What Government Really Is

A theory should explain something without reference to something else. That is, a metaphor doesn’t work. It’s just a description. If you say that government is a kind of ‘social contract,’ you are merely describing how it seems to you…or what you think it might be comparable to.

Our theory is that government is a natural phenomenon, an expression of power relationships, in which some people seek to dominate others by force. These dominators gather ‘insiders’ together so that they can take money, power and status away from other people, the ‘outsiders.’

Many people think that government provides some service. That is true, but it is incidental. Governments often deliver the mail. But they don’t have to. They would still be governments even if they didn’t control the Post Office. And what if they didn’t have a department of inland fisheries, or a program to teach retarded democrats to count to 20? They would still be in the government business…and still have their helicopters, chauffeurs and expense accounts. But if they lost control of the police or the army it would be an entirely different matter. Force is the essence of government, not a decorative detail. Without armies and police, they would no longer be governments. It is “from the barrel of a gun,” as Mao put it, that political power projects itself.

At the end of the 19th century, people were asked what they thought the new century would bring. Almost universally they predicted that government would grow smaller. Why? Because people were becoming much richer and better educated. The thinkers of the time thought there would be less need for government. People who were rich and well-educated had no use for government, they believed.

It didn’t turn out that way. Because the thinkers misunderstood what government really is. They had the wrong theory. Government is not an organization that provides benefits and services, and therefore shrinks as the need subsides. Governments grew tremendously in the 20th century. Because they are essentially parasitic luxuries. As a society grows richer it can afford more illusions, more waste, more re-distribution of wealth, more regulation, higher taxes, and more unproductive government employees.

The outsiders take more, because there is more to take.

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning