Why there is no other sound basis for government than the preservation of liberty.
I was challenged recently as to why the protection liberty was the only valid basis for government. The person I was having the discussion with, pointed to a couple of other potential possibilities, such as human happiness, as other sound motives for government. The problem is, at the end of the day there is no other lawful purpose for government than the protection of liberty.
As I begin, let me address a few of the more popular alternatives put forward today, after all people don’t typically go around advocating for tyranny.
The argument for democratic socialism, stems from the fact that all resources are shared up “equally” among the people as a whole. The government serves a mediator type role in making decisions about what is necessary for the public good, and uses regulations to push things in the right direction. At a moderate level the United States could be argued to be like this today, and Europe certainly is.
However, democratic or not, all forms of socialism are immoral and in violation of the Divine Law because they are fundamentally built on theft. Any time that the threat of government force is used to take a resource away from those who lawfully obtained and give it to another, including for government projects, it is theft.
At some point we need to begin applying the same standards to government that we do to individuals. The government after all only represents the people. Those who favor this type of government need to realize that every regulation they pass, every dollar they take for the “public good”, all of it is the use of force, threatened or actual. To force a minority to comply.
In addition, democratic socialism is ultimately self defeating for the same reason that communism was. By repressing the minority view in the name of “equality”, innovation is stifled. By taking by force wages from those who lawfully earned them, the incentive to succeed is stifled. The people on the border of being provided for by the wages of others, regardless of how low the initial limits may be, recognize that their poorer neighbors have more disposable income and move to get assistance themselves. This gradually results in a tipping point moment where the producers cannot provide for the rest of the country any more.
So essentially all socialism, democratic or otherwise, is immoral and fails to work.
As mentioned above it is frequently suggested that human happiness, not liberty should be the basis of government. Typically, like the various forms of socialism, democracy is thrown into the mix to hopefully make everyone happier.
Let me be clear, history and all of the wise men who have gone on before us teach that democracy is far and above the worst form of government imaginable. Any time that the majority believe they have the right to press forward with their will, over and above any rights or wishes of the rest of the nation, oppression and tyranny are sure to follow. Look at the extraordinary violence and failure of the French Revolution, even when wielded against admittedly tyrannical aristocrats, democracy manage to produce worse results than the system it was trying to prevent.
So the question then becomes: Whose happiness? If we are talking about allowing each individual liberty to pursue happiness as they please, then we are just talking about liberty from the perspective of the pursuit of happiness. If, however, we are talking about the collective happiness of society, then we are talking about democracy, and that is indeed a very dangerous road.
The problem comes in this, sooner or later the collective majority will greatly desire something that requires the oppression of a minority to obtain. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but they will decide it is necessary for their happiness. Pretty soon a sense of entitlement will spring up and the minority will come to be viewed as oppressing the majority by withholding the desired resource. Sooner or later the minority will be forced to either “voluntarily” give into the demands of the majority or they will suffer violence and oppression for refusing.
The result, without liberty, is always the happiness of some at the expense of others.
I’m not sure why at the present, but I am seeing more and more calls for an anarchical system. Several of these have even gone so far as to attempt to argue that “anarchy” isn’t actually a system without rules, but one without rulers.
I find this redefinition strange, because it leads one of two directions. Either we are talking about no government, which historically has proven impossible. Or we are talking about a fixed set of laws carried out directly by the people to preserve individual liberty, in which case we aren’t talking about anarch at all but constitutional democracy.
The trouble comes in when we are talking about the first of these 2 choices, which is a more standard definition of anarchy. First of all, there is no historical basis for the idea that such a government could even exist. It has been attempted throughout history, and never with any success. Anarchy exists mostly in chaotic times for very brief periods, it is not possible for it to continue long term. Even the most primitive peoples on earth have some form of government and rule of law.
Second of all, despite its claim at being most free, anarchy is actually extremely oppressive. Scripture and history both teach us that mankind has inherit sin problem, we are not capable of being completely good. In fact, in many cases even 100% Christian societies have exhibited symptoms of this condition. Since man is not inherently good and will naturally tend towards oppressing his neighbors in his own selfish cause without some form of check upon him we have created government.
While I certainly favor limited government, we cannot have no government, because we must have means of protecting the weak from the strong. This can be best done when society as a whole recognizes the rights of each individual and forms a government exclusively to protect them.
Liberty is the only lawful form of government
What was once clear to our forefathers has drifted out of the public knowledge in relatively recent history, a government built on liberty is not simply a “better” form of government, rather it is the only lawful form of government that can exist.
There is, built into the very fabric of creation, a set of laws. Laws which make it clear that each and every man, woman, and child has certain intrinsic rights that they cannot be deprive of. These laws flow from a basic understanding of morality, and can be rooted in the Scripture, particularly the 10 Commandments. Let me give some examples:
Individuals have the right to life. A human being, cannot be lawfully deprived of his right to exist. Thou shalt not murder.
Individuals have a right to maintain control over their own property and to use their goods as they see fit. Thou shalt not steal.
The right of each man to liberty, follows naturally from His being created in the image of God; as well as from the basic laws of morality, without which no society can be organized. This natural law, which dictates the rights of mankind, derives its authority from nature’s God and not from any government or social contract. As William Blackstone noted, the natural law is of equal authority to the law of scripture, though scripture must have a fuller authority since it has been fully revealed by the Holy Spirit.
The issue at stake then, is that no government can be formed in opposition to that natural law. If one does, then it is an unlawful and unjust government. Governments built on other means than this are in direct opposition to the natural order and its Creator and are in error.
Instead, legitimate government, is set up coincide with, and protect people’s rights under, the natural law.
This means, when governments take action to seize people’s liberty, whether by taking away their possessions, taking them as slaves, taking away their right to protect themselves, taking away their religious freedom, etc; they are actually violating a higher law. They are acting outside the bounds of Divinely set authority and those who stand up to them are acting lawfully.
It is high time as a nation, that we reeducated ourselves on these principles, so as to be better able to take a stand on the oppressive tendencies now brewing within our government.