Strike at the Root: Understanding the Source of Problems in Our Society

by John Everett
January 2016

[Also available from Amazon]

No one can deny that there are many problems facing us today. Poverty, illiteracy, corruption, and so on are enduring obstacles in our lives. Many people do their best to combat these problems, but in order to do this effectively we have to first figure out what is causing these problems. The trouble is, people can’t seem to agree on the causes of most of these issues. It seems that everyone has different answers. Depending on the person you ask, you might hear the answers: because of the poor, because of immigrants, because of rich corporations, because of lobbying, because of corrupt politicians, and so on. What I would like to discuss now, however, is an answer that hasn’t been very popular but is steadily gaining traction. There is a radical movement that puts forth the idea that government in general is the primary cause of most societal problems. Not a certain Government in particular, mind you. Not a Republican Government or a Democratic Government. Not a parliamentary or congressional Government. Just government in any of its myriad forms. Such a simplistic worldview suffers from a fundamental problem, and I want now to explain what it is.

Simply put, Government is not the problem. The problem is the evilness of the human heart. Ultimately, don’t you agree that this is the root cause of societal problems? Crazy gunmen don’t commit mass shootings because their hearts are filled with love. Bank executives don’t forclose on families’ homes and take massive bailouts because they lack evil in their hearts. Specifically, it’s the presence of evil inside of us that prevents the world from being a perfect place. But why can’t government be a part of this evil presence? Well, let me explain.

Think about what government is. It’s not a real, tangible thing, so how can we blame government? Sure, there are tangible things related to government. You can touch the wall of a capital building. You can read government documents or shake the hand of a senator, but those things per se are not government, just as a textbook or a chalkboard are not education. These things are merely implements. Government, no matter how you view it, is an imaginary concept; it exists only in our minds, no matter how many of its implements (charters, bureaus, offices, politicians, licenses and permits, etc.) may be real. Every government is the following idea: a group of persons who get together and manage the lives of their fellow human beings. The persons who do this are real, but their idea is imaginary. An apple is a real thing; it can be bitten into and tasted. The Capitol is a real thing; made of white stone and towering magnificently over the capital city. But government itself is just a name given to the agreements reached by specific men and women, and perhaps the documents they record these agreements on. The government is only reified in our imaginations. Every government action is just an action carried out by a group of persons who are called leaders or rulers. Every government action, then, begins inside someone’s heart. This is an important step toward understanding how the bad things around us can happen. If persons who want to do evil end up in positions of power, they can abuse their authority and do bad things that have far-reaching effects. But it’s not government itself that is responsible since it’s not a tangible thing. It’s the persons who commit evils. Now, if a person did something evil for just a moment and then disavowed it, the world would not be in such a bad shape; the primary thing that allows for the perpetuation of evil is the art of making excuses.

People in general are very skilled at making excuses. This is caused by cognitive dissonance (the discomfort that comes from having one’s beliefs challenged) and confirmation bias (the tendency of humans to reject whichever facts oppose our beliefs and accept whichever lies confirm our beliefs). Deep down inside, we know when our actions are wrong, but most people, most of the time, choose to justify our actions so they seem right. We want to be right, but not at the expense of adjusting our behavior. And so if you read something that goes against your beliefs, your first instinct will be to dismiss it, or say, “But! But!…” and try to refute it. Everyone does this. Depending on the person and the belief being challenged, cognitive dissonance can lead a person to do downright crazy things in order to preserve their beliefs at all costs. Cognitive dissonance can result in anger, frustration, desperation, name-calling, and so on, all in an effort to preserve what we believe.

Have you ever noticed that certain people are passionately fighting for something you oppose? Let’s say, for example, that you abhor fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and want to ban or regulate it, but then there are others who love it and fight to keep fracking operations going. Why would they do this, do you think? They certainly don’t think they’re in the wrong. But here’s the thing: If they are in the wrong but they don’t know it, it’s probably because of their bias. They won’t stop fighting for what they believe, because their bias encourages them to keep their beliefs instead of changing. Because of this bias you’ll be hard pressed not to find an abundance of excuses for bad behavior. People will say “But! But!…” and follow this with a million different excuses. “But! I don’t think it’s a good idea!” “But! It’s a matter of public safety.” “Those things are bad for you.” “Not in my back yard.” “Think of the children!”

Every bad action will have plenty of its own excuses. Because confirmation bias is emotionally charged, these excuses will often be paired with attacks on the opponent. “You must hate the poor!” “Oh, so you want us to get killed?” “You just don’t care!” “It’s obvious that you’re just ignorant.” “Nazi!” What these excuses and attacks say is irrelevant. All that matters is that they are excuses and attacks. All that matters is that they attempt to turn evil into good. It is simply an attempt to replace the truth with one’s beliefs. Most of us love our beliefs more than we love the truth. Using these justifications is a great way to silence opponents. I’m sure many German citizens in the 1930s were told, “You just don’t care about Germany then! I guess you want these inferior peoples to destroy us!” That attack is based on emotion; facts are not dependent on emotions.

When justifications enter the picture, pointing out the wickedness of a deed cannot deter the resolve of the doer. At that point s/he is convinced that the evil deed has become right. When a bunch of persons get together to form a mob, then this bias will only be magnified, and each person in that mob will not feel personally responsible for actions they commit while in the mob. This is why persons cannot be deterred by the bad effects of a public policy. They are hiding in the mob and judging the policy by its intentions rather than judging it based on its results. Because they believe in the action, they believe in it despite whatever ills may come. If they judged it by its results and saw that the results are bad, then they would feel compelled to change their beliefs and stop supporting that policy. Persons want to defend their beliefs at the expense of everything else.

