The Purpose of Government

I have reported about Larken Rose before and I thought that his last email post is very interesting so that I better plagiarize it in its entirely and let it stand for itself. If you want to get his emails unfiltered by me you can send a blank message to (Update: This was written years ago and I don’t think this email is still active. But the content is still relevant, so I keep it here for posterity.)

Dear Subscriber,

Time for another simple line of reasoning which leads to a fairly disturbing conclusion. Once again, the challenge is not comprehending something complex; it’s letting something painfully simple drill its way through the many years of indoctrination we’ve all had.

Most people agree that there are many kinds of unjustified, immoral force (a.k.a. violence), and a few kinds of justified force (mainly defensive). When a mugger swipes a little old lady’s purse, that’s bad. When a guy tackles the mugger to get it back for the little old lady, that’s good. No doubt we could bicker endlessly about the “gray areas,” and where we think the dividing line between moral force and immoral force is, but for this point, you don’t need to use MY measure of what is or isn’t justified. Use your own. But for now I’ll use an example that most of us would agree upon.

The mugger has the ABILITY to take the purse by force, but does not have the RIGHT. The little old lady, on the other hand, has the RIGHT to use defensive force to stop the purse-snatcher, but she may not have the ABILITY. However, everyone ELSE has the right to use force on her behalf, either to be nice or because she pays them to (e.g., if she happens to be a rich little old lady with a bodyguard).

The context of the use of force is what determines whether it is moral or not. The little old lady’s right to use force doesn’t come from who she is, or from legislation. The right to use defensive force, to protect person or property, is an inherent right that every human has. No one had to give it to her. Likewise, the force used by the mugger is unjustified and immoral, not because of who he is or because “the law” says so, but because it’s an infringement upon the little old lady’s inherent rights.

So far, this is pretty basic stuff. But one little step of logic exposes something pretty disturbing. If the little old lady, and every one of us, already has the RIGHT to use defensive force (though we can bicker about where exactly to draw the line), then we have the right to have someone else use such force on our behalf. That’s what private security guards and bodyguards are: people hired to exercise the right of self-defense on behalf of someone else. We as INDIVIDUALS have the right, so we can delegate it to anyone we wish, without the need for any “law” or special “authority.”

So, what DO we need “government” for? What DOES require “legislation,” if not inherently justified force? Simple: people use statutory “law” to exercise inherently IMMORAL force–which they as individuals do NOT have the right to use–to achieve desired ends. They want “free” stuff, and since they can’t take it by force from their neighbors without unpleasant consequences, they have “tax collectors” and “government programs” do it for them. They want the poor cared for, or a military funded, or any number of other “programs” carried out, but they don’t have the right to FORCE their neighbors to fund those things, so they ask “authority” to do it. They want certain vices and habits forcibly combated, even though those behaviors do not constitute force against anyone (e.g., drug use, prostitution, gambling, etc.). The average citizen has no right to forcibly interfere with those, so they want “government” to do it instead. In short, people want “government” to use force in situations where average people have NO RIGHT to use such force. (I hope most people on this list are already aware of the fact that EVERY “law,” no matter how much rhetoric and euphemism it’s hidden under, is a threat, backed up by the ability and willingness to use force.)

So here is the punch line, which is glaringly self-evident, but is vehemently denied by the vast majority of people. Read it a couple of times carefully, to let the meaning sink in.

“Government” is the addition of IMMORAL force (unjustified violence) into society.

And people wonder why “government” corrupts everything it touches, and why it doesn’t fix the problems of society. Hint: you can’t IMPROVE society by adding more UNJUSTIFIED VIOLENCE into it. (Duh.) It doesn’t get any simpler than that, but the millions upon millions who have been thoroughly indoctrinated into the worship of the state–and I sadly confess to having been one for a long time– will come up with all manner of explanation, rationalization, and justification to try to make the insane sane. No election, no constitution, no legislation–NOTHING can alter that simple fact: the entire purpose of “authority”–the ONLY reason people want it to exist–is to exert violence (under the guise of “law”) which is INHERENTLY IMMORAL AND UNJUSTIFIED. They don’t need it for anything else.

For those who would deny that, I make this simple, unilateral pledge: I will never initiate force against you, or advocate that anyone else do so. I will use force, and advocate force, only when used in defense of person or property. Care to make that pledge as well? If so, you’ll have to first give up your belief in elections, and constitutions, and legislation, and democracy, and authority, and government, since all of those are nothing more than excuses to use inherently immoral violence.

(I warned you this wouldn’t be your average political discussion list.)

Larken Rose