The Consent of the Governed
“Government has become a paramecium, an amoeba whose prime directive is to grow and consume and multiply without knowledge of what it is supposed to be doing other than expanding. Or maybe the better metaphor is the zombie. The groping State smells those still alive and then plods and claws itself toward the few remaining living, in a mindless effort to incorporate or devour them. The zombie likes best the scent of the pizza franchiser or masonry contractor, not the welfare recipient or the Facebook executive.” (Link)
I have a neighbor who is a small farmer, and in addition to growing feed corn and raising beef cattle, he raises healthy, free-range chickens and sells a few hundred fresh eggs a week at farmers markets and “buy local” Co-ops. That is, he used to. He quit last year when new regulations for food safety (instituted at the behest of factory egg farms) required all sorts of new certifications, inspections, and expensive equipment to comply with the laws. Paying for all the things the new laws will require was only cost-effective for a large operation (thus driving small farmers out of the market, which was precisely why the large operations lobbied for the bill). Rather than do all that work for virtually no gain, he butchered his flock and just stopped producing.
Healthy young people, finally waking up to the fact that they are the financial pack-mules for Obamacare, have refused to sign up for the program in numbers that come anywhere close to balancing those they are supposed to subsidize. One wonders what they will do if they ever take a good, hard look at Social Security and Medicare: A double-earner couple (making the US median wage) who retired in 2010 will receive $310,000 more in benefits than they paid in to the system over the rest of their lives. The same couple, if the household was a single-earner married couple, will receive nearly half a million dollars more ($446,000) in benefits than they paid in during their lifetimes (Link). Just like Obamacare, the young are expected to produce in order to subsidize these costs. It will be interesting to see what happens if they ever figure this out.
Taxpayers, particularly successful middle and upper-middle class business owners, are deliberately managing their income levels by working less and precisely calculating how much they need to give to charity in order to fall below Federal tax thresholds. Many have simply decided that, given increasing taxation and regulatory burdens, it is no longer in their interests to run a business at all and have closed-up shop entirely (Link).
There is a property I particularly admire that I pass on my drive to work- beautiful fields, groves of woods along the property boundaries, and the whole thing gently sloping to the banks of a bend in the river. It used to be a working farm, but the family that bought it a few years ago realized that if they registered with the state as a farm and rented out the acreage, they would be subject to all sorts of restrictions and laws. Worse, the new “Food Safety Act” which is set to become law next year has granted unelected bureaucrats in numerous Federal agencies (from the FDA to the Department of Agriculture to the EPA) unprecedented control over privately held farmland, in particular the ability to force landowners to comply with expensive restrictions without recourse or appeal (Link). The choice was easy for the folks who own that farm- don’t farm anything, and don’t get on the watch list of half a dozen federal agencies. I think about how much that prime land could have produced as I drive past it. But I suppose there is a silver lining: eighty tillable acres that have been left fallow look quite pretty when the weedy grasses turn a golden tan in the fall.
California’s productive middle class, realizing that the social compact constructed by Sacramento over the last few decades is one where they have enormous financial obligations and regulatory burdens and receive precious little in return aside the privilege of contributing even more, have left the state in droves: you could literally populate the state of Montana three times over with the number of middle-class earners who have left the People’s Republic of CA over the last 20 years (Link).
Tri-City Herald, Kennewick WA: It took Bob Bertsch 25 years to build his construction business and just a day for it all to go away. Bertsch’s Ashley-Bertsch Group went on the auction block Friday at 9 a.m. By 4 p.m., Booker Auctions had sold off almost two dozen vehicles and trailers, tons of power tools and supplies, even the gas-fired fireplace in the office. Bertsch, 65, said he is down-sizing because the tax burden got too expensive to stay in business.
“I am tired of carrying all the tax load,” Bertsch said. “I renew 13 licenses here every year just so I can spend money in this city.” Bertsch makes no attempt to conceal his frustration with the costs government imposes on small businesses like his. “Government is killing small business. We used to have 24 employees at our peak. Now, all of those people who used to work here are in unemployment lines,” he said. (Link)
What does any of this have to do with precious metals investing? I am of the opinion that it has quite a bit to do with it, actually. In each of the above cases, you see a two-part dynamic at work. Part 1 is a political system and its allied bureaucracies treating the earnings, property, and labor of the citizenry as its piggy bank and plaything- a government/state which bases its very existence on successfully conducting a continual process of plunder in order to fund a continuous expansion of its own power. Part 2 is the response of individuals to the particulars of this process, the quiet refusal to play the role of serf to the feudal lords of the state. In each case, from closing a business to working/earning less to letting productive farmland lie fallow, the dynamic is the same. The state says “Your productivity is mine” and the individual quietly responds “No, it isn’t” and changes their behavior accordingly. These people are, in a very practical way, refusing to aid and abet this process. They are withholding their consent.
The ‘consent of the governed’ isn’t created simply because a political party manages to make enough promises to enough special interest groups to bring in enough campaign cash to buy enough political ads to deceive enough people to squeak out a narrow electoral victory. It doesn’t result from the ability of unelected bureaucrats to use the coercive power of government and law to enforce their will. At the core of it, the ‘consent of the governed’ rests on each individual citizen consenting (or not) to go along with the demands being placed on them. Refusing to consent doesn’t require armed resistance, or showy protests and signs, or loud confrontations. It doesn’t require breaking the law or going to jail. All it takes is a refusal to participate in the activity being controlled.
At this moment, western central banks are engaged in a process of funding massive expenditures through monetizing (directly or indirectly) government debt. They create more Euros or Yen, or Pounds, or Dollars out of thin air and each time they do, they devalue your paycheck, pension, retirement account, and the change in your pocket. I understand they have the legal right to do this. I understand they are appointed by the elected representatives of the people and that this supposedly gives them the moral and practical authority to do so. But I have not been asked and did not give my approval to this process. My money is nothing more than a marker for my productivity and saved value, my efforts and risks, and indeed a significant portion of my life – and these things are mine. I do not consent to them being plundered in this way. So I remove my money from their system, as much as I am able. I buy gold and silver.
More regimes have been brought, piecemeal, to their knees by what was once called “Irish Democracy,” the silent, dogged resistance, withdrawal, and truculence of millions of ordinary people, than by revolutionary vanguards or rioting mobs. –James Scott, Two Cheers for Anarchism (Princeton University Press, 2013)
Dogged resistance, withdrawal, and truculence.
Sounds good… I’m in.