1993-11-09 - Re: Private and Public

Header Data

From: “Perry E. Metzger” <pmetzger@lehman.com>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 387a4cb85300ae208491a3672bd64f753cadb565a156d2d4e23a9f1296b8f558
Message ID: <9311091703.AA15735@snark.lehman.com>
Reply To: <199311090536.VAA08446@mail.netcom.com>
UTC Datetime: 1993-11-09 17:03:39 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 9 Nov 93 09:03:39 PST

Raw message

From: "Perry E. Metzger" <pmetzger@lehman.com>
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 93 09:03:39 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re: Private and Public
In-Reply-To: <199311090536.VAA08446@mail.netcom.com>
Message-ID: <9311091703.AA15735@snark.lehman.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Since Mr. Merritt has insisted, I will take a foray into this issue. I
would suggest, however, that this is not the forum for this discussion.

Doug Merritt says:
> Incorrect. You have complete freedom as to your citizenship. Any time that
> you choose, you are free to renounce your citizenship, and thereby
> reject the contract that citizenship gives you.

Mr. Merritt, this discussion is much like that of a Catholic peasant
in 1500 trying to understand an atheist, with me in the role of the
atheist. I don't believe that government has any legitimacy. Imagine
an armed gang comes up to you and says "We are your government. You
are a citizen of our government. We will now take half of all your
money and protect you with it." How is this in any fundamental sense
different from what the goverment does? They have a piece of paper
called a "constitution". Fine. I can write a similar pretty piece of
paper called a "constitution" if I want. They have a lot of nice
marble buildings. I could buy some nice marble buildings. They have
periodic "elections" in which they allow an arbitrary set of people they
have selected to "vote". I could similarly hold periodic "elections".
They say they are the legitimate rulers of the U.S. -- I could
similarly simply claim to be the legitimate ruler of the U.S.

Government controls because of a large collective delusion. To the
peasant in 13th century Italy, disobeying a priest would be
unthinkable -- he was delivering the word of God, after all. The
notion that God does not exist didn't even occur to him. The power of
the Catholic Church of the day was awesome because most people held
the irrational belief system that said the Church spoke the word of a
mythical "God". A peasant of that day could not have conceived of the
notion that a man could live his life without any religion or a church
to belong to.  Similarly, the bulk of the people in our country
believe in the legitimacy of the Government, largely because they
believe it is somehow a legitimate entity that they require. People
believe that they need the government the way that 13th century
peasants believed that they needed God. 

Well, millions of people now understand that they can live happy
comfortable lives without a church, and someday most people will
understand that they can lead happy comfortable lives without the

You claim that I've entered into a "social contract". I have never
seen such a contract. I have no idea what it might say. You claim that
I am free to renounce my citizenship -- but non-citizens resident in
this country are also apparently members of this mythical "contract"
because they too are forced to pay tribute to this gang calling itself
the government. You claim that my staying in the land in which I was
born is implicit acceptance of this "contract", but in what way is
this different from a mafiosi claiming that because I continue to live
in the neighborhood which he controls I must pay him protection money?

> If you continue to accept the freely-granted citizenship you were born
> into, then you are also accepting the entire contract, like it or not.

As for your quaint theory that there is in fact a social contract, I
suggest reading Lysander Spooner's "No Treason: The Constitution of No
Authority", which you can FTP from think.com in the libernet directory
tree. Spooner was a 19th century anarchist and legal scholar. Among
his other accomplishments was demonstrating that the U.S. Postal
monopoly was unnecessary by starting the American Letter Mail Company,
which nearly drove the U.S. Postal Service out of any use by anyone
before his company was banned by the Private Express Acts which were
specifically targetted at him. Spooner had many other fascinating
adventures, as an abolitionist and as a promoter of private monetary
systems -- which were also banned, incidently.