Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sovereignty and the Kindness of Strangers

Little kids, under the protection of their parents in nice safe playrooms with no sharp corners come up with all sorts of cute theories about freedom and sovereignty. When they grow up to be social justice warriors under the protection of the police and other authorities, and, all too often, still under the protection of their parents, the theories are no longer cute, but downright annoying. Little kids, you see, automatically assume that everybody else is just like them, and since they wouldn't do any bad stuff, nobody else would, either. In short, they, being inexperienced little kids, instinctively rely on the kindness of strangers. Which is fine as long as Mom and Dad carefully vet all the strangers first.

Steven Pinker tells us about the failure of his theory of anarchism as a young man in Canada:

When law enforcement vanishes, all manner of violence breaks out: looting, settling old scores, ethnic cleansing, and petty warfare among gangs, warlords and mafias. This was obvious in the remnants of Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and parts of Africa in the 1990s, but can also happen in countries with a long tradition of civility. As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin’s anarchism. I laughed off my parents’ argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 A.M. on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike. By 11:20 A.M. the first bank was robbed. By noon most downtown stores had closed because of looting. Within a few more hours, taxi drivers burned down the garage of a limousine service that had competed with them for airport customers, a rooftop sniper killed a provincial police officer, rioters broke into several hotels and restaurants, and a doctor slew a burglar in his suburban home. By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been broken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted, before city authorities had to call ni the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order. This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters (and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist).

Pinker grew up, of course, and reality led to his formulating other, better theories. BTW, if you haven't read The Blank Slate, do so ASAP.

Right now I'm hearing a lot of theories from libertarians/anarchists about how we are, or should be, free to do whatever we like on the land that we own. These are the same people who reject any concept of land, or anything else, being owned collectively. That is, they reject the commons. With such reasoning, they conclude that the borders must be open (it's immoral to prevent anyone from immigrating to any country whatsoever), and any and all laws dealing with morality are invalid (because if you do it on your own land, it's nobody else's business). In short, they're rejecting what we've learned from experience over millennia of history. And insisting that we can rely on the kindness of strangers, even totally unfamiliar strangers from all over the planet. Of course, they call it "enlightened self-interest" instead of "kindness," in order to sound more erudite.

But, just to be nit-picky, do we own the land we own, or is it just a linguistic short-cut to say that we do, the reality being more complicated than that? Mike Lorrey says no, it's not all that simple:

The Feudal Nature of Land and Sovereignty
by Mike Lorrey

We all were raised being taught that with the American Revolution, the people (at least the white and otherwise manumitted ones) were freed of the yoke of serfdom to the King of England, that according to the Enlightenment philosophy this nation, and its Constitution, were founded upon, that all political power and rights originate in we as individuals, some of which we delegate to the government(s) in order to protect the rest of our rights that were rightfully ours as Englishmen into time immemorial, or at least as far back as the Glorious Revolution in England, or the Magna Charta, or the Danelaw, or the Common Law, or wherever you want to draw the goal post.
Under principles of Natural Law, men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, etc etc. Alternatively, as Descartes said, “I think therefore I am” or “cogito ergo sum”, as a declaration of personhood. I've revised that to mean “I think, therefore I own myself”, as the basis of any libertarian approach to rights revolves around self ownership, since possession is 9/10ths of the law, the emergent phenomenon of my mind exists solely because it inhabits as sufficiently complex neural network known as my brain, which is the controlling organ of my body, therefore my mind owns my brain and body based on the axiom of primacy of possession. Correllatively I own my labor of my body, and creativity of my mind, and any goods or services created by the labor and creativity of my body and mind, or any goods or services I trade for with others in voluntary free association known as society. This includes the land upon which I may live and/or work, which I've mixed with my labor and creativity, therefore under the Lockean ideal, I am its sovereign master, my home is my castle, and as sovereign, I hold allode, or freehold, title over this land.
Except, of course, when I do not.
One would think, given all this Enlightenment folderol we've been taught, that people would know that their land is theirs, as individuals, free and sovereign. Except it isn't.
The modern system of nation states arose with the Peace of Westphalia, a treaty agreed to in 1648 to end the Thirty Years War and the Eighty Years war, which in addition to the specific issues of peace between various warring nations, a compromise on religious tolerance, it included a general recognition of the exclusive sovereignty of each party over its lands, people, and agents abroad, and responsibility for the warlike acts of any of its citizens or agents. 
This treaty held that each and every prince or other sovereign was responsible for all the people in their lands. Imagine if the population of sovereigns in the world suddenly increased from several dozen in 1787 to several dozen million, as every American citizen suddenly became a king of his own castle, the sovereign of his own lands, with allode over his domain that had formerly been granted to him or his ancestors by the colonial governor as an agent of the King of England?
The european powers couldn't imagine the possiblity.
So they did the sensible thing in negotiating the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War. The King of England granted sovereignty to the governments of the several newly independent colonies. The original grants that created each colony became a title of Allode, possessed by each of the several States. This created each new State as its own nation under the Westphalian system of nation states. This is WHY they were called States and not provinces. The US government was a loose confederation of these nation States.

Why did the States need and agree to them getting Allode rather than the people as individual land owners? Taxes. Each State had to collect, and pay to the Continental Congress of the Confederation of the united States (note the non-capitalized “united”) funds based on their capitation and land area. 
Now, you ask, what the heck is allode and why are we talking about this, and why don't I have it?
In feudal land ownership, there's only one true land owner, the sovereign, who holds freehold, or allode, over a given territory. You may have noted that the British Royals call the UK, “The family firm” because that is what it is. Its their land, they hold allode over every acre and hectare, as the sovereigns.

