In this post, I am going to consider a Voluntarist account of the founding of the United States of America. Of interest is that Logan’s account of how Voluntarism would form police and court systems is dead-on accurate.
In a past post, I already admitted to the problem of how to get ‘started’ in the first place. Honestly, the Europeans effectively stole the land from the Native Americans and this runs afoul of the Voluntarist account. But the Native Americas had stolen the land from other Native Americans before that, so it’s not like they had a ‘valid’ claim on the land under the Voluntarist theory anyhow. I see no way to deal with this problem other than to admit that the foundational principles of Voluntarism are fictional or metaphorical and to move on. They do not describe the reality of how societies on the planet earth ever really began. Having lampshaded that problem, we’re going to now pretend like it isn’t a problem. For our purposes, we’ll pretend that the Europeans had homesteaded unused pristine land and claimed it via ‘initial appropriation’ as Voluntarist theory suggests should happen.
The Founding of the Colonies
Often, American history classes begin with Jamestown and the founding of the Virginia colony in 1607. From a libertarian perspective, Jamestown consisted of people fleeing intrusive Statist governments to find their own freedom somewhere where the land was available. It’s hard to miss the parallels between the Voluntarist account of initial appropriation and what actually happened.
Having arrived in America, the settlers elected Captain Edward Maria Wingfield as president. It is not surprising that they did this, since electing leaders was the best know way the settlers knew to solve the problems of protecting their rights to ownership. Given that there was no official Statist government here (at least after a civil war with England), we can easily see this (accurately!) as the use of property and contract law to establish the first policing and court system in America. This seems quite consistent with Logan’s account of how it would unfold. For the sake of brevity, I will refer to such systems throughout this article as “Security Associations” or “Legal Associations.” I intend those two terms to be synonymous.
And just as Logan predicted, they initially set up these Security Associations based on geography. The fact that you chose to live in the Virginia Colony meant you accepted, as part of the deal, that you would use the Security Association that Virginia Colony had chosen. If you did not agree to this, you were free to leave and found your own. Of course (as Logan predicted) if you failed to submit yourself to the legal judgments of the Virginia Security Association, you might be asked to leave. None of this runs afoul of Logan’s Voluntarist account of how societies would naturally organize. So far he’s been quite accurate.
We soon had the 13 original colonial Security Associations. One civil war later, these colonies had made it clear that they weren’t subject to the Statist Government of England or any of the Statist governments of Europe. Each of these colonies set up their own Security Associations (and associated legal systems) over their own geographic areas. These Security Associations were understood as having property ownership over their respective geographic areas to be the chosen legal system for those areas. And similar to Logan’s account, these legal services were in competition with each other to provide the best police and court system.
Solving Problems Via Contract Law
It’s instructive to look at how various problems were solved using contract law. One must give contract law it’s due to being so flexible to allow any configuration necessary to solve real-life problems.
One potential problem was, what if someone doesn’t like the Security Association of the Virginia Colony? How do they fire them? As Logan suggested, legal and security services were tied to geography. If you did not like the Legal Association that owned the property rights to be the Legal Association for your geographic area, you could easily choose to pick up and move to a new one. Or you could even choose to move outside any of the existing Security Associations to start your own. (Though this was rare for obvious reasons.)
What about new people born into these Legal Associations? Being geographic (as Logan suggested) solves this problem nicely. Anyone living in the geography is subject to the Legal Association until they decide to move. Children start under the security protection automatically and, as they become adults and have their own means, a choice to stay in that geographic area was the same as signing a contract to continue using those legal and security services. If you chose to live in a geographic area that owned the property rights to be the Security Association for that area, you were consenting to the laws and legal services they produced.
How were Security Associations paid for? Because Security Associations own the property right to be the Security Association for that geographic area, naturally they charged what we might call service fees. These service fees were known colloquially as “taxes.”
There should be no doubt that the service fees of the initial 13 Security Associations were handled entirely voluntarily under contract law. It was impossible to imagine someone getting on a boat and crossing the ocean to come to America and not having knowingly consented to the well-known geographic-based contracts of these Security Associations. And if they didn’t like the one they ended up with, contracting with a different one (or none at all!) by physically moving was an available choice. To call these services fees “stealing” would be grossly intellectually dishonest. And if these service fees are not seen as part of a valid contract, there likely is no such thing as a valid contract.
What if one did not like it when the services fees were raised? Obviously this is handled exactly like any other Voluntarist contractual situation – the person was free to pick another Security Association or to find land where there was none. All security fees are therefore voluntary and contractual.
The United States Under the Articles of Confederation
Tensions often grew between the 13 Security Associations. But Logan’s description of how the Voluntarist system would work continued to be accurate. Security Associations had a strong incentive to keep a stellar legal reputation lest they went out of business by everyone moving to a different geographic location with a better Security Association. The need for these Security Associations to work well together led to the signing of a series of contracts between all 13 Security Associations whereby they agreed to honor various laws that all consented to. This was handled entirely voluntarily and it led to all 13 Security Associations agreeing to the “Articles of Confederation.”
Under the Articles of Confederation, a new Legal Association was formed called the Continental Congress or the Confederacy. This Congress “…had the authority to regulate and fund the Continental Army, but it lacked the power to compel the States to comply with requests for either troops or funding.” (From Wikipedia) It relied entirely on “volunteer” armies from the 13 main Legal Associations.
