Sunday, April 1, 2012

If you do not consent to obey, then you should leave!

Because I am interested in ethical arguments, and because I argue that the universality of ethics, denies the possibility for exceptions, I will often hear the statement, "Well, if someone does not consent to obey the laws, and pay their taxes, then they are free to leave!"

I want to emphasize with those who would feel this way; it appears to me, to be a statement of exasperation, a statement of power-less-ness to confront the ideas. What's more, it is also a kind of request, "I am tiring of being confronted with these ethical arguments, they make me feel uncomfortable, because I am invested in the system as it currently exists, and it scares me to think of the implications of an argument that reveals that all actions of the State are unethical. Therefore, I would like to request that everyone who would make these arguments, that make me uncomfortable, to please leave me alone, so that I can once again, blissfully ignore these ideas, and my conscience may once again proceed with unfettered support of the State, which makes me feel safe."

I really do want to emphaize with someone who says, "If you don't like it, then get out" or "America, love it, or leave it!". These people are revealing an unmet need, which is being expressed by a feeling of fear; afraid that arguments revealing the State as merely instituionalized violence, is *inconsistent with their own apprehension of ethics*, yet, afraid that without the State, their own livelihoods or safety could be compromised.

However, their argument can be paraphrased as, "If you do not consent to the State as it is, then please leave!". This request of course, denies to the person, who would withhold their consent from the State, to also deny their consent to their forced removal. If Bob were to say to his neighbor, "I want you to mow your lawn." and his neighbor replies, "I appreciate, that you would make this request of me, but I do not consent to mow my lawn as I prefer the natural look of native grasses" and then Bob says to his neighbor, "Look, you HAVE to mow your lawn, those are the rules; I acknowledge that you are perfectly free to do as you please, but, discomfort at looking at your yard provokes such a powerful negative emotion in me, that I threaten you with this ultimatum, you are either free to mow your lawn, or you are free to leave and live somewhere else, but if you do not consent to mow your lawn, then that means you do not consent to live in this neighborhood."

In this case, Bob denies to his neighbor a free, uncoerced choice. His neighbor, in light of this demand for obedience, in either the one case, OR in the other case, is a coerced choice; a choice given to the victim under duress. The victim presented with such a 'choice' is not permitted to deny, or withhold consent from either horn of the threatened dilema. The choice that Bob has been presented to his neighbor, is the exact same coerced choice of the man who would rob people on the street at gun point. The robber may give to you the 'choice', "Give me your wallet, or I'll shoot you dead!" but the fact that you have this 'choice' available to you, this does not mean that your rights have not been violated. While you have a 'choice', this is in no way a free choice.

Normally, we would not ask the victim of crime to make yet further concessions to her perpetrator; we do not say to the woman who has been raped, "Well, if you do not consent to be raped, then you should really need to move somewhere else, because around here, George and Barak like to rape women and children all the time.". To ask the victims to make further concessions to their perpetrators is the height of ethical callousness; if ANYONE should be threatened to withdraw, it is the perptraitors! It is George and Barak, who would initate aggression against others, who should have demands placed upon them! It is they who should make concessions of restitution to their victims and to refrain from further aggressions!

It is not the victim of abuse that should be required to move somewhere else, in order to live peaceably, rather the perpetrators of aggression, violence, coercion and theft should be required to make amends, and failing that, perhaps it is they who should be required to live apart from civilized society.


  1. Wow! I feel hope when I read this. The hope is because this seems to be a story that might get through to some people! Thank you for writing this and thank you for what I perceive as a deep caring which inspired you to write this!

  2. George and Barak, the rapists!
    I almost coated the screen of this poor laptop with hard cider.