"[T]he burden of government is not measured by how much it taxes, but by how much it spends." ~ Milton Friedman
Column by Jim Davies.
Exclusive to STR
It's very sad, to see so much of it around STR. Several whose fingers fly over the keyboard to make comments seem to think that government is a fixture, here to stay.
This is not limited to STR, mind; I enjoy much of the work of Fred Reed on another site, and noticed a fine recent example called Your Papers, Citizen which expertly compared the America of today with the America of Fred's youth, with particular reference to guns and their control. It's chock full of delicious turns of phrase, such as “As women got in touch with their inner totalitarian, we began to outlaw large soft drinks and any word or expression that might offend anyone.” Yee-haw. But then he mars it by ending up with this gloomy prediction: “Nobody in America, ever again, is going to be left alone. Not ever.”
In writing that, he falls into a serious intellectual error. Not his only one, alas.
To suppose that government is a permanent fixture, like the weather, firstly takes no account of history. Admittedly, our knowledge of how human societies organized themselves prior to the discovery of fixed agriculture is very slim (writing was invented only after that discovery), but such as we have says that there was no government that we'd recognize as such today. There were personal quarrels, there may have been conflicts between small groups, but there is no evidence of organized war between large groups under the command of leaders. All that came after fixed agriculture was implemented. Tribes and villagers made any communal decisions by consensus. Remnants of this way of life were found – before destruction by the US Army – among American Indian tribes on this continent, and were noted in the much more primitive ones found in Ecuador by Christian missionaries in the 1950s.
Accordingly, since hom. sap. evolved about 100,000 years ago but fixed agriculture was discovered only 10,000 years ago, our species lived government-free for 90% of our existence. The allegation that man needs governing is nonsense on its face.
Second, the supposition takes no account of the nature of mankind. We are self-owners. There is no rational alternative to that premise, so it is an axiom. Now, control over a person's life and decisions can be exercised by only one entity: himself, or someone else. No other possibilities exist. Since (by the self-ownership axiom) each person has the right to do so, it follows necessarily that government does not. A is not Non-A. Hence, government exists only in flagrant violation of reason.
Third, these pessimists are snared in the false logic of the G-Myth. That story is told as a fable about a society on another planet, heavily addicted to a certain substance which always makes everyone ill. Yet they continue to ingest it. What utter stupidity! All that's needed, to restore health, is to identify the poison and kick the habit.
Fourth, some of these pessimists lack perception and compassion or blindly suppose that government isn't all that bad. This failure applies also of course to the great majority of the population including all who work for government, as well as to the pessimists here. The perception they lack is that government is utterly lethal and will, if not stopped, get worse. Consider just their war-making activities, and just the last three major wars, leaving aside the hundreds of smaller ones worldwide, and all the other kinds of misery and poverty they create on a daily basis:
|Napoleonic||~ 1800||4 million|
* Estimates vary from 50 to 80 million
Notice the progression. Each major war killed four times as many as the previous one. If that continues (and why not, given the great increase in lethality of weapons?), World War III will kill 256 million human beings and WW-IV will liquidate over a billion.
The species is doomed if wars continue, and wars will continue as long as governments do.
Compassion must be missing, in the pessimists who warble “Peace; and there was no peace” (Ezekiel 13) because if they can grasp even part of that, they must have no feeling of pity for the future victims of government wars – not even their own children, and theirs, and theirs.
Fifth, they apparently fail to apply their minds to the matter of how government might be terminated, once it's been identified as the culprit. If that task were found to be literally impossible, then of course I'd have to excuse the pessimism; but it certainly isn't. Once you seriously set about the job, the solution begins to leap out. The process is the same as that to be used to solve any other puzzle:
- clearly describe the problem
- specify the solution desired
- explore possible ways to obtain it.
Only a modest degree of imagination is needed here. The problem is of course the massive damage done to humanity by government, along with its huge power of self-preservation. The needed solution is to end its existence altogether, the sooner the better. Then comes the exploration, needing creativity; all kinds of ideas are worth visualizing and most (or all except one) will be found unworkable. What's left after that sifting is the fix to be followed.
Lastly – and inspired by Don Stacy's recent STRticle – some pessimists have just become discouraged, by lack of success in promoting anarcholibertarianism (gee, I wish we had a name for what we are that didn't need nine syllables and 21 letters!). This is perhaps a subset of the fifth category above, but is very understandable. My answer to it in brief is not to jump ship but to change course. If freedom is a perfect fit for human nature, it cannot at the same time be so poor a fit that mankind will never embrace it. That would be a contradiction, and contradictions exist only in the minds of those who fail to think clearly.
For example, it's not surprising that political action doesn't work in promoting the libertarian world view. Why would it, ever? It is an alien method, foreign to the very non-aggression principle we advance. So, sit down as in #5 above and figure out a better way. The one that I recommend is shown here, and I don't get frustrated at all. I know very well that at any one time, well over 90% (99, perhaps) are just not ready and interested seriously to consider libertarian logic – but it doesn't matter! At any one time, we only need the one person who is. Then next year, another one; and by next year, a few of those whose mind is closed today will have experienced in life something that caused a reappraisal, a reconsideration.
I get the impression that some pessimists just have not been through this intellectual process, vital and simple though it is. Perhaps some of them just like griping; they're gripers, and don't actually want a free society because then there would be little or nothing to gripe about, a bit like Jonah. Perhaps some have a martyr complex, and “enjoy” government maltreatment because of the prestige they earn from freedom advocates. Or just possibly (say it ain't so!) some are plain idle, they don't wish to leave their comfort zone. Maybe other explanations exist; but instead of getting to grips with the anomaly as above, they just say it can't be done and return to their gripes or to their particular form of invited suffering. Or to their couches.