Time for Government to Finally Ban Itself

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May 29, 2009

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Behind the Mask, Systematic Evil

After centuries and millennia of tyranny, war, mass murder, torture, corruption, legalized theft, unjust imprisonment, economic devastation, and other needless evil, isn't it finally time we banned the cause of all that horror?

Can we not find the strength to end this intrusive, violent, coercive scam -- this conspiracy against love and freedom, this formalized uber-criminal empire, this sick enabler of Hitler and Stalin and Kim Jong-Il and so many other psychopaths, this boot on the neck of every man, woman and child? Is it not time, and long past time, to stop putting up with government wars and government concentration camps and government injustice and government central-planning inefficiency (directly or via government-granted monopoly) and other methods of government impoverishment and cruelty? Will we not finally understand that running society via coercion and violence is not merely inefficient but horribly, shockingly wrong?

There is only one way to do all that -- only one way to save the human race from the terror and poverty and violence and other cruelty that government has inflicted for centuries: put an end to the evil of coercive government itself.

We have tried small, restrained government and seen it grow into large, unrestrained tyranny. This has happened in the United States ("Electronic Police State 2008, National Rankings" [U.S. rank: 6th worst out of 52]; PDF) and to one extent or another in every nation that has ever tried to tame and reform government. Slowly at first and then with shocking speed, the original positive intent (assuming there ever was one) is subverted, corrupted, and eventually erased. The coercive power of government increases relentlessly and moves ever-more into the hands of those who lust for power.

Taming the beast has not worked -- and why would it? Removing this sick, twisted, neurotic tool for psychopaths from the list of available options is the only way to prevent its capture by those with an unhealthy need for power.

The good news is that government is not a necessary evil but merely an ancient one. We can stop this evil and transition to a healthy, compassionate, efficient, non-coercive society whenever we finally break the spell of pro-government propaganda in enough minds.

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But . . . Who Will Pay for the Roads? Who Will Regulate Business?

For that matter, who (to paraphrase a famous Bushism) will make sure that "our children is learning?" Who will pay for healthcare? And especially -- here, the public lip trembles in fear -- who will save us from [insert currently-hyped boogie-man or other excuse for increasing government control]?

The answer to all such questions is: "Grow up."

Really, who did you THINK was paying for all those things now -- the Government Funding Fairy? Government has no wealth to fund anything with, beyond what it takes from the people. And who did you think was out there building and maintaining the roads, or providing air traffic control, or regulating industries -- alien lifeforms attached to the Government Borg? Of course not. The men and women maintaining the roads are ordinary people, and the money to pay for their work comes from your pocket and the pockets of other taxpayers.

Likewise, SEC regulators are human beings, not supernatural entities, and their salaries come from taxpaying citizens. On the other hand, the SEC -- like most government regulatory bodies -- shows by its actions (e.g., turning a blind eye to Bernie Madoff for years, and allowing or perhaps even encouraging some of the shenanigans that went into the recently-burst market bubble) that it is either in the pocket of the industry it regulates or simply incompetent.

When regulators are not shielded by government force but instead part of the market, then regulation actually functions as intended; study Underwriter Labs (founded 1894) for an excellent example (here's the WikiPedia article on UL). Underwriter Labs is the largest safety testing and certifying organization in the world; you have several "UL Listed" devices in your home, including most likely the computer monitor you are reading this on. The regulation provided by UL is sensible, effective, low-cost, life-saving, and without the failures and corruption scandals one finds so often in government regulatory agencies.

Underwriter Labs does a good job for both industry and consumers because UL is not a government agency and thus could be put out of business by a competitor at any time. Underwriter Labs has remained in business for over a century because they do good work, not because taxpayers are forced to pay for their services regardless of whether those taxpayers are happy with what UL provides. Competition in the market pushes in the direction of customer satisfaction; the coercively-enforced monopoly of government efforts (and not only with regulation) ensures that customer satisfaction will never be a high priority for government -- one of several reasons that government is, as I've put it before, the worst way to do anything.

"Pay or else" is never a strategy working in the customer's favor, and it is the central strategy of every coercive government. Plenty of government employees are competent, honest, and hardworking, but the "pay or else" system itself overwhelms the sincere best efforts of individuals within the system.

