This is perhaps the most baffling statist conceit that we come across as Anarchists: the belief that our rights or freedoms are granted by someone or something, such as the State, a military, or a piece of paper.
I think the most ridiculous belief is the belief that the Constitution, an old piece of paper, protects our rights. How can a piece of paper do anything, let alone control a whole group of thugs that has all the guns and the legitimacy? Pieces of paper do not do things. To believe otherwise is a religious doctrine, not a political theory. It can only affect reality if people believe in it, but as time goes on and people are divorced from the context that gave birth to the ideas, it is inevitable that less and less people will believe in it and that the power of the ideas will be lost. At that time, there is nothing a piece of paper can do: it’s a piece of paper.
Now let’s look at the general concept of “granting rights” or “granting freedom.” How can that make any sense? Rights and freedom are not “granted.” All human beings are born with rights and freedom, and as they grow up, they learn to express those fully. Unless he has physical or mental defects, a human being, considered alone, is capable of all the rights and freedoms that exist! So how can he be “granted” those rights and freedoms by some power exterior to himself? All that other human beings can do is take those rights and freedoms away in the name of a greater good.
Let’s look at the statist scenario. You have an average human being, able to defend himself and fulfill his values in any way he wants. The ruling class imposes its laws on him, beats him down, brainwashes him to believe that he is nothing without them. Then they claim that by passing this or that new law, they can “give him rights” when in fact they have been the source of oppression against those rights from day one. Thus we see the State “freeing the slaves,” “giving women rights,” when in fact it is the State that took away that freedom and those rights! Every single freedom or right “granted” by the State was something it was taking away in the first place.
There is also the belief that the military grants us freedom by protecting us from invasion. What is an invasion? A takeover by a foreign power, which is to say, a foreign ruling class. In essence, what is the military protecting us from? From having a different ruling class, a ruling class from another “country.” This of course serves no one’s interest but the interests of our local ruling class. Would we be more free, less free, or equally free if one ruling class took over for another? If the issue is one of freedom, then why don’t we concentrate in pushing back government and retake those freedoms, instead of trying to attack freedom in the name of preparing against foreign invasion?
Our freedom belongs to us, not to the State or to a piece of paper. All we need to do is decide to reclaim it against our exploiters.