Most constitutionalists think they know the Constitution, yet they fail to consider such fundamentals like how the 14th Amendment usurped state sovereignty. Although I applaud them for exiting the left-right paradigm, that doesn’t necessarily mean they quite understand what their own political ideology entails. Sifting through the misinformation and even disinformation about the Constitution permeating the alternative media is nothing less than a truly arduous challenge.
In introducing his own book, the author says the following:
“In the off chance that I have been too subtle, allow me to clarify my position for you. I am explicitly accusing all three branches of our government of violating the Constitution. That is a harsh indictment, and one that will be pooh-poohed by all of the talking heads in the national media. My only reason for omitting members of the media from my accusations is because they are not regulated by the Constitution and they may exercise freedom of the press. Personally, I think the media do whatever the federal government wants them to do, making it utterly useless in the defense of liberty. If this book gains some popularity, it is quite possible that I will be labeled a terrorist and quietly shuffled off to a distant gulag somewhere. That is precisely the response that Joseph Stalin would have advocated, and the reason why I feel compelled to write this book while I still can.”
Right there, he sets the tone for the rest of the book. Written during Bush, Jr.’s reign of terror, Badnarik’s concern about being disappeared is well-founded, even more so now with the currently sitting Tyrant-in-Chief’s standing “policy” of “indefinite detention.” The presumption here is that tyranny is alive and well in what used to be these United States, and in that regard, I wholeheartedly agree, because of how tyranny is defined legally.
Badnarik spends quite a bit of time on political philosophy, unlike Andrew Napolitano. He says:
“The only type of rights that exist are individual rights. There is no other kind. Whenever I hear someone talk about ‘community rights’ it is always in the context of suggesting that they somehow supersede individual rights. This is utter nonsense, however I will explain it just in case it isn’t obvious to you. Individuals exist. You can reach out and touch an individual. Communities do not exist. They are abstract concepts that merely represent a collection of individuals. We do not start out with a large block of ‘community’ and then shave off thin slivers of ‘individual.’ Communities do not (and cannot) have rights. Only the individuals within the community have rights, and those individuals continue to have rights whether they remain in the community or not.”
This is a very concise way of explaining the superiority of individuality over collectivism. Sadly, many constitutionalists I’ve known have trouble understanding this, and one of them even disassociated from me when I tried to explain this to him. The reason for this, I suspect, is because by implication, it suggests that governments of any kind, including republics, cannot exist in reality, since, at best, they are a kind of community, albeit a coercively monopolistic one. It would also mean that government cannot have rights, which is also interestingly admitted by Richard McDonald.
Speaking of rights, Badnarik’s second chapter, which is uniquely made available for free download from his website, is all about the difference between rights and privileges. As he explains:
“Let’s examine an issue that most people take for granted. If you have a marriage license, what do you have permission to do now that you did not have permission to do before? More important, who gave you that permission, and where did that person or agency get the authority to give you permission in the first place? Did George Washington have a marriage license? (No.) Did Thomas Jefferson have a marriage license? (No.) Did they simply ask the woman they loved to settle down with them and perhaps raise a family? Remarkably – yes. This is one of the advantages of having an unlimited right to contract. What may be even more surprising to some is the fact that this is still being done today. Have you heard of a common-law marriage? Occasionally a couple will start living together without the formality of a ceremony. Generally the local busybodies will be a-twitter because the pair is ‘living in sin,’ as if somehow the relationship is any of their business. So if the eleventh and thirteenth presidents of the United States (depending on where you start counting) didn’t a have marriage license, then when (and why) was the very first marriage license issued?”
Without a doubt, this is the single best rebuttal against licensure I have ever read thus far. Badnarik goes onto to detail how marriage licensure specifically was originally implemented as a way for racists to stifle what they considered to be “miscegenation.” Additionally, Badnarik gives what I think is the most principled argument in favor of queer marriage:
“I hope it is now obvious that you do not require government permission in order to be married. Common law marriages are valid in all fifty states, not because the government is benevolent and generous, but because common law is the highest law jurisdiction in America. The government has no authority to tell me whom I can or cannot share a bed with, and I will adamantly ignore any statutes or laws that pretend otherwise. This is not a significant issue for me because I am heterosexual, however there are millions of homosexuals who are directly affected by the government’s arrogant insistence that it will determine the definition of what constitutes a legal marriage. As far as I am concerned, if you love someone and they love you back, you can exercise your unlimited right to contract with whomever you wish.”
