The Matter of Political Philosophy

When an individual studies political philosophy, it is usually with the intent to understand the core principles that govern the political life of a city, a region, or a nation. What is it that motivates or causes a mayor to be just, or to be corrupt? What influence does the general consensus of the people have upon the government? In what way does the government manifest its power with the least amount of justice? In what way does it manifest its power with the most amount of justice? What definition exactly can we give to the term the general will of the people? All of these questions are ones that interested people will ask themselves and others in an attempt to gain answers. They will look back to philosophers like Machiavelli, Locke, Rousseau, Plato, among others, to try and find some opinion that has validity. To a large extent, when political philosophy scholars attempt to uncover the answers to these questions, it is not just to help defeat Fascism, or help bring about Communism, or help in strangling Socialism, or generally to aid or destory any other -ism; rather, these questions are asked because people are genuinely interested in discovering what method of government is best for the people.

Political Philosophy is the study of government,The Matter of Political Philosophy Articles of power, of authority. It is a question of who is in power, why they are in power, how they can maintain their power and how the public will respond to this power, and what powers certain authorities hold in certain societies. It is all these questions and more. In our modern society of today’s world, some political philosophy questions would be “To what extent does the authority of the policeman extend?” and “In what justification does a court issue a search warrant?” The reason why it is important and relevant to understand Political Philosophy is to help ourselves better understand, and perhaps one day alter the current society, with social justice as an end. By understanding these concepts, we are better able to grasp the problems that society has withstood for a great deal of time.

There are some basic facts that should be understood clearly before one progresses in depth the study of Political Philosophy. First, there is the question of the issues at hand. Every generation will have its own issues of social justice or political rightness. Those who have only a brief knowledge of history will be able to confirm this. There was a generation whose intent was to liberate all African slaves, another generation that wanted equality for a second class of citizens called Plebians, and at least five generations that worked for the equality of the sexes. Every culture has its rebellious side to it, its nay-sayers whenever the body politic combines. So we have seen groups work for reforms, for changes, for revolutions in all facets of life. We see Animal Rights activists working for similar principles as did the Abolitionists. On the other side, we see Christian Fundamentalists trying to implement an ideology in to the government. There are those who want to create a Communist nation, with free healthcare and education to everyone. And there are those who want to resurrect the Inquisition to deal not just with religious heretics, but with political and social heretics as well. Civil Rights, Free Trade, education, healthcare, freedom of speech, etc., etc.. These are all issues at hand. When we look to the issues, we must understand that they are not related to the study of Political Philosophy.

One might easily make the misunderstanding of associating these issues with Political Philosophy. The error stems from the fact that government bodies are often responsible for enforcing or not enforcing these issues, and the association that one is responsible for the other. While this may be true in some cases, there is a clear difference between Political Philosophy and the current political atmosphere of a nation. Political Philosophy deals with who possesses authority, on what grounds they possess this authority, and how this authority can be used on the public. As far as the issues go, it doesn’t specifically concern Political Philosophy. A dictator might issue a mandate enforcing a strong Civil Rights bill as much as he might issue a mandate enforcing the Bible as law. On the other hand, it might be an elected president who issues a mandate agreed upon by congress to reinstate the draft, or to invade a foreign nation, or to nationalize all industries involving food, housing, and clothing production. Political Philosophy is the question of who is in power, who has authority, and on what grounds that authority is shifted from person to person.

Before we immediately dive in to the tastey depths of Political Philosophy, creating a Utopia in our mind by using a system of checks and balances, or enlightened despots based on a certain religion, or some form of majority rules, or constitutional ethics, etc., etc. — before we jump right in to Political Philosophy to take a stand on what the ideal political state would be, or what the ideal state of mankind would be, there are some other facts that should be recognized. These facts should be recognized only insomuch that they will help guide us to creating a system of politics that will allow the greatest amount of social and political justice. The study of Political Philosophy is a sociological study, not dissimilar to economics in many respects. Much like economics, there are certain stern laws to Political Philosophy that ought to be followed. By understanding these evidenced laws, we are in a better position to make judgments about the body politic, about what is just, abotu what is unjust, etc., etc.. And, by being able to comprehend the outcome of certain actions better, we will be able to theorize a more ideal state of civilization. We’ve already recognized the principle that Political Philosophy is not a study in achieving Nazism any more than it is a study in achieving racial equality. It does not promote one social issue over another. It is the study of how conclusions to these social issues are reached.

