ISSUES IN FOCUS

Week of June 14, 1998

THE LITMUS TEST OF LAW

Suppose you are walking down some lonely street and you are confronted by an armed robber who demands your money. At the point of a gun, you give the robber your money. But the robber is remorseful and apologizes, saying he needs the money for his kids, for their education, for their health care, for their clothing and food—plus, he has elderly parents who need to be able to retire with the "social security" of knowing they will never have to earn another nickel to support themselves.

Now, what would be the reaction of most if confronted by this situation in real life? Most would condemn the action of the robber, notwithstanding the supposed noble purpose of his act. But why is armed robbery wrong? Most would say, and rightly so, that the robber has no right to their money, that it is wrong for an individual to take by force the money of another. While most recognize the armed robber’s fundamental evil—the initiation of force—they generally fail to recognize that very same evil in its most popular and widely used form: statist legislation and regulations.

The initiation of force is the initiation of force and it makes no difference if it is committed by a single individual or by a bunch of statist politicians who control the guns of government—the act is the same and if it is wrong in the former instance, it is wrong in the latter instance. Simply legalizing the activity of a robber does not make it right. It is still the same act manifested in a different form: legal action created by statist laws. The fact that a majority of voters have given their approval for the state to engage in such action does not make it right. It is still the initiation of force—and such action is not merely mistaken, it is immoral.

No matter how complex a given issue might be, when it comes to the enactment of law, there is a single test which must be applied to all law: does it require the initiation of force? If it does, it is evil. If it doesn’t, then the merits of the law may be judged on other issues. But all law must have one, and only one, goal: the protection of the individual against the initiation of force. A law should only require the use of government force in retaliation against those who initiate it.

The guiding principle of a free society is: force may only be used in self-defense and only against those who initiate it. A free society outlaws armed robbery by private individuals and by public officials representing the so-called public. The guiding principle of a statist society is: the initiation of force, especially by public officials. A statist society institutionalizes, through the government, the actions and morality of the armed robber.

In a free society, all are equal in their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Reason, persuasion and voluntary cooperation are the means of dealing with others. No one is forced, at the point of a gun, to provide for the livelihood of another. You are free to pursue virtue or vice, live a productive life or one of debauchery. If you make a mistake, reality, not statists politicians, will punish you. It is live and let live, with only one, fundamental law: do not violate the right to life of another, do not initiate force against another.

In a statist society, law is an instrument of extortion, plunder, theft and prohibition. There are producers and consumers. You produce and statists consume. Statists forcibly take your money, and the time in your life it takes to earn it, in order to feed their followers and supporters, those legions of parasites and leeches, those teeming hordes of human maggots who gorge themselves on stolen funds. Statist politicians establish themselves as the arbiters of vice and virtue, outlawing the former and making the latter compulsory—outlawing your right to make your own moral decisions. It is live only if you follow their dictates enforced through the initiation of force. And if you fail to follow their orders, then you will imprisoned, fined and/or have your property seized.

We have had, and continue to have, an explosion of statist legislation on all levels of government. Virtually every piece of legislation currently under consideration—whether it be campaign finance reform, legislation to control software encryption technology, additional funding for school vouchers—requires the implementation of the armed thug’s morality: the initiation of force by the state. They all fail the litmus test of law.

If you wish to be free, you must tell lawmakers: make no law against the mind—enact no law which, through the initiation of force, seeks to prevent you from making up your own mind about how you spend your life’s time and money.

Fulton Huxtable
June 14, 1998

Copyright 1998 Fulton Huxtable

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