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Why Man Accepts Tyranny in the Civilized World

“There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.”
Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws

Every intellectual interested in liberty has read Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws, but I’ve enjoyed him further as a fan of his rhetoric and political prose. The quote above, however, deserves to be unpacked and understood fully in America, where we’ve accepted nearly every antithetical premise made available to us by the world.

There are two social and ethical philosophies at work in the tyrannical power of Man’s concepts of justice and security, the first and most important being that of Egalitarianism. Egalitarianism, as an ideal, revolves around the premise that all men are created equal and should thus remain equal throughout their lifetimes. The primary threat to universal equality is natural ability, inherited wealth, biological prowess, and the inequitable inclination toward achievement. No one can deny that Man does not possess these advantages (the egalitarian term) in equal measure and therefore cannot remain equal in reality. Luck, or unpredictable circumstance, also plays a role in each individuals varying degrees of success in life and in society.

The second philosophical foundation serving as cause for the tyrannical nature of Man’s ideals regarding justice and security, is called Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism was the result of a truly well-intentioned thought experiment by the 19th century philosopher, John Stewart Mill, stating essentially that whatever provides the greatest good to the greatest number is of the highest moral utility. He failed however to define, in a way that any two groups of individuals could agree upon, what is good and which good is greatest. Also, counting up all the various ways in which a particular, singular action could manifest itself in the future, either requires psychic ability or time travel. Yet, the “democratic” standard was set for moral evaluations of government action as it relates to populations at large.

And so, the theory of Social Justice was born. Nature has wronged us in its inequitable distribution of power, will, biology, and birth, and for any real justice to exist on earth, Man must make a few corrections. By what right does Man assume this power over nature? By virtue of His claim that Social Justice exists to provide the greatest good to the greatest number, and therefore carries with it a moral exculpation for the force required to see this justice done.

Thus, there is no limit on the law and no limit to the reach of the law, as the law is not governed by any natural right or authority, but by virtue of Mans’ arbitrary claim to powers of retribution and popular justice. Each new law is piled upon an endless landfill of other laws, always for the greatest good of the greatest number, but never measured by any rational or objective standard. That we begin with a rejection of nature (i.e. a rejection of reality) should have been the first red flag that this Egalitarian philosophy of ours was not the best idea. Ideals are dangerous precisely because they almost always require us to thwart reality in some way. Thwarting nature requires force and blood tends to follow in its due course.

No matter how much liberty is striped away and no matter how much blood is spilled, the people, en mass, accept the good intentions of their rulers and the force they claim a right to employ. Why? Because they do not want to be called selfish or uncaring (non-egalitarian), nor can they imagine a better ideal with which Man ought to be governed than that a government should do whatever is best for the greatest number. Therefore, they accept every new and old infringement upon their freedom and the tyranny becomes ensconced in their minds and culture.

To be free, one must accept reality, instead of always trying to rebel against it – if only because each and every rebellion against reality in Mans’ history has been a remarkably bloody failure.

About Steven Brodie Tucker

Graduated with a degree in Philosophy from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Also studied economics and political science at George Mason.

One Response to “Why Man Accepts Tyranny in the Civilized World”

  1. Robert Shannon says:

    Even though our Founding fathers were not yet consciously aware of Utilitarianism they were very aware of mans inclination to advance his own causes and self serving interests overs others through the use of and levers of government , which naturally meant then through the use of the law . They understood all too well that government is ” force without the use of violence”, or at least that is the common definition of government until it isn’t effective any longer, than force, including government sanctioned violence is natural to follow to insure compliance with laws that many won’t willingly abide by. We are already on that path in the U.S and the evidence is all around us.

    It is why they weakened to the extent possible in the drafting of the documents the federal government, leaving so much in the hands of the individual states.

    I’ve argued with elected officials that through taxes we should be compelled only to finance essential government services, not non-essential services. That is the tipping point where politicians play their hand arguing that it then depends on what defines essential ? A consensus exists that schools, law enforcement, paving the roads, collecting the trash are examples at the local level that most would agree are essential. No reasonable person would argue in defense of many government services as to being defined as essential, and there is where the problem begins. It is indeed the exact point when the very issue of Utilitarianism comes into the picture.

    Now if no two people can agree on just what defines essential then one might fall back on the weakness of the argument of what or whom decides on providing the greatest good for the greatest number of people. It is far too subjective, hence wide open for the types of abuses we see perpetuated by the silliness in believing that politicians can make those determinations to begin with.

    Collecting trash prevents the spread of disease, law enforcement prevents one man from forcing his will on, or harming another, paving the roads provides for a efficient system of transporting goods and service for the benefit of all. These are tangible examples of just what might be rightfully described as essential government services.

    It is when a politician tries to justify the taking of my money ( property ) to support Art’s Alive ( a local arts /theater group) which certainly benefits some, perhaps even many within the local community , but certainly not of a universal benefit. Or when local government argues for a subsidy for a regional airport authority, which again benefits some ,but not a universal benefit for the community.

    Taxes have to be collected , and the manner with which they are collected, through a sort of coercion is why the Founders so wisely saw the need to limit governments powers.

    It also points to why we should have never strayed from adherence to their wisdom and design in limiting government at all levels to prevent the harm we see being done today, of course always with some noble purpose, and always for the greater good.

    It is the very piling on of one law after another that will inevitably lead to a public , perhaps out of frustration in trying to comply with the myriad of confusing and often conflicting laws making a decision to just ignore them and then the civil unrest and social chaos , brought about by increasing numbers who consciously make a choice to ignore the laws, triggering governments heavy hand in an effort to force compliance…..the system will collapse of it’s own weight at some point. Another war or an economic collapse could lend momentum to an already disgruntled public with little trust in government and growing certainty that the current system can not be fixed.

    If in the recorded history of mankind we have learned anything, it is that government can not regulate mans behavior ( Steve’s point about human nature) Man was indeed meant to be free, and will endeavor to be free, in spite of the attempts to regulate human behavior. Those who willingly comply with the laws attempts to provide the greatest good for the greatest numbers are not free men at all, but slaves. They simply delude themselves in return for the security and comfort they falsely believe government is providing them.

    Bob Shannon

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    Tom White Says:

    Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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