For those of us who question the necessity, or desirability, of government, the incessant media blather about the November election is depressing. How can the people who listen raptly to this campaign news possibly take it seriously? In the lifetime of anyone alive today, has any election made a significant difference? If the President were to take his oath of office seriously, would it matter who he was? Or, if, as is the case, he ignores his oath of office, does it make any difference who he is? In my long lifetime I have seen American government grow increasingly totalitarian, regardless of election results. Whether the elected are liberal, conservative, Democrats or Republicans, the trend is increasingly leftward.
The idea of government is so ingrained that most people have simply never given a fleeting thought to the possibility of life without it. Like disease, it’s been around forever. In school we might have learned something of ancient Greece or Roman history, but what we learned was not the life of a typical Greek or Roman, but the activities of Greek and Roman governments, and their battles for control. In short, the study of ancient — and not so ancient — civilizations is the study of war, without which history books would be little more than pamphlets.
Let’s look at government as we might look at any other enormous corporation, without any preconceived notions as to its necessity, if any. If Corporation X, for example, consistently produced products of high price and low quality, would its continued existence be regarded as inevitable? Wouldn’t the arguments by the shareholders, executives, and workers, for its continuation, be recognized as without merit, and self-serving?
What are the products of government? Considering the all-intrusive nature of the institution, they are legion, but let’s consider just a couple, which will include a number of lesser ones.
The first, as we’ve alluded to above, is war. Wars are waged by governments. Individuals do not decide to take up arms and march on their neighbors; they do so because their rulers convince them that it’s the thing to do, or, in many cases, because they are forced to do so — again by government. And the consequences?
Information easily obtained via the Internet, with impressive statistical support, indicates that in World War I, there were about fifteen million deaths. Of those, eight and a half million were soldiers, the rest civilians. The Russian Civil War of 1917 took about nine million lives. World War II saw something new: more civilian than military deaths. Of the fifty million casualties in that conflict, about thirty million were civilians. There were many other wars, of course. I’m just hitting the high points, or perhaps it should be low points, and only for the twentieth century.
But governments kill in other ways than war. Stalin, for example, with purges and engineered famines, killed about twenty million individuals. But when we say "Stalin," we really mean the Russian government. In China, Mao executed between forty-nine, and seventy-eight million, depending on whose figures you believe. Again, when you say "Mao" killed them, you mean the Chinese government.
Hitler (Germany) killed about twelve million, and Tojo (Japan) accounted for another five million murders. Pol Pot (Cambodia) accounted for over one and a half million, with Kim Il Sung (North Korea), and Menghistu (Ethiopia) matching that number. Enver (Turkey) and Gowon (Biafra) are, each, responsible for about a million civilian deaths.
Of course, we’ve not even considered the millions destroyed, either as soldiers or civilians, in Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, or Iraq. How many millions must be counted before the point is made: governments are lethal!
Can it be argued that these deaths were, in some way, necessary if tyrants were to be deposed, or human rights restored, or justice done? I’m sure it could be argued, but proof would be hard to produce. Events of history lack a "control series." We don’t know how life would have proceeded if, for instance, the U.S. had not entered WWI, or started bombing Iraq. The millions who are dead as a result of those actions, however, would very likely say, were they able, that they’d prefer to be alive, even if it meant living under Saddam, than dead under the chaos that followed him.
I read somewhere that Germans polled after the runaway inflation of 1923 said that the collapse of the monetary system caused greater suffering than the preceding World War. The German experience was not unique. Most developed countries, including America, have, at one time or another, experienced disastrous inflation. Is this just some economic fluke, the result of consumer ignorance, or greed, or corporate misadventure? Hardly. Inflation is a product of government, bringing it great benefits, at great cost to the general public. Not as spectacular as war, it is, nevertheless, catastrophic on a greater scale, since no one can escape the baleful effects of an increasingly worthless currency.
Could any organization not protected by government create money from nothing and loan it at interest? From the very instant such a system is inaugurated, the society afflicted with it finds itself trying to pay its debts by more borrowing. We see the results all around us.
When my father died in 1988, I discovered a life insurance policy that he had purchased as a young man. It paid a death benefit of 5,000. When Dad bought that policy, 5,000 could have purchased a modest home. Dad paid for it with dollars of silver or gold; what his heirs finally received was literally no thing: paper "bills" that were not payable in anything, and wouldn’t buy a garage, much less a house.
Charles Ponzi spent fourteen years in jail for doing what Social Security has been doing for over seventy years. It was obviously an unsound, fraudulent, scheme that Ponzi devised, but it’s baseball and apple pie when Uncle Sam does it. The victims are cheated just as thoroughly, but with one difference: Ponzi’s victims entered his scheme willingly, if ignorantly, whereas the victims of the Social Security scheme are strongly pressured into "joining." Which scheme is the more dishonest?
War, or economic injustice. Take your pick. They are two principal and, I would say, inevitable, consequences of government.
What an evil and idiotic organization we have chosen to cherish and maintain!