Author: Oliver Adamson

The author is the founder of The Liberty Quill and advocates personal responsibility, individualism, home-churching and homeschooling. He is a freelance writer with bylines at Mises.org and Mallarduk.com and is also the author of a children's book that progressives hate. Follow him on Twitter - @MrOliverAdamson.
Defying Babylon

Defying Babylon

“[Pilate] entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above…'” (Gospel of John 19:9-11)


The letter was brief and sliced through any potential ambiguity. It destroyed any hope I held that this was merely a massive game of chicken. The correspondence in question effectively placed me on immediate unpaid leave, not due to poor performance or an ethical lapse, but because of my vaccination status. And although my circumstance indeed is one among thousands of individual stories resembling mine, somehow, it has left me feeling separated from the world around me. The question then is, given the odds, why have some of us chosen to defy the vaccine mandates?

The following summarizes my particular circumstances and personal views, which may provide a valuable backdrop for some. My family and I live in a region that only offers mRNA vaccines at the time of writing. We prefer to wait for a protein-based vaccine such as Novavax, for which we are prepared to provide informed consent, and will not be requesting a religious exemption feeling compelled to stand with everyone, regardless of faith or creed. My employer, the Government of Canada, rejected my written request to wait for a protein-based vaccine, as well as my bid to work from home, aware that I carried out my duties remotely during two previous lockdown periods. The reason is this – it’s not about mitigating risk or ‘public’ health; it’s about compliance. So why not comply?

In drawing out the answer, the biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the Book of Daniel comes to mind. Whether the reader finds it fact or fiction, it paints an inspiring portrait of what it looks like to stand in the face of an overwhelming obstacle in refusing to bow to some king’s golden image.

The Book of Daniel 3:10-12 reads,

“You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

It requires little imagination to see parallels between king and state, golden image and collectivist mandates, and lastly, fiery furnaces and lost livelihoods. Similar to the non-compliant employee, these three OT figures choose to disobey the order, which sets off a series of events which we pick up in verses 13-15,

“Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, ‘Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

Similarly, after denying my accommodation request, I informed my employer that nothing regarding my vaccination plans had changed. This declaration, which flew in the face of their ‘authority,’ prompted a written warning. In it, they confirmed my reception of all informative correspondence, stated I had yet to comply and reiterated I was required to receive at least one dose by a specific date or I would find myself on ‘administrative’ unpaid leave. They were readying the furnace.

The final warnings exhibited in both stories likely represent the apex from which many may decide to change course. And to be completely honest, as it relates to vaccine mandates, I don’t begrudge anyone who ignores my footsteps. The personal health and familial choices of others are none of my business. I can speak to my convictions and circumstances, but no one else’s, and I acknowledge and respect every individual’s right to choose. The right to freedom of choice is why I’ve allowed them to turn up the heat.

Daniel 3:16-18 continues,

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Still defiant, the biblical story concludes with all three thrown into the fire, miraculously spared by God, and pardoned by the king, conceding and formally recognizing their God’s authority over his own. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are vindicated. They have stood their ground and refused to submit to the mandate before them with little assurance of what lay ahead. With or without God’s salvation, they determined to remain principled and to do what was right in their own eyes.

Some believe it doesn’t matter whether or not a principled stand results in the desired outcome. Assurances of positive results are often of lesser importance to those who view life as a journey rather than a destination. Every day finds new opportunities to grow, not only in ability and knowledge but in character also. Our numbered years are full of unforeseen twists in the road. There are no guarantees – and so why not live those years as authentically as we can? As for my family’s present situation, if it’s true most regrets in life relate to the actions we didn’t take, then regardless of what comes from all this, at least I’ll have one less regret.

Towards liberty,

OA


I Stood at the Door

I Stood at the Door


By Ollie Adamson

I stood at the door,
But it was closed shut,
The hallway was empty,
And the floor oddly quiet,
This was the moment,
The one I had eagerly awaited,
Even partially rehearsed,
The record needed straightening,
Although steeped in anxiousness,
I needed this – to bring closure,
On this, my final day,
Undesired at work,
Accesses revoked,
Future pay suspended.

