Friday, 2 November 2007

The proper purpose of government

Something to consider -- the proper function of government, and what happens when a government oversteps its rightful bounds:
The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man's self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.

But a government that initiates the employment of force against men who had forced no one, the employment of armed compulsion against disarmed victims, is a nightmare infernal machine designed to annihilate morality: such a government reverses its only moral purpose and switches from the role of protector to the role of man's deadliest enemy, from the role of policeman to the role of a criminal vested with the right to the wielding of violence against victims deprived of the right of self-defense. Such a government substitutes for morality the following rule of social conduct: you may do whatever you please to your neighbor, provided your gang is bigger than his.
-Ayn Rand
(Taken from the new online Ayn Rand Lexicon)


  1. Under a taxless goverment what would pay for the police, army, and judiciary?

  2. Easy. A voluntary contribution. I once calculated what this would cost. How about this for a deal? $100.00 each year.


  3. LGM,

    What so I decided the police weren't doing a good job? They seem to be wasting money and not getting good results. Now, I could withdraw my voluntary contribution. Or I could decide to compete with them by setting up my own police force. I have carefully analysed the market and I know how I could get things done more cheaply and better. Furthermore, I will stake my reputation on using force morally. People have been coming to me asking me to this and offering support.

    So my question is: will your voluntary government let me?

    Note: To pre-empt the discussion somewhat, I am fully committed to voluntarism, but I think that that road logically ends in ancap. And I am also inclined to think that some commonly held views on ancap are wrong.

  4. I do not support the idea of having a govenment. There is no requirement for someone to "govern" others.

    As far as setting up a security service of your own, you'd be entited to do this and compete with other providers. This would make you similar in some aspects to how private security firms are now. You have a number of potential sources of income available to you. You could accept voluntary contribution or donation. You could charge fees for more complete security services (such as guarding or patrolling or monitoring specific sites or even providing body guards). You could charge for providing instruction services and training to people in matters pertaining to personal safety etc. The market is wide open (or would be if there was no government monopoly on aspects of it as there is presently). There is also the possibility of receiving an income from the insurance companies (in whose interest it is to minimise claims by minimising crimes committed against policy-holders). Of course you'd need to be very good in your work, as the idea is not original. It is well known and there would be others competing in the same space as you.



  5. There are several succesfull and functioning sherifhoods (which amount to little more than private security firms)in the U.S.A and Brazil (and no doubt many other places) but are you sure LGM that on a large scale, private security won't just degenerate into mob rule?

  6. LGM,

    Looks like we see eye-to-eye. I think that technogical developments this century will naturally lead towards ancap. For example, if it is possible to have multiple virtual versions of yourself scattered across the globe (and in outer space), society will be way too complex for any centralised government to control. Such a future society could only organise itself around ancap.

    I'm not advocating any sudden revolution to bring on ancap. In fact, I think that would be wrong. The transistion to ancap will be gradual. At some point a line will be crossed and at that point, with all the knowledge we have and with all the new technologies at our disposal, that line will not even be noticed: it will seem natural. For now, what we must do is press for more freedom, reduce the size of government, lower taxes, and ensure that government has mechanisms to peacefully give up power.


    Governments go wrong too. In fact, it is harder to organise peacefully against a government that has gone wrong than to stop supporting a bad security company.
    Most people would want private police companies to use force morally and will support those that do so.


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