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Where Do I Lose You ?

You are already an anarchist. You just don't realize it yet.

This exercise is called “Where Do I Lose You?”

I will start by describing a hypothetical scenario involving what everybody agrees is illegal, immoral, evil conduct – armed robbery. I will then re-tell the story, adding a few new details. I will ask if you still agree that the conduct I describe is wrong and should be disallowed in the type of society that you want to live in.


After each version, if we still agree, I will again re-tell the story with even more details, and so on. With each new version of the story, I want to know whether, in your mind, we have reached the point where I am now describing something that you approve of and think should be allowed. Here goes.


Version 1: You don’t know me. I come to your door wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I point a gun at your head and demand that you give me all of your money, or else I will shoot.


We already agree this is wrong.


Version 2: I come to your door wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I point a gun at your head and demand that you give me 25% of your money, or else I will shoot.


Do you still agree that this is wrong, or did I lose you?


Version 3: I come to your door wearing a suit and tie. You can’t see any gun, but I tell you that I have one. I demand that you give me 25% of your money, or else I will shoot.

Do you still agree that this is wrong, or did I lose you?


Version 4: Five other men and I come to your door. I’m wearing a suit and tie, while the other guys are wearing jeans and t-shirts. You can see that these other guys all have guns. I demand that you give me 25% of your money, or else we will take you away and put you in a metal cage. If you resist, the men will shoot you.


Do you still agree that this is wrong, or did I lose you?


Version 5: Five other men and I come to your door. I’m wearing a suit and tie, while the other guys have dark blue costumes with shiny badges. And guns.

I demand that you give me 25% of your money, and say that we will protect you from other criminals. We will also give you a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a medium drink. When you ask whether this deal is negotiable, or whether you have any choice of ingredients in the sandwich, the answer is “no.” If you don’t agree, we will take you away and put you in a metal cage. If you resist, the men will shoot you.


Do you still agree that this is wrong, or did I lose you?


Version 6: I come to your door wearing suit-and-tie. There are 5 guys in dark blue costumes with shiny badges standing behind me, with guns.

I tell you that a couple of months ago, a group of us wrote down some words on a piece of paper saying that together we are now known as the “Federation of Freedonia.” Our paper describes a certain geographical territory, which includes your house.


I hand you my card, which says that I am your “representative.” I extend my hand and warmly congratulate you on being one of our new “members.” If you don’t approve of me being your representative, I inform you that next year you can vote for someone else to be your representative.


According to the paper, I demand that you give me 25% of your money, and say that we will protect you from other criminals. We will also give you a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a medium drink. When you ask whether this deal is negotiable, or whether you have any choice of ingredients in sandwich, the answer is “no,” and I hand you a copy of the paper.

If you don’t agree, I explain that you are free to immediately leave your house and go somewhere outside our territory. Otherwise, we will take you away and put you in a metal cage, as the paper says we are allowed to do. If you resist, the men will shoot you.

Do you still agree that this is wrong, or did I lose you?


Version 7: I write you an email. In the email, I explain that a group of us got together and wrote down some words on a website saying that together we are now known as the “Federation of Freedonia.”


The Federation website describes a certain geographical territory, which includes your house. The email warmly congratulates you on being one of our members. Our website shows pictures of mean-looking guys wearing costumes with shiny badges, and who are all wearing guns.


According to our website, you are required to give us 25% of your money, and say that we will protect you from other criminals. We have also now opened a neighborhood school, which your children must attend. We will also give you a sanwich, a bag of chips, and a medium drink.


In our FAQ section, it is explained that payment is mandatory. You do not have any choice of ingredients on the sandwich. While you are allowed to send your child to a different school, or to eat different food, or to hire your own protection company, you still do not get any refund. Payment is mandatory. You can download the complete set of rules from our site.


If you don’t agree, our site explains that you are allowed to immediately leave your house and go somewhere outside our territory. We have a handy online form for terminating your membership.


Otherwise, the guys in dark blue costumes with shiny badges and guns will take you away and put you in a metal cage, as the paper says we are allowed to do. If you resist, we will shoot you, and post a video of the shooting on our website to remind everyone of what we do to people who disobey.


Do you still agree that this is wrong, or did I lose you?


Version 8: I go on YouTube. I give a talk, explaining thata long time ago a group of us got together and wrote down some words saying that together we are now known as the “Federation of Freedonia.”


The Federation website describes a certain geographical territory, which includes your house, and millions of other houses. As one of several hundred “representatives,” I warmly congratulate all of the people I “represent,” and remind everyone to vote in the upcoming election. Behind me is the Federation flag, and several men and women wearing dark blue costumes with shiny badges, and who are all wearing guns.


I explain that, according to our paper, we are allowed to use the money we collect to hire mercenaries to go halfway around the world to kill people. We have decided to do just that, because over in the Republic of Rapatia, there are some terrorists who are threatening your freedom.


I remind you that you are required to give us 25% of your money, every year, and say that we will protect you from common criminals and from terrorists abroad. We have expanded education to now include college, which your children should attend. We will also give you a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a medium drink.


I warn everyone that people who don’t pay our fees are bad people who go to jail. I explain that you do not have any choice of ingredients on the sandwich. You are allowed to send your kids to different schools, or to eat different food, or to hire your own protection service, but you still don’t get a refund. And, you will discover that there is very little difference between our schools and any other schools you might find. If you have any questions, you can download the complete set of rules from our site.


I tell the story of certain people who live among us, who don’t agree with our values, and how dangerous they are. I ask for your help in identifying these people and these threats to our very way of life.


I announce a new program to find these disagreeable people, and force them to go somewhere outside our territory. Or, we will put them in one of the nice new metal cages we are building. Or, we will simply shoot them. Whatever it takes to protect your freedom.

Do you still agree that this is wrong, or did I lose you?


The point: In case you didn’t realize, Version 8 describes the United States government, and every government in the world. So where did I lose you? At what point was it that the criminal act of armed robbery somehow became transformed into something good, or necessary, or even acceptable? Was it writing something down on paper? Was it providing benefits? Was it the costume change?


And if there was no point where adding paper, benefits and costumes transforms armed robbery into something good, then why do you condone government?

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