Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Government Is a Weapon of Mass Destruction

Government Is a Weapon of Mass Destruction
by Anthony Gregory

“Government is a tool,” so say most people who favor it. “It has its functions, and its limitations. It’s not good for everything, but it’s necessary for some things.”

I think this sums up the way, generally speaking, that most people see the government. Whether on the left or right, most non-totalitarians believe that government can do, has done, and currently does great harm, but that it is absolutely indispensable in doing some things that are so special, so vital, so fundamental that they absolutely require the active involvement of the state.

Most people, when pressed, will understand and admit that the key difference between government and all else in society simply comes down to the wielding of legalized physical force. They understand, in many cases intuitively, that their pet projects and ideas for the government – whether healthcare subsidies, a higher minimum wage, or an expanded war in the Middle East – boil down to the cop with a gun enforcing their well-intentioned will onto others.

Government is a monopoly on legal violence and the legal threat of that violence. Perhaps it’s more accurate to call it a monopoly on aggression. In theory, ideally, the individual retains the right to self-defense – but even this the state will often compromise, abrogate, or attempt to banish completely. Governments, at a minimum, retain the exclusive monopoly on the initiation of force.

If government is essentially a monopoly on force, and if government is in fact a tool, what kind of tool is it?

It’s a weapon. More precisely, it’s a weapon in constant use.

At this point, I want to clarify that I have nothing against tools, per se, or of weapons, per se. What I object to is their misuse. Tools are essential to civilization and weapons are essential to self-defense. This is how most people, I would guess, view tools and weapons. Even those that believe the government should ban all weapons want the government to use weapons to enforce the ban. Most people believe in weapons.

And even those who think government does some great things must admit it acts as a weapon to do them. At a minimum, it acts as a weapon to coercively obtain money through taxation to fund any given government program. Usually, government programs also act as weapons to forcibly change the way people behave and do business. Sometimes, government programs entail the overt use of many smaller weapons employed together in a large-scale project, such as in military and police work.

Almost everyone agrees that government causes a lot of damage in some way or another. Most conservatives believe that it has encouraged bad social and work habits, overtaxed the working class, dumbed down Americans, and degraded our culture. Most liberals believe government has overreached in its law enforcement and has threatened civil liberties. Most people realize the government has killed an awful lot of innocent people, whether knowingly or accidentally, overseas.

Most reasonable people would have to agree that government is destructive on a mass scale – and in fact frequently or even constantly so – and holds the potential to unleash destruction at even greater levels previously only imagined.

Government is a weapon of mass destruction.

Most Americans seem to believe the US government should have what are conventionally referred to as “weapons of mass destruction,” most notably nuclear bombs, but that some other countries and governments should not possess such weapons.

In fact, almost all governments in the world are quite destructive. The US government is quite destructive and incomparably expensive and large.

Of the two-point-something-or-other – sorry, I lost count – trillion dollars the federal government spends every year, how much do you think the average American believes is going to good causes in efficient ways?

Most people realize government is wasteful and large. Considering the sizable portion of the economy that government consumes every year, almost anyone would agree that government wastes an obscene amount of money – money taken by force and ultimately used on nothing productive or desirable.

That’s a lot of destruction right there. Even if some people believe that US weapons of mass destruction and the US government do much more good than bad just being there, they would probably concede that, yes, government and WMDs do have very destructive effects.

Why do people trust government – a “tool” that amounts to a weapon always held over everyone’s head and sometimes lowered to crack some skulls – to do so much good? Why does almost everyone realize that government-caused disasters exist everywhere, but assume that – once “the right people” implement “the right plan” – government successes are just around the corner?

I don’t have anything against weapons, per se, but I tend to believe that when 40% of the economy is absorbed through the violence of taxation and directed by the violent hand of the state, there’s a bit too much weaponry being brandished and employed, and a bit too much government destruction of the harmony of the market and the peaceful interaction of people.

The US government, taken as a whole, does incalculably tremendous damage to the lives, liberty and property of millions of individuals on a daily basis.

This is the thing people want to protect us from sickness, terrorism, crime, inequality and ignorance? Why does anyone trust it?

Because it pits people against each other in countless ways, making them believe that the problem isn’t the state: it’s who’s running the state and what the state is doing.

“Those other people are causing our government to do very damaging things!” so say most people who favor it. “And they’re stripping away its power to do good!”

Perhaps the most destructive thing governments do is divide people against each other, all in competition over the reins of the state, always to lead to a larger, more active state and yet very little satisfaction on the part of anyone. And everyone keeps complaining, blaming liberals or conservatives or libertarians or whomever for the failure of the state to usher in utopia.

And the government grows – using more force, wielding more weaponry, and nurturing more destruction.

Government is a weapon of mass destruction, always in use, and when more people see this I am confident that the calls from far and wide for disarmament will be too loud to ignore.

October 25, 2004