A Rational Memorial Day

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The greatest honor we can do for the American war dead is to get our brains in gear.

There's a circular argument circulating, and it urgently needs to be unspun: it holds that citizens owe a duty to fight the government's wars, because government exists mainly to defend the citizens. Let's leave aside for now the other few "justifications" for government to exist; they don't amount to much anyway.

The fiction is and always has been this: tolerate, feed and obey us, then we'll defend you.

Did you notice the perfect circularity there? The promise is that A will defend B - which of course it is manifestly incapable of doing - and the duty is that B will leap to assist A in defending B. Uh? What was that again?

The obvious truth, which we have uncovered in less than four short paragraphs, is that A - a government - appears on both sides of the equation and can therefore safely be taken out of it. B is going to have to defend B anyway (should defense be needed) and so A's role is entirely superfluous.

It gets worse: in any actual war, the party actually defended is not B, but A! B, the citizenry, ends the war in a terribly mangled condition, win or lose. True, if a nation is defeated the top government people may come to a sticky end, like Mussolini and Saddam, but the rest of them can dust off their desks and get back to work.

"But" it may be protested "okay, so the grunt work is going to be done by B, the citizens; but still, they need organizing. Management of their defense is why government is needed!"

Government is needed to manage, they say. Hmmm. Let's check that.

No, I don't buy it. America has experienced only one defensive war, from 1776 to 1781, and at first it had no such management at all. It was a rag-tag citizen army, with volunteers outraged by the conduct of their own government. They certainly needed defending from it, and they did something about that, but if "government" had 'managed' them, there would have been no war and Old Glory would never have fluttered.

Wait! says our statist adversary; in 1776 that distant government was fired, and a new one was put in its place and that government did indeed provide management services and, on occasion, money. Are you saying the rebels would have won without Washington ?

Yes, I am. Indeed, under central management by the new Congress, the war was very nearly lost; but for the happy coincidence that Royalist France shared their enmity to Royalist Britain, the rebel army might well have been crushed. Yorktown , certainly, could not have been won without the French fleet. The unique strength of the rebels was not that they had superior leadership and materiel and numbers but that they had the individual will of every single soldier. The one thing an occupying army can not sustain is a determined but disorganized, decentralized resistance.

It's amazing how well governments conceal what is really taking place, in any war. On most war memorials in Europe , and on some in America , is carved a clue to how they do it; a myth ("patriotism") is developed over the centuries, and then translated into Latin to add to its mystique. Result: Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori. If that were translated honestly, it would say "It is a sweet and noble thing, to die for one's government" and the whole fraud would lie exposed.

Conclusion: the argument is false. Government is not useful, for either defense or its management. So who needs it?

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Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched http://TinyURL.com/QuitGov , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?"