Why People Believe Government Is Here to Help Us

By Paul Bonneau.
 
Exclusive to STR
 
 
The tenacity of the meme, that government is here to help us and protect us, is hard to understand. All evidence throughout history points in the opposite direction--that government is here to prey on us, and that if there is anything we need protection from, it is our own governments. Why do people cling to this harmful meme?
 
A possible clue was provided last night, when I was watching an old Paul Newman movie, “Hombre.”
 
In that movie, Richard Boone plays a really tough, nasty bad guy (and does a great job of it). In one scene, Boone walks into the stagecoach station to get a ride, and is told all the seats for the next stage have been sold. He then walks up to Newman and explains to him that Newman is going to give Boone his ticket. Another passenger, a young man in Army uniform, starts objecting to Boone's behavior, whereupon Boone transfers his attention to him. He explains the young man is going to hand over his ticket, and if he doesn't think so, he will have to shoot it out with Boone. Eventually, not wanting to lose his life over a stagecoach ticket, he hands it over to Boone; but the shame is palpable. Everyone else in the station is looking at him as he walks out.
 
An individual thinks government is here to help us, for a very good reason: to protect his psyche. If he thought the contrary, that government only preys on us, he would be placing himself in the same shameful position as that young man in “Hombre.” He would be saying to himself, "These bastards rob us every day, and there is not a damn thing I can do to stop it!" Or worse, "I don't have the courage to stand up to it."
 
It is much easier for people to imagine they are simply buying services from the government, and of course the government participates in this self-deception by laying a thick coat of euphemism and outright lies over reality. But it is revealing, the ease with which people swallow these lies. Again, it's protection for the psyche.
 
Even some “libertarians” will often insist that the only legitimate job of government is protecting our rights. Nothing could be more absurd, than looking to the Richard Boones of this world to help us; but the psyche must be protected.
 
When will people give up this harmful meme, that allows the ruling class to parasitize them? When will they look reality in the face? And when will they begin to do something about it?
 
I believe it is starting. The Tea Parties, however clumsy and uncoordinated and internally inconsistent, are good evidence. When the next Great Depression shows up with a vengeance, it will be hard to maintain this meme any longer. It will be interesting to see what happens when the scales fall from their eyes, and when shame is replaced with outrage.
 

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Paul Bonneau's picture
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Comments

Glen Allport's picture

"All evidence throughout history points in the opposite direction--that government is here to prey on us, and that if there is anything we need protection from, it is our own governments."

What a great way to put it! Paul's got a talent for seeing the important point in a situation and conveying that point without a single wasted word. Nice job.

Suverans2's picture

"Even some “libertarians” will often insist that the only legitimate job of government is protecting our rights." ~ Paul Bonneau

That's because it is. A de jure government's "only legitimate job" is to protect its members natural rights, i.e. their "just claim" to their lives, liberty and rightfully acquired property. The instant it steps to the right or to the left of this it is immediately wielding unjust powers, i.e. powers it does not legitimately possess, because it cannot have authority greater than that of its creator, that is to say, over and above that of its individual members. This holds true whether you call it a "corporation", a "private protection agency", a "protectorate", or a "government".

Those who wished to have dominion over others knew full well this limitation on their authority, which is why they fraudulently claimed[1] the "divine right of king", which asserts that a sovereign power is subject to no earthly authority, that it derives its right to rule directly from the will of God.

MICHELLE: We'll burn in hell. Both of us.

(The King stands; he's had enough of this.)

LOUIS: No, my love. You will burn in hell, for your sins. But I will not -- for I am King...ordained by God. ~ Man in the Iron Mask

And when this supposed delegated power no longer satisfied these power hungry individuals, they fraudulently claimed to be gods.

Footnote:
[1]
It is a "fraudulent claim" because the "divine right of kings" belongs to each of us, we are, each of us, "sovereigns without subjects", "without any restraint or control, unless' [except] 'by the law of nature".

