One of the first things that children are taught is that might does not make right. When a fight breaks out among children, their parents tell them that the person who threw the first punch was wrong. Not only was the aggressor wrong, but he was acting unintelligently. It is the one who has run out of ideas that resorts to the use of force. The bully is the dummy, while the child who seeks to resolve disputes through conversation and agreement is the intelligent one.
Most adults continue to recognize this fundamental law of nature, at least most of the time. An adult who resorts to initiating violence to solve disputes is recognized as childish and unintelligent – except when it comes to public policy.
Somehow, we have forgotten that all government action represents the use of force. This is obvious when the government is utilizing its military during wartime, but it is no less true when the government provides healthcare, education, or regulates business activity. Regardless of what problem the government is attempting to solve, it is applying the use of force in order to solve it.
When the government runs a health care program, those who must pay for it are forced to pay. When the government guarantees loans for education, taxpayers are forced to pay when those loans default. Even the most minor laws are backed up by the threat of force. If anyone doubts this, he should neglect to pay a traffic ticket and see what happens.
America was founded upon the principle that government action was only justified when one individual or group had committed aggression against another. As Thomas Jefferson put it,
“Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their powers; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.”
How far we have drifted from this basic understanding of the natural law. Today, Americans not only look to government to address every aspect of life that they find displeasing, but they hold up those who advocate this use of brute force as the intellectuals and those who argue that most issues should be addressed through consensual agreement as unsophisticated or unintelligent. While Jefferson said that governments are instituted solely to secure our rights, we now have a government that violates them on a massive and systemic scale.
Instead of trying to understand elaborate theories on how government intervention into our lives is good for us, we should remember what we learned when we were five years old. Only dummies resort to the use of force.
© Thomas Mullen 2011