|14A065 What Government is For by Jim Davies, 12/20/2014
Last month I posed two key questions, that statists cannot answer: why should anyone obey government laws, and from where does it get a right to exist. Since they are unanswerable, they are very good questions to keep posing. Today, I offer a third:
What is government for?
As a visiting space traveler might ask, when studying how humans relate to each other: what is its purpose or mission? This is not unanswerable, as we'll see below; but the answers are so embarrassing that it's a useful addition to the list. Statists really don't like having to provide a reply - for again, it exposes how ill-founded is their gigantic structure.
Two answers are generally offered; one openly and one, sotto voce. Neither is valid. Then we'll come to the true ones.
The first false answer is published right there in the Declaration of Independence; noting that humans have a self-evident right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the authors wrote that governments are instituted "to secure these rights."
With jaw-dropping astonishment, I notice that those words have been solemnly repeated and honored for well over two centuries, despite the obvious fact that they are complete bunkum. How can government, which is by definition an outfit that governs, rules, compels, conceivably secure the right of anyone to live freely? It's an absolute contradiction. Then we can load on the equally obvious fact that all government is in practice society's primary violator of rights, and observe the absurdity of supposing that foxes can ever guard henhouses. A final nail in the coffin might be to note that government courts have expressly denied that government has any duty to protect anyone, and Marc Stevens has a fine essay here to the same effect.
The second false answer that statists give is that government and its taxes exist to maintain civilized society. Without its controls, they say, everything would dissolve into a jungle of chaos and violence (often they use the word "anarchy", so revealing their deep ignorance of etymology.) It's a second source of raw astonishment that they can say such a thing with a perfectly straight face! - as if chaos and violence were not the daily characteristics of our heavily governed society and world! Don't they even read their own newspapers?
So let's turn to the true answers to our question. There are two, and the second makes the first possible.
To enjoy power. That's the only true purpose of government. The clerk with a job in the Town office likes watching her neighbors squirm as they hand over their annual "property-tax" tribute. The rookie cop thrills as he dresses up in his government costume, straps on his government gun and goes patrolling in his government car, a late-model luxury carriage he would never come close to affording if he got an honest, entry-level job. And doesn't his head swell as he flags down and tickets the BMW driver who has really made something of his life... or perhaps a harassed Mom on the way to give her children pleasure and shop for the family.
The perverse pleasure of bending other people to one's will permeates the whole organization, from lowest to the highest - in the White House, whose occupant has for decades called himself the "leader of the free world", even though he was elected by a minor fraction of 5% of its population, and though it needs a leader (the word sounds better in German) like it needs a hole in the head. And does all that power need a purpose, itself? - no. "The object of power is power" said George Orwell. It's the world's strongest drug.
To keep that power in place comes the second, enabling purpose of government; its entire work is to persuade its subjects that they would be worse off without it. Thus, in the government licensed media, almost every viewpoint can be heard except the one that questions the very need for government. Everything it does has that aim in view. Mencken wrote: "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." So they scare us with supposed dangers, but also bribe us with handouts while increasing the difficulty of finding honest work - so creating a nation of dependents. To those, it certainly looks as if they would be worse off without government. It's easy to see the loss of the handout; much harder to see the ease, in its absence, of earning a living by free and voluntary exchange.
So, at its apex, military force is deployed around the world upon the pretext that someone, somewhere, would otherwise become a bogeyman and visit destruction on Americans in America. Nonsense on stilts, of course, but the government licensed media faithfully parrot the message.
Likewise at the bottom of the heap, it is alleged that, but for the local tin gods, nobody would plow the snow or provide water or teach children. In reality there are, of course, no goods or services in demand (the wish plus the money) which a free market cannot provide. In the coming zero government society, it will provide them.
The success of this persuasion is, therefore, quite astonishing. As soon as someone realizes that everything now done by government (and for which there is an actual demand) could be done better or cheaper without it, he wonders what, then, government is for. Excellent question. The answers appear above.