The Ascendant State

The Ascendant State

The Oxford Canadian Dictionary describes the word “ascendant” as “supreme or dominating, rising, gaining power or authority.” Is it fair to use this word to describe today’s governing authorities? I think so. In our last quill “Our Natural Rights: Unpacked” we touched on the relationship between our natural rights and the need to protect them. Beyond the legitimacy of each individual to defend their rights lies the role of collective groups of individuals. In Libertarianism, the non-aggression principle (NAP) states the use of force is only permitted to defend one’s rights to life, liberty and property. If these are the only circumstances in which an individual’s use of force is legitimate, a collective group of individuals should be bound by the same laws. Acting as a collective, how is the state doing in this regard? In this quill, we will demonstrate how the state’s use of force neglects its actual mandate, instead infringing upon our rights to life, liberty and property.

Every individual has the right to defend themselves from bodily harm. We see this throughout the modern free world, often reading media accounts of would-be victims fighting off, sometimes even killing their attackers, with little to no legal consequences. This demonstrates the state’s recognition of our right to defend our own well-being. Moving from the individual to the collective, we would hope to see the same reasoning. Instead, we see countless laws which negatively impact and jeopardize the individual’s right to life. One example of this is found under section 19(1) of The Canada Health Act which impedes service providers from charging patients for any service deemed insurable. This policy has contributed to longer waiting periods as patients willing to pay for services are not given that option. In some circumstances, longer wait times can mean the difference between life and death. Another example is the way in which the state employs its police force. There are many resources on the current state of policing and the problems that exist. Police brutality obviously comes to mind. When a collective group of armed individuals enforce unjust laws (as they pertain to the NAP) to the point of bodily harm, they are no longer protecting the individual’s right to life. Policing is no longer about protecting the security of the person but rather the enforcement of laws. Our right to safeguard our physical well-being is eroding before us; and it will most likely get worse unless ideologies change. 

Now what about that right to personal liberty? Personal liberties normally found within a liberal democracy are freedom of speech, religion, assembly, freedom to exchange goods and services on the open market, freedom of movement from one territory to another within a nation, just to name a few. Referring back to the NAP, we see why one should really question the state’s legitimacy when interfering in these areas. There are elements of hate speech which can arouse violent actions; so we can concede that action in this area is sometimes required. 

We have seen emerging policies with regards to the usage of gender pronouns. An unclassified Canadian Armed Forces message recently revealed that the use of gender specific pronouns will no longer be acceptable when writing employee performance reviews. Caution needs to be exercised when dealing with this issue, as it leaves no room for consenting individuals to determine which pronouns they prefer. Breaking this new rule would most likely result in legal consequences. Ask yourself: Does mandating the use of certain pronouns on consenting individuals amount to protecting their rights or infringing upon them? Would the state be justified in removing our ability to call strawberries “red” to avoid alienating people living with colour blindness? We could go into greater detail but if you see the over-reaching effect the state can cause in areas such as compelled speech, the point has been made. Now onto the question of property – our stuff.

On the surface, many feel the state adequately protects our right to property. When anything belonging to us is criminally taken or destroyed we call the police to investigate, hopefully bringing the person(s) to justice. This, however, does nothing to return our property.  Our reliance on insurance policies to compensate us gives us a false sense of justice. When we look at the direct relationship between our property and the state, we see a different reality. In Canada, as a property owner, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not protect our property rights. The state has the ability to expropriate (eminent domain in the U.S.) your property when deemed to be in the best interest of the public. In addition, a landowner can never achieve complete ownership of their land, as a yearly property tax is due in order to maintain ownership. I don’t want to head too far down the road of taxation; but it deserves mentioning. Regardless of taxation’s outcome, whether an individual nets benefits from the services, forcible taxation with a penalty of imprisonment for not paying is a violation of property rights. I’m not claiming taxation never brings good initiatives, only that involuntary taxation could be viewed as a form of theft. Referring back to the NAP, if the collective group is legitimate only when mirroring individual action, how does taxation fit into this? When was the last time you cleared the snow from your neighbour’s driveway without asking and then sent them a bill? Hopefully never.

In conclusion, I hope many come to understand that collective right is based on individual right; and state action is only justified when upholding individual rights. On this very point, Frédéric Bastiat, French economist, writer and a prominent member of the French Liberal School wrote, “If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as well in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, non-oppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable…” We urgently need to re-examine our relationship with the state, as well as our measure of personal freedoms, and work towards rejection of ascendant governance to uphold individual liberties.  

Towards liberty


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