How does a government reduce force in human life? There are two main ways: a legal system (the legislature and the law courts), and a defense system (the police and the military).
A proper government has only these two functions: to define what constitutes the initiation of force, and to stop those who initiate it, be they criminals or invaders.
By what means should the government accomplish these tasks? That question must be answered differently in different times and places. Direct taxes are one way to support such a government. They may not be the only way.
A question occurs:
“If the purpose of government is to eliminate force from human life, is it not a contradiction that the government does so by means of forcing people to pay taxes?”
While the question has plausibility, it represents a fundamental misunderstanding (one held by many Libertarians and especially by anarchists). The purpose of the government is not “to eliminate force from human life,” but rather, “to eliminate force from human life, as much as is possible.”
While the purpose of a government is to reduce force in human life, the purpose of man in establishing governments is not merely to eliminate force; the purpose is broader: to make human life possible. The proper reason for individuals to establish a government, or to do anything else, for that matter, is so they can live a flourishing life. Government is a means to the end of life, and it is by the standard of human life that we must judge that means. The anarchist position does not enable human life but instead leads to gang warfare and brutality, as all of human history shows.
The principle of government is subtle.
The principle is not merely that force should be eliminated from human life, for that is an impossible goal. Instead, the principle is that “the government should use force to stop any who would try to use force to gain a positive value.”
By this principle, it can be appropriate (though perhaps neither ideal nor necessary) for the government to tax its citizens to support systems of law and defense, as long as these are directed not toward the purpose of creating a positive value, but only as a means of stopping those who would use force to gain a positive value.
Unlike the libertarian view, my own view is strongly “pro-government.”
The government is not even a “necessary evil.” It is a natural necessity, given that resources are never unlimited and that men have independent minds and will disagree.
In a later post I will elaborate on the reason that force should, as much as possible, be eliminated from human life, for that is the key to understanding and consistently applying the view of government that I advocate.
But it remains to me first to clarify the implications of what I have said.
In my next post I’ll ask, If the government’s only proper role is to define force and to stop it, then what about everything else the government now does?
In this series: