The U.S. Government Must Go!
Michael S. Rozeff
by Michael S. Rozeff: Observations
and Opinions on the Libyan War
A chorus of
U.S. and international officials keeps chanting that "Gaddafi
must go" because, they keep repeating, he has lost legitimacy.
the tables. How legitimate is the U.S. government? I’m not talking
about the popularity of particular persons like Obama, Bush I, Bush
II, or Clinton. Changing faces, political parties, and administrations
in Washington is a lost cause. I’m talking about national government
itself. Should Washington be dismantled? Has Washington lost legitimacy
as a government? If so, as a remedy, as a guide to action, as an
objective to work toward, the U.S. government must go!
There are many
valid ways to criticize the U.S. government. Any small government
or anarchist perspective gives rise to a critique. Any adherent
of constitutionality has another critique. For example, Lysander
Spooner’s critique is devastating. Anyone who looks to the government’s
effectiveness in serving the public will have yet another perspective.
Anyone who restricts attention to economic and monetary matters
will find plenty to criticize. Anyone who focuses on rights and
liberties will be able to make important criticisms.
Here my perspective
is to question the legitimacy of the U.S. government. Legitimacy
is the perspective being used loudly by many world leaders against
Gaddafi. I wonder, can we camp on their grounds and turn their own
ideas against them?
of state do not usually shine the light of legitimacy on one another,
much less on themselves. Oh no, they are very quiet and reserved
in that area. They don’t want people questioning their legitimacy,
so they don’t raise the idea. Libya is atypical. Some leaders are
using the rhetoric of legitimacy against Gaddafi. They believe that
they can confine its use to him. They believe that they can restrict
illegitimacy to instances of outright violence and ignore hidden
violence. This serves their purposes.
In the post-Soviet
era, criticisms by world leaders of the U.S. tend to be restrained,
muted and timid. The world’s states are essentially in cahoots with
one another. Many are beholden to the U.S. or tied in via relations
of one kind and another. They cannot be too critical. Many have
their own domestic problems and don’t want to stir up nests of hornets.
We are not
so confined. If we use Obama’s criterion that violence against one’s
people is a sign of government illegitimacy, then how many world
governments are themselves legitimate? They all use violence and
the threat of violence to maintain themselves. The fact that the
threats of violence are effective and prevent outright blood on
the streets doesn’t remove the presence of violence as the government’s
means of controlling its citizens. Once we look under the hood at
the motor of government, we find violence. At what point does such
violence mean that the government’s leaders or the government itself
– its very form – have lost legitimacy?
have a strong basis for questioning the legitimacy of the U.S. government.
It is our right. We live here. It is de facto our government. We
have to bear the consequences of what it does to us. We are the
ones who, in many theories of government, supposedly give our consent.
We experience the threat of violence if we disobey the government’s
laws. We have a tradition of freedom and self-government that supports
questioning our government’s legitimacy. Most of this applies to
other peoples throughout the world.
So, to begin
with, what do Americans think of their national government? Let’s
look at those polls
that ask Americans whether or not the country is going in the
right direction or the wrong direction. I am assuming that Americans
make a connection between their government and the country’s direction.
This assumption is warranted because the national government is
the largest single factor in the economy and on the economy. The
most important media focus is Washington and politics. We constantly
hear about the economic and other policies coming out of Washington.
first at the polls with the longest histories. The Pew Research
Center poll dates from January 1997. The very first poll found that
58% of the people were dissatisfied with the way things were going.
Today, that reads 73%. The average over all of its 85 polls for
the percent satisfied is 34.35%, for those dissatisfied is 59.12%,
and for those unsure is 6.49%. (These do not add to 100% precisely
due to rounding error.) This high level of dissatisfaction is not
due to a few outliers. Americans are consistently dissatisfied in
poll after poll.
The NBC News/Wall
Street Journal Poll goes back to early December of 1995. This has
four possible answers: satisfied, dissatisfied, mixed, and unsure.
