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Government? Why?

by I.M. Freeman

Why not just eliminate it?  Why do we have it?  What causes it to exist?  There are snide, quick retorts that can be used in response from any of a dozen or more political points of view.  But, I'm trying to ask a more fundamental question.  What fact or facts about reality dictate that government or something like it must exist?

As an individualist, I am appalled by the misuse of the word “anarchy” to refer to unordered chaos.  It is misused to refer to a state of lawlessness: a kind of 'might makes right' free-for-all where you're either the predator or the prey.  And when one objects to government, to the very existence and authority of such entities, inevitably you are accused of desiring such a state of existence for humanity.  But I don't desire this.  Never have, and never will.  Nor do I believe it to be a state that would exist for any length of time.  In fact, I would argue that such conditions are more likely to occur under a strong, centralized government than under an anarchic social order.

What makes me think so?  To answer this question, I would ask a simpler question.  What are rights? Why do they exist?  Where do they come from?

My starting point is the fact that consciousness directs matter. Without arguing about the nature of consciousness, you and I experience this fact every moment of our lives.  We do it ourselves, and we infer that others do the same.  My mind directs my body directly, and many other things in this world indirectly.  It is unavoidable.  I know of no way to argue that it does not occur.  Consciousness directs matter.  For the sake of brevity, I will switch to using the word “mind” in place of “consciousness” here.

The second unavoidable fact is that minds come into conflict when two minds each attempt to direct a specific instance of matter in two differing ways.  Metaphysically there is no conflict.  Each person will attempt their act, and some variation of the two minds’ intentions will occur.  As an example, attempt to put two cars through the same intersection at the same time.  Neither will get through, and some unintended “accident” will occur.  This is what I mean by “there is no metaphysical conflict.”  The conflict is at the mind level.  Each mind has an intended outcome to their action, and those intentions may or may not be compatible.

Two minds each seeking a preferred future in which some instance of matter plays a role will on occasion come into conflict.  We humans are pretty smart.  We are able to communicate with each other, and are able to anticipate such conflicts.  In so doing, each of us seeks to “get our way.”  I want what I want, as do you.  So who gets to decide what happens?  When a conflict over the use of matter arises, who has the right of way?  This question is the essence of rights.  There is no mystery. No need for divine intervention.  No need for a constitution, bill of rights, or any other “rights establishing document.”  They arise naturally out of disputes over the use of matter.

People will not always agree.  There is no master plan that will meet all people’s ultimate ends.  People disagree, they strive to achieve their goals, with limited data and flawed but generally effective modeling of the future.  They disagree about what the future should be, and when they agree about that, they disagree about how to get there.

A completely obvious solution to this problem is the concept of property.  Ownership could be properly described as a relationship between mind and matter.  The owner gets to say.  In fact, I would argue that if one observes the actions of individuals in our society, we find out who has the right of way based not on titles, but on the actions with the matter.

So, examine what goes on around you.  Especially look behind the curtains.  Specifically, when someone says “the government did X” or “company Y did Z” look more carefully.  People, individuals like you and me, did the acting.  People are responsible.  They exercised ownership in fact, if not in name.


So back to the original question: “Government?  Why?”  Why do we have it?  It is reasonable for people to seek a third party to resolve disputes.  Somehow government has co-opted dispute resolution and yet managed to create special rules of property just for itself.  Are you ok with that?  Some social order for resolving disputes will naturally arise.  It’s too expensive to a community to not do so.  But does it have to be government?

Our social sciences are stagnant, our physical sciences are thriving.  Our social institutions reflect the state of our social sciences.  It is my hope to goad and poke at the gaps and errors in philosophy, ethics, politics, sociology, etc.  These are the substrate on which our governments are built.  I would be thrilled if we were to look back in 200 years and recall the dark ages of “social democracies” just as we do now monarchies.  In getting here from there, man had to rebut and replace archaic concepts of that time.  So too must we.  The work is not done; democracies are a step, not the end.

 published at Endervidualism on October 8, 2005

I.M. Freeman is a Computer Programmer living in Virginia. A former Marine and government contractor, he has seen first hand the excesses and waste of government.

"Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold."
    -- Proverbs 3:13,14

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