The Ideal Form of Government

For ages, people have tried to construct the most ideal form of government. By “ideal,” I mean that which fulfills its purpose. The ideal pencil functions as a pencil should, allowing a writer to transcribe ideas onto a medium. What idea, good or bad, a writer transcribes is irrelevant. The pencil qua pencil does its job. Two writers with completely contradictory ideas could even use the same pencil, albeit not at the same time.

The role of politics is to decide who controls the figurative pencil or another resource at any particular time and for what ends. The same could be said of government. Two individuals might have diametrically opposed reasons for supporting a government, but they both support the existence of government. For example, Thomas Jefferson stated that government should be established to secure our individual inalienable rights. In comparison, Benito Mussolini said, “Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived in their relation to the State.”

These two ideas cannot both be true at the same time. Nevertheless, there is an ideal form of government that could conceivably achieve both Jefferson’s and Mussolini’s ends, though not at the same time, of course.

What Is Meant by ‘Government’

As the argument goes, men are not angels, so government is necessary to resolve disputes that arise. But what is a government? John Locke put much thought into this and decided that a functioning government needed to satisfy three “inconveniences” that would arise when living in a society that lacked a government. Locke believed there needed to be a known, settled law by which all disputes are ruled against. Second, he believed there must be a sufficient threat of force behind those ruling so they are followed. Third, a government would need to function as an independent judge of disputes.

Why a Worldwide Dictatorship

The only way to remotely satisfy all three “inconveniences” is to establish a world government. Governments exist now in a state of anarchy with one another as there exists no supra-government that lives up to Locke’s standards to enforce international laws and agreements. Because of their ability to offset the costs of aggression with taxes, governments pose a far graver danger to peace and security than do regular criminals, so a world government is imperative if local or national governments exist. Citizens of other countries also exist in a state of anarchy with citizens of other countries, although this seems to be less of a problem than government-on-government coercion. The United Nations is the closest thing that resembles a world government, yet it does not have the power to coercively impose taxes on citizens of its member nations. Member nations voluntarily fund the UN, and it does not possess the enforcement power to make its resolutions binding.

Even if a world government capable of enforcing its rulings were established, members of the world government would still exist in a state of anarchy because no one external to the government enforces rules upon lawmakers. The one way to reduce conflicts within the government is to reduce the number of government officials. Conceivably, the least populated government would rest power in a single person to avoid incidences of anarchic relationships. Now, admittedly, even this would not entirely end the existence of anarchy since the dictator would also exist in a state of anarchy with everyone else on the planet. Yet, a worldwide dictatorship would be the most ideal government, should one exist, to eliminate anarchic relationships.

For Jeffersonians, world government would be a nightmarish thought at first blush. Many Jeffersonians also believe that government is inevitable, that some form of government will always exist. That is certainly a theory and all the more reason to support immediately establishing a world dictatorship of limited powers before a world government of expansive powers is possibly created by a Chinese-Indian coalition.

For the Mussolini crowd, a worldwide dictatorship would soon enough make “the State as an absolute” a reality.

Why Not a Worldwide Dictatorship

I am being facetious in advocating a worldwide dictatorship. But a world government is where support for any government inevitably leads its supporters. In fact, a worldwide dictatorship of limited powers would quickly dissolve into complete tyranny. (Hint: Hierarchical power structures are not responsive to demands for accountability.)

What we see is the more that power is disproportionately divided among people, the more violence tends to erupt and corruption festers. Government is so dangerous precisely because it can externalize the costs of its violence onto captive taxpayers. The more that power is dispersed and divided, the greater that rights are respected and peace prevails. The profit and loss mechanism and competition, not the impossibility of constant vigilance, provide a natural check on the size of business enterprises and the power they can aggregate to themselves.

In truth, the ideal form of government is none at all since its purpose, from a rights-respecting perspective, is impossible. That does not mean a lack of governance or rule-making in society. A society without the ability to bring order would quickly be no society at all. The absence of monopoly government does not mean everyone will be of a pure heart and display empathy for his fellow man. Precisely because we are not angels, rules and rules enforcement should not be centrally commanded and controlled.

Image credit: rick, with a Creative Commons license
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