I just wish that LGBT dissidents would be more like Dale Everett in the sense that they instead believe that government-approved marriages just plain suck (and not in a good way), and thus are not a desirable vehicle for promoting any notion of what they think of as “equality.” Although common law marriages may not be a viable alternative for them, since in Texas queer marriage is specifically outlawed according to Article 1, Section 32 of the Texas Constitution, homosexuals could just “live in sin,” just as their heterosexual counterparts do (often for a variety of reasons unrelated to legality). For reformists, I will add here that while it is possible for the Texas Bill of Rights to be constitutionally amended in order to decriminalize queer marriage, this is not very likely, for Section 32 was added in 2005. It was first proposed by the Texas legislature before it was put up for a popular vote, which ultimately approved it enough to be added to the Texas Bill of Rights; to reverse this would require the exact same procedure to be implemented using the exact same institutional actors; this, I think, solidifies the criminalization of queer marriage in Texas, at least for the foreseeable future. The bigger question here though is, does the Texas government respect an individual’s unlimited right to contract?
Some might wonder what the title of Badnarik’s book refers to. As he says:
“This exercise will probably make you feel very foolish the first few times you try it, but humor me and do it anyway. When you finish this paragraph I want you to stand up tall, with your feet spread comfortably apart. Put your fists on your hips and take a deep breath. Then, with all of the authority and certainty you can muster, I want you to shout ‘It’s good to be king!’ Look around you at all of your property. Know that you are the person who makes all of the decisions about that property. You are sovereign. No one can alter what you think. No one can supersede your authority. No one can (justifiably) violate the rights that were endowed to you by God. Once again then, with feeling! ‘It’s good to be king!’ Sure, your family will think you’re nuts, but what else is new? If you practice this every day for a week, you will change the way you think about your relationship with the government. Go ahead and try this now. You’ll thank me for it later.”
In other words, Badnarik has fallen hook, line, and sinker for all that “sovereign citizen” crap. It is always a temptation for a libertarian to believe that he is above the government, but to do so is to compare oneself to, at best, an inherently corrupt entity, or worse, a non-existent thing; better to separate yourself from it, at least mentally, if not also physically, assuming you want to secure your Liberty in the first place. The Founders weren’t “sovereign” anything, they were secessionists, by virtue of the fact that they declared their independence from the British Empire and then they physically fought a revolution (a people’s war) to win their freedom on the battlefield, just as the Southerners did about 80 years later, albeit unsuccessfully.
Regarding the different forms of law, Badnarik had this to say:
“Common law is the body of principles relating to persons and property. It should be remembered that the Founding Fathers considered the law of property to be ‘as sacred as the law of God.’ Common law remained unwritten for centuries, since it was assumed to derive from ‘common sense.’ If you see someone being murdered, you don’t have to grab a law book or examine the local statutes before you know that a crime has been committed. The Constitution is based on common law, and it is the ‘supreme law of the land.’ The primary purpose of the Constitution is to protect your property.”
I don’t know about that, because all the common law is, is either jury or judge made law via court decisions (when a judge rules on a case, he expresses his reasons for ruling the way he did as his written opinion, literally), based, more often than not, upon revenge. Although the notion of restorative justice has made its greatest strides within the common law, I fail to see how the common law’s original source of retributive justice somehow protects my property or liberty, especially if I have been falsely accused and coercively held without bail during the course of the trial.
Despite his affection for so-called “sovereign citizens,” Badnarik correctly points out that:
“So how and when do We the People become U.S. citizens? Each of us has unknowingly become entangled in several contracts that are considered prima facie evidence of our U.S. citizenship, including but not limited to: a birth certificate, Social Security number, driver’s license, marriage license, and voter’s registration card. The last one generally has a box labeled ‘United States citizen’ that most people eagerly check without thinking. We ‘voluntarily’ give up our rights in exchange for government benefits, such as Social Security. Simply put, because you were never told about the forfeiture of your rights, each of these contracts is technically invalid because it was perpetrated based on fraud.”
