A city council in a small Arkansas town has decreed that no group is allowed to meet without council approval to discuss the city. Further, it bans the city’s mayor from meeting with people to discuss city business and it purports to disband a private citizens group.
After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I couldn’t decide whether the story was a better example of arrogance or stupidity. Either way, there’s ignorance all around. Watch the video for yourself.
Anyone with even a passing familiarity with First Amendment law knows that the move is unconstitutional, so I’m not going to dwell on the legal points. If it were just a legal matter, I’d laugh at the ignorance and stupidity of people making rules that they don’t have the authority to make.
But I see it as indicative of something much more sinister. I see it as the heart of what the coercive state is all about. At its core, the state is about the majority seizing power and deciding what everyone else is allowed to do — and that’s wrong, whether you’re telling people they can’t express their opinions or telling them what kind of toilets they must install or what kind of light bulbs they’re allowed to buy.
When you support a system that asserts the right to tell you what to do with your money or what you’re allowed to put into your body — and asserts the right to use violence to enforce those decrees — your’e supporting the same kind of thinking that leads to this decision in Gould, Ark. Those who support “limited government” like to point to the U.S. Constitution’s alleged guarantees of our freedoms, but if you’re paying attention, you see that those freedoms have been stripped away one by one for the last hundred years or so.
This attempt by arrogant and stupid people in a little town in Arkansas is a microcosm of the coercive state using naked power to enforce what some people want. In this case, the rest of the people running the modern American state system aren’t ready to go this far in banning speech. Not yet. They don’t mind banning you from speaking in elections in certain ways, but they’re not ready to go this far. It’s just a matter of when, though.
Supporting a coercive state is sort of like cheating. Once you’ve cheated a little bit, cheating a little bit more doesn’t seem so bad. You even justify it. Before you know it, you have no integrity left. If you support a “limited” coercive state, you’re ultimately supporting something that will lead to the same place where this city council has gone. It’s just that when it finally goes that far, it will be made to sound nice and legal when nine justices in black robes — or at least five of them — make up some justification for allowing it.
Coercion is coercion, whether you’re doing a little bit or a lot. The arrogant people on this city council are just a lot more honest about their naked desire to control people than most politicians are.