Monday, January 6, 2014

"How much government is necessary?"

For the first 16 minutes, Stephan Molyneux makes his interesting case for Anarchism, which has developed quite a following, but I see this as a temporary fad.

Molyneux is one of my favorite people to listen to on YouTube, because is he is a prolific and very intelligent speaker on many topics.  However, his faith in anarchism seems highly misplaced and defies common sense notions.  He could argue that our common sense notions are incorrect, but so few would agree with him that the burden of proof belongs in his court.

His makes the points that governments were created for the purpose of violating people's rights, and therefor cannot protect rights, and that if we raise children in an atmosphere of non-violence that people will not be as aggressive toward each other.  The first notion is incorrect and the second misunderstands human nature.

All animals and people compete within their own species for resources.  Most species understand either the concepts of property and/or territory.  I saw one squirrel aggressively chase another squirrel out of a tree.  Just as ostriches will fight each other for the best place to roost, many different animals will either defend their territory or forcibly fight to take over the territory of others.  What keeps another from stealing the place where you live or your food is the use of force or the threat of force.

The reason why some animals and people are social and form groups is simply because there is safety in numbers.  A tribe of 1 or 2 people would not last very long because all it takes is a slightly bigger tribe to chase them away or kill them.  Small groups formed for mutual defense and protection of territory.  As human population increased, this necessitated the smaller groups turning into bigger groups.  The need for mutual defense seems self evident since the first few thousand years of human civilization saw almost nothing but different groups invading, killing and/or enslaving other groups.   If you lived in the bronze age, a powerful authoritarian society might suck, but it might also be the safest place for you to be.  If your government was weak, it would be taken over by a different powerful authoritarian society that likely would have even less regard for your well being and survival.   

A small group of 20 cannot function very well without leadership, otherwise the group will splinter over disagreements, many of which will be about property, territory and rights.  Having leadership is what allows a group to get bigger, and therefor have a better chance at survival.  There is a Darwinian selection process for the groups that function the most efficiently.  As groups grew into societies, this lead to concentration of power, which certainly lead to all kinds of abuses.  As Milton Friedman pointed out, freedom is not the natural state of man.  Human beings have always lived under the thumb of some kind of authority.

The brilliance of the United States Constitution is that it created a government with many checks and balances to protect individual liberty.  The fact that the government has gotten out of hand just shows that the checks and balances were just not good enough.  Amending the constitution could help.   Still, it is one of the best governments in the world.  There are other countries that score higher on The Freedom Index, but compared to most nations, the United States interferes a lot less with its citizens.    

Abandon all government and the concepts of property and rights disappear instantly.  We would be back to the animal state where the strongest get what they want.  The power vacuum would be so great that humans would immediately start to form groups for their protection and to resolve conflicts.  These quasi-governments would eventually evolve into actual governments out of necessity because these different groups would conflict with each other.  My theory is that if you abandon all government, those who are powerful now, corporations, unions, organized crime and religion would immediately start to take over.  If had to pick one, I would guess that organized crime would only need about a week to rule the world. 

So governments were created to protect people's rights, and if that were the only role of government then I would gladly pay taxes for its protection, and it is the natural state of man to live under some kind of authority.  Despite the many flaws of government, it is possible for some people to construct governments that are much better than others.  So the goal here should not be to eliminate government, but to make it better.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

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