C’mon. Everybody knows what a government is, right? I mean, it can be a king, or a Congress, or a Council, or a committee, or a collective, or any of a number of other terms that don’t begin with a “k” sound.
But what is a government really? What is it at its core?
Dictionary.com defines government as “the political direction and control exercised over the actions of the members, citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc.” Don’t that just clear things up for ya? Yeah, me too. So let’s try that again. But first, look at the definition. What do you notice about it, as pertaining to people (i.e. the governed)? I notice that every inch of that definition is plural, as covering multiple participants. That makes perfect sense to me, as without multiple participants, government is absolutely unnecessary. Okay, so let’s start there.
Imagine yourself utterly alone on an island off in the middle of the ocean. Nobody around for thousands of miles. Nobody but you. Who’s in charge?
You are. Yep, that’s right. You’re the top dog, the big cheese, the ABSOLUTE MASTER OF ALL YOU SURVEY! There is no need to compromise or restrain your authority, because your authority is the only one in existence. Anything you decide to do, anything that is within your physical ability to do, there is absolutely NOTHING to stop you from doing it.
In short, you are sovereign—inherently and irrevocably possessing sovereign rights. In governmental terms, this is called “anarchy”—not the nasty buzz word with all its current connotations, but a legitimate perspective that is not so much a “form of government” as it is the ABSENCE of government. Here, there is no higher authority than one’s self. It is the most fundamental concept in any government—that someone, somewhere, is making his own decisions. And since, on this island, you are the ONLY someone ANYwhere, it’s pretty easy to find the aforementioned decision maker.
Now then. Imagine somebody else showing up on the island you occupy. They, too, are sovereign, having absolute dominion over themselves and their faculties. As with you, they have no higher authority than themselves. They live in anarchy also, and it suits them as well as it suits you.
…that is, until your sovereignty and their sovereignty come into conflict with each other.
THIS is the birthplace of government. This is the stem cell of every government that has ever been or will ever be—the interaction of two sovereign individuals. As long as that interaction is mutually amicable, they can continue to peacefully co-exist in anarchy. But if that interaction ever turns to conflict, if one perspective contradicts the other, the only way for the two to remain at peace is for one or both of them to make concessions—to voluntarily LIMIT the reach of sovereignty so as to not violate the sovereignty of the other.
The extent of those concessions—and how mutual they may be—will determine the type of government you have on your island. At this point, with just the two of you, there are only two forms of government available—monarchy and panarchy. In a monarchy, one person lives in submission to the other, effectively relinquishing their sovereignty to the other person. Decisions are made by the monarch. In a panarchy, both parties rule co-equally. Decisions are made by agreement between the panarchs.
All forms of government stem from these two, varying only in where the concessions are made, and how mutual those concessions are. Allow me to illustrate.
Imagine another person arriving on the island. Now there are three of you, and this introduces a third potential government—democracy, or “majority rule”. In this form of government, every issue is decided by the majority. Essentially, democracy is a merger of panarchy and monarchy, where the two in majority rule in agreement with each other, subjecting the one in minority. Add a fourth person, and government is once again determined by who is equal and who is unequal—whether four in unanimity, or a majority three against one, or two against two (which must eventually become either unanimous or majority rule if they are to continue peacefully). Add a fifth, add a sixth, ad infinitum.
Every government you can imagine fits some combination of these two categories. Authoritarian—the few rule in agreement with each other (panarchy), pressing their rule upon the many (monarchy). Dictatorship—monarchy that is based on military might rather than royal lineage. Theocracy—the single religion rules the few (monarchy), and those few in turn rule in agreement (panarchy) over the many (monarchy).
What’s important to remember here is that no matter WHAT form of government is at issue, authority still natively rests in the lone individual. The individual remains in submission to the “higher authority” only so long as he chooses. The individual can reclaim his sovereignty at any point in the process, for any reason or no reason at all. His sovereignty is, and always has been, his own.
Of course, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. There may well be consequences for the individual’s reclamation of his sovereignty, as those who hold power over another are often loath to relinquish it. But there again, it comes down to the individual. Is he willing to pay whatever price is necessary to reclaim his sovereignty, his ownership over his own life? Many are content to live with the encroachment of government for the sake of peace. Some are not. Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to decide for himself just how high a price is too high, and just what war is worthy of waging.