Email | Twitter
I admire the role that Thomas Paine played in America's Secession from the English Empire, so it's not easy to pick someone like him apart. But he made a tragic error in his most famous work Common Sense. And the error occurred right at the beginning. It wasn't buried in the middle or end.
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one;...The big blunder was calling government a "necessary" evil.
What a mistake!
Evil is never necessary. The exact opposite is true. It is the good that is necessary for life to carry on.
To say that evil is necessary is like saying that a shoplifter is necessary for the merchant to live. Or, that a parasite is necessary for the host to survive.
The merchant would do just fine without the existence of shoplifting, and a host can surely survive without the parasite.
The same cannot be said about the parasite. It needs the host to survive and feed off of.
Paine (surely without intending to) did governments a huge favor. His statement is very famous and many people believe it. And what a gift for the politician. You see, the politician can care less if he does evil. However, the fact that enough citizens believe that it's necessary that he do it, means everything in the world.
A lot of minds need to be changed about this famous blunder. An institution that relies on the theft of taxation to exist, is not necessary. An institution that has a monopoly to use aggressive (i.e. not defensive) force against individuals, is not necessary.
One does not have to look far, or even pay money, to read why. It's only a few mouse-clicks away. If a person were to read (for free) the works of just Murray Rothbard and Walter Block alone, the superstition would most likely be wiped from that individual's eyes.
What is necessary for our survival, is the good: voluntary association, voluntary contracts, voluntary agreements, and respect for one another's person and property. You may not agress against your neighbor's property, and he may not agress against yours.
Once the poison of coercive force is introduced, and accepted as necessary, it can only spread like a cancer, eating away at everything that is good....one vital organ at a time. After 200 years pass, the realization starts to set in that the disease has become life-threatening.
So with all due respect for Mr. Paine, I'd like make my own statement to correct his error. Even in its best state, a coercive government isn't a necessary evil.
It's just evil.