Friday, June 12, 2009

BYU Freedom Society Correspondence pt1

Dear Shiloh Logan,

I read of your club on the internet, and went to visit your website. I am currently struggling with identifying the justifications for coercion by government. I thought the below remarks were interesting. I hope they may add further light to my understanding. I would like to ask you to, if you can, tell me of its authoritative source, and if its source is 'a student', then, what prompted him to come to the conclusions made, particularly the one underlined below, and to expound on exactly what is meant. For example, from where does the government get its authority to use coercion, and, how does one determine if one is 'incapable of self-government'? Please add any other thoughts you may have.

“When speaking of liberty and freedom, the natural course is to speak of government. Government is the only authority in the world that can legally use the power of coercion to fulfill its duties upon society. In acknowledging the inherent and inalienable ability of choice, good government's focus rests on maintaining the outward expression of these abilities and only uses the power of coercion towards those who are incapable of self-government. This principle, however, has not always been maintained nor regarded among those who have led governments.”

Thank you for your help.



Thank you for contacting me. Sorry it has taken me a while to get back to you. Hopefully I can answer a few questions. Even better, perhaps I can elicit a few more questions.

What is government, and are inalienable rights alienable?

Legitimate Constitutional government is nothing but a collection of individuals chosen to perform a specific enumerated duty. Each of us are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights. These rights cannot -- at any time -- be alienated from us; however, the physical movement and application of these inalienable rights may be physically curtailed (jail). As Sam Adams stated:

"If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of Almighty God, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave."

Individual Sovereignty and Equality of Man

Our Constitutional government was established upon the philosophy that each individual was a sovereign of his own property or personal "kingdom" (as it were). There are obvious perceived discrepancies that are initially presented to this idea (such as the accepted use of slavery during the foundation of our country, and the lack of "woman's rights"), but these concerns and arguments are easily resolved -- although I will not argue that here. Suffice it to say that each individual is "created equally" and that is how the Founder's intended it: Equality exists at birth, as per the inalienable rights given by the Creator.

Individual Sovereignty Within Society

Since each individual is created equal with certain inalienable rights (such as Life, Liberty, and Property), then each sovereign individual has the power and freedom to constitute his own personal relationship with others and to create society. Each individual that realizes the benefits of society may also join the fellowship of other individuals. Because each individual is equal with each other (as per rights given by a Creator, and not assumed or given by a majority's consensus), no majority may assume a power that the individuals alone do not possess. Society may choose to do their business by a majority's consensus and permit, but never can the majority (collection of individuals equal with all men) violate the rights of the minority (collection of individuals equal with all men) in the process.

Simplified Use of Coercion

The concept wherein coercion can be legitimately used (especially in United States history), is most easily explained by the Old Norse tradition of law.

The Old Norse believed that law was a basic liquid or floating substance that existed in the space between all things. The law -- as they reasoned -- prohibited one individual from violating the rights of their equal. Whenever an individual violated the rights of their neighbor, then their own cloak and protection of the law around their own person disappeared; in other words, they had stepped outside the protective bounds of the law. This is where the term outlaw came from: as the individual violated the rights of another, his cloak and protection of the law disappeared. After a person had lost the protecting cloak of the law and become an outlaw, it was legitimate for any person to abuse, prohibit, coerce, and curtail his actions -- even unto death itself.

America's Fundamental use of Coercion, and Self-Government

Our American institution is based and built upon self-government; for the individual to be a religious and moral person. Government is nothing but a collection of individuals, and to find the morality in government you need look no further than those who occupy office. Freedom is not measured by the amount of perceived "moral" laws in society, but by the ability of man to govern his own self through individual morality. When man understands correct principles, he will govern himself. Morality cannot be enforced upon the individual; virtue cannot be coerced. Self-government is not something that can be itself coerced. Individually, I have no power to coerce another man into self-government; however, should that individual violate the rights of another, then I have the ability of restraining this person because his actions are outside the bounds of natural law.

Can I force my neighbor to be accountable? No. But I shouldn't have to pay for his blunders either. There are natural consequences to actions, and current political theory and philosophy often seeks to force a different outcome than what nature offers in consequence.

Until my neighbor infringes upon the inalienable liberty of another individual, his action of non-self-governance cannot be addressed by society. Legitimate Constitutional government (a group of individuals with specifically enumerated duties) can only take action when personal equity has been lost through negligence or willful intent by a person lacking self-government encroaching on the inalienable liberties of another. This is the only time when the majority (collection of individuals) may ever legitimately coerce the individual: when the cloak of law has been breached and a person has been found incapable of self-government by violating the rights of another. Otherwise, each individual is an individual sovereign having equal rights individually as the masses possess collectively.

It must be understood, however, that unlike the Old Norse traditions, the American institution -- while coercing the individual who has infringed upon the rights of another -- does not stipulate that the individual ever loses their own rights. We must remember that all rights are inalienable, we are simply restricted in our ability of expressing these inalienable rights when we have gone outside the bounds of law to infringe upon another's inalienable rights.


I apologize for the length of this email. Hopefully this helped to clarify what was written by the Freedom Society. Please contact me with any further questions.


Shiloh Logan

No comments: