Four Views of Government

1–If the king did not, without tiring, inflict punishment on those worthy to be punished, the stronger would roast the weaker, like fish on a spit.

–the laws of Manu, 1500 BC

2–Government is not reason, it is not eloquence,—it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

–Often attributed to George Washington, although there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that he actually ever said it.

3–The speaker at a meeting, Grant, asks: “What is the prime knowledge acquired by our race? That without the rest is useless? What flame must we guard like vestal virgins?”

Members of the group give various answers: fire, writing, the decimal system, the wheel.

“No,” says Grant, “none of those. They are all important, but they are not the keystone. The greatest invention of mankind is government. It is also the hardest of all. More individualistic than cats, nevertheless we have learned to cooperate more efficiently than ants or bees or termites. Wilder, bloodier, and more deadly than sharks, we have learned to live together as peacefully as lambs. But these things are not easy..”

–from Robert Heinlein’s novel Tunnel in the Sky, in which a group of high school kids are stranded on a planet galaxies away, and have come to accept the idea that they are probably never going to be rescued. After a period of choosing their leader by acclamation, they have now decided to hold a formal election for that purpose.

4–Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.

–Congressman Barney Frank, also Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, and (in somewhat different form) Barack Obama.

My Assertion: The first three quotes all have elements of truth and provide useful perspectives on the problem of government; the fourth one has no such redeeming value.

(I’ve been thinking about a post along these lines for a while, finally motivated to do it by a discussion at Sarah Hoyt’s blog.)

Your thoughts?

 

 

21 thoughts on “Four Views of Government”

  1. I prefer De Tocqueville’s ” The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

    I think we are well along this path. Where it leads ? I know not.

  2. Yes, the fourth is nonsense.

    IMO At it’s best, government is how a Society/Community works together and deals with internal/external threats. It is (in theory) the acknowledged authority to enforce the views of the society/community.

    And yes, it can be an evil when those who “makeup” the government forget that they serve the society/community not the other way around.

    Of course, there are other ways that the “government” can be a danger to individuals within the society/community.

    One of the best lines about government comes from the Federalist Papers.

    “If men were Angels, men would need no government If Angels were to govern men, then government would need no limits.”

  3. A rational and decent country should be organized around the notion of unrestricted respect for the rights of the individual to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.

    The purpose of government should be to punish those that would violate those rights and nothing else.

    In order to do that government should implement Armed Forces, Security Forces (police) and Courts of Law and nothing else.

    All the rest should be in private hands with no need for government input or interference.

    One of the foremost rules should be that “the right of the individual to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed”

    And another should be, just in case it is needed and it will be needed: “Congress shall make no law restricting the freedom of production and trade” (See Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”)

  4. IMO the historical norm for government is the ruling elite imposing laws on the governed, through a mixture of luck and wisdom finding the balance that co-opts enough of the ruled that they prefer the provided stability. And while you can wax philosophical on the natural rights of man, there is nothing inherent in government that makes it inclined to respect those rights in all of the ruled.

  5. “Freddo May 25, 2021 at 3:58 am IMO the historical norm for government is…”

    I see. That’s what happened here. And now the late Constitutional Republic the United States of America (July 4th, 1776 – November 3rd, 2020) doesn’t exist anymore and we are living in Venezuerica.

    Here’s my suggestion: once a form of government become deleterious to the rights of the individual, we can shoot them and “provide new Guards for [our] future security”

    That’s why the 2nd Amendment is there.

    Because if respect for the rights of the individual is lacking then there’s no point in government and we would have to listen to anarchists.

    Anarchy is better than tyranny.

    At least under anarchy I don’t have to pay for my own abuse.

  6. There are two views of the “ideal” government. One is that almost everyone will obey the law almost all the time, because the law is “both ancient and just.” Exceptions can be dealt with by private, ad-hoc action, so no actual government is needed.

    The other is of a God-Emperor who decrees justice and virtue and thus causes justice and virtue to happen. Exceptions can be dealt with by special appeals to the God-Emperor who, with a wave of his hand, will cast down the evil-doers and cause justice and virtue to be restored.

    Classical-liberal and libertarian types try to approximate the first ideal via smaller government, minimal government, or even anarcho-capitalist non-government, the last with agencies that are not ad-hoc but that are also non-governmental. (And we recognize that “Utopia is not an option.”)

