Citizen or Serf?

There’s been a healthy debate going on regarding my article titled, “A Few Appropriate Remarks.” Orlin Sellers, someone I’ve come to know on the Internet at Mikeb302000’s gun control blog, has been arguing with me about whether paying taxes makes a person a slave.


My position in the debate has been that taxes and slavery are two different things. Yes, we are required to pay taxes, much as the serfs in the picture were required to surrender a portion of their produce to the lord of the land. We’re also obliged to follow the rules. But there is a key difference. Serfs or slaves has no choice in their own affairs. Citizens do. That was the essence of the argument presented by the Founders of this nation, that if we are to be taxed, we must have a voice in deciding those taxes.

At one point, we had the choice to go west. Much of the popularity of the western comes from our feeling that if we don’t like the way things are done, we can always seek freedom in the wilderness. My character, Henry Dowland, does just that. But until human beings start colonizing outer space, for the moment, this world is thoroughly occupied, and we’re left with life in society. Government is how we manage that.

To be sure, our government does try to spill over the boundaries that we have allowed it to operate in. The NSA and the IRS are two recent examples in a long history. But we have the power and the duty to rein in government. As George Washington warned us, government is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. The difference is found here:


and here:


As long as we exercise those rights, we are citizens. If we are silent, we become serfs.


31 thoughts on “Citizen or Serf?

  1. orlin sellers

    As author and editor, Vin Suprynowicz would say, you are repeating ‘memorized windbaggery’.

    “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal”. Emma Goldman

    In ancient Athens, those who admired the Stoic philosophy of individualism took as their motto: “Abstain from Beans.” The phrase had a precise reference. It meant: don’t vote. Balloting in Athens occurred by dropping various colored beans into a receptacle.

    To vote is to express a preference. There is nothing implicitly evil in choosing. All of us in the ordinary course of our daily lives vote for or against dozens of products and services. When we vote for (buy) any good or service, it follows that by salutary neglect we vote against the goods or services we do not choose to buy. The great merit of market place choosing is that no one is bound by any other person’s selection. I may choose Brand X. But this cannot prevent you from choosing Brand Y.

    When we place voting into the framework of politics, however, a major change occurs. When we express a preference politically, we do so precisely because we intend to bind others to our will. Political voting is the legal method we have adopted and extolled for obtaining monopolies of power. Political voting is nothing more than the assumption that might makes right. There is a presumption that any decision wanted by the majority of those expressing a preference must be desirable, and the inference even goes so far as to presume that anyone who differs from a majority view is wrong or possibly immoral.

    But history shows repeatedly the madness of crowds and the irrationality of majorities. The only conceivable merit relating to majority rule lies in the fact that if we obtain monopoly decisions by this process, we will coerce fewer persons than if we permit the minority to coerce the majority. But implicit in all political voting is the necessity to coerce some so that all are controlled. The direction taken by the control is academic. Control as a monopoly in the hands of the state is basic.

    In times such as these, it is incumbent upon free men to reexamine their most cherished, long-established beliefs. There is only one truly moral position for an honest person to take. He must refrain from coercing his fellows. This means that he should refuse to participate in the process by means of which some men obtain power over others. If you value your right to life, liberty, and property, then clearly there is every reason to refrain from participating in a process that is calculated to remove the life, liberty, or property from any other person. Voting is the method for obtaining legal power to coerce others.
    Robert LeFevre

    By Somebody:
    A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
    The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

    From bondage to spiritual faith;
    From spiritual faith to great courage;
    From courage to liberty;
    From liberty to abundance;
    From abundance to complacency;
    From complacency to apathy;
    From apathy to dependence;
    From dependence back into bondage.

      1. orlin sellers

        Greg says, “But show me a system of government that works better.”
        It’s easy to show you a better system. It was the original system introduced by the founders that did not tax people on their income, did not take money from workers to give to non-workers. Did not take money from folks with no children to educate the children of others.
        However, evidently, you think the system set up by the founders, and the Constitution sucked and the welfare/warfare state is an improvement.

      2. Greg Camp Post author

        Public education is essential to a functioning democracy. Some measure of welfare is also necessary. But the principles of today’s America are basically those of the beginning.

  2. mikeb302000

    Yet, in other discussions you often refer to states with strict gun control laws as “slave states.” A little consistency please.

    1. Greg Camp Post author

      Basic rights aren’t subject to a vote. I’m talking here about day-to-day policy decisions. That is consistency.

      1. orlin sellers

        Greg says,”Basic rights aren’t subject to a vote.”
        Isn’t the right to keep the fruit of your labor a basic right, or do you disagree with the founders?

