Personal Sovereignty?

By Larry L. Beane II

A lot of folks may not be aware of it, but there are more nations in North America than the Big Three (and I don’t mean the beggars of the soon-to-be nationalized American junk producers in Detroit).

For example, there are the various Indian nations. If you drive between New York and Québec, you may well enter the Mohawk nation, a place that is technically neither the U.S. nor Canada. Although it seems that this has now been changed, it was the case in the 1980s that gasoline and tobacco products were much cheaper there than in the U.S. and Canada, because there were no American or Canadian federal taxes levied in that nation. The Mohawk Nation is also free (more or less) from federal and state gambling restrictions.

There are also two small islands off the coast of Newfoundland: St. Pierre and Miquelon – which form an overseas territory of France. These Islands are in no way American or Canadian. In fact, they send representatives to the French legislature and are not part of the various North American treaty and trade organizations. Politically speaking, these islands are part of Europe, and yet, North Americans can get there by ferry.

And then there are other “micronations,” such as the Republic of Molossia, which is completely surrounded by the State of Nevada. Molossia is a tongue-in-cheek self-described “third-world country” that claims sovereignty under international law. Since 1977, Molossia has had its own currency, stamps, system of weights and measures, and flag. The good-humored and photogenic president will even stamp the passports of tourists. Molossian currency (the valora) is pegged to Pillsbury cookie dough (which, of course, gives it more commodity backing than the free-floating and free-falling U.S. dollar).

However, regarding this claim to sovereignty, there is no hysteria over “extremism,” no fears of an “armed compound,” or charges of treason levied against the president of the Republic of Molossia. Nor is this a scheme to avoid paying U.S. taxes (though in fact, President Kevin Baugh (depicted above) explains that he actually doesn’t pay U.S. taxes, but rather sends voluntary “foreign aid” of the equivalent amount to the U.S. out of pity for the state of our roads – and he has a very good point there!).

It goes without saying that Molossia, which started off as a boyhood lark, is a joke. And yet, at the same time, it isn’t.

In a real way, our homes are true micronations. We used to hear the expression: “A man’s home is his castle” more often than we do today, but even in the current paradigm, there is a sense of sovereignty (however weakened in these days of state-worship) that every person exercises in his own home. And yes, I know the state can send in thugs and goons for pretty much any reason to harass us, and of course, all of the products we use in our homes are heavily regulated, taxed, and monitored by government at various levels – but there is still an undeniable vestige of freedom and sovereignty in our homes.

As a kid, I remember shooting “plinkers” out of 22-rifles and handguns with my dad in the basement of our suburban home. My father was teaching me to shoot and to do so safely. It was fun, and I’m quite sure it was also technically illegal (discharging a firearm in city limits), but we were in our basement, none of our neighbors could hear, and we weren’t bothering anyone. In that sense, my dad’s home was his castle. And as long as he minded his own business and didn’t hurt anyone, what went on inside his castle was his business. He made and enforced the laws in his house – not the city, county, state, or federal government.

For people who see their homes as their castles, their rules often supersede all other laws. In fact, this understanding of “home rule” often takes the form of nullification at the most local level of all.

By way of example, the United States federal government has not only sanctioned and legalized infanticide, but by virtue of an over-extended judiciary and a milquetoast legislative branch that refuses to do its constitutional duty to rein in the judiaciary, it also compels the states to legalize abortion on demand in the form of for-profit “clinics” in every state. Although my house may be “in” a state of the American union, it “isn’t” a state in the American union. And in my house, my rules apply. Under my roof, the law is “no abortions.” Under no circumstances are abortions legal in my home, no exceptions. And it makes no difference what the Supreme Court or the U.N. have to say about it. This is an expression of personal sovereignty. In this sense, my home is my castle.

If I wanted to, I could outlaw guns in my house (which essentially means that on my property, the second amendment does not apply to those under my authority). Of course, such personal disarmament would be stupid – but if people want to be stupid, that’s a matter of personal sovereignty as well.

Within the walls of my house, I can fly any flag, say anything I want, associate with anyone I like, regulate speech, and even hold political views that Janet Napolitano thinks are “radical.” I can mandate an official religion, make rules regarding what is to be read in my home, and I can even investigate and punish offenses apart from the American system of jurisprudence. Parents do it all the time. At least they used to.

And, as a bonus, we don’t have to suppress pictures of prisoners being abused for the sake of our international reputation, since in my house, waterboarding and other forms of torture are strictly prohibited. I hope there are some really smart people in the American government who might be able to follow that logic and learn from it.

If I choose, I can mandate that U.S. paper money is no good under the roof of my house (legal tender laws notwithstanding), that only gold and silver (and bamboo chopsticks, if I so decide) are acceptable for monetary transactions. And, I can even declare that my Republican Congressman who gave President Obama an “A” grade no longer represents my household, declare him to be “fired” and replaced by a certain Congressman from Texas who more accurately represents my household’s views with his Congressional votes – all by nothing more than my decree.

