Casket-making monks win over Louisiana Funeral Directors

FINAL UPDATE: On October 15, 2013, the Benedictine monks of Saint Joseph Abbey won their final victory over the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the morticians’ petition for certiorari and let stand the monks’ decisive win in the lower federal courts.

Occupational licensing—like all government meddling—continues to prevent more and more Americans from earning an honest living. In the 19th century, few barriers existed to prevent a person from pursuing an occupation. By the early 1950s, about 4.5 percent of occupations required a government-issued license. In 2000, the number of licensed occupations ran from a low of 47 in Kansas, all the way to 178 occupations in California. By 2009, the percentage of American jobs that required the government’s blessing was about 29 percent.

Licensing legislation is sought—not by the consumers it purports to protect—but by the doctors, lawyers and funeral directors that are regulated by it. It’s a racket designed to transfer money to those who gain the legislature’s ear. Continue reading

Should libertarians vote? I’m voting NO!

With the presidential election at hand, it will be time to pull the faded Ron Paul 2012 sticker from my car. Around town I see some like-minded people with the same sticker. I also see a few stickers for our local Catholic radio station, but I’ve given up looking for someone else with both a Ron Paul and a Catholic Radio sticker.

Oh well . . .

I was waiting in line at a fast food drive-through when a fellow walked up to my window after having noticed the Ron Paul 2012 sticker on my car. He said to me:

“Do you know who you are electing if you don’t vote?”

“No.”

“Obama.”

“What if I just vote for Obama?”

That response turns out to be a good way to silence people who can’t understand why I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils (even when I can figure out which is the lesser of the two evils).

Some libertarians make good arguments for never voting. I have to respect the ideals of those who refuse to play the game at all.  Abstention denies the rulers their fantasy that we approve of their crimes and avoids befouling oneself by participating (even peripherally) in the evil of government.

I might ask such a principled non-voter if they would be willing to cast the deciding vote on the question: “Shall the government be dissolved and none take its place?”

If I cannot resist the ballot box on election day, then I  must seriously consider the moral burden posed by the act of voting. Continue reading

Violence is the soul of government


Violence 600T
he use of aggression to compel obedience is the essence of the modern state. 

“What essentially sets a nation-state apart,” declared candidate Barack Obama, is that it has a “monopoly on violence.” Clearly Obama was referring to aggressive, not defensive, force, for the use of defensive force is never limited to government. We all retain that right by nature. Only government routinely uses aggressive force or the threat of force. The threat of violence compels the payment of every tax, and ultimately, whatever behavior it desires of the people.

Bill & Joe

Under most circumstances, everyone agrees it would be wrong for Joe to take money from his neighbor Bill. Joe would not dream of stealing Bill’s money; he knows it is wrong, and he also knows he could get punished for stealing.

Would it make any difference if Joe can convince 20 other neighbors to gang up and take the money from Bill and give it to Joe? No? What if hundreds or thousands get together and demand the money? What if they call themselves a government? What if they make a law to take Bill’s money?

Obviously, if the government takes Bill’s money, it doesn’t call it theft—it calls it taxation. Continue reading

Ignorance of the law is no excuse

There is a legal principle that arose long ago: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. This principle prevents those charged with violating the law from claiming they did not know about the law. If a person could escape liability by such excuse, wrongdoers could seldom be punished.

This maxim is not as unfair as it seems where the criminal law is only used to prevent and punish harm to other people. In those cases, it hardly matters whether a person knows exactly what the written law says. He already knows that if he is harming someone’s person or property, he must pay for the harm done.

At this basic level everyone “knows” the law, so ignorance is no excuse, but today we have the opposite situation. Ignorance of the law has never been more widespread because the criminal law now prohibits so much conduct that is not intuitively evil. The law punishes all sorts of conduct that doesn’t hurt anyone (except perhaps the defendant himself) and it is no longer obvious what conduct is criminal and what is not. Without the non-aggression principle operating as a standard by which all may measure their actions, ignorance of the law becomes common and inevitable.

This situation is only aggravated by the sheer enormity of the criminal code. The Federal Criminal Code and Sentencing Guidelines alone consume almost 2500 printed pages. This does not include the various state codes, county and municipal ordinances.

No one—not even criminal lawyers—ever read the whole code. When the police arrest someone, they may have only a rough idea as to what crime (if any) has been committed. They learn to look through simplified charging manuals to find a crime to fit the conduct. Often enough, the police get it wrong and prosecutors must dig into the big books to make the defendant’s conduct fit under some law. Since even police and prosecutors must consult the laws to charge crimes, what hope does anyone else have of obeying all the laws when so many have no apparent connection to the golden rule?

The “ignorance of the law” maxim has never been more unfair than it is today. At the same time, it has never been more essential to the operation of the criminal courts. If ignorance of the law were an excuse, the courts would be in chaos.

How many people know how easily their everyday actions can result in a criminal conviction? Here are a token few among the thousands of crimes we may unwittingly commit:

  • Possessing a baby raccoon.
  • Burying a deceased pet in one’s own yard.
  • Raising arms while riding a roller coaster.
  • Sending annoying internet messages without identifying oneself.
  • Releasing a swine

Since no one can escape them all, we all become unwitting criminals. Ignorance may be a universal given, but it is never permitted as an excuse.

[excerpted from Free is Beautiful]