Government is force.
We constituted a government to guaranty our liberties and protect us from force and fraud. To protect our life, liberty and property. But in order to do that government has the power of legitimate force on their side. This force is defined and granted through the constitution and the rule of law. If the government did not need force, if we governed ourselves and voluntarily contributed or participated in matters we have resigned to government, then we wouldn’t need the government, but there is a legitimate need and role for government and therefore force. It really is that simple.
“The monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force, commonly but controversially known as monopoly on violence, is the defining conception of the state as first expounded by sociologist Max Weber in his essay Politics as a Vocation (1919).”
The goal of this post is not to decry government or force, but to understand the government’s and our roles along with the tools the founders gave us to help constrain that power and use The Force for good. James Fenimore Cooper wrote in The Chainbearer “That powerful servant but fearful master, fire” which may or may not be the basis for the debated but often attributed to George Washington quote “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” Let’s break that down. Government, force, like fire, is our servant, not the reverse. We have a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” — Abraham Lincoln (Gettysburg Address). We created and agreed to this government as stated in the preamble of the ratified constitution. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. Our government is a very powerful servant and we grant our government through enumerated powers The Force necessary. Government is also a fearful master. If we allow that government power and force to be the master of us, to rule us, grant us our freedoms and liberty, become its servant, we will get burned. I can feel the heat already!
The quote attributed to George Washington is an altered form and may not have even been said by him, but that does not make it any less truthful, relevant and or important. Equating government to force and using the metaphor of fire, it should not be left to irresponsible action. It must be contained. The government must be governed, we must have the ability to limit our governments scope and power to protect our freedom and liberty. In Federalist 78 Hamilton stated that the Judicial branch would be the least powerful branch because it has “no influence over either the sword or the purse, … it may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment.” again the recognition equating government to force.
“The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” – James Madison
“In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” – Thomas Jefferson
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton
A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—i.e., under objectively defined laws. – Ayn Rand
I think a walk through history shows us repeatedly that if we do not limit the scope (Jurisdiction, watch for a future post) and the distance between us and our rulers, divided power, tyranny will only grow, power/force will centralize and we will not control our destiny or liberty. The power in a republican form of government guaranteed by article 4 section 4 of the constitution – The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government – and further guaranteed by the 10th amendment –The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. – is that we keep government within the reach of the individual. We grant the state power and keep our rights, not the reverse, we can never forget that!
So, we have a constitution to define the power/force relinquished by we the people to our federal government (every state has a constitution as well, be sure to read and understand your state’s constitution) and to constrain the government. These powers are further refined and controlled by the 4th, 5th, 8th and 14th amendments. Illegal search and seizures and probable cause, due process, cruel and unusual punishment and due process refined with equal protection. The government is granted power and through the rule of law force, but there are checks and balances to make that force just and legitimate. We can use The Force for good, or for evil. The constitution provides the rules of the game.
In Federalist 28 Hamilton talks about the force of law and government and how the national power is restrained by the states. The divided power of state governments to constrain this power is further mentioned by Madison in Federalist 46 “Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation , the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.”
So we must understand The Force. How government is granted this power and it is up to you and me to ensure they use it wisely. (Does that make us Yoda?) But we must ask ourselves at every turn, If it does not need to be done by force, then why should it be done by government. I realize that is many times the argument, right there, but be aware of it, ask: Do we need force to educate our children, provide healthcare, food and support for the truly needy, set wages and provide jobs? Every time we leave it to force, we lose liberty. If we give up liberty to force the few that won’t help, we give away our freedom. “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Benjamin Franklin