The Pretense of Authority
by Jim Davies, 12/6/2011
"By the power vested in me by the County of Hazzard and the State of Confusion, I now pronounce you man and wife!"
Such grand forms of words may accompany many a great occasion, such as the opening for business of a court or a legislature, and they tell the audience that the speaker is not just Bubba Duke, but the Honorable Charles M Duke, Judge of the County Superior Court, clothed in solemn power and a black robe by the authority of somebody even grander. The idea is that power or authority is in action, and being graciously conveyed downwards to grateful beneficiaries. It's astonishing how many people are ready to bow and scrape before such high and mighty persons, to feel themselves happy to be part of a hierarchy, however low. If chance - or a re-election campaign - should bring a President close by, how many would not stand in some degree of awe, or at least wave?
Well, there are some here in New Hampshire who would not. One, I recall, was wheelchair-bound a few years ago and positioned himself on the route to be taken by a visiting Veep. He clipped to his chair a sign denouncing the dignitary (Dan Quayle, I think he was) as a "Village Idiot." Police, acting on the authority of the State, removed him. Speaking truth to authority can be dangerous.
A friend of mine was once prosecuted in Connecticut, for failing to pay tribute to Authority upon demand. The court was a grand building, with impressive Greek columns at the top of a flight of stone steps, all facing across the green towards the University of Yale; and inside there were carvings on the wood benches which consisted, I found, of the symbol used in ancient Rome: fasces. These were bundles of rods, used to thrash any who resisted the authority of the Emperor or his minions, accompanied by an ax, to remove the heads of really hard cases. Just in case the raised daïs from which the judge would preside, and the solemn if hurried "O Yea, O Yea" of the announcer was not enough to subdue everyone to the authority being exercised, such visual aids reinforced the message.
Some time later, I was astonished to find the very same Roman symbols prominent in Congress. We may not notice but we see them often, for example when the Prez reads his "State of the Union" speech. Just look at the symbols of authority! The Flag, of course, to which all have sworn allegiance in the absence of a monarch, flanked on each side by giant golden fasces and choppers. And for good measure in case of residual doubt, the tableau is topped off by "In God We Trust", reminding all that this chamber of high authority is authorized by the Universe's Creator. It's enough to intimidate the bravest among us.
Where do they get this alleged authority? - by whom or what was power vested?
That question was easy enough in the old days when nobody doubted that God existed; the King was appointed by God. How else could he have been born son of the former King? - and so on, back in the mists of time to the first King of the realm in question, which nobody could remember or even visualize, since there were few history books and hardly any who could read. Such was the "Divine Right of Kings" and to this day British coins circulate embossed with Regina Elizabeth II Dei Gratia Fidei Defensor - Elizabeth II, Queen by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith. (There's an irony in that last bit; Fid. Def. was a title granted to Henry VIII by the Pope, shortly before Henry kicked Popery out of England. He retained the title but changed the faith.)
This convenient fiction that God appointed the monarch who appointed his ministers who appointed his bureaucrats who exercised authority over hoi polloi was demolished nicely by Thomas Paine - even without challenging the unproven and unprovable notion that God exists; he did it quite easily, by referring readers of his Common Sense to the early history of Israel; "Kings they had none, and it was held sinful to acknowledge any being under that title but the Lord of Hosts." Paine said the idea of kings was invented by "the heathen." Instead, the founders pretended their authority came from the people being ruled - but that was an idea even more absurd and contradictory. It was expressed in sublime words by Jefferson: "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." The elegance of the language disguised the absurdity. To "govern" means to rule, so if consent is given, no ruling is taking place; conversely if rule is being exercised, no consent is needed. Jefferson was a smart guy, so I have a hard time imagining he could not see this very obvious contradiction; and if he could see it, it means he wrote that Declaration with the deliberate intention to deceive with the use of fine words. Such was our most libertarian founder.
Allen Thornton expressed it this way:
So, the authority of governments doesn't come from God, and it doesn't come from those being ruled, so again: where do they get their alleged authority?
Only one possible source remains: brute force. They have authority because they have actual control of the means to enforce it: armed thugs, courts, prisons. Once we realize that this is true and has always been true, the mystique of government authority completely dissolves. They have the power, yes, but they do not have one ounce of moral authority, which ought to be respected. They have it de facto but not de jure; it's there in practice but not by right. All the pomp and ceremony and symbolism is designed to deceive us into supposing they do have that genuine, moral authority, so that we will more readily submit; but they don't. It's all a charade and a pretense, a velvet glove hiding an iron fist.
Larken Rose has written what may be the most important little book of the decade: The Most Dangerous Superstition. He doesn't argue that government authority doesn't exist - it does, only too obviously - but rather that the belief that its "authority" is a real moral entity which ought to be obeyed is 100% wrong, a pure superstition. On the contrary, every human being is his or her own ruler and all others are usurpers. Larken conveys the same idea as shown above, in relentless detail; government's pretense of having any authority other than brute force is pure fiction, and once that is understood it stands revealed for the sordid gang of bloodthirsty killers and thieves that it truly is. Once the mistaken belief is discarded, government will implode like a punctured balloon. I strongly recommend the book - not just to read, but to give away, so as to help dislodge that most dangerous superstition.