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  • Alan Stevens - AWAH - Libertarianism, Freedom.

Consent & Opting Out of the State

The state could prove that its subjects freely support it by allowing those who don’t agree to opt-out of it without having to emigrate. Of course, it will never do so. But thinking about it shows how society is divided between tax-producers and tax-consumers.


The libertarian criticism of the modern state is that it is based on unequal treatment before the law. Some people can rob and bully other human beings, without their victims having any redress, in the name of an imaginary friend, or mass hallucination, called ‘the state’.


THE STATE IS UNECESSARY AND UNJUST


Those whose incomes depend on state-sanctioned coercion, fraud and robbery are relying on a state monopoly judging all disputes. This monopoly protects the state’s bullies and thieves because they are members of the same criminal association as the judges.


We are led to believe by state-sponsored media, intellectuals and academia that elected and unelected officials are paragons of virtue and altruistic dedication. Meanwhile investors and entrepreneurs are depicted as selfish, exploitative and corrupt. The reality is mostly the opposite. It’s obvious that people who have legal immunity to rob and bully others have little incentive to give much value to their citizen slaves. Incentives matter.


The chance to live on ill-gotten gains attracts the less honest members of humanity to the state. Expensive propaganda is needed to keep most people from realizing this.


It is quite funny watching proponents of the state assert that it can perform any useful services as effectively as competing independent entities in a free society would do. All monopolies tend to reduce production and increase costs - because they can. People who get paid every month by state institutions, who have no competitors (because of the state) and cannot go bankrupt, basically act as parasites whilst desperately virtue-signalling. Heaven knows what will happen when enough people understand that human beings are perfectly capable of voluntarily cooperating to meet important needs such as security, healthcare, welfare, transport infrastructure and education. They don’t need to be bossed around by the state.


History, especially in the English-speaking world between 1700 and 1900, demonstrates this clearly. Many of my posts describe the unsung achievements of our ancestors in solving problems without resorting to legalized robbery or bullying. It’s just as well the state has control of education, and of propagandists in the licensed media and academia. Otherwise, who knows what the serfs would learn about the past, or indeed the present?


Lastly one should not forget the many things that government does which are simply designed to disadvantage the powerless and benefit wealthier politically connected groups. Such groups include the states’ military industrial complexes, and the wonderful healthcare and drugs lobbies, which brought us the ‘plandemic’ and RNA vaccine scams.


If there were no other reason to get rid of the state – and there are so many others – who wouldn’t want to see the back of sociopaths who profit from building and deploying weapons of war so terrible everyone assumes they won’t be used? Every twenty years or so they push their brinkmanship to the point where it is quite possible that they will in fact be used. We are living right now through yet another such crisis. How long are we going to count on being lucky every time?


THE IMPORTANCE OF CONSENT

When the full charge sheet is presented to defenders of the state, the preferred response is, of course, no response. It is famously impossible to convince anyone of something if their income depends on their not understanding it. Now, in 2022, more than half the population is effectively on the government teat and therefore believe the state is their friend, although thanks to the Covid-19 PsyOp attack, far more are beginning to smell a rat.


Few defenders of the state recognise that there is a case to answer. Those few that try to rise to the challenge resort to two basic defenses of the state’s legal privilege.

One response is to say “too bad but we statists are in the majority and you have to lump it’’. They admit that the state is just a legally privileged robber band. The moral high ground is thus conceded to the pro-liberty camp, though we are still left to figure out how to get the state’s boot off our necks.


The more principled statist response is that people genuinely consent to their unequal legal status under the state, which means that the state is legitimate. This belief historically took the form of asserting there was a mystical ‘social’ contract between the ruled and the rulers. Indeed, the success of Classical Liberal (i.e. quasi-libertarian) Britain from 1688 – 1914 was based on John Locke’s doctrine that such a mystical contract existed, and that it guaranteed Englishmen’s freedoms. But in the end the state regrew and stifled society again.


If it were true that people have in fact entered into contracts which consent to the existence of the state, then the state would be the result of voluntary cooperation. But under Common Law, enforceable legal contracts have termination provisions enabling either party to exit the deal, are not valid if made under duress, and are generally invalid if they can last ‘in perpetuity’ (more than 21 years).


