Government by Force: Financially and Conceptually
Michael S. Rozeff
by Michael S. Rozeff: Freedom
From the FED
of government erases personal responsibility and replaces it with
personal irresponsibility. As government reaches its limits, caused
by its inefficiencies, unhappiness and misery increase. The pendulum
at some point will swing back.
A major shift
in the way we do many things awaits us: the return of personal responsibility.
This shift will, when it happens, qualify as a new mega-trend. When
enough people become dissatisfied with their lives and understand
the role of government in causing their dissatisfaction, this shift
will gain momentum.
in its current form, forced upon us rather than being by subscription
or voluntarily chosen, exemplifies where we now stand. Its failures
foreshadow the opposite direction in which we will be headed.
operates and gains general acceptance under the theory that it is
an efficient way to solve the problems of ordinary people. Ordinary
people turn a problem they face, like their health care or their
education or their defense, over to others in government that they
think of as professionals or specialized experts or leaders or politicians.
These experts, vested with power, then make the decisions for the
ordinary people. Given large powers, the experts dictate large portions
of the lives of ordinary people.
theory, people have more time to specialize in their own work and
create wealth for themselves and their families. They donít have
personally to handle the education of their children or the investment
of their money or where a factory is built or the kind of light
bulb they buy. They stop making major retirement choices. They give
up many medical choices. They go to war when they are told to, or
else they pay for it when they are told to. They give up their freedom,
and simultaneously they attenuate their personal responsibilities.
up of freedom is done in the name of efficiency. People do not so
much trade their freedom for security, as is commonly supposed.
They trade it for efficiency. They accept government so that they
can live better and more productive lives.
When this exchange
works out to their detriment, it shows the fault in the theory.
There are good reasons why giving up freedom and the accompanying
personal responsibility fail, indeed, always fail and must fail.
There are major unresolvable problems in making government by force
work for the people.
there are other theories of government than this one. One of them
is that ordinary people are weak, stupid, uneducated, malleable
and inferior, and that there are extraordinary people who rise above
them into an elite, and these elite people deserve to rule and run
the State and bring light into the lives of the inferior people.
This theory can be elaborated into the fascist notion that ordinary
people are nothing without the State and those who man it. Under
this theory, ordinary people are naturally irresponsible, so that
there is little or no question of personal responsibility.
of personal responsibility, I therefore deny validity to this fascist
theory. My view of the human being is that no matter what faults
we have, each and every one of us is in possession of an unique
personality that can be made, like a flower, to bloom under proper
conditions. A great tragedy of human life is that so many flowers
are continually crushed, even by their owners, never to bloom or
In all of the
many areas in which government by force operates, private choices
become public or collective choices. What government is and does
cannot fully be explained or understood as this kind of rational
process of substituting public for private choices. We know that
the State generally comes into existence violently, subsists violently,
and extends its power in many devious ways. Nevertheless, its reach
and activities are influenced by the people whom it governs. They
abide by it and its Constitution. They concede power to it. They
accept it in some measure. Many support it. Many participate in
its elections. Very, very few anarchist voices are heard in most
lands. To the extent that government finds support and participation
of those whom it rules, this way of thinking about government as
the agent of ordinary people has some explanatory power, even if
it is not what comes out of the process and even if it is not the
whole truth about government. It is in the context of this theory
that there arises the contrast between personal responsibility and
irresponsibility in the presence of government.
In this way
of living, in which people turn problems over to government, people
do not directly face their problems and responsibilities. They face
them indirectly, if at all, by turning them over to others. This
is a principal-agent mode of living. People as principals allow
agents to carry out many tasks for them, even to detailed control
over personal areas of living.
or politicians or leaders or government administrators are what
I am calling "experts". It is not that they are actually
experts, or that their expertise is real. Their decisions end up
being very inexpert. But despite almost continual bad decisions
by government, the idea that government knows and does best can
still maintain itself as the myth. It can do this without government
actually conferring the benefits it is thought to be providing under
this myth. That is because there is so little questioning of the
system itself. Instead most people think that the system either
needs tweaking or new faces to run it better.
Yet when people
accept the myth and accept government, there is one sure negative
effect: there is a seismic shift in responsibility from the person
to the government.
and control (governmental) system of life has been championed by
its supporters as progressive and modern (and also by those who
considered experts as elite and the masses as inferior). This system,
however, has deteriorated in actual practice, and it never really
worked at any time anyway. It was only mistakenly thought to work
when government was relatively small and did not as seriously mess
up peopleís lives and when free markets were able to advance the
prosperity of ordinary people.
the failings of government the principal-agent rationale or myth
lives on and on. It lives on in the notion that government is somehow
a good thing or can be made to be a good thing. This idea remains
entrenched. It is taught to the people. The idea of good government
still prevails in most discourse about public matters. The continued
presence of government and its large role in our lives is virtually
always assumed in countless communications in the media, in conversations,
and over the internet. It is assumed that this is a government of
the people, by the people, and for the people, even as the distance
between these assumptions and the reality has immensely widened.
