Can The State be controlled?

The Constitution

The U.S. Constitution has not controlled The State’s criminality. It may once have shamed and slowed politicians in their quest for greater dominance over you and your neighbors. Now, it doesn’t even do that.
Wasn’t this inevitable? How can you control an institution that has the power to initiate force? Won’t its privileged members naturally seek to expand their dominance?
It may be hard to accept, but the Constitution either . . .

  • Created the criminal State we now have, or . . .
  • It was impotent to prevent it

However, this document still has an important power. It’s a moral tool and historical example. It vividly illustrates the corruption and inevitable failure of a system that permits any person or institution the right to initiate coercive force.
We can still make effective use of it, because it speaks to principles. The Bill of Rights is wonderful, for example. These principles can be used to shame and embarrass those who seek criminal power.
Libertarians believe governments must obey the Zero Aggression Principle. Governments must not initiate force. They must only use force defensively. 

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Perry Willis

About the Author

Perry Willis

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Perry Willis is the co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and Downsize DC. He was the National Director of the Libertarian National Committee on two occasions, and ran two Libertarian Party presidential campaigns. He has an extensive background in marketing and fundraising, and has ghost written direct mail appeals for numerous luminaries, including Karl Hess, Ron Paul, Charlton Heston and Harry Browne.

Jim Babka

About the Author

Jim Babka

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Jim Babka is co-founder of the Zero Aggression Project and President of, Inc. He’s an author and former talk show host.
Previously, he was the President of, Inc., defending free press rights all the way to the Supreme Court. He and Susie are the proud, home-schooling parents of three teenagers. He enjoys theology, UFC, target practice, and Tai Chi.

Hat Tip: Lysander Spooner

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Show Comments 52


    1. IWG, Assuming you to be well versed in this topic, and energetic, allowing this to happen due to ignorant, lazy people would make you complicit in this corruption. Wouldn’t it.

      1. Even it WG is one of those of us who was being ignorant, lazy people, isn’t there no better time for us to all own up to it and make the change!?!

  1. The Constitution can control the government when the people understand how much real power they have and have the courage to use it. Read my latest book EMBRACE FREEDOM, Restore the Constitution to learn the greatness of these principles. Americans have but to will freedom and it is theirs by right and by force of their will.

    1. Sounds great…until some government thug is pepper-spraying your face or murdering your child.
      I should read your book

    2. You seem to be implying that if enough people had the courage they could control govt. by enforcing the Constitutional limits. I have two problems with this theory. 1. Why support a political system that is founded on the initiation of coercive force, then try to fix it when it fails? Why not just admit it is immoral and impractical, and needs to be replaced with a new political system, one based on the opposite paradigm? 2.If people had courage, why not self govern? Why not use their courage to be responsible for themselves? Why not take the time to engineer a new social paradigm based on voluntarism instead of authoritarianism? Isn’t that easier and not flawed from the start?

  2. The US Constitution has absolute legal force. I sets forth what is allowed and what is prohibited.
    What it lacks is political power.
    Hence, a popular demagogue can violate constitutional liberty and gets away with it, but a sufficiently-unpopular demagogue, does not.
    Andrew Jackson defied a Writ of Habeas Corpus from Chief Justice John Marshall, in the “Trail of Tears” case. Jackson and his cronies got the notion of forcing an ethnic cleansing in Georgia and Florida, wrongfully detaining thousands of Cherokee and Seminole people for NO CRIME WHATSOEVER, and forced them to walk to Oklamhoma and reside there. The Supreme Court demanded that he hold a trial or let those people go. He told his advisers, “Mr Marshall wrote his order. Let him enforce it.”. With no one capable of shoving Jackson aside as President, to enforce a court order demanding lawful behavior from the President, the case went nowhere. Seminoles and Cherokee were forced to walk to Oklahoma and a lot of them died. The Federal Reserve saw fit to commemorate this achievement by putting Jackson’s face and hairdo on the twenty-dollar bill.
    In contrast, Richard Nixon attempted to rig the other party’s 1972 nomination process, and two years later, left office voluntarily.
    That’s exactly the problem with using laws to secure liberty. A truly popular demagogue will always invent a way to get, what he should never have.

    1. Great point. For a more modern example, look at Dick Cheney. He literally wrote a book about how great illegal torture is. He didn’t even receive a ticket.

      1. OTOH, there are both Bush and Obama, who both have through stealth done a number on the Bill of Rights. The aftermath of 9-11 ended up being the Patriot Act, (decimating the Fourth Amendment) and the after math of Obamacare is a frontal attack on the First Amendment.
        I included one more, the attack on freedom of Religion (or faith, if you prefer) with this link:
        I submit to you that legal torture isn’t any better.

      2. Cheney was an immoral statist, this is something we can both agree on. What I said above you may or may not agree with, but I hope you will at least think about the reasoning behind it.

  3. I find this article silly. Of course no written law is self-enforcing — it needs a state that is willing to enforce it — but if you’re going to infer from that that the Constitution is useless, you could equally infer that all law is useless and we should each simply arm ourselves to the teeth and blast anyone who tries to bully us.
    Which is suicide.

    1. Well, we didn’t say it was useless. We actually made a positive suggestion. Which begs the question, how can you find the article to be silly when you didn’t read it? Even more amazing, it was VERY short. It would’ve taken less time to read it, then to write this conjecturing comment.

    2. You pose a false dichotomy. The choice is not law by violence or no law. In fact, one could argue the opposite, namely that what we have now is a lawless society, where might trumps law/morality, where the various LEOs and TPTB whom they serve are not subject to the any law. Of course there are exceptions. But they are few, far between, and not reported by the MSM, who serve TPTB.
      Obviously you are unaware of sub-societies, e.g., Mennonites, Amish, Mormons, which are quite successful with law enforcement by non-violent means, e.g., social boycott.
      Even in the mainstream society young adults voluntarily join murder suicide pacts, i.e., the military, defying all reason, because it is considered honorable, and they wish to be admired and accepted. The need to be part of society or belong to some sub group is so strong that people have given up their reasoning and submitted to total control, even obeying when told to commit mass suicide. The state is not enforcing in these cases. So your claim is refuted.
      Given the non-violent enforcement systems are many and variously successful, and the mainstream violent system is highly destructive, creating social/economic chaos, I suggest a new paradigm of a mainstream system that honors individualism by boycotting authoritarianism and adopting voluntarism.

  4. According to what little I know of history, prior to the Magna Carta everyone in the Western world lived under the Rule of Man. The Magna Carta marked the beginning of the Rule of Law, but only the beginning. Our evolutionary history gives the Rule of Man much more inherent power than the Rule of Law which requires an informed people aware of said history and therefore unwilling to return to living under The Rule of Man (or even take steps in that direction). That requirement is no longer being met hence the predictable slide toward the Rule of Man and even the rule of Might Makes Right as has been our plight for most of humankind’s existence. Ironically, we have more knowledge more readily available than any prior time in history, yet we find our society regressing. We even find our nation (along with others) inviting people to join us despite their cultural existence living under the Rule of Man and despising our Great Experiment. It would appear that the Experiment is over and “all is lost”.
    Review all the nations/cultures of our world and begin moving to those who still support the Rule of Law.
    Stay where we are and resist nonviolently by informing those around us of Reality As We See It in the hope that the tide can be turned.
    These are analogous to the choices faced by Luther and other reformers in the Catholic Church in the 16th cent. To wit, abandon the church and build anew OR stay within the church and fight the long fight of reform. It is of interest to note the outcomes of these two options: The Protestants now comprise over 30,000 individual sects which disagree with each other over major and minor points of belief. Those who remained and fought for reform spent the next 500 years achieving official acceltance of 94 of Luther’s 95 theses.
    If we apply that long range view of our current struggle it suggests to me that our best option is to stay and fight even knowing the outcome could be vastly different and even tragic in the short run as was that of The Reformation.
    And that leads me to believe that an insufficient number of people willing to resist will result in a return to the Rule of Man. My hope lies in being able to rally people to see this reality and not spend my time and energy electing any one person to office (unless, perhaps they already see this view of history).
    Thanks for reading my point of view.

