Saturday, March 20, 2010

Governments have privileges -- not rights

Governments acquire their just powers from rational constitutional law and the rational consent of the governed. They are allowed by the people they serve the privilege to protect individual rights. They do not have the right to do anything. They must obey objective law. If they don't, they should be thrown from office and prosecuted, like a common criminal, for the attempt to violate the individual's right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of unabridged happiness.

I mention the above after having hundreds (or thousands) of conversations with Americans about the proper role of government in our lives and seeing their willful obedience to the subjective authoritarianism of the state, their bashful reticence in criticizing the state openly, their slavish concurrence with the dictates of state, their insistence that the state oppress other individuals and even themselves -- as if the government were an immutable god, a force of incontestable authority.

The reason for this surrender to servitude, of course, comes from people's bad opinion of themselves. Most Americans consider themselves and their fellow Americans "fallen" and incapable of consistent rationality, thereby needing an authority outside themselves to control their "urges" and "selfishness."

The 16th-century philosopher and political analyst Thomas Hobbes is the most famous and earliest proponent of this viewpoint. He believed that without an authoritarian government to suppress "unlimited freedoms," humans would live in a tribal state of nature because they allegedly live lives that are "nasty, brutish and short." He believed the government must be an ominous Leviathan who tempers the alleged mental illness of people. This is precisely the beliefs of most modern Americans and the rest of the world.

Wish such a bad opinion of humans (derived largely from young children's swallowing the skepticism of humans found in all subjectivist creeds, such as religions and leftist households), people believe themselves needful of authoritarian commandments and control in their moral life, thereby capitulating to alleged gods, preachers and "officials" of any kind, including government. They insist upon authoritarian government. They believe it actually necessary to give them comfort to know that someone, something is in control besides their fallen selves.

And so they believe governments actually have unassailable rights to control and dictate the actions of humans. Whereas, if most Americans and the rest of the world were objective, they would understand that humans are not fallen and are completely and utterly capable of running their own moral lives quite effectively and happily, thereby insisting on no interference or coercion by anyone -- including the representatives of government.

Such circumspect and rational humans would have a wonderful sense of life and would understand clearly that any government is constructed solely to allow individuals to pursue their values morally. They would understand that government is a necessary tool for their safety and money, not a bludgeon that interferes with their safety and money.

They would know when they set up their government that they were granting a temporary and tenuous privilege for that protection, and they would give the officials the warning: "You better be good. You better honor individual rights. You better exactly toe the line. You better be objective. If you aren't we'll prosecute you, shackle you and send you to prison. Do you understand?"

The 17th century philosopher and genius John Locke was the first to correctly expound upon the idea of "the consent of the governed." If he were to visit us Americans today, perhaps he might add a word to his phrase. Perhaps he would say "the rational consent of the governed," because today in once-great America, we have consent -- consent to be oppressed.

The seminal and wonderful Mr. Locke may be forgiven for his benevolent belief in the rationality of humans. He was himself quite rational.

We'll know that Americans are getting more rational when we hear them talk about governments abusing their "privileges." I look forward to seeing that signpost.

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