Among these stern laws that govern the body politic of a society, there is the one that everyone differs in opinion. All throughout history, whether seperated by culture, language, race, or even era, we have found that people will disagree with each other. One tends to think that opinions become much more conformed when looking within the same society, that a low-income Chinese man in Hong Kong is more likely to agree with another low-income Chinese man in Hong Kong. When comparing this one man with, say, a low-income American man in San Francisco, opinions will differ, and probably greater if the man is from New York City, and then even greater if it is a middle-income man, and even greater still if it is a high-income man. Change the gender, the social background, the political background, the development environment from childhood, etc., etc., and the more likely you are to find yourself with a conflict of opinion. However, regardless of these statistical differences, there will always be differences of opinion. When we take two people of the very same background, even brothers of the same bood, we will find differences of opinion in such a great quality.

What is the point of observing the differences of opinion? Well, among one of the important reasons for observing this difference of opinion, it is to understand how government officials and the public will act when in conflict for each other. You cannot design a political system and define each sheriff or police officer as “having a complete and honest understanding of justice and fairness.” Nor can you design a political system in which the mayors and politicians believe in one issue over another, in Marijuana reform or in Isolationism; nor can you define the public in this political system as supporting Liberalism in every case, or opposing Communism in every case — you cannot design a political system where the thoughts of the subjects and the rulers are already in place. This is a dilemma that many political theorists are pointed to in their own designs of a perfect utopia. Some may be thinking right now that pointing out such an observation is overly obvious, overly simple, etc.. True, it is simple and it is obvious, but it is a stern law of Political Philosophy. You can argue for an enlightened despot that believes in the gospels and enacts them, but his interpretation of them might very well be different from yours. You have to understand that a society will breed, grow, die, whither, change, and alter with every passing month, and that it is the citizens, ruled and ruler, that are responsible themselves for making these changes. A political theorist, then, acts much like a parent — they can steer, but cannot control; it is their duty to instruct, not to legislate. This law of Political Philosophy of difference of opinion is just as solid as the law of competition in Economics. The fact that people will buy products and services of higher quality with lower pricing is as true as the fact that laws or social structure are incapable of creating the mentality of the people.

For example, imagine that you choose the system of enlightened despot as the ideal system for society. It might just so happen that the people are brutes, ignorant and thougthless, violent and cruel, and it is the king’s rule that protects the innocent and punishes the wicked. True, this could very well happen. However, it is just as probable that the king would be the brute, and his people would be just, and that it would be the rule of this king that would inflict so much damage upon the morale of these people. Hopefully, this example will illuminate the importance of this law of Political Philosophy.

Every study or field of interest should start with basic premises, certain provable assumptions, and perhaps even an ideology, a method of guiding towards progress. In medicine, it is the Hypocratic Oath, an agreement to never harm your patient. In chemistry, it may be the idea of aiding technology and the prosperity of society. In physics, it is to find higher truth about the philosophical nature of the universe. In history, it is to understand the truth about the events of the past, in an objective and relevant manner. Every field of study has its own ethical theorem, its own particular fascinations about philosophy, its own place in society. In Political Philosophy, the premise can be stated as follows: to create the most advanced state of human cooperation and co-involvement through theory and practice. It is a sociological science, yes, in that it observes and makes predictions about society and behavior roles of people. In sociology, the ethical theorem is to study the mechanics and dynamics of society, in order that we ourselves can be more knowledgeable, and thus able to make more-informed decisions about our actions in society. But, in Political Science, the ethical theorem is to create a utopia, or at least the closest thing accomplishable to a utopia. A utopia in this sense being defined as a method of cooperation and organization in social affairs that creates a long-lasting prosperity for everyone, justice available to all classes, and equity in the laws and contracts. How to create such a utopia, how to set certain powers or certain rights or certain privileges so that the human world becomes a better place to live, it is this study that all political philosophers have argued and bickered about for centuries. Many of them used logic based on the preceding philosophers, others of them used their own unique arguments. But, it is this field that is a study of how to improve the lives of everyone… And that is why it is a valuable study.