    1. Your comment gives us the opportunity to add a point, not clear in such a brief statement as these Mental Levers are. We have an evolutionary view of the Magna Carta, leading to the Levellers, then moving on to a Constitution with a Bill of Rights. We see this as evolving progress. Each step was an improvement in limiting hierarchical “principalities and powers,” while expanding the scope of human liberty. As post-statists, we are suggesting that the Constitution was wonderful progress, for its time. But we can do even better. We can continue to evolve into better governance.

      1. “…wonderful progress…”??? Compared to what? Surely not The Articles of Confederation? Under that US document the federalists (statists) claimed the central govt. was too weak, but they did so only after the illegal, unauthorized replacement with the Constitution. Before they met to “amend” the Articles, the people had more freedom. That changed with what can only be described in retrospect as a “counter American revolution”. The written proof is a document that was so anti-American spirit that it had no chance of being accepted until it was amended 10 times, along with the provision that a preamble be added, The Declaration of Independence.
        This compromise document failed miserably just as all compromises of principle do. The main flaw was the self enforcement aspect, e.g., the three branches were to restrict each other, but what if they realized they had common interests opposed to the public, namely self enrichment and power? Who would hold the govt. (three branches) accountable if it failed to self limit? It was suggested that a better armed populace would, with bloody rebellion. And that was a valid threat, for a century. But public schools (indoctrination centers) destroyed the American Spirit by brainwashing from childhood. Guns do no good in the hands of the self enslaved.
        A return to a sovereign public, largely ungoverned because they have an independent spirit, is possible with a mass campaign of re-education about the meaning of freedom. But that might come only after a cultural collapse, economic chaos, and mass bloodshed. I hope not. Time is running out.

    2. I think that matches the classically accepted version of history. Which is what most/all of us learned in our schools aka government-sanctioned training facilities.
      We probably have a few hundred thousand years of history where human society actually worked well. Two or three of them, anyway. Our ancestors didn’t write much about them, for whatever reason.
      We tend to go from either “God cast them out of Eden” or “people evolved from apes” (take your pick) to “and then they figured out how to build cities so they could be miserable and having an excuse to start initiating violence.”
      That wasn’t a city dweller monopoly, of course. I think the key to that piece really boils down to “I’m willing to kill you because you want to live your life differently.”

  5. The Constitution can only serve as a moral compass and / or guide… But it can not prevent anything, nor can it be held responsible for creating anything… Only people can do or undo… Only people can choose and choice is based on their intentions.. intentions based on their perceived wants, needs and desires for self mainly very seldom for others LOL… what we all should remember and or recall We are Free to choose beyond any law would have us think… The power of Spirit can always rise above any authority or oppression of any kind… 🙂

    1. “The power of Spirit…” may be subverted by govt. brainwashing (public school indoctrination), in which case it won’t “rise above any authority or oppression”.
      Self respect, self esteem, self confidence is developed by upbringing. It is not an inherent trait. Next, the value of others, compassion and cooperation is learned. This is a socialization process that has been twisted and perverted to encourage self sacrifice, especially to authority. Authority is the new god, a dangerous superstition. It subverts the will to choose. It deifies the rules made by TPTB, for the TPTB, i.e., the law. By this process the so-called freedom to choose is subverted, resulting in self sacrifice, self enslavement.
      Moral compasses are ideas. They guide our actions. They prevent arbitrary action and are responsible for creating wants, needs, which in turn determine our intentions.
      The morals set out in the Constitution are destructive to humanity. I am referring to the core document, not the preamble (DOI) and the attempted fixes called amendments (BOR). An explicitly destructive rule (law) cannot be tweaked (amended); it needs to be repudiated, then abolished. I repudiate taxation, i.e., theft, and eminent domain, i.e., real estate property theft. I repudiate the basic assumption that any document can authorize coercion, and make it apply to everyone, for all time.
      I hope I have pointed out to you Anna, the oversimplification your remarks entail.

