Concerning Man and Government
by David M Ray
edited: Sunday, June 20, 2004
Posted: Friday, January 23, 2004
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A brief hypothesis
Our society has become a very strange thing. We have forgotten the reason for government in our misguided attempts to "fix the world". Government has become an omnipotent helper that is expected to feed, clothe and house us when we are unable to do so ourselves. When something goes wrong and there is no immediate solution, we call on government to solve it for us.
This is in direct opposition to the views of our founders. Government is not a solution, its a problem. The only reason we have it is because without it we would be unable to coexist as a people. Because of the few that would terrorize and take advantage of the many, governments and laws are established to procure those rights that are said to be inviolate. We, as a nation and a planet, have yet to get beyond this hurdle of the folly of using government to alter the thinking of people. It is in place to defend against invasion of natural rights, not to homogenize people into a collective and show them how to like each other. Government is the result of a lack in the development of mankind. It was created to shield us from the inadequacies of human nature. As humanity evolves as a society, we become more able to attend to the needs of society without the intervention of government.
Of the rights that sound governments of free peoples are to defend are the rights, generally, to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Another way to phrase this is the right to say and do anything that does not impede another's right to do the same thing. This means that to assault a person, steal from them, impede religious expression, and many other infractions are rights that are given up by the individual in order to function in society. We give up the right to do these things in order to collectively exist. It is a flaw in human nature that such an institution as government would even come to be. Eventually, albeit far distant in the future of mankind, perhaps there will be a time when people have no need of government. In some inconceivably distant time in the future, we may become sufficiently enlightened that government will no longer be a necessity. A lofty goal. Until then, we are shackled with the chains of government.
The real question then is the specific role government is to play in our lives. From a logical standpoint, we can establish the two extremes of civilization; the least developed chaotic anarchy, where there is no law and people simply kill, maim, and destroy at will with no check on their actions, and the fully enlightened society, where government is no longer necessary and people act in a way that enables all to exist in safety and happiness without the necessity of law or rulership. Both are a form of anarchy. We are far ahead of the chaotic variety, but perhaps even farther away from the enlightened one. Logically, we should attempt to work ourselves away from the first example and toward the last. Government is what we have as an intermediate necessity to these two extremes.
Using this logic we can make a few inferences. Our society has evolved past the chaotic lawless stage and has progressed over the course of thousands of years through the governmental stage of various types of rulership. It seems obvious that at the beginning there would be a necessity for a large overpowering system of governance to ensure the mortal safety of the citizenry. In time, as society evolves, individuals should be able to retain more of their independence from the government system. In this way, the role of government diminishes inch by inch until it is no longer necessary at all. This is the logical analysis. Of course, pure logic can never fully apply to the goings on of humanity, so we end up with illogical aberrations of logic as part and parcel of our reality. Such is the case with government. Since inception, government has controlled everything, virtually nothing, and all points in between in the historical record of man. But despite these frequent aberrations, governments worldwide as a whole have steadily declined in its intrusions on the people while individual liberty correspondingly increases. There are still despotisms and totalitarianism, but such things are far less prevalent in the 21st century than they were, say, a few thousand years ago. Or even a few hundred years. The progression away from government and toward enlightenment is there for all to see.
Accepting the above mentioned realities of humanity, we should assume then that the most enlightened among us would be the people that have the least need for government and the most individual liberty and responsibility. We should also assume that that government would shrink gradually as liberty increases. But, the enemies of reason and logic prevail and this is not the case today. We are in the midst of one of the above mentioned aberrations.
The aptly named "Enlightenment" period, when thinkers of the Old World began to seriously consider the merits of limitations of government power and individual freedom and liberty, was an era destined to occur. It was logically only a matter of time until this revolution in thinking would take place. This is the period that created the biggest leap in the direction of freedom and liberty in history: the founding of the United States.
In 1776, this nation declared independence from the monarchy in Great Britain. By 1789 the form of our government was firmly in place and the people experienced freedom and liberty that was to date unseen in society. This lasted until 1861. That year saw the birth of the aberration; the outbreak of the Civil War. An underlying cause for this aberration was, likely enough, the usurpation of individual rights of a people on this continent (slavery). The result of this conflict put the whole evolutionary process of limiting government on a backward trend that continues to this day. Although slavery itself was not the primary issue behind the war, the ruler in power was able to utilize the subject of forced servitude to further political and economic goals not conducive to the preservation of Enlightenment philosophies. The realization of these destructive goals set a course of action in our nation that eventually freed the oppressed in our land only to submit them to the service of the government along with everyone else in the country. By 1877 the transition from shrinking government to growing goverment was complete, and now after nearly 130 years, history clearly shows that the trend toward more government has continued without pause while the concept of limiting it has been all but forgotten by the mists of time (and advertising/propaganda).
Logic dictates that at some point the trend of government growth will end and the historical trend toward individual liberty will resume; the only question is whether or not this will happen in our lifetime. Of course it is (as always) entirely up to us as a people to stop this bureaucratic trip back into the oppressive past if only we will do it. As more people begin to think rationally and consider bigger pictures, the return toward the logical becomes more plausible. When it comes to government, less is more. Less government equals more liberty.
Unfortunately, there is no political party currently viable in the United States that advocates smaller government in any realistic sense. The Libertarian Party would certainly advocate it, but no one seems to want to vote for them. What is required is an elevation in the general public's thinking on matters of government and its effects on our lives. Only when a sufficient number of us get back on the track toward liberty and away from this monstrosity of bureaucratic statistical aberration will the federal leviathon finally begin to crumble in the wake of what will likely be termed the "Second Enlightenment", and people can begin to further the social evolution of mankind and the quest to end our dependencies on the shackles of government rule.