Politics is Personal
November 16, 2014 by Paul McKeever
November 15th “Politics is Personal” Dinner
Lamplighter Hotel, 591 Wellington Road, London, Ontario
The theme of tonight’s dinner is “Politics is Personal”. Although the theme was one ultimately chosen by Bob Metz, the idea of the personal nature of politics has worked its way into a lot of my thinking in recent years.
There are several senses in which politics is personal. For my part, tonight, I will submit to you that the fact that politics is personal is the reason that we are all gathered in this room tonight.
What I find most striking is the extent to which many in society have tried to hide the fact that politics is personal. They hide its personal nature by the division of governmental powers. They hide it with elections. And they hide it with political parties.
It is sometimes said by lovers of freedom that government is a gun. The response to that claim sometimes takes the form of scoffing or laughter. “Don’t be so melodramatic”, say some. “That’s just hyperbole” say others. But is it true? Is government a gun?
I invite you to consider the story of Joe. Joe picked up his paper one day and read that the legislature had just passed into law the Statute Against Bad Things. Pursuant to section 10 of that new law, he could be charged for doing what he often did. Joe wasn’t going to let the law stand in his way. Joe went ahead and continued to do what he did, knowing he was now violating the law. Joe was charged. The court found him guilty. Joe refused to pay the penalty for his offence. The police approached Joe and demanded that Joe pay the price of his offence. Joe refused. The police drew their guns and threatened to shoot Joe if he didn’t comply. Knowing that he would never agree to comply, Joe knew that the police next would tackle him or shoot him, and force him to pay the penalty for his offence. Joe took out a gun and told the police: I am asking you to leave me alone. I refuse to comply. I will fire at you if I need to. Go away peacefully. The police shot Joe dead.
If I were to tell the public that Joe broke a law against stealing from his neighbours, I am reasonably sure that the public would have no problem understanding the government’s response. The public would not claim that the story was far fetched. They would believe that Joe was shot by police as he resisted paying the penalty for his offence. Most probably would say good riddance to Joe. And, were I to suggest that Joe found out the hard way that the government is a gun, most people would probably agree.
But if I told you that the law broken by Joe was a law requiring him to give half of his earnings to the government to fund its health and education monopolies, most people would write-off my story of Joe as a pure fantasy. If I told them that the government is a gun, the public would deny it, and call my words extreme, or laughable hyperbole. Most would say “The government would never go so far as to shoot a person for not paying his taxes”.
Of course, we who are familiar with the history of Freedom Party know that the government went so far as to come and arrest Marc Emery for his offence of opening his store on Sunday, contrary to a law imposed to keep the Lord’s Day sacred and to tell all Ontario residents that this was a Christian province. To that, the general public frequently will be heard to say that Marc was arrested not for opening his store, but for refusing to pay the $500 fine. Of course, such an argument is designed to blank-out the fact that Marc would never have been fined had there not been a law against opening his store.
We can imagine, also, many arguing that Marc’s true story is is actually proof that the police would never shoot Joe for not paying his taxes. Of course, such an argument blanks-out the essential difference between Joe and Marc: unlike Joe, Marc didn’t resist arrest. Had he done so, as Joe did, we know full well that Marc would have been shot dead. There are all too many examples, from a boy riddled with police bullets on a Toronto bus, to a man in Vancouver who succumbed to numerous police taser shots. We live in a society where one quite probably will be shot if one does not come along peacefully and, even those who do come along peacefully are frequently subjected to police-inflicted injuries.
My point is not about police alone. It is not about judges alone. It is not about laws alone. It is not about law makers alone. My point is that the ultimate penalty for the violation of a law is that one either complies with the law, or one can be shot to death. The ultimate penalty for every violation is the death penalty. The only real question is: will Joe surrender to the law and, if so, when. Will he surrender by not violating the law? Will he surrender by paying the fine or doing the time imposed? Will he surrender when the police come to his door? Or will he refuse to surrender and be killed? The government is a gun and, when the law breaker refuses to surrender, it will be used to kill him.
None of this implies that there should not be laws. Nobody should be free to murder, rape, enslave, or steal from ones neighbours. The point is that many people want to deny that the government is a gun when it comes to laws that violate individual rights. The question is, therefore: What laws should there be?
That is where elections come in and, here again, we find a general tendency to ignore or hide the fact that politics is personal.
Government, as I’ve said, is a gun. He who holds the gun, decides where it will be pointed and when its trigger will be pulled. In days of old disputes over where the gun would be pointed were resolved by way of shows of force. Strong men would take the leads of tribes of loyal followers, and the tribes would war with one another until one tribe was victorious within a certain geographic zone.
The strong man – a king – told his tribesmen where and when to point the gun: having led his tribe to victory in war, he removed himself from the appearance of using guns, and left it to his loyal tribesmen do the bloody business of pulling the trigger.
Over time, those who produced the wealth with which the King paid his soldiers demanded a say in where the governmental gun was pointed. The king, fearful that he would be deprived of the money he needed to pay his soldiers, agreed, ultimately giving the wealthy men the power to tell the King what laws to make. Like the king, these law-makers could keep their hands clean, and leave to the king’s law enforcers the bloody business of pulling the trigger. The king also now had the luxury of not being blamed for any law that the legislators instructed him to make. He was merely a beloved figurehead.
