An Open Letter to Oath Keepers

This post was originally published at

Let me see if I’ve got this right. At some point in your life, you decided to join the military, or law enforcement. At the time, you had an idea in your head that this was a noble goal, that you would be helping your fellow man. After all, you took an oath to do just that, right? Well, not exactly; you took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, but, at least in your own mind, the two concepts were synonymous.

Oath Keepers

It’s easy enough to believe that. The worst abuses that we see, appear to be violations of that oath. Checkpoints, gun control, PRISM, certain interpretations of the tax code, summary execution on the streets, presidential warmaking, this list could go on for a while. So you, unlike your colleagues, are going to take that oath seriously. You are not going to blindly obey orders. You are the defenders of the republic. You will protect the citizenry from these evildoers that are your colleagues, and keep your oath.

Now, even as an anarchist who doesn’t have all that much use for constitutions, I have to admit, this sounds pretty good. I mean, I don’t think government should (or does) exist at all, but I would have a hard time arguing that we wouldn’t all be better off without the unconstitutional authorities being exercised.  So, to this extent, kudos to you.

On the other hand, your oath to defend the constitution, combined with your career choice of initiatory force, sort of puts us at odds for a number of reasons that I’ll outline here, with a sincere request that you analyze them honestly. We both know that what’s happening now is completely unacceptable, and whatever public statements you or your organization may make, we both know that this may well come down to force of arms. This means that good men, perhaps even you or I, will die, and none of us want that sacrifice to be in vain.

It is extraordinarily important then, for us to determine what we want to come out of that conflict. If we are to risk death and imprisonment for “freedom”, then we had best have a pretty clear definition of what exactly “freedom” is. We are not the first people to say that we would kill and die for freedom after all. The Nazis, Mao Tse Tung, North Korea, the USSR, Pol Pot, and a long list of power hungry authoritarians and dictators have all said exactly this. What a terrible tragedy it would be if you and I went down in history as part of that list…

If you’re not already familiar with me and my work, I subscribe to a theory known as anarcho-capitalism. Don’t panic, it’s really not quite as scary as it sounds. I abide by a concept known as the non-aggression principle, which means initiatory force and fraud are forbidden by my moral code and may be responded to with defensive force; all else is permissible. I believe in free markets, just like you. I believe in the market so much that I think it could do a superior job of providing for transportation, dispute resolutions, defense, and other responsibilities that you would likely leave in the hands of the State. (When I say State with a capital S, I am referring to the institution of government as a whole, not the political subdivisions of the United States Federal Government). You likely have all sorts of questions about this, how the market would do X, Y, and Z, and these are common inquiries, which are beyond the scope of this document. I’ve written quite extensively on the subject and will continue to do so on a daily basis. I invite you to subscribe via email so you can keep up with my work.

What I would like to talk about today is the US Constitution and your oath to defend it. My fear is that despite your best intentions, dedication to purpose, and outstanding capabilities, your mission is predetermined to result in tyranny and oppression. I know that sounds a little crazy, since this is exactly what you seek to prevent, but hear me out.

The way the constitution was originally pitched to society sounded, and still does sound, like a pretty good idea to folks like us who value freedom. It would (in theory) forbid the government, or at least, the federal government, from doing pretty much all of the things it does today. It would keep us safe from foreign invasion, maintain order, and assure a certain degree of fairness in dispute resolutions, all while avoiding unnecessary wars, and being minimally invasive in our day to day lives.

It is beyond dispute that this has not been the case. That which the constitution promised would keep small and minimally invasive, has actually become the largest and most powerful government in the history of mankind. It monitors nearly all electronic communications both here and abroad. It wages, as we speak, literally more wars than I can personally keep track of. It has weapons that could eradicate all life on this planet. It interferes in all aspects of not only our lives, but the lives of people all over the planet. It places in the hands of a single man (POTUS) the power to initiate wars of aggression. It takes upwards of half the income of many people. It prints limitless amounts of money. The list goes on and you are all too well aware of the problems we face today.

Your response to this would likely be that it is not the constitution that has failed, but the people. Your point has merit, but what would your solution to this be? A government is either elected by popular vote, or it is an unelected government. If you propose to uphold the constitution, you will necessarily have to allow the officials of that institution to be elected. If most of the people want a massive overreaching government, then democracy assures us that this is what they will have, constitutions or none. After all, if we are to force a government into compliance with a constitution, regardless of the will of its constituency, then we can expect to have a revolution on our hands in rather short order, that may more closely resemble that of the French than that of our own ancestors.

This would necessarily turn us to education and propaganda. That we would have to first enlighten the members of our society, so that they might choose their rulers more wisely than they have done in the past. Even ignoring the lack of historical precedent for this ever having worked, we have quite the task on our hands if this is our goal. My goals too, require a certain amount of education, and so in this we may work together. If people understand the virtues and benefits of freedom, then they are terribly unlikely to part from it willingly.

But what of the curriculum? I imagine if you fancy yourself as an Oath Keeper, that you would claim to have a good working knowledge of the constitution and its history. I also have this knowledge, and while I believe it to be very valuable, I think it will be quite difficult to educate the masses on it. Especially while we compete with the public school system, established academia, and a plethora of leftist fringe elements for the minds of the young. Today, few have even read the plain text of the constitution, much less the federalist and anti-federalist papers, they surely haven’t read the transcripts of the Virginia ratification convention, and scouring through the many letters and memoirs of the founding fathers has proven to be a time consuming and difficult task even for you and I, who have an innate desire to learn these things. Surely, getting an apathetic society quite satisfied with the tranquility of servitude to pay close attention to all of this information would be nigh impossible.

