The Natural Right To Be Free
by Laurence M. Vance: Romans
13 and Obeying the Government
Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case
for Personal Freedom
by Andrew P. Napolitano (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011); 240 pages.
books on libertarianism Jeffrey A. Mirons Libertarianism,
from A to Z (Basic Books, 2010); Jacob H. Hueberts
Today (Praeger, 2010); and Tom G. Palmers Realizing
Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice (Cato
Institute, 2009) although they are quite different as to
their nature and purpose, have one thing in common: the word libertarian
in their title.
drawback to those titles is that people who have an aversion to
what they think is libertarianism might not be inclined to peruse
those works. Is it possible to have a book on libertarianism that
doesnt include the word in the title? Andrew Napolitanos
new book, It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is
Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom, answers that question
in the affirmative. It is most definitely a book on libertarianism.
Although it doesnt contain the word in the title, has no entry
for libertarianism in the index, only twice mentions libertarianism
and libertarians, and rarely refers to someone (twice) or something
(thrice) as being libertarian, it is nevertheless a book that espouses
what is unmistakably libertarianism.
That is because
libertarianism is simply the philosophy of freedom: freedom for
one to do with his person and property as he chooses as long as
in doing so he doesnt aggress against the person or property
of another. The only freedom which deserves the name,
said political philosopher John Stuart Mill, is that of pursuing
our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive
others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Or,
in the simple words of Leonard Read, anything thats
books on libertarianism might give non-libertarians a problem with
their title, Napolitanos book might give libertarians a problem
because of the author. After all, is not Napolitano the senior judicial
analyst for Fox News? Didnt he host Freedom Watch on
the Fox Business Network? Isnt Fox the home of the conservative
anti-libertarians Bill OReilly and Sean Hannity?
is indeed a Fox personality, but he is also a former New Jersey
superior court judge, a professor of constitutional law, a nationally
recognized lecturer on the Constitution, the author of five other
books, and let there be no doubt about it a radical
libertarian in the tradition of Murray Rothbard.
think for a minute that I say that because Napolitano merely quotes
Rothbard in the book. He certainly does, along with other libertarians
and sympathizers such as Ron Paul, Thomas Paine, Ludwig von Mises,
Henry Hazlitt, Frank Chodorov, Friedrich Hayek, Richard Epstein,
Robert Higgs, John Locke, Ayn Rand, Walter Williams, and yours truly.
The book is even dedicated to Ron Paul. But on the great question
of the state, Napolitano is a Rothbardian of the first order.
It Is Dangerous
to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong is a passionately written
and eminently readable book. Most of its fifteen chapters are between
16 and 19 pages long. Each chapter is further divided into sections
and ends with a conclusion. The font is large enough and the leading
(the space between lines) wide enough for my aging eyes. The chapters
are first augmented with an authors note and introduction
and then by endnotes and an index.
of the book is a quotation from Voltaire, as indicated at the beginning
of the book. But in addition to that theme, there are a number of
others that are evident throughout such as, you cant
trust the government; government should follow the same rules as
individuals; government is the greatest violator of rights; government
interference in anything always has unseen and disastrous consequences;
freedom is a natural right independent of the government; men have
a natural right to disobey the government; the only legitimate function
of government is to protect freedom; and, as much as Americans may
not want to admit it, there is no natural or constitutional liberty
that has not been nullified by the U.S. government.
to natural law, natural rights, and the Declaration of Independence,
the introduction and the first chapter of the book lay the foundation
of the natural right of all men to be free, to have control over
their own persons and property, and not have their rights infringed
by government. Napolitano views the nonagression principle as the
cornerstone of a libertarian understanding of Natural Rights
and the structure of social interactions.
The rest of
the chapters focus on specific freedoms, some specifically protected
by the Bill of Rights (speech, association, privacy, petition, self-defense,
due process) and some not (property, travel, self-ownership, peace,
sound money, keeping the fruits of ones labor, not being made
a criminal for victimless crimes, rejecting the state). Napolitano
sees property rights as the key to it all, not just the right
to control tangible, external things, but with a property
right to ones own body. But whether a right is specifically
mentioned by the Constitution or not is irrelevant, for as the judge
makes abundantly clear, rights dont come from governments,
constitutions, or bills of rights. They are part of our humanity.
Liberty should be presumed at all times under all circumstances
and in all conflicts.
of the Constitution
is a constitutional scholar, is a defender of the Constitution,
appeals to the Constitution, and advocates that the government follow
the Constitution, he is not a slave to the Constitution. He criticizes
the takings and just compensation clauses
in the Fifth Amendment because he reasons that eminent domain
power is not a just power. Tariffs violate the property
rights of sellers and taxation is an evil in itself
because it violates natural property rights. The commerce
clause in Article I is used by Congress to assault our individual
commercial liberties. And though the Constitution authorizes
the government to declare war and borrow money, it doesnt
follow that those actions are always good things.
says that no person has the right to tell another person how
to order his life, and no human may impose his will forcibly or
coercively to deprive another human of his free will, he really
means it. Prostitution is a victimless crime. As long
as it is voluntary, there is no justification for governmental
intervention. Want to consume unhealthy foods and beverages?
It is not the job or interest of the government to determine
what should or should not be consumed by a free individual.
That, of course, includes the right to partake of drugs, any
drug. Drug prohibition is a failed public policy that
must be abolished. Obscenity restrictions are themselves obscene.