    Modern (as opposed to classical) liberals and progressive types try to approximate the second ideal via Benevolent Big Government, where the bureaucracy and the judiciary form a sort of synthetic God-Emperor that can decree justice and virtue into existence.

  7. I thought the definition of a government is just the monopoly of force.
    Our forefathers 250 years ago set up a system where several different parts of society were placed in opposition to each other inside the whole government structure, which itself involves multiple scales, to try to minimize the chances for abuse. It’s been altered every generation or two, and now is nearly unrecognizable.

  8. Thoughts?

    1) Barney Frank is an idiot. This is not news.

    2) One of the best lines about government comes from the Federalist Papers.

    “If men were Angels, men would need no government If Angels were to govern men, then government would need no limits.”

    Stupid, idiot framers. If only they had had a clue about making a government.

    Yes: that’s a joke.

  9. }}} A rational and decent country should be organized around the notion of unrestricted respect for the rights of the individual to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.

    The purpose of government should be to punish those that would violate those rights and nothing else.

    In order to do that government should implement Armed Forces, Security Forces (police) and Courts of Law and nothing else.

    Mrrr. The founders (and I) disagree.

    Clearly, they DID have a certain acceptance of the idea of something done for the public weal — the constitutional requirement for a government mail system is such.

    And I would argue that enforcement of contracts is debatably not within the scope of your purposes, yet it is clearly something that the courts do.

    I think your observation is a valuable and important one — but remains “necessary but insufficient”. There are some other, limited, functions not included within it.

  10. A government that flies the BLM banner from its embassies around the world is not one whose legitimacy I recognize. And no matter how powerful it may be, a government whose citizens give it no loyalty and look at it with hostility and contempt is not one that is going to long endure.

  11. “OBloodyHell May 25, 2021 at 12:02 pm”

    OBloodyHell: Most people disagree with my modest notion of government.

    The reason being that people want freedom for me but not for thee.
    They want to reserve “just a little aggression” on the part of government to be able to force others to do their bidding when, precisely, there’s disagreement.

    And that is the reason all governments become cancerous and freedom dies and rinse and repeat.

    “the constitutional requirement for a government mail system” has now given us a USPS acting like the Gestapo:

    https://nypost.com/2021/04/28/usps-admits-to-spying-on-americans-social-media-posts/

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9522303/USPS-admits-spying-Americans-monitoring-social-media-wont-reveal-details.html

    https://www.dailydot.com/debug/usps-social-media-spying-operations-program/

    It is inherent in the nature of a government with an undefined mandate to aggress and pursue the “common good” that it metastasizes and kills the people it was supposed to protect.

    “And I would argue that enforcement of contracts is debatably not within the scope of your purposes, yet it is clearly something that the courts do.”

    The enforcement of contracts is very much within the scope of my purposes. The “Courts of Law” should have given you the clue.

    The “some other, limited, functions” murdered the late Constitutional Republic the United States of America (July 4th, 1776 – November 3rd, 2020) because enough people disagreed with the notion of a non-aggressive government and enough others thought that was a Letter of Marquee to avail themselves of the “public” moneys and act like tyrants.

    Freedom is frightening so many people always want to reserve the “right” to juuuuuust-a-little-tiny-bit-of-government-aggression to “solve” disagreements in case they arise and the “tiny-bit” ALWAYS ends up as the government boot on people’s necks.

    The results are ALWAYS the very same and people don’t learn.

    Aggression is so much more fun than respect for the rights of others. Except, of course, when the hyena turns around and look straight at you. And the government hyena is always hungry.

  12. My one consolation is that the oligarchs are incompetents, like Bill Gates. Gates did his best work from age 13 to 18. After that Paul Allen kept things going and then Steve Ballmer ran things for Gates. Steve Jobs treated his curable pancreatic cancer with herbal remedies until it was too late. SONY was sold the Columbia Pictures studio than spent another $200 million to get two producers. The whole deal was a fiasco comparable to AT&T buying Time Warner. They are just not that smart aside from one or two inventions. Some times this is called “Silo Mentality” but it is often just that people who are smart in one topic, are not in others.

  13. }}} The enforcement of contracts is very much within the scope of my purposes. The “Courts of Law” should have given you the clue.

    Sorry, no. Your “scope of purposes” was defined by THIS:
    “unrestricted respect for the rights of the individual to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.”

