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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7874/society-is-a-blessing-while-government-is-evil/

Society is a blessing, while government is evil

March 6, 2008 by

Thomas Paine was more than a pamphleteer for the cause of the American revolution. He was a serious political philosopher, as this excerpt from The Rights of Man demonstrates. In many ways, he anticipated the insights of Mises, Rothbard, and Hayek.

“A great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government. It had its origin in the principles of society, and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished. The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has in man and all the parts of a civilized community upon each other create that great chain of connection which holds it together. ” FULL ARTICLE

{ 4 comments }

fusgerm March 6, 2008 at 5:49 pm

According to Paine, government began with banditry. The repeated acts of plunder eventually became enshrined as taxation. With such sordid origins, governments could not be expected to reform themselves, and “the shortest and most effectual remedy is to begin anew.”

The US government did indeed begin anew. It protected life, liberty and property; it kept taxes low and did not force citizens to accept irredeemable paper money. In little over a century the US had become the wealthiest nation in the world.

How ironic, then, that the US government should have evolved into the monster that we have today. Its army is spread throughout the world, its navy dominates the seas, its weaponry is diabolical, while at home it crushes its subjects under heavy taxation and a giant slagheap of regulation.

It has managed to do this by making electors feel an affinity with government. The sad fact is that men are not divided into bandits and merchants, but all men have a streak of banditry in them and this can be manipulated into something big and ugly. The modern electorate identifies itself with government: it rejoices when its army is victorious overseas, it laughs when businessmen are jailed for tax-evasion, and in response to every problem it screams for a government solution.

Paine was wrong. We have found the enemy, and it is us.

Paul Marks March 6, 2008 at 6:28 pm

Many of Thomas Paine’s specific policy ideas are not in keeping with the spirit of the fine words above.

First he claimed he could have his government paid for schools, and old age provision and ……. (all his other ideas) without higher taxes – because getting rid of Kings and their hangers on would save so much money.

But what is was shown that this claim was nonsense, he resorted to supporting ideas for ever higher taxes – especially on big landowers (people he had a personal dislike of).

Of course even destroying all the big estate owners would not have provided the ever greater sums of money that his proto Welfare State ideas would have demanded over time. So he would have had to destroy manufacturing as well as farming.

Even his opposition to fiat money turned out to be an opposition to fiat money issued by Kings or other people in government by birth – not fIat money issued by elected governments.

“Hereditary legislatures are as absurd as herditary mathematicians”

Why are elected mathematicians likely to be better?

If anything they will be worse that people who have mathematics as a family tradition.

Paul Marks March 6, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Many of Thomas Paine’s specific policy ideas are not in keeping with the spirit of the fine words above.

First he claimed he could have his government paid for schools, and old age provision and ……. (all his other ideas) without higher taxes – because getting rid of Kings and their hangers on would save so much money.

But what is was shown that this claim was nonsense, he resorted to supporting ideas for ever higher taxes – especially on big landowers (people he had a personal dislike of).

Of course even destroying all the big estate owners would not have provided the ever greater sums of money that his proto Welfare State ideas would have demanded over time. So he would have had to destroy manufacturing as well as farming.

Even his opposition to fiat money turned out to be an opposition to fiat money issued by Kings or other people in government by birth – not fIat money issued by elected governments.

“Hereditary legislatures are as absurd as herditary mathematicians”

Why are elected mathematicians likely to be better?

If anything they will be worse that people who have mathematics as a family tradition.

wuzacon March 6, 2008 at 6:49 pm

The enemy is us — we are all capable of great evil in the rational pursuit of our self-interest. However, our self-interest can only achieve evil when supported by the cloak, mystery, purported goodness, and force of government.

The perceived benificence of any government provides the cover by which people can compel others to cede their will or their property in the name of the public good when in fact they are providing insiders with an unearned benefit. This is Thomas Paine’s point.

At one time, the great thinkers of the US wrote that our rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are inalienable. In the Constitution, this was converted to life, liberty and property cannot be taken without due process. When due process had meaning, this meant something. Now, due process means only that the government must act in a public way — vote, adopt a regulation, or make a ruling — and allow the public to speak. This provides virtually no protection of our rights — let alone recognizing their inalienablity.

The enemy is us. We have allowed the government to become more powerful than any in the history of man!

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