Untrue Things People Believe
This is the tenth article addressing those things most people believe that are not true introduced in the article, "Most Of What You Believe Is Not True." To see all the articles, or any other one, please see the Index.
The purpose of these articles is to demonstrate that most of the things most people believe are not true, that they not only believe them but take them for granted as unquestionable facts. The necessity of government is one of those things people take for granted.
If you ask 20 people why they think government is necessary you'll probably receive twenty different answers. Here are some of them:
To protect human rights.
To protect individuals from criminals.
To provide moral and civil guidance.
To provide criminal justice, courts, etc.
To provide for civil dispute resolution, e.g. civil courts.
To provide necessary infrastructure, e.g. roads, mail, communication.
To provide order or to prevent chaos.
To insure all are treated fairly, e.g. all receive enough food, education, health care, etc.
To maintain a fair society where everyone is treated equally and no one is discriminated against.
To provide defense against foreign threats, the military, war.
These and more are the reasons people believe governments are necessary. They are not things they have reasoned out for themselves but what they have always heard and been taught and that is enough for most people. However, most people who believe these things do not really know what a government is.
What Is A Government
A government consists of one or more individuals with the exclusive authority (power) to exercise coercive force to govern (control) people (called subjects or citizens) occupying a given geographical area.
Some governments simply rule by brute force without any attempt to "legitimize" their authority. Their rule is like the rule of parents who explain to their children when they ask why they have to obey, "because it is my house and I'm bigger than you are." Dictators, emperors, and some kings exercise unlimited power because they have the biggest and cruelest gangs.
Such governments are unstable because others can form their own even bigger gangs, or the king's gang-members can be bribed which things happen because the citizens of tyrannies are not willing subjects.
Modern governments all attempt to appear legitimate and therefore accepted by the subjects. The most common method of appearing legitimate is by means of some scheme that convinces the citizens it is they who are the government or at least it is they who choose the government. The method is called "democracy" or "free elections."
Government and Laws
Brute force governments sometimes have laws which are nothing more than the declarations of the rulers, but often they simply run rough-shod over the subjects without laws. Most modern governments use laws as additional legitimation and as a ruse to excuse some of the worst things they do—"their hands are tied because it's the law."
One particularly deceptive idea used to put over government is the concept of, "republicanism," sometimes described as a government of laws as opposed to a government of men. But government laws do not appear miraculously, they are written by men; and government laws are not enforced by God or nature, they are enforced by men. All government, with or without laws, are governments of men.
Laws do not make anyone behave any differently than they would if there were no laws. Writing something on paper changes nothing except the paper. Laws must be enforced by some agency such as the police.
Every government has some kind of enforcement agency or agencies. They have only one purpose, to enforce the laws created by the government. Because the enforcement agencies have a monopoly on the use of force and in most cases are immune from any consequences of using it, they always tend to become corrupt.
Most people believe the police exist to protect them from crime. It has never been their purpose and cannot be. Occasionally policemen will accidentally happen to be where a crime is about to be committed and they intervene. Such cases are very rare and totally serendipitous.
The police do not even enforce the law in the sense that they prevent laws from being broken. The only part of the law the police enforce is penal law, which only applies after a law has been broken and a crime has been committed.
Even Ayn Rand, one the strongest advocates of government, who argued government only exercised what is a citizens "right" to self defense, wrote:
"The only function of the government, ... is ... protecting [men] from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man's right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use." [Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal, "Theory And History 1. What Is Capitalism?"]
Defense comes before the crime. Retaliation is only needed when the defense fails. Even Rand new police could not protect anyone against crime but only come in after the crime is committed to retaliate.
Kinds Of Government
Though all governments are agencies of force that produce no goods or service anyone would willing pay for, most people believe government is both necessary and good if it is just the right kind of government.
Thirty nine different kinds of government are described at "Rational Wiki."
The most important forms of government are: dictatorship, totalitarian, theocracy, monarchy, parliamentary, republic, and oligarchy/plutocracy. Anarchy and Capitalism are sometimes named as kinds of government. Anarchy means no government. Capitalism is an economic theory, not a form of government. The basic description of government applies to all versions of government and the variations are largely window dressing. Nevertheless, it is the window dressing people are most impressed by. So we'll look at the window dressing:
Dictatorship is rule by a single individual with final say on all laws and policy. Iraq and Libya, before the Americans murdered Kadafi, are examples of dictatorships.
Totalitarian is rule over every aspect of the life the citizens. It may be a dictatorship or a ruling party as in China.
Theocracy is rule according to the laws and teachings of a theistic religion; the leaders of such a country only implement those laws and may directly represent the diety. All totally Muslim countries are theocracies.
Monarchy is rule by a king or queen and the position is inherited, which is the only difference from a dictatorship. Monarchs may be totalitarian, or theocratic, or both. Jordan is a monarchy.
Parliamentary government's lawmakers are elected as members of a party and remain in power so long as their party remains in power. England and Israel have parliamentary governments. There are other details of a parliamentary system that do not change its nature as a government.
Republic government's lawmakers are each individually elected for a specific amount of time. The American version separates the government into three parts: the legislative (senators and congressman), the executive (president who is also elected), and judicial (supreme court—justices are appointed). This division is supposed to provide "checks and balances" which is a government song and dance that pretends the government will be kept honest, and most people buy it. Nothing is checked and nothing ever balances—especially the budget.
Oligarchy/Plutocracy is rule by some elite group usually for the purpose of holding power and accumulating wealth. Rule is restricted to certain privileged members of society based on wealth and economic influence, religion (e.g. theocracy), class, or family (e.g. monarchy). The United States is an Oligarchy based on wealth of the unearned kind. [Those who have truly produced their wealth are too busy working to be interested in politics.]
What About Anarchy?
All government is tryannical and oppressive. All arguments for government are, like justice and rights, specious, and all government laws are in defiance of reality and true justice.
It is one thing to recognize that government, in any form, is evil, and quite another to advocate what is commonly called anarchism, in any of its forms.
Government is inevitable and nothing is ever going to eliminate governments from the world. Some governments are much worse than others—the very worst ultimately self-destruct. Sometimes what replaces them (always another form of government) is better; sometimes what replaces them is much worse. The one thing that is inevitable is government. Anarchism, at best, is wishful thinking, at worst it is a form of destructive political activism that either makes government stronger, or causes all the kinds of violence and harm that government itself causes.
The reason government is inevitable is because most people do not want either real justice or freedom. What most people want is security, guarantees, simple answers, and assurance they are important or good.
[The following is adapted from, "Free Society, The Unrealizable Ideal"]
"Freedom means responsibility, that's why most men dread it," G.B. Shaw wrote. Shaw was right, to be truly free means to be totally responsible for all of one's own choices and actions, one's success or failures determined solely by one's own efforts. For the truly free, there are no guarantees in life, and one must face every risk on their own, either learning how to deal with them, or suffering the consequences. For the truly free, nothing is provided and everything must be acquired or achieved by one's own effort. For those who love freedom, these are freedom's virtues, but for most people, the very virtues of freedom are a source of terror.|
Collectivists and statists (governments) are offering exactly what most people desire. Where freedom offers responsibility, government offers relief from that responsibility. "Don't worry about making provisions for your old age, the government will take care of it." Where freedom offers the reality of risk and danger, the government offers guarantees and safety. "Don't worry about natural disasters, the government will take care of everything and protect you from them. Don't worry about the dangers of the world, the government will pass laws that will make everything safe, your food, your medicine, even driving your car."
The promoter of freedom can protest as clearly and loudly as possible that the government produces nothing, that the government can only confiscate what is produced by others and redistribute it, that the government cannot and never has been able to deliver on any of its promises. But the protest will fall on deaf ears.
The collectivists and statists have another advantage. There is no moral compunction on their part against outright lying, and all their propaganda and promotions can promise anything anyone might want, even when there is no intention or means of delivering on those promises. The promoter of freedom can promise only that every individual will be free to have or achieve whatever they can by their own efforts and ability. Since most people have little or no confidence in their own competence and ability to achieve or accomplish much, the empty but appealing promises of the statists win the day every time.
There is a final advantage of the statist message that makes it almost impossible to defeat. That advantage is its shear simplicity. It is presented as the simple solution to all problems. It requires no effort to understand, only ignorance and gullibility to swallow. No matter what problem there is, the government can solve it simply by passing a law or forming a new agency.
Anarchism is an unrealizable dream. As dreams go, it is not a bad one, but it cannot be realized in the real world. What can be realized in the real world is one's own freedom, but almost no one is working for that.
Chaos Without Government
Without government wouldn't the world be a world of chaos? If there were no governments to control people what would stop them from robbing, beating, raping, and murdering, and generally running wild?
It is difficult to take this question seriously since, with government to control people, no one is stopped from robbing, beating, raping, and murdering, and generally running wild, which everyone knows who gets their news from anywhere but the MSM. If these describe the "chaos" people are terrified of, government obviously does nothing to eliminate that chaos.
I've already written four articles, Social Chaos, demonstrating the very chaos people hunger for government to save them from is what is best about even a moderately free society, and to whatever extent government limits that chaos, a society becomes more evil.
A society without government might be wonderful as an ideal, but so long as the world is populated with people who are willing to surrender freedom for the sake of ease and security, that ideal is an impossibility. My grandmother used to say, "there will always be war until all the young men refuse to fight." I say, "there will always be government until all men choose to earn their own way in life and refuse to vote."