by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor-in-chief
There can be no argument for limited or representative government; only a conflicting mishmash of arguments for government and arguments for anarchy. And, ultimately, if an argument for government does not include divine will,1 then it can be no other than an argument for anarchy, for no one governs the governors. As Aristotle said (in another connection), “[W]hat has been alleged to be the greatest good in states does in fact make for their dissolution; whereas that which is the ‘good’ … makes for its preservation.”2
According to Aristotle, “the king who is ‘subject to law’ does not … amount to a form of constitution.”3 Many political apologists have admitted this, but none put it better than Carl Schmitt when he said, “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception”4 and “The exception in jurisprudence is analogous to the miracle in theology.”5
Advocates of limited or representative government are without principle and avoid addressing whether they want government to rule or not; they are crooked, as Dante allegorised, “rectitude or rule … spurns deviation from the straight path.”6 If government should make laws, then all attempts to limit the ability of government to make laws, through constitutions, separation of powers, etc., or to have government represent you, through advisors, elections, lobbies, petitions, etc., are circuitously, frivolously and tortuously self-defeating. Dante understood this well:
[L]et there be one agent (A) by which something can be brought about, and let there be several agents (A and B) by which it can equally be brought about; now if that same thing which can be brought about by means of A and B can be brought about by A alone, then B is introduced unnecessarily, because nothing [other than attracting the support of those duped] is achieved by the introduction of B, since the same thing was already achieved by A alone.7
Do you want government to be supported by individuals or individuals to be supported by government? Either way you fall victim to Occam’s razor. If you choose both, then you do not fall victim to Occam’s razor, you fall victim to contradiction instead; your proposed government being either unlawful or no government. As Sir Robert Filmer put it:
We do but flatter ourselves, if we hope ever to be governed without an arbitrary power. No, we mistake … There never was, nor ever can be any people governed without a power of making laws, and every power of making laws must be arbitrary. For to make a law according to law, is contradictio in adjecto [self-contradictory].8
(This was before Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s argumentation ethics.) Filmer explains further regarding limited or representative government:
[T]he king commands me, or gives judgement against me; I reply, his commands are illegal and his judgement not according to law. Who must judge? If the monarch himself judge, then you … make him absolute … for, to define a monarch to a law, and then to make him judge of his own deviations from that law, is to absolve him from all law. On the other side, if any, or all the people may judge, then you put the sovereignty in the whole body, or part of it, and destroy the being of monarchy. Thus … a plain dilemma: if the king be judge then he is no limited monarch; if the people be judge, then he is no monarch at all. So farewell limited monarchy. Nay, farewell all government if there be no judge.9
John Cotton says the same even more succinctly, “[G]overnment is not a democracy, if it be administered, not by the people, but by the governors … If the people be governors, who shall be governed?”10 And the separation of powers does not remedy the fact, to quote Filmer again:
Every supreme court must have the supreme power, and the supreme power is always arbitrary – for that is arbitrary which hath no superior on earth to control it. The last appeal in all government must still be to an arbitrary power, or else appeals will be in infinitum, never at an end. The legislative power is an arbitrary power, for they are termini convertibles [convertible terms].11
If one applies the laws that government applies to others, to government itself, then government is seen to be criminal. Therefore, as Hans-Hermann Hoppe put it, an “expropriating property protector [also known as] a tax-funded protection agency is a contradiction in terms.”12 Government is meant to be the enforcer of law, but if government is itself exempt from the law, then it is no different to a protection racket. Government steals off people (through taxation) in order to stop others doing the same. For this reason Albert Jay Nock said, “government claims and exercises the monopoly of crime,”13 and bumper stickers say, “Don’t steal. The government hates competition.” Government does not hold itself to the same standards as it does everyone else; it is hypocritical, making it logically indefensible. How else is one to explain parliamentary privilege, the secret (anonymous) ballot and unsigned yet binding “contracts” (the constitution)? They might say that it is necessary for the functioning of government. I agree with this response; it is an excellent argument against government.
The same pattern occurs with economic principles. Monopolistic services tend to be of inferior quality and higher cost than if there was competition to contend with. This is a fundamental application of the law of supply and demand. To deny this is to deny the most basic of economic principles and the very idea of economics as a science, as Gustave de Molinari said, “Either this is logical and true, or else the principles on which economic science is based are invalid.”14 Yet this is exactly what all supporters of government on economic grounds profess. They deny that economics applies to the most important of industries, like defence and education. They also manage to gloss over the little issue of how we are to defend ourselves from government, where government is the monopolist.
It is peculiar that everyone admits that governments have negatively sabotaged the economy in the past, and therefore admit that economic laws are not created by government. Yet with governments’ ability to uphold the law, they argue the opposite. They excuse what today would be unjust laws — unjust purely because they are not accepted by government today — as a consequence of a different cultural climate. Why are governments fallible when it comes to economic laws, but not legal ones? It is sabotage of the law that allows government to sabotage the economy.
- In some circumstances that would be miraculous to recur today (ignoring some minor, though by no means surmountable, scriptural discrepancies), a Christian government would be possible, because they have the keys to heaven (Matthew 16:19). A Jewish government, however, is impossible; Jewish theocracy amounts to anarchy. For a historical survey of scripture-based arguments against Jewish government see Gershon Weiler, Jewish Theocracy (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1988); and with greater emphasis on modern sources and the modern Israeli government see Yakov M. Rabkin, A Threat From Within, trans. Fred A. Reed with author (London: Zed Books, 2006). I am unsure of the position of other religions on government. I have also ignored any discussion of G_d vis-à-vis “its” unimaginable incorporeality. ↩
- Aristotle, Politics, trans. T.A. Sinclair, rev. Trevor J. Saunders (London: Penguin, 1992), p. 105, bk. II, ch. ii. ↩
- Ibid., p. 225, bk. III, ch. xvi. ↩
- Carl Schmitt, Political Theology, trans. George Schwab (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005), p. 5. ↩
- Ibid., p. 36. ↩
- Dante, Monarchy, ed. and trans. Prue Shaw (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 15-16. ↩
- Ibid., p. 24. ↩
- Sir Robert Filmer, The Anarchy of a Limited or Mixed Monarchy, in his Patriarcha and Other Writings, ed. Johann P. Sommerville (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 132. ↩
- Ibid., p. 151. For why John Locke — the most famous respondent to Filmer — and others, put, theoretically speaking, the defence of government on the wrong path see Carl Watner, “‘Oh, Ye Are For Anarchy!’: Consent Theory In the Radical Libertarian Tradition,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, vol. 8, no. 1 (Winter 1986), pp. 111-137. ↩
- John Cotton, The Correspondence of John Cotton, ed. Sargent Bush, Jr. (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), pp. 246-45. ↩
- Sir Robert Filmer, The Free-holders Grand Inquest, in his Patriarcha and Other Essays, as referenced above, pp. 99-100. ↩
- Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy — The God that Failed (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2002), p. 81. ↩
- Albert Jay Nock, The State of the Union, ed. Charles H. Hamilton (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1991), p. 43. ↩
- Gustave de Molinari, The Production of Security, trans. J. Huston McCulloch (New York: Center for Libertarian Studies, 1977), p. 4. ↩
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