What Is Government?

I have been truly privileged today, while in Washington DC, to visit a site that is of incredible political and cultural significance to the nation. I refer here not to a huge, white stone building with neo classical lines, but to that crucial place; the Starbucks that is situated closest to the House Congressional offices.

Such an eminent and critically important place, central to the business of governing our nation (and central to the bipartisanship which actually does take place in Washington -“Can you pass the Half N Half?”) is a fitting venue for consideration of something key to Conservatism without which the movement falls on its face. This is an understanding of what government actually is and does from a Conservative standpoint.

It is impossible to legislate, govern, or even be reasonably well-educated as a Conservative without this basic understanding, and it is completely lacking among most conservatives today (I do not pretend to make claims about the progressive conception of government, except to say that progressives who do not understand their idea of government actually govern or legislate better than those who do not).

How can an ideological opposition to a popular President possibly be able to effectively work if they do not know what government is and what it’s function should be? Even worse, if they don’t understand these things then they will be swept to power by the mercurial need for change of the public only to drift away from their own principles to become indistinguishable from the other political ideology and leave power humiliated because they did not know what they ultimately stood for. Do I need to remind Republicans that this is precisely what happened to them over the past several years?

Conservatism should really be called liberalism in America today, because the root word behind liberalism is “liberty”, which means that it supposedly describes an ideology committed to freedom. In reality, considering that modern conservatives strive for radical change in our current mode of government and modern “liberals” strive for maintenance of a freedom-crushing status quo, the two terms are not really accurate.

Liberty is important, because it is the most fundamental thing to the Conservative view of government. Let us pretend that the most important thing to us is what our founding fathers expounded in the Declaration of Independence. Let us say that individual liberty is the political bottom line for us, namely, his “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”. We would have to agree with Benjamin Franklin that a government powerful enough to provide everything for you is strong enough to take everything from you. We would seek to understand what the most important, central role of government actually is, so we could guard it from creeping into areas in which it is not just unneeded, but destructive.

The role of the government of any free state, boiled down to its most essential is the use and threat of violent force.

Does that sound bad? If so, check your assumptions. A progressive automatically equates violent force with “bad”, even if that violent force is liberating Auschwitz or arresting a mugger. A progressive maintains that the gun kills, the nuclear weapon threatens, and the car manufacturer is responsible for traffic deaths. This is the primitive mentality of a cargo cult which cannot understand or separate a rational mind from the amoral tools used by that mind for good or evil, responsibly or irresponsibly.

A government is in the business of violent force. Indeed, it has no other tool. At it’s base, the only thing that a government can do is apply sophisticated rules that threaten violent force if it’s wishes are not carried out. If you are called to testify before Congress, if you do not go, you can be jailed. If you disobey traffic laws, you can have property (money) confiscated, or be restricted from driving, or jailed. If you resist the government, violent force up to lethal force will be used against you. It is important to note that this is not a bad thing. Individuals require objective laws and someone to enforce them. If a policeman uses violent force against a would be rapist, keeping him from attacking someone, that is a moral and responsible use of force. That policeman is to be commended. Nevertheless, the government has no power other than force when you boil away the forms, the regulations, the mind numbing bureaucrateze, and the idiotic universal signage pictograms. Fines, jail, and other means are the basic tool that the government must employ because it has no other tool. That is why it must maintain a monopoly on the use of force.

Individuals must be protected by force in order to ensure liberty. If a person is subject to coercion within a state, they need police to protect them from that coercion (usually in the form of muggers, rapists, and various thieves). If an individual is threatened by coercion from outside the state, a military must be maintained in order to secure and ensure their liberty. Thus, these two functions, both dependent on the use of force, are the central role of a free state.

the framers of our Constitution specifically excluded any power not enumerated in that document from the authority of the Federal government. This is still true and has not changed despite the unconstitutional seizure of virtually all temporal power by the Federal juggernaut in our day. Nobody ever amended the Constitution to allow it to legally authorize a Department of Education or EPA or OSHA, but such departments exist without any regard for the Constitution. The important thing here is to understand how Conservatives should approach government, given the fact that we are so far from a Constitutionally legal structure that we are basically dealing in shades of illegality.

I submit one, simple measure for any Conservative decision maker. Since the basic function of government is the moral application of force and the only tool it ultimately has is the application or threat of application of force, consider this whenever you are faced with a bill or a program or a potential new department or government power. If we, as a society decide that a given function is best carried out by government, then we as a society have decided that it is best carried out via the application or threat of violent force.

The education of our children is today carried out under threat of jail time, fines, or seizure of children by the Federal government if citizens do not cooperate. It follows naturally that our children are taught to get up and sit down to the sound of a bell and repeat back by rote what is “taught” to them by union functionary teachers and the level of actual education in our nation is pathetic. Man does not learn well while a metaphorical gun is pointed at him. I understood by fourth grade that the reason I was in school and the reason the inmate was in a prison were identical, except that he had done something to deserve it and I had not. Believe me, it makes a difference to the child’s mindset.

If we mandate universal health care, we are saying that health care is best applied by force. If Obama gets his “consumer protection agency” then a new agency with broad powers to control a vast spectrum of the economy and our lives will have been created. Administration officials say they want it to “have real teeth”. They have a better understanding of government than most Republicans and they revel in the use and accumulation of power. “Real teeth” means exactly that. This agency would be able to enforce mandates via the threat of violent force. It has no other option, since the government has no other tool to use.

Just consider this next time you read about some important and critical thing that “must” be done by government. Do we want that thing to be done by threat of violent force or not?


~ by Jubal Biggs on February 25, 2010.

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