Sunday, February 06, 2005

Column on Why Government isn't Superior

Why Governments are not Superior

Tibor R. Machan

In my unwavering efforts to place politics in proper perspective?arguing
that it has a limited scope in human life, just as does medicine,
athletics or entertainment and shouldn?t be construed as encompassing
everything we care about?I have prompted even more unwavering efforts to
rebuff my arguments. For various reason a great many quite intelligent and
articulate people insist upon viewing government is special. Its specialty
seems to them to be nearly God-like?governments are the best solution to

Most recently I had penned a short column lamenting the reliance upon
government in cases of disasters, from the relatively minor ones like
those of the mudslides in California?s La Conchita region in Ventura
County, to the cataclysmic ones such as the late December 2004 tsunami in
Southeast Asia. I had made it the point of my column to discourage people
from considering government the solution to these natural disasters and
chided them for depending on being bailed out by government when they take
the risk to tempt such disasters by living near regions where they are
likely to hit.

At this point in human history governments are still viewed as God-like
by too many people. They have inherited this perspective from the
thousands of years in which Caesars, Pharaohs, Tsars, kings, Khans and
similar violent persons and their entourage have ruled the globe (with the
rest regarded to be their subjects and not the sovereign citizens they
really ought to be). Such habits are extremely difficult to shake,
especially when vast vested interest groups are lobbying everywhere to
keep the myth going that these sorts of folks have it over us in nearly
every aspect of human life.

I received several responses to my missive, even though I made clear that
my own expectations are moderate: no one is going to give up government
interference just yet when disasters happen. I even compared how
governments in some regions of the world have done better at coping with
them than have others?for example, the in the Pacific Rim governments have
created fairly effective warning systems, while in the Indian Ocean none

Alas, without providing a blue print for how the private sector might
cope with such matters, I was chided good and hard. For it isn?t enough
for true believers in the superiority of men and women of government to
have confidence and trust in free men and women. No, you must produce the
exact formulae for how such free men and women will address problems,
otherwise only government, with its one distinctive tool of brute force
(for what is what the police and military deliver?and should?when real
criminal conduct or aggression from abroad need to be dealt with), can be
relied on to act right.

But this is the trouble, exactly. Not all problems are known in great
enough detail to produce blue prints for coping with them. What needs to
be understood and isn?t often enough is that free men and women can think
for themselves, even in times of crises (and maybe especially then), so
they can be relied upon to cope quite well. Because they aren?t the force
wielders in society, their solutions are likely to involve forging
agreements, dealing with others peacefully, using ingenuity instead of
what governments are likely to deploy, namely forcing citizens to behave
in various ways, and taking citizens? belongings and ?redistributing? them
as the men and women in government judge best.

It will take some time, maybe centuries, before this bad habit of
trusting government to do everything will abate, if it ever will. Sadly,
people often invoke the shortcut of suing coercion to solve even their
personal problems?just think of all the spouse beating, brutalizing of
children, fist fighting, and other violence they resort to?so it is
probably utopian to hope that they will reject the government
pseudo-solutions to problems. But it is worth fighting toward that goal,

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