Politics: Why Care About It?

April 19, 2007

Recently, a friend who visited my house noticed some political books I had collected over the years. After browsing through some textbooks and political dictionaries, she asked me:

"Chris, why do you own all of these?"

"I dunno really, I just find them interesting."

"Politics bores me. Each to their own, I guess . . . ."

This brief conversation has made me think. Why should I care about politics? Would I be better off by being ignorant about the subject? Is ignorance, in this instance, really bliss? After pondering such questions, time and again I am drawn to the answer of maintaining and upholding my will to be a sovereign individual. Since government is the enemy of liberty, knowing how government works and how exactly it initiates force against my life is crucial to such a goal.

Knowledge can equal power

There is an old saying: "Knowledge is power." In this case, studying political philosophy and theory proves such a proverb true. By studying the liberal democratic order that I live under, I can see how my government operates. I can see how liberal democracy only perpetuates governmental force, and how such a system only partially upholds the rights of the individual.

In relation to being a sovereign individual, then how can I properly safeguard my individual sovereignty without knowing how governments can undermine one's

self-ownership? It would be in my interest to determine how government works so I can always avoid, or confront, governmental attempts to undermine individual liberty. In my country, the government plans to introduce an ID card scheme, as a means of "counter-terrorism." Within the next few years, it will be mandatory for British citizens to carry such cards on their person. Now, by understanding how the British system of government works, I can take heed of how this law is passed and what the nature of its application will be. I would view this flagrant attempt to shake the foundation of one's individual liberty as another means of increasing the size, scope and intrusiveness of government.

Sun Tzu was right

Sun Tzu's The Art of War has had a marked influence in strategic planning of all types, and even those away from the arena of war. One quote, which Sun Tzu wrote in his treatise, seems pertinent to this issue:

"So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will win hundred times in hundred battles. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you win one and lose the next. If you do not know yourself or your enemy, you will always lose."

If we apply this idiom to knowledge of politics vis a vis the government, then what does it mean to know yourself? Well, one must understand what it entails to be a sovereign individual. It means that YOU are king of your life. That YOU hold dominion over your life, liberty and property and that you possess no right to initiate force or fraud against the life, liberty or property of another human being. So, who is the enemy? Of course this is government, since it regulates, checks, grows and seeks to violate individual sovereignty. By knowing the inherent nature of government, I can properly foresee the instances and occasions in which it will initiate force against my life. I equate knowledge of myself and knowledge of my enemy with a ship at sea facing a storm. If you can foresee the storm, one can always take measures to steer clear of it.

"Knowing your enemy" can be a helpful tool for believers in voluntary social interactions. I'm not saying that libertarians must become bookworms who study politics 24/7, far from it. Nevertheless, as Sun Tzu stated, we cannot hope to defeat government without any comprehension of the nature of the beast. With a greater awareness of how our society is governed, we would be closer in our desire for a stateless society.

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Christopher Awuku lives in the UK and works in the voluntary/community sector.  He runs a market anarchist blog at http://chrislib.blogspot.com