Can individuals live outside the bounds of a state and the statutes it proclaims? This is an interesting question and one of growing importance, given the rise in Canada of the “Freemen on the land,” or simply the “Freemen.”
Some argue that there is a social contract one consents to upon birth in a particular area, thus binding individuals to a state — and they don’t hesitate to impose their interpretation on those who disagree. This “contract,” however, implies two fallacies: that (1) such a contract is necessary for civilized living in a community, and (2) the individual has a choice in signing or accepting such a contract.
So, what do these “Freemen” believe, and how do they respond in the face of an all-encompassing state?
According to a leading Freemen website, “This society will guide people to becoming free human beings on the land and provide a system of Common Law remedy, communication and networking support so you can live life with peace and abundance. These systems are not Legal in nature, but Lawful to allow human beings to live under lawful definitions instead of Legal definitions, which separates a PERSON from a Freeman and a Human Being. A Freeman is a human being living in a Common law jurisdiction under God, who has revoked consent to be governed by human laws.”
Here, “Common Law” might better be substituted with “Natural Law,” as this passage invokes rights one acquires by his existence as a human being. That is in contrast to legislation and regulations set by politicians and their bureaucrats.
Applying this perspective has led Freemen to stop paying taxes of all types, in particular income taxes, as well as no longer using state identification, including vehicle license plates, driver’s permits, and birth certificates issued by the Canadian government. Freemen typically flaunt their distaste of firearms regulation as well, on the grounds of self-defense. They also eschew their legal birth names, invoking “So-and-so of the ____ Family” instead. In their defense, Freemen use legal language to stake their claims of state invalidation, and their rationale behind said claims.
Consider the explanation from Robert Menard, director of the World Freeman Society, on the Global News Morning Show.
As might be expected, Canadian authorities are not pleased with this movement, as it seeks to invalidate the sheer existence of the prevailing government apparatus. The Freemen fail to recognize the state’s moral authority over them, so these noncompliant individuals must be “significant safety and security concerns.” Safety and security concern to whom, the state?
Some individuals in the movement have been noted to be confrontational with authorities, but the same could be said of any sub-group in Canada or elsewhere in opposition to a government. Is somehow the action of the individual the shortcoming of the group or philosophy? Such labels have been utilized throughout history, especially by the establishment against upstart freedom movements, such as those used on Patriots by Loyalists during the American Revolution. This does not make those labeled a threat to the general public any more so than they were before such was applied to them.
In addition to direct action against Freemen by authorities, such as arrests, court appearances, and alerts as noted above, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has initiated a smear campaign to discredit the movement in their “Biannual Update on Terrorist and Extremist Threats.” How much of that is actual fact, as opposed supposition, embellished, or outright lies is anyone’s guess, but like a cornered wild animal, believers in the state will do whatever they can to legitimize its existence.
If enough people fail to believe in something, such as government, it then ceases to function. Current numbers of Freemen in Canada are estimated by various sources inside and outside the movement at approximately 30,000. That’s not terribly large in the grand scheme of things (Canada has a population of approximately 35 million), but it’s significant enough to be noteworthy.
Do these individuals have a case? Is someone required to participate in a government they find illegitimate? Although the counter-argument would likely be “they can just leave,” the onus is placed on the individual in a coercive and violent manner, which could easily be argued is immoral and illegitimate by the organization (Canada) initiating such measures. Although the Freemen of the land may reach their conclusions in a haphazard and byzantine manner, it does not make said conclusion invalid. It only needs refining.
Ecuador continues to climb positions in the latest Global Competitiveness Report, published recently by the World Economic Forum, based on Geneva. This year, the country moved from 86th to 71st place in the ranking, overtaking countries like Uruguay, El Salvador, and Bolivia. Ecuador also climbed 15 places in last year's 2012-2013 ranking. The report, which comprises 148 countries, analyzes the policies and factors from which each economy grows and develops. Thus, it compares the countries’ potential for growth and prosperity. In the 2013-14 edition, the authors constructed the ranking with statistics provided by both the country and international bodies — along with the Executive Opinion Survey from the World Economic Forum, which was answered by more than 13,500 businesspeople around the world. In the case of Ecuador, the most significant progress is visible in the areas of infrastructure, education quality, and innovation. However, in the case of innovation — that is the acceptance and usage of new technologies and institutions — the country’s rating is still low, relatively speaking. The report points out that Ecuador is benefitting from stable macroeconomic conditions, which have made access to financing through shares and loans easier. Presumably assisted by dollarization, these enable local companies to more easily carry out investment projects. In spite of this positive trend, however, the country is still facing important challenges which restrain its competitive potential. In particular, the way institutions work continues to be weak, and concerns over the lack of independence in the legal system undermines trust in the general legal framework. INCAE Business School, in its analysis of the results for eight countries in Latin America (embedded above, in Spanish), argues that the greatest obstacles for doing business in Ecuador are: corruption, security, labor regulations, fiscal regulations, and tax rates. They add that to achieve an efficient use of talent, it is necessary to strengthen the adoption of new technology, as well as rules that would attract investment, and to remove trade barriers. At the regional level, Latin America has reached a plateau in its performance in terms of competitiveness. Chile, despite having lost one place, is still the best positioned at 34th, followed by Panama at 40th. At the international level, Switzerland leads the Global Competitiveness Report for the fifth consecutive year, followed by Singapore and Finland. Translated by Mariano Filippini.