Tag Archives: Lysander Spooner

What is “Government” and How Can it be Understood Rationally

Ever step back and think, “what is this mysterious yet seemingly all-pervading force in our lives we call government?” Oftentimes, we are so conditioned to seeing the workings of “government”, that we fail to see the bigger picture; we fail to see it for what it truly is.

A noted anarchist named Lysander Spooner once wrote a brilliant piece called NO TREASON. No. VI. The Constitution of No Authority., in which he lays out the rational and legal framework for what “government” actually is and can be.

You may think to yourself, “I know what government is, that’s an easy question”; but I trust that you will think differently if you review Lysander Spooner’s work. There are so many aspects of this thing we call “government” that you take for granted as being true and just. Further analysis, using simple basic logic, shows that the accepted logic of what government is and can be, is indeed quite fallacious. In fact, most people haven’t a clue what the government is, why it is here, who is behind it and why.

‎”…Go to A……… B……… [a particular person whom you wish to tax], and say to him that “the government” has need of money to meet the expenses of protecting him and his property. If he presumes to say that he has never contracted with us to protect him, and that he wants none of our protection, say to him that that is our business, and not his, that we choose to protect him, whether he desires us to do so or not; and that we demand pay, too, for protecting him. If he dares to inquire who the individuals are, who have thus taken upon themselves the title of “the government,” and who assume to protect him, and demand payment of him, without his having ever made any contract with them, say to him that that, too, is our business, and not his; that we do not choose to make ourselves individually known to him; that we have secretly (by secret ballot) appointed you our agent to give him notice of our demands, and, if he complies with them, to give him, in our name, a receipt that will protect him against any similar demand for the present year. If he refuses to comply, seize and sell enough of his property to pay not only our demands, but all your own expenses and trouble beside. If he resists the seizure of his property, call upon the bystanders to help you (doubtless some of them will prove to be members of our band). If, in defending his property, he should kill any of our band who are assisting you, capture him at all hazards, charge him (in one of our courts) with murder, convict him, and hang him. If he should call upon his neighbors, or any others who, like him, may be disposed to resist our demands, and they should come in large numbers to his assistance, cry out that they are all rebels and traitors; that “our country” is in danger; call upon the commander of our hired murderers; tell him to quell the rebellion and “save the country,” cost what it may. Tell him to kill all who resist, though they should be hundreds of thousands; and thus strike terror into all others similarly disposed. See that the work of murder is thoroughly done, that we may have no further trouble of this kind hereafter. When these traitors shall have thus been taught our strength and our determination, they will be good loyal citizens for many years, and pay their taxes without a why or a wherefore.

It is under such compulsion as this that taxes, so called, are paid. And how much proof the payment of taxes affords, that the people consent to support “the government,” it needs no further argument to show…”

–Lysander Spooner

If this interests you, I’d encourage you to read the full text, or listen to the audio version of the full text on the player below.