By Nathan Barton
In a long-ago, rambling column, we discussed “what is government?” All in all, it is pretty nasty: involuntary control of things (including people) using force (including fraud and theft). But why?
More recently, we discussed what Webster thought about government. But like many (most? virtually all?) of us, he just assumed that government is something that must exist. A fact of life, just like air. A necessary part of human society. But WHY?
We already know from history that we don’t have to have government to have either society or civilization. (Although that has been a rare and usually short-lived situation.) We know from (often bitter) personal experience as well as history that government causes great harm to people and things (including this planet we live on). I recently discussed the size and role of government (my conclusion is “zero.”) We know that so far every attempt to limit government so that its destructiveness is contained has ultimately failed. Yet why do we still have government? People assume that government has a purpose, and presumably succeeds in that purpose part of the time. Or that there is some element of nature that requires that government, however bad, exist.
Again, do a Google search, and prepare to be disgusted.
Some even cite John Lennon, who could imagine a world without religion and countries, but not without government.
Although both Jefferson and Locke are mentioned, most of those writers seem more interested in rejecting their ideas than understanding them. Much less applying their ideas.
One writer admitted that he saw “government” as his protection against some local thug or bully setting up their own government (and the writer admitted that!). The concept of defending yourself and voluntary cooperation to defend yourself and deal with thugs apparently never occurred to him. Nor did the fact that the reason government does ANYthing about bullies (when they do) it is really because they don’t like the competition. Nor did it occur to him that what he fears is PRECISELY how government developed in the first place.
There are many reasons given for “Why.” Selfishness. Justice. Protection of rights (with many saying we must give up “some liberty” to protect “our remaining liberties” or rights). Some cite in general “nasty people.” Some claim that “limited resources” must be allocated and government is the way to do that.
The point is, there are other ways to deal with ALL these problems, and every other reason that I could find. BETTER ways, ways that don’t have you exposing your throat to the tender mercies of your “protectors.” Ultimately, and with an open mind and no brainwashing as a child or teen, there is nothing that government can do better than people voluntarily working together can do – that is GOOD and MORAL and HONEST.
But instead, the arguments seem to be “I hate bullies, so I will accept a VERY big bully to hopefully control the other bullies (or at least some of them).” And “people are nasty,” so I will submit to some of the nasty people in the hope that they will control the other nasty people.” The argument about giving up some liberty to protect others is, at its end, an argument to give up ALL liberty.
So why government?
Perhaps because there are a LOT of people who don’t want to just do things that are good, moral, and honest. For them, government is wonderful. If they are a part of government, they have an excuse and opportunity to do things that are bad, immoral, and dishonest, and get to claim otherwise. You too can be a bully. And have people VOTE for you to be a bully, and PAY you for it! Such a deal!
And perhaps some people do not want to decide things for themselves. We see this every day. They are unwilling to make decisions for themselves, but willing to have government do it for them. And willing to force someone else to do what they want. They fear liberty: they are slaves at heart. Government lets them indulge that vice in secret – give up freedom, give up responsibility, give up accountability. And be admired for it as a patriotic and civic-minded “citizen.”
Perhaps it is because people are fearful: they fear their neighbors, they fear the people that they encounter daily on the streets and roads and elsewhere. And they fear the people across the world. And most importantly, they fear themselves. Fear is bad when it controls our actions and lives, and we can see this in letting fear push us into saying “this is why we need government.” Because of fear, we accept the very thing that we fear: that people will do bad things to us. Just because those people are in a uniform or get a paycheck which comes from stolen (tax) money, does not make what they do to us and others any less bad.
I’ve studied and written extensively against another why: “Because God said so.” I won’t rehash my arguments in this column (but will again and again in others, in the future). God no more demands that we have a government than that we have slaves or have to ride donkeys or eat meat. If we choose to have or do any of things, we can’t claim that God made me do it – or for that matter, that “the Devil made me do it.”
Another answer to “why” comes from those who do NOT believe in God: government is part of evolution: it is part of the “blind watchmaker’s” to ensure the survival of the fittest by culling out the weak. Except, of course, government actually creates and sustains environmental conditions in which the weak survive because they are a benefit to those who control and inhabit government.
None of these reasons are good answers to the question, “why government?” Because there IS no good answer to that.