Only conduct which can properly be described as harmful, and
not merely offensive, can be criminalized.
dangerous or risky behavior is hopelessly subjective and opens
the door to the regulation of practically any activity the government
chooses. Consensual acts between individual persons have no
victim and therefore cannot properly be crimes. Naturally, Napolitano
opposes criminal prohibitions on various forms of gambling.
I was particularly impressed with the authors defense of organ
sales all seven pages of it. His conclusion? We must
leave this predicament, like any supply-and-demand scenario, to
perceptibly recognizes how all of these restrictions on individual
and commercial freedom come about in the first place: people go
into government in order to utilize its powers to tell others how
to live their lives. They often prefer to have the state,
and not themselves, solve their problems for them because doing
so is much more convenient, even if it comes at the
expense of liberty.
views all gun-control laws as a violation of the Second Amendment
and the natural right to keep and bear arms. He believes, with John
Lott, that more guns mean less crime. But, he correctly notes, the
Supreme Court did not go far enough to defend gun rights in the
Heller case (2008) or the McDonald case (2010).
really shines in his chapter on taxation. Not only does he not recommend
the FairTax or some other tax-reform plan, he charges the sales
tax with being a direct affront on the natural right to trade.
That is because he considers all taxation to be institutionalized
theft, a forceful taking of property, and another form of
majority rule cleverly disguised as government initiative, by which
one group can live off of another. Taxation in essence establishes
a legal right on the part of the government to your property and
the product of your labor. It acts as the great enabler
for all of governments most tyrannical actions. Napolitano
destroys the arguments that we receive government services in proportion
to what we pay in taxes, that taxes are necessary, and that taxes
are justified by public necessity.
statists will bristle the most at the chapter on war, subtitled,
The Right to Enjoy Peace. Here Napolitano explains how
Franklin Roosevelt steered the nation into World War II. He likewise
is not kind to presidents William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Lyndon
Johnson, or George W. Bush for their warmongering and lies. Napolitano
avows that war is the most effective assertion of the primacy
of the collective over the individual. The draft is involuntary
servitude and counter to individual freedom. The military-industrial
complex is the biggest, bloodiest, and most culpable criminal
organization in American history. The state needs war in
order to continue its existence as a coercive force intruding upon
our lives. He agrees with Randolph Bourne that war is the
health of the state and with Gen. Smedley Butler that war is a racket.
is courageous in his defense of liberty and probing in his questions.
of association is both positive and negative. Both elements are
integral to the freedom as a whole. Private entities
have the right to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, sexual
orientation, religion, or anything else. Freedom entails the freedom
to make bad decisions, racist decisions, misogynist decisions, and
of association extends equally to businesses as well because
a private business is a compilation of free individuals. The
Community Reinvestment Act tramples the right to contract
freely. Some of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is unconstitutional
because its net result is forced association. The real
problem with segregation was that racist Jim Crow laws were the
result of government enforcement, not free individual action.
does not believe that marriage should be an institution of the state,
Napolitano asks, Why must we seek the approval of the government
to enter into marriages? Why is the government involved at all with
the institution of marriage?
of the conservatives we hear on Fox, Napolitanos solution
to the countrys woes is not the election of Republicans. He
maintains that we have one Big Government Party with
two wings: A Republican wing that prefers war, deficits, assaults
on civil liberties, and corporate welfare; and a Democratic wing
that prefers war, taxes, assaults on commercial liberties, and individual
welfare. Both wings not only are not devoted to the
Constitution, they openly mock it.
mind, nothing connected in any way with the government is a solution.
He has nothing but contempt for the state and its nefarious legislation,
unjust laws, and unconstitutional regulations. From the Alien and
Sedition Acts to the Espionage Act; from the National Labor Relations
Act to the USA PATRIOT Act Napolitano disdains the state
and all its evil works: rent control; minimum-wage laws; construction
permits; TSA porno scanners and groping goons; police roadblocks;
collective bargaining without consent; and the Federal Reserve with
its inflation, cronyism, central planning, business cycles, and
is skeptical of all government. Guarantees of freedom have been
tolerated by American governments unless and until the governments
feel threatened by them. Americans should be constantly
questioning the validity of our officials commands.
The danger that befalls individuals inevitably comes from
the government. We must exercise our natural right to
disobey the government. The stranglehold the federal
government has over our everyday lives is almost impossible to escape
without a complete abolition of the government.
and capstone natural right, is the right not to consent to any government.
We must stop obeying the unjust laws with which the government
enslaves. And of course, the government makes it dangerous
for us to be right when it is wrong. To protect liberty from
government tyranny at all levels, Napolitano advocates a tripartite
nullification: jury nullification of state prosecutors, state nullification
of federal laws, and individual nullification of state and local
actions that violate their natural rights.
solution to the problems we face is a simple one: freedom, the
unfettered ability to choose to follow your own conscience and free
will, not that of someone in the government. The role of government
is limited to preserving freedom because the bigger the government,
the smaller the amount of individual liberty; the bigger the government,
the more it can regulate every aspect of our lives which strips
us of our rights and liberties. Liberty should always be the
rule and not the exception.
is relentless and uncompromising in his defense of freedom. Reading
It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong
will cause people who think they believe in freedom to pause and
reflect on whether they really do. This is the most libertarian
and the most radical of Judge Napolitanos books. I consider
it one of the most powerful and convincing cases for personal freedom
I have ever read.
from The Future of Freedom Foundation.
M. Vance [send him mail]
writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity
and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, The
Revolution that Wasn't, and Rethinking
the Good War. His latest book is The
Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. Visit his
© 2012 Future of Freedom Foundation
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