I stood at the door,
I had but one craving,
To explain the whys,
Why we saw things contrarily,
Why my wife and I had drawn lines in the sand,
To share the details of our plan,
A plan that included immunization,
But on our terms,
And in our time,
One that confirmed our love for our community,
One that considered dangerous precedents,
And what those could mean for our children,
A plan which studied numerous things at stake,
It was our plan.

I stood at the door,
To give a face and a name to the unvaccinated,
To attest that hesitancy and critical thinking,
In no way turns one’s back to science,
A future uncertain,
Five mouths to feed,
A needle at every corner,
And it would all go away,
But deep inside, a fire burned,
Stoked by fundamental principles,
Informed consent, self-ownership,
And the modelling of what we had taught our children,
That they are precious,
And their individual choices matter.

I stood at the door,
But no one was coming,
I roamed the lonely hallway,
And there in a doorway, someone stood,
I stopped and enquired,
“Would we be meeting?”
“It’s cancelled,” he said,
“So sorry,” he added,
Informing me, an afterthought,
And oblivious to the moment, he asked,
“Anything you’d like me to pass along?”
But how could he?
After all,
It wasn’t his story to tell.


A Word on Statism

A Word on Statism

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” – Pericles


His reply read, “Ok, found the statist.” A grin spread across my face as I chuckled at his response. It was, after all, in jest. My friend was well aware of my hesitant feelings towards the state. But many online are deadly serious while machine-gunning the term “statist” at anyone failing to toe their line. Unable to pinpoint its earliest deviation point, it’s fair to look to the anarchist movement’s recent involvement in redefining the term for its purposes. Much like the struggle to reacquire the term “liberalism,” some are not in the habit of affording groups the right to redefine words to suit their needs.

The term statism first appeared circa the 1600s in reference to church-state matters. The two were nearly inseparable and exercised substantial control over the individual. By the late 19th century, the term represented the “art of government” before eventually signifying the political opposite of individualism by the early 20th century. In his book, “Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis,” Ludwig von Mises referred to it as “etatism” and wrote:

“Marxism relies upon the infallible judgment of a proletariat filled with the revolutionary spirit, Etatism upon the infallibility of the reigning authority. They both agree in belief in a political absolutism which does not admit the possibility of error.”

Mises preferred the term “etatism,” which contains the French word “état,” meaning “state,” over “statism.” This change reinforced that the statist mindset had not originated in the Anglo-Saxon culture. Origins aside, the term has more recently come to be defined as:

“Concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government often extending to government ownership of industry.”

Add to this that when looking up the term “statist,” many dictionaries merely describe it as an advocate of statism. Therefore, classically defined, a statist argues for and pursues a high degree of government centralization and control, which stems from their belief in the superior nature of central planning over free-market actions. 

Statism implies a preferred or desired state of affairs – not someone’s acceptance of unavoidable compromise. Many individualists dream of a world where voluntary interactions and mutual respect for private property abound; perhaps an impossibility if we are to believe the 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ view of the state of nature. Arguably, without the rule of law, the unprotected fundamental securities of life would lead to continual wealth destruction and de-civilization. Christianity also addresses this precept when pointing to the depraved state of humanity, a consequence of sin entering into the world.

Recognition and mindfulness of such foundational beliefs are essential to the discussion at hand. There is no contradiction in acknowledging the government’s inevitable existence and coercive nature and then seeking to restrict its power as the end goal. Political activism towards reducing government does not positively represent government endorsement. It merely represents a pragmatic rather than idealistic approach to remedying a problem: large-scale co-existence and civilization-building in light of the human tendency towards plunder and violence. 

Etatism or statism is altogether different; the deep-seated belief in a benevolent and far more efficient central authority flies in the face of free markets and personal responsibility. The statist and utilitarian are united in their view that government planning, decision-making, and emphasizing collective happiness are morally superior to individualism and its relationship with private property.

By definition, statism propagates activities that validate increasing government control over our lives. Voting for political parties who endeavour to reduce government size and promote free-market friendly policies is disharmonious with the statist worldview and does not follow its classical definition.

