I, Government

By MacKenzie, D. W. | Ideas on Liberty, October 2002 | Go to article overview

I, Government


MacKenzie, D. W., Ideas on Liberty


I am government-the institution known the world over to all who pay taxes, get subsidies, and face regulation.

Coercion is both my vocation and my avocation; it is in my very nature to compel others to do that which they otherwise would not do. My nature should then be of great concern to you as I impinge on your liberty. My nature affects your life profoundly. Indeed, there is little in your life that escapes my grasp. I am also a mystery to many. Some see me as benevolent, though I murdered 119 million people in the twentieth century.1 Some see me as omniscient, though I face an insurmountable knowledge problem in trying to comprehend the society I seek to control.2 Some see me as an absolute necessity, though people have lived in societies without me.3 But those whom I use seldom recognize any of this. These naive convictions grant me an unwarranted place in society. These misconceptions have imposed great hardships on ordinary people, though they have served an elite of rulers well.

I, government, inspire wonder and awe in many. Some persist in this admiration even when confronted with my worst atrocities.4 It is in my interest that you never truly understand me, for if you did, you would see that, at the very best, I am merely the defender of your personal and property rights and, at worst, the most efficient violator of these rights. In fact, if all did come to know my true nature, they would view me with distrust rather than with wonder. If you all knew what I have done throughout history, you would look on me with contempt rather than with awe.

I benefit few at the expense of the many. Small groups organize easily, and large ones do not. Hence if I serve any interests other than those of actual rulers, I serve narrow interests.5 I grant monopoly privileges to influential industrialists and trade associations. I do this with tariffs and import restrictions that hobble foreign competitors. I do this with regulations that place burdens on new businesses. I do this with licensing laws that restrict access to professions. Of course, these interests pay me to get what they want. Sometimes they pay me simply to leave them alone.6

My form is difficult to comprehend as well. I am vast and complex. No one can fathom me in all my complexity. I comprise a gargantuan array of agencies, statutes and regulations, and discretionary policies. No one would have the time or the intellectual capacity to know me fully even if he were to try. There is little point in trying anyway. One person can do nothing to me. No significant election has ever turned on a single vote, so voters have no obvious incentive to learn about me.7

I waste resources. I employ labor in tasks that people do not want to pay for. My bureaucracies are rife with individuals who get paid to perform tasks that generate no value to others.8 Some of these tasks are even odious-things that people would pay to stop. I do supply some useful things, but at a high cost. My schools cost more than private ones (which get better results). My postal service loses billions each year and cannot compete with the private sector.9

I cause industrial depressions. My central banks disrupt commerce by distorting interest rates with inflated money supplies. This inflation causes unsustainable economic expansions that lead to crashes. I compound this problem with wage controls, welfare, and anti-firing laws that hinder labor markets.

I devastate the environment. Where I reign supreme, the earth is a commons that all want to use and none want to care for. In Eastern Europe I created some of the worst environmental disasters the world has seen.10 When I care for animal herds their numbers dwindle.11

War and Bigotry

I wage wars. People express nationalistic and ethnic bigotry through me.12 I use my power to tax and conscript to marshal resources for combat. This has caused immense hardship, destruction, and death throughout history. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

I, Government
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.