Therefore, social contract theory is quite easy to rebut, as being a fake contract. Imagine someone turns up at your door. He says “By virtue of your living here you have consented to a legally binding contract with me. Under it you pay me whatever money I demand and in return I will provide whatever services that suit me, regardless of your wishes. This contract has no termination provisions and lasts indefinitely.” The latter provision alone would – as we have seen - make this an invalid contract under English Law.


Clearly no reasonable person would ever sign such an agreement, and no free court would agree that a genuine contract had ever come into existence, let alone enforce it. We can thus dispense with the notion of the state as a beneficiary of a true contract or agreement.


However, in practice the only way currently to avoid the alleged social contract is to leave the country. And there are no territories anywhere which do not belong to a state of some kind. Most are still more unpleasant and exploitative than our own.


As somebody who lived abroad as a young man, I know that emigration has costs. We belong with our families and friends and native culture, language and institutions. Having to leave them behind to secure more freedom is another unjust imposition by states.


ALLOWING OPTING OUT WOULD ENABLE GENUINE CONSENT FOR THE STATE

There is however a way for the state to reclaim the moral high ground by demonstrating that it truly enjoys the consent of its subjects. The state could simply let libertarian dissenters opt-out of state laws, taxes and services – without their having to emigrate at all. They would be able to opt out in situ. You couldn’t say fairer than that.


In such a case, those who did not opt-out of the state would clearly be consenting to living under the current statist regime. In effect people in the UK would be voluntarily continuing to live under the British state regime, agreeing to pay half of incomes in complicated taxes to fund inefficient and substandard ‘services’ and to abide by complicated laws which discourage self-reliant prosperity etc. It would be their choice.


THE DEAL FOR CITIZENS WHO OPT OUT

If Britain, for example, became a place where libertarian dissenters could opt out of the state without significant penalty, such as exile, there would be interesting consequences.

Firstly, if a majority of the population did opt out of the state, it would show that the British state did not in fact enjoy the consent of most inhabitants. It would clearly be illegitimate in its own terms.


However, I’m going to assume that, at first anyway, a clear majority of the population would stick with the state. Better the devil you know, perhaps.


Arrangements would have to be made for opted-out people, properties and businesses to contribute to some state services. Specifically, opt-out arrangements would grant access to roads, and to passports for travel. As a former county councillor, I know how little of the tax take is spent on the roads, and not always efficiently at that. One or two hundred pounds annually per opting out household would cover it.


There could be an argument for asking opted-out people to contribute to defence costs. At least we would finally have a real debate about how much of the British ‘defense’ budget is sensible. It mostly seems to be an ‘offense’ budget destined to kill and maim foreigners - Afghans, Iraqis, Yemenis and now Ukrainians misled into fighting a hopeless war. It also launders money to deep state purveyors of small quantities of over-priced, ineffective arms.


There would need to be arrangements for handling legal disputes between opted-in and opted-out litigants. The state should refund contributions made for future state pensions to those who opt out to allow them to make independent provision. If it were done properly, the state’s own pension liabilities would be correspondingly reduced.


The good news is that for those who opted out there would be no taxation, no VAT, property, income, inheritance or national insurance exactions, or potentially conscription. There would be no regulations and no laws creating a maze of victimless crimes or huge compliance costs.


Free citizens would be able to import goods free of tariffs and regardless of regulatory barriers protecting politically protected producers. They could open bank accounts freely, use whatever money they wanted, and move it and themselves freely internationally. Their businesses could make and sell better, less expensive, products because of the end of corporatist regulations designed to foist unnecessarily expensive goods on consumers.


The bad news would be that they wouldn’t get current ‘free’ state education, healthcare, welfare or state pensions. They would have to pay for such things out of (untaxed) income.


WHAT WOULD HAPPEN - FREE BRITAIN?

Let’s pretend that ten percent of the UK’s population, with their property and businesses, opted out of the UK state. That would create a Free Britain with a population about the size of Switzerland. Switzerland is a freer and much richer country than Britain (which has basically been run by Marxists since 1945). ‘Free Britain’ would be big enough to be viable.