This voluntary approach marked nearly every power of the Continental Congress. “The Confederation Congress could make decisions but lacked enforcement powers. Implementation of most decisions, including modifications to the Articles, required unanimous approval of all thirteen state legislatures” (Wikipedia Link)
“On paper, the Congress had power to regulate foreign affairs, war, and the postal service and to appoint military officers, control Indian affairs, borrow money, determine the value of coin, and issue bills of credit. In reality, however, the Articles gave the Congress no power to enforce its requests to the states for money or troops…” (Link to Britannica)
Problems Under the Articles of Confederation
The voluntary nature of the Continental Congress led to unfortunate situations such as leaving “…the military vulnerable to inadequate funding, supplies, and even food” when the 13 Legal Associations were under attack from the Statist Governments of Europe. On multiple occasions, a war with the Statist Government of England was nearly lost because of how poorly functioning was the Continental Congress as well as the 13 Security Associations’ inability to self-organize well under the Articles of Confederation.
While it sounded great, in principle, to allow the 13 Legal Associations to set up a loose 14th Confederate Legal Association that allowed them to share resources in emergencies (such as war with Statist Governments), in practice “…by the end of 1786 governmental effectiveness had broken down.” (Link to Britannica)
One particularly dire situation was Shays’ Rebellion. “Shays’ Rebellion was an armed uprising in Western Massachusetts in opposition to a debt crisis among the citizenry” (Wikipedia) as well as the Massachusetts’ Legal Association’s service fees.
“When the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, Massachusetts merchants’ European business partners refused to extend lines of credit to them and insisted that they pay for goods with hard currency… Merchants began to demand the same from their local business partners…. The rural farming population was generally unable to meet the demands of merchants and the civil authorities, and some began to lose their land and other possessions when they were unable to fulfill their debt and [security service] obligations. … This led to strong resentments against [security service] collectors and the courts, where creditors obtained judgments against debtors, and where [security service] collectors obtained judgments authorizing property seizures.” (Wikipedia)
From a Libertarian viewpoint, clearly Shays’ rebellion constitutes an “initial use of force.” Shay had a contract with the Massachusetts’ Legal Association to pay their service fees and if he/they didn’t like that contract, they were free to pick a new one (or even none at all!) any time they chose. And not wanting to pay debts is itself a clear violation of contract law. So libertarian and Voluntarist theory forces us to see Shays’ Rebellion as in the wrong and as the villains of our story.
Given the willingness of these contract beakers to try to get out of their contractual obligations via “initial use of force” it’s completely legitimate that the Massachusetts Legal Association raised an army to put down these contract breakers. Since the Confederate Security Association (the Confederacy/Continental Congress) was contractually obligated to support Massachusetts, and the other 12 Legal Associations were contractually obligated to support the Confederacy, it is clear that all 13 Legal Associations had a contractual obligation to put down this rebellion together and end the rebellions villainous use of “initial use of force” to break free of their contracts.
Unfortunately, the end result was quite bad. Since the Confederate Security Association had no court system of their own, the 13 original Security Associations often did not follow through with their contracted obligations. Though eventually, the Confederacy did manage to put down this dishonorable rebellion against contract law, they nearly failed to do so. This, and other major failings of the existing Security Associations, created consumer fear that it was just too easy to topple the existing Legal and Security Associations that the good people of America were contracted with to protect them and their possessions. So naturally, this started an outcry from consumers demanding that the Legal Associations they were contracted with to do what was necessary to improve things.
Famously, Retired General George Washington wrote of this event “You talk, my good sir, of employing influence to appease the present tumults in Massachusetts. I know not where that influence is to be found, or, if attainable, that it would be a proper remedy for the disorders. Influence is not [a Security and Legal Association]. Let us have a [Security and Legal Association] by which our lives, liberties, and properties will be secured, or let us know the worst at once.” (Wikipedia)
Understandably, not wanting to let down their consumers, the Security Associations took the necessary actions their consumers demanded so as to not lose their consumers and to stay in business. (Exactly like Logan predicted!)
Because the key problems the consumers faced were all tied to weakness in the 14th Confederate Security and Legal Association, consumers began to demand that their 13 Security and Legal Associations cut off ties to the Confederate Legal Association and enter into a voluntary contract with a new Federal Security and Legal Association that had been given stronger property rights over the collective geography of the existing colonies – particularly power to enforce contracts between the 13 original Security Associations. These additional property rights, granted to the Federal Security Association via contract, were driven by consumers’ demand for better protection.
It’s interesting to note that there is no doubt that the formation of the United States of America was legitimate under Voluntarism and Contract Law. The Constitution of the United States was not set up by force, but by contractual consent. As John Jay said in Federalist Paper Number 2, “[the] plan is only RECOMMENDED, not imposed…”
Arguments by consumers were made for and against having their local Security Association dissolve the old contract with the Confederacy Security Association and enter into a new contract with the Federal Security Association. Under the old Articles of Confederation, a new Federal Security Association could only be set up with the consent of all 13 of the original Colonial Security and Legal Associations. The unanimous consent was received.
What about those that were against it? As always, they consented to the final decision by not choosing to hire a different Security Association (i.e. moving outside the United States and starting their own).
In addition, this is no different than any Corporation with shareholders. The shareholders of each Security Service Corporation were the citizens of the colonies and each got a single shareholder vote. And since the Security Association was set up by geography (as Logan predicted!) and held the property rights to be the Security Association for that geography, once the shareholders had voted, that Security Association now had a new contract with the Federal Security Association. If someone didn’t like that new legal contract, they could always choose to leave and start their own.
So a new contract with the Federal Security Association was drafted and a new nation was born: The United States of America.