Natural liberty is the right which nature gives to all mankind of disposing of their persons and property after the manner they judge most consistent with their happiness, on condition of their acting within the limits of the law of nature, and so as not to interfere with an equal exercise of the same rights by other men. Buriamaqui, c. 3, § 15; 1 Bl. Comm. 125 ~ A Dictionary of the Law (Black’s 1st c. 1891), pg. 716 [Emphasis added]

Paul's picture

In "Hombre", the sheriff (who you are depending on for protecting your rights) turned out to be a member of Boone's gang.

Suverans2's picture

Assuming your above statement were true, (which it isn't), this, in your mind, would somehow make the statement, "the only legitimate job of government is protecting our [natural] rights", untrue?

DennisLeeWilson's picture

*I* never signed a contract with any government.

Furthermore, I haven't seen any government offering a contract to protect any of my rights.

Instead, I have been victim of several overlapping governments (school board, city, county, state and federal) violating my rights. Experience tells me that governments do not care about "legitimate", they just take. They also make "rules" but care nothing about obeying them. And they claim exclusive judgment of the "rules" they make and break.

B.R. Merrick's picture

They don't care about obeying their own rules, Mr. Wilson, because no government can exist without first initiating coercion. If a government ever came along and left non-contributors entirely alone, it would be called an insurance company.

As soon as you initiate coercion, The Ring is in charge, not you.

Steve's picture

Such a tenacious meme among libertarians, that government is merely a meme, a fiction, that it offers nothing positive and solves no real problems. They think that government, like a fairy, will disappear once we stop believing in it. Unfortunately, there are some real problems that are not so easy to solve without government, and we libertarians would be a lot more persuasive if we would at least acknowledge their existence. Most leftists I meet believe that government is necessary because left to their own devices people will not do the right thing, e.g. contribute enough to charity. The free-rider problem is real, and government is a solution. We libertarians need to show that other solutions exist and are both more moral and effective.

Thomas Jefferson, arguably a smart, well-read, and radical guy, hat this to say about the purpose of government:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Suverans2's picture

"They think that government, like a fairy, will disappear once we stop believing in it." ~ Steve

Steve, if everyone simultaneously stopped believing in government, (albeit that will likely never happen), you would find that it never truly existed. But that aside...

As real as the "free-rider problem" may be, I think you must agree, Steve, history has proven, time and time again, that government is not a good solution; from national defense to charity, it has always failed miserably.

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

It is time for us to stop the insanity, it is time for us to put our heads together and find a better solution, don't you think, Steve. The "perfect solution" doesn't exist, but a "better solution" surely must.

Steve's picture

>you must agree, Steve, history has proven, time and time again, that government is not a good solution;
>from national defense to charity, it has always failed miserably.

As a libertarian/anarchist, quite active in the movement, I of course agree that government provides suboptimal solutions. But I'm not the one you need to convince. When you make sweeping, obviously false statements like "[government] has always failed miserably", you lose not merely the statists, but normal freedom-liking Americans, and me too. Saying such things here at STR will get you lots of pats on the back, but it will take a lot more to convince the statists. We need to show them how civil society can produce more efficient solutions. We need to show them that even when the government stays involved, it's role can be decentralized and reduced, e.g. via outsourcing.

http://jonathangullible.com

Suverans2's picture

If you'll re-read my last two sentences...

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

It is time for us to stop the insanity, it is time for us to put our heads together and find a better solution, don't you think, Steve. The "perfect solution" doesn't exist, but a "better solution" surely must.

...I think we may be saying the same thing, unless, of course, you simply prefer to just take this...

"...you must agree, Steve, history has proven, time and time again, that government is not a good solution; from national defense to charity, it has always failed miserably"

...out of context.

Good luck on this one, Steve...

"We need to show them that even when the government stays involved, it's role can be decentralized and reduced, e.g. via outsourcing." [Emphasis added]

Oh, and you should see all the bruises I get from the "pats on the back" I receive in this place, Steve. ROFLMAO

tzo's picture

Don't forget the delivery of the mails. Very important stuff also.

But seriously, those who don't give enough to charity certainly need guns pointed at them so they cough up what you think is right. Those free-ridin', no charity-givin' slackers need to pay on up or git on out. I get that message straight from Jefferson's words. You and me is on the same radical wavelength there, amigo.

Long live the 'government is a solution' meme! Uncle Sam is no fairy! Hoo-ah.