That Government Is Best That Governs Not At All

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The great American
experiment of a perfected and limited civil government has gone
terribly wrong. All but the most ardent statists now accept this.
Many feel that drastic reform is needed. Others feel the present
system is just too corrupt and the present beneficiaries too firmly
entrenched for any meaningful improvement ever to take place. If
that is so, then what is to follow? Some advocate the libertarian
position of minarchism, that civil government should be small and
strictly limited. But minarchism appears to have two major deficiencies.
One is that the definition of "small" is arbitrary and
is susceptible of gradually escalating inclusions as to what constitutes
legitimate government activity. The other is that government by
its very nature cannot be limited. As I have earlier pointed out,
if civil government were somehow susceptible to earthly control,
the entity exercising that control would in reality be the "government",
and of course, that entity would not be susceptible to earthly
control. The attribute of sovereignty is inherent in the institution
of government. Thus the concept of "limited government"
is a contradiction.

Is there no
way out of this conundrum? There indeed is. It involves the concept
of true self-government. Various names have been suggested for this
alternative method of human organization. These names include such
things as spontaneous order, the Non-Aggression Principle, and most
commonly, anarchism. There appears to be some considerable reluctance
on the part of many to accept the principle of spontaneous order.
I believe a large part of this reluctance is due to the fact that
we have allowed the advocates of statism to seize and occupy the
rhetorical high ground. Thus, it is said, the supporters of a spontaneous
order of social interaction are referred to as unrealistic, wild-eyed
utopians. We are impossibly idealistic and ignore the lessons of
history that humans, unrestrained, will prey upon one another until
all is consumed in an orgy of destruction. I think it is high time
the supporters of spontaneous order turn the tables, call a spade
an spade, and appeal to the truly undecided as to which position
has the most merit.

Let us suppose
some person living in a state of nature. He rightly sees that life
is difficult, and that his efforts alone barely provide for the
needs of life. But he sees the arrival of a fellow human to confer
some survival advantage. Both together can accomplish what was difficult
or impossible for one alone. The arrival of yet additional humans
suggests the division of labor, and allows more human needs to be
met. Along comes a stranger one day, and announces that he and some
of his cronies have developed a new way for people to interact,
and he claims this new institution has been developed solely to
secure its members the rights to life, liberty, and property. I
believe this claim is the bedrock putative reason that governments
are established, and it sounds most attractive. But on further examination,
our potential government "citizen" discovers that membership
in this new organization involves certain costs (hey, there is no
free lunch!). The new organization will take a certain amount of
the fruits of his labor, and will call this "taxation".
The amount will be small at first, but in principle, can increase
without any limit whatever, subject only to the "needs"
of those in control. And furthermore, those in control will determine
what and how much services to provide, and will be the sole judge
of those services and the consequent need to appropriate the property
of its citizens. So much for the right to property.

Our proposed
new citizen also learns that this new organization, "government",
will of necessity have certain enforcement powers, and that it will
ultimately have the monopoly of deadly force within the area. The
enactments of the authorities will ultimately be enforced up to
and including the use of deadly force, no matter how small and unimportant
the "infraction". Citizens will not be legally able to
protect themselves by an equivalent use of deadly force, even the
most justified self-defense. This constitutes resistance, and will
be dealt with most harshly. So much for the right to life.

The future
citizen is also assured that the above arrangements are compatible
with his right to liberty. But given that he is going to have to
surrender any meaningful right to life and property, the concept
of the right to liberty becomes empty and vacuous. He is highly
skeptical at this point. He refuses to assent to what he sees as
a bad deal. But the authorities come along later and tell him that
since a certain number of other people have signed on, his agreement
is no longer voluntary but mandatory. So much for securing life,
liberty, and property to him.

A great deal
of time passes. The original skepticism of our first dissident has
long since been vindicated over and over. Civil government always
developed into an organization that politicized more and
more of the ambit of human life, creating conflict where there was
none before, destroying useful human institutions and replacing
them with the destructive apparatus of the state (for example, the
educational system in this country), and creating strife and conflict
where there was none before.

Yet it is
we, who believe in the spontaneous order of social interaction,
who are labeled as wild-eyed dreamers, hopeless idealists, and people
out of contact with reality. I suggest that it is the statists
who are the wild-eyed ideologues, that it is they who are
out of touch with reality, and that it is we anarchists who
have a realistic plan to replace the present system, when it inevitably
collapses of its own contradictions. For statists to argue that
civil government has been anything but an unmitigated disaster for
the human race is sheer lunacy. In terms of our own vaunted Constitution,
it was a fraud before the end of its very Preamble, before drafting
even of Article I. As I have maintained before, civil government
is the mortal enemy of humanity and civilization. It cannot
be otherwise. The very institution of civil government violates
the very principles that civil government is instituted to protect.
It is a contradiction and an affront to mankind.

