whither (wither?) the republic?
"don't tread on me" as the foundational american value
the foundational principles of the american republic were simple: governments are instituted by the people to safeguard the rights of the individual. the state derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. the right of peaceful people to be left unmolested in their pursuit of happiness stands as the axis mundi of this form of association: the people’s rights stand paramount to the state; it serves them, not they it.
this idea has been under great challenge of late. the roots of such usurpation and encroachment run deep and the idea of the interventionist and intrusive regulatory and nanny state and its right to rule you from a place of purported beneficence have gained undue and pernicious currency.
it has been a full court press of invasive technocratic tyranny. its incrementalism has made it powerful and difficult to spot or resist. it’s always “just one thing” but like children at the beach being dragged by the tide as they swim, one day you look up and you cannot even see the spot where you laid your towel. you’re in an entirely unfamiliar place. and it’s time to figure out how to get back.
the shock and awe of the last several years and the all-in blitzkrieg on rights, agency, and individual sovereignty has been the wake up call and it’s time to realize just how far we have drifted. what has come to be called “government” is suppressive and repressive and inimical to human freedom and flourishing. worse, it seeks now to frame such authoritarian impulse as “normal,” the requirement of such imposition as moral, and resistance against it as “anti-american extremism.”
this is how a republic dies for it is in this notion of the role of the state in service of and not in sovereignty over the individual that beats the heart of a free people.
obviate and invert it and you have ended liberty and rendered citizens subjects.
to allow the striving for freedom and the demand to be left alone by the state to be described as insurrection is a putsch, a coup against the american people to take from them their natural rights as humans.
and make no mistake, it is under way.
and it will be the fight of our time.
and it is no less than the fight for the soul of a nation.
and if we will not ask “whither the republic” in service of reclaiming it, then “wither the republic” shall be our fate and no longer will the blessings of liberty accrue to ourselves and our posterity.
and the shape of the contest to come is clear.
there is nothing dangerous about “don’t tread on me.” it is the literal foundational principle of america: that we the people may not be trodden upon by the state as our liberty stands paramount to its ambition.
peaceful people may not be interfered with and perhaps just as important, reserve the right to defend their agency and liberty from encroachment by an unjust state whose power is not derived from the consent of the governed.
this is the essence of ungovernability. it does not mean a lack of government. it means the sovereignty of the negative right to tell the state “no” if the state becomes tyrannical and seeks to serve its own interests instead of the people’s or seeks to impose conjured notions of “the collective good” in precedence to the rights of the individual.
such words are always liars words and the diction of demagogues. “the collective good” is not real. there is no such thing and even if there were, it could not be known much less proven.
it is in such disingenuous ends that extremism lies and their opposition that constitutes moral duty.
this realization is the path to liberty.
and this is why they are so desperate to take your symbols from you and to frame so doing as “for your own good.”
consider the ethics embedded in the claim that “don’t tread on me” represents “a dangerous far-right extremist ideology.”
dangerous to whom?
to king george to be sure. but to the people? no. and so we must ask what regent today is making this outlandish claim in defense of his own crown and prerogative.
asking to be left alone is not an attack on american values, it is their essence and integument.
it is violating such a request that represents an assault and a violation of natural rights.
how could it be otherwise?
the porcupine is well chosen as the symbol of the libertarian impulse. he is an unaggressive animal. he does not hunt or seek to capture others or take them as prey.
but he is avid in his self-defense.
his spines pose no threat to those who would leave him in peace but present dire distress to those who would take him without his leave. and that is the essence of freedom.
that is the essence of america.
leave me alone and i shall return the favor and in our mutual respect for the rights of each and all shall we find community, society, and commerce.
our notion of governance must stand in service of such things. there is no threat nor coercion save to those who would take our rights and this is what renders this issue such a telling acid test for if the doctrine of “leave me alone in pursuit of my happiness and i shall do the same for you” represents a threat in the mind of he who hears it, then surely we may know things about them for none would find this objectionable save those who aim to interfere, to coerce, and to rule.
these are the tyrants and the plunderers and their nature is unchanged through the centuries. as is ever the case, the musings of bastiat may aid us here and his solutions are as timeless as the character of man for today as in days of yore: we are being plundered.
But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
does this sound familiar? is it not the very prerogative and rationale sought by the nanny state and the technocratic tyrant? to take by force liberties and property that they may be granted to others in service of some end not favored by he from which these prerogatives were pried?
and now, as then, the solution is simple:
Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law — which may be an isolated case — is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.
The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights. He will claim that the state is obligated to protect and encourage his particular industry; that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor workingmen.
have we not heard this 1000 times? a right to healthcare. a need for submission to great goals of climate and gender and race preferencing. a need to subsidize some at the expense of others and to enrich our cronies that they may grow fat by eating the muscle of the people. extra rights for he at the expense of thee.
truly, bastiat is an education unto himself and his words that perhaps carry most weight today are these, because more so than any other, this shall be the fight of our time:
can any argue that this is not what has occurred and moved acts of great and unarguable tyranny into the realm of the norm?
do we not daily have taken from us by a state that acts outside our consent that which no other might grasp without committing a crime and is it not always under pretext of “law”?
and have they not erected code and canon to lionize it into alleged ethics in service of some “greater good” that cannot be shown or known, only presumed and imposed?
have they not glorified themselves and their takings and sought to denote resistance to such depredation as insurrection?
and how then can any right thinking person desirous of simple freedom and agency accept such framing? because that’s how we have done it lo these many years? that is no justification.
many sincere and durable evils have stood as law and practice.
it does not and cannot justify them.
and this is the mindset that must change if we are to retain our lives and livelihoods as free people.
we must reject this presumptive right to rule us. it was not just, it was acquired by force and used to great and ever expanding mischief.
ultima ratio regum. the final argument of kings. it is no coincidence that this inscription was placed upon cannon barrels.
it tells you precisely what is intended.
there can be no compromise between coercion and agency or between the primacy of rights and the prerogatives of kings whatever names they might give themselves or lofty ideals they may lay claim to to justify their status as sovereign.
it is not we who assault them, it is they who have assaulted us and taken from us the freedom they were charged to safeguard.
and their reach an interference have become vast.
they seek to censor and to vilify and to cast opposition to their rule as insurrection and speech against it as sedition.
they seek to take the symbols of simple liberty and invert them into extremist icons that the request to breathe free may be cast as radical rabble rousing.
this is naught but a defense of tyranny.
and left unchecked, this is the death of the republic.
the first step in its reclamation is remembering that is does not have to be like this and it is not inevitable, unavoidable, or desirable that it should be.
this is the fight for what “america” means and if you would have that answer sound like “free to be you and me” then we must once more reclaim our symbols and our parlance.
we must inhabit these truths, not allow them to be characterized against us.
and it starts with the very simple question we must ask of all those who would impugn us:
“what do you plan for me that notions of my freedom from being trodden upon threaten you so?”
“by what just prerogative may you claim that my agency is extremism and your prerogative to dictate against and over it is justice?”
this is an intellectual coup. it’s the framing of dictatorship as liberty and liberty as anti-social.
“a republic if you can keep it” stand as words of vision and as a call to reclaim that which is ours.
in the end, this fight will be won or lost in the hearts and minds, in whether it’s OK to stand and say “my rights are sacrosanct” or if we will allow their casting into disrepute.
who will define our symbols? will it be us of those who seek our subjugation?
the state must serve you or you will be made to serve the state. only one may have primacy and that choice lies with us and how we see ourselves.
normalize the desire for liberty and we may reclaim our society.
fail to do so, and it will become a memory.
speaking freely is the first step to living freely.