The Paradox of Government
by DataPacRat


Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Or, Why Can’t We Seem To Get Rid Of ‘Em?

Just about anyone reading this article will agree with the proposition that just about every government that now exists has major flaws. One of the more common proposals to deal with this problem is to simply get rid of government entirely, of politicians and their hangers-on, so that the non-politician general public can get on with their lives unhindered. Some variation of the above forms the background of several of the books by our host, El Neil. [see the main page of this journal for links to books by Our Mr. Smith—Editor] Unfortunately, this seems to be an infeasible response—but not for the most obvious objections, that nobody’s done it yet, or has put forward sufficient evidence to support the feasibility of a plan with that end.

The problem of government isn’t necessarily that it’s evil in and of itself; it’s at least conceivable that some branch of humanity would be able to create a non-evil government. What makes governments evil is that they do evil—that they cause harm to people, that they infringe on individuals’ rights. Some people even say that a government is the greatest threat to peoples’ rights there is, and it’s hard to disagree with that.

But—and this is the important part—governments aren’t the only threats to peoples’ rights. They aren’t even the only organized threats. Mobsters, mongols, and mercantilists would all cheerfully violate large numbers of peoples’ rights for their own gain. And as heroic as the image might be in fiction, in reality, when a rugged, lone individualist with right on his side comes into conflict with a bunch of people clever enough to increase their wealth at the expense of others by banding together… then, most often, that individual will lose. By targeting a series of individuals, such monsters could gain greater and greater power over a larger number of people in a larger area—until, finally, they would have all the attributes of a government (whether or not they called themselves that). The only real difference between such a government and the ones we have today, is that the new one would not be set up to allow any rights of any of the large population to be respected; whoever was at the top of that gang wouldn’t have any reason to respect the average person’s rights. The difference is that of between a bloodthirsty mankiller of a beast; and a dangerous, potentially lethal, but at least partially tamed animal.

The only thing I can think of that would prevent such a tyranny to be formed is for the average people to organize themselves into a group, so that individuals couldn’t be targeted and picked off one by one; to form a group that is at least as powerful in the defense as organized criminals are in the attack.

And this is the paradox—in order to fend off the formation of a tyranny, the only thing able to do the job is something that itself still has all the indicia of a government. The only choice that seems to be available is in trying to make arrangements to minimize the harm done—to tame the beast as much as possible.

Of course, I could be wrong—and if I am, I want to be told I am, so that I can try to base my plans for trying to reduce the infringements of rights on how the universe actually works, rather than on how I think it works or would like it to work.

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