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What does the Government have to Fear of the People?

Part 1: Introduction”…subjects having no law but the will of their master, and their master no restraint but his passions, all notions of good and all principles of equity again vanish.”– Jean Jacques Rousseau, [“A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men,” by Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1754, Translated by G. D. H. Cole, Second Part.]

I am an Anarchist. This means that I believe that authority,What does the Government have to Fear of the People? Articles or all non-defensive forms of coercion, are antagonistic towards the public good. When it comes to politics, this means that I am a Libertarian; I advocate a social order that allows for the greatest amount of personal independence, a system where the laws are determined wholly by the people. Of course there will be insults to the decision-making ability of the common people. But, it is only the people who can be trusted to look after their own interests genuinely. It’s not really a question of who is more capable, more intelligent, or more willing — in fact, these are all wonderful characteristics of famous leaders throughout history, but it was their exceptional skill which allowed them to oppress their people effectively. The question of politics is a matter of who determines the law. Is it the people, the ones who the law is made for, or is it the governors, those who always find themselves avoiding the penalties of crime simply by their position? We must be free of any and all political tyrants. They are the persons who abuse the good will of the people and manipulate the flow of information, only that they may build their own personal greatness on the suffering of the multitudes.

When it comes to the issue of commerce, trade, and the economy, being an Anarchist means I am a Socialist. A political authority that bans literature, imprisons dissidents, and murders the innocent is a threat to the common people of society. It is equally unjust when an economic authority pays so little to the workers that they must work sixteen hours shifts, hiring their children to sacrifice their life and limbs operating dangerous machinery. What is it that makes an economic or political authority? One is made an authority when they possess the ability to coerce others to their whim. All oppressive, totalitarian authorities use force as a method of gaining the compliance of the masses. Under threat, people are required to change their behaviors so that nothing they do can harm or otherwise change the system. A political authority’s strength lies in the ability to imprison or kill. It is recognized immediately as a threat. An economic authority, however, will compel society to its wishes by threatening the same thing: if you do not adhere to our demands, you will not be given money, and you will therefore not be able to purchase the necessities of life.

The force behind both political and economic authorities then is distinctly violent and cruel in nature. For those who are in control, the only goal they can have is the maintenance and development of their power. And this translates to creating masterful, new systems of social control. The greater the compulsion, the stronger the authority.

I believe in the abolition of authority and the removal of those who victimize the people. This is the definition of an Anarchist.

