Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"Government must act by law or terror or some combination of them." Clarence B. Carson on the inextricable links between property, liberty and the law.

Clarence B. Carson, historian. 1925 - 2003.
In my stroll through the thrift store last week, I encountered a remarkable book by Clarence B. Carson, entitled Basic Communism: Its Rise, Spread and Debacle in the 20th Century.
Carson is writing here about the Soviet system (the book was self-published in 1990) but his observations are universal to all systems, especially our own these days.
One of the major conclusions to be drawn from the Soviet experience in this regard is that law is not essential to the exercise of the power of the state. Since governments have commonly used law in the exercise of their power, it might be supposed that law is necessary to that end. On the contrary, law is frequently and in certain ways essentially an impediment to the exercise of governmental power. Government operates essentially by the use of force, and by its nature tends to monopolize the use of force in its jurisdiction. Law regularizes and LIMITS the use of force by government. It limits it by prescribing how force shall be used, to what extent, and under what conditions. In this sense, law is no more necessary to governments than handcuffs to a boxer.
There is an intricate connection between law and property. Probably, private property is essential to the existence of law. In the light of what has happened it does appear that when private property is largely abolished that law does indeed wither away. Certainly, much of it withers away, for law no longer has its main object to deal with. Most important, all rights and liberties wither away in the absence of private property. All rights tend to be more or less extensions of property rights, though they are often not thought of in that light. Freedom of speech, of press, and of religion, for example, are much more dependent upon property than we might casually conclude. Freedom of the press is most meaningful only when one has access to a press, by way either of ownership or consent to its use by some owner. If government owns all the presses, there might conceivably be a government privilege to use the press under certain conditions, but freedom of the press would have no content. Freedom of speech depends upon a place (property) from which to speak, and, for its defense, the means (property) by which to enter into an adversary relationship with those (including government) who might deny it. By extension, freedom of speech is a property right to one's utterances. As for religion, its public practice depends upon the ownership or control over houses of worship and all the physical paraphernalia (musical instruments, song books, prayer nooks, surplices, and so on). The Soviet Union has amply demonstrated the dependence of freedom of religion upon private property. Abolish private property and you undermine law as well. Law can no more survive without private rights in property than can a building be suspended from sky hooks. Neither has any foundation.
Government requires neither private property nor law in order to function. They are both inhibitors of its use of force. There is an alternative to law for government; it is terror. Government must act by law or terror or some combination of them. In the absence of private property and its corollary, law, government must act by terror, when the chips are down. The exercise of force without the restraint of law is terror. No better definition can be given, and none is needed. It does not become terror because of the especially horrible character of the acts. Rather it is terroristic because it is arbitrary, unpredictable, and has no certain cause or explanation. None may know when force will be applied or when it will be halted, for there are no enforceable restraints.
"Government must act by law or terror or some combination of them."


iwitness02 said...

Great insight to our present condition. I never really made the connection so clearly between private property and law. Thanks for sharing that Mike.

Sean said...

Carson wins a cookie. Such clarity and insight is welcome these days, when booty shake and Obongos obfuscations are what we get instead.

Anonymous said...

Carson is brilliant!
25 years ago, I used his History of the U.S. series from the Colonial Period to the Welfare State, as our home-schooling textbooks.

He is a right thinking American in possession of an accurate accounting of American History.

KPN 3%

1NCCCH said...

Excellent article Mike. And the corollary is that all crime is at some level a crime against property. Murder, rape, burglary, theft, coerced taxation of income, eminent domain seizures, bureaucratic regulations that bars citizens from the proper use of their property, etc, are all violations of the sanctity of private property, whether one’s own life, or one’s tangible property. The concepts of the sanctity of private property and the right to the fruit of one’s own labor are essential to the rule of law and respect for others. The Founders linked voting to land ownership because the landed have “skin in the game” that others do not. But we changed that, along with Constitutional limits on the raising of government revenue, and changed the mechanism for electing the upper house, which was a mechanism for protecting State’s and thus, the People’s rights.
We often state that we are a nation of laws, and decry a government that constantly acts extra-legally, but we should not be surprised. We live in a nation where that same government is funded by the theft of private property under the color of “law”. The very law we cherish has been perverted, to its own destruction. We have allowed this to happen by electing criminals who have no care for the Rule of Law and the sanctity of private property. Once “We the People” surrendered our sovereignty to ruling class elites, the die was cast. The rudder of the ship of state is not broken, but we have brigands at the helm! Can we set it right again? I sure hope so…

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...IRS, EPA-private property?

Anonymous said...

Private property ownership in the US is an illusion. You are taxed for "owning" property. If you don't pay that tax the State will take the property from you.

The deed to any private property is nothing more than a sucker certificate. In exchange for bearing all the cost of maintenance and upkeep for your revenue generating parcel for the State, you get to pretend that the property is yours.

Even if all i's are dotted and all t's crossed, the State can still seize "your" property if a determination is maded it will "serve the common good".

And how does the State enforce this current order?

With guns and violence, of course.

From the State's point of view, any alternative arrangement simply wouldn't be civilized.

Be sure to mow your lawn and keep the yard neat - the State prefers that it's property be well kept.

Anonymous said...

Gov't terror: Nazi's hanging 100 or so Czechs because two or three dared to blow up Rheinhard Heydrich...Gov't terror: Feds shooting & burning women and children to death because they claimed their religious leader was wanted for some made up crime or another. And yes, our private property is number one when it comes to liberty and actually we've lost that because of their fiat currency.

Anonymous said...

Sort of like Ruby Ridge and Waco. Lest We Forget !!! We Will Not Stand Down !!! Behind Enemy Lines. In Unconstitutional Collectivist Ct. AAA/O , 11B2O.

Paul X said...

I'm a little doubtful of the notion that law restrains government. To me it looks like it restrains (more accurately, controls) the peons. The ruling class does not in any real sense feel the pressure of the law. In fact government might be defined as that institution whose acts would be punished if ordinary individuals did them.