    That specifically limits things… claiming “courts of law” covers things **debatably** not covered by the above is the problem with your suggestions. Hence my use of the term “debatably” in my initial statement:
    …And I would argue that enforcement of contracts is debatably not within the scope of your purposes, yet it is clearly something that the courts do. …

    I can see you attempting the argument, presumably by making an assertion that it is covered under the very vague interpretation of “Pursuit of Happiness”, I just think that’s def. stretching it in a manner which opens the door to a wide array of abuses, which you appear to seek to avoid with your very definitions and comments.

    This in fact, is the reason why the government’s powers are not defined in the broad terms you used, but are supposed to be specifically delineated. And should be limited unless and until expanded by the plebiscite via some mechanism that exists or is suitably invented and accepted.

    As to the abuse of whatever you define, that’s inherent in the behavior of the rodents of the human population. Said weasels are always rat-shrewd at finding new meanings inside old ones, such as the “right to privacy” which allows abortions, not only allows, but then demands public funding for them… in the 3rd trimester… SMH.

    There is no way to avoid this, you merely need to have an approach to countering and resolving it.

    My own suggestion for such is that Laws need to sunset — that is, any law passed now has a term-limit, after which it’s automatically repealed. With some constraints in place to prevent “quick re-installation” of any existing law… probably having Congress legally allowed to convene for 100 hours a year, outside that time of which they are not allowed to pass laws and have no authority whatsoever…

    That’s not entirely serious, but it’s not entirely a joke, either. We need a less busy Congress, no question.

    And while we’re at it, revoke the power of the executive branch agencies (i.e., the alphabet agencies) to MAKE LAW. Not quite clear where that was ever justified as Constitutional in the first place.

    }}} OBloodyHell: Most people disagree with my modest notion of government.

    Actually, first off, I don’t give a fuck who disagrees with it. It’s pretty close to, if not exactly matching, with what the Founders came up with. And I think the effective longevity of that — the oldest contiguously operating, largely unchanged government in power in any major nation on Earth — more than amply justifies them as having been on The Right Path.

    The proper thing to do is to restore things as much as practical to that original system, and dispose of much of the dreck which has been tacked onto it in the last 230 years. Analyze the things that have gone wrong, figure out counters to them, and add THAT to whatever new system is implemented, as well. This does not mean reversion to blacks as “2/3rds” or removing the franchise from women, but it speaks to many of the “new and improved” aspects of government.

    The last truly GREAT PotUS we had was Grover Cleveland, who was the last one who seems to have understood the proper limits of government… And the first one to fail seriously, and step over the line, and begin our long trek to failed government was Teddy, who began many of today’s alphabet agencies, and certainly initiated and promoted “government as solution to problems” for the last 120 years.

  14. A “corporation” is the name given an organization to accomplish the things we do together.
    “Government” is the name given an organization for the few to compel the many to do things together.

  15. Congress shall make no law restricting the freedom of production and trade

    Reads too much like an EU “right.” The EU believes in freedom speech, too: unless… [followed by long list of exemptions]. Production & trade would require another never-ending list of exemptions.

  16. ErisGuy…”A “corporation” is the name given an organization to accomplish the things we do together. Government” is the name given an organization for the few to compel the many to do things together.”

    I knew a woman who, when referring to our company, said “The Co-Operation”. Probably it was just mis-pronunciation, but there was–perhaps unintentional–wisdom there, too.

  17. “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” – #4

    I suggest that the organizations described by #4 most nearly correspond to the mutual aid societies that the government has spent the last century either co-opting or banning.

    Some readers here also comment at The New Neo, so they may recall that the discussion included this reference from OBloodyHell, which I recommend highly:
    https://www.thenewneo.com/2021/05/21/bowling-alone-revisited/#comment-2556382
    American Heritage did an excellent job some years back on the topic:

    From Mutual Aid to Welfare State: How Fraternal Societies Fought Poverty and Taught Character
    https://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/mutual-aid-welfare-state-how-fraternal-societies-fought-poverty-and-taught

  18. In my experience, corporate management exists to harass and annoy the minority of productive employees that keep it solvent until they succeed in driving enough out that they go broke, whereupon, they will collect a big payoff from someone even more clueless seeking “synergy” by adding more dead weight to an already sinking ship.

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