Part 2: People Need the Government”Man’s greatest battles have been waged against man-made obstacles and artificial handicaps imposed upon him to paralyze his growth and development. Human thought has always been falsified by tradition and custom, and perverted false education in the interests of those who held power and enjoyed privileges.”– Emma Goldman, [“The Place of the Individual in Society,” by Emma Goldman, sponsored by the Free Society Forum, 1940.] In nearly every public address that George Bush has given, he has used the word “terrorist” multiple times; he uses phrases like, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” or “If we stop now, the terrorists will win,” or “The United States government is constantly combating terrorism.” It’s a very rare occurrence to see the president speaking in public without using the word “terrorist” once. And since the horrible destruction that happened on September 11 of 2002, the word “terrorist” has taken on a completely new and reformed image in the hearts and minds of Americans. The 9-11 Commission investigated the matter and accused the FBI of having the fault of “…perceived legal barriers to sharing information…” [Section: “Problems in the FBI.”] From an outside perspective, this actually translates to: The intelligence agencies in the United States were all fully aware of the attacks that were going to take place on the World Trade Center. Those who held the reigns of power, however, had so much more to gain from the bombings than those terrorists could ever think they were accomplishing. While the militants and extremists started to celebrate the deaths of our children, the Bush administration and other government officials also had a reason to celebrate: now the people will become more obedient to government, they will sacrifice civil liberties for a perceived sense of justice, they will blindly follow the law — patriotism starts to flow through the veins of Americans again as the one thing necessary for oppression and tyranny rises: people having a stronger sense of needing their “protector.” There is really no excuse for what the Bush administration allowed to happen on that fateful day. A few politicians talked about “information sharing problems between intelligence agencies.” Again, more lies fed to us by our government. Is this really the first time that the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA had information about a national disaster and then did nothing? Well, there is the case of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International…”

Sen. Hank Brown was exasperated. For hours, he and Sen. John Kerry had been grilling officials of the Central Intelligence Agency about the way they had handled information they received during the 1980s on wrongdoing at BCCI, in particular evidence that the bank illegally owned Washington’s First American Bank. The CIA officials had explained to the senators that they forwarded the information to various agencies in the federal government, but conceded that somehow they had failed to pass the information about First American onto the Federal Reserve — which oversees bank ownership. To Brown, that was a significant error. ‘If you know there’s a fire, you don’t call the city manager’s office, you call the fire department,’ the Colorado Republican complained. ‘They called the city manager’s office.'” [“Dirty Money,” by Mark Potts, Nicholas Kochan, and Robert Whittington, 1992, National Press Books, First Edition, page 251.] Of course the issue of BCCI is a very complicated one. The CIA and other intelligence agencies in the United States were all well aware that BCCI was stealing billions of dollars from those who banked with them. The records that were obtained from BCCI, however, showed that the CIA was pay rolling terrorists in Third World countries — they had a vested interest in keeping the oppressive syndicate alive and well. In the end, over ten billion dollars was stolen from the public, sparking the recession of the early 1990’s. The people of Pakistan made a wise choice when they voted in the Socialist Party; an initial move of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the nationalization of the banking system, since it was especially rife with this kind of abuse. Among the first corporations banned from his nation was the BCCI bank. His people were saved from a rate of unemployment and joblessness that debilitated the American economy. And of course there were politicians and “representatives of the people” at this time who claimed they worked to reform “information-sharing” among the intelligence agencies.

The deaths of thousands of Americans and then ten billion dollars stolen from those who banked with BCCI. But, no, the history of government manipulating information to make people need them doesn’t start in 1980 and end in 2002. There is the case of the Pentagon Papers, which still remain largely unpublished and unavailable to the public. The intelligence agencies of the United States government promised the public that America was winning the Vietnam War; one of the promises he made to the American people was a demilitarization of the efforts in that Southeast Asian nation. Journalists from our time would recall what had happened…”…the New York Times and the Washington Post published a secret government-written history about what the government leaders really knew and thought about the Vietnam War. Buried inside these documents, which came to be called the Pentagon Papers, was the substance of what McNamara in fact had reported to the president. Things were going to hell in Vietnam. Viet Cong reinforcements were outpacing Viet Cong casualties. More American troops were going to be needed, not less. All in all, it was a complete repudiation of everything he [President Lyndon B. Johnson] had said in his two public press conferences.” [“The Elements of Journalism,” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, Three Rivers Press, New York, Pages 36 to 37.] The Spanish American War is accepted by most historians today as a simple matter of conquest and Imperialism. It was not a matter of defending the rights of American citizens or stopping a terrorist threat. The USS Maine was parked in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, where an explosion ripped through it and killed hundreds of men. The United States government had released official reports at that time from its intelligence agencies that the explosion was caused by the Spanish, which became their justification for war. It seems a little suspicious to anyone with an eye for the scientific method; the United States government places its soldiers and troops in another country “for non-military purposes,” and the result is their destruction from a nation that has showed absolutely no aggression towards Americans? Of course, a probe later would uncover that the explosion was internal; if one were so willed to the truth and dedicated to the evidence that history has furnished, they might come to the theory that there was a bomb placed on the USS Maine by American leaders. The Bush Administration relied on bad intelligence when invading Iraq as it has admitted, but there was sharp criticism of the evidence he had been using. The history of government repeats itself: the government encourages the people to believe that they are defending their rights, that everyone has something to fear from a foreign enemy, and in the end, every time, it is always the domestic government which has been the greatest and most unrelenting enemy of the people.

The 9-11 Commission’s report was a bit historically inaccurate. In one part, it reads: “It would be able to influence the leadership and the budgets of the counterterrorism operating arms of the CIA, the FBI, and the departments of Defense and Homeland Security.” [Section: Unity of Effort: A National Counterterrorism Center.] One might say that the entire report is invalid if its writers truly believe this. If the CIA is truly a “counterterrorism” organization, then why do we have extensive and undeniable evidence of them pay rolling terrorists in other countries? Are bombings and executions acceptable, so long as they are inflicted only upon those who are not Americans? Does that not count as “terrorism”? The governments of the world are much more interested in pitting people against other people; if the masses ever realized who was truly threatening their culture, their society, and their way of life, all governments would be dissolved in a matter of days or weeks.

[IMAGE BY DOCTOR SUESS!!!!!!!!] Can the governments of the world be trusted? Can our faith be safely placed in to the hands of nation states? World War One was raging for years before the United States entered the battle. German forces sank the Lusitania, a luxury ship carrying nearly 1,200 passengers, many of them Americans. Woodrow Wilson delivered a speech to his people, saying, “Even hospital ships and ships carrying relief to the sorely bereaved and stricken people of Belgium, though the latter were provided with safe conduct through the proscribed areas by the German Government itself and were distinguished by unmistakable marks of identity, have been sunk with the same reckless lack of compassion or of principle:

” [Woodrow Wilson before congress, April 2, 1917.] The American people were led in to this great world war, with the unflinching belief that there was a superpower that had threatened them and their way of life. What was neglected in all of the mainstream newspapers at that time was that the Lusitania was also carrying munitions and weapon supplies to England. The US government had involved the entire nation in a world war on the false premise that its ships weren’t being used to give military aid to England during the war. But when the government repeats over and over again, that terrorists, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Cuba, Grenada, Haiti, Guatemala, Vietnam, Korea, China, and Russia are a threat to the people of America, the citizenry is raised up in arms. Fifty thousand Americans were sent to their deaths; and they only marched willingly because the government and the mainstream media had constantly perpetuated the false notion that Germany was attacking America’s ships without cause.

The Treaty of Versailles effectively crippled and destroyed the economy of Germany, creating the perfect conditions for the rise of a militarist dictator who had less than half of the support of his own country. The sight of concentration camps, of tens of millions enslaved and executed, of governments slaughtering their people openly in the streets — all of this might have been avoided if someone was willing and strong enough to expose the lies of Woodrow Wilson. But, there were dissidents. Big Bill Haywood and over one hundred others were convicted and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment, because they promoted the truth: the idea that war is a tool of governments, to satisfy the interests of the economic and political elites, at the great cost of human life. [Siitonen, Harry (March, 2005). The IWW – Its First 100 Years. Industrial Workers of the World. URL accessed on 2006-03-31.] Once again, wartime brought with it a suspension of civil liberties and civil rights. Looking at history as it happened and not as our presidents so slyly elude to will change your perception of the world as it happens today. George Bush constantly makes references to the Patriot Act as a tool of America to defeat the enemies of its people. And, of course the title “Patriot Act” is used, because anyone who would oppose the United States fighting terrorists must not be a patriot. The games the government plays today are hardly new. In fact, they perfectly capture the activities of organized states as they have been carried out for centuries. Perhaps George Bush’s violation of personal liberties and freedoms will be enough to spark another international war — and Americans will only have to blame themselves when rain of nuclear fire strikes them, because their government involved them in a war after repeatedly lying to them and then imprisoning those who try to tell the truth.

Part 3: Opinion-Setting Campaigns”An established government has an infinite advantage, by that very circumstance of its being established; the bulk of mankind being governed by authority, not reason…”– David Hume, “Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth,” by David Hume, 1754.

On American currency, one can find the phrase “E Pluribus Unum,” which translated directly from Latin reads: “One out of more.” There are few phrases more worthy of describing a real Democracy, but since the Enlightenment, people have started to believe that the government was made for them and that they were not made for the government. The policy of the state has since changed, from an aggressive and enslaving tone to a sympathetic and quietly coercive manner: the orders of the state no longer carrying the seal of the church, god, and the army, but they all come with the message that the people need its government to be strong and powerful. The people, our masters tell us, need the army, the navy, the air force, the police, congress, parliament, the president, and all other authoritarian aspects of the state. People start to believe that an authority with power is the greatest tool in defeating the things which threaten their lives and their culture; few people stop to think that such a great tool will also be used against them.

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Power: Its Cause, Its Effect

Between the thousands of pages of history, one will see the rise to power of kings and their eventually toppling, either by a social insurrection or an opposing political party, or perhaps the one enemy they never outrun: death. The Russian culture had decided to call their monarchs Czars, the Europeans called theirs Kings, the Egyptians used the term Pharoah. So it is that every culture has a long line of leaders and rulers who have given birth to laws and shaped society and government. So it is also often true that these political figures would have a religious connection as well. It seemed that every culture has its war between the state and the church. In some cases, one would gain control over the other, and sometimes the opposite would occur. Monarchs, by whatever title, were dictators, despots, or unelected leaders. Some may have had representative bodies aid in creating and enforcing legislation, and some leaders were elected themselves, as presidents and chancellors are. Whatever the case, whatever the restrictions or the means of their coming to leadership, every leader has power. By this, they have the ability to enforce restrictions or requirements upon those who they control over. However, as many are already aware of, the idea of power (or government) in this regard is something I consider to be unjust, both on its principle and its practice. The following essay will outline my reasons for this belief, this belief of Anarchism.

The Cause of Power

I imagine that there is little doubt as to the cause of power. By the word power,Power: Its Cause, Its Effect Articles I mean the ability to influence people through force, essentially, physical force and coercion. Power is the result of people supporting one person as a leader. This support can come in various forms. Either through taxes, military duty, moral support (defending/praising them publicly), or any other method, power comes to a leader by the support of others. In the cases of dictators and despots, they remain in power by both popular and military rule, in most cases. A king whose rule is harsh, brutal, and undesirable by a people will have to have a strong military rule. But even with that, there is the possibility of an insurrection, overthrowing the old leader and replacing him with a new one, or possibly without any. The family of Nicholas II, the Russian Czar, was executed by his own military, because of the incredibly negative effect his rule has had on the land. On the other hand, a king whose rule is neither negative nor positive to the general population, will require only some military support and some popular support. I imagine that a ruler who gains enough popular support will only need military support to defend himself against other political opponents.

The understanding our the mechanics of government in our schools and universities seems to be that a person is elected, impeached, repramanded, or otherwise ousted, through a due process. No decision, either judicial or legislative, can be enforced without several parties examining it, and the interested parties having their opinion put in. The American idea of power, it seems, is believed to be the ability to convince judges, legislators, voters, and others that your idea is the right idea. The president, who has (some of) the American people at his feet, has the media outlets directly towards what he will say next, probably commands the most power in this nation under this definition.

