Have you ever heard of a “trusty” in a prison? It’s an inmate who earns the trust of his jailers and is given special privileges. Some are even allowed outside the prison for certain tasks. Before court rulings ended even more elaborate systems, some states — Mississippi, most notably — had elaborate hierarchies in which some inmates were even trusted with guns to guard others while they worked in the fields.
Although the trusty might be given certain privileges, he’s still an inmate. He has to “be good” or he’ll lose his privileges and be punished. He’s not a free man doing a job. He’s an incarcerated man doing something to make his time behind bars more bearable.
I’d like to suggest that most of us in this country are trusties, but we’ve been in this prison so long that we don’t even realize the bars are there.
It’s accepted as obvious among many of us that “government is force,” because without force or the threat of force, governments couldn’t compel anyone to obey their orders. So every piece of legislation is ultimately backed up by a gun that that state points at you.
As long as you’re obedient, you won’t directly see the gun — and this seems to confuse some people. When I mentioned to a friend a couple of years ago that the state is nothing but force backed up with a gun, he seemed genuinely surprised.
“I don’t see any gun,” he protested.
That friend is a very bright and honest guy, but he comes at politics from a progressive left point of view. It seems to me that most progressives have learned to associate the state with “fixing everybody’s problems” and pursuing “equality.” They see the state as generally good, because it’s the instrument of coercion that they favor using to change the world in ways they approve of.
But if you don’t see the gun, you’re not looking at reality. Behind every order you get from politicians and government employees of all types, there is the unspoken ultimate threat: “If you don’t comply with me, I have the guns to force you to obey.”
Do you really suppose most people would obey a bunch of politicians if that threat weren’t there?
A friend was having a discussion on Facebook Tuesday night and he mentioned that the requirement for us all to buy health insurance was ultimately backed up by a gun. The person with whom he was talking called that assertion “plain ridiculous” and said that there was simply a “legal penalty” for not buying the insurance. He couldn’t make the connection between the “legal penalty” and the gun, so let’s do it for him.
If you refuse to purchase the insurance you’re ordered to purchase, you will be fined. If you refuse to pay the fine, you will eventually be told to report to jail. If you refuse to report to jail, representatives of the government will come looking for you with guns. If you refuse to co-operate (or if you resist their aggression), you might very well be shot if you keep resisting.
Every order from government is ultimately backed by this aggressive use of force, but we’re so conditioned to obey that it rarely reaches that point. Some people obviously even forget why we’re obeying.
We’re taught from a young age that it’s patriotic to obey laws. One of the biggest purposes of government schools is to instill obedience to government. As long as this lesson is learned by the vast majority of people, the population is manageable. If the only people not obeying are criminals and those who don’t believe they have a moral obligation to obey, it’s relatively easy to control those malcontents in one way or another.
All government is force. Period. The ultimate backing behind any order from a government is a gun (or some similar weapon of force). If government didn’t use — or threaten to use — such force, its orders would be ignored.
Government has a self-given monopoly on the use of force — and that’s how it controls you. But it prefers to soften your mind, get your co-operation and turn you into a trusty, so you never realize what’s going on.