Jan 07 2015

Government is Force

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence. It is force, and like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. – George Washington

When people decide to live together in groups, it becomes necessary to establish some level of cooperation. If possible this is done with agreement and consent. But when reason and persuasion fail to gain consent, some part of the group may feel justified in using force to compel cooperation. The force often takes the form or threats or penalties designed to compel behavior, but they must be backed up by some credible level of force in order to work.

When the use of force is justified by the size of the majority, we call this “the will of the people” or democracy. When the use of force is justified by a previously agreed upon code of conduct, we call this the rule of law. Regardless of the form of justification, the application of force to control conduct is what we call government.

Justifying the use of force by a simple majority vote (pure democracy) is a dangerous form of government, making it easy for a majority group to use government backed force to suppress the rights of a minority. For this reason, government by the rule of laws that are established within a carefully limited framework, does a better job of safeguarding individual rights and liberties. We call this constitutional government.

The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. – James Madison

History has shown that whenever the power of force is concentrated, tyranny and the abuse of force follows. Therefore, the fundamental purpose of a constitution is twofold:

  • To declare the individual rights and liberties that are most important to protect
  • To craft a limiting framework for both the creation of laws and the administration of laws that will protect those individual rights and liberties

The ultimate responsibility to make this government limiting framework accomplish the purpose of protecting individual rights and liberties rests on the will of the people. The people must both understand the purpose and intent of the constitution and must vote to elect representatives who also understand and will act to fulfill that understanding.

If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress…. Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America.- James Madison