Nearly all recommendations take government for granted and argue
about marginal changes. Almost none question government itself.
Hence, there is almost universal denial of personal responsibility
(and the concomitant freedom) and universal acceptance of the personal
irresponsibility that comes with government officials making the
of turning decisions over to government only works for the people
if people are homogeneous, so that they accept a public decision
and let it stand for everyone. It only works if the experts are
really experts. It only works if the experts, through incentive
systems, are made to work for their principals and not for themselves.
The experts and politicians are supposed to be public-spirited,
wise, and mature. It only works if the people have the know-how
to choose responsible and wise leaders. It only works if the people
are able to monitor the behavior of their agents. It only works
if they are able to connect bad results to the bad decisions of
their experts. It only works if the people can change their experts
at will or at low cost. It only works if the areas of government
decision-making are strictly limited, delimited and controlled by
the ordinary people.
None of these
conditions hold true today, and they never ever held true. They
were a dream, a theoretical dream. The principal-agent model of
government is a fiction in the reality of the matter. The top-down
system that has emerged into the light should make this clear. Government
power rules the roost. Ordinary people have given up control over
major portions of their lives to government officials. They have
lost this control or freedom. Beyond their psychological impact,
elections make little difference in our lives. The system is largely
a system of personal irresponsibility in those areas of life in
which the government has taken control.
of government working on behalf of the people breaks down or deteriorates
when any of these conditions or others that I havenít mentioned
fail. It breaks down when the experts canít get the information
to make informed decisions. It breaks down when the passions and
foibles of the experts or elected leaders rule their choices, rather
than the interests of the people who are their principals. It breaks
down when the experts withhold information from the people or lie
to them. It breaks down when narrow interests among the people get
the experts to do their bidding at the expense of the general public.
It breaks down when ordinary people stop monitoring the government.
It breaks down when the government changes the political rules and
ensures the re-election of most officials. This list is not exhaustive.
The bottom line is that government by force doesnít work.
think that government protects the innocent weak from the rapacious
strong, or that it once did. This is myth too. The government always
has been a focal point for the rapacious, whether weak or strong,
disorganized or organized. Governmentís existence encourages all
people to take advantage of one another.
national debt in the U.S. and many other countries stands as the
symbol of how badly the principal-agent model of government by force
has worked out in practice. The agents (experts and politicians)
supposedly ran up these debts on behalf of their principals (us
ordinary people), that is, for wise and publically-beneficial reasons,
such as winning a space race and building up a military establishment
and making wars and distributing food stamps and so on. But if the
spending that is the equivalent of these debts had been productive,
these debts would today be payable, not unpayable as they are. They
would not loom large compared to our income because our incomes
would have risen. Each person would not face a share of the public
debt that is some huge number like $100,000 or $200,000 or $300,000.
Incomes would not have stagnated for decades. The fact that the
public debts are insurmountable here and elsewhere shows that governments
are not only financially bankrupt but also bankrupt in concept.
took no personal responsibility for any of this spending and debt.
Just the opposite. Once these and other decisions became collectivized
and handled by distant experts, each of us paid little or no attention
to it. They all became matters of personal irresponsibility. Generally,
we paid little attention when the powers that be extracted the fruits
of our labors from us in the form of taxes. We even registered few
complaints when they drafted us into their military forces. When
we were killed and maimed in wars, the public organs of expression
treated this as if it were a badge of honor. We waved flags, had
parades, celebrated the valor of veterans, and attached little ribbon
decals to our automobiles.
form of government replaces personal responsibility (and freedom)
with personal irresponsibility (and control). The TSA in its ugly,
intrusive, and inefficient ways has taken over the responsibility
of air travel security against terrorism. The traveler no longer
need exercise any judgment in the choice of airlines. The airline
company no longer need compete to distinguish itself as a desired
safe way to travel, or as one that reduces waiting time. The FDA
tells us what drugs may be sold and not sold and what may be used
for what purposes and what may not. The government produces dietary
guidelines, that is, it even tells us what to eat. The government
tells us who is the enemy of the day and whom we must now bomb or
kill. Any responsibility or freedom of action we might have in deciding
whether or not we wish to contribute to the destruction of others
is non-existent. As for helping others, the government tells us
whom we must collectively support with money, medical care, emergency
aid, and food stamps. This is not our responsibility.
to me that the fact of governmentís financial bankruptcy is surfacing
to the public consciousness. The deeper fact of government by force
being conceptually bankrupt hasnít yet bubbled to the surface, but
its movement has started.
S. Rozeff [send him mail]
is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.
He is the author of the free e-book Essays
on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book
The U.S. Constitution
and Money: Corruption and Decline.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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