What is the purpose of government? Why do we allow these people to tax us and live opulent lives while we have to earn every cent we get? What makes this arrangement worthwhile? I don’t know the answers to these questions but some people believe that we have these loafers — parasites, really — as a means of protecting ourselves and our property.
Not only do we give politicians and government officials the unique perk of living without effort, we also assign to them the exclusive right to initiate violence, we do this and because it’s such an obviously-bad idea to give just one group of people this power. We then need to create more institutions staffed with even more loafers to check the power of the first group of loafers. These independent institutions are supposed to solve the problem of giving to one gang of people the sole right to use violence.
In effect, we create an even bigger gang.
I’m not qualified to knock this brilliant system and I have omitted many details, but this is, in effect, what the best government boils down to. Of course, no one will tell you what’s supposed to happen if these “independent” institutions should ever decide that it is in their interest to collaborate with the first gang, to use this unique power of initiating violence to plunder the rest of us and share the spoils among themselves.
This is exactly what is happening in South Africa right now: the government is in the process of amending the Constitution to give itself the right to steal property from us. While we supposedly have strong and independent institutions like the judiciary, no one is certain that the judges of the Constitutional Court will act against this injustice — this shameful prelude to theft.
It will be entertaining to see how it will be justified in court. Maybe they’ll say they need this power for the “public interest”, and presumably every common thief and robber in Pollsmoor Prison can now rely on the same defence. I am certain that some if not most of them have a stronger public interest case than the government. Can there be a stronger public interest than keeping yourself alive or living the good life?
If indeed the purpose of government is the protection of life, liberty and property, the South African government is on the fast-track to illegitimacy, cheered on by those champions of Western liberty like Theresa May, Bill Clinton and David Cameron, who recently told a South African audience to trust President Cyril Ramaphosa. Not that I don’t trust politicians; quite the opposite — I believe every word they say when they lay out their plans and Ramaphosa has made himself and the government he leads illegitimate by embracing the power to steal my property.
Legitimacy goes far deeper than a simple piece of paper called a constitution or a law. It certainly goes deeper than the arithmetic exercise of determining the relative proportions of people (mostly idiots — I can say this comfortably given the state South Africa is in) making their mark on another piece of paper called a ballot. Legitimacy should ultimately be judged against the government’s protection of my property and bodily integrity; and the same for my fellow citizens.
On the day that the South African government finally gains the power to seize our properties, it will no longer hold the moral high ground in any sense and it is well within our rights as the people living under an oppressive regime to resist this oppression by all necessary means. The American Revolutionary War was fought over less, and I conclude by quoting from the US Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”