  6. The Constitution was not written to control the State but was written by the States to control the Federal Government. The States knew that a government without controls would grow beyond any control.
    Bob in his comments above is exactly right. Our Democratic Republic has been subverted by a bunch of criminal Congressmen and Senators. As bad as Obama is and as much as I think he is a terrible President it is not his fault the mess this country is in. It is like blaming a child for their conduct when it is clearly the parents that have not controlled themselves and the child.
    As long as we have a two (really only one) Party system and all others are excluded from the process then we will continue to have problems.
    As long as we keep God out of our Country, Schools and lives we will have problems.
    As long as we allow the same problems in our State governments that we have in our National Government then we will continue to have problems.
    Stop voting for the lessor of two evils and vote for the right candidate to get the job done.

    1. Tom, We see no new plan here. It sounds like something Ted Cruz might say, get cheered, and perhaps even win a nomination for. Even if he was elected, nothing would change. And your list doesn’t include eliminating the initiation of force, so that each individual can enjoy liberty and pursue happiness.

      1. Bob, how do you prevent the state from initiating force? Writing a document that says state may not use force will not do it. The Constitution prohibits the Federal Government from almost all of its current actions but that does not stop them. I agree with your statement above but do not see how you hope to accomplish this. Every safe guard that was put in place to prevent the state from exceeding it’s authority has been bypassed. Many safe guards that the citizens no longer even know were there. ie Grand Jury!!

        1. If you are saying no written oath to not use political power, i.e., the moral right to coerce, for self interest will be effective, all voluntarists would agree.
          If you are saying coercion is inevitable, none would agree. We hold to the opposite view. Coercion is destructive of society, and some day our species will learn that or perish.
          Political power is public permission to initiate violence. That is species suicide. It is inhuman, e.g., incompatible with rights, which are essential to have a civil society. Uncivilized societies have all self destructed, e.g., all the ancient societies which practiced human sacrifice to the gods. Now, in the place of gods, one god, a new god is used to justify sacrifice: democracy, mob rule, consensus. The individual is still the victim. Rights do not exist. Violence is the norm.
          This is the paradigm that must be repudiated. It must be replaced by voluntary social interaction.

  7. Cutting off easy credit would reign in government. First steps might be to audit Federal Reserve bank and then repeal the 1913 legislation that established it. Do away with Fed Bank Notes [look at your paper money]. The Treasury, only the Treasury, should print US currency.

  8. The previous comment is unfortunately essentially correct, but the Constitution never really had legal force because there was never any penalty for violating it. The original provisions were sufficiently limiting to grant a tremendous amount of real liberty, and criminal prosecution of politicians who violated it, even much after the fact, in my opinion would have kept us from straying very far from those principles.
    It also points to an academically interesting point – the State will always arise from the state of nature through a process of natural selection, as it were. The short-term gains of criminality are answered by principled people, when necessary acting in association, but because associations of principled people are never aggressors there are many opportunities for larger and better organized criminal associations to develop or for unprincipled people to gain control of an association. Crime pays, and Congress pays better than most.

    1. Wrong, wrong, wrong! How can you prove the “State” is in any way natural? It is a mistake, a self destructive social system that has failed in every society down thru the millennia. It has been the source of war, poverty, injustice, chaos, and cultural collapse.
      Crime pays when it is institutionalized. Govt. is public acceptance of initiation of violence, i.e., a social system based on immorality, e.g., initiation of violence. People who live moral lives privately are victimized by the public sector, which is immoral (criminal), but not recognized as such. Public authorities are exempt from private morality. These duel moral standards are what make our social system unsustainable.

  9. Current events prove that the constitution is incapable of controlling a tyrant. Even if the Supreme Court was to send US Marshalls to arrest the president, he could resist with dozens of armed, Executive Branch agencies, or, ultimately, the army.
    Even a heavily-armed populace, as envisioned in the Second Amendment, is ineffective against the hyper-armed State.
    The truth of Jefferson’s warning, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” every 20 years or so, is apparent today. The 20 years are long, long past. I’m afraid it’s too late now to save this iteration of The State.