Worse, the "pay or else" government approach inevitably leads to citizens being forced to pay for things they would never support voluntarily. I'm sure you can think of plenty of things your government does that you find useless or, all too often, harmful to your own interests (like giving away $2.2 trillion of your money in "bailouts" and arrogantly refusing to identify the recipients) or even outright evil, such as arresting terminal cancer patients for using marijuana or invading poor nations that have not attacked or even threatened us. Still, you support those things because you are forced to pay for them. In a free society, you could choose what to spend your money on instead of having it taken from you and used in ways you object to.

People are happy to pay for the roads, for medical care, for charity, and for other necessities, and would find that much easier to do if they weren't also being forced to pay for aggressive wars, for imprisoning and otherwise ruining the lives of drug users, and for other expensive evil that only coercive government could get away with doing, much less forcing us all to pay for.

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Prohibition Does Work -- When it Supports Love and Freedom

Government prohibition of drugs, alcohol, guns [recent Harvard study; PDF], and other goods does not work well; coercive prohibition typically causes more problems, and more serious kinds of problems, than the prohibited thing does by itself. As bad as alcohol is (liver damage, drunk-driving fatalities, increased rates for many types of cancer, etc.) the American experience with alcohol prohibition was even worse. Prohibition failed to end such problems and added new problems including widespread violence and corruption, not to mention death or blindness for hundreds of people from bad booze.

That type of prohibition fails because it opposes love and freedom. Using coercion to push people around, to prevent them from living their own lives in their own way -- even "for their own good" -- is neither loving nor sensible, and it is an absolute knife in the heart of freedom. But there is another type of prohibition, one in harmony with and protective of love and freedom: prohibition of aggression against others; i.e., enforcement of the non-aggression principle.

Laws against murder, rape, and other forms of coercion (or substitutes for coercion such as theft and fraud) are examples of this positive, workable, healthy form of prohibition. Again, such laws work because they are in harmony with love and freedom. Laws that prohibit coercion (and substitutes for coercion) work because the non-aggression principle is a necessary protection for civil society and for life itself. The non-aggression principle does not actually need government for support -- non-government efforts work better and are far less dangerous; see The Voluntary City for both theory and examples; other good sources include The Market for Liberty and Mises.org. Indeed, it is the use of government for "protective services" that gives government its license to coerce generally, at least in most people's minds.

Regardless of how human rights are protected (via government or by market institutions, as with UL in the product-safety realm), the non-aggression principle must have widespread and effective support in society or else that society will not long remain civil, prosperous, healthy, or free. It is not the laws themselves but mostly the desire and willingness of the population to behave honestly and with some measure of compassion for others that keeps a society functioning in healthy fashion; all the laws in the world cannot overcome deep and widespread emotional damage or a toxic social culture.

Using coercive (i.e., aggressive), monopolistic government to protect the non-aggression principle is a mistake so basic, so obvious, so dire, and yet so pandemic that one wonders at the prospects for a species that falls so easily into such error, and which seems unable or unwilling to correct the mistake.

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The Psychopath Factor

In Why Does the World Feel Wrong?, Will Groves describes a powerful, chilling insight: "The world feels wrong because psychopaths run it."

Groves is right: Psychopaths do run the world, and this is true because coercive government gives them the tool to do so. No other tool allows for the level of theft, murder, torture, and other destructive tyranny that government enables. With police, soldiers, courts, and the other tools of government at his disposal, a psychopath can destroy an entire nation and many have done so; Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe is only one of the more vivid current examples. The difference between a psychopath on his own in an open society and a psychopath in control of a government is the difference between a BB gun and a nuclear bomb. Charles Manson killed a handful; Obama has already far exceeded Manson's civilian body count with just a few air strikes and drone attacks (video, 2 min 50 sec) in Afghanistan , not to mention what continues in Iraq and elsewhere on Obama's watch. Despite his rhetoric in the campaign, Obama not only continues but in many cases has expanded the worst of the Bush-era policies, both domestically and overseas:

"Obama's foreign policy -- like Bush's discredited foreign policy -- rests on using the most vicious and destructive military strategies aimed at intimidating the Afghan and Iraqi populations into accepting United States domination of their countries.

"But even worse is the fact that the Obama administration expects to use the same tactics throughout the 'arc of instability,' extending from the borders of China to the Horn of Africa."

