“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” – American Declaration of Independence
In striving to understand concepts, I’ve found that trimming away the excess and looking only at the basic principles involved, simplified for easy understanding, always gets to the truth of the matter. Often, whether it be in science, religion, philosophy, or politics, the shape of the argument is convoluted because it centers on the various muscles, fats, and tissues surrounding the bone and sinew that make up the true structure of the matter.
By cutting away those excesses and looking towards the skeletal structure of the issue at hand, the arguments given by those involved are often found to be empty and without true meaning. Debating, for instance, whether or not people should have cake in their diet ignores the fundamental question of whether or not people should have a choice in their own diet. Quite often, issues in politics, especially, ignore the fundamental principle of self-ownership – you own yourself, I own myself. Or do we?
“But let us remember, at the same time, government is sacred, and not to be trifled with.” -Jonathan Mayhew
Governments are often instituted in order to allow people to band together in a collective to accomplish common goals. Usually these goals revolve around personal and community security – keeping one person from thieving from another, stopping violence, etc. Some governments throughout history have been more successful at accomplishing these goals than others. All of them have three things in common:
- All governments are institutions of force; without force, they cannot exist.
- All governments eventually grow in size and scope until they become untenable.
- All governments are sooner or later usurped by those who wish to have power over others and use that power for their own gain.
Many may try to argue these three fundamental principles as I’ve outlined them, but none will be able to show, historically, where any government has not either been all three of these things or been usurped by one that was.
These three principles are actually circular. The first creates the ability to have the second which then gives rise to the third, which reinforces the first.
All governments are institutions of force; without force, they cannot exist.
In order for a government to operate, it must be given power over the people. How much power is a matter of conjecture at the initial institution of the government, but powers must be given to it all the same. Without the power of taxation (a form of theft, more on that in a moment), of punishment (usually, fundamentally, for not paying taxes), and self-defense (meaning the ability to defend itself), governments are not possible. Every government has these three things or it will be replaced with one that does.
In the American Republic, for instance, we began with the Articles of Confederation, which gave the federal government none of these three powers, reserving them instead for the individual states that were members of the federation. While the states themselves survived, the confederation they’d made did not. The U.S. Constitution was born and immediately endowed to the new federal government all three of the required powers.
Because government has the power to tax, punish, and defend itself, it is therefore an entity over and above any individual person. I, as an individual, do not have the power to take anything from you, nor do I have the right to demand that you give anything to me or to punish you for not doing so. I have only the right to defend myself should you attempt the same against me. So as an individual, my most basic right is to defend what is mine from those who would take it away.
“No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” -Abraham Lincoln
Unless those who want to take it are government. Then my right to self-defense is, apparently, annulled, since my personal defense would potentially cause harm to the self-defense right of the government.
Looking at it this way, we see that government is given super-rights – rights that not only are over and above any rights an individual person would have, but that are actually of higher priority than the rights of an individual. This makes government, by definition, a god.
At its most basic level, no matter the political type to which you refer, government is force. It forces people to participate, takes productivity from them (taxes), and does not allow them to fight back against its use of force with force.
Of course, psychologically at this basic level, no human would accept this type of oppression. So pretty words and phrases (nice ways of putting things) are used to describe it. We are given “arbitration” means – always using government-installed rules – to air our grievances should government become too oppressive to us. These are used as vents to keep the steam pot of revolt from exploding.
So the most basic rule of government – the easiest way to describe it – is to liken it to a gun. Government is a gun and it must always be pointed at someone, somewhere, forcing them to comply.
All governments eventually grow in size and scope until they become untenable.
No matter how small their beginnings, governments grow. Usually through bureaucracies. These are the basic institutions which governments always give rise to. The very founding document of the United States, the Constitution, in fact, creates several bureaucracies in only a couple of short pages of handwritten script.
“Bureaucracy gives birth to itself and then expects maternity benefits.” -Dale Dauten
With the basic powers given to it, as discussed, government will naturally grow and prosper because, like the plantation owner, it does not require only its own labor and efforts to sustain itself. Its main sustenance is derived from the people who make up its tax base (its slaves).
Best of all, it employs some of those very slaves to act as enforcers over the rest of the slaves, thus giving the appearance that it is providing services (overseeing the slaves to make sure they are “safe”) when in reality all it actually does is police them to be sure they’re paying everything they can into the coffers of taxation.
Since it does not have to work to sustain itself and its tax base is required to labor for it, government naturally will grow fat and over-sized with time.
All governments are sooner or later usurped by those who wish to have power over others and use that power for their own gain.
Of course, as government grows, the power it wields attracts those who wish to use that power for their own ends. Sometimes those ends are lusts for more power, sometimes for worldly gain, sometimes for (supposed) enlightenment, many times for nothing more than to have wielded such power to begin with – a sort of attempt at being a god.
“It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their own selfish purposes.” -Andrew Jackson
Today, we see this in action on many fronts in our own government. Again, since government is legalized force, it will naturally attract those who wish to use force to their own ends. Warfare, corporate monopolies, slavery, and all other wide-scale oppression requires government. Without the super-rights given to government, these things cannot happen on any large scale.
Often, of course, the misnomer that only with the help of government can we be protected from those types of oppression is used to promote government as an ideal. Yet, in history, no war, monopoly, or slavery has happened on any scale beyond an individual criminal without the aid of government to make them happen.
So government is evil.
The fundamental question must be asked and answered by each individual who would be ruled or be free. The question is not whether or not you need government to protect you from others. It’s really a question of whether you need government’s definite oppression in order to fight potential oppression.
The real bare bones of any government is not what type it is; socialist, democracy, republic or dictatorship matters not at all. No matter the type, all government is force. So the real question is: is the force necessary and just? Regardless of what type of government is being proposed, the force it will have at its disposal will be more than any individual under that government will be able to wield alone. Is that just?
Should one individual or group of individuals be given more power than any other? When you get to the marrow of the thing, that is the true question of government.
“The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and common interest produces common security.” -Thomas Paine