14A035 Protest Rights in a ZGS by Jim Davies, 8/22/2014    


The recent furore in Ferguson, MO led on 8/19 to a couple of new police outrages once it had all veered off-script; the "kinder, gentler" cops the Governor had sent in from his Highway Patrol arrested photographer Scott Olson from Getty Images, and ordered protesters to confine themselves to a designated "protest zone." So much for the pretense that the law is something government has to obey; there is no constitutional authority at all for it to ban the taking of photographs, especially pics of its agents at work, and Amendment One clearly says that "Congress shall make no law... prohibiting...the right of the people peaceably to assemble..." No law, means no designation of zones. People can assemble wherever they see fit; if on a roadway, why not; it's their road.

Theirs, that is, in the theoretical system ruled by a "limited government;" in which the oxymoron "public property" is magically transformed into a meaningful phrase.

But how will assembly and protest rights shape up in a rational, zero government society, in which no such transformation takes place? - where all property has real owners?

All land being privately (that is, actually) owned, its use will be determined by each owner. If a lot owner wishes to invite a crowd to assemble and hear speeches, he'll do it. If a road owner wishes to close it to traffic and invite a crowd to march to and fro and wave banners, he'll do it. Neither will ask anyone's permission. But if no owner issues such an invitation, no crowd will assemble, and no protest will be voiced; or if one does, the owner of the land on which they stand will be free to claim compensation for they will have violated his right of ownership. They will have aggressed against him.

This straightforward application of property rights may seem at first to be undesirable, for it appears to remove a right (of assembly and protest) which we take for granted today (even though, as in Ferguson, it may be denied in practice.) But does it, really?

Since there won't be any government, there won't be any government law or action to protest; no Officer Darren Wilson will shoot an unarmed Michael Brown. So for what kind of reason would anyone wish to assemble and protest? - I have a hard time imagining, but if there were some, then for sure several of the protesters, being land owners, will be able and eager to provide space for the meeting to take place.

This absence of reason to protest had not struck me before this week, yet virtually all the anger we see vented by crowds every night on TV News worldwide is against government. The First Amendment "right" to assemble and petition was written in the context of the chartering of a new government, to assure Americans that if it didn't behave, they could get together and expose its malfeasance. Outside of that context, there'd be no need for it. But when there's no government, what's to protest?

So, since the ZGS won't have any, the occasion for protest marches will drop like a rock. All of them, today, express a demand for government to do something or to stop doing something; and all those will simply no longer arise. I took part in two, during the 1990s; one against a planned income tax in Connecticut, and one in NYC against a planned Gulf War. Both were huge, neither was effective, and in the coming ZGS neither would be needed.

True, there may be some occasions for protest, for example by employees against some policy or practice of their employer. I wrote recently here about the Market Basket case for example. There were rallies held, with one or two thousand present, and all took place on car parks owned by the firm - which did not bother to forbid them, though they might have. Since the stores had almost no merchandise they had almost no customers and so the parks were almost empty. Possibly the Board took no action having reckoned that relations with staff were already terrible, and did not need any worsening that would result from an attempt to evict them. Better to let them vent their anger.

I can think of one big downside to this absence of angry protesting crowds; the evening TV News programmers will be short of material to show. Today, it's their bread and butter. In the ZGS, their business future will be in peril. Boo, hoo.

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