by Flemming Funch, 14 Sep 95

I think the idea of Government is due for a paradigm shift.

In most parts of the world, government has come to mean that there is a huge opaque entity that produces masses of rules about how we are supposed to behave and that will use force against us if we don't. And, worse than that, most of us have become so used to the idea that we implicitly assume that this is just the way it has to be. Laws are laws, and if they are incomprehensible and unfair and arbitrarily enforced, that is just a fact of life.

The people we elect to represent us will mostly just go along with the system, and make more laws, or interpret and enforce the one's that are there.

The system makes it appear as if Government is something that is bigger than all of us. Yet any part of government is made up of people like ourselves. To the degree that we all go along with the present scheme we keep feeding it power and keep it the way it is.

Personally I have little agreement with that being the way it is supposed to be.

I don't see why any elite group of people should have the right to blindly make detailed rules about how I am supposed to live my life. What I am supposed to eat and not eat, what I am supposed to say and not say, how I can make my living, how I must spend my money, what kind of house I am supposed to live in, and so forth.

These people don't even know me. How can they know what is best for me?

One of the underlying assumptions is that it is possible to make fixed rules that can apply to everybody.

I don't agree with that. We all are different, live under different conditions and have different needs and wants. Another person who somehow has gotten entrusted with making rules for everybody will often try to enforce the rules on everybody that he personally tries to live by. That is not going to work well when those rules are based on restrictive fixed ideas. It then becomes a matter of stuffing one's own repressions and obsessions and fears down everybody's throat.

A politician who personally feels bad when he hears certain words might try to make a law saying that those words are "bad" words and it is a crime to say them. Or, a James Exon kind of politician who's mind is filled with sexual perversions he is trying to repress will try to make a law that will force everybody else to not express such things, so that he might be able to feel better with himself. It is unfortunately too common to try to control other people, when really it is oneself one is trying to control.

Another assumption behind government and laws is that people will irresponsibly go and do all the stuff that aren't explicitly outlawed. So, if there weren't a law saying that you shouldn't kill other people, everybody would start killing each other left, right and center. Or if certain drugs weren't illegal everybody would be drug addicts.

The deeper assumption behind this is that people are basically irrational ill-intentioned animals that would go out of control if we don't explicitly control them. And that some people are qualified to control everybody else.

I happen to think that human nature is inherently good, that people are mostly trying to do do the best they can with the circumstances they are in.

The United States is incidentally based on a rather sound foundation of a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution, the principles of which seem to be getting increased popular attention these days. See, the U.S. Constitution defined a government for the purpose of taking care of affairs common to many people living in a number of states. It didn't say that the role of government was to make rules for how people should live. On the contrary, it explicitly limited the role of government to such functions as the regulation of inter-state commerce, common defense, immigration, financing of its own operation, etc. The laws that this government would make would only apply to its own operation, and were in no way intended to regulate or infringe upon the people's inherently rights to their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

We could, to simplify matters, say that there are two distinctly different ways of looking at what a government is:

1. The government is created by the people to represent its interests, to protect its inherent rights, and to manage the relations between different states and countries. The government is subordinate to the people, created as a function to serve the people.

2. The government grants the people their rights and assigns them their duties. The government determines what is best for everybody and enforces those rules on everybody. The people are there to serve the interests of the government.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution defined a government of type 1. The de facto government of today is of type 2, as it is in most other countries on the planet.

The arrangement with the type 2 government has a lot in common with slavery. What might make it not immediately obvious is the arrangement that the slaves can elect representatives amongst themselves to act as slave masters, and that the slaves are free to do whatever they want within the boundaries of the rules imposed on them. As long as one stays within the defined playing field everything can seem normal and acceptable. There are lots of options for how one wants to live within the walls that are established. One only gets in trouble when one tries to break out of them. And sufficiently few people do that that we can just let the government handle that and return to our assigned freedoms and duties without too much thought.

I think a lot of things look different if we assume the view that a government is something that we create for our mutual benefit. It then becomes very suspect when representatives of such a government operate from the belief that we are their subjects, rather than them being in our service.

It is very reasonable and practical to establish governments to handle our mutual affairs on our behalf. We can't all be concerned with everything at the same time, and an economy of scale can often be the best for everybody.

But there is a point where government changes from the role we've granted it into a more sinister role of being our master.

A government is a fictitious entity. There is no particular evil force that has to be expelled in order for government to work better. All that is required is that a majority of the people who make up both the general population and the government become more clear on what the function of government really is about.

I believe this will happen. In the meantime we are likely to experience increased polarization between governments and the people. In our fastpaced information society it becomes increasingly impossible for governments to make and enforce rules on everybody, and more and more people will become aware of the abuses and failures of such a system. Gradually more people will refuse to go along with it, or they will simply change their minds and start creating something better in its place.

- Flemming