Government

Government

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ch880226B: Now that we’ve dissected the existence and importance of eternal truth to death, and made a few assumptions about what specific truths exist, one might wonder, is any of this any good, or is it all just ethereal, with no practical impact on anybody?  The answer is a resounding yes: YES!

A: Buddy, spare me the silly over-enthusiasm.  “Yes” to what, anyway?

B: There is some practicality to all this.  Eternal truth can be applied to literally any situation, even those to which it may be difficult to see immediately how.  As there are endlessly many issues, we’ll focus on some of the more controversial…

A: “We?”

B: We’ll start with the question of government.  First off, what exactly is government?  Government is a kind of force.  All kinds of forces govern something.  Perhaps you’ve heard, amongst more technical jargon, how physical forces “govern” the universe?  It’s the same kind of thing with governments of countries, states, communities, businesses, clubs, etc.  They each hold some kind of power over their subjects/members that they use to enforce whatever laws they declare; thus, this power is the force that enables them to govern.

A thug holding you at gunpoint can be a momentary (as you would presumably hope) kind of government over you – unless you don’t care if he kills you.  But even in that case, your choices are extremely limited, to say the least.  The power, or force, that the thug has is found in the gun and in his choice or ability to use it.  If you somehow ascertain that the gun has no ammunition, the thug’s power is significantly reduced and the efficacy of his government over you is as well; you, therefore, have a much broader variety of choices to make.  For instance, you can separate yourself from him by, say, running away; if you manage to escape, you will be completely free from the thug’s government; he will have no power over you to limit your choices; his government will have become null and void.

A: What are you saying?  That we should run away from all governments?

B: That was just a simple example, ya goob.  I’m not saying that all forms of government are bad.  Hopefully we will always be able to steer clear of governments as oppressive as the thug’s.

This seems like a great place to state another official

Definition.  A government is a kind of force.

The converse may be true also.  Can you think of any force that doesn’t govern anything?

A: Well, I –

B: I claim that it’s important to make this distinction, for it’s primarily by force that a government can do anything.  (The only exception is if somebody voluntarily gives his resources to the government.  Sure, it can trade for things, but only after it acquires something to trade with first, which it cannot get except by force or somebody’s voluntary charity.)  There may be a school of thought that a government is somehow able to generate resources otherwise, so that if there’s a need for a certain resource, one need only look to that government to obtain it.  But no government comes inherently equipped with any resources except for those that were taken from the previous government and the people it governs.

Consider, for instance, some basic needs.  Is there a need for financial wealth?  The government may be able to print money, but this does nothing to create actual financial wealth, the cumulative amount of which instead staying where it was at before – the wealth is merely spread throughout the new money, making all the old money worth less.  Is there a need for food?  The government doesn’t just have some large storage of food somewhere – unless, again, it was taken from a previous government, and that government took it from the people it governed.  Is there a need for jobs?  The government can create as many jobs as it wants to, but where does it get the money it needs to pay its workers?  Taken from the people, of course – whether from the fruits of the labor of those workers, or through taxes on the other people it governs.1

There’s a bunch more to say about government.  Indeed much of it will simply have to be left for later.  First, however, let’s focus on the best kind of government – that is, the kind that gives its citizens the most happiness (meaning God’s kind of happiness).  Essential to that happiness is as much freedom for people as possible.  The goal of government, then, should be to preserve as much freedom for people as possible.

  1. See pp. 20-21 in the pdf of Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law” at this site.

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