By Stratton J. Davis
Ever since the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) was created in Seattle, it has been a prominent subject of discussion for many. The question usually being discussed is whether we should support it or not. While those on the left seem to be in support of CHAZ (mostly), among the libertarian right there seems to be ill feelings.
While some writers such as Walter Block have offered their philosophical defense for it, many have found reasons to detest CHAZ. These reasons vary from CHAZ simply being a leftist concoction to how the inner workings of CHAZ do not reflect “true” libertarian values. Sure, some of their inner workings include a warlord who is bent on power and achieves it through force, as well as absurd rules that plunder from one group for the benefit of another (kind of like the government that they claim to hate so much does – ironic).
However, I think libertarians are making a grave mistake by viewing CHAZ through this lense. Rather than look for reasons to criticize CHAZ (and there are many reasons to), libertarians should take a step back and view this with a more philosophical eye; along with some retrospective insight. While private property should be respected and violence can be justifiably used against members of CHAZ if they dare aggress upon the owners of these properties, public property is a different matter. When a thief steals something and other parties are aware of this theft, do they recognize the thief’s ownership of whatever has been stolen? No.
Therefore, in this case public property is illegitimate because the state who owns and operates it
does it through illegitimate means such as taxation to upkeep the property, or even the use of
eminent domain to transform property from privately owned to publicly owned. These means are
deemed illegitimate because taxpayers have no choice in whether to pay taxes, and nor do they
get a say in what these taxes go towards. As for eminent domain, while these property owners are compensated for the property the state takes from them, they have no choice but to accept
this compensation, and while this compensation is at a free market value it is still taxable.
With this philosophical view in mind, let’s now focus on the area of CHAZ when it was under ownership of the state rather than the people who currently occupy it. When it was owned by the state, people who had no relation to the area were taxed by the state in order to maintain the area. Now that the area is under new ownership, it seems the people being plundered are only the ones who choose to live inside of the borders. This means the people outside of CHAZ are not being taxed for this property that has been homesteaded by the people of CHAZ. This makes CHAZ, in effect, their own country.
While we may see CHAZ as such philosophically, let us take a step back and be realistic; the state does not care how we, others, or even CHAZ themselves see this issue. The state sees and knows that they are being undermined by what is going on in Seattle. President Trump invoking the Insurrection Act is still a reality we might face. This act allows for military and federalized National Guard troops to be deployed within the US to be used against American citizens. This could turn the CHAZ situation into a Waco or Ruby Ridge like incident. Now this is where people should put aside their differences about whether or not they support what is going on in CHAZ and should throw their complete support behind them as they stand: facing the crushing hand of the state.
When we think back on incidents like Waco or Ruby Ridge, many people do not agree with the beliefs these people held or the practices they utilized in their life. But does this disagreement keep us from having empathy for the terrible fates these people faced? No. We are able to put aside our differences and give them our empathy because we know these people were not hurting anyone. These people were not using means of force against anyone. These people just wanted to be left alone. CHAZ is no different. CHAZ is not hurting anyone outside of its borders. The people of CHAZ are not enforcing their rules outside of its borders. The people of CHAZ are on their own, a de facto sovereign nation, and they need our support rather than our criticisms.
While it seems certain that CHAZ will be crushed by the overreaching and all powerful state, there are still glimmers of hope and there are still things we must do. Every second the CHAZ stands against the state without being shot down is another second for us to show people that there is a fight to be had against the state. This fight is not futile, and no lover of liberty is alone in this fight. This fight is worth being fought because of what is on the line: our liberties.
What we choose to do with our liberties is a different issue altogether. However, that issue may never even come into fruition if we are not willing to put aside our differences in the pursuit of freedom for all. Some libertarians may not be willing to put these differences aside because they view this issue as a bigger problem than it is a solution. To those libertarians I simply say this: that would be a good problem to have compared to the problems we all face today.