Defining national government

By Nathan Barton,

The following quote was part of the daily e-mail newsletter from Liberty Quotes, and caught my attention. “A national government is a government of the people of a single state or nation, united as a community by what is termed the ‘social compact,’ and possessing complete and perfect supremacy over persons and things, so far as they can be made the lawful objects of civil government. A federal government is distinguished from a national government by its being the government of a community of independent and sovereign states, united by compact.” — Black’s Law Dictionary, Source: Piqua Branch Bank v. Knoup, 6 Ohio St. 393. [Black’s Law Dictionary, Revised Fourth Edition, 1968, p. 1176]

As a christian and as a person who seeks to be a self-governor and loves liberty, I have a number of points of contention with this, as well as a number of positive comments about the definition. Moreover, I believe that this definition should be helpful in understanding what we can do to reestablish and preserve liberty as a people and a society.

First, I do think the definition of a “national government” of the “people of a single state” is important:  It would seem to me that at most, there can only be ONE national government over a person or a group of persons (“people”).  So if Colorado or South Dakota are sovereign as they declare themselves to be, and as recognized by the United States Constitution (when it was in force), then there is no room for the Federal Government (originally organized under the US Constitution but now functioning in a totally rogue  manner) to be a “national” government of any citizen of South Dakota, Colorado, or the other forty-eight states.  We can’t have both: it has to be one or the other, as this definition makes clear.  Empires are not “national governments,” and neither are federations or confederations (like the old United States or Switzerland).

It is also important to think about what defines a state. Today, because we have a “national government” but still call our fifty formerly sovereign entities “states,” we confuse ourselves. Either the “United States” is a state, or Colorado, South Dakota, etc. are states. Both cannot be. By Black’s definition, it cannot be both: it must be one or the other.

Second, as a child of God, I must reject that a “national government” possesses “complete and perfect supremacy over persons and things.”  The caveat, “so far as they can be made the lawful objects of civil government,” begs the question. Who decides what are the “lawful subjects?”  Certainly, it cannot be civil government itself that decides.  Nor can it be those who would be such subjects, for it is too easy for them to be coerced into even a “voluntary” submission.  (Can any reader think of how it could be done in such a way to remove most or all coercion? I cannot.) Unless there are some limits on that voluntary submission imposed from outside the relationship and system, it is difficult to ensure that submission is and remains voluntary, especially when dealing with any large population.  But that outside authority would, in turn, mean that the sovereignty can be neither “complete” nor “perfect.” Black’s definition is therefore wrong.

And of course, those who profess and practice allegiance to any other sovereignty, especially the sovereignty of a Higher Power, cannot (voluntarily or not, with or without coercion) accept any sort of “complete” or “perfect” sovereignty over themselves.  That is, neither over their life or liberty, or even their property – at least not by any human government.

To do so would require that they reject the sovereignty of that Higher Power (“God”) over these things.  At the very most, they can allow some secondary control over these things, to the degree that such things are “lawful subjects” of any human government (if indeed there are any).  Perhaps those persons who do not believe in, or do not accept the sovereignty, of the Creator (or some other Higher Power) are at liberty to surrender complete and perfect control over themselves, or those parts and properties of themselves which they deem “lawful subjects,” to a government.  (Obviously, as a child of God I cannot speak for such, or even hope to understand their position.)

What does this mean?  If Black’s definition of “national government” is not wrong, then I cannot accept being part of a national government, whether large or small. Even if I were a minarchist-libertarian believing in limited government, how could I accept any government claiming to have “complete” or “perfect” sovereignty?  Nor can I see how any other libertarian can do so. At the same time, I cannot accept it as a christian, for my government is that of God and, therefore, I have no sovereignty to cede to any human government. Especially not one claiming “complete” or “perfect” sovereignty.

So, by the above definition of “national government,” South Dakota (my home state by adoption) or Colorado (my original home state by birth) are the only national governments that I should have any truck with.  (And for those who are enrolled members of AmerInd tribe, their tribe IS their national government.)  PROVIDED, of course, that they claim neither “complete” nor “perfect” sovereignty over me OR anyone else.

What about the federal government? If held to the letter of the law (the Constitution) the federal government is, by its very nature, LIMITED and does not in any way have “perfect” and “complete” sovereignty over me or anyone else, even if I am (by Constitutional definition) a “lawful subject.’  In THIS belief, I have many more allies, and am no longer such a small minority. Yet I find few (if any) minarchists who clearly state this or accept something close to it. And of course, the federal government, its employees (including the Congress and Courts and Executive Branch), and its supporters will NOT accept that the federal government is limited.

Of course, it doesn’t even matter whether or not I am part of a very small minority.  For right does make might, and “If God be with us, who can stand against us?” Whether a christian or not, I can lawfully (morally) reject the idea that anyone BUT myself can determine if I am a “lawful subject. It can be a national government of my choice – and can be relatively small (Wyoming and North Dakota have populations of only about 600,000 people) – or even smaller. But even then, I fear I will have to fight against those who try to enforce Black’s definition: they will claim that government has “perfect” and “complete” sovereignty. So what have I gained? Just a government with fewer resources to try and compel my acceptance of their sovereignty over me.

Which leads me to the conclusion that no matter HOW someone defines “national government,” it is bad, and ultimately unworkable and destructive of liberty. And should be avoided. Even on a small scale.

Mama’s Note: For many years I’ve considered this dilemma. Most people seem to want some sort of involuntary government, to live off other people’s work or to control their neighbors, but a great many simply because they have been indoctrinated into believing it is right and good. And, maybe, some people just can’t deal with anything but being a good slave. I’ve never figured it out.

I don’t have any authority or desire to dictate to them what they do with their lives, and so wouldn’t have any problem at all leaving them to be governed by others… EXCEPT for the fact that those same people believe that everyone must be subject and obedient to the government they choose to rule over them. Sadly, all too often they are quite willing to see those of us who resist  thrown into cages or even killed.

I own my life and body myself. I am the only one who is responsible for that life and my safety. I don’t need or want anyone else to tell me how to live and steal my property or freedom. I don’t want or need a master, a ruler or a “representative.”

About tpolnathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (christian), Pahasapan, Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer.
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