Customary Cover Image, American Government Textbook

J. R. Dunn published an article today at American Thinker called Tarnished Halos. It’s about Planned Parenthood and other organizations whose reputation for good doing exceeds the actual amount of good they do. He calls these groups halo organizations. Halo organizations conceal unpleasantness beneath their lustrous public appearance. Planned Parenthood runs abortion clinics. Abortion is an unpleasant business whether or not you think it is a questionable type of culling. The United States government runs torture chambers and prisons where it keeps people in solitary confinement. Mistreating prisoners is an unpleasant business whether or not you think it is a necessary evil.

From the time we learn to recite the Pledge of Allegiance with our hands over our hearts in school, we’re encouraged to regard the United States government as a halo organization. From the pages of our textbooks and the mouths of our teachers, we learn that it deserves our loyalty. It may not be perfect, but it protects us and we must preserve it. That’s the message.

If the entire federal government functions as a halo organization, the dirty work it performs on our behalf is meant to stay hidden. You don’t want to see the rats in the dark corners. If that’s so, Dunn’s conclusions about such organizations apply to the United States government as a whole:

Halo outfits deserve to be attacked. They are not immune, and, as in this case, the saintly façade is almost always hiding vast quantities of internal rot. Planned Parenthood to some extent is a criminal organization, and it needs to be treated as such.

But attacks on such outfits must be carefully coordinated and carried out. They cannot be made without preparation…, then the time will come to take action, destroy the suspect outfit’s reputation, shut down its funding, and isolate it from any form of public support.

Such a program is far from hopeless – consider the current reputation of the New York Times, which seemed unassailable even twenty years ago. It simply requires a little preparation, a little strategy, and a little diligent effort.

A strategic response to organizations that actually do harm when they claim to do good is consistent with Gene Sharp’s argument in From Dictatorship to Democracy. Sharp writes that to replace an illegitimate government, you have to plan, prepare, and act persistently to carry out your plan. You have to anticipate that when the government recognizes your plan, it will act to stop you. To succeed, you must look ahead.

Another element of Sharp’s perspective concerns the wise fable of the monkey keeper. A long time ago, a monkey keeper kept the animals to serve him. They gathered food and brought it to his table, they fanned him and brought him water to keep him cool in the hot afternoons. They followed all his strict rules for proper behavior in the household, because they knew he would punish them severely if they did not. At last, one day, the monkeys realized they did not have to continue such a servile life. They simply left to live in the forest. The old man had become so dependent on them, he languished and died for lack of food and drink.

As free individuals, we have the same option. We do not have to live a servile life. We have no obligation to serve any person or institution that has arrogated illegitimate power. The monkey keeper gave himself a halo and expected obedience. With the Pledge of Allegiance and a thousand other cues, the government gives itself an aura of legitimacy and expects our loyalty in consequence.

We hear a couple of phrases nowadays, on the grid and off the grid. Think about what those phrases mean. Who created the grid of taxes, fees, permits, compulsory education, health insurance and immunizations, license requirements, economic regulation, rules of social behavior, and so on? It wasn’t us. The monkey keeper created them. Right now, we can live on the grid with a W-2 job, or we can try to live off the grid, usually at great material and emotional cost to ourselves and our families. We don’t think about what we would have to do to create a new grid. The task appears too gargantuan.

When the keeper’s monkeys ran off into the forest, they still had to feed themselves. They still had to settle disputes. They still had to raise families, live in groups, take care of each other, fight with each other, protect themselves from predators and so on. They had to create a new grid. They put the monkey keeper’s grid aside, but they could not live without a new one. The moment they rejected the keeper’s grid of servility and punishment, they had to set their minds to the task of how to create a new one to nourish freedom and dignity.

The key difference between removing Planned Parenthood’s halo, and removing government’s halo, is that we can live without Planned Parenthood. People cannot live without certain kinds of collaborative structures that enable them to live as a society. People need a grid. It may not necessarily be a government, but people need something that functions as a grid.

If you have read Revolution in the Air, you know I have thought about this subject for a long time. You know I believe the federal government has dissolved its own legitimacy. We have to replace it as soon as we can. We have to go into the forest and start again. That’s overstating the case a bit. We have to set all of the federal government’s monkey keeping, grid maintenance functions aside, and start over with other institutions that enable us to live together in liberty.

A key endeavor in this project is to restore the rights and freedoms in our Constitution, which no longer frames or lends legitimacy to our country’s government. When I wrote a second essay titled Revolution on the Ground, I wanted to work through some practical problems this restorative project presents. How, for example, do you deprive a government of revenue? That implies a tax revolt. A tax revolt has to be a unified resistance movement. Government can easily imprison numerous individual tax protesters. It cannot easily imprison millions of them. My instincts tell me that citizens must rely on state governments and other local institutions to resist the federal government’s authority. Every state has different institutions, however, and I do not see clearly how citizens in each state might act to advance such a revolution.

I learned quickly enough that civil resistance in our large country must overcome substantial problems of organization, motivation, and institutional counter-pressures. I also learned that I don’t have experience as a writer and thinker to overcome these problems! I’m confident, though, that we do have to think about them, soon. Our government is on a path toward self-destruction, and if we do not plan for the event, it will be violent. If we do not plan for the event, we will find ourselves in an environment where we cannot create a new grid. We will have lost our opportunity to regain our freedom.


Here’s a postscript, then: Multiple minds are better than one, and we have tools we can use to collaborate effectively. What first steps can we take to begin a productive planning process? How can we prepare for the revolution that has pushed its way into our expectations? What shall we do now to reduce the violence revolutionary change may bring in its train? We know from history that revolutions often bring violence, and we know violent change promotes misery, not liberty. We want an effective revolution where we Americans do not shoot, bomb, burn, beat, imprison, or otherwise mistreat each other. How do we accomplish that?

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