Modern Kings

October 5th, 2011 - by Quincy

The struggle between those who love liberty and those who love government boils down to a difference in commitment to the principle of equality. For centuries there were a few individuals who by virtue of their bloodline held enormous power over their fellowmen. They were called kings, princes, lords, emperors, czars, sultans, and so on. In many cases the power which these men held was virtually unchecked. They held the power to take anything from their subjects which force can take. Some countries even formally recognized this power as a divine right conferred by God for some inscrutable reason. Most kings considered themselves the masters and caretakers of their inferior subjects, much in the same way that a man is the master and caretaker of a pet dog.

A few brave men and women rose up and defied those tyrants. It wasn’t just the kings themselves that had to be dealt with; there was a host of supporters who had embraced loyalty to king as a moral duty, who fought tooth and claw to keep their position as human pets. Happily for our generation, the principle of equality gained a strong foothold and most of the kings were cast down. But the struggle over equality didn’t end there. Even here in the United States, the struggle continued. As democracy became fashionable and republics were established to take the place of kingdoms and empires, aspiring men and women saw new opportunities to seize power.

They didn’t try to call themselves kings, of course, that title had become too unpopular. Instead, they disguised themselves as the people’s representatives and then worked to convince people to give them the same powers that the kings had held. They worked to inculcate a blind acceptance of taxation as a moral duty, a right of government. They worked to seize control of the economy and “manage” the monetary supply. They expanded the power to make war, and, to our once humble republic, they grafted tentacles of empire. They worked to nationalize the education system, taxing the people to excess and then offering to give the money to the state school systems if they would adopt federal programs. Steadily they centralized power, taking it from the local governments and usurping it for themselves. It was a relatively gradual process. Every time there was a calamity of any kind, it was twisted and spun to support an ever increasing consolidation of power. War, sickness, economic troubles, crime, poverty, pollution, drug abuse, terrorism, and any other cause for alarm was used to consolidate more and more power to the federal government.

What does this have to do with equality? Each of the new powers they seized is predicated on the principle that all men are NOT created equal. These are not powers that an individual acting alone could rightfully exercise. No man has the right, for example, to insist that his neighbor fund his child’s education. No man has a right to force his neighbor to buy health insurance or give money to the poor. These powers, and others like them, are not derived from the people because the people never had them. They are powers usurped by government. Obviously the usurpation was not done by blatant appeal to force. Instead these grasping, aspiring men and women persuaded a portion of the people that they had power over their neighbors, that they somehow had the moral right to force them to support policies and programs that they liked or believed were economically expedient. They attacked the principle of equality by teaching the principle of tyranny by majority: that if they simply amassed enough votes, they could impose whatever regulation they thought best. This was a direct attack on human equality.

So here we are in the twenty-first century, and with the exception of a few figureheads and third world countries, the time of kings has nominally ended. But would our ancestors who fought so hard to throw off the yoke of kings be satisfied with our progress? We may not have kings in name, but we have men and women who claim powers typical of kings and who have far more effective methods of enforcing their commands than those ancient kings could ever have hoped for. It is high time for us to return to the principle of human equality and vote out these sneaky modern kings.

3 Responses to “Modern Kings”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thought this news report from Cincinnati was an excellent example of your post where the government’s actions are more like that of “sneaky modern kings”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ho99a0rIL2M

  2. Embarrassed says:

    “The struggle between those who love liberty and those who love government … ”

    This is both a “false dichotomy” fallacy and a “no true scotsman” fallacy. You’ve defined liberty in such a way that anyone who loves it must fit your particular mold. If they don’t believe like you, they don’t love liberty. Surely you can do better than resorting to such bald rhetorical tricks.

    Appealing to equality is clever, and relevant in some circumstances. Individuals may be privileged by the state, and get unequal and undeserved access to benefits paid by the taxes of other more deserving individuals. But privilege is not only state-granted. Children may be privileged by wealthy & well-connected parents, thus gain access to superior schools, services, and reap rewards which they have not earned.

    But that type of inequality does not seem to bother “those who love liberty.” Only the type of inequality where the government helps one group. That is important, it is a minor part of the inequality in much of the world, but don’t let that stop you in your crusade against do-gooders seeking to help the those disadvantaged by birth through government intervention.

  3. Quincy says:

    Embarrassed,

    I reject the idea that a person who loves government can also love liberty. One who loves liberty can tolerate government and use it to preserve liberty, but loving government itself is antithetical to loving liberty. There’s no false dichotomy there. We may have different opinions about what “government” means, but that’s another issue entirely.

    Your accusation that those who love liberty are not bothered by the inequality of opportunity between rich children and poor children is simply false. It does bother me that some parents are either unable or unwilling to provide for their children. Some are lazy, some are foolish, and some are just unfortunate. I would be happy if every child could receive a great education and eventually find a fulfilling, meaningful career. That would be wonderful. But I am not willing to rob my neighbors to achieve it. That would clearly be immoral. Moreover, I would not say to a parent, you cannot spend your hard earned money to benefit your child because there are other children who won’t have the same opportunity. Who am I to judge my neighbor and take from him what he has earned? That would be claiming power and privilege that I have no right to claim–much like a king.

    There will always be poor people and rich people. Some skills and abilities are more valued than others, and any honest person will admit that people come with varying levels of intelligence and work ethic. That doesn’t mean that I want poor people to be poor. I firmly believe that each person should help those around him, and that ultimately this is the only way to find joy.

    But a person who uses force or threat of force to impose their utopian dreams on others has committed a far greater wrong than the bitter miser. And teaching the idea that a person has the right to coerce his neighbors to provide for himself and his family–whether for education, housing, or food–is no different in the end from teaching that it is fine and good to bind one part of the people into slavery to support another part.

    In the words of Abraham Lincoln in his seventh debate with Steven A. Douglas:

    That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles-right and wrong-throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, “You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.” No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.

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