Social media platforms are ripe with pseudo-intellectualism and hurlers of insult. A better strategy would be to pursue sober-mindedness and become better acquainted with one’s arcs of fire. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with idealism, for without it, to what would humanity aspire? But to discount pragmatism, which confronts the world as we know it, would be disastrous and short-sighted. 

The tornados of life don’t whirl about the inside of vacuums. We often experience the tug of wars between principle and pragmatism and the difficult decisions that go along with them. Human tribalism and the need to organize aren’t going anywhere, and so it seems degrees of governance aren’t going anywhere either. While the individualist works to curtail this reality, the statist will always devote his efforts to its expansion. 

Towards liberty,

OA


Canada’s Boiling Point

Canada’s Boiling Point

“The changes in our life must come from the impossibility to live otherwise than according to the demands of our conscience … not from our mental resolution to try a new form of life.” – Leo Tolstoy


The tee-shirt depicts a 2011 event orchestrated by a young Canadian Senate Page named Brigette DePape. The graphic shows DePape holding up a stop sign cut-out with “Stop Harper” inscribed on it. The year is 2015, and the slogan “Stop Harper” is alive and well. Canada is in the midst of its 42nd general election, and there is mounting pressure to oust the Stephen Harper-led Conservative Party who has ruled for nearly a decade. Traffic stop signs in certain parts of the country have been altered and read, “Stop Harper.” The Canadian federal political climate begins to swelter, and results in a Justin Trudeau-led Liberal Party majority government. It is now 2021, and in a few short weeks from the time of writing, Canadians will once again head to the polls to decide the outcome of Canada’s 44th general election. Unsurprisingly, Canadian unity has further deteriorated under Trudeau’s reign. Slogans of “Stop Harper” have been replaced with the cruder “F**k Trudeau.” The escalating language speaks volumes.

In 2015, the far-left and left-of-centre considered Harper, a despot. An article entitled “The Harper Demolition” laid out many of Harper’s opponents’ views, labelling him an ally of big business, the wealthy, free-market proponents and Israel, to name a few. Harper’s adversaries pointed to his reluctance to focus on the welfare state, indigenous and union rights, and climate change issues. After nearly a decade under conservative rule, the Canadian left found themselves desperate to liberate themselves from conservatism’s yoke. So ideological differences aside, how poorly did the Harper conservatives perform?

Upon being sworn in, Harper immediately set up the “Federal Accountability Action Plan” for conducting government business. The new framework promoted “fairness, openness, and transparency” to curb the systemic waste and abuse long associated with government spending. Efforts to restrain government came as no surprise to those familiar with Harper’s libertarian leanings. From there, Harper worked on federal-provincial relations by formally acknowledging Québec as a nation within Canada – a recognition the Québécois people had long sought after.

The Canadian Dollar reached parity with the U.S. Dollar in 2007, something the “loonie” had not done in thirty years; the global economic crisis of 2008 saw Canada fair considerably better than most of its G8 partners. By 2012, Harper was struggling. The country was dealing with same-sex marriage matters under Canadian law – and conservatives appeared out of touch with an increasingly progressive culture. The following year failed to turn any fortunes, as party scandal hit when it came to light that senators appointed by Harper had abused spending allowances – sadly, power tends to corrupt. During his final year in power, and heavily backed by the Canadian public, Harper joined NATO allies denouncing Russian aggression in Ukraine and deployed Canadian forces to fight against ISIL in the Middle East.

Admittedly, like all political parties, Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party was far from infallible, and the unfurling of previous points does not express endorsement of any personality or party. Those familiar with the author’s works may have previously observed sustained efforts to remain apolitical, something which the author admits is becoming increasingly difficult. Detailing Harper’s successes was employed solely as a backdrop to better judge Canada’s current trajectory: one seemingly headed for a colossal impact as a result of Trudeau’s aggressively left tacking leftist agenda. Let us now examine what has led to the profanity-laden protest signs currently disrupting the Trudeau campaign.  

