April 1995, Forum of the Free Nation Foundation on
"How can Government Establish Self-Government?"


by Bobby Yates Emory
Being a Devil's advocate of the view that government cannotbe used to reduce government.

(to essay outline)

(back to table of contents of  FNF publications)






(back to table of contents of Archives of FNF)


Even when a government is purposely created that will not infringe onhuman rights, its citizens cannot be assured it will stay restrained, sowe would be trusting our future to an entity that probably will try toconsume us.

History keeps Repeating this Lesson

The U.S. revolution was fought to reduce the powers of government. Assoon as a suitable pretext could be found (interstate commerce), a constitutionalconvention was held, the constitution that had restrained the power ofthe state over the individual was discarded, and a new constitution wasinstituted that allowed for continual growth of government.

The Communist takeover of the Russian revolution was supposed to freethe working class. The Soviet Union's constitution guaranteed their rights.What happened was their utter domination by a self appointed elite.

Majority must Restrain

The only long term defense of the rights of the individual that worksis for the majority to insist on those rights. Only if a government knowsit will sustain widespread and continuing opposition will it hesitate toviolate individual rights. If it can get away with killing the dissidentsat Waco, it will. Even if there are business owners who oppose the busybodiesfrom OSHA, if much of the population does not actively defend the rightsof business owners, the bureaucrats will continue to drive up the costof production.

Creating our Executioner

Therefore, even if we carefully create a government to respect our rights,the only restraint on it is the eternal vigilance of a substantial portionof its citizens. Certainly if we are starting from some other, even furtherfrom ideal, existing government the possibility of "teaching" it to respectour rights is slim. The only thing power respects is power.

(back to essay outline)


There seems to be a universal law that governments grow. Perhaps itwas appropriate that kudzu was brought to the Southeastern U.S. by governments.It grows out of control over everything it can get to. It is hard to stop.It is almost impossible to get rid of. It is not beautiful. It producesno useful fruit. No wonder governments liked it - they sensed a kindredspirit.

Bureaucrats Build Bureaucracy

As the public choice school of economics has taught us, public "servants"are looking out for their own interests. The primary career path for abureaucrat is to a larger bureaucracy. Since other bureaucrats will bevying for the positions higher in the hierarchy, the natural tendency willbe to try to extend the area which the bureau covers thereby building alarger bureaucracy below the ambitious bureaucrat. Thus freedoms will continueto be encroached.

Citizens demand "Services"

Citizens, often laboring under the delusion they can get something fromthe state "for free," continue to demand additional "services." Once thegovernment has been involved in an area for more than six months, the beneficiariesfeel they are perpetually entitled to the proceeds of theft.

Special Interests buy Pork

As has been extensively analyzed elsewhere, special interests have aconcentrated interest in getting favors from government and can thereforeafford "the best politicians money can buy." The general public faces onlya small cost for each of the special interest measures, so they cannotafford to fight. Thus the system has an inherent bias in favor of specialinterests.

Continual fight for Equilibrium

If we are to try to reform an existing system, we will be continuallyfighting a rear guard action just to stay where we started. Once interestsare in place that are benefiting from the redistributions of an existinggovernment, they will vigorously try to expand their share and therebywork to expand the existing government. We will have to expend our resourcestrying to defend the status quo, rather than working to establish freedom.

(back to essay outline)


Political fashions tend to go in cycles, with particular ideas beingaccepted and rejected at different phases of the cycle.

Public Sentiment is Fickle

Unfortunately, public support for ideas, even those we hold dear, changesover time. In the 1800s, it was expected that frank writing about sexualsubjects would be suppressed whereas today it is available even thoughsome forms are still harassed. Thomas Jefferson probably would not haveaccepted an EEOC inspection at Monticello. So even if we educate the publicto the practical and moral reasons for freedom, they may soon forget whena new fashion sweeps through academia.

People expect instant Nirvana

Freedom is not going to provide everyone with everything they want instantly.Most people have a very short attention span. So they may discard our ideasbefore the results become apparent. Many seniors would have less moneyif we abolish Social Security and they do not have the power of visualizationto realize that their grandchildren will have a much better life. Althoughmost bureaucrats would be much better off in the long run if all bureaucraticjobs were abolished and they had to get a job in the "real world," theywill energetically resist the temporary discomfort.

Workhorses Tire

The individuals fighting the existing government for their freedom willeventually become weary. Even if there are occasionally victories on theroad to freedom, there will be disappointments and volunteers will "burnout."

(back to essay outline)


The inherent nature of government is to use power to grow. If we attemptto correct it, we are playing into the hands of its advocates, who willuse our participation to legitimize their exercising power over peoplewho have not signed any "social contract." We will be wasting a lot ofeffort maintaining the current level of injustice which could go to buildingsomething better.

(back to essay outline)

(back to table of contents of FNF publications)