Then of course there’s economics, which you and I may find to be a fascinating course of study, but really does not appeal to many outside of our circles. Additionally, those who do study economics have been inundated with Marxist and Keynesian propaganda for a century. Like history, it too is so engrained in the public school system and established academia, that it would easily take another century or more to reverse it. That kind of timeline means we, and all of our children, die with the boot of the State on our necks.

It would then seem to me that the educational effort must be simpler, more widely appealing, and be of a nature that did not require acceptance by the majority. This is one of the many reasons I have settled on the non aggression principle as my focus. Rather than teaching tens of millions of voters about hundreds of pages of history and economics which they may still reject, I appeal to their natural aversion to violence and compassion for their neighbors with a simple message they learned in kindergarten, put simply, “Don’t Hit.”

As stated earlier, the non aggression principle forbids the initiation of force and fraud. It accomplishes this by permitting the use of defensive force. Most of us already tend to abide by this in our regular lives, insomuch as that we understand it is generally unacceptable to steal or to assault people, and that the only legitimate use of violence is to defend against such predations. The only variation the non aggression principle makes from present day society’s moral code is that it does not make exception for government agents. This is to say, for example, that police officers have no right to force people to do things like pull their cars over on the highway, and that tax collectors have no right to take money from people who do not want their “services”. This also necessarily implies that if they continue to do such things, that the people they do them to have a right to use violence to defend themselves, and this is where I fear for the well being of you fine folks.

If one of us sets out on a path to convince a small minority that the nature of government is violence and that violence is only legitimate in the form of defense, while the other sets out on a path to convince a majority that their particular set of centuries old documents are more correct than someone else’s, it doesn’t require a degree in advanced political science to figure out who will reach their goal first. While you may have the best intentions in your pursuit of liberty through force of the State, at least so far as it pertains to those of you actively employed thereby, your showing up for work is evidence that you initiate force against your fellow man.

Even ignoring the fact that you are paid through taxation which threatens my life for non payment, I highly doubt that a single law enforcement agent out there, whether he considers himself an Oath Keeper or not, is simply ignoring unjust laws in the course of his duties. He simply would not be able to keep his job if he did. How many gun owners, pot smokers, and unlicensed drivers have you threatened with your gun, before kidnapping and caging them? How much money have you extorted from innocent motorists? How many lives have you ruined for the simple act of driving home from a bar? I imagine quite a few, and if you are sincere in your desire to fight for liberty, I would submit that these paths are mutually exclusive. You cannot fight for freedom while your paycheck relies on your willingness to oppress.

To those of you who are in the military, how much horrific carnage do you believe you can be party to while claiming to be an advocate of liberty? If you have already deployed to a foreign land to murder and threaten strangers whom you’d otherwise never have met, then you certainly were not a friend of liberty during that time. If you have not so deployed, then either you are engaged in activities which lend support to those marauders, or you will be deploying some time in the future. In either case, you are actively engaged in the fight against liberty, and cannot pursue that path while continuing to call yourself a friend to the same.

I fear this puts us at odds, so much so that we could find ourselves in mortal combat. But it sincerely is not my goal to threaten you or create tension, because I really do believe that you have the most noble of intentions. I’m begging and pleading with you to drop the charade is all. There simply is not any record of a good government in the history of mankind. They have only engaged in varying levels of evil, which over time have an unignorable tendency to result in mass murder.

The government you are claiming you want to fix, started off as the smallest, most limited government in the history of the world. It became the most dangerous thing the world has ever seen, and you are still party to it. Even if you accomplished your goal of limiting it once again, the result could only be an even more unimaginable evil later on down the road. There is a very real reason that this government is now so powerful, and it actually starts with the same constitution you claim to support.

Our study of economics teaches us that a free market, or even the illusion thereof creates staggering amounts of wealth. When the United States was originally formed, it created exactly that sort of environment. This is how the industrial revolution was able to come about, and how America became the economic powerhouse that it is today, or at least, that it was until recently. The government sat quietly in the background while all of this happened, and allowed all that wealth to be created without intervention. It wasn’t until after the wealth was created, that the government stepped in and began taxing and taking control of everything, because if it had taken said control earlier on, it would never have had access to all those resources. I mean, if you tax a man at 50% when he makes $10k/year he will revolt, wait until he makes $100k/year and he doesn’t mind as much. Once the resources became available, the government used them to grow itself, like all governments do.

Following this economic reality, imagine what would happen if you managed to reduce this government back down to constitutional size. The threat would still be there, just as it was in 1789. The cycle would repeat. A freer market would get to work creating wealth, creating resources, we would all be feeling really good about that, and then the State would again step in to seize upon the opportunity to expand. Look at what a monster this thing is today, it owes in excess of $17 trillion, and has its fingers in everything. Imagine it had the resources to pay off that debt and borrow double that much, with all the advantages of modern and future technology at its disposal. It boggles the mind what power could be obtained under those conditions. Humanity might never recover. They could have robotic armies and police forces, completely bypassing the human factor you all hope to exploit today. There would be no limit to the evils it could commit, do you really wish to be party to this?

I certainly don’t, and luckily I believe there’s not a snowball’s chance of this happening. Governments do not shrink. They expand until they collapse, they murder a bunch of people and then they simply struggle to maintain control over whatever little resources are left over. That’s the cycle of government, and if we hope to alter that pattern one bit, then the way we do that, is abolition.

Christopher Cantwell is an activist, writer, and satirist originally from New York.

From an anarcho-capitalist perspective, he covers news and current events, addresses philosophical questions, and even cracks a joke or two at, and is a regular contributor to and

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Christopher Cantwell

Christopher Cantwell is an activist, writer, and satirist originally from New York now living in New Hampshire.