Trudeau’s liberals defeated Harper’s conservatives in 2015, obtaining enough votes to form a majority government. Upon taking office, and in true liberal socialist fashion, the responsible stewardship of the federal budget quickly evaporated. The liberal government earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars, much of it aimed at building and enhancing infrastructure. Additionally, nearly no demographic group was left out as the “big-hearted” liberals further enlarged the deficit by expanding numerous government programs and benefits. In 2020, a pre-pandemic Fraser Institute report stated, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is projected to be the largest accumulator of federal debt per person (5.6 percent) among prime ministers who did not fight a world war or experience an economic downturn during their tenure.” Not exactly the legacy one hopes to leave for their children. Furthermore, government spending to counteract the economic effects of lockdowns has forced individuals to re-imagine ideas surrounding appropriate deficit spending: another blank canvas.

Fiscal irresponsibility aside, the liberals have done a masterful job of marginalizing varying groups, including the Canadian right. Contrasting Harper’s efforts to bring Quebec closer into the fold, Trudeau completely alienated Alberta by dismantling the western province’s pipeline projects to appease his leftist environmental base. Never satisfied, by changing the nation’s anthem to make it more gender-neutral, the self-proclaimed feminist’s gender politics permanently removed a verse that remembered our young war-dead sons from battles past. Trudeau’s liberals continued applying their heavy hands when compelling public servants to restrict their usage of gender pronouns when drafting personal performance reviews. Some flying under the conservative banner have long held fluctuating degrees of progressive views. However, grossly miscalculating, the liberals have driven the right too hard, too fast, and the chickens are coming home to roost.

Today’s Erin O’Toole-led “conservatives” are hardly conservative and are often referred to as “Liberal-lites” or the “Liberals of ten years ago.” For many old stock Canadians and others still adhering to strong right-leaning convictions, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) no longer represents their values. Canadian conservatism, led by the storied CPC, has been steadily declining, but something new has emerged – like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Since its inception in 2018, The People’s Party of Canada (PPC), led by Maxime Bernier, has looked uncompromising in its defence of conservative values. Though some fear they may split the right vote, many are now beginning to recognize the PPC as the only genuinely conservative option left in Canadian federal politics today.

It sounds all too cliché; the stakes on September 20th will be higher than they have been in quite some time. As Canadians wait, the left slanders Bernier, likening him to a fascist, while those on the right label Trudeau, a communist. Following in the footsteps of our southern neighbour, Canada seems destined for increasing polarization. Perhaps the sentiments of those most marginalized will lead them to believe that the only way forward is secession, like many in the U.S. now do. We may soon witness Canadian tensions, which have long been simmering, roll over and reach their boiling points.   

OA


Inflation’s Assault on the Family

Inflation’s Assault on the Family

“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only – and that is to support the ultimate career.” – C.S. Lewis


I moved aside and watched our twelve-year-old van pull into the driveway. My wife opened the door, smiled, and told me she got the job. Putting the basketball down, I hugged her and told her I was proud. The job was a part-time evening and weekend position at the local country health food store – a good fit considering my wife’s interests. But deep down, a sense of sadness and partial defeat rolled over me. The ten-year period leading up to this moment had found my wife solely focused on homemaking and homeschooling our three children. A responsibility so demanding that few ever attempt it – even fewer see it through. But there we stood, eleven years into our marriage, resigned to the fact my single income was starting to fall short. Not due to any pay decrease, change in spending habits, or some major unforeseen event – but the result of government lockdowns and central banking monetary policies. I wanted blood.

To bathe in lament would be wrong. My wife and I have been and continue to be abundantly blessed. Our decision to have my wife stay home beyond her initial maternity leave led to a second and third child and an eventual decision to homeschool. All this, on a single income stretched by a string of small sacrifices: being a single used vehicle family, refraining from taking exotic family vacations, and thrift shopping whenever it met our requirements, to name a few. These disciplines afforded us the ability to own a home – a mortgage that is, and more importantly, to homeschool our three children.

Detailing our reasons for homeschooling would overwhelm the subject at hand, so I’ll exercise brevity. Public schools are no longer safe. Teachers no longer have the authority to maintain order and hold students to account; respect hit the offramp several exits ago. Large classrooms don’t afford teachers the ability to better know their students or offer them flexibility based on individual learning styles. Not that academics seem to matter anymore. Then there’s the indiscriminate spewing of left ideologies with little tolerance for pushback. No, thank you – we covet our kids too much, more than a new vehicle, second vehicle, picturesque vacation, and yes, even more than Gap Kids.

