Typically the phrase “government debt” is met with glazed looks or derision. Most people know that governments are perpetually in debt. Most have no interest in discussing the matter, because they have no control over it. That which makes them disinterested should be of the most interest to them. If you have no control over the debt, how can you possibly be obligated to pay it?
Law obligates you without your choice
It should be clear to those who are paying attention that all laws are obligations placed upon humanity. Laws demand obedience. Some laws state that you are to pay a tax; that is, to labor for support of the state. Other laws simply demand that you behave in particular fashions. Whether we are speaking of taxes, fees, paperwork, jury duty, drug laws, or speeding tickets, all laws are obligations placed upon human beings without their consent. If they had consented, it would not be a law, it would just be something people do.
Clearly, laws are simply ideas created by one person to get something from another. Maybe they sound nice, like a law that says the streets need to be clean. Maybe they sound valiant, like a law that says everyone must pay for a school.
The problem with all laws is that they are created not to help you, but to hurt you. You may be offended and say, "Nonsense! Clearly a law against murder is designed to help me!" Oh? I am no murderer, and will not kill innocent people whether the law says I should not, or if it says I should (as history clearly shows it often does). Furthermore, a man who is willing to murder innocent people surely won’t care what your law says. If he doesn’t respect your life, why would he respect your ideas?
Laws are obligations created to command your obedience, not to give you freedom. Freedom is something you were born with. It is not something that can be created, it is only something that can be taken away. Obligations which other people place upon you without your consent are obviously not at all concerned with what you think or how you would like to live.
Laws are ideas. An idea, by itself, can be a good idea or a bad idea. But laws are special, because they are enforced. Enforcement is violence used against you to force laws upon you. Sometimes only intimidation is necessary. Other times, in order for laws to enforced, people must be chained up and put in cages. All too frequently, however, people must simply be killed because they refuse to obey. (This is the meaning of war.) There is no happiness to be found in law.
Why debt is special
Governments enter into debt not because they have immediate needs, or because they are investing for the future. Government debt is a con, a trick on the mind.
Governments use law to make people believe that money that rulers spend should be paid back by its subjects. Whether the ruler is a single king, or a multi-million-person voting block makes little difference. Someone is using law to get someone else to labor on their behalf.
Forcing people into direct and immediate labor is too obviously tyranny. The United States of America profited from this treatment of African natives. It was legal to own human beings. Its brutality was unsustainable; revolt was the inevitable result. All nations have likewise used taxation to profit from others’ labor without their consent. Taxation is easier to swallow than outright slavery, so there is less chance of revolt; but revolts do happen.
What tyrants need is a system of extraction that allows them to increase their demands upon people, but without the fear of being overthrown. This is why government debt has nothing to do with budgeting. It is simply a deception designed to maximize the extraction of labor.
People who believe that a nation belongs to "us" and that "we" pass laws will easily swallow the idea that a debt incurred by the leader of a nation should be paid back by you and me. After all, if it is "our" nation, then anything the nation does, "we" did. The deception is obvious: you never agreed to the debt. If you had, the law wouldn’t need tax collectors, you would pay voluntarily.
Debt is special because it lingers in the mind. It saddles the spirit with a gnawing remembrance that you owe someone else. When you ask to borrow money from someone, it is only right that you pay it back. Even the smallest child knows this. Rulers of nations use this human desire to do what is right to pervert right thinking. People want to pay back money they owe. Governments readily step in to remind them of this obligation, but do everything in their power to hide the fact that you don’t actually owe anything, because you never agreed to the obligation.
What is really happening
Government debt is an interesting concept. It differs from true debt in another simple form.
When you take on debt, you agree to pay it back later. When you loan money to someone, you do so with the understanding that they might not be willing or able to return the money; you take on risk.
Government debt, however, is not backed by trust, collateral, or future reputation. It is backed by violence. If you loan money to a friend, and they stiff you, chances are you would never think to knock down their door in the middle of the night, place them in chains, and toss them in a dark cage for years on end. And yet, this is exactly what governments do when you do not pay the taxes the law demands.
God help you if you decide you don’t want to pay or be put in chains. The law will never yield. To do so would mean the power of law has ended. Law’s implementation is always the same: obey or die.
Buying and selling human lives
If we were to cut through the clutter of culture, the clutter of nonsensical ideas and the trappings of legitimacy that governments paint their laws with, we would arrive at a simple and obvious fact: governments use debt to buy and sell human lives.
Yes, you read that right. Government debt is the buying and selling of human lives.
Governments issue paper notes that are obligations to pay, backed by the violence of their police forces. When a government issues a bond, they are purchased because people know that they are backed by the ability to tax.
You are welcome to believe that laws are not enforced. You are welcome to believe that you pay taxes because you are a "good citizen." You are welcome to believe anything you like. But I highly recommend that you do not deceive yourself into believing that the enforcement of law is anything but the use of violence against human beings.
Government debt creates obligations upon people that they did not choose, and backs those obligations up with violence. We say that governments sell bonds, that they trade paper notes. In truth, governments buy and sell human lives.
February 3, 2007