I do not write
to convince the convinced statist. There are those whose minds are
closed to reason, and I do not presume to educate them. There is
any number of people who are undecided about the issue, however,
and I address my comments to them. There are also a number of peaceful
anarchists who feel defensive about their position. It is easy for
them to feel marginalized, but theirs is the position of liberty
and freedom for all, and should be celebrated, not hidden.

Some people
have written asking how they should "convince" their families,
friends, and acquaintances. Again, I do not propose to convert the
world, only to offer the idea of the spontaneous order of social
interaction as a topic of reasonable discussion. I do not wish to
have others live the way that is most comfortable for me. But neither
do I accept the proposition that others have the right to order
my life as they see fit. The world is a large place, and I believe
each should have the right to live in the arrangement he sees fit.
I prefer liberty. Others may feel uncomfortable with this, and wish
a hierarchical order with some in charge, others in obedience. But
almost invariably those who ascribe to this view see themselves
as part of the wise ruling elite, not as the great mass of ignorant
but loyal subjects. Nevertheless, a plurality of choices for various
types of social organization appears to be an ideal step in the
right direction.

I believe
also that the reluctance to accept the spontaneous order of social
organization involves the issue of security. This ranges all the
way from national security (who will protect our borders from the
wild hordes who are likely to invade should our armed forces cease
to exist?) to personal security (who is going to protect the weak
from the ravages of the strong and violent?). I believe the issue
of national security is fairly easy to address. America is armed
to the teeth. American marksmanship is rightly celebrated as the
finest in the world. Americans have a tradition of liberty, and
do not take well to being ordered about. They are intelligent, and
are separated from their neighbors to the east and west by two vast
oceans. We have a relatively under-populated neighbor to our north
with whom we have close cultural and economic ties. The same obtains
for our more populated neighbor to the south. Consider the case
of Afghanistan. The impoverished insurgents, having no greater resources
than crude rifles, RPG's, IED's, a willingness to accept casualties,
and big cohones, are successfully resisting the mightiest
military force on earth. Any potential invader would find this nation
a tough nut to crack.

As far as
personal security, I believe it would be far better in a
society of spontaneous order, as compared to what we have today.
For one thing, the civil state fosters and supports violent
crime by its counterproductive War on Drugs. This war is really
a war on American liberties and has been the excuse for a large
part of the recent loss of our civil rights, including the right
to privacy. By greatly increasing transaction costs, the war has
kept the price of illegal drugs high, thus increasing profits to
the drug cartels, and has served to reduce competition. I expect
the drug cartels would be the last to support legalization. Thus
the state indirectly subsidizes the very activity that it so vocally
condemns. It is all a fraud, and peaceable American are the victims
all the way around.

What of the
violent criminal? Under a civil government, are we not better protected
against that monster? Well, no. It is accepted American legal
precedent that the police have no duty to defend us against criminals,
violent or not. Police are not really the deterrent they are believed
to be. In fact, it can be argued that their main activity is armed
revenue enhancement for the state. Our community recently had a
grisly mass murder. The police have sought community help in solving
the crime. One would think that would be their priority now.
But I have detected no decrease in the manpower directed to traffic
enforcement. It increases the revenue stream, and the state is the
institutionalized instrument of plunder.

Private
deterrence of crime, however, is a different story. It is estimated
that there are something like 400 decent and law-abiding citizens
for every violent felon. There are simply more of us than
there are of them. Legal concealed carry has been shown to
decrease crime. I am not arguing here that we should get official
approval of the state in order to engage in an activity that the
supreme law of the land says the state has no right to infringe
in the first place. I am only saying that we are ultimately responsible
for our own security anyway, and that as in all things, the
less the state in involved, the better off we will be.

I continue
to be steadfastly optimistic about the ultimate triumph of freedom
and liberty over the forces of coercion and tyranny. The demise
of the civil state is inevitable, and will occur as a result of
its own contradictions. The most important activity, as I see it,
is to liberate oneself. Even in the temporary absence of a social
evolution toward a society of true liberty, liberating oneself is
a breakthrough to a remarkable new world of beauty and harmony.
Take heart. A beautiful world beckons!

September
3, 2009

John Sampson [send him
mail
] is a retired physician and an active rifleman.

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