I was fortunate enough to receive an annual salary increase two years running, both of which outpaced official inflation numbers. An astute budgeter, I know we haven’t expanded our lifestyle to include more comforts or upgrades. So, we should be getting ahead, but we’re not. Given a choice between working six days a week or having my wife pick up some part-time work, we decided on the latter. This affords our kids more one-on-one time with dad instead of less, hopefully reducing any feelings of guilt, regret or resentment down the road. And needless to say, mom benefits from a bit of time spent away from home. So, what happened? How did we go from building savings every month to relying on those savings just to cover expenses?

Rising consumer prices, aka price inflation, resulting from central bank increases to the money supply, aka monetary inflation. For added depth, we turn to “Monetary Inflation and Price Inflation,” an article published on Mises.org, which is part of economist Robert P. Murphy’s series entitled “Understanding Money Mechanics.” Murphy begins by including the following excerpt from Ludwig von Mises’ “Economic Freedom And Interventionism: An Anthology of Articles and Essays,” which highlights the importance of differentiating between price and monetary inflation,

“There is nowadays a very reprehensible, even dangerous, semantic confusion that makes it extremely difficult for the non-expert to grasp the true state of affairs. Inflation, as this term was always used everywhere and especially in this country [the United States], means increasing the quantity of money and bank notes in circulation and the quantity of bank deposits subject to check. But people today use the term “inflation” to refer to the phenomenon that is an inevitable consequence of inflation, that is the tendency of all prices and wage rates to rise. The result of this deplorable confusion is that there is no term left to signify the cause of this rise in prices and wages. There is no longer any word available to signify the phenomenon that has been, up to now, called inflation. It follows that nobody cares about inflation in the traditional sense of the term. As you cannot talk about something that has no name, you cannot fight it. Those who pretend to fight inflation are in fact only fighting what is the inevitable consequence of inflation, rising prices. Their ventures are doomed to failure because they do not attack the root of the evil.”

In the absence of any graphs or balance sheets depicting current monetary inflation rates, I recommend anyone interested visit the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) site and access their many tutorials to get started. Verifications aside, none of the following should come as a shock to those following government responses to Covid-19. Having limited economic activity through lockdowns, global governments have turned to their central banks to bail out their citizens and businesses alike. Growing government reliance on central bank monetary policies was evident long before this “pandemic.” Still, many have only recently become aware of the staggering rate at which the money supply has increased. To reiterate, this increase in money supply is what we call “monetary inflation” or simply “inflation.” What does history teach us about this topic?

Murphy’s article demonstrates the dangerous effects by referencing three historical examples of hyperinflation, the US Civil War, the Weimar Republic, and more recently, Zimbabwe, which experienced unimaginable price inflation. Regarding the latter, he writes,

“A more recent (and severe) hyperinflation occurred in Zimbabwe, from 2007 to 2009. In the worst month, November 2008, prices increased more than 79 billion percent, or 98 percent per day. As with other hyperinflations, in Zimbabwe too the connection between monetary and price inflation was evident.”

But how does increasing the quantity of money cause consumer prices to rise?

In his book “What You Should Know About Inflation,” the famous business and economics journalist Henry Hazlitt explained their relationship like this,

“Let us see what happens under inflation, and why it happens. When the supply of money is increased, people have more money to offer for goods. If the supply of goods does not increase — or does not increase as much as the supply of money — then the prices of goods will go up. Each individual dollar becomes less valuable because there are more dollars. Therefore more of them will be offered against, say, a pair of shoes or a hundred bushels of wheat than before. A ‘price’ is an exchange ratio between a dollar and a unit of goods. When people have more dollars, they value each dollar less. Goods then rise in price, not because goods are scarcer than before, but because dollars are more abundant.”

In the era of global lockdowns, we’ve seen increasing supplies of money, decreasing supplies of goods, and governments financing their citizens to forgo work and stay home. Fewer workers produce fewer goods, and as we’ve just learned, fewer supplied goods with increasing supplies of money lead to higher prices.

