Liberty, freedom, the ability to develop our potentials and forge our own course ... these are some of the core values of America. Our forefathers envisioned such a world when they framed our constitution. The continuance of their enlightenment requires the protection of our Constitution. But what is often not acknowledged, as ironic as it might sound, is that freedom is also derived from maintaining a strong state.
Many people may think, “That’s not right; take away the state, and I’ll have more freedom.” What their perspective overlooks, however, is that there is, in fact, no human society that doesn’t have some form of governance. Even people living in simple foraging bands have leadership. The default condition for human society, therefore, is not anarchy and individual freedom but instead conformity and rule. Having no government is not an option.
Kinship-based clans are one of the major forms of human governance, permeating most types of society. Clans provide identity, security, and human companionship to their members, but clans revolve around the group, not individual. Given a clan is held collectively accountable for the crimes of its individual members, there is immense pressure placed on people to conform.
The burden of conformity, the weight of clan honor, and the sanctions of misconduct fall particularly heavily onto women. Just look at the abuse of women in clan-based societies all around the world, such as the Middle East. Noncompliance is punishable by death. Social suppression is not only physical, moreover; it is also mental. As seen ubiquitously today, group membership requires accepting the group ideology. People’s loyalty to their ideological team preempts the fair evaluation of different ideas. Individuals become blind in their partisanship.
Feuding also commonly occurs between clans. Without a strong central government to intervene, feuds can escalate to horrible violence. Most Americans would not enjoy living in a post-state society.
Therefore, an ideological misconception that many people hold is in believing we can reduce, or even eliminate government, and everything will go on normally except with reduced taxes and more freedom. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If our current governance were to seriously weaken or fall, people would quickly reorganized along tribal and clan lines. Specifically, groups would delineate themselves based on kinship, religious and racial differences, corporation affiliations, political parties, gangs, etc. The outcome would not be pretty.
Clans would be completely intolerant of libertarian-type attitudes. People with such ideologies would be considered freeloaders and trespassers. Of all ironies, it takes a strong centralized government in which the rule of law supersedes the rule of the clan to accommodate libertarianism. We take for granted the benefits and liberties that our constitution and Federal government provide.
Actions of the Federal government have afforded citizens with ever increasing liberties throughout American history. Look, for instance, at the growth of voting rights in America since our inception. At first, only white land-owning men could vote. It was the Federal government’s promotion and maintenance of constitutional law, combined with thoughtful citizen activism, which slowly extended rights to all citizens, particularly women and minorities.
This often occurred in the face of violent resistance from local governments and peoples. Without a strong state, our economy would hemorrhage, people would lose their rights and liberties, and violence would soar.
It is our liberal Constitution promoting individual rights and freedoms, enforced by the power of the state, which yields the type of society in which nearly all of us wish to live. Our particular type of government and constitution has been a beacon to much of the world.
The problem with our federal government today is not that it does too much, for in all actuality, it does less to promote fairness and prosperity than in countries where citizens enjoy a higher quality of life. Instead, the problem lies in the fact that our government has been taken over by corporations and populated by buffoons. Those characteristics are what we need to combat.
The best citizen response is to demand responsible political behavior and send to Washington, D.C., not people who want to dismember government, but instead those who ardently believe in it, who are willing to cooperate with others, and to act with real knowledge instead of ideological hoopla. That’s how we maintain our freedom.