Day in the Trash
Here in New Hampshire, anyway, September 14th was the day good political
zombies were supposed to turn out and cast a vote. And the previous day at
my Town Dump (what better locale?) a lady approached to remind me of that fact.
I thanked her for her reminder, but said that I didn't believe in government.
The shock of hearing that from an otherwise normal-looking and soft-spoken
dumper of trash (and driver of a Saab, no less!) seemed to grip her vocal chords.
"Oh," she said sotto voce, as if such things ought not to be said out loud,
"but we have to have something to hold the country together!"
Perhaps she was a Republican (I didn't ask) and didn't want other dumpers to
know that the country is on the brink of falling apart, or perhaps feared that the
surrounding leaves might whisper it to each other from tree to waving tree, or that
the birds might give wing to the word that her main reason for wanting a government
was to furnish society with glue.
At any rate, on the moment's spur I didn't debate whether any such adhesive is
required, but asked instead "Tell me, where does government get its authority?"
Right on cue, straight from her gov-school civics class Lo! these several decades ago,
came her reply "From me!" - meaning, from her and every other member of We the People.
"But surely" I asked, "you don't have any authority over me?" - to which (interestingly!)
she replied at once: "No, unless you come on to my property with a loaded gun."
We agreed that she would have the right of resistance if I were to
aggress. But her key word was the first: "No." In ordinary circumstances, she would have zero authority
over me and my life, nor I any over hers.
"So how could you delegate to government an authority you didn't have?" I rejoined.
And then she said, "I see what you mean." And right or wrong, at that point I decided
to leave her with her new realization, and said that that was why I didn't believe in
government, and that I hoped she would reconsider her own faith in it, and left her
among the garbage.
The whole encounter lasted no more than three minutes, yet it revealed
to me how utterly shallow is the foundation of even political activists,
never mind voters. Possibly this will help others reading this to
inject an element of doubt into the minds of our Statist neighbors,
i.e., that nobody, but nobody, can delegate a power he does not possess:
to interfere in the peaceful life of another human being.
The good lady might, had she been more pious, have answered my question, "Government
gets its authority from God." That would not have conformed to American political
orthodoxy, but it's a common enough idea, and has been ever since Paul wrote that
appalling passage at the end of Romans 12 and the start of Romans 13. How might we
address such an alternative response?
It's not quite as easy to deal with. My instinct would be to invite her to prove
that God has any more objective substance than Santa Claus, and then to repeat the
original question; but that would not have won me friends or influenced people. In
her mind, she would then have safely written me off as a godless atheist who was
certain to have all kinds of other weird ideas.
So if I'd been able to think fast enough, I think I'd have done better to ask for
clarification: "Okay, I see, and would that apply just here, or in every country?"
(Presumably, everywhere.) "Then how come the same good and loving God leads one of
His governments to slaughter the people controlled by another of His governments?"
- giving a few examples like US vs. Iraq, US vs. N Vietnam, France vs. Prussia, Germany
vs. France et al, etc etc ad naus.
It wouldn't have knocked the prop under her favorite myth clean away, but it
might have eaten away at its foundations over the coming months. And I suppose that
few if any of us came to see government as the myth it is all in a single day, so
we may have to rest content with performing our intellectual sabotage one nibble at a time.