Although we haven’t experienced anything remotely close to Murphy’s earlier precedents, many families are being squeezed. Fortunately, avenues do exist, which lead to improved financial outlooks. Living within one’s means, avoiding “bad” debt, implementing a budget, and substituting goods when specific prices soar, to name a few. Sadly, authoritarian governments bridled with central banking policies minimize the positive effects of making responsible personal choices. In my family’s case, having exhausted all other options, increasing our revenue stream was the only card left to play.

I can’t say enough about my wife – she’s a rock. Together, we know what we want for our family despite where the rest of the world may be heading. We knew there would be challenges, and we would need to make sacrifices along the way – but it’s been worth every last one of them. We’re raising our children and leaving little to the state. We won’t shelter them from opposing views – that wouldn’t be right. Instead, we will introduce distinct topics and worldviews on our terms and will encourage our kids to think critically. Some say our aspirations will fail, and perhaps they’re right – God only knows. Until then, you’ll find us here in our home, building up our legacy – inflationary policies be damned.

Towards liberty,

OA

The Trouble With Oaths

The Trouble With Oaths

But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.– Jesus of Nazareth


Is this why you became a police officer?” asked the reporter, “No, sir, I did not. Have a good day,” replied the officer; this was the final scene during Pastor Tim Stephens’ arrest outside his family home. Handcuffed and surrounded by his wife and eight children, three uniformed officers took him into custody. His crime: breaking a provincial health order by holding an outdoor religious service. As I closed the video player, words eluded me – but frustration did not. It seemed unnecessary, excessive, shameful. And deep in their core, I believe all three officers felt the same.

Therein lies the trouble with oaths; despite potential personal discomfort, each officer was merely “doing their job.” Their personal views were of no consequence, superseded by feelings of duty, honour, and loyalty to the state. I could be wrong in my assumptions, and the officers may have felt wholly justified in their actions. However, this is of little consequence when addressing the general and inherent problems with sworn oaths. 

The acronym “ACAB” has long been synonymous with the anarchist movement. It signifies “All Cops Are Bastards.” Some, including myself, prefer substituting the word “Bastards” with “Bad” when presenting the topic before broader audiences, but semantics aside, let us examine this claim. It’s believed the term originated in England during the first half of the twentieth century. The first signs of the acronym appeared during a 1940s worker strike. ACAB eventually found a permanent home with punk music, which effectively carried its message throughout the world.

Most moderates shudder upon hearing the phrase. They find reconciling its assertion with specific displays of police heroism and sacrifice difficult, and may experience cognitive dissonance. Their aversion is understandable. I need only reflect on the officer I’ve met on numerous occasions who now serves in a small northern rural community; the God-fearing husband and father of six, humble and gracious. Privately, I can say he is anything but “bad.” So how can both be true simultaneously?  

ACAB is the idea that donning the uniform and swearing an oath places well-meaning individuals in a precarious position—A position that calls upon enforcing unjust laws, even if it means contradicting personal conscience. It is this reality that prevents some from ever viewing law enforcement favorably. The sworn oath binds the officer to the state, and from its seed, injustice blooms.

To see that oaths are not homogenous, we need only look at the differences between state and association oaths among the police. The International Association of Chiefs of Police, a non-profit organization aimed at advancing leadership and professionalism among police officers, posts the following “Law Enforcement Oath of Honour”:

“On my honor, I will never betray my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always maintain the highest ethical standards and uphold the values of my community, and the agency I serve.”

Aside from a brief mention of “agency,” the focus is on the individual officer’s integrity and character, and the importance of maintaining public trust. These statements represent a balanced approach to carrying out police duties. Unfortunately, they do not mirror the required state oaths. The three officers responsible for Pastor Tim Stephens’ apprehension were members of the Calgary Police Service. The following is their pledge to “serve and protect”:

“I, _______ , swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law, in the office of _________ for the _________ of ________ and that I will diligently, faithfully and to the best of my ability execute according to law the office of _________, and will not, except in the discharge of my duties, disclose to any person any matter or evidence that may come to my notice through my tenure in this office, so help me God.”

Canadians will recognize the allegiance to the Queen as a metaphor for the state. But the focus is clear: Loyalty to the state and execution of duties according to law. There is no mention of community, no room for discretion based on circumstance. The officer is an agent of the state and must enforce its statutes.