-- Michael Schwartz, It's Obama's War Now

Even low-level government employees are often in a position to create serious hardship or even kill, torture, or otherwise cause grave harm to perfectly innocent people, as an almost unlimited number of scandals in America show clearly, including our ongoing torture scandals and taser scandals and confiscation scandals (note: agencies are no longer being required to publish the list of confiscated assets in USA Today as mentioned in the article -- a scandal in itself).

Government, then, is the Great Enabler of psychopaths; the One True Ring of Power that corrupts nearly everyone it touches, and which attracts psychopaths in particular. "You mean I could have . . . power over others?" How enticing -- to exactly the sort of people who should never be allowed anywhere near such power. Once in power, psychopaths find ways to take advantage of that power in their own twisted fashion, often abusing the power in ways a healthy, normal person would never imagine, much less do. "Government reform" seldom works and never works for long, because psychopaths are constantly drawn to the power structure and because the corrupting influence of government power is relentless and overpowering, even for non-psychopaths.

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If Government Cared About Humanity, it Would Self-Terminate

In Terminator Two: Judgment Day, Arnold Schwarzenegger's character -- a killing machine from the future, reprogrammed to protect John Connor and then sent back in time to the present day -- terminates its own existence (with Sarah Connor's help) because it knows mankind will never be safe otherwise. A compassionate government would do the same: self-terminate as the necessary and ultimate act of protection for the human race. But like the Terminator in John Cameron's film, government cannot (or in this case, will not) self-terminate; someone else must do the job. Unlike the Terminator, government -- far more sociopathic than that reprogrammed killing machine -- is not asking for help to self-terminate. We must do the job anyway because the combination of coercive government, widespread neurosis, and rapidly advancing 21st Century technology will be more than the human race can likely survive. That is not hyperbole; Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, Bill Joy, and other scientists and well-informed people have been talking and writing about the dangers of hyper-technology for some time now, and neither widespread emotional damage nor ubiquitous Statism are safe environments for that onrushing technology.

Even aside from the life-or-death situation we are facing (see The Two Great Evils and the Hammer of Infinite Power for more on the topic), any compassionate person who understands the true effects of government (tragically, most do not) would insist on freeing humanity from the inhumanity of coercive governance. More than a century and a half ago, when government in the U.S. was tiny compared with today's globe-spanning American empire, Pierre -Joseph Prodhoun had this to say about the nature of government:

"To be governed is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so'. To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality."

-- Pierre-Joseph Prodhoun (1851) as quoted in Go Ahead and Jump by Thomas L. Knapp

How can any decent human being support such a system? With technological prowess now heading into the vertical part of the curve, how much longer, really, will mankind survive such a system?

Governments have been banning things that people want for centuries under the pretext of protecting us from ourselves. It is time, finally -- and with little time to lose -- for government to actually protect us by banning itself, thus allowing creation of the free and compassionate society that every healthy person wants and needs, and that every newborn expects to find when it arrives on this Earth. If government will not do the decent thing (and it won't), then we must make it happen; we must free ourselves and our fellow human beings from the tyranny of corporatist, fascist, coercive-socialist, and other forms of government-enforced power. We must disarm the psychopathic power elite by removing the weapon of government power from their arsenal.

How to do that? Not by violence; violent revolution merely brings another power-hungry group to the fore. Instead, widespread understanding is the key, as government and corporate propagandists know full well. What is needed is a new paradigm, although most of that paradigm has been common wisdom for thousands of years. This wisdom has been handed down through time in different ways, using different wording and traditions, but the core truth remains unchanging because it is the core truth of the human race: Love is the answer, as the Buddha and Jesus and John Lennon and, with luck, your own parents and siblings and children and friends have said, and known, and lived.

Love includes and requires freedom, because coercion (unfreedom) is toxic to love. Do not miss that point, because love can no more survive the lack of freedom than freedom can survive a lack of love. Both love and freedom are especially critical in the lives of the young, for early experience is what later experience and behavior are built upon.

Love and freedom are the yin and yang of healthy life. Love and freedom are what bring the good we already see in the world; they create every positive thing we have, from friendship to honest and mutually beneficial market activity. Whatever opposes love and freedom is the enemy of mankind, and what opposes love and freedom most deeply is the psychopathic social form known as coercive government.

Love and freedom, or cruelty and tyranny: Is it really a difficult choice?

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Glen Allport's picture
Columns on STR: 107

Glen Allport co-authored The User's Guide to OS/2 from Compute! Books and is the author of The Paradise Paradigm: On Creating a World of Compassion, Freedom, and Prosperity.