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JFK Ask NotThe US President JF Kennedy said in its inaugural speech "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country", and of course, he was grossly in error. This is not to say that his speech writer wasn't a political genius, he was. But regardless of this fallacy, many people have such feelings. Many people believe that they have some sort of duty or obligation to their countries, although they can't truly understand what exactly it may be or what it is. Of course and as this could not be otherwise, politicians are experts in exploiting gray areas and they have been doing so far longer than the life of "modern democracies" (200+ years). It is in their best interest to hint or directly insist that there is some sort of unpaid duty that all citizens must discharge.

As this is a complex problem, the best (scientific) approach is to break it down in smaller parts and then proceed to analyze each one of them separately. If we look at the statement, we can see that only three possible (i.e. meaningful) permutations exist:

  • You have a duty to your country
  • Your country has a duty to you
  • You have a duty to yourself

We will now analyze each one of those permutations and see if we can come to an understanding. To analyze these statements first we have to determine our point of view. We will assume the point of view of native-born or inherited-citizenship people. We will not assume the point of view of naturalized citizens because the naturalization process is actually a contractual one, which is full of statutory obligations. In any case, the percentage of naturalized versus native citizens is minimum and therefore almost irrelevant to the analysis.

YOU HAVE A DUTY TO YOUR COUNTRY

Technically speaking and assuming that you agree with the malarkey (i.e. nonsense) that somehow Social Contracts are valid, yes indeed, you do have a contractual duty to your country. The problem is not this, the problem is in the way politicians interpret this contract, as in an open-ended manner. In other words, it is your duty not only to comply with the terms and stipulations of said Social Contract, but it is also your duty to figure out what else, above and beyond contractual stipulations, you must do for your country. This is to say the least, a very strange and quixotic point of view. Contract are agreements between parties where both give something in return for something else. A win-win situation. However, this interpretation is a win-lose situation. The state wins whatever you are doing for it while you get nothing in return for your extra efforts. You lose. And how do politicians compel you to do more? Through emotional blackmail and peer pressure. You are not a good citizen if you do less. You and "abusing" and "exploiting" the government if you do less. You are a "social parasite" if you do less. Everybody around you is doing more, why are you doing less? And so forth, which begs the question: who is exploiting who?... considering that you have already paid all your dues.

Of course, this is pure manipulative nonsense. There is no such Social Contract (see Social Contracts Are A Scam) and therefore you owe exactly nothing to the government. If such as Social Contract exist, then politicians must be able to produce one specifically containing your personal and voluntary agreement. Acceptance "by default" is no acceptance at all because you had no choice; it is not a voluntary process. If politicians choose to act as if a contract exists and they choose to give you goods and services, that's their problem, not yours. It would mean going against your greed (a biological imperative) not to accept "free" goods and services. You cannot be held accountable or to be demanded dues solely for accepting gifts. That's entirely their problem.

The bottom line is this: no, most definitively you do not have a duty to your county.

YOUR COUNTRY HAS A DUTY TO YOU

This is a funny proposition because the way it works in reality implies a double standard. As we explained above, there is no Social Contract but once again we will stretch our imagination beyond anything remotely reasonable and assume one exists. If this is the case then contractual obligations do exist. The government indeed has a duty to you. The problem is that politicians are constantly running out of money because they must spend what they don't have in order to stay in their jobs. It is therefore in their best interest to promise everything and deliver as little as possible while making a big propaganda blitz about it. The double standard is a temporal differentiator. When politicians make promises there is duty, however, when it comes time to collect, there is no duty or the duty was greatly diminished. The definition and quantity of said duty depends of time. This effect may seem strange to inhabitants of "developed" countries since said countries can and are financing all these extra expenditures through borrowing while hiding this fact. Therefore and for as long as they are able to borrow, they will sort of deliver. This phenomenon is not the most widespread scenario around the world. Actually, it is a fairly rare phenomenon.

In most countries (excluding those 20 or 25 developed ones) the rest of the 200 or so countries around the world experience sudden decreases and even cancellations of duties. Typically you would see drops in health care, decreases of purchasing power in pensions through inflation, neglect in infrastructure maintenance and construction, non-availability of services such as electricity or natural gas and so on. The most common scenario around the world is indeed the dereliction of contractual duties from governments.

But then again, Social Contracts Are A Scam and as such every time you are taxed you are being robbed. The reality is that governments have no duties to you. They only perpetuate this myth for as long as and to the extent to politicians benefit from it. But that is their problem. In a twisted sense governments do recognize this fact because they have no problem whatsoever in reducing or cancelling their duties with no explanation or reference to a Social Contract. When governments do so they never provide evidence of the validity of their acts, only of the legality of them. The obvious problem being, they write the laws which are self-serving and therefore constitute a blatant conflict of interest. If this would not be the case, they should be able to demonstrate validity…which they never do. But if they cannot demonstrate validity, this means that said Social Contracts never existed in the first place!

The bottom line is this: no, most definitively your country does not have a duty to you and consequently your country has no valid reason to steal your money.

YOU HAVE A DUTY TO YOURSELF

So what's left then? What's left is the very core on which Libertarianism is based on: you. Your first and foremost duty (which btw is a biological survival imperative) is to yourself. The most important contractual agreement that you have -barring none- is with your body and your brain. You are your owner and as such your property comes first. This is the natural and biological order of things. Passed this point, you may choose to get into voluntary contracts with other people or organizations. That's an entirely different story. How you enter into such agreements and the consequences of so doing are yours and yours alone. What you decide for yourself affects only you (assuming you have no other privileges or contractual duties with other people). The only valid Social Contract in nature is the contract you have with yourself. Your body gives you a platform so that you can exist (i.e. so that your mind can exist) and in return you give your body the means of continuing and enhancing its existence (i.e. intelligence). It's a win-win contractual arrangement.

As Absolute Austro-Libertarians we believe that the best manner in which to achieve coexistence with other people is through something like the Master Contract (see Contracts Are The Key To Coexistence and The Absolute Austro-Libertarian Social Contract). However, this is not the only option. As a matter of fact, the numbers of possible options are infinite. From a Libertarian point of view, any one of those options (including minimum governments) is viable as long as there is a voluntary contract. Libertarian points of view that do not require voluntary contracts are not Libertarian, regardless of the label they may use… and you will come across several of those if you bother looking.

CONCLUSION

When you hear somebody talking about "your duty to your country" or something equally stupid, do yourself a big favour and run (not walk) away. Those people have been thoroughly brainwashed and are so inert that even conversing (not debating) with them is utterly pointless. You most definitively do not have a duty to your country.

Or you may have one if you believe politicians and their fake Social Contracts. That's fine. You may choose to so believe. It is your personal choice. Just one question: when they eventually begin to falter in their duties as they always do, who are you going to call? Ghostbusters?

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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