Wednesday, February 24, 2010

People Are Evil... Except Those Who Serve in Government

Anyone of a libertarian mind-set has probably had a conversation similar to this:

You: Government sucks.

Bob: Yes, but it’s necessary. People are stupid and evil, and life without government would degenerate into a chaotic dictatorship of corporate mobs and gang warfare.

Another common variant is the more succinct:

Bob: Humanity can’t be trusted with that much freedom.

The obvious problem with this line of reasoning is a heaping dose of self-defeat. If people are, as a rule, stupid, evil and predisposed to chaos and gang-based war, then the most irrational action one might take in pursuit of minimizing these consequences is the deliberate formation of such a gang. After all, those who would serve in government are members of the same human race as the rest of us. It cannot be declared that government is necessary because people are evil, while simultaneously exempting the people in government from this inherent evil.

Of course, the inevitable response to this is the catch-all solution: democracy! We keep the undesirables out of office by simply not voting them in. Power to the people . . . right?

Oh, wait. People. Stupid, evil, chaos-loving, warmongering people — who will almost certainly elect stupid, evil, chaos-loving, warmongering politicians. It seems that democracy does not solve or even manage the problem.

Evil Humans


  1. I feel this article has fundamentallly missed the point.

    For one thing, not all human beings are "evil." Maybe by Christian by the Christian standard that we are all horrible sinners...

    People need the guidance of others in order to turn out good, and government has little to do with this process. It is largely shouldered by parents and relatives, though occassionally others must step in when children are endangered or neglected. Sometimes this is the government, and sometimes without government no one is willing to step in... but this has very little to do with why government is useful.

    I say useful, because both you and I know government is not necessary, at least not in the sense that food, water and air are necessary. Government is a human development, like math, computers, or bulldozers. It has no natural basis.

    How do groups who lack any form of government fare? So far, not well at all. There is a reason for this: though people are not on the whole "evil," there are people who do wrong. We could try to implement private security forces, but these types of organizations quickly gain power resembling a government, and they have absolutely no oversight. If the owner of a private security firm decided to take your wife on your wedding night, who can stop him? There is no law, there is no other authority to go to under an anarchistic, privated system.

    You obsess frequently about the minor inconveniences and the errors made by government. It is good to not take government's actions for granted as always justified, and it is surely a good thing to work to improve operation of government, but to claim that the US government oppresses its citizenry more than the citizenry would be oppressed under anarchy is naive at best and downright ignorant at worst.

    If anything, the true victims of American oppression are non-citzens, especially those subjected to the full destruction of our armed forces. To truly end American tyranny would require far more foreign policy changes than domestic ones.

  2. Ginx, the article hasn't missed the point. Rather, you have fundamentally missed the point of the article. At no time is it asserted that "all human beings are 'evil.'" Rather, it notes the fallacy of invoking the inherent evilness of humanity as an argument for government.

    There are other counters addressing the many variants of the "only some people are evil" argument, but those are beyond the scope of this piece.

    As such, your meandering, unfocused comment attacks a straw-man and is ultimately irrelevant.


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