The True Nature of Government

Government is force.

What Really Limits Government?

Force limits government. First, government is limited by the force it has at its disposal. A government whose agents are armed only with truncheons is far more limited than a government whose agents are armed with machine guns, tear gas, and the hydrogen bomb. Second, government is limited by the force its subjects have at their disposal. Finally, a government is limited by the force other governments have at their disposal.

A constitution can limit a government no more than blueprints for a dam can limit a flood. A dam must be built of something concrete, and likewise a government must be held back with force of arms.

Objectivist Government: Unstable Emulsion of Force and Mind

Force and mind, like oil and water, don’t mix. Reliance on force makes a man mindless. Reliance on mind makes a man pacific. Only philosophy can provide the emulsifier to hold these immiscible substances in suspension together.* The emulsifier is integrity.

Integrity is the unity of thought and action. Integrity is hardest to achieve when the action that must be unified with thought is violent. It is hard enough for an individual, who has a mind, to retain his integrity when licensed to kill. Governments do not have minds.

The fundamental practical problem for the Objectivist politics is now clear: how can man confer integrity upon an institution? How can something mindless unify its thoughts with its actions? Since this is obviously impossible, the question becomes: how can the principles of any constitution be enforced?

This is the question that Objectivism must answer, but never even asks. A reasonable man can only conclude that Objectivists believe a flood can be held back with blueprints. The Founding Fathers did not agree:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Philosophy makes all further works of the mind possible, from dams to governments, but it does not make them actual. Men make them actual, by taking action, action that may be integral with right principles — or not. If a man acts against right principles, he bears the consequences himself. If a government acts against right principles, the people bear the consequences. There is therefore a natural enforcement mechanism that brings benefit or harm to an individual based on the validity of his principles and his adherence to them. There is no such natural enforcement mechanism working on governments. The mechanism must therefore be supplied externally.

Ayn Rand and all Objectivists after her seem to have missed this fact entirely.

*. This is an ancient lesson, the first lesson of Western culture. Achilles was angry, but Odysseus was angry at the right time.

This has been the seventh entry in my Antistatism Series.

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