During the early part of the decade of the 1980’s, I wrote a series of articles entitled “Freedom and Government” for the Bahamian Review Magazine and subsequently for the Freeport News. As was the case, in the early part of the decade of the 1980s, this treatise is still relevant to the basic understanding of the relationship between government and the governed. This being the case makes this work relevant to this present decade and beyond. It is my fervent hope that this series of six articles will provide all, who read and study them with the tools that are necessary to protect their fundamental rights and freedoms which are entrusted to those whom we allow to govern us.
One of the greatest issues in modern times is whether government is to be the master or servant of the people. For the greater number of Bahamians this issue was supposedly settled some thirty years ago with the “quiet revolution” and the ushering in of Black majority rule. For some, perhaps the issue was settled in 1992 when many Bahamians felt that “deliverance” had become a reality. For many others, the issue has not been settled at all. Whatever your view-point, I am sure, you would agree when I say that any Government that is formed by the people, of the people and for the people, is the servant and not the master of the people.
Freedom and Government – Part VI
GOVERNMENT – Part C
“The modern State, with its huge units of organization, is inherently totalitarian, and its natural tendency is toward despotism. These tendencies can only be held in check if we are determined to build the constitutional safeguards of freedom and personal responsibility.” ~ R.H.S. Crossman, “Socialism and the New Despotism”.
In earlier chapters, I established the fact that government or the state was established to provide protection for the life, liberty and property of the individual, who lives in the society over which the government has jurisdiction. In the last chapters, I established the fact that because we live in a country where the democratic process is used to elect our representatives and enact laws, we have the tendency to believe that something is right for government to do because the electorate voted for it (the government). The fact that a majority of the voting populace chose a particular course of action has no bearing on the rightness or wrongness of the particular action. It must be pointed out that an action is right or wrong on principle. Despite a majority vote for an immoral act, no absolution takes place. The action is still immoral and therefore wrong. I must stress the importance of what was stated in the preceding sentence: A majority vote never decided whether an act is right or wrong, only whether it is legal or illegal. If an act is illegal for an individual, it is also illegal for government!
Frederick Bastiat, the French political economist in his essay: “The State,” clearly stated the process that is now popular for some to live at the expense of others:
“The oppressor no long acts directly by his own force on the oppressed. No, our conscience has become too fastidious for that. There are still, to be sure, the oppressor and his victim, but between them is placed an intermediary, the State, that is the law itself. What is better fitted to silence our scruples and – to overcome all resistance? Hence all of us, with whatever claim, under one pretext or another, address The State. We say to it:
“I do not find that there is a satisfactory proportion between my enjoyments and my labour. I should like very much to take a little from the property of others to establish the desired equilibrium. But that is dangerous. Could you make it a little easier? Could you not find me a good job in the civil service or hinder the industry of my competition or still better, give me an interest free loan of the capital you have taken from its rightful owners or educate my children at the public expense or grant me incentive subsidies or assure my well being when I shall be fifty years old? By this I mean, I shall reach my goal in all good conscience, for the law itself will have acted for me, and I shall have all the advantages of plunder without enduring either the risk or the odium. As, on the other hand, it is certain that we all address some such request to the State, and, on the other hand, it is a well established fact that the State cannot procure satisfaction for some without adding to the labour of others, while awaiting another definition of the State, I believe myself entitled to give my own here ….. Here it is: The State is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.”
Any government that is allowed to deviate from its original purpose will create a situation whereby a plethora of persons will endeavor to prosper at the expense of others. If this is allowed to happen, then government becomes party to injustice rather than justice.
It was established in previous chapters that the life, liberty and property of all citizens are affected by the actions of government. The government’s action should be to protect the fore-mentioned rights. If the actions of government do not protect the rights of the individual, then government is a violator of these rights. It is obvious that such a government is an instrument of injustice. In any society, where the policies of the government benefit one group of individuals, that government is corrupt and perverted. Where this kind of practice is allowed to go unchecked, it grows out of proportion and hence out of control. The special interest groups increase with great rapidity with each demanding their share of the spoils. Directly resulting from this type of action is greatly increased taxation, in the direction of total confiscation of property by the State, and inflation, which happens to be the highest tax of all. People are in danger of losing their liberties when government becomes an instrument of injustice. This is so when the citizenry accepts all the actions of government as just and right simply because their government elected by the majority has acted.
Individuals, in the society, who protests against the unjust actions of government, are labeled as “reactionaries,” “subversives” or “extremists.” Those, who attempt to defend their lives, liberty and property from the hands of the government, are labeled as “enemies of the government and the people” or at the very least – criminals. Government’s infringement upon the liberty and property of some citizens, for the benefit and reward of others, will certainly cause other groups, with similar intent, in the society to increase. Not only will these groups increase, but also they will organize other political parties and lobbies to seek special plunder for their group. Even the casual observer can see how the ranks of government at all levels can be over-runned by these special interest groups. Their interest lie not in the common good, but in their quest for special ordinances and legislation which would enable them to participate in the plunder of their fellow citizens.
It is clear then, that man’s rights and freedoms are threatened from two sources, that is, criminals and government! It would be proper to restate what I wrote earlier in this treatise:
“The life, liberty and property that the individual possesses does not exist because men have made laws. Life, liberty and property existed before men made laws. As a matter of fact, it was because of the prior existence of life liberty and property that prompted man to make laws.”
The American Declaration of Independence in its early paragraphs lends credence and takes the fore-mentioned a step further by stating:
“….To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…..”
When we speak of “securing rights,” we are simply saying that the basic purpose of government is to protect man’s rights to life, liberty and property from those persons who would stand as a threat to them, that is, criminals.
As we listen to the radio, watch the television and read the newspaper, we hear and see a great deal about certain “rights’. There are claims that we have a right to medical care; a right to full employment; a right to decent housing; a right to public accommodation; a right to a living wage, and on and on ad infinitum, ad nauseam. These claims are not rights. These claims would themselves cause an imposition on others because each of these so called rights implies that others will be forced to provide medical care, the jobs and housing etc. The only way to achieve these is by taking away the property of others to provide such privileges. Force, in any form by its very nature, is harmful and destructive. As a result, progress is retarded whenever the use of force is employed to achieve ends. In order for government to achieve its ends, it uses force or coercion. A government of coercion is a government of force! In order to provide these privileges for some at the expense of others, government becomes a violator of these rights rather than their protector.
Freedom in its truest sense exists only n the absence of force and coercion to impose his views or will on another person, freedom is abolished!
I would like to conclude this series by quoting from the first chapter:
“…..we must not be lulled into a false sense of security because when all is said and done liberty lives in the hearts of men and women. If this liberty is allowed to lay dormant in the heart, no constitution, no law, no court can do much to help it.”