Monday, March 11, 2013

Government is Not Us


Some of the comments here are quite interesting. But among the usual misunderstandings is a very important one. Government as we understand is something outside society. It is perfectly possible for people to get together to protect their property from robbers. It doesn't have to be done individually. But that group which has pooled its resources and to a certain extent its freedom of action in order to obtain a solution at least acceptable to all members, and cheaper than it would otherwise be, never, however you stretch it and expand it, becomes a government. Even if it included every member of a given society, and did what we think governments do, efficiently and acceptably to its members, it would still be a collection of private individuals, not a government, because 'government' is above and outside the 'people'. This shows clearly that governments in the sense that most people use the word do not have to exist at all. They exist, not because the people need them, but because someone will also be willing and able to take power from others and stand outside the subject group. (Government and the state are the same thing here).

Some things, many things, are better done collectively, co-operatively. This does not mean they are better done by government. We are a social species, we do many things together. More usefully, many of the things that we do are a consequence of our being a social species, thus it is natural that many of the things that are important to us are better done together.

That absolutely does not mean that such things are better done by a group of people outside and above the main group, motivated by different desires, largely unaffected by the restrictions they impose on others, who can take money by force from their subjects, and who have no emotional interest, or social investment in the people they control. Socialism, statism presuppose these things, and collectivism assumes that co-operation will not be corrupted by those who love power over their fellows.

2 comments:

Vincent said...

You implicitly have an axe to grind here, but if you look at it more dispassionately, you may discover that in most territories, governments have evolved out of gangs, mafias and trading monopolies. In any part of the world today where a government fails, or a law-and-order no-go area exists within an otherwise governed territory, an ad-hoc government will arise in the form of a protection racket.

So when you are talking about what's "natural", you only have to look at what happens in the world.

Thus, you may conclude, government simply is a protection racket. Lucky are they who live in a place where it has matured and become partially democratized.

Can you give examples in the real world of co-operative collectivization which provides a viable alternative to government?

CIngram said...

Me, an axe to grind? Surely not?

But in any case that's more or less what I was saying, isn't it? Government will always exist in some form or other, and it never seems to be a part of, or an extension of, the people it governs. It is always above them and outside them.

There is a tendency for political dreamers, imagining a better world, to believe that the government can be a projection of the will of the people, whether it is the left/communists talking of government by the people for the people, or the right/libertarians who want to reduce the state to an absolute minimum, or anarchists who want a society without government (I'm a bit confused about what anarchists do actually want, but presumably that's a part of it). None of these things appears in fact to be possible.

Collective cooperation works perfectly well on a small scale, and when there is a common interest. Families, and any number of local clubs and organizations are run this way, without coertion, by the desire of those involved to do what they are doing. People who have a common need or interest get together to pursuse it or defend it. But they can easily get taken over and out of the hands of the people they were created by.

Government, on the other hand, is not a corrupted attempt at cooperation in a group, it is something imposed by outsdiers. It seems to me that the only legitimate purpose of government is to stop someone worse from doing it.

"Thus, you may conclude, government simply is a protection racket."

You are probably right.