Gang Politics Book Forward
Gang Politics Forward

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What is government? Do we need government? Is government important, or is it an aggravation?

We actually do need government. But why?

Without government, how would we maintain public infrastructure and services such as roads, schools, and hospitals? Without government, how would we support the police, judiciary, and military who protect us from the abuse and exploitation of others in our own country and abroad? We need government as an organization that builds, maintains, and provides services and infrastructure that support broad socio-economic opportunity and provides protection from abuse and exploitation.

Abraham Lincoln explains government in this way:

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln United States President 1861 – 1865

The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot, so well do, for themselves—in their separate, and individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere.

The desirable things which the individuals of a people can not do, or can not well do, for themselves, fall into two classes: those which have relation to wrongs, and those which have not. Each of these branch off into an infinite variety of subdivisions.

The first—that in relation to wrongs—embraces all crimes, misdemeanours, and non-performance of contracts. The other embraces all which, in its nature, and without wrong, requires combined action, as public roads and highways, public schools, charities, pauperism, orphanage, estates of the deceased, and the machinery of government itself.

From this it appears that if all men were just, there still would be some, though not so much, need of government.[1]

According to Lincoln, the function of government is to support broad opportunity and provide protection for its people. Government is a mechanism of cooperation to provide infrastructure and services that cannot be supported individually; government is essentially a not-for-profit cooperative of its citizens so they can support the infrastructure and services they collectively need but cannot individually support.

We need government: good government. What we don’t need are rulers. Rulers are those who hijack control of government so they can use it to manipulate and control us, the people. The vehicle rulers use to hijack governments is politics, especially party politics or political factions.

That is what political parties are: organizations created to manipulate politics so a select few can control government. Why? There are many reasons people want the power of government control: ego, money, power, social agendas, and status to name a few. Many, if not all, will even profess the best of intentions to those they effectively rule.

Daniel Webster, an American politician who served twice in the United States House of Representatives and twice as the United States secretary of state in the early nineteenth century, had something to say about people who want to be rulers:

Daniel Webster
United States Politician & Secretary of State 1822 – 1852

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters. [2]

Why do people want to rule us? They often say it is for our own good, but really, it is the lure of power and all the riches and opportunities that come with power.

Webster continued by saying, “The proper function of a government is to make it easy for the people to do good, and difficult for them to do evil.” [3]

This is how we should perceive the functions of government. It should be a means of cooperation on those things we cannot do individually but need collectively. However, the actuality—because of those who seek to rule us—is a little more sinister, as pointed out by Lord John Dalberg-Acton:

Lord Acton (John Emerich Edward Dalberg)
Lord Acton English Liberal Historian & Moralist

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. [4]

Many, perhaps even most, politicians step forward with the best of intentions as in this saying that has variations in many cultures:

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
~ Anonymous and various ~

Government is a servant. If a government serves rulers, it is because the rulers have control of the governance. Politics is a competition of aspiring aristocrats and rulers to control government so they can be rulers. They will profess it is for our own good, but ultimately, it is for their own good.

Assassination of Julius Caesar, Ides of March
Assassination of Julius Caesar, Ides of March (March 15) 44 BCE[5]

[1] Abraham Lincoln, “Fragment on Government”in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 2, Ed. Roy Basler, (1953), 220-21.

Lincoln (Feb. 12, 1809–April 15, 1865) was an American statesman, politician, and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. In 1861, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy in 1863.

[2] Daniel Webster, in a “Speech delivered…at Niblo’s saloon, in New York, on the 15th March, 1837” in Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster by Edwin Whipple, (London: Little Brown, 1882), 393. Webster (1782–1852) was an American politician who represented New Hampshire (1813–1817) and Massachusetts (1823–1827) in the United States House of Representatives, served as a senator from Massachusetts (1827–1841, 1845–1850), and was secretary of state under Presidents William Henry Harrison (1841), John Tyler (1841–1843), and Millard Fillmore (1850–1852). Webster was one of only two people to serve as Secretary of State under three different presidents.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Lord Acton (John Emerich Edward Dalberg) to Archbishop Mandell Creighton, April 5, 1887. Archbishop Creighton objected to what he saw as a modern tendency to be unnecessarily critical of authority figures. Lord Acton felt they should be held to universal moral standards.

John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, 1st Baron Acton of Aldenham, 8th Baronet, (born January 10, 1834, Naples [Italy]—died June 19, 1902, Tegernsee, Bavaria, Germany), English Liberal historian and moralist, the first great modern philosopher of resistance to the state, whether its form be authoritarian, democratic, or socialist.

[5] The Death of Julius Caesar (1798) by Vincenzo Camuccini (22 February

1771–2 September 1844). Painting of the assassination of Julius Caesar by competing politicians in 44 BC. Italian painter Vincenzo Camuccini was considered the premier academic painter of his time in Rome: