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L. Neil Smith's
Number 638, September 25, 2011

"Call it a game of chicken on a global scale."

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Occupy or Withdraw?
by Jim Davidson

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

You've had a week to hear about the occupation of Liberty Square, formerly Zuccotti Park, in the financial district of Manhattan island, New York city. You've presumably had some time to form an opinion of this idea. Should people be occupying Wall Street? To what end?

Very recently, I became informed about the "one demand" of the people assembled there to occupy Wall Street. I read about their list of related (and therefore in some sense unitary) demands on this page.

I've found the same demands on 508 web pages today using Google, so I'm fairly confident that these demands represent the leaderless collective gathered at Liberty Square. Extracting the commentary, I am presenting those demands here in list form:

Ending capital punishment is our one demand.

Ending police intimidation is our one demand.

Ending wealth inequality is our one demand.

Ending corporate censorship is our one demand.

Ending the modern gilded age is our one demand.

Ending political corruption is our one demand.

Ending joblessness is our one demand.

Ending poverty is our one demand.

Ending health-profiteering is our one demand.

Ending American imperialism is our one demand.

Ending war is our one demand.

My immediate response is: Free the slaves, stop the wars, end the state. I'm against capital punishment, police intimidation (and brutality), censorship, corruption, poverty, imperialism, and war.

As a propertarian (compare to "anti-propertarian") in the tradition of L. Neil Smith's The Probability Broach, I am in favour of more jobs, less poverty, better health care, greater income equality to the extent that these things are available in free, unfettered markets. I'm reminded of a Somali saying, "In the forest, some trees grow taller." So I don't think we'll ever see an end to wealth inequality. However, I believe that much, if not most, though probably not all, of the wealth and income inequality that we see around us has to do with direct government intervention to favour the vested interests of the most politically connected.

In other words, politicians like Obama are bought and paid for by the powers that be for the benefit of the banking cartel, the military contractors, the prison industry, and other groups that use their existing wealth and power to continue government programmes which favour their interests. These groups are also notoriously anti-freedom, opposed to choices in the free market, and eager to put your neighbours in cages, or graves.

Contrast Agorism
Have you heard about the vast agorist conspiracy? We want to withdraw from the system and encourage everyone to do as they choose.

Where I differ from the "occupy Wall Street" crowd is mostly about methods. I think that there is some evidence that the Ad Busters people and some of the others represented at the occupation of Liberty Square are not anti-government, but think they can modify the government to serve only their interests and not the interests of those currently in power. Which is a pipe dream that has failed to materialise, repeatedly, in the past.

Even if the people occupying Wall Street did not want any government at all, they would still be pursuing a "butt heads" or "smash the system" strategy as opposed to agorism. Agorism is about withdrawing from the system and creating our own alternatives which involve consent. When you look at the AdBuster's site and you ask about these worker collectives and their people assemblies discussing what their one demand is, they still have what amounts to petitioning the system for redress of grievances. Which means, to me, they have to have the system (whether the government or the banking gangsters) respond to the petitions.

Compare and contrast to this essay.

Yes, it does not matter now whether we end the state one way or another. Yes, I'm willing to work with people who are interested in a different "after the state" sort of society or organising principle, given that ending the state is a monumental undertaking. So, I'm not *against* the people occupying Wall Street, I simply don't think their strategy is working, nor that it is going to work. I'm willing to support their work as I'm able (which is currently not at all) and I've left requests for supporting their work in, e.g., the mutual aid group I started, alone (whereas I've deleted some requests that don't relate, and asked other admins to be mindful of our desire to focus on individual requests for aid, mostly).

In the year of our Lord 1215, at a place called Runnymede, a king after whom toilets have been named ever since signed a great charter. Magna Carta was signed by king John to recognize the demonstrable fact that he did not rule by any "divine" right. Indeed, in pursuing the full application of that document's meaning, a later king, Charles I, was shown not to rule at all -- by virtue of having his head sawn off by a swordsman.

Yet by half measures such as Magna Carta the people of England were led back into slavery. First they were assured that England has no fixed constitution -- though Magna Carta identified not only freedoms for the barons, but also for the yeomen -- without whose bows the victory at Runnymede would have been far from certain. Next they were discouraged from keeping guns about their persons. Ultimately, they were disarmed, and now they are spied upon by their government, taxed to death, and regulated unto poverty. And given how much England has fucked over my ancestral home, Scotland, and the rest of the world, I'm hard pressed to find much of a fuck to give about them.

But this idea that some must rule and the rest serve is entirely wrong. And, apparently, by killing Charles the First, Louis Seize, and various other kings, people have somehow failed to convey this idea earnestly and well.

For in its place we find *vox populei, vox dei* which is an idiotic refrain if ever there were one. The voice of the people is the voice of God? Seriously? Have you actually listened to these fools? Have you watched any of them at the super market?

No, that is no substitute. The divine right of the people to rule each other is no improvement upon the divine right of kings to rule everyone else. You have to get past this idea of government as an externally imposed concept.

L. Neil Smith did the world a great favour by imagining what things would be like if Thomas Jefferson had penned one extra word in the declaration of independence in 1776. Had he written, "Governments derive their just powers from the unanimous consent of the governed," then the whiskey rebels would have been much more assured of their nullification, Washington would never have been able to conscript 13,000 slaves to march across Pennsylvania (killing 12 of them during the process) and both Washington and his tax man Hamilton would likely have been shot as traitors. The Probability Broach is such a good book, you really ought to read it, or its graphic novel adaptation, or both. Seriously. [TPB and/or TPB graphic novel from; or from Barnes & Noble]

In the analysis of the word "government" as something other than externally imposed coercion, what could it mean to be "governed"? If it does not come from outside of you, could it come from within you? If you were to govern yourself, what would that be like?

It would mean choosing for yourself. It would mean taking choices on your own, without being supervised, without being threatened, without being deceived. It would mean being responsible for such choices as you entered with full knowledge, voluntary agreement, competence, where an exchange of value took place. In other words, it would mean being an adult.

Being free is not a decision you make. It is not a sign you hold. It is not a protest you attend. It is not a comment you make on a blog. It is not a hat you wear in a courthouse, nor a license plate some group of thugs supply you to put on your car.

Rather, it is an attitude you have, about life. It is a way of living. Being free is an aspect of every choice you take, every interaction you have with others. Being free is being governed by no one other than yourself.

And who better to govern you? You know what you are really like. You know what fibs you have told. You know what is best for you. You know which things really suit your tastes, and which are reasonable substitutes. In the market you pick the things that suit you, knowing that there are things there which suit others.

Are you harmed by choices you don't take? No. Having extra spicy peppers in the store which you do not have to choose does you no harm. It neither picks your pocket nor punches your face. It simply sits there in a bin of vegetation which you are free to pass by.

In my own book *Being Sovereign*, I made an effort to give voice to this attitude. The book is a series of essays, mostly from my financial newsletter *The Indomitus Report*. In these essays, I try to capture some of the attitude and philosophy behind my being sovereign.

For I am sovereign. I have assumed among the powers of the Earth the equal station to which the laws of nature, and of nature's God entitle me. You should, too.

Then what does it mean to be sovereign? It means that I choose for myself. I am not supervised in taking choices. I am not ordered about. If I do what someone has asked me, very likely they have asked pleasantly, in a manner signifying their understanding that I have choices. Civility and courtesy are useful in honoring the sovereignty in others. And if I do what I have been asked to do, it remains my choice to do so, and my responsibility.

Every day, for at least some part of each day, you do what you choose without being supervised. Why not be that way all the time?

And if you are your own government, then what business do you have involving yourself in the government by others of your neighbors, or of people across the sea? Shouldn't you mind your own fucking business? Isn't it time for you to withdraw from the system that attempts to oppress you? Put some distance between you and these evil men and women who think they are right to rule you.

Were you to do so, you would be joining approximately 174 million persons who did not vote in the November 2008 election (of whom only about 77 million were ineligible due to age or current incarceration). Were you to do so, you would be joining approximately 182 million Americans who filed no form of personal income tax paper at all in April 2010. Were you to do so, you would be joining about 103 million Americans who either did not return any census form, or only wrote the number of persons in their "household." In short, you would be jumping into a very crowded pool. Come on in, the water is fine.

Put down your remote control. Turn off the television. Spray paint "This box lies" on the face of your TV. Kick it in. Throw it in the street and shout, "I'm mad as hell, and I don't have to take it any more!"

Stop petitioning the government. Have you noticed that they are not listening, still? I think they never will. Were you seriously expecting the government to stop oppressing you because of that silly sign you held at the airport protest over the porno scanners and groping thugs? Yes, sure, I put on a "press" badge and took some photos of a recent airport protest in the expectation of being able to document some of the violence that seemed likely to ensue. But I didn't carry a sign.

I don't write to congress critters. I don't ask that my government change the way it is doing things: because I govern myself, when I want my government to change something, I simply change it.

I don't vote. I understand that you have deeply held reasons for voting. Still. Can you honestly say in the 40 years of its existence that the Libertarian Party has changed anything for the better, at all? Really? Do tell. Yes, they became corrupt, sold out their platform in 2006, and nominated an arch Republican drug warrior, bigot, and gun law prosecutor in 2008. Do you still think, after 40 years, that voting Libertarian is going to fix anything?

I don't vote because I don't consent to be governed by anyone else. I don't vote because I don't agree that the outcome of the election is victory for whomsoever garners the largest number of counted votes -- not the largest number of cast votes, certainly. I don't vote because none of these people have a contract with me to represent my actual interests. They appear to have contracts with people in major industries who give their campaigns a lot of money, though.