    1. Should “this iteration of The State” be saved? We’re arguing, no. Something better is available.

  10. “Governments must not initiate force. They must only use force defensively.”
    Here is the problem as I see it. If a government stops initiating aggression, then it ceases being a government and it becomes something else.

      1. Jim, when I go there, the page is blank for me and asks me to leave comments. I think there is something wrong with the link, because the other Mental Levers seem to work. A technical error. 🙂
        So in the meantime, what about the per se traits that make a government qua government can possibly be consensual? The state is founded on harm to innocents.

  11. This is exactly what I’ve been arguing to all my “conservative” friends who consider themselves “constitutionalists.” The Constitution either directly manifested the out of control leviathan state we now suffer under, or else it was powerless to stop it; thus, either way, it’s been proven to be of little to no practical value. And if that Constitution has been proven ineffective, it’s doubtful ANY such “contract” establishing a state would do the trick. Moral of the story: The entire concept of a truly “limited government” is a utopian pipe dream. Statism is just a bad idea, plain and simple.

    1. Yes, Steve B. In fact, when someone says they’re for “limited government,” I reflexively ask, “Limited by what?” It’s amazing how many “constitutionalists” support things that are not constitutional. Social Security seems to top that list.

    2. The constitution is not ‘powerless’ its power however is retributive not prohibitive (directly). Thus people in positions of authority may repeatedly step over the lines of violating their proscribed roles.
      The constitution gave this country about 200 years of the greatest liberty of any other nation state. It has taken most of those 200 years to get to the point we are at now, and even at this point we are relatively ‘free’ AND have possible means to roll back the infringement of liberties that have occurred. Unfortunately it is also a situation of the frog in the pot situation- by the time our liberties are too eroded to endure the further loss of , fighting for them we are without the means. Constraints on the first two amendments (protected fundamental rights) are coming fast and furious.
      A state of some sort is necessary as long as any other states/organizations of force initiation exist in the world. But a contractual rule of law government that gives supreme power to all the people as individuals (not democracy which is a rule of a majority but not _all_ the people – aka mob rule). Formulating a NEW better contract and dissolving the existing organization may be necessary to obtain liberty, but without that sort of contract dissolving the existing nation of the USA prior to the dissolution of other nations would simply afflict the residents with invasion of outside nations.

      1. JJ Grey, Thanks for writing. There are a lot of assumptions in your reply to Steve B. I cannot address them all, because we have an entire website and content not even written yet, designed to deal with a variety of matters, including military defense. I merely want to point out that we only said the Constitution is powerless in what you call a “prohibitive” sense. The fact that it gave us greater liberty than most other nation states is also not challenged in the article above. We in fact laud it as a step forward in human progress.

        1. Yes, and a new social/regulatory contract could be written that could be both Non-aggression and allow for defensive military action where necessary. I however doubt it will happen without a complete total collapse of the existing “order / government” and the pain such a collapse could inflict could be immense.
          And I don’t think the constitution FAILED so much as the people have failed to adequately use those remedies it has to prevent abuse of authority. The constitution formed a “government” that runs pretty well most of the time (only 1 and a quarter civil wars in over 2 centuries is pretty good for a ‘government’ made in the 1700s’ IMHO) with little supervision from the people, the people have gotten lazy and lost easy access to the most gentle of those remedies. And the machine of government has been pushed slowly but surely toward authoritarian tyranny by both political ‘sides’ of the duopoply in charge.

          1. JJ, Having worked in the GOP, first, then Libertarian Party, next, with an impressive resume of involvement in each, I can tell you on which side of Spooner’s line I fall. When you create a tool, where aggression can be used for extreme profit, you’ll have a line of people working to get it. Before long, anyone who fails to participate in oppressing others for profit, will be both victim and fool for not similarly profiting. That’s what this Constitution did. It created a vehicle that fulfilled the anti-federalists greatest concerns, and even went further than they apparently could’ve imagined. No one was going to leave it un-driven. That the avarice-filled drivers might be slowed down… Well, we say as much in the post at the top.

