GOVERNMENT AND SLAVERY
One of the principal characteristics distinguishing a libertarian society from an authoritarian society, whether it be a socialist, theocratic, or merely a democratic majority-rule system, is that the libertarian society is built upon the concept of individual rights. The authoritarian societies, by degree, would deny that individuals have rights and immunities against the rule of "the People" or "the Priesthood." Of course, in the United States the legal system is based on a structure of individual rights (unfortunately vitiated by the legal concept of "the public interest"). Since the basic concept that "Rights Exist" is acknowledged, the opportunity to work within the system to expand the sphere of personal liberty exists.
At the University of Chicago Law School, Prof. Richard A. Epstein has developed a theory of tort law which serves as part of a system of corrective justice designed to protect individual liberty and private property. The theory is extremely powerful, from a libertarian political perspective, and Epstein openly admits a strong preference for the libertarian approach to social theory—as opposed to the social democratic approach (as exemplified by Harvard's John Rawls, or the more primitive socialist writers) and the utilitarian approach (as exemplified by Milton Friedman, George Stigler, and the Chicago economists in general). Speaking at a recent meeting of the University of Chicago Libertarian Club, Epstein pointed out that the libertarian approach begins with an unqualified rejection of slavery in any form; the other two approaches do not reject the possibility of slavery, perhaps called "duty to society" or "redistribution" or "the greatest good for the greatest number." Epstein's work has appeared within the last two years in the Journal of Legal Studies, but the serious libertarian student should investigate the review of Epstein's recent articles in the new issue of Law and Liberty, published quarterly by the Law and Liberty Project of the Institute for Humane Studies, 1177 University Drive, Menlo Park, CA 94025. In this review article, University of Chicago philosopher Roger Pilon summarizes the thrust of Epstein's theory and provides the reader with necessary notes and citations.
The Law and Liberty Project is headed by Davis E. Keeler, known to readers of REASON by virtue of his bimonthly Money column. Keeler is an attorney and an economist, a combination of talents which may prove to be the hallmark of the restoration of libertarian ideas in American public policy. The Law and Liberty newsletter is distributed free upon request, and if a particular issue is desired in quantity you may obtain up to 20 copies without charge.
DEFENDING YOUR RIGHTS
The attack on individual rights is easy to initiate. All that is required is (1) a demagogic appeal to somebody's greed or envy; (2) some legislative or executive statesmen who are prepared to write new regulations and ordinances to benefit the particular organized group; and (3) the obedience of the victims, which is usually the least-cost alternative. Yet what if the victims resist?
An arena within which resistance is still possible in spite of many misconceptions and fears, is the court system of the United States. The Citizens Courtroom Workshop, Box 19330, San Diego, CA 92119 offers four-day seminars at various locations around the country to introduce laymen to the mysteries of the law. The workshops are not designed to provide comprehensive legal training, but they do equip those who attend with knowledge of how to use a law library and do elementary legal research, how to initiate a lawsuit, including the drafting of complaints, motions, and other documents. The workshops supply the rudimentary legal knowledge for an individual to judge when it might be possible and feasible to plead "in propria persona" (without an attorney), and to monitor the work of an attorney who might represent the person in more complex cases. A heavy emphasis of the Citizens Courtroom Workshop involves tax law, which should be of interest to those who fear the wrath of the IRS.
One of the graduates of a workshop, Holmes Crouch, filed a suit against the IRS challenging a ruling under Section 1402(h) of the tax code, which provides for exemption from Social Security for certain religious sects. Those who have seen the book and film, The Incredible Bread Machine, will recognize this little known aspect of the tax code. Crouch was granted a three judge panel to consider the Constitutional aspects of the question—whether or not "sincere philosophical" libertarians might not also qualify for this exemption. We regret that we have no further information on this case at this time.
The possibilities of initiating suit against the government have been known and used by the advocates of "welfare rights" and "environmental rights" for some time, but only recently have suits from the perspective of libertarians been considered as tactical moves. There was, of course, the famous Supreme Court decision in the 1930's which overturned the NRA, but for the most part individualists have either cut costs, or cut and run. The Pacific Legal Foundation, 455 Capitol Mall, Sacramento, CA 95814 has been very active and remarkably successful in fighting some of the more zany proposals from ecology bureaucrats and Naderite vigilantes. The basic structure of the law and the court system are on the side of logic and right reason, so libertarians should take heart. Under a little known Federal law, the Tucker Act, citizens can sue the government to recover damages for any unconstitutional government takeover of property. To the typewriters, Troops!
THE ANTI-SLAVERY MOVEMENT
On Wednesday, October 22, 1975, Doug Kennell, alias Jean Freeman, alias Jean Berkman, was arrested by the FBI for violations of the Selective Service Act—to be specific, he chose to ignore the various orders for examination and induction. An indictment was issued on June 2, 1971, some time after Kennell had gone underground. The case is interesting to libertarians for several reasons, but most specifically because the defense will be based primarily upon the 13th Amendment. This will be the first case since the Selective Draft Law cases in 1917 to challenge the government on the slavery question, and in 1917 the question of the draft was clouded by the arguments that the draft was not "democratic" or "just," and cases since then have typically revolved around issues of "conscience" and "Supreme Beings." If Kennell can obtain a day before the Supreme Court, we will be able to see if there is any principled consistency under the Constitution in this Bicentennial year, or whether the concept of "public need" (which is nowhere in the Constitution) still acts to nullify the Anti-Slavery Amendment.
For those who know Kennell, and he has attended a remarkable number of libertarian functions around the country during his years "on the lam" and looked up literally hundreds of libertarian activists in the various cities he traveled to, there is no need to advise you that he is penniless. A legal defense fund has been established, The 13th Amendment Defense Fund, Box 1202, Free Venice, CA 90291 (checks should be made payable to Shawn Steel, trustee). Since government, by its very nature, reserves to itself perquisites which it denies to individuals, it is probable that we shall once again be told that the Anti-Slavery Amendment applies only to private ownership of human beings and not to "democratic" ownership.
If the utilitarians and social democrats have a lock on the Supreme Court, when it comes to the right of self-ownership, the recourse of the citizen is to political action. The Safe Return Amnesty Committee, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010 maintains a lobbying office in Washington, DC, to support H.R. 9596, which would confer unconditional amnesty on the approximately 150,000 young men who escaped from slavery in one way or another. Importantly, the Safe Return Amnesty Committee is organizing committees in every Congressional District to lobby at the grass roots for support for exoneration of those like Doug Kennell who refused to surrender their lives to "democratic" slavery. The Committee, in fact, supports a much broader measure than H.R. 9596, which is drafted with some thought of saving face with conservatives; for this reason, the Committee is of interest to libertarians, who hold to a much more radical anti-slavery position. Unfortunately, the Committee is a little confused about the issue of "public service" slavery as opposed to military slavery.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Frontlines".