My father often states that “if you don’t A-S-K, you don’t G-E-T”, more often than not about asking for something extra at a restaurant. Despite its superficial nature, the saying’s deeper truth is that we can only benefit from something if we explore the possibility of its existence. However, there are some questions which, for whatever reason, cannot be asked in our society.
The title of this blog is “Do we need government?” Whenever these types of questions are asked people respond as if it is obvious that being without a government would be so horrible that the conversation is not even worth the waste of their breath. One is branded as an extremist or radical and then promptly laughed at for even bringing it up as a conversation piece. It is simply not talked about, a social taboo, too impossible to even be imagined.
When wondering about the results, the everyday living-your-life results, of having no government, mass hysteria and violence are often the pictures that are conjured by the imagination. I admit that these were my own thoughts when I first pondered the issue. But is there any harm in simply posing the question to our imagination, letting ourselves at least try to reasonably see what it might be like? Reason says each side is due its fair day in the tribunal of our minds. If we don’t A-S-K, then we certainly won’t G-E-T any new perspectives on issues that could be of major importance to our lives.
When I first wandered down this line of thought, I found myself troubled and uncomfortable, like I remembered feeling after misplacing “Ruff,” my favorite childhood stuffed animal. My thoughts turned to Northern Mexico, more particularly the area around the Texas border. This was the place on Earth that most approximated, in my mind, the absence of a government.
I had recently read an article from Texas Monthly describing a small Mexican border town turned war zone. This town in particular was hard hit because it is situated not just on the border of Texas and Mexico, but also on the border between two cartels, the Gulfs and the Zetas. Open turf wars raged between the rival gangs, and the local government was powerless to intervene. The area is now a desolate battleground, with only a fraction of its former population. Those who remain live in constant fear for their lives. The people interviewed in the article, too fearful to give their real names, found themselves in an untenable situation. Too poor to leave with their aging grandparents but also too poor to continue living in a town with no jobs or industry, they desperately pleaded for the Mexican Government to come save them from the cartels. The government showed up, with much fanfare, and held a press conference in which it promised to take back the town. Only a week later, the government had abandoned the mission, leaving only a remnant of troops to guard their “command post.”
While reading the story, and even now with the retelling of it, it was and is impossible for my heart to not go out to these people who are imprisoned by the hopeless circumstances of Northern Mexico. Is this what having no government would be like, living constantly in terror of the strongest group of thugs, the scene of some post-apocalyptic movie?
After giving the situation its fair day though, I reconsidered. The fact is, corrupt and dysfunctional though Northern Mexico is, the area still has a government. And it is this, the government—not the ongoing war between the Gulfs and the Zetas—that might be its biggest problem. This sham government proves how inept government is at protecting its citizens. I would go so far as to say that it is the only thing that prevented the citizens from taking care of themselves when the problem first arose. If you are a law abiding citizen in Mexico, you cannot own any firearms to protect you or your family from the cartels. But it would seem the Mexican government forgot to tell the cartels of this regulation. If your property is seized by the cartels, you could complain to the police, but they are either too afraid of retribution against their families or, more probably, on the payroll of one or more cartels. In either case, they’ll just look the other way. Many of the cartels’ recruits are immigrants from Central and South America, recruited at gunpoint, literally put to the “join us or die” ultimatum.
In essence, the government has enforced its monopoly on violence, prohibiting the citizens any means of resistance, and then sold that monopoly, at all levels of government, to the thugs. The citizens paid the price. If the government cared at all about the safety of its citizens it would have acted long before now. It doesn’t. It cares only for power and money, corrupted as it is by the monopoly it has on force.
No, this is not the way the world would look in the absence of government. Citizens would not have waited for government to save them if it was nonexistent. The threat of prison would not have kept them from the weapons that could have protected them. They would have banded together to stop these evil men long before the cartels wrecked their homes, destroyed their economy and killed their families. I cannot imagine any of my neighbors leaving their homes to become bandits or join drug cartels simply because there is no government. I cannot imagine many people at all doing this willingly. People realize that, in the long run, crime is not a profitable decision nor does it lead to a stable life.
The cartels, as with most organized crime, exist only because they enable the circumvention of some type of law, deriving their power from the money that is generated from this service. They are brokers of vice, if you will. Without government dictating morality through laws that many individuals wish to circumvent (drugs, gambling, prostitution, etc.), these organized crime rings would not exist—a peaceful means of accomplishing these ends being much more efficient. No, I believe most people would continue to go on about their everyday lives and not notice very much of a change, except maybe on April 15th. I am still unsure as to what would precipitate the nation into the apocalyptic movie scene that played in my mind when I first pondered the question.
I do not wish to decry the Mexican government for its policy choices of the past, offer advice on how it should proceed to rid its country of the virus of the cartels, or even provide my own view of what the world might be like without a government. I implore only that you constantly question everything you have been taught, that you always ask questions of any so-called absolute truths you have been told (e.g., the only two things sure in life are death and taxes), that you never take anything at face value, that you use all observations of how the world works to constantly update and revise your assumptions. This article is no exemption. Please exam it for errors and logical fallacies. Despite its shortcomings, I hope it illustrates the process of applying the mind to the often unasked questions of our time. Most importantly though, if something is taboo just to think about, there must be a reason why it is so, and this reason may not be the reason you have been taught in our government run schools. Maybe these are just the type of questions we should be asking and talking about every day, keeping them at the fore of our minds, where we can file information and examples about these issues for further contemplation. These are the questions that can and do change the world, but if we don’t A-S-K, we can be sure that we will not G-E-T any of this change.