What he is alluding to here are those sneaky adhesion contracts the government uses to put us under their yoke. Every single legal identity document you possess binds you in obedience to the government because you are contractually bound to do so. If my understanding of this situation is correct, then the seed for our freedom lies right there, especially if you factor in the notion of the consent of the governed, which is mentioned in Jefferson’s Declaration; the only tricky part then is to discover how to live your life without relying on the so-called “benefits” provided by these adhesion contracts before you eventually revoke them legally.
Besides bellyaching over how much the government sucks donkey balls, Badnarik gives some of the best quips regarding the federal Bill of Rights. Take a gander at this one about religious liberty:
“This country was founded upon a principle of religious tolerance, but modern Americans are increasingly (and embarrassingly) intolerant of one another on nearly every issue. There are fundamentalists of every denomination who make the early Puritans appear open-minded by comparison. Witness a bare-breasted statue being treated by an attorney general like it was an adulterous Hester Pryne.”
Boy, is that the damn truth! Gary Hunt has mentioned, time and again, how utterly hypocritical those “diversity” advocates are since they push very strongly for a hegemonic mold they want everyone to adopt without question. I think that one of my proposed Orwellian slogans, “Prejudice is Tolerance,” captures perfectly the intrinsically contradictory idea that undefined “progress” can only happen if alleged “tolerance” is enforced at the point of the sword, which is what the government indoctrination centers are for. Badnarik goes on to say that:
“The First Amendment protects your right to say any malevolent thing you want, even if your ideas make me nauseated enough to develop a bleeding ulcer. To the dismay of the anti-freedom movement, the Second Amendment works the same way. The Second Amendment is enumerated within the Bill of Rights. That means I have a right to keep and bear arms, and I am not obligated to obtain government permission in order to do so. You may not like the fact that I carry a gun; it may make you extremely nervous; you may toss and turn all night worrying about the fact that I carry a gun. Too damn bad. My right to carry a gun for self-defense, or just for my pursuit of happiness, is not predicated on whether or not you approve of my activity.”
Casting aside the issue of the usurping 14th Amendment and the overwhelming importance of the various American state constitutions, Badnarik’s steadfast apologetics regarding the Second Article in Amendment to the federal Constitution is very reminiscent of Clarissa Olson’s statements to Win Bear in The Probability Broach. Badnarik goes to make a technological comparison:
“Guns are like the brakes on a car. They are both deterrents because they both provide resistance. Brakes are a deterrent to unwanted speed because they apply resistance to the rotors. Guns are a deterrent to crime because they provide resistance to criminals. If your car is going too fast, it is not rational to remove the brakes. If violent crime is increasing, it is not rational to remove all the guns, even if you could. The answer in both cases is to apply more resistance!”
What a wonderfully vernacular defense of gun ownership! If only more brave men took self-defense seriously, then we’d be drastically more freer than we are today, simply because the government would know for a fact that the spirit of resistance was genuinely being exercised by the people (just don’t tell those pacifists in Keene, lest you be labeled as a “violence advocate,” much like how the Southern Poverty Law Center pigeon-holes libertarians and constitutionalists alike as “domestic extremists”).
So, what does Badnarik advise his readers to actually do, though? He first says:
“When people ask me what they can do to help in the fight for liberty, my first response is to recommend that they memorize the Bill of Rights. That is to say, you should be able to recite them all, word for word, without looking at your notes. That is the first step in gaining a real understanding of them. If you don’t understand your rights, how will you notice when some bureaucrat begins to violate them?”
Okay, not too bad thus far, but does he suggest anything more solid that simply rote memorization? He further says:
“I am not advocating that you do anything in particular, however I hope that you will begin to do something. We the People have rights. We also have the responsibility of protecting those rights. Here are some suggestions for activism to get you started. I’m sure that a brief search on the Internet will uncover several other opportunities for you to express yourself. Get involved. Do it now.”