I am not going to pursue this thought experiment too far because under the current dispensation it cannot happen. The sociopaths in the higher reaches of the permanent bureaucracy state will never voluntarily cede power. They will double down and find new ways to deploy violence against human flourishing. By so doing they reveal what they want to hide – that they have nothing to offer and much to fear.


And in any case, any opportunity to let productive people escape from state servitude would speedily create a runaway move to dismantle the state. There would be a corresponding upwelling of pure panic within the social groups who have been misled into depending on the state.


Just imagine it. The untaxed and unregulated opted-out sector would have as little as half the production costs of the corresponding state sector. One can assume that most of those who opted out of the state would be productive people and dedicated savers – able therefore to support themselves. The opted-out sector would boom, as all free societies do.


One effect of the appearance of an opted-out population across Britain would be the demolition of state propaganda narratives. There would be no censorship, and so no cancel culture. Free media, and competing law courts would be much better at unearthing the truth of issues such as vaccine injuries and ‘climate change’ than any state political system. Once you realise how many lies we have been asked to swallow by self-serving elites, one can see what a shocking and liberating effect such an island of freedom could have.


THE OPTED IN STATE’S COLLAPSE ACCELERATES

Back with the 90% of opted-in state supporters, the tax base would fall by much more than 10%. But the mass of dependent tax-consumers would stay and cling all the harder to Nanny. If the state raised taxes to fill the gap, then more productive people would opt out.


When I describe people as being tax-consumers draining the life and energy of the productive sector, I am not trying to make a personal criticism. Anybody who, by sheer chance perhaps, took a state career rather than a job in a competitive market sector chose the path of dependence. Their future income-stream all the way into retirement has to come from extorting resources from increasingly disenchanted producers. They are (mostly) on the liability side of society’s balance sheet. They didn’t think of it that way, and many still don’t. But it’s true and it will make them vulnerable, and afraid, as the modern state flounders towards breakdown.


Another huge class of state dependents are pensioners. Many must rely on the state because the state made independent saving difficult. It took in taxes what they might otherwise have saved. And it knowingly wrecked the value of the currency (and therefore savings) for personal and political advantage. The state’s pension promise is all many older people have.


Then there are the legions of people trapped in permanent welfare dependency, and the privileged members of the permanent bureaucracy itself.


TRADITIONAL CONSERVATIVES AMONG THOSE WHO OPT-OUT

Many traditional social conservatives are fed up with unviable ‘woke’ politically correct orthodoxy spread by the decaying state. Which makes such groups reflexively mistrustful of the British state. Such people would be much more likely to opt out. They would want to restore traditional attitudes to the family, divorce, abortion and religion. Not only would they escape bureaucratic bullying, but the state handouts which subsidise undermining traditional values would cease. Many social pathologies would largely disappear in the opted-out population, but not in the abused opted-in ‘statist’ population.


OPTED-OUT BRITAIN AND THE TRANSITION AWAY FROM THE MODERN STATE

So what have we learned from this thought experiment? Obviously, the British state doesn’t have the real consent of all of its subjects. If it ever took the step of allowing genuine individual opting out, i.e. secession, it would demonstrate that many people would reject it. It would quickly be clear that support for the state is mainly found among those who benefit, or think they benefit, from state enabled extortion and bullying.


H L Mencken, a well-known libertarian journalist, once described elections as ‘advance auctions of stolen goods’. The problem is that securing support for the democratic state requires much of the population to be bribed with property looted from producers.


Allowing people to opt of the state would make it obvious to all that our society is profoundly divided. More and more people depend for their incomes on the state taxing others, and on it enforcing costly regulations whose effect is to disadvantage smaller businesses and consumers. The position of independent producers and consumers who shoulder these burdens is becoming more difficult.


This thought experiment therefore, I hope, also casts light on the problems that will arise as Britain goes into its inevitable transition away from the failing institutions of the state. Huge numbers of people stand to lose in the not so short-term as institutions, currencies and promises become unreliable at an accelerating pace.

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