  12. Geoff
    The Good guys are not willing to do the “bad” things necessary to keep the Bad guys controlled and the Bad guys will do ANYTHING.

  13. I do NOT think the Constitution could be fixed by… 1) Wording it better. 2) Improving adherence to it (which usually means electing the right people).
    The seeds of the problem are of a ‘supply side’ nature — supply permission/power/moral authority to initiate coercive force against others, and the avarice-filled will line up to use it to their advantage, even if that advantage is merely aesthetic.

    1. Why could the constitution not be ‘fixed’ by merely inserting a prohibition against the initiation of force? Penalties would have to be described and fixed for the various acts that are construed as initiation of force and a framework for other acts that could later be so defined.
      Much of the Bill of rights for example is about prohibiting initiation of force in certain circumstances, unfortunately lawful or automatic remedies to such overstep was not defined. Perhaps a single line of “any agent of the states or federal government who violate said amendments may be tried by a citizen tribunal with penalties up to and including those of a conviction of treason, Further during any such act of aggression under color of false authority all people are responsible to respond with all necessary reasonable means up to and including deadly force.”

      1. JJ Grey, There is more than one way to address the issue of initiated force by The State — more than once means to end statism. But you are insightful. One of those methods would be a plan to pass new laws, repeal others, and even ratify new Amendments. We will be looking to other organizations, particularly, to assist with that portion of the movement.

      1. If you mean “governing” is what happens after consent is given to be governed, i.e., an elite is given a blank check by some to govern over them and everybody else, then I agree that is the common belief. But, one person has no authority to govern another, therefore joining a gang does not create authority, the gang has no authority to delegate an authority they do not have.
        You can delegate authority to govern you. That’s it. The majority have done that, and more, claiming the right to speak for everyone, to delegate, to forfeit the sovereignty of everyone to a ruling elite.
        But I don’t recognize that “right”. It contradicts my rights, and the concept of rights. I don’t “consent” to be governed. I self govern.
        I am ruled by violence, threat thereof, and fraud, not consent. Your consent is not my consent. A majority’s consent is not my consent. No one may consent to forfeit my rights. That is what is meant by inalienable rights. Violated rights are still inalienable. While unrecognized, they still exist.
        I thereby refute the “social contract” argument.

        1. Agreed Don.
          The ‘Social Contract” that so many (on both the left and right) say I am beholden to holds no moral sway. Unfortunately those enforcing it have the ‘legal’ privilege of using force to enforce it and the laws and regulations passed under its umbrella.
          I too self govern.
          I do no harm to others not out of fear of the government (most criminals get away with more than 50% of their crimes after all) but because I find most crimes against persons and property morally repugnant.
          I also acknowledge all people have the right to self defense and free association at an absolute minimum.
          Helping my self and others hold and utilize these rights is the real issue- the current tyrannical state robs us (and our children’s future) at gun point to get the resources they need to reject and trample on our rights. They seldom actually initiate force instead using gentler pressures of every sort but always backed up with guns and uniforms should you prove too stubborn, and far too few people will ever choose to stand against it or help others to stand against it, at this point.
          However – such police states as ours is growing into can be brittle in the face of changing circumstance (climate change, peak oil, etc.,) if it crashes thoroughly enough and enough people can hold out a better model to replace it that better model may well take hold and grow.

          1. I would suggest that a relatively simple alteration from the beginning would have changed the course of history in this country. If violation of the Constitution were itself a criminal act, and members of Congress voting for an illegal bill were liable for the felony their actions actually are, we may not see the persistent ratchet of legislatures trying to push the boundaries of precedent.

          2. Given that the Senate approves judges and the Attorney General, and… Given that the judicial branch defers to Congress all the time, how long do you think that would’ve actually worked?

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