely significant novel and a somewhat less impactful, but long awaited, movie.  In particular we will look at Ender as a creature of the state, but more critically, as an individual.

We will continue the series on logic fallacies by looking at the appeal to authority, and we will use that fallacy to segue into a real life episode that was engendered in large part by this logic fallacy.  We will examine the state and Federal siege, onslaught, and massacre at Waco, Texas.

Ender’s Game

We briefly touched on my viewing of the movie, Ender’s Game, in my last column.  And if you are an Orson Scott Card fan, or a fan of the novel or tetralogy, you may find much of interest in the movie.  I really liked the implementation of the gravity-free battle simulation room.  But, on the other hand, the film producers didn’t make much of the development of Ender and his team through their training time.  This disappointment pretty much encapsulates my comparison of the movie to the book.  If you have only seen the motion picture, and had your curiosity piqued in some way, you definitely owe it to yourself to experience the book.  And that’s a good word for the comparison — you see the movie but you experience the book.

Of course, the flick and the book, seen in retrospect, preserve an antiquated paradigm — one that became obsolete after World War I — life is a game played by jet jockeys.  War and survival is made up of a series of aerial or interspace dogfights.  A lot of this view stems from arcade games and probably the fact that the earliest simulators were flight simulators and Luke Skywalker.  Life is far more complex.

But, as in any really good book, there is a moral to the story, and in the case of Card’s tale it is far more than a nearly lost paradigm.  The crucial elements circle around the criticality of Ender (Andrew Wiggins) and the development of his personality.  Even though his very existence is owed to the central planning of the state — he is the very rare instance of a third child in a family because the state was using his parents for genetic engineering.  Then he is committed as a trainee of the state and removed from his family, and lastly he is manipulated into perpetrating genocide on behalf of the state.  The story is that of a creature of the state, who nevertheless becomes a truly unique individual.  He is the embodiment of the failure of central planning as well as the exemplar of unforeseen consequences.

Appeal to Authority

We can see in Ender’s Game that one of the major techniques of the deceit inflicted on Ender is the logic fallacy of appeal to authority.  There is always, in a top down organization, the presence of this fallacy.  There is always an assumption that there is an expertocracy and that the mere passage of time and rote instruction will cause this organization to evolve to meet pre-conceived, centrally planned objectives.

Simply put, the appeal to authority is an avoidance of evidence by saying the evidence is known (and well understood) by someone other than the recipient of the instruction.  A very innocuous example would be, “The inspection certificate for this elevator may be seen in the Building Superintendent’s office.”  Someone in authority, and who maybe is also responsible and accountable, has your back on this.  The entire idea of responsibility and accountability, and how organizations finesse it, is a variation on the appeal to authority.

I once heard a long-forgotten comedian wonder, “Have you ever thought that the pilot of your plane may be as big a screw-up as you are?” That’s a dagger in the heart of the appeal to authority, eh?  Now try to not think about this next time you are flying somewhere.

Of course, the most egregious appeal to authority is practiced, with industrial strength, by the Federal Government.  Where de facto, everyone is considered guilty of pre-crime subject to violence, threat of violence, incarceration, threat of incarceration, confiscation, threat of confiscation, death at the point of a gun, and threat of death at the point of a gun by the forces of authority.

Unnatural laws, which I call legislation (to distinguish them from natural law), civilized law, or constitutional law, are the very epitome of the appeal to authority fallacy.  “Because I said so,” is the parental version of this authoritarian fail.

Do not let anybody get away with this in your life, please!

As usual Lysander Spooner has something for us in this regard:

The principle that the majority have a right to rule the minority, practically resolves all government into a mere contest between two bodies of men, as to which of them shall be masters, and which of them slaves; a contest, that—however bloody—can, in the nature of things, never be finally closed, so long as man refuses to be a slave.


