It's Not Just the Presidency

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A couple of days ago I was talking to a Peruvian friend who works for a U.S.-based internet company. He was telling me about the incredible amount of bureaucracy and paperwork that he and the company have had to take care of so that he would be able to get paid. The PATRIOT Act further complicates what was already a procedural nightmare. Failure to comply with all regulations, however burdening and impossible they are, can result in many an uncomfortable situation both for the local company and my overseas friend. "Thanks, Bush!" he said, for signing the PATRIOT Act.

Though there is truth in the claim that the presidency is the one that ultimately enforces the laws, one must never forget that the executive is just but one of the branches of evil, and that the president, king or prime minister is never alone in the enforcement of legislation. If only that were the case!

The reality is that when the executive says that it’s time to kill, jail, fine, sentence, tax, regulate, inflate or steal, he is not acting alone. Far from it. There is a support structure that makes this happen. From cops to jurors, from judges to legislators — all of these people play a role in the causal chain of state aggression. Indeed, the very army of government bureaucracy is composed of serfs who mindlessly follow the dictates of their superiors. They are accomplices. (Is this too harsh? Not at all. If they really objected they would find other employment.)

The state is not an abstract entity that exists outside of people’s minds, nor is it one person in particular. No state decree, even in the case of a monarchy or a dictatorship, can be carried out without the immediate help of others. Ultimately a mental condition (and not a very good one), the state is a series of actions against person and property perpetrated by those employed by the government.

But we’re not done. The state cannot continue to carry out its deeds without the explicit or implicit consent of the vast majority of people. If this were not the case, then government actions would encounter infinite roadblocks from the citizenry. Therefore, to the extent that people support the systematic and institutionalized violation of the rights of their fellow human beings, they are partly responsible. Mayors, governors and presidents have power because others want them to have power.

Who is to blame for the PATRIOT Act? The government for sure, but also those who support it. The solution cannot be a coup or a rebellion. It must take place in people’s minds and hearts. I hope that one day we shall see taxation, and the state itself, as we now see slavery, murder and theft. If people make the connection, there will be liberty. Until then, withdraw your consent.

Manuel Lora [send him mail] works at Cornell University as a TV and multimedia producer. Visit his blog.

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