Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken
Some of you may know that I’ve been on a presuppositions “kick” recently. The other day I saw this post from Ben Swann titled, CA Governor Jerry Brown Signs Bitcoin Legalization Bill, and thought it fit in with the theme. Don’t worry. I’m not going to talk about Bitcoin.
What caught my attention was not the part about Bitcoin, but rather how the headline is phrased. This is not a slight on Ben’s headline, he’s accurately captured the state’s thinking. Rather I’m interested in the phrasing of the headline as a reflection of the state’s mindset regarding the law and morality.
What is a “legalization bill?” What does it signify, and what does it presuppose?
What Jerry Brown and other statists are saying is that all activities are illegal to begin with, until such time as the state declares them to be legal.
We are told by the state that the laws they create exist to deter “bad” behavior. Thus these laws are supposed to have a moral element to them, defining what is “good” and what is “bad”.
In this particular case, the story is actually about the repeal of a previous law which forbid the use of Bitcoin. So Bitcoin existed in a state of legality, was then made illegal for a time, and will now be made legal again by the edict of the state.
Does this mean that the moral quality of the inanimate Bitcoins changed back and forth and the state was just keeping up with its status? Does it mean that the state made Bitcoin immoral by outlawing it and then reversed itself to once again make it “good”?
Both of these are patently absurd explanations and easily recognizable as such by all but the most hardened of statists. Of course the state does not create morality. Alas, it cannot even properly or efficiently enforce morality as it is itself inherently immoral.
But even if it were capable of changing the moral state of objects (and people) with the stroke of a pen, wouldn’t this smack of moral relativism? It would say that yesterday the Bitcoin/marijuana/alcohol/gun was good/bad but today it’s the opposite.
But the state goes even further than that. In saying that it was illegal yesterday, the state is also saying that yesterday it was moral for its agents to hunt you down, kidnap, fine, and/or imprison you, beat or shoot you to death if you sufficiently resisted, and steal from others to pay its agents to do so. But today that would be wrong.
Ah, but the statist says, “we have democracy and so the laws reflect what ‘we the people’ think is right or wrong”. But this explanation does nothing to change the moral relativity of laws that can be altered at the whim of “the people”.
If the majority can make things like Bitcoin legal or illegal then why not other things like murder or theft? This is not mere hyperbole, it’s the logical conclusion one reaches with the presupposition that the state decides what is right or wrong.
The reality is that the state does not criminalize certain activities because it thinks they are wrong. It does so for two very different reasons: power and money. The more things that are illegal, the easier it is to catch anyone in a “crime” and the more leverage the state has against that person.
They can imprison their detractors or those they deem a threat to their hegemony, or simply extract wealth from the countless other “mundanes” who just happen to run afoul of their millions of inane, bureaucratic rules.
No, the state does not make things “legal” or define morality. To the contrary, from time to time it strategically exercises restraint in aggressing against people who have done nothing wrong. It does so not for reasons of morality or decency, but only because the current set of tyrants think they couldn’t get away with anything more at the time, or that “legalizing” something will actually help them control and profit from it easier.