Why are you so concerned, anyway? If you are individually oppressed by some law, break it. It isn't *your* law. You didn't consent to it. Why obey it? Disobey. Your chains: break them.

Your signs of protest do not demonstrate your power. They demonstrate your subservience. You are asking the people to help you change the system that oppresses you. Why? You are asking those in power over you to change the system that oppresses you. Why?

Why not simply do those things you choose to do, for yourself? Why not choose today to do anything that you think is the right thing to do? Do you have any other sensible obligation, really?

These *mala prohibitum* laws arise mostly as revenue measures. The things they prohibit are not evil in themselves (*mala in se*) but are "wrong" in that they are prohibited. Did you know that in "repealing" the prohibition amendment, the constitution was amended to make it illegal to sell alcohol in defiance of the laws of the United States or any of the states? So, where is your constitutional freedom to distil your own whiskey? You do have such a freedom, which pre-dates the writing of the constitution, and which was in the 9th Amendment for a time, but if you are a constitutionalist, you should be aware that right was "written out" in allegedly repealing Prohibition. Whoops.

Why are there standing courts? You know about the dangers of a standing army, and also about the people who profit from its existence. So you knowwhy there is a standing army. But why are there standing courts? Why is there a courthouse in the city which is the county seat of the county in which you live? Why is there a federal courthouse in some large city near you?

Courts don't have to be organized that way. For tens of thousands of years, the people in a community looked to the elders of their community to sit in judgment of each other. When the crime or tort was judged, the judgment might be appealed to the community as a whole. But after the judgment was delivered, the court ceased to exist. The elders involved in supplying good judgment went back to working for a living. And the next time a crime happened, the judges would be called back to sit under the acacia tree and talk it over.

This court building has to be paid for. If it isn't maintained, it falls apart. The clerks in the building need to be paid. The judge needs to be paid. He also needs goons, because what he does for a living isn't fair. So he has bailiffs. He gets to have the only armed men in the room. (So explain to me, again, why you want to keep going into that room? Shouldn't you insist on your freedom to keep and bear arms, and refuse to enter places where you aren't free?)

From where does the money come to pay for all these things and people? From fines, court costs, fees, and your voluntary compliance. But there aren't enough actually wrong things going on to pay for all that labyrinth of things and people at the courthouse. Can you imagine some rural district in Montana where they have only one murder every ten years, no rape (because everyone is armed), and only the occasional vandalism or property theft? Yet that district has a courthouse, judges, sheriffs, bailiffs, clerks. How?

By having the county government and the municipal governments pass statutes defining various peaceful behaviors as *mala prohibitum*. Now if you drive a reasonable and prudent speed greater than a magic number, you are breaking a statute. You can have a conversation with a statutory enforcement agent, or pig. You can get a ticket for that! And maybe mail in a bit of money to assuage their hatred of your freedom. Or maybe contest it in court. Maybe wearing a hat that says "Don't Tread on Me."

If the court wants more judges, or clerks, or bailiffs, they get more statutes written making more peaceful behaviors into pseudo-crimes. And more of your friends get stopped and ticketed. And beaten up. And caged by arbitrary authorities.

How would you react if these people were doing these things without the colour of law? What if a biker gang came to your town and began similar proceedings? Wouldn't you at once ignore them and also prepare to defend yourself against them? Wouldn't you put together a mutual protection group on an *ad hoc *basis to get rid of the biker gang?

It seems to me that the more you engage their system, the more you are full of fail. And the more you resort to half measures, the more you have to clean up later on.

Withdraw from the system. Remove yourself from their sight. Trade with each other. And stay as far away from those things as you are able. Wear your freedom every day. Live it. Believe it. You rule you.

Are you looking for help? Do you need guidance on the path to agorism, or more knowledge, or assistance with a legal, financial, or health care problem? Consider our university and its related university association. We're working very hard to bring real solutions to people, right now.

Choosing for yourself works very well for a part of every day. Why not live that way all the time?

Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, and anti-war activist. His 1990 venture to offer a sweepstakes trip into space was destroyed by government action as was his free port and prospective space port in Somalia in 2001. His 2002-2007 venture in free market money and private stock exchange was destroyed by government action in 2007. He's going to Mars if he has to walk. His second book, Being Sovereign is now availble from Lulu and Amazon. He is currently working on a book about travel to Mars with John Wayne Smith, a book with international fugitive Chad Z. Hower on his story, a book on sovereign self-defence, and a book compiling his letters and essays in The Libertarian Enterprise from 1995 to 2010. Contact him at or Come visit IndSovU teams at gatherings in October 2011 in Indiana, December 2011 in Florida, and March 2012 in Austin, Texas. Or join State Busters.

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