One Faith, One Club: The Religiosity of Power
Those who desire power need only one faith to rule supreme over their flock: the belief that rulers are different in some irreproducible manner from those they rule. This differentiation is required to break the common morality of mankind, and cow the masses into uncomprehending submission. For priests, this differentiation is very simple: they are closer to God, or are appointed by those who are closer to God, and so their value cannot be reproduced by the uninitiated. For politicians it is more complicated. They must sink below the universal morality of mankind while seeming to be naturally elevated above it – no easy feat!
The first thing that is required is a double standard. For power to flourish, two opposing premises must be accepted: the first is that rulers are more moral than those they rule, and the second is that those they rule choose to submit to them. In other words, citizens must believe that they are surrendering their freedom to those who are more moral than themselves, because this is the only situation in which citizens could possibly benefit from being ruled. If rulers are less moral than the average person, or equally moral, then being ruled is a net negative for citizens. The negative consequences are obvious if rulers are less moral – but even if they are equally moral, citizens will inevitably suffer terribly. Since no one can be perfect, immoral choices are always possible. When individuals make immoral choices, the consequences are localized. When rulers make immoral choices, their choices are inflicted on the community as a whole. To add insult to injury, rulers and their phalanxes must be paid, so the individual citizen is forced to pay a high overhead for a greater risk of suffering from immoral choices.
However, what happens if we accept the premise that rulers are always more moral than those they rule, and that those they rule choose to submit to them? We quickly find that these principles contradict each other. If citizens choose to submit to their rulers, then they logically must be able to choose those rulers – otherwise how would the rulers know that the submission was voluntary? In other words, less moral people will always choose more moral people to rule them. However, if we turn this principle into a general rule – which, logically, we must, the foolishness of it quickly becomes clear. If less moral people will always choose more moral people; then criminals should choose policemen, wife-beaters should decide who single women should marry, and torturers should appoint surgeons. Asking an immoral person to choose a moral leader is to ask him to (a) identify and value a morality he does not himself possess, (b) choose a leader who embodies that morality and (c) submit to that leader’s enforced edicts. But if a moral person can identify and value moral principles, why does he need a leader to enforce them? If immoral people are wise enough to submit to a ruler’s superior morality, why would they not save the overhead and risk of a ruler and simply submit to morality itself? And if they are not wise enough to choose a moral leader, then they will choose an immoral leader, and that leader will then enforce immoral commandments – and so even the moral minority will suffer terribly.
Of course, rulers don’t say that we must be ruled because we are bad. Rather, we are told: you are good, of course, but you are outnumbered by bad people, and we will protect you from them!
Sadly, this does not solve the problem, since modern democracy is defined as majority rule. If good people are outnumbered by bad people, then the rulers chosen by the majority will be immoral. If challenged on this, rulers inevitably reply: well, there are in fact only a small number of bad people, but they are very dangerous! This solves the problem of voting, but not of morality. If the number of bad people are very small, then they can be dealt with without the danger of a appointing a ruler. We submit to risky medical procedures when our lives are threatened by illness, not when we have a cold. However, even if we accept the premise that somehow private citizens are unable deal with a small number of bad people, the problem still remains unsolved. Rulers always outnumber citizens; if there are only small numbers of bad people, and citizens create a State to protect themselves from them, why wouldn’t the bad people just take over control the State? The State holds a monopoly on violence, so surely the first goal of bad people would be to gain control over that monopoly. This is analogous to a child pulling a gun on a hardened criminal – who would immediately wrestle the gun away from him and steal even more.
Thus, as we can see, every avenue of questioning leads to the same place, the same fundamental contradiction. There is no way that citizens can be ruled by leaders who are more moral than they are. Therefore, morality cannot be used to justify the power of the rulers.
When pressed on this matter, the defenders of State power inevitably bring to bear another argument which is much harder to disprove, which is that the services provided by the rulers cannot be reproduced by any other person or persons.
If a ruler justifies his rule by citing specific services he provides, then it obviously makes no difference whether he provides those services, or someone else does. If a priest says that his power comes from his generosity to the poor, then he is just not that special, since anyone can give to the poor. In a similar manner, rulers always claim that only they can provide property protection, health services and aid to the sick and poor and so on. This is obviously false. The ruler does not provide these services himself; instead, he takes money by force and gives it to other people who provide these services, such as policemen and doctors. He adds nothing to the transaction except threats and overhead. Citizens would be far better off paying those individuals directly to recreate government services such as property protection and aid to the sick and poor.
Of course, the defenders of State power always argue that private companies are unable to provide those services, but that is a logical contradiction. Why would certain people be unable to provide what citizens want but other people be able to? What is the difference? Well, say some, the government is not motivated by profit, and so can do certain things that the private sector cannot. But that argument fails very quickly, of course, because motives ascribed to one group of people must logically be applied to all groups of people. If people in the private sector are motivated by self-interest, then so are people in the government. The only difference is that, as one voter among millions, the people in the government have very little interest in satisfying individual citizens in particular, whereas those in a private company must please the individual in order to get his or her money. Thus if human beings are motivated by self-interest, individuals shall fare far worse at the hands of the State.
Here, naturally, the argument is made that the government provides services which private companies would not be interested in because the recipients of those services don’t have enough money to pay for them. Very well. But if the people in the government are able to determine those people’s needs and give them money, then why would other people be incapable of doing so? If people in the government can be charitable, then why cannot private citizens be equally charitable? The standard answer is that people are selfish, but that doesn’t help the case for State power at all. If people are selfish, then people in the government are also selfish, and so will not really help the poor or the sick. If the argument is then made that private citizens are more selfish than those in the government, we are back to where we started, which is that the worse cannot choose the better, and so this is impossible.
There is one final logical problem. People in the government are legally allowed to take people’s money by force and redistribute it to others. But why is it that only people in the government can do this? If forceful transfers of income are to be allowed, then what is the State needed for? The poor should then be able to rob citizens directly. Ah, say State apologists, but the State is required to ensure that this violent income transfer does not descend into general chaos. However, this is already happening – and even if it were not, so what? Citizens can easily hire private security guards to turn back those who are stealing from them when they hit a certain percentage. But, comes the rebuttal, that would create a free-for-all where all the poor people would grab whatever they could and it would all turn to madness.
But if this is the case – if the existence of money that can be legally stolen turns the poor into mad greedy jackals – then why would it only turn the poor into mad greedy jackals? If a certain stimulus makes some people irrational, why wouldn’t it make all people irrational? In other words, if poor people go mad for free money, why not the people in the government? There is certainly enough evidence that this is currently the situation, so we shall rest the case here.
In conclusion, then, a democracy can never produce a society wherein the rulers are more moral than those they rule. The only chance for such a society to exist would be for the most moral people to seize power and rule by totalitarian edict. However, history has so effectively debunked the myth of the ‘moral dictator’ that we scarcely need to waste time here discussing it. There can be no justification for the existence of a State, since it will always and forever be populated by people far less moral than the citizens they point their guns at. Even a cursory logical examination of the facts damns the existence of this terrible institution, the most vicious and corrupting body of moral degenerates in the history of the species.
Stefan Molynuex, is the host of Freedomain Radio (www.freedomainradio.com), the most popular philosophy site on the Internet, and a “Top 10” Finalist in the 2007-2010 Podcast Awards.