Well, there you go…you must become an “activist,” because that by itself is more important than the list he proceeds to give. Having answered that question necessarily begs another, which is, what specifically does he recommend his audience to do? Reading a whole shitload of books is what he considers rather important; being a pro bono book reviewer myself, I can’t quite disagree with him and expect my integrity to remain intact, but I will list for you some of the books Badnarik recommends that I’ve already reviewed; namely, The Federalist Papers, The Anti-Federalist Papers, The Global Sovereign’s Handbook, The Creature from Jekyll Island, Our Enemy, the State, and The Discovery of Freedom. Obviously, if you have read these reviews of mine you will see a pattern in them, more often than not, telling you that I think a particular book was not only completely unhelpful in terms of securing my Liberties, but often analytically incorrect (although to be fair, some of these were truly a delight for me to learn from, particularly in terms of analytically understanding the federal Constitution, such as those published letters to the editor written during the 1780s).
Aside from reading a whole lot of what I think is useless literature, Badnarik suggests for his readers to become straight-ticket voters for the so-called Libertarian Party (LP), use Liberty Dollars, proselytize about and use jury nullification, run for local political office, sign the Free State Project’s Statement of Intent, and finally, to consider secession from the Union. In the light of the fact that voting does not work, why would anyone seriously consider running for office? Although some like J. Croft advocate conducting a recall election within a small town, wouldn’t you think that the disaster known as Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns give you a bit of a hint regarding the viability of running for political office in the first place (as if The RonPaul.com Copyright Scandal wasn’t enough proof that the “best” of these candidates still eat their own without a moment’s hesitation)? Of course, Badnarik has to advocate for electoral reformism because he was the LP’s 2004 presidential candidate, lest he be considered as inconsistent.
Putting aside reading lists and voting recommendations, I would like to address the next segment of Badnarik’s recommendations. The conviction of Bernard von NotHaus for counterfeiting Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs) happened because he called his privately issued currency, “Liberty Dollars,” whose explicit purpose was to compete with FRNs; thankfully, the same has not occurred to Bitcoin as of yet, largely because Satoshi Nakamoto is an alias for an unidentified individual (or, perhaps, that secret behind closed doors meeting that the Bitcoin Foundation had with the Federal Reserve and many other Administrative Agencies may have something to do with why the feds have only shut down Silk Road, yet have not apprehended Nakamoto himself).
To round out my critique of Badnarik’s suggestions, I’ll proceed next to his advocation of jury nullification. I intend to write a dedicated article, separate from this book review, examining this dissident technique in more detail, but I will remind everyone that it is true that it is deontologically sound, as Lysander Spooner explained in his essay on the subject, although even he said that the method does not work anymore; since presumably Badnarik knows Spooner said that, why would he (or FIJA, for that matter) push for more people to use jury nullification? In light of The Free State Project Censorship Debacle, I think it is a terrible idea for any libertarian or constitutionalist to sign the FSP’s “Statement of Intent,” period. Regarding secession, it would necessarily require a people’s war to even have a chance of being pulled off at all, much less successfully; if you don’t believe me in this regard, I would suggest that you compare and contrast the Texas Revolution with the War Between the States and then tell me how those different secession efforts could have been pulled off completely peacefully by their opponents; if not, then any notion of a “peaceful secession” is bullshit, plain and simple.
Michael Badnarik’s Good to be King: The Foundation of Our Constitutional Freedom is the product of what used to be his many revised editions of the manual he used for his constitutional classes. Although I will admit he was a delight to watch during the 2004 LP presidential debates, Badnarik, like Andrew Napolitano, utterly refuses to mention Ashwander v. TVA, the 14th Amendment, or the Administrative Agencies, much less any of the 50 state constitutions (not even Texas!). He’d rather you’d watch The Money Masters or Waco – The Rules of Engagement rather than try and understand the nature of the adhesion contracts we seem to be bound by, at least, according to the government. This book seems to be a rather incomplete primer on the Constitution, which itself serves as little else than a vehicle for Badnarik to peddle libertarianism (which, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for, I’d just wish he was more upfront about it, is all). I’m a bit hesitant about whether I’ll review the sequel Secret to Sovereignty, not because the title is off-putting (which it is to me, anyway), but because I’d have to actually get an ounce of silver first with which to pay him for a copy since Badnarik refuses to accept FRNs for it.