Trending

Newsletter

Only When We Are Free of Rulers Will We Live with Dignity

By: David E. Shellenberger - @DEShellenberger - Apr 14, 2014, 7:49 am

EspañolDignity requires liberty. Only when we are truly free — free of rulers — will we live with dignity.

The state steals our dignity. It imposes authority, exploits fear, compels collectivism, enforces conformity, and demands capitulation. It denies respect for individual rights and responsibilities, the essence of human dignity.

A victim might have to obey a kidnapper, in order to endure. If he goes further and accepts the captor’s authority, this is a failure of perception or character. And if he allies with the criminal, he too becomes a criminal.

The state kidnaps us at birth, and we have to decide how we will respond. To tolerate the state is corrosive, to embrace it is wrong, and to affiliate with it is immoral.

We struggle to retain dignity as we tolerate the state, surviving in a system not of our making. We submit to the burdens of taxation, legislation, and regulation, complying with burdens we know are unfair, feigning respect for those we disdain.

We sacrifice dignity if we embrace the state, supporting what should be condemned. We lose our dignity if we become part of the state.

The state makes it difficult for us to see the truth. Its schools indoctrinate us. Court intellectuals in institutions of higher education reinforce our misunderstanding. The media — influenced and intimidated by the state — convey the state’s viewpoint.

Some of us ultimately see the world with open eyes. We recognize that the state is a criminal enterprise, shedding the illusion of its legitimacy. We maintain a degree of dignity simply by knowing the truth and avoiding involvement with the state.

Many of us, however, go through life blind to the truth. We are not exposed to the insights that clash with what we have been taught. We accept what those around us believe.

Even when we have the opportunity to explore the truth, we may decline to do so. It is difficult to acknowledge that we have been defrauded, that we have lived with a fantasy, that we have supported an institution that bears us ill. We want to conform, and we wish to avoid conflict. There is a cost: ignorance diminishes our dignity, particularly when our blindness is willful.

Any relationship to the state other than opposition degrades our dignity. As we suffer the daily insults of the state’s control over our homes, our work, and our travel, we should at least acknowledge that we have lost our freedom and that there is a better way to live. We should also speak out.

Deliberate engagement with the state is worse. It is undignified to ask the government for actions that would be immoral if we acted ourselves. Yet listen to the cacophony of demands for privilege, plunder, coercion, violence, persecution, and abuse.

Politics is a symptom of government, not a cure. It is undignified to pretend that the state can be reformed, or that a constitution will constrain it. The beast has a nature; to ignore this is to live in reverie instead of reality.

Doing business with the state means dealing with the devil. We should eschew this commerce, and criticize cronyism of all kinds.

Joining the state is immoral. We relinquish our dignity if we live a life of crime, and the state is indeed a criminal organization.

How should we respond to the state? Compassion compels us to let others live in dignity and enjoy their full humanity. This requires liberty, the end of rulers.

David E. Shellenberger

David Shellenberger is a libertarian commentator on national and international affairs. Previously, he was an anti-fraud attorney, securities regulator, and in-house counsel. He is based in Connecticut. Follow @DEShellenberger.