Over its 122 polls, the averages are 37.06%, 48.98%, 10.86%, and
3.09%. These results are like those in the Pew poll. The satisfied
contingent is in the 34-37% range.
Poll goes back to 1994. There are 179 polls. Those satisfied with
the way things are going average 39.78%. The dissatisfied average
There are numerous
other polls with shorter track records. They show the same thing.
For example, in the Time Poll of August, 2010, 57% said the country
was on the wrong track and 34% said it was on the right track. From
2004 to the present, the satisfied number got to 51% once. That
was its maximum. The rest of the time it stayed between 28% and
46%. The CBS News Poll is another example of a poll that shows the
same thing. Those who think the country is seriously off on the
wrong track have ranged from 48% to 89% since 2006. The average
In a macro
sense, these polls tell much of the story. We have a period of almost
20 years in which things are not going right and a large majority
says they are not going right. This does not by itself prove that
the national government is illegitimate or should be scrapped, but
it is a building block in my argument. Why? The government uses
violence to collect revenues and spend. It uses violence to control
the economy. People are unhappy, generally speaking, with the results.
more deeply into a few specific areas that illustrate the lack of
legitimacy of the U.S. government.
One of the
criteria of an illegitimate government is that it acts violently
against its own people. Obama used this criterion against Gaddafi.
One measure of this is the number of people or the percentage of
the population in prison. The statistics
on this from 2006 show that the U.S. has imprisoned over 1 percent
of its adult population. It has the largest number of inmates (2.5
million) in the world. Although the U.S. has only 5% of the world’s
population, it has 25% of the world’s prisoners in its jails and
penitentiaries. The U.S. has 739 people per 100,000 of population
"serving time, awaiting trial or otherwise detained."
is a high growth industry. In the year 1880 in America, there were
about 61 persons in jail per 100,000 (see Table 3-3 here).
This had grown to 133 as of 1980, and then it shot up sharply when
the War on Drugs and fixed prison terms for drug offenses were instituted.
The incarceration rate and the number of persons incarcerated has
grown very steeply since 1980:
It is implausible
that Americans commit more violent crimes than any other people.
It is implausible that American policing is that much more efficient
at catching criminals and convicting them. It’s far more plausible
that the War on Drugs and sentencing play a huge role in creating
crimes and criminals that then fill the jails.
This is evidence
that U.S. government violence against Americans is a real phenomenon
of large and extremely serious scope. It is doubtful that Gaddafi’s
violence has been more serious or pervasive.
of an illegitimate government is that it debauches the currency.
There is absolutely no question that the U.S. government has instituted
an unconstitutional currency of fiat dollars in place of gold and
silver money. There is no question that it has done this through
an unconstitutional central bank, and there is no question that
this central bank has debauched the currency. There is also no question
that the government has violently seized a monopoly on currency
issue and prevented its own citizens from using monetary alternatives.
The seizure by the U.S. government of the people’s gold in 1933
exemplifies this violence.
For much of
its history, 1,000 U.S. dollars were convertible into just over
48 ounces of gold (at a rate of $20.67 per ounce). Today, 1,000
U.S. dollars can buy about 0.71 ounces of gold (at $1,400 per ounce.)
This is not because anything special has happened to gold to make
its price rise as compared with other goods and services. It is
because the government has printed paper dollars in tremendous amounts,
creating an excess supply that has driven the value of each paper
unit down from 48 ounces of gold to 0.71 ounces of gold.
challenged Robert Mugabe’s legitimacy in 2008 due to election thuggery.
They did not link his legitimacy to his hyperinflation, despite
the fact that it impoverished the nation. That is because they too
use inflation and think of it as a legitimate tool of government.
But Mugabe does lack legitimacy for having wrecked Zimbabwe’s economy
with inflation, and, by the same token, the U.S. government should
be held to like account for creating Great Depressions, for stealing
the savings of those on fixed incomes, and for expropriating and
redistributing wealth through the insidious but nonetheless violent
means of inflation.