      2. Greg Camp Post author

        Do you mean the fruit of labor that requires a society to produce? If so, taxes to support that society make sense.

  3. orlin sellers

    The unalienable rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness doesn’t sound like a ‘requirement’ for the individual to do anything.

    1. Greg Camp Post author

      We can’t have the kind of society that we have currently without taxation. Show me another way to do it, and we can talk about that, but at present, I see no other way.

      1. orlin sellers

        Greg says, “We can’t have the kind of society that we have currently without taxation.”

        You’re right.

        You’re arguments are based on the Planks of the Communist Manifesto. As a socialist, you believe in the collective and not the individual.
        Let’s look at one of your statements:
        “Public education is essential to a functioning democracy.”
        You said, PUBLIC education. What you mean is GOVERNMENT EDUCATION. Government control of our children’s minds for 12 years in a government institution. Under government control, babysitting and feeding them for half of their waking hours. And at what cost? Any parent could easily give their child a PRIVATE EDUCATION for what we pay to the government. Clearly, education is not the goal or you wouldn’t have said PUBLIC education.
        You might want to read John Taylor Gatto’s “The Underground History of Education” to get an education yourself on what is going on here.
        Then you say ‘Functioning Democracy’. What that means is you have your faith and hope based on a United State, singular! This is far from the constitutional republic that was intended. Republics, built on individual rights where the individual is his own king.
        Democracy, two wolves and a sheep deciding what to eat for lunch. As Yogi Berra would say, Include me out.
        It is plain to see that you are a socialist, who hates individual rights and can only see a collective. How obvious is it? Even my one-eyed potato can see it.

  4. orlin sellers

    Your left turn positions are clear and clearly not based on principles of liberty and rights.

    1. Greg Camp Post author

      No, this isn’t about left or right, of which I care very little. It’s about what provides the most opportunity for the individual. By oneself, alone in the wilderness, not much is possible. In cooperation, many things are possible. There is danger of tyranny there, but society isn’t necessarily or fundamentally tyrannical, and we can all prevent it from turning that way.

      1. orlin sellers

        And there we have another plank of the Communist Manifesto. The collective is great and the individual is a loser without the collective.

  5. Greg Camp

    Orlin, if you have to exaggerate to make a point, it’s not much of a point. Again, please explain to us how one person can achieve anything beyond a meager existence without a society. That doesn’t make the individual a loser. It’s just reality.

      1. Greg Camp Post author

        None of those three achieved in the absence of society. Beethoven had to have instruments to compose for. And an audience to hear. Thoreau wrote his famous work in a cabin owned by his friend. And Loflin went to school.

  6. orlin sellers

    Society did not build Beethoven’s piano, it was built by an individual. What did society have to do with his composing? What did society have to do with him being deaf?
    The cabin at Walden Pond was privately owned by an individual, not society. Loflin was homeschooled by his mother.
    Seriously, you are going to credit society for Beethoven, Thoreau, and a homeless Loflin?
    Somewhere along the line you must have fallen off your rocker. Oh, sorry, it was your compulsory socialist government indoctrination.

    1. Greg Camp Post author

      Orlin, must you be so unpleasant? You’re welcome to argue with my ideas, but I grow weary of your wild exaggerations such as “compulsory socialist government indoctrination.” If you want to be insulting, why are you troubling me?

      1. orlin sellers

        There was no exaggeration. It is compulsory; it is socialist; it is government; it is indoctrination.
        Where’s the exaggeration?

      2. Greg Camp Post author

        1. You have a choice to homeschool your children, to send them to private schools, or to send them to public schools.

        2. “Socialist” is a vague term, too easily tossed about. Be clear.

        3. Government does not equal evil.

        4. Again with the vague terms. Teaching is not necessarily indoctrination–as I well know, having done that for the last fifteen years.

  7. orlin sellers

    1. It is compulsory. Period.
    2. Socialist covers left and right socialism. ‘Society’ is vague.
    3.Government is the greatest threat to life, liberty, and property. Government is a monopoly and gives itself authority to use force on any citizen. It steals from its citizens, that is immoral and evil.
    4. For 12 plus years it is government approved textbooks cramming crap & BS into young developing minds. That is indoctrination.

    Again, I suggest you get an education and read John Taylor Gatto’s “Underground History of Education.”

    1. Greg Camp Post author

      I’m familiar with his work. He makes what he calls structural criticisms, while I see them as criticisms of method.

      I’ve been teaching a long time, too. My primary job is to teach critical thinking. That is a skill that has to be learned, but when I can get that across, everything else is much easier.

      But the fact is that some things do need to be taught. You can call that indoctrination, if you must, but I call them essential skills.


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