Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lysander Spooner, natural law, and human consciousness

January 19 is the birthday of philosopher and abolitionist Lysander Spooner, born this day in 1808.  He was a tireless defender of human freedom and the inherent rights of every individual.  Spooner was a proponent of natural law, which he discussed in most of his writings and to which he devoted a treatise entitled Natural Law: or the Science of Justice, published in 1882.

Spooner defined natural law in that treatise as "the right of anybody and everybody [. . .] to repel injustice and compel justice, for themselves and all who may be wronged" (7).  He argued that this right was equal among all individuals, without distinction, and inherent to them -- that is that it was a right they were born with and that was not granted by anyone else or subject to approval or disapproval.

In quoting this portion of Spooner's tract, it is important to note that he believed that "justice" largely equated to what he called "peace" -- the freedom from physical coercion or the threat of violence against one's person, ideas, and property.  In his eyes, people have the right (and in fact the obligation) to use force to protect both their own physical person and that of others when they see it being threatened.  However, Spooner expressly states that force may never be used to compel any of the many other moral duties which people owe to one another such as "to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, protect the defenceless, assist the weak, and enlighten the ignorant" (6).  These are things that one has a moral duty to do, but can never have a legal duty to be forced to do, in Spooner's argument (which readers should examine in its entirety using the link above).

While other philosophers -- notably Locke -- had put forth the idea of natural law before Spooner, Spooner went further in asserting that natural law was the only legitimate law, that it was as universal as the laws of gravity or chemistry, and that human attempts to add to it or subtract from it through legislatures or any other human declarations are "just as false, absurd, and ridiculous as it would be to talk of adding to or subtracting from mathematics, chemistry, or any other science, by legislation" (12).

These important concepts were not empty philosophizing to Spooner -- he put them into practice in his own life, most notably through his strenuous opposition to slavery in the United States during his lifetime.  In 1850, he published a treatise arguing that moral men and women had a duty to aid fugitive slaves under natural law, and that the legislated human laws of the United States which made such aid "illegal" had no merit, and were themselves illegal.

In it he writes, "That the act of delivering a man into slavery is a crime of a high grade no one can deny" (52) and that no slave is held by natural law but rather by brute force (56).  He further argues that the rescue of those restrained of their liberty without authority of law is both morally and legally meritorious, that every body is under obligation to assist such a person, and that that "an officer of the government is an officer of the law only when proceeding according to the law" -- the moment he steps beyond it "he, like other men, forfeits its protection and may be resisted like any other trespasser" (36).

In 1852, he published an important Essay on the Trial by Jury as constituting the most important bastion against tyranny, and argued that juries have a natural law right to judge the legality of any law on which they are being asked to decide a case (this concept is known as "jury nullification," the right of the jury to nullify a law -- a form of "veto" by the randomly-selected citizens of the country).  In that treatise, Spooner complains that the practice of excluding from the jury citizens who answered that they had personal issues with enforcing laws such as the Fugitive Slave Law or with penalties such as the death penalty was a form of tyranny and of "packing the jury" (footnote on 8 and ff).

In his treatise on Intellectual Property (in which he argues that all property, in fact, is "intellectual," in that nothing that is made through human effort, whether physical or not, does not first originate in the mind), he argues at length that no human being has a right to own another:
A man's body is his own.  It is the property of his mind.  (It is the mind that owns every thing, that is property.  Bodies own nothing but are themselves subjects of property -- that is, of dominion.  Each body is the property -- that is, is under the dominion -- of the mind that inhabits it.)  And no man has the right, as being the proprietor, to take another man's body out of the control of his mind.  In other words, no man can own another man's body.  16.
He goes on to say that an individual's ideas are also his or her own, and that he or she has the right to keep them or sell them as he or she sees fit.  Again, because Spooner expressly argues in the first several pages of this treatise that all labor is a form of the expression of ideas (saying for example that "the thought, that guides the hand in labor, is ever as clearly wealth, as is the hand itself" on page 11), this means that he is arguing that nobody is entitled to take anyone else's labor (or the products of that labor).  He writes:
A man's ideas are his property.  They are his for enjoyment, and his for use.  Other men do not own his ideas.  He has a right, as against all other men, to absolute dominion over his ideas.  He has a right to act his own judgment, and his own pleasure, as to giving them, or selling them to other men.  Other men cannot claim them of him, as if they were their property, and not his; any more than they can claim any other things whatever, that are his.  If they desire them, and he does not choose to give them to them gratuitously, they must buy them of him, as they would buy any other articles of property whatever.  They must pay him his price for them, or not have them.  They have no more right to force him to give his ideas to them than they have to force him to give them his purse.  16-17
Spooner argued that natural law was not only everyone's inherent right, but that it was deeply ingrained in everyone at a very early age, by a sort of innate intuition (see for example the discussion on page 9 of the above-referenced treatise on natural law).  This assertion connects directly to assertion made in the previous post's discussion of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and the evidence which shows that the agents of the US government who (in complete violation of natural law) placed electronic bugs and wiretaps to surveil him, attempted to blackmail and coerce him, and plotted to "depose" him as a leader and replace him with someone else more to their liking, even though by the government's own admission he had committed no crime.

That post argued that "Oppression and the denial of natural rights always involves mind control, because human beings innately know what is wrong, even if they are often put into a trance state in which they stop seeing gross injustices being enacted right in front of them, gross injustices that they themselves might even be perpetrating."

This reveals the connection between the concept of natural law and the concept of "consciousness vs. mind control."  Getting people to agree to human laws which go against natural law must necessarily involve mind control, because people have a powerful, innate intuitive sense of natural law.  Overcoming this powerful human sense requires various forms of coercion, deception, ritual, symbology, and the repetition of propaganda (discussed in this and this previous post).  That is why those trying to enact and enforce human laws that violated natural law were so threatened by Dr. King: his exposure of the injustice taking place was waking people from the trance that they had been in and appealing to their innate sense of justice, which was overcoming the programming that had kept it beneath their radar.

By his strategy of civil disobedience, he exposed the fact that it was brute force -- violence -- that was upholding the racist laws and cultural norms, and not any sort of legal rectitude.  When that fact was forced out into the open, people began to wake up from their trance.  When people see force being used to stop someone from murdering someone else, they do not generally react with revulsion (because that is in accord with natural law).  When people see force being used to stop someone from exercising his or her natural right to walk down the street, or sit on a bus, or drink from a water fountain, then they suddenly realize that natural law is being violated and that they have been asleep to the true situation.

Mark Passio, who has written and spoken extensively on this subject and who has already made the assertion that institutions built upon the violation of natural law must always use mind control or "mass hypnosis," has said:
People ask me sometimes, "What is enlightenment?"  And I say: enlightenment is the full and complete understanding of every being's sovereignty and the total willingness to accept the responsibility to honor that complete sovereignty in all others.  That's enlightenment.  That is what enlightenment is.  [quoted in this previous post]. 
Thus, Lysander Spooner's life and his work on natural law has incredible importance to every individual, as well as to society.  By articulating his vision of natural law and the inherent rights of every individual, he was trying to wake up those around him, and to move them closer in the direction of the definition of enlightenment offered above.  In the ongoing battle between the forces of consciousness and anti-consciousness, his was a voice for freedom, human dignity, and truth.

The works cited above, and others by Lysander Spooner, can be found online here.