However, despite whatever one may believe about the American political infrastructure, all arguments, all debates, the ability to convince, means nothing, without force to back it up. There may be the process of the president vetoing a bill and the congress trying to get 2/3rds vote to override the veto. One may say that the congress cannot enforce the bill until they can override the veto with a 2/3rds vote. There are other similar barriers in different fields, the so-called “checks and balances” of the judicial, legislative, and executive power. The only purpose that it serves is to convince people that the will of the government is the voice of the people. In many cases, officials outrightly violate the government’s structure. So it was when the Supreme Court ruled that the United States had to respect the Cherokee Nation. The president’s response was rather expressive of what I have said, “The Supreme Court has made their decision. Now let them uphold it.” Power means the ability to coerce, to physical force, and in the most brutal form, the ability to murder and kill.

The cause of power, as I have stated, is rather simple. Power is caused by the support of a figure by one mass or group of people, thus making him a political figure. As to why these groups of people defend and promote this one person, this person they desire to be a leader of all, it is based on their thoughts and ideas, essentially their justification. They believe, inherently, that their leader must be the one with the most military power. The reasons why make up their justification.

The greatest argument in defense of government, which has also been used in the defense of increased restrictions, is that of protection. It is believed that without a government, there will be chaos and vice. Order, it is believed, will be completely ameliorated, as nobody will exist to defend the weak and innocent from the cruelty of the powerful and vicious. So it happens that protection becomes the sole goal of government, though other parties and interests would come to be considered. The often quoted Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote, “Government is an evil; it is only the thoughtlessness and vices of men that make it a necessary evil. When all men are good and wise, government will of itself decay.” Expressing a similar idea, Thomas Paine wrote…

For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. [Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, section “Some writers have so confounded society with government.”]

It seems to be uniformly believed among thinkers that though government (or power) ought to be supported, it is a necessary evil. The primary, and sole, goal of government should be protection. What we then find in various political activism and campaigning is a desire to alter this protection in government, whether it is to boost it, decrease it, or (more often than not) aim it at a new sector or remove aim from another sector. For instance, we have the conservatives who typically are opposed to welfare and social programs, believing that protection should be withdrawn from the poor, while the liberals typically believe in sustaining such protection or increasing it. Some believe that military spending of the United States needs to be decreased while others desire to maintain it and may even want to increase it. All of these activists understand the principle role of government as a protector.

With only a little study on the subject, it is not hard to come to the conclusion that it is an evil, however necessary. The most obvious harm it causes is property appropriation, or taxes. Government needing a means to support itself often goes through this rather simple, typical method of taxation. The evil inherent in this is productivity lost. If man were not “needing a lawgiver,” then government would be unnecessary, and so, too, would be taxes. This is only money, though. One of the greater evils of government, sometimes recognized as much as taxation, is that of control. In short, this means the government interfering with the day-to-day life of its citizens. This could mean search and seizures, court trials, tolls, and control in general which interferes with a citizen’s activity. But there is another form of control by the government which is much more detrimental to personal liberty. It is when political campaigners manage to outlaw an activity which is neither harmful to the individual or the society, or legalizing an activity which is. In some cases, this meant outlawing a particular religion, and in other cases, it meant legalizing slavery of a race or class. Since many of these issues are up to debate (whether Capitalism, or class slavery, is just, for example). So it would seem that as the morals of society evolve, so do the laws on its legislation, but this is another question up to debate. The last final evil of government is corruption. Since power exists in the hands of one person, their rule of the people can be bribed or persuaded with the influence of one wealthy person. This could include businessmen who want laxer restrictions on their products or how much they pay workers or it could include powerful lobbying groups which want their ideals to become laws.

Taxation, control, and corruption are the primary evils of an existing government. Though government is an evil, it is recognized as a necessary evil, in that without it, there would be no protector of the innocent.

