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Government and Force

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Government and force

The purpose of civilisation is to make men safe. The purpose of government is to secure safety for men through the control of force. A man does not need a government for any other reason. The only function that a man cannot perform for himself is the use of force. A society that did not control the use of force would rapidly degenerate into a war zone.  The fundamental right to be demands that the government controls the use of force.

The methods it may use are defined in a constitution. The purpose of the constitution is to protect the citizens by defining the limits to be imposed upon the government in performing this task. The government protects men from each other. The constitution protects the citizens from the government.

The government is charged by the constitution with making laws to govern the behaviour of all men so as to preclude the initiation of force by any man against any other. No law may initiate the use of force against any man. No law can legally force a man to do anything that he wishes not to do.

This is not a prescription for anarchy: it simply means that moral laws are restrictive and cannot be prescriptive. This does not mean that a man can do anything he wishes. Every man must obey the moral law and recognise and uphold the equal rights of every other man.

As an example: if a man wishes to play loud music and thereby annoys his neighbours he must obey the law. If the law says his music is too loud then he must desist. But the law cannot force him to listen to music or buy a different music player. The man can enjoy his music in any way he chooses provided he does not interfere with the rights of other men to their peace and quiet. Subjecting other men to noise is an infringement of their rights and is therefore a form of force and is morally forbidden.

The government must exercise sufficient control to ensure the moral laws are obeyed. This means parliament makes the law. The parliament must work within the constitution and must be a freely elected body so that its work can be examined by the people. The courts are appointed and controlled by and are responsible only to the government. The civil courts judge disputes between men. The criminal courts try criminal cases. The police are the prime means of the control of force. Essentially only the police may initiate the use of force but even their use of force must be restricted by the constitution and the law.

You will notice I have carefully referred to the initiation of the use of force. This is important. There are times when the use of force in reply is justified. The crime is not the use of force per se but the initiation of force. For example if a man breaks into my house and refuses to leave it is perfectly correct for me to use whatever force necessary to get him to leave. If a man attacks me I am entitled to defend myself by whatever means are necessary to protect my life. A law that did not allow this would be evil. But the essence is that the response should be reasonable. If a man uses force against me by begging it is not a reasonable response to stick a knife in him. In practice such matters are often difficult to decide but the principle is clear. A man has a right to defend himself and his property. The initiation of force is always wrong.

The other legitimate function of government is to control the armed forces. The forces must respond only to the legitimate authority of the government exercised in accordance with the constitution. The purpose of the armed forces is to protect the nation from external enemies. The armed forces should not initiate the use of force against any other people or nation that is not actually threatening the homeland or its legitimate trading interests.

At this point it becomes clear that the only reasonable residence of the rights of man is in the nation state. There is no other organisation on earth that comes anywhere near being able to secure the rights of the individual. The nation state is therefore the most important type of organisation of men on earth. This has long been recognised and philosophers have long dreamed of a supranational world government.

Judging by what we see on earth today that is a dream that is best left alone. We first need to get the organisation within nation states right. There is not a single country on earth that actually obeys the simple rules above.  Even the United States, that had the best possible start for its constitution, has perverted it until the US is one of the most authoritarian countries on earth. For the rest there is currently little hope.

Colin Walker

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