Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 641, October 23, 2011

"Mercantilism and capitalism, that's what the
fight is really all about—and always has been"

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Life, Liberty—then Property
by Bob Wallace

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

The Constitutional phrase, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" came from the writings of John Locke, specifically his long essay, "Concerning Civil Government," although Locke wrote (and I paraphrase here) "life, liberty and property."

I have been unable to find out why Locke put those qualities in the order he did. I doubt it was purely coincidental, since without life, liberty and property mean nothing.

What I find interesting it that Locke put property in third place, after life and liberty. This means that life and liberty are more important than property (which he defined as "mixing" your labor with something).

Locke's sequence makes a lot of sense to me, considering the fact one of the most serious problems this country had when founded is that some people were slaves, i.e., someone else's property. Their rights to life and liberty were ignored, and in fact the courts (including the Supreme Court) ruled for some 150 years that slavery was legal and that slaves essentially had no rights.

In fact, the Supreme Court (and the lesser courts) consistently ruled that property was more important that life or liberty. These appalling rulings of course led to violence and death—and a lot of it.

During the early 1900s there was a lot of violence between "capital" and "labor." I am especially reminded of Matewan, in which coal company "police" evicted families from company housing (the miners were also paid in scrip, which could only be spent in company stores).

The chief was police, a 28-year-old ex-miner named Sid Hatfield, told these armed men they were under arrest. They told him he was under arrest, and violence broke out—the mayor was shot and killed, and Hatfield killed two of the "police." Armed miners killed five more of the "police" and the rest retreated.

Over 20 miners were put on trial—and all were found not guilty by a jury of miners. This kind of violence was endemic in those days, all of it caused by the courts ruling that the "property" of the coal companies was more important than the life or liberty of the miners.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that courts often don't rule correctly until violence forces them to. This is incompetence at its worst.

Locke believed in Natural Rights, and so do I: the law is discovered (like the laws of physics and chemistry are discovered), and not created. Natural Law works: created law is Political Law, based on force and fraud.

When the difference between discovered law and false created law is understood, it's possible to predict the future, if only in a general way. The Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street Movement are eruptions based on people finally starting to understand, even if imperfectly, that the State is not their friend.

I also wonder how long it's going to take the courts to do the right thing: declare the Federal Reserve Bank illegal, along with corporations (which are creations of the State), which exist only to crush competition and exploit suppliers.

When courts rule that property is more important than life and liberty, then people are not people, but things to be exploited and enslaved, and if need be, killed. Unfortunately, this has been the history of the world.

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