The notion of civic duty is deeply ingrained into our culture. All across the political spectrum people genuflect in the direction of this idea. Some of the common civic duties are obeying the law, serving on juries, paying taxes and voting. In the U.S. the only one of these that is not compulsory is voting but that is not true everywhere and some in the U.S. want to make it mandatory. The basic idea behind civic duties is that we all have obligations to obey the government and participate in political life in return for the government’s protection. The base argument is that taxes and laws, etc. are the price we pay for civilization and we therefore should not object to giving up some liberty in exchange for this benefit. Some (mostly on the left) will argue more strongly that none of this is an infringement on liberty at all, properly defined. Nonetheless all sides buy into this idea to one degree or another.
This is of course hogwash. The notion that we have civic duties implies that humans have positive rights, which is another way of saying some have the right to control parts of your life and the fruits of your labor. There are no positive rights only negative rights. The blunt fact of the matter is that any enforcement of civic duties involves naked aggression against human beings and the forcing of them into activities against their will. That is, of course, the essence of the state and why it is an illegitimate organization. This is also why the above “exchange” sounds a lot like a protection racket. It operates as a mafia family or a street gang would operate.
The insight of anarchy is that all aggression is immoral and proscribed, even when done by the government. This makes the entire enterprise of government illegitimate. Any attempt to justify, even a limited government, becomes futile rather quickly. To claim that there is a certain line which government may move up to but not cross, is simply arbitrary. This lacks any philosophical rigor as rigorous thinking rebels against arbitrariness. There is simply no way to morally differentiate between a little bit of governmental coercion versus totalitarian coercion; they are simply varied points along the same moral continuum. There is obviously a practical difference but once the line of inviolable rights has been breached it is only human conscience that determines an end point and we see historically how dangerous it is to rely on human conscience for the protection of our rights.
Now at a certain level we can get agreement on this, but society has been so conditioned by government-controlled education that few see how anarchy could be practical in any way. The notion that without government civilization will fall apart in one of the controlling ideas in human culture. The reality is that any violence is damaging to civilization, but the systematic violence caused by government is the most damaging thing to civilization. Now human society can withstand a lot, so if government is limited civilization can flourish, as it did beginning in the 18th. century. Since the end of the 19th. century, though, the West has seen uneven progress and some backsliding because government has grown too large. The other parts of the world that have advanced materially have limited government more than let it grow and have thus seen progress.
Democracy is no protection against the growth of government and in fact is a large enabler of government growth as I have previously argued. Once the camel’s nose of government is under the tent of human rights it is only a matter of time until real damage is done. The reality is that there is no governmental activity that cannot be better handled by voluntary markets. Here is just a sample of some of the areas where government can be eliminated as a growing body of work has shown. This is true even in the area of legal systems and courts of law.
I mention this last point because this post was triggered by my recent “call” (the government always uses religious language!) to federal jury duty. There is little to recommend a government monopoly of the legal system as, like all monopolies, this one lowers quality and increases cost. The moral thing to do would be to allow for competitive arbitration and court systems to arise and to pay people (either judges and/or juries) to adjudicate disputes. Having professionals do this work will always produce better results than coercing amateurs into doing it.
From a faith perspective we should all know the dangers of buying into the governmental religious doctrine of civic duties. The state demands obeisance and worship. This is why civic duties include the pledge of allegiance; standing during the national war anthem; thanking anyone in uniform for their “service” (even if it was killing innocents?); blindly voting between two violent sociopathic candidates and gleefully serving on juries. It is clear that all of this is a religious/worship complex that is in competition with God. This runs us squarely afoul of the 1st. Commandment as well as Jesus’ clear teaching to serve only God. So, in the end if civic duties are in opposition to the Gospel…too damn bad for civic duties.
We clearly have the ability to successfully press this case at an intellectual level. When in conversation (remember you represent God so keep it polite) clearly reject the concept of civic duties and the worship of the state it represents. Press home the moral case for the absolute integrity of the rights and dignities of all God’s children. Then press home the practical case for why a voluntary, competitive marketplace always produces better results. Don’t start off by dancing around the edges and make a case for free market garbage collection. Rather go straight for the jugular; demand the privatization of the roads and the courts. Get conversant on these topics and have at the statists in your life. Knock these heathen icons out of the hands of any flummoxed statist and you will have advanced the cause of liberty more than you know. More importantly you will have stood firm in rejecting worship and service of anyone but God and will have given tangible witness to embracing the faith God gave you by living as He commands.
Praise Be to God