On Jan. 23, a District of Columbia jury convicted three members of an organization styling itself the “Oath Keepers,” and a fourth associate of that group, of “seditious conspiracy” for their roles in the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot.
There doesn’t seem to be much to quibble with on the verdict, pursuant to 18 US Code § 2384:
“If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.”
That is, the defendants do seem to have conspired to “prevent, hinder, or delay” the execution of the Electoral Count Act so as to prevent Congress’s confirmation of Joe Biden as Donald Trump’s successor.
What I find interesting about the “seditious conspiracy” statute — other than that Congress breaks it every time it conspires to pass a measure “hindering” the Supreme Law of the Land, the Constitution — is that it describes, in a nutshell, the operating theory of government itself.
George Washington is sometimes (incorrectly) quoted as warning that “government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force.”
Former congressman Ron Paul kept a placard on his desk reading “Don’t Steal — the Government hates competition.”
Government is an ongoing conspiracy to utilize force against you on behalf of the political class.
If the conspirators steal something, it’s policy. If you steal something, it’s theft.
If the conspirators use force to overthrow, put down, prevent, hinder, or delay you — and they will always use force if threats don’t get the job done — it’s “the law.” If you use force to overthrow, put down, prevent, hinder, or delay them, it’s “sedition.”
As an anarchist, I’d be lying if I claimed I wouldn’t like to see the U.S. government overthrown, put down, prevented, hindered, or delayed at any and every opportunity. Not for some unworthy goal like keeping Donald Trump in the White House, but on principle.
I’m not keen on using force to accomplish that, but my hesitation is of a practical, not moral, nature.
Morally, any force I used against government would be inherently defensive, while theirs is powered by malice aforethought.
But as a practical matter, they’re a large, well-armed gang, fat on the take from hundreds of millions of robberies every year, while I’m just a guy who’d like to be left alone.
Furthermore, I can’t be sure that what will follow their overthrow — which sooner or later, will inevitably happen — will be any better.
But I’m looking forward to finding out.
If this be sedition, make the most of it.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.