Do we all mean the same thing by ‘government’?
Most people will admit that nearly all current forms of government, no matter which kind or in which country, are some combination of inefficient and corrupt. That is, assuming we are all talking about the same thing when we say government. To really have a worthwhile discussion, we must be clear about the definition of this word.
Using the word government to define the power that some exert over others is an example of the masterful use of language to shape how people think about a phenomena. By using this word, government, the idea that there should be power invested in some people to control other people is made both palatable and necessary.
Is government good or bad?
The truth is that when we apply the idea of governing to an individual regulating himself, it is considered a very good thing. To have authority over one’s own impulses or reactions is not only good for relationships, but it is good for the person. In such restraint and regulation, there is a much wider possibility of choices that can bring great benefit. Without self governance, a person would not choose time dependent priorities, such as eating well, working reliably, or taking care of children.
It is when one person decides to govern another person that we have conflict by the nature of human individuality. Each individual has his own mind, preferences, and abilities. No two people experience life exactly the same way, nor do they have all the same insights into what is going on around them.
What should we do when people disagree?
Any combination of individuals can choose to come to an agreement. However, if someone does not agree, what then? What are the criteria for deciding that a person no longer gets to make his own choices? Is it because he is out numbered? Is it because someone else is convinced of the rightness of a given choice? Is it because of divine inspiration?
To force a person, by actual violence or by real threat of violence, to act a certain way, is to enslave him to the power of others. There may be degrees of how many aspects of daily life this affects or there may be degrees of how much this interferes with the pursuit of livelihood, but just because a slave is allowed to sing while he works that does not make him any less a slave.
The lure of government
For the bulk of the population, the lure of accepting the government of some people over others is the promise of order and justice in our individual interactions. For a few, the lure is the reins of power. We know that that few get their power, but do the rest of the people get their order and justice? And, just as importantly, what are the options to get order and justice?
State versus Government
Even here, we must consider definitions. Due to the good meanings of the word government, some people who talk about the violently imposed authority of political systems like to use the word state instead. According to my dictionary, the word state particularly denotes political control. This seems to flow from the root meaning of status or position. So you can see that the implication of power of one person over another is more inherently a part of this word. From here on in this article, I will use the designation of state instead.
Most people are taught to reverence and obey the state in state schools. Often this includes some form of rhetoric to make people believe they have significant influence over the state. Unfortunately, history strongly suggests that instead people are being manipulated by propaganda to react to issues and situations just the way those in power want them to.
Those who wield the power of the state have every incentive to direct the training of children. They have very rational reasons for controlling the money supply. To put it bluntly, they like to control everything.
How do people get along?
Thus, we are compelled to reword the question: Is there such a thing as the perfect state? Given our observations of the inherent violence of state power, as well as the overwhelming propensity of people in power to abuse such positions, the answer has to be no.
That leaves us with a couple of unanswered questions.
1. What does perfect mean in this context?
2. How would people get along without imposed order?
I can imagine some people would say perfect means something like a state system that most people want or that benefits the most people. These statements may sound reasonable at first, but when we begin to ask who gets to decide what benefits most people” and is it moral to enslave a minority to the majority? they don’t sound so reasonable anymore.
Other people would say that perfect means a state system that maintains order. We end up still needing to ask similar questions. Who gets to decide how to order things? and How would order be administered?
The cycle of power
What it all boils down to is some people wanting to be in charge of other people. It becomes a cycle granting more power to the state system, fighting (figuratively or literally) for control of state power, and complaining when someone else has state power.
Hopefully by now it is apparent that there is no way for a state system of power to even be good. It tends to attract the very kind of power abusing people that those in power opine about controlling. It is like a fox guarding the hen house.
Can we all just be adults?
The perfect “government” is one in which individuals have the freedom to work things out with each other. Self-governing, because that dilutes power as much as possible. A system where none of us are chickens. I can’t think of an animal for good comparison, because people have capacities for getting along that animals don’t have. We can rise above instincts and reactions.
Really, everyone already understands basics about how we should treat each other and each other’s belongings. In the real world, as opposed to the political one, everyone has things that they consider their own, from their body to their abode. In the real world, most of us choose to treat each other reasonably well, even when signal lights break or a child is lost.
Some cooperation happens just because people figure out how to provide what others will buy. Everyone’s prosperity gets limited when there is fighting or dishonesty. A lot of people figure this out and try to get along. Others watch and learn.
But what about the bad guys?
Yes, there will always be people who try to take advantage of others, but it is harder to take advantage without a system set up to enforce political advantage on a wide scale. Without the restrictions of nit-picky laws or the threat of arrest for interfering is affairs of “state,” people could work out their differences at least as well as they do with a system full of red tape, wasted money, and disinterested parties. People would be free to stand up to bad guys in creative ways.
How would people get along? They will have to work at it, just like now; and it won’t always be pretty. People are sometimes messy and stubborn. But that is about as close to perfect as we are going to get in this world.