Anarchy rejects state legitimacy, so there is no room for state-funded police services in their society. Anarchists present alternative solutions to protecting life and property (and the reader is encouraged to delve into those ideas elsewhere), but we don’t have to go that far. The ascending state’s reliance on law enforcement presents tension even for those who don’t consider state police services illegitimate by nature.

Advocates of a night-watchman state would limit government to the provision of military, police, and the courts, but find the majority of modern laws unjust. Referred to as minarchists, they consider anything outside of protecting one’s right to life, liberty, and property to be an infringement on individual natural rights. Police officers who safeguard this trio of rights conduct themselves like good actors, while those enforcing anything else – like bad.

Worldwide, governments have become massive and full of injustice. Swearing oaths to serve such governments contractually binds people to enforce laws that violate individual rights. These rights do not exist as a consequence of the law, but are fundamental to every human life. So how do uniformed individuals manage the mental discomfort at the intersection between their conviction and sworn oath? Through the justification and rationalization of cognitive dissonance. 

Cognitive dissonance is,

“the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes. People tend to seek consistency in their attitudes and perceptions, so this conflict causes feelings of unease or discomfort. This inconsistency between what people believe and how they behave motivates people to engage in actions that will help minimize feelings of discomfort. People attempt to relieve this tension in different ways, such as by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding new information.”

When law enforcement utters, “I’m just doing my job,” one could argue the officer is experiencing some discomfort with the situation at hand; dissonance has set in, and they now feel the need to justify their actions. After apprehending a violent offender, what officer sheepishly states they were only carrying out their orders? I have heard countless reports of officers remorsefully issuing Covid lockdown-related tickets while providing instructions on contesting the ticket and encouraging them to do so – this shows incongruity.

The fact that a growing number of law enforcement officers find themselves enforcing laws they disapprove of represents a dark cloud on the horizon. A thorough review of history books reveals numerous instances of populaces claiming “that would never happen here,” that were dealt tough lessons in the end. Gaining compliance and disposing of internal discomforts is achieved in two ways:

Policing is a livelihood, and nobody wants to lose their source of income. Income plays a crucial role in securing life, liberty, and property. Following orders to ensure continued employment is a strong motivator. It is not much different than voting for a political party based on the promised financial benefits one hopes to receive. But lurking deep in one’s subconscious, an ace in the hole lies ready to dispel any dissonance—that troublesome oath.

An oath is a promise. As evidenced by the pledge above, every officer makes a promise to uphold the law. Individuals who value solid moral character want to avoid letting others down. For them, breaking a contract is no easy thing. In a “Psychology Today” article, wellness expert Michelle Glelan explains:

“When we don’t keep a promise… [w]e have chosen to put something else ahead of our commitment. Even when we break small promises, others learn that they cannot count on us. Tiny fissures develop in our relationships marked by broken promises. We are not only communicating all of this to others, we are telling ourselves that we don’t value our own word. We think it is okay to let someone down, to say something we don’t mean, or to fail to follow through on something we said we would do. Not keeping a promise is the same as disrespecting yourself. Ultimately it can harm our self-image, self-esteem, and our life.” 

As officers begin to doubt an order’s moral legitimacy, their sense of duty to upholding their promises acts as a solid motivator in carrying out their orders. Coupled with financial incentives, this makes it extremely difficult for anyone serving to listen to some still small voice. 

Some in law enforcement are indeed worthy of being called “bad.” They lust after power, revel in their authority, act as aggressors, and know nothing of serving their communities—the primary motivators behind all those punk lyrics and ACAB T-shirts. But to those who serve with good intentions, I turn to you now – smelling salts in hand. Like pawns on a chessboard, you have been made expendable and placed in impossible situations to enforce unjust laws that break down social trust. Your badges are the instruments that politicians and technocrats alike use to implement unfair laws and respond whenever neighbour reports neighbour. It’s not too late to revisit your oath and judge for yourself the legitimacy of recent laws and health orders. And to those contemplating joining the profession, consider a different path. A path that doesn’t require pledging allegiance to an oppressive employer.

Towards integrity,

OA