So, if you think about it, everyone who exercises personal liberty already lives in a kind of micronation. And the founders of the American government certainly respected the ancient common law right of a man to rule and govern his own property as he saw fit. Republics are based on the premise that a man’s home is his castle. Tyranny rests on the opposite premise.

It is only when two or more different property owners have a dispute that there is any reason at all to involve government – and even then, if the neighbors simply address the issue themselves, they can circumvent government altogether – something Jesus advocates that we do, by the way (Luke 12:57-59). This is not to say that government can’t (or shouldn’t) ever intrude into the private home, such as if a person is being harmed or someone’s inalienable rights are being denied. But apart from that, there is no level of government that has a whole lot of say about what goes on under my roof.

Of course, this is not to say that they don’t want to. They are always plotting and sceming, to be sure. Nor does it mean that Big Government isn’t stifling, and even in some cases dangerous and deadly. But our homes can be refuges of liberty over and against the encroachment of the state.

We Americans need to reconnect with this sense of self-ownership and self-government. I think if we all treated our homes and property as micronations, we would have a much greater sense of responsibility and autonomy, not to mention a greater vigilance for protecting our liberty and freedom from government intrusion at all levels. We might begin to see the state as our servant once again, and stop treating it as a nightmarish nanny to be obeyed. If our homes are not to be run by the state, then it follows that our states ought not be bullied by the federal government.

Although it isn’t directly related to the concept of “home and castle” or micronations, I can’t help but reflect on an enlightening weekend I had many years back dog sledding in a tiny village in Québec. The nearest police were 200 miles away. Many of the people there didn’t bother to put license plates on their cars and trucks, and unlicensed snowmobiles were seen everywhere. The village had some 200 residents, and everyone knew everyone else – which is the real deterrent to crime. Even pot smoking was completely tolerated, and was de facto legal in this village. Not that I’m advocating getting stoned, but it has become painfully obvious, even among some leading conservatives, that often the “cure” (prohibition, a.k.a. the “war on drugs”) is more damaging than the “disease” (recreational drug use). Also, the village was evenly split between Anglophones and Francophones, and the notorious Québec “language police” were nowhere to be found. Somehow, the people managed to run their businesses, educate their children, and negotiate their social coexistence without draconian language laws and enforcers. In a free society, people just work these things out for themselves based on common sense without brutish laws, burdensome bureaucracies, and prisons.

I don’t know if this village in Québec still has this kind of delightful, relaxed anarchy or not, but I sure hope so.

Of course, we Americans – especially those of a conservative bent – more often than not take the opposite tack.

We have the highest percentage of our population in prison of any developed country. We put people in jail for driving without license plates or for smoking marijuana. People routinely get “tazed” for non-compliance with officers who in no way feel constrained by the Constitution. We even have people serving years and years of imprisonment for non-violent “crimes” involving the IRS. And yet, I suspect that just about any “law and order” American city has more violent crime per capita in a single day than the above-mentioned small-government Québecois village has in a decade (if not a century). And yes, I realize that there is a world of difference between an urban center and a rural environment – but nevertheless, I’d like to see Americans revert back to the philosophy that “a man’s home is his castle.” From this understanding, it follows that government needs to be limited to enforcing contracts and providing an open and fair criminal justice system that conforms to the Constitution, only stepping in when someone’s rights are violated – and even then, only within its narrow jurisdiction. Other than that, the best thing it can do is leave us the heck alone.

The people and legislature of Montana have courageously made the same point by passing a law nullifying federal firearms laws for guns and ammunition that don’t leave the state. They are telling our nosy and imperious Uncle Sam that he has no business getting involved in Montana’s internal business. Of course, that’s what federalism and the Tenth Amendment are all about.

And if the legislature of Montana understands the principle of limited delegated authority in matters pertaining to the federal government, one could at least hope those same legislators would respect the rights of individuals to be free from Montana’s laws within their own homes.

We Americans generally see sovereignty as a top-down affair, in which the White House dictates to the State Houses, which in turn command our houses. However, upon reflection, I think it makes more sense to view sovereignty, like charity, as something that best begins at home. In any case, I know my wife can run our household’s “national” treasury better than Timothy Geithner can run his, and I can manage the affairs of my “castle” more suitably than any elected or appointed bureaucrat at any level of government, and can do so without handlers, a private jet, and a teleprompter.

More “nations” means more freedom. Maybe we can get people rethinking sovereignty issues by returning to thinking of their homes as their castles. It’s worth a shot, anyway. After all, as the national motto of Molossia says: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

May 16, 2009

Rev. Larry Beane [send him mail] serves as pastor and teaches junior high Latin and Religion classes at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Gretna, LA. Visit his blog.

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