Hardly a day goes by without some story coming up in the news about government meddling. One day it’s the president poking at some Middle Eastern country. The next day it’s a cop shooting someone for filming them. By the end of the week it’s a federal agency getting in trouble regarding leaks and unconstitutional overreach. This surprises no one to see. But what has come to surprise me is how government seems to muddle up otherwise other simple situations. These are common, simple altercations that would clearly be moral or immoral in other circumstances, and yet now become morally clouded as a result of the government being involved.  Below are three examples of this process.

A homeless man was shot and killed by the LAPD earlier this year. According to the LA Times, the man had assaulted and robbed another. This led the law enforcers being called and to the man’s death after allegedly trying to disarm one law enforcer of his weapon. In other circumstances, this would be a clear enough case. If a man robs and assaults another human being, then he is a rights-violator and deserves his punishment for it. But what if there are no legitimate lawmen to respond to the rights-violation? If a man, who has yet to be proven to be a criminal, ends up fighting off other criminals (illegitimate law enforcers) and is killed in the process, who is the guilty party? All of the above?  Or let us assume that the deceased man was truly a criminal, without doubt. How are citizens supposed to judge the morality of the slaying of one criminal by another? Perhaps it would not be their business to judge it, except for the fact that one criminal is being financed by their stolen dollars. The solution, of course, is to do away with “public” property and monopolized policy enforcers. If “public” property did not exist, Skid Row would not exist. If the LAPD did not have a monopoly on force, competing private lawmen could provide security to consumers, leading to better production of security and security tailored to the consent of the consumers. But until then, the citizenry is often left scratching their heads as to how moral the situation is in the here-and-now.

On almost any given day, a visitor to Austin will see many a homeless person. This is due to a multitude of reasons, which generally do not concern us here. What does concern us is this: Austin, like other cities in America, often has their law enforcers target the homeless for victimless crimes. These victimless crimes include sitting on sidewalks, loitering on public property, sleeping on benches, and doing drugs in public. Ultimately these so-called crimes have no victim and would have no standing in a private court of tort law. Take a walk to downtown Austin and you may come across dozens of homeless people standing on or sitting around the sidewalk of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, the main homeless shelter for the men of Austin. And when you visit it, you may also see APD zip-tying people up by the dozen for mass arrests. In a common property-violation scenario, the case would be clear. If these people are trespassing on property, then they deserve their punishment. If they are trespassing and doing activities that go against the will of the property owner, then surely their ways invade the rights of the property owner. But what if the property is false property, or rather, property stolen by the government with no clear original-owner? Of course, I refer to “public” property. If the property belongs to the public, then surely these people have the right to use it as they please. If it is not public, then they do not have the right. The clear solution, again, is for the property to be made private, preferably by the local businesses homesteading it. But in the meantime, what are citizens to think? Do we as citizens, including the homeless, get to utilize “public” property as we wish as tax payers or is it moral for us to live under the yoke of the city?

In East Austin, many people utilize street parking and walk into downtown.  These people may be construction workers, waiters, non-profit workers, and all other manner of those who contribute to the service of others (the essence of the free market). There are others who now lurk around East Austin too, though they contribute nothing to society; the parking meter enforcers of the city. A formidable battery of parking meters has now gone into service around East Austin at the behest of local business owners. They claim that too many people park on the streets near their businesses and leave their cars parked for too long, which hurts the ability of their customers to find nearby parking. These people then went to the city and asked for the meters to be put in, and the city was more than happy to oblige. In a society without “public” property, this is a clear situation. If the businesses, or a business association, owned a street then they could dictate who utilizes it and how. This is obvious to any supporter of property, and the solution of liberty would be to privatize the street immediately. But once more, the ugly head of stolen property rears up and muddles the scenario. If the street is supposedly “public”, then surely each citizen can park as they please, since they have contributed to its construction and maintenance. Furthermore, this is a clear case of a private group harnessing the violence of the state against other private parties. By doing this, they can now dictate to others the usage of something that does not truly belong to them (as they don’t have the title of ownership to it). And the entirety of this dilemma stems directly from the falsehood that is government.

These three scenarios all detail a nearly identical process occurring across a vast expanse of distance, and they are not unique to California and Texas. What is this process? It is the perversion of law and the enforcement of falsehood. And this perversion is not an abstract danger, nor is it one that only concerns armchair philosophers. This perversion, this falsehood, leads to the murder of citizens, the theft of property, and the growth of oppressive taxation. Perhaps worse of all, it may make us as citizens apathetic towards the immorality of government. We must endeavor as libertarians as much as possible to fight this tyranny at every opportunity, large and small, to enshrine moral action as the principle of law.

 “No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree, but the safest way to make them respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality are in contradiction to each other, the citizen finds himself in the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense, or of losing his respect for the law — two evils of equal magnitude, between which it would be difficult to choose.” Frédéric Bastiat, The Law