One of the great tragedies of our age occurred because of the unexamined forfeiture of reason before authority.  I and some other good voluntaryists recently had a knockdown and drag out argument on Facebook with some libertarians, who have not come to grips with the anathema of the state, about the legitimacy of the government’s behavior in the case of the Waco siege, the 21st anniversary of the conclusion of which will happen this April.  I don’t pretend in any way to be an expert on this event.

The problem is that those who have a bias against Koresh and a bias for authority will never allow the fulcrum of the debate to shift to the question of whether the state behaved legitimately.  The severely tragic outcome suggests that they did not.  Surely there must be some lessons learned here.

The folks who argue the side of law enforcement (and I use the term advisedly) keep repeating, like parrots, the term “lawful warrant.”  Never once can we address the legitimacy of the warrant.  How in a living space protected by the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution can we have a warrant based on a charge of “accumulation of weapons for rebellious purposes?”  First of all an accumulation of weapons is absolutely protected by the Constitution of the USA.  Second of all “for —— purposes” is that strained construction of legislation that establishes a motive before the fact, it is nullification of the presumption of innocence until found guilty by due process.

Those who want to bury Waco in the same sand where their head is buried want to dismiss any argument of right and wrong based on the probability that some negligent law officer got some trumped up warrant from a negligent judge.  And there were other trumped up charges added to the mindblowingly egregious example in the above paragraph.

Please! Please note that I am not defending Koresh and his cult.  I have no idea of their guilt or innocence since none of them lived to have a fair trial.  But has anyone here thought about how easy it is for law enforcement to say they have a warrant?  Another thing I wonder about, if there is to be true equal treatment before the law, shouldn’t suspects have the right to shop judges to get a warrant requiring the law enforcement agency to show actual cause?

I am not a lawyer, but I play one in my columns.  The truth, to me, is that our entire monopolistic state justice system is based on one or more logic fallacies which have one goal in mind, the illegitimate elevation and preservation of the process over the interests of the people.

I hope that I have given some things to think about as you continue to cultivate your voluntaryist outlook.  One of the things that has happened with me is that the movie, Ender’s Game, caused me to rethink the far more estimable novel as a voluntaryist.  I had not really solidified my pursuit of a self-grounded life when I encountered the book years ago.  And this was despite the obvious appearance of the film as a pale pastel sketch compared to the very vivid, complex book.  And then, the consideration of the appeal to authority served as a fine bridge from Ender’s story to the real life Waco atrocity.  You must come to grips with the degree to which logic fallacy is imposed upon you.  It is truly propaganda of the most deliberate sort.  Further you must review history with an understanding of how fallacies are used to cloud your development as an individual.

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Words Poorly Used #25 — Sacrifice

People often talk about making a sacrifice for others, or subsuming their individuality to an external cause, as a positive.  But what they are doing is choosing to behave in a certain way.  Others will refer to sacrifice as something positive expected of others — commanders will say that they had to sacrifice so many soldiers for a tactic or a strategy, idolators will say that they expect others to commit themselves entirely to the idol.  Sacrifice is a total nullification of an individual life, perhaps for a “noble” cause.  But who is to say?  A nullification is not a zero sum, it is a minus 1, and a minus of all unforeseen consequences of that 1.  Would one seek to nullify an act of the state, if the result was a zero sum?  Sacrifice is never a plus, never a conservation of the status quo, it is always a subtraction of the entirety of the sacrificed beings or objects, including their future.


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On Jury Nullification

Ben Swann just launched a project to promote the concept of “jury nullification” called JUST US. That’s fantastic. I wholeheartedly agree with the promotion of this very important tool for liberty and justice. However, in his video announcing the project, he wanted to be clear that jury nullification should not be used to acquit violators of good laws, like murderers and rapists. I disagree. These laws are no more about justice than are laws against victimless crimes like smoking or possessing marijuana. They are laws designed to keep an aggressor’s victim(s) from obtaining true justice, being made as whole as possible by their aggressor, and to create even more victims through the coercive funding of prisons and prisoners. There isn’t a single law on the books today that should not be nullified by juries around the world because all laws were created by a monopoly government, the state, and create more victims through their enforcement. And that’s today’s two cents.