The Result of Power

The result of power is with its inability to properly communicate the will of the people. There is a very old political idea, that the people of a land ought to be the ones who control that land. What is meant by this, is that they must be in control of the legislation to pass laws. Their interests must be the ones considered in the passing of any and all legislation. As to the method, the best method, of accurately and properly carrying out the interests of the people and the betterment of the collective, there have been various theories. Granted that today, as our history books have reflected and our governments have formed, the idea of a Republic, or representative government (with elected officials) is most preferred among current thinkers. Obviously, this has not always been so. Some argued that the idea of a dictator (whether called a “monarch” or “king” respectively) with absolute power was the best method of safeguarding the interests of the people. Monarchists believed that people were inherently evil, brutal, and cruel, and that only an absolute authority was capable of bringing order — such ideas can be found in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. However, as it can be seen today, such ideas are remarkably antiquated. In some cases, the power is vested in a king, whose absolute authority guarantees order, with a council, whose interests represent those of the people — in theory, anyway. It is popularly believed today, by all nations of the western world, that a representative government (or republic) is the most effective method of preserving the will of the people.

The idea that the people of a region ought to be the ones with control over their lives, a rather old idea, has been one cherished and defended by philosophers and native peoples. It seems that, though they are at no loss for words in exchanging arguments on how a native people control the law, this one idea that they are the ones to control it (or it is their interests to be considered when laws are made) is fairly accepted. Of course there are instances of philosophers or political figures, defending that idea when it came only to their own nation, but abandoning it when it came to the exploitation of a colony. (So it happens, that a man seemingly consistent in ideology, will abandon his morality to exploit the riches of another — though this is not always the case.)

This idea of people in a particular region controlling their lives I shall call autonomy for brevity, though autonomy truly implies a strong Democracy. Though there is a variety of methods that philosophers and political theorists have tried to apply this idea to a system, the justification for it seems to be difficult to find. For some philosophers, they have asserted that the idea of autonomy is the equivalent of justice; a violation of justice, then, would be people not allowed to be controlling their own lives. What can someone offer in defense of this idea of autonomy — what evidence is their to support it? Well, we must understand the various responses that may come from interested parties when it comes to power and autonomy. When a man is not in control of this own life, be it economically or politically or socially or culturally, then he will lose happiness. The primary being who has the ability to control another’s life is the one with power, be it government or military or dictator. When the control over a man’s life is harsh and unjust (that is, without his interests considered), then happiness is at risk, meaning some unfair regulation is put on his liberty, life, or property.

In those instances where a man’s happiness is diminished because of the rule of power, the justification of the ruler’s demands and rules varies. Sometimes it is for his own personal interest. Or it may be that he desires for the people he rules to be something that they are not. He may want this because he feels that he should live among a certain type of people (“refined people”) or that he feels a person is inherently bad (though law-abiding) if they are not of a particular culture. An example of this would be laws requiring that clothing is worn in public at all times — in this case, the laws (whether just or unjust) would be an attack on the liberty of the people. If it so happened that the people desired to be nude at all times, then they would suffer. In some cases, the ruler imposes restrictions upon public liberty because they believe they are protecting the public, or at least assert they are protecting the public. They are either protecting the citizen from himself (such as making it illegal to commit suicide) or they are protecting the citizen from each other (such as making it illegal to possess weapons of mass destruction). As to the justice of the first type of protection, there is little doubt that it is in violation of the principle of autonomy: people making decisions for themselves. A person who desires to live without deep concern for their life at one time, and the opposite another time, should have that right, as it is their own life — and their own liberty, which would be respected in any true autonomist society. As to the second time of restriction, of preventing citizens from harming each other by restricting behavior, the issue itself is deserving of its own paper. I will only say that there have been, in many instances, individuals with power who have used that power to oppress others, either by the folly of their intellect (such as the current drug laws which disallow individuals from happiness) or by their desire to oppress an enemy (such as the censorship laws which prevent Anarchist literature, like the one you’re reading).

When a leader is in power, his unjust rule (to one extent or another) will cause unhappiness and misery to those who are being ruled. Since happiness is a value and by itself, a desirable, one could rather simply conclud

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