I am aware
that a few low-level ignorant economists in the Federal Reserve
have taken to sniping at Ron Paul. One of them argued that inflation
is neutral, or that it raises all prices, including wages and rents.
This argument is shallow and false. It misses the Austrian point
entirely. But if inflation is neutral, why then does hyperinflation
ruin an economy? And if inflation is neutral, why does anyone, including
the Federal Reserve, even pay attention to inflation or to money
supplies? Why would some of the Fed’s governors be worried about
reversing its latest inflation (quantitative easing)? Why would
Bernanke be crowing over the success of this round of inflation?
inflation has been another sign of government illegitimacy, namely,
a monstrously excessive government debt. This signifies both a tremendous
amount of past wasted expenditures and future hardship. Every issue
of government debt signifies that taxes in the future must be raised
to service that debt. This increases the hidden economic violence
imposed on the population. There is no good reason to distinguish
between the outright clubbing of people physically and the ill effects
on people’s lives of taxation.
of illegitimacy of the U.S. government is its vast expansion of
power. This has simultaneously violated the Constitution and extinguished
the rights of Americans. It has got to the point where a President
who is sworn to uphold the Constitution refers to it as a scrap
Barack Obama, has enunciated his right
to assassinate American citizens without due process of law.
Furthermore, a federal judge dismissed
a case brought by the ACLU to prevent such assassinations. At
present, we have a situation in which due processes of law that
go back to the time of Jesus and before cannot be maintained by
legal means in the courts of the United States! A government that
claims the right to assassinate has, by Obama’s own criterion of
legitimacy, relinquished its own claim to legitimacy.
acts that have undermined its claim to legitimacy are particularly
prominent in military forays and in going to war. There is no good
reason having anything to do with the public safety, security, or
welfare of Americans why the U.S. government invaded Iraq and Afghanistan,
why it bombed Yugoslavia, why it is now bombing Libya, why it went
to war over Kuwait, why it sends bombs into Pakistan, and why it
sent military forces into Haiti for years on end during the Clinton
administration. None of these countries threatened America or attacked
The U.S. government
has repeatedly betrayed the public trust. Candidates have repeatedly
made promises that they dramatically reversed once in office. They
have lied and covered up. They have fabricated international incidents.
They have used the fog of the U.N. and NATO to cover their actions.
Presidents have gone to war without obtaining Congressional declarations.
Of course, Congress has participated by funding these wars. One
administration after another has honed the fine art of propaganda
The U.S. government
is acting in numerous other ways to curtail domestic freedoms, and
these actions can only be construed as violence of the U.S. government
against its own people. Travel within the U.S. and across its borders
has become an exercise in assault, delay, intimidation, and stupidity,
with wholesale use of unreasonable searches and seizures. The invasions
of privacy, financial and other, are worthy of any police state.
The U.S. has resorted to renditions, kidnappings, torture, and indefinite
detentions. The FBI has resorted to creating conspiracies and crimes.
My point is
not to document all the ways in which the U.S. government uses violence
against Americans. It is not to document all the sources of illegitimacy.
It is to point out that every libertarian critique of the U.S. government,
that may have been couched in terms of its going against the Constitution
or suppressing freedoms or employing aggression, is also a critique
of the legitimacy of the U.S. government. We can use the same grounds
of illegitimacy that world leaders occasionally use to criticize
certain behaviors of other world leaders like Gaddafi and Mugabe.
We can use those grounds to criticize governments like the U.S.
government that portray themselves as legitimate. They portray themselves
as paragons of democracy or freedom, but beneath this surface, the
signs of their illegitimacy are everywhere.
Why has a largely
dissatisfied public not changed the government’s policies in 20
years? Why, in fact, have things gone even more wrong and led to
even more dissatisfaction? There are many reasons and they go back
many years. What’s important for our purpose is not these reasons,
which have to do with the institutionalized structures that are
set firmly in place, but the fact that the people at large no
longer control the government, even when they vote.
