Society in every State is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one. Thomas Paine penned these eternal words over two hundred years ago.
Man, by his very nature, is a social being. His wants are greater than his capability to provide for himself without the aid of society. Beyond the basic need for food, shelter, and clothing a man’s wants are diverse and those wants are present in every man. Thus, man’s very nature impels him to society where all men interact to satisfy their own self-interests.
Indeed, man is a self-directed, autonomous being with certain desires, interests, needs, and wants. Just as each man has a diversity of desires, interests, and wants each man also has a diversity of talents and abilities. In his pursuit of happiness man freely chooses to interact with others to fulfill his interests. Others in society reciprocate as they pursue their happiness. Thus, the need to fulfill one’s self-interest acts like a gravitational force resulting in social interaction for the mutual benefit of all.
Consequently, given the diverse interests of man, his talents and abilities, there is a corresponding diversity in outcomes. Some men are more intelligent than others. Some men are more capable of producing certain goods or providing certain services. Some men are more motivated and ambitious. Some men are more innovative and ingenuous. The wants and needs of others may also compel man to direct his interests to meet the wants and needs of others.
All these factors create a society where the reciprocity of man towards other men is based upon the self-direction and self-interest of every individual. What society needs or wants is based upon this bottom-up approach. This societal interaction amongst men occurs naturally and freely. One man cannot compel or force another man to produce a good or provide a service, nor can one man compel or force another man to engage in the exchange of goods; whether directly through barter or indirectly using a common medium of exchange.
The free and natural exchange of goods and services forms free markets. Man’s foremost duty and responsibility is preserving his own life. Man uses his reason, talent, and ability to ensure his own survival, and by doing so he exercises his unalienable right to liberty. In society, rightful liberty is the unobstructed action according to your will with limits drawn around the equal rights of others.
Society can function without the imposition of government. Government is not necessary to ensure society functions, rather government is instituted to better secure our unalienable rights and to provide a minimal number of functions for the whole of society. For instance, the ability to provide for a common defense or to ensure commerce occurs regularly without obstruction.
The imposition of government on society isn’t to ensure specific outcomes, to benefit one constituency over another, or to forcefully take property from its rightful owner and give it to another that has no rightful claim to it. Since one individual cannot do this to another individual in society, it follows that the collective rights of society cannot be violated by the very government instituted to better secure those rights. Therefore, the laws of government are, by extension, the laws of society which themselves are founded upon the laws of nature. Commerce in free markets occurs naturally due to reciprocal interests and mutual benefits to all parties.
More laws and regulations distorts, interrupts, and even destroys free markets and the natural societal interactions amongst men. Government laws and regulations are desired by those in society that wish to violate and transmute the foundational basis of free markets to gain advantageous or exclusive benefit over others. For a variety of reasons, free market participants use government to gain competitive advantage by stifling competition, seeking subsidies, grants, or tax advantages, influencing pricing, or anything else that distorts, interrupts or destroys free markets.
Moreover, government laws and regulations are burdens upon society itself. When government decides what goods or services you can procure, fines or penalizes you for non-compliance, or otherwise limits your liberty by restricting your actions government creates wrongful liberty. Wrongful liberty is obstructed action against your will within limits drawn around the superior rights of others. Government itself is responsible for creating the environment in which your actions are obstructed and others have superior rights over you. Government centric preferences are creating the haves and the have nots.
Consequently, government has perverted the very basis on which it was founded; to better secure the unalienable rights of man. The equal rights that all men possess can no longer be exercised because of government laws and regulations. Thus, the exercise of personal and economic liberty and the pursuit of happiness is obstructed or denied. The great irony is the belief that government laws and regulations creates more freedom and liberty when if fact it perverts the free markets and imposes the government’s will over individual liberty.
This situation is made possible through the threat of force against you — the individual. That force is government force. Volumes of laws and regulations litter society’s landscape. Government uses force and state sponsored violence to ensure conformity and compliance upon the citizenry. Paradoxically, a society with free markets functions properly without government interference. Too often, the very laws enacted by government to prevent misbehavior and transgressions become the cause for disorder and discontent in society. For a myriad of reasons one or more constituency receives favorable treatment while one or more constituencies are oppressed.
Government’s top-down, autocratic approach is the mirror opposite to a bottom-up society based on free markets. Government uses the law to plunder property, to oppress the people, divide society along racial and class lines, etc. Government mandates and directs nearly every aspect of our lives from cradle to grave. This power is concentrated in the hands of a small cabal of legislators and bureaucrats that believe they known what is best for every individual. Not only is this belief fallacious it endangers society itself.
Government has strayed off the path of its original intent; to further secure our unalienable rights. Government is on a path contradictory to and in complete perversion of its stated purposed. Government is not the protector of unalienable rights; instead government uses law and force to violate the very rights it was supposed to protect. This is a complete perversion of the law and the reasons why people form political societies.
Frederic Bastiat describes this behavior as legal plunder. Bastiat says:
Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.
But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters. The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense.
Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.
But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.
Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain — and since labor is pain in itself — it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.
When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.
It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.
But, generally, the law is made by one man or one class of men. And since law cannot operate without the sanction and support of a dominating force, this force must be entrusted to those who make the laws.
This fact, combined with the fatal tendency that exists in the heart of man to satisfy his wants with the least possible effort, explains the almost universal perversion of the law. Thus it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds.
At this moment in the history of our Union ask yourselves why was government instituted and for what purposes do we need government? Where these the right purposes? Does your answer reconcile with what government is today? Is government a perversion of its original purpose? Does government use the law to plunder property and inflict injustices?
As Bastait concludes, Let us Now Try Liberty.
God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies. He has provided a social form as well as a human form. And these social organs of persons are so constituted that they will develop themselves harmoniously in the clean air of liberty. Away, then, with quacks and organizers! Away with their rings, chains, hooks, and pincers! Away with their artificial systems! Away with the whims of governmental administrators, their socialized projects, their centralization, their tariffs, their government schools, their state religions, their free credit, their bank monopolies, their regulations, their restrictions, their equalization by taxation, and their pious moralizations!
And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgment of faith in God and His works.