The Irrelevance of Government


Column by Paul Hein.

Exclusive to STR

Today has been, so far, like many others. My wife and I rose early and had breakfast. We went to Mass at 8:30--we’re old-fashioned Catholics--and then came home to a few chores around the house: unloading the dishwasher, changing the bed, vacuuming, sweeping leaves out of the garage, and other such mundane chores. We’ll have lunch in another hour or so, then my wife will watch TV and read, and I’ll spend time on the computer, where my popularity and renown are such that my inbox brims with at least one or two emails every day.

So what? Just this: None of our activities this day, or yesterday, or tomorrow, involve any help from, participation with, or involvement in any way, with government. If Jefferson City had vanished during the night, together with the local town hall and Washington D.C., it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference.

All three of the locations I mentioned--local, state, and federal--are occupied by people who believe that it is quite proper for them to involve themselves in my affairs. They do this by writing down what they want, which, according to my law dictionary, makes what they want the “law.” They want me to wear my seatbelt in the car, and put a “license plate” on the bumper, they want me not to smoke almost everywhere, and they want my money--although I’ve never been able to figure how, if it’s MY money, they can claim a greater right to it than my own by simply by writing down that they want it.

Well, I have no problem with their wanting me to do certain things. Wearing a seatbelt is probably a good idea, and if they want me to do it, fine. Smoking is a nasty habit, and I don’t do it anyway, so their not wanting me to smoke is OK with me. Putting a tin plate on the bumper of my car with numbers on it seems harmless enough. The thing that troubles me is: They are willing to punish me—pursuant to authority they have given themselves--if I ignore what they want. Apparently, the fact that they have written down their wishes justifies their belief that I must obey them. Why?

I’m pretty sure that those people who tell me what and what not to do and, without realizing the absurdity of it, call themselves “public servants,” would be astonished if I were to call them meddlesome busybodies and thieves. After all, they are just the latest in a long line of “public servants” who have worked for the good of mankind (they may actually believe that) since the days when the Israelites demanded that God send them a king, although He warned them against it.

These dedicated “public servants” are prolific in their legislating. They produce laws by the thousands every year. So what? Why should I care? As I mentioned above, I can get through life quite nicely without them. When they demand that I send them money (or what passes for it), I have asked why I should do so. The reply “It’s the law” simply means that I must do it because they’ve said so. That isn’t convincing.

My neighbors could send me a letter on an impressive letterhead, demanding money, or insisting that I drive no faster than a certain speed, or wear a seat belt. I could, and would, tear it up and throw it away; they couldn’t do anything about it. After all, I am not obligated to obey people just because they make demands upon me--unless they are my servants! Remarkably, these servants have taken an oath to uphold the state constitution, which says that all political power is vested in the people and derived from them. ALL political power! It is remarkable that my servants have derived from the people a power which the people do not have; namely, the power to take other people’s money, and direct their lives.

Freedom is impossible when assorted strangers claim the power to dominate you--and you accede to their demands. Of course, it is dangerous to defy them, because they know that, contrary to the lovely words of the Constitution, all political power does not come from the people, but, as Mao pointed out, from the barrel of a gun. They can, however, be ignored to the greatest extent possible, and when they forcibly intrude themselves into your life, they can be asked questions which they will not want to answer. They can deal with your queries very well if you accept their superior role. Ask them if a specific law is applicable to a particular circumstance, or how to calculate the tax they demand, and they will be fulsome in their responses. Ask them how their laws apply to you at all, or to provide some evidence that you have subjected yourself to them, and they will ignore you, or provide a non-responsive reply. Do it anyway!

My hope, perhaps unrealistic, is that among them there are a few whose consciences are not completely obtunded. After all, they go about their duties in routine fashion, and seldom think about what they are doing, any more than an electrician thinks about the electrons moving through the wires he places, or a plumber concerned himself with hydraulic theories. But maybe, just perhaps, if questioned, one of the servants may, for the first time, actually realize what he is doing.

Better to light one candle, as they say.

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Paul Hein's picture
Columns on STR: 150


Glock27's picture

What about all those IRS agents who received healthy bonuses and don't pay taxes. How do they do that? I don't want to pay taxes, but they will be after me if I don't and then take double or tripple that in fines, fees, and other hidden costs.

Thunderbolt's picture

Dr. Hein: This is really striking at the root of the entire game!
Glock is correct here also. Who gave them the authority to take your money? Jim Davies has created a list of various government employee types, to whom one can send an explanation about how their employment is immoral. It is to be found on his Anarchist Alternative site.

Samarami's picture

From the essay:

    "Freedom is impossible when assorted strangers claim the power to dominate you--and you accede to their demands."

The key phrase here is "...and you accede to their demands..."

I'm an advocate of what's called the "Serenity Prayer" -- where a Power greater than I is asked to help give rise to...

    "...the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

I'm an over-the-road trucker. You mentioned Jefferson City, indicating you're Missourian. I stopped at a restaurant down in Kennet, MO, one day last fall. As I was sitting there I sensed there was something different about the place. Then it dawned on me: there were ash trays on the table with butts still in them. Then I looked around and realized several of the customers were smoking.

I felt like standing up and cheering! Kennet is located far down in the "boot-heel" of MO (almost in Arkansas on two sides, and within 20 miles of TN to the east). I figured the owners must have decided to ignore the state "law" against smoking, calculating the psychopaths probably wouldn't venture that far into the remote outreaches of MO to "enforce-the-law".

Like you, I'm not a smoker. In a free society I would be one to choose a "non smoking" cafe -- or one with ventilated zones for smokers. Smoking is an act that takes into consideration nobody but the smoker. The owner of the establishment, however, is the only individual who can legitimately allow or ban smoking, based upon his or her ability to satisfactorily accommodate both types of customers.

Your property is not our property. Anybody who says otherwise should be ignored when practicable.


Paul's picture

"Apparently, the fact that they have written down their wishes justifies their belief that I must obey them. Why?"

It's a religious thing.

We need to find out what the rulers want, and do the opposite, as much as we can. It's for our mental health.

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

...and our physical health!