Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I am Changing My Mind About Government

Up to now I have been using the following definition of government to show that government is not the collection of kindly librarians its PR people like to pretend.
Government is an armed minority occupying territory and taxing the inhabitants thereof to reward its supporters.
I came to this definition by realizing that there is not that much difference between a government and a guerrilla group. They both occupy territory and draft young men into their army and tax the folk living inside their boundaries to fund themselves.

But something changed for me in the last month. I think it began with my conversation with a retired special forces officer, who explained Trump as a leader that was speaking to people that felt "unprotected."

It made me realize that all governments must offer protection, so that people will put up with their taxing and their bullying.

Of course, "protection" is something that criminal gangs do as well as governments, as in "nice little business you got here, shame if something should happen to it." What is the difference between the gangbanger and the government that says: "nice little business you got here, Bill Gates. Shame if the Anti-Trust Division should have a problem with it." The protection is always offered with a threat.

So I think that my definition should be reworded. To something like this:
Government is like a criminal gang, with its territory and its enforcers, and it forces the inhabitants of its territory to fund it and its supporters through the threat of terror and the offer of protection.
Some governments keep their enforcers decently hidden, but the fact is that if you don't pay your taxes and bow the knee, at some point the government will send out its enforcers, its men with guns, to change your opinion about taxes and regulation. And some governments, such as our own, use intellectual terror, e.g. the accusation of racism rather than the knock in the night, to terrorize the population.

And every government governs with a combination of threat and the offer of protection. It was said of Mao ZeDong's government in his Red Base in southeastern China in the 1930s that it governed completely using terror. It had to because it offered no services and no protection to the peoples it ruled, beyond the accidental protection of being within its borders. But even Mao combined terror and protection.

Of course, every government also manufactures a sacred history to show how God or Providence or Nature or The People or the arc of history has sanctified its rule, and how the people have been saved from a fate worse than death by its rule.

In most places most of the people under a government's rule most of the time believe in that sacred history. That is the purpose of the sacred history: to make it easy for people to submit.

But ultimately, a government rules by virtue of the fact that it has the guns and we have not, and that the better part of valor is to go along with the government and its lies rather than form a head of rebellion and bravely outdare the dangers of the time.

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