Vassals, people who give oaths of fealty to a feudal lord and/or sovereign prince/king/emperor, may receive for service or other favors, land awarded to them, often with titles, but just as often not. Either way, they don't get it as freehold or allode, because they don't get it for free. They owe rent to the land-lord, their lord, to be specific. The guy they gave oaths of fealty to. Serfs would work the land and give a percentage to their lord and/or king as their rent, which in the modern age is known as 'share cropping'. Freed men, who were not serfs, but not aristrocracy either, known as yeomen, or commoners, may get land for military service, or purchase it on the market, either way, they may get it in various forms of tenancy deed. The most popular and common feudal tenancy deed is the fee simple deed, which the tenant pays one payment annually for the occupation and use of the land, which may or may not include water and/or mineral rights.

The fee simple deed was pretty universal in the 13 colonies, as well. Colonists were obligated by their royal grants to not only pay an annual feod, or fee, for the grant patent, but they had to clear x many acres for tillage, build y many buildings, have z many domesticated farm animals on the land, etc.
So when the Treaty of Paris came around, which gave Sovereign Allode to the states, and not the people, the states kept up the same Fee Simple tenancy deed system of land title registration they'd been using for centuries under the English system (of course slightly different for Louisiana since its French). The annual feod, or fee, became known as property tax, and a number of arguments were devised to explain why we the people got screwed out of being truly sovereign people.

A simple way to understand a fee simple deed is that the sovereign is the land lord, and you are renting from him/her/it. If you don't have allode, you aren't sovereign, period. Here's why you aren't:

The Republican Argument
Devised by the Republican Democrats of Jefferson (aka the Democratic Party these days), the argument is that you give up land sovereignty to the state in order to ensure that your claims to the land are protected by the states system of courts and law enforcement officers. Except of course the state now gets to practice Eminent Domain as the real sovereign, and can take your land whenever it wants, paying only whatever value it thinks is “fair market”.

The Georgist Argument
Based on the idea of mixing labor with the land as the basis of your claim to it, the idea promoted largely by Henry George, an early 19th century philosopher, is that by mixing your labor with the land, you are reducing the supply of unclaimed land and therefore imposing a cost upon others who come after you in that they have to buy at higher prices due to greater scarcity, and that this exclusionary effect is unfair, and prevents those without land from being truly free. This argument, of course, ignores the fact that if you aren't sovereign on your own land either, you aren't free either, anyways. So its like saying “you are only truly free if everyone is wearing the same size chains, or you pay others for your privilege of being in chains”. Land Value Rent is the price you pay to the government for excluding others from “your” land, and the government spends that tax money on behalf of everyone you excluded....

Don't Get Scammed
There are some out there that claim there are ways  to get allodial title, either through some process of patenting your land, or even, in Nevada, the state claims they will sell it to you. But its a fraud. The land patenting schemes of the Sovereign Citizen movement will get your land taken and you put in jail. The Nevada Allodial Title program is a con job. You pay a discounted value of all the property tax you would have paid anyways during your average life expectancy, so you never have to pay that property tax ever again, BUT, your NV allodial title is NOT inheritable. You can't pass it on to your kids or their kids, etc. When you die, the title reverts back to a fee simple deed unless your heirs pony up for the same scam.

Homestead Laws
Some states exempt whatever residence you claim is your homestead, from property taxes, usually with value limits on the amount of property that you can claim exemptions with. In most such states, the values are low, about the value of a mobile home or a dirt floored log cabin, which explains the prevalence of mobile homes in tornado country, and the growing trend of Tiny Homes and other sorts of temporary structures that can escape classification as permanent structures.
Homestead laws largely make it impossible to be property tax exempt on any amount of land large enough to farm on a subsistence or profitable basis. 

The Northwest Territory
The Northwest Territory was the land between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, up to the Great Lakes, which had been claimed by various states including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Pretty much all their territorial claims overlapped each other, because the original Colonial grants drew lines in perpetuity as far west as the Pacific Ocean. So the Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance act of 1789, by which the states agreed to cede allodial claims to that land, so that new states could be created. Thing was, the land in those states was supposed to be Allodially granted to settlers to encourage people to migrate westward to settle them, but was amended to be fee simple like in the original states and the subsequently created states. The land was declared to be Public Domain land, and the federal government sold land in those states to settlers through the General Land Office.

Now, there you have it, you should be able to understand the differences between sovereign allodial title and the fee simple tenancy deed system we have here in the US, and why you have to pay property taxes: because you really don't own your land, you just bought a privilege to use the land you think you own, and exclude others from using it, as long as you keep paying the real owner an annual fee to keep that privilege.

If you don't like it, there's a simple solution: launch a new Revolution.

1 comment:

  1. I have in my possession the original Land Patents for my family's farm in the Northwest Territories. Reading those Patents, it's very clear that the government has no right to assess property tax against me nor claim any right to the land my ancestors owned and were free to pass along to "heirs and assigns in perpetuity." In other words, the government sold one thing and then simply came along later, after statehood, and tore up the old deal while handing over a bill for rent payments due.

    Those who believe they "own" a home or land in America are simply fools. Try to develop "your" land sometime or withhold your rent payment and find out very soon who the real owner is. And since any effort to litigate means you battle an opponent with literally unlimited resources and with an arbiter whose paycheck is signed by your opponent, the lesson strikes home.

    All of which makes me wonder if the leftists don't have it right after all. The State *does* hold all the power. We hold none. So instead of getting our asses handed to us for a lifetime of futile battles, wouldn't it make more sense to be on the other side?