The fact is
that the government is now a corporativist institution that is largely
unaccountable and that has insulated itself from accountability
by means of payoffs, wealth transfers, political party duopoly,
redistricting, the income tax, lobbies, and by control of education,
media, science, and intellectuals. The very fact that government
lies beyond popular control and reform explains why people have
become cynical about reform or have given up hope of reform. But
what is far more important is that it shows once again that the
government lacks legitimacy. A legitimate government should depend
on consent. It should be under control by the public. It should
be responsive to them, not in the hands of special interests. And
the fact that the government cannot be reformed without an almost
unimaginable degree of change in American thought and society is
the reason why this illegitimacy means that the entire government
structure must go. Changing faces and parties in Washington is ineffective.
The U.S. government
must go. We the People have a genuine right to say this and make
it happen. In my opinion, the U.S. government is so profusely and
deeply illegitimate in so many institutionalized ways and the people
are so tied up with it that meaningful reform of a gradual nature
is impossible. I think we need to make serious and deep change happen.
It is my very firm belief that it must be done non-violently if
it is to produce a long-lasting free country. We should not spurn
or discourage important actions that genuinely reduce the
size and scope of the national government, both now and in the future,
and do not plant the seeds of its future expansion. Actions that
significantly reduce government violence against its citizens are
worthy. But if the goal of serious, broad, and deep change is kept
in mind, then success at one or more of such actions should stimulate
even further efforts, not cause them to abate.
that needs to occur is in the hearts and minds of Americans. From
that will flow peaceful changes in government. At present, most
Americans are wedded to conflict, violence, and political means.
They are wedded to power struggles and to wealth appropriations
and transfers via government. However, the use of violent means
to achieve a reduction in government violence is not going to succeed.
It perpetuates the game of violence.
We know that
about 60 percent of Americans are dissatisfied and think that the
country is going in the wrong direction. They are not anti-state,
they are not anti-war, and they are not pro-market. That is, they
don’t yet see what the solutions are. They do not see that the militarism
must be brought to a close, that the Empire must be terminated,
that State powers must be drastically shrunk, that the State is
the problem, not the answer. They do not appreciate the virtues
of liberty. The anti-federalist and libertarian heritage is unknown
to them and buried under centuries of mis-education in the "virtues"
of government and big government. They are bombarded with violent
solutions from Left and Right.
amount of re-education and awakening that must be done is very large.
We need free speech to accomplish it. No one should fear using free
speech to the maximum. Fear no evil. Fear no Goliath. Do not fear
telling others openly "The U.S. government must go!" It
must go using peaceful means, not the bombs and rockets that the
U.S., Britain, and France are using in Libya, but it must go. It
must go because it is doing violence to the American people at an
increasing rate, with prospects for enhancing such violence. It
must go because this violence de-legitimizes the government. The
government’s violence is a major source of the dissatisfaction in
the country, since people cannot get ahead in such an environment.
The national government must be taken apart and dismantled because
this is what is right. Anything less than this as a goal will not
succeed. Anything less will saddle the U.S. indefinitely with a
government like some of those in Europe. Worse, it poses a substantial
threat of turning into a totalitarian nightmare. We will simply
drag on at far less than our potential as human beings. Many of
us will leave. Anything less will relegate the American dream of
self-governing peoples living in liberty to a quaint fairy tale.
The new frontier
and the great society were not bad slogans as such slogans go, but
in the hands of the government they were dreams made reality by
government service, taxation, wars, and government solutions to
social problems. These involve violence and slavery in disguised
and not-so-disguised forms. They involve illegitimate government,
using the very criteria of those in government who are its strongest
advocates. If we are to have big social dreams, let these dreams
be made reality by and in freedom and peace, not in slavery and
S. Rozeff [send him mail]
is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.
He is the author of the free e-book Essays
on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book
The U.S. Constitution
and Money: Corruption and Decline.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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