Solitary, Poor, Nasty, Brutish & Short
The choice between safety and freedom is one that everyone must make – whether it is because they are founding a nation, going to vote, or deciding whether or not to drive a car. In the inevitable ensuing trade-off it is very important to know the pros and cons of each. First I will isolate the two poles of this great equation, that of total control and that of absolute freedom. Then I will attempt to define the characteristics that would point people on the path to finding the appropriate middle ground.
So, what is worse – total anarchy, or absolute rule by a dictator? I would argue that it would be better to have no government than an oppressive and totalitarian one. Due to man’s great potential for organization, cooperation, and leadership humanity is prone not only to great acts of progress and success, but also to unspeakable horrors which would be impossible without a strong central power, that of a omnipotent sovereign.
Let us take for example the great genocides of the 20th Century. In Nazi Germany, around the turn of the forth decade of the century Jews and various other ethnicities were persecuted and killed in the event know as the Holocaust. The exact numbers are unclear, but it is estimated that one third of those of Hebrew descent in Europe were killed, six million people. The inclusion of other groups targeted would elevate the number to about 15 million. Not commonly known is that the number of people killed in other parts of the world is much higher. From 1917 to 1953 the various leaders of the Soviet Union killed 20 million people of their own citizens. However, it is Mao Zedong who tops the charts, having killed 30 million Chinese across his temporal span of rule. All in all over 50 million people have been murdered by their own governments in the 20th Century – people murdered by their own governments.
The number of those killed by other governments (war) is even higher. World War I is said to have claimed 28 million lives and World War II 55 million. These numbers are being presented to show the amount of lives affected by organized government. However, this is not an argument for anarchism. It would be a presumptuous to now conclude that the organization of government and the subsequent control of conflict is inferior to living alone in the proverbial woods and not having any government whatsoever. As Mr. Hobbes so eloquently put it, there has never been, nor will there ever be a perfect state of nature on this earth. Without any numbers to support the claim that anarchy would be better it is foolish to argue for it, and personally I believe that the death toll in such a world would exceed that of the greatest war. Furthermore, since we do not measure the quality of life merely be being alive, but by the richness of life, it would be insurmountably foolish to say such anarchy could be preferable to an organized society.
Instead, people must band together to make life better for everyone. The “size” of government must be decided upon n an organized manner by the citizens of a commonwealth and when such citizens decide they must understand the trade-off between freedom and safety. They must give their government enough power to protect them, from other nation and from other citizens, but at the same time restrict their leviathan so as to secure the freedoms for themselves which make life worth living.