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Undermining the Perception that is the State

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“The Self Owner” is an original column appearing every Wednesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Spencer W. Morgan. Spencer is a husband and father, and has studied History and Philosophy at the University of Utah. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here.

Last week I addressed the act of voting, and political participation in general, from the standpoint of the specific morality of the act. I concluded it to be fruitless (in all but rare convergences of circumstances) and ultimately antithetical to the larger goal of societal liberty, though not an act which contains a specific consent for aggression as many voluntaryists contend. I’ve also addressed in a prior column the question of whether a duty of activism itself is a correct burden or a necessary response to the principles of self-ownership and liberty, and concluded that it is not.

Despite my having concluded that such an obligation is not implicit, many still desire to take steps to hinder the state in more immediate scenarios as well as to apply long-term strategies toward its reduction and/or demise. This week I’d like to address some of these approaches

For overall strategic value, especially from a long-term perspective, tactics like non-compliance, expanding state-evading market transactions (see agorism) and obstructive actions in court hold much more potential in terms of reward/effort ratio. This is especially true when one understands that the result to be sought is not necessarily the immediate reduction of state interferences, but the undermining of the perception of legitimacy that the state enjoys. Along those lines, I favor Marc Stevens’ “double-bind” approach in courts or public questioning of agents of the state, and jury nullification efforts.

What About a “Liberty Candidate” Like Ron Paul?

Ron Paul has been, from an enactments point of view, a complete failure both during his career in Congress and in his presidential campaigns. His greatest value has been as an instrument for exposure to a larger philosophical tradition. He is often referred to as the “gateway drug” for liberty. This value must and should be accounted for, but all too often it is mixed with an internally praised and self-reinforcing form of activist self-delusion regarding the viability of achieving liberty through a political candidate.

Putting together mass movements every four years just to have a possibility at getting someone who won’t increase the tyranny, much less pull together the sweeping consensus required for congressional change to begin rolling it all back, is not going to be how a voluntary society or any prevailing condition of greater liberty is achieved.

What is the “Plan” for Accomplishing Liberty?

This question, posed often by those both sympathetic and hostile to full human liberty and it’s implications, is one that sadly reveals to a great degree the success of our societal collectivist conditioning. Even after the realization of the moral incumbency of free action by each individual, we still habitually think in terms of imposing such a condition through hierarchical edicts from the top down. Since liberty is, itself, the absence of any such coercive external imposition, this makes going about it tricky and counter-intuitive.

Undermining the Perception

It is important to understand that the operating capability of the state does not rest purely on implemented or threatened force. If it did, it would be very limited in the scope of it’s effective control and it would have to operate out of the public eye. The real “lynch-pin” for the state is that it rests on the widespread perception of its legitimacy, and the expectations of the people all around us in our churches, businesses, and families. They spring into its service as enforcers (knowingly or not) with social reprisals against anyone who questions not just a particular government action, but the validity of our being subject to it’s rule at all.

That’s why the path to complete liberty is to undermine this concept and perception. We can do so slowly until it becomes the same as a “flat earth” idea. Like the truth-based advances in human progress that preceded this one, it is a huge uphill battle against all of the weight of tradition and institutional inertia.

That understanding presents a much different long-term strategy. The point at which, in society, when the average person faces more social backlash from agreement with state aggression than they do for openly questioning it will be a major tipping point and one which we all have in our power to hasten in small ways.

To move the evolution of humanity forward toward liberty in a lasting way, we can all do a great deal without ever stepping in a voting booth or holding a campaign sign. People’s relationships with others are incredibly important to them. We can point out tactfully and calmly the reality of government force in a very personal way. We can explain to them that the schemes of state solutions with which they agree, are being imposed upon millions who do not… at the barrel of a gun. We can point out that among these millions is the person with whom they are speaking at that moment and profess to care for. Does this friend or family member really believe men with guns should be permitted to force you to fund their solution to a problem, or to put you in a cage if you refuse?

Historically it is usually external pressure and economic reality that collapse these huge parasitic empires, and that’s ultimately the opportunity I anticipate. When that window of opportunity comes, things will get very fluid. The less pervasive the perception of the state’s legitimacy (meaning government in general) is at that point in time, the better. For small examples of this, we can look at what is happening in Detroit right now. As local government and services shut their doors, will people turn to private, voluntary cooperative efforts or market solutions, or will they clamor for a larger more solvent governments to assume control? The reaction in that critical moment, played out across what may be dozens, hundreds or thousands of instances of government failures, will be the critical thing.

Convincing someone in an immediate conversation is rare and antithetical to human nature, so don’t measure your efforts by that goal. Exposure to voluntaryism, or the non-legitimacy of the state, is an effort in “shifting the window” of acceptable ideas. It will produce an emotional backlash 20 times for every one time that it produces a thoughtful acknowledgement or agreement. This is because of the way the person has been presented in their inner psychological dialogue with a contradiction of a deeply-held emotional investment. Take this as a sign that you have succeeded, because now that they are aware they will be constantly recognizing the manifestations of that contradiction and may later choose to begin reconciling them.

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Violence-Born Independence Day

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“One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original bi-weekly column appearing every other Monday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here.

As a voluntaryist, my primary modus operandi, even in the case of self-defense, is nonviolence. As such, I have a hard time finding justification for the violence of others, now and in the past. In a few days, the United States will be celebrating it’s independence from Great Britain, which occurred in 1776, followed by eight years of violent warfare. That Great Britain used violence to govern the American colonies is indisputable, as all states govern with violence, but was the violence-based revolution by the colonists justified on libertarian grounds?

Who Desired Independence?

That the American colonists eventually resented and rejected rule by Great Britain is not so clear cut. “American colonists” really only meant American property-holding men. It didn’t include women and children, nor their chattel slaves. And further, not all of them rejected rule by Great Britain. In other words, the only thing we can be sure of is that “40-45%” of American property-holding men favored independence from the Crown. As I’m sure women nearly numbered men, and we don’t know what they favored as their opinion was either uninvited or forced to align with their husbands, we can reformulate our percentage and say that only 20%~ of white adults favored independence. And further, as the population in 1776 consisted of 18% slaves, our percentage of those favoring independence thus falls to 16.5%~.

What Independence Meant

That only a sixth of the actual inhabitants of the American colonies wanted independence while the rest remained either neutral or loyal to Great Britain is a very interesting statistic. I am in no way justifying Great Britain’s governing of the American colonies. As a voluntaryist I reject all violence-based governance, but that only a sixth of the actual inhabitants assumed the power to decide the fate of the colonies, thereby starting a nine year war which ended in the deaths of tens of thousands of people and vast amounts of property destruction, including the violent expulsion of British loyalists from their homes and businesses, hardly seems justifiable as an argument for self-defense.

No, what it seems like is that a certain number of wealthy, slave-owning (ie. mala en se criminals), white American men had little regard for what their rejection of British taxation (as they were the most affected by it) would cost the American colonists. Had everyone had an equal voice in accepting those costs, the war (the violence, the bloodshed, the deaths of thousands and the destruction of property) may never have happened. What would that have meant for the future of the colonies? I don’t know, but everything and everyone that was destroyed would not have been. That surely counts for something.

Final Thoughts

I have written before that Independence Day should be used to educate others on the concepts of secession and nullification. These are important, but even more important is understanding that violence begets violence. More effective strategies for securing our liberty exist, and should be explored and experimented with. Violence is destructive and corrupting, and its use should be rarely, if ever, used. And further, the few haven’t the right to decide for the many that violence is justified. If the many want independence, then nonviolence has been shown to be a less costly alternative to war. Let’s never forget that.

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