Over time, the general public demanded a say in what laws got made. A system of elections was put in place: the governed could elect from among themselves a number of agents who would – for a limited amount of time – exercise the public’s the power to make laws for itself. Like the king and the wealthy law makers of old, the electorate and their elected agents could keep their hands clean, and leave to police the bloody business of pulling the trigger of the government’s gun.
This brings us to today. Let us revisit the story of Joe. Whether Joe violated a law against theft or a tax law, the general public would, for the most part, deny any responsibility for the shooting and death of Joe. “Joe was shot by the police, not by us”, they might say. “We didn’t make the law, our elected agents did”, they might say. But the fact of the matter is that that law was made by agents. Each of the agents who voted for that law was himself elected by some of the voters. And those voters – the ones who got their agent elected, whose agents made the law that Joe violated, those whose law was enforced by police – those voters, each and all – shot Joe to death for refusing to submit to their will.
An election is a war. It is a war over who will take control over the gun that is government. In advance of the electoral war’s commencement, the participating voters agree that voters on the losing side of the war will cease their efforts to take control of the gun. They agree that they will surrender control over their lives, liberty, and property to the winners. Thus, an election is a war in which all agree that no violence will occur – no blood will be shed – until after seizure of the gun is complete.
And, of course, the ballot is secret: nobody knows for sure who voted for whom. Thus, the election serves to create another veil between the shooting of Joe, and the people who wanted him to obey their will, all of whom have the right of anonymity. The election, in effect, serves as a way of hiring a hitman without anyone ever knowing that you are one of the people who wanted Joe fined, imprisoned, or shot. The election makes politics look and seem impersonal.
It is important to note that elections are inherently morally relativistic. Via an election, we submit to a bloodless show of hands to resolve our disputes about who should be targeted by the government gun. The process of casting and counting ballots does not discriminate between votes for angels and devils, because it deliberately refuses a role to ethics at all. Thus, the good and rational voters agree to put reason aside, and agree to have faith in a system that will settle the dispute via brute force: a contest in which the winner is quite simply the bigger army.
Enter the role of the political party, and the hiding of its personal nature. A political party is a number of individuals who come together conspiring to win the electoral war and seize control of the governmental gun so that Joe will have either to obey the party’s will, or face fine, imprisonment, or death.
The party’s will can be determined in many ways. It can be determined by the whims of the majority of its members, or by the whims of the leader selected by the members; it can be determined by principles set out in philosophy; it can be determined by religious dogma. Either way, we are left with the impression that a party – not its individual members, and not a person – has a will.
However, Freedom Party’s will is determined, ultimately, not by majority rule or religious dogma, but by a rational philosophy. At root, that philosophy recognizes and respects the essential nature of human beings. We see human nature as a thing to be defended, not as a thing to be fought or defeated. We believe that it is right – that it is an individual human being’s essential nature – to pursue his or her own happiness solely by rational, honest means.
A thing is what a thing does. Freedom Party believes that a government is a thing that defends human nature. Specifically, a government defends human nature by preventing anyone from taking your life, liberty, or property without your consent.
Again, a thing is what a thing does. Therefore Freedom Party believes that those who act to defeat human nature are not doing what a government does. We believe that a person, or a group of people, or any agents of those people, who take your life, liberty or property without your consent is not a government. Such actions are the actions not of a government, but of a criminal gang. Such people are members of a criminal gang. And, if their party is elected, it is merely an elected criminal gang. Thus, when a criminal gang holds the gun of government, you have not a government, but anarchy. You have a place in which your life, liberty, and property have no protection; a place in which you are treated not as an adult human being, but as a barnyard animal that will either lay eggs or be slaughtered, at the whim of the farmer party.
But, as in the case of governments and elections, the members and supporters of those political parties who seek to turn you into their barnyard animals want to hide the personal nature of their political venture. Those of your neighbours who are members or supporters of the Liberals, for example, are enemies of government. They do not want your life, liberty, or property defended; they do not want human nature defended. They want it defeated. They want control over the gun of government so as to make you surrender control over your life, liberty, and property.
For you – the barnyard animal – their politics is personal. When their elected agents pass a law forcing you to hand over your earnings, or make it illegal for you to continue making a living by providing hair-dressing services, that’s personal! Their politics points the gun of government directly at you and says: your money or your life.
Politics is personal also when a proper government is pointing the gun. When your neighbour takes your life, liberty, or property, in violation of laws made by your elected agents – laws against murder, rape, and theft – the government rightly points the gun at the neighbour and says to him: your neighbour’s freedom or your life.
The difference is: when government uses the gun to defend life, liberty, and property, there is nothing to be ashamed of. There is no reason to hide the personal nature of politics. We – the advocates of freedom and defenders of human nature – do not deny that we personally hold and point the gun that is pointed at the would be murderer, rapist, or thief. We boldly assert that government is a gun. We proudly admit that we have used the electoral process and our ballots in attempts to seize control of the governmental gun. We wear as a badge of pride our membership in or support of Ontario’s only pro-human nature, pro-government, pro-freedom, political party. We are proud also of our conspiracy to have the public obey our will…because our will is good will toward Man. We, the supporters of freedom, gladly admit that politics is personal and – so that freedom might prevail – we will never let our opponents pretend otherwise.
And so I say: long live the will to be free, and long live Freedom Party.