home of the canton movement

[I am reposting this article which originally appeared here in December 2010 because I like it.]

Some people see government as a positive force in human society. Others see it as a necessary evil, something that has its flaws, but that we need nonetheless. Still others, myself included, see that there is a terrible flaw in government-as-we-know-it, government that is based on coercion.

That terrible and fatal flaw in coercive government comes from the very fact that it operates by coercion, because it is this basis that runs contrary to basic human rights, rights we have by nature and nature’s God. In stark contrast to government by coercion is the type of government described by the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes human nature and the inalienable rights that come from it, and the government by consent that naturally follows from those rights.

Any government that does not recognize human nature, and the rights that naturally flow from that nature, is thereby unnatural, and has the seed of its own destruction within it. This would not be so bad if it was only the government that was destroyed by this failure to understand human nature. The great and enduring tragedy, however, is that this fatal flaw in government by coercion results in the destruction of human society to a staggering extent, and the enormous human suffering that comes with it. Failure to properly perceive the flaw in government by coercion results in war, tyranny, and the inevitable destruction of the livelihood of millions of people, if not the direct destruction of the people themselves.

The people who see government by coercion as either beneficial to humanity or no more that a necessary evil look upon the evils that seem to come so easily from the hearts of their fellow men, evils that they see government protecting them from, and fail to recognize how much of this evil comes from a reaction against the inhumanity of government rather than the failings of human nature. When government is based on a proposition that coercion is a necessary and core element of government, that people must, in fact, be forced to do what is right (beyond what is required to protect life and property), it is the government itself that produces in its unhappy subjects violent reactions. It is impossible that government by coercion could fail to produce revulsion and violence in many of the people it oppresses. The human rights written on the hearts of every person will recognize the evil of repression that government inflicts, and will oppose it, consciously or otherwise.

What will save us from this calamity? We need to recognize the flaw that exists in government that does not operate on the basis of free human choice, on the true consent of all governed. We need to create the structures of human cooperation that can replace government by coercion with government by cooperation.

We are so far from this, it seems to me that it might take centuries more of human misery to recognize the truth of the inherent flaw within government by coercion, and to have the courage and conviction it will take to build governments based on cooperation and consent. That would be tragic.

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