H.G. Wells said: “If we don’t end war, war will end us.”
It’s true enough. But what is war? War is the initiation of force or violence against others. This assumes war is not in self-defense (or retaliation against the initiation of force) which throughout history, it usually has not been.
If war is wrong because it involves the initiation of force against peaceful individuals, then why is the initiation of force considered right in so many other cases?
We tax people. We don’t just tax people for a small portion of their income, but for a large portion (getting larger all the time, especially if you’re even moderately successful.) We regulate people, with rules and obligations that are generally intrusive and often contradictory. We shackle wealth creators and innovative geniuses with antitrust laws, anti-competition laws, payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, corporate profits taxes, and regulations too confusing or voluminous for even those who pass them into law to bother to read them.
Aren’t all these things force, too? They might not involve violence directly. But if you refuse to follow them, you are financially or physically punished.
My point is that the best way to get rid of war is to outlaw violence or force among human beings. In other words, we need a strong government to do simply one thing: To make sure that nobody commits force or violence (including fraud) against another. For that, there should be penalties that fit the severity of the crime. That’s all government should do; yet it’s everything government must do.
Other than criminals, governments are the main initiators of force against peaceful individuals. In the case of dictatorships, the force is obvious. But even in more overtly “civilized” societies, such as ours, force is committed against citizens every day. The government wants you to have health care? You will be forced to buy it. You can’t afford it? Someone else will be forced to buy it for you. Doctors don’t like the government programs? They’ll be forced to participate in them, since government will become a monopoly. Ditto for education. Ditto for tuition, childcare, mortgages, small business loans, agricultural subsidies, and everything else imaginable. Congress is just getting started and you have not yet seen them begin to tax and spend beyond the infinite, if that’s possible.
Sooner or later, human beings will have to learn that the only thing that should be outlawed is force.
It’s ironic that the most strident anti-war pacifists in our society are also the democratic socialists. In other words, they seek to use the force of majority will to impose obligations on peaceful citizens by making them all responsible for (or dependent on) one another. Look beyond the silly debates between Republicans and Democrats and you’ll see that they all agree on one thing: We are all each other’s keepers, and government’s job is to enforce this.
The Founders of the United States came close to creating a society where force was against the law. In its early years, the nation for the most part achieved that. This was partly because earlier leaders stayed truer to the founding and Constitutional principle of individual rights (to be free from force); and it was partly because the country was, in its early stages, still so undeveloped (compared to now) that there was little or nothing to redistribute. In other words, socialism was a tough sell to people who didn’t have much and who didn’t believe in it anyway.
Today it’s different. Generations of improvements (thanks to economic and political freedom) have led modern-day Americans to simply assume that things will get materially better each generation. It doesn’t seem to occur to most people that this could ever change. They take it for granted that our gigantic economy will continue to grow and grow, and that there will continue to be more and more wealth to “spread around” than ever before. As a result, most have become comfortable with (or at least indifferent to) the idea that it’s OK to treat people as objects, and manipulate some by forcing them to do things that those in power think is a good idea to make them do for others (not to mention benefiting those in power, in the process — but that’s never discussed.)
So I agree with H.G. Wells if by his statement he meant: Outlaw force among human beings. Have a strong government and military/police force, as well as a just court system to settle objective contract disputes.
Too little government leads to anarchy, and generates force and ultimately war. Too much government leads to force and ultimately war. The only way to get rid of war is to get rid of force — not just criminal force, but government’s improper use of force as well.
Government manipulation of the economy — no less than government manipulation of church, or the press — creates a war of all against all. It pits some against others, in the name of some “lofty” social goal. In reality, it violates some individuals at the expense of others. The alternative to the war of all against all, sadly illustrated by America’s emerging social democracy, is equality under the law for all individuals. Government may not initiate force against anyone, for any reason, other than to punish or restrain a violent or fraudulent offender.
If the initiation of force were outlawed across the board, and human beings were forced to do only one thing — leave each other alone — then civilization, including the world economy, would at last have a chance to thrive as never before.
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