Let us examine, for example, the so-called “war on drugs.” Now, if you support the war on drugs, then this paragraph may prove my point that humans care more about their beliefs than the truth. Read on if you dare. There are certain chemical substances called drugs, which a lot of people like to use, but many others consider these substances a threat and want to prohibit their consumption by law. Now, I previously explained that the true problem in the world is the wickedness of the human heart. Drugs can never be a problem because they have no will of their own, nor any sin nature. They can only be abused by those with sin inside their hearts. If drugs were to vanish from existence tomorrow it would not mitigate the problem at all. Humans would still have sin in our hearts and we would find other things to abuse. Most persons don’t understand this concept, however, and delude themselves into thinking that prohibiting drugs will make the problem better. They focus on the tool for committing evil rather than focusing on the evil itself. So they decide to abuse power; they get together in a government and try to forcibly control the lives of their fellow humans. They say “Don’t exercise your free will when it contradicts our wishes, or else you shall be punished.” This policy is just as evil as the desire to harm one’s own body with drugs. Actually, the prohibition is more evil. Whereas the consumption of drugs hurts one’s body, enforcing prohibition harms someone else’s body by kidnapping them with handcuffs and throwing them in jail; and it also harms the souls of those who enforce or support the policy. It is not spiritually healthy at all to know that you morally support the kidnapping and imprisonment of men or women whose only actual crime was minding their own business.

If you look at the war on drugs from any angle you will see that it has had only negative effects. It has resulted in a disproportionately high rate of incarceration for poor black and Hispanic Americans. It has funded countless drug cartels and brought violence to previously peaceful cities. There have been many other negative results, but pointing these out will have no effect on those who support the war on drugs. They only care about the war’s good intentions, and not its bad results.

And this is where the aforementioned excuses come in. Supporters of the war will invariably make up justifications for their mass kidnappings. “Drugs are bad for you (so it’s OK to snatch you from your home and throw you in a cage).” “I don’t want my children to be around junkies (so I would rather them grow up in a police state).” “Drug prohibition is for your own good because drugs are bad for you (but getting shanked in prison is much better).” As I explained before, what these excuses say is irrelevant. What is important is their underlying meaning: “I believe it’s OK for me to force my will upon others, and I know deep down that it’s wrong so I’m choosing to justify it however I can.” This is not to say, of course, that supporters of a certain policy are automatically monsters. I know that they have good intentions–everyone does. There is not a single person of sound mind who wakes up and says, “I want to make the world a worse place today.” Everyone has good intentions and believes that their crusade is the moral one. But good intentions do not nullify bad actions. And if we understood this, we would be critical of our actions. But it all goes back to the original problem: the human heart is deceitful above all things. We choose to believe we can make the world a better place by controlling the lives of others, without realizing that the desire for power is a major part of the problem. We would realize that our good intentions aren’t really good if we criticized our beliefs but, again, we want to change reality instead of changing our beliefs. The desire to control the lives of others comes about as a direct result of wishing to twist around reality. The belief that prohibition (or mandating) will make the world a better place stems from: 1. the assumption that one’s beliefs are true and 2. that the ends justify the means. God created the world according to His will and it was good originally, so if we re-create the world according to our will, it’ll be good again, right?

The problem with this way of thinking is that we are not God. God wants the world to be good but allows us to make our own decisions; humans who have a thirst for power are not so gracious. If someone does something you don’t like or abstains from something you like, then you probably believe it’s a good thing to control them or punish them. And because humans realize deep down inside that this is wrong, they attempt to further justify these actions by proxy. If a bunch of other persons (lawmakers) gets together and forms a government, and a bunch of other persons (police) enforces the policies, then it stops being wrong. This, of course, is a lie. If it is wrong for a man to kidnap another, then it is wrong for a thousand men to kidnap a thousand others. Because the imaginary machine of “government” is hidden under many, many layers of proxy, however, most of us never even stop to think about or question it.

No one of sound mind would hold a gun to a man’s head and say, “I want you to do ___ or else I’ll punish you.” But that same person will happily pay someone to put on a uniform with a badge and hold the gun in his behalf. Once this happens then that man will feel separate from his actions by proxy. Even the police officer will feel separate from his actions because there are many layers of proxy to punishment as well. If someone breaks a law, the punishment will not usually be a gun to the head right away. We have devised many other decrees such as fines, sub poenas, censures, gag orders, community service, incarceration, etc. Punishment is suggested by officers but upheld by judges, oftentimes in collaboration with juries. Together, they carry out these progressions of punishment as needs be. But should all of the previous steps fail, you must realize that eventually a gun will be used to control the “offending” party. Think about the progression. If you break a law, you’ll be fined. If you refuse to pay the fine, you’ll have a lien or hold placed on your property. If you refuse to comply, your property will be stolen. If you defend your property, you will be kidnapped. If you resist being kidnapped and defend yourself with a weapon, you will be shot. Eventually, every single policy, every single law and regulation, every single “government” decree, is backed by the threat of violence. Most citizens would just pay the fine and avoid being shot, obviously, but that’s not my point. Eventually, every law is backed by violence or the threat of violence. And thus comes about a great dilemma. No matter how good your intentions, no matter how many excuses you have, no matter how much you want to change the world for the better, any “government” action you support is backed by the threat of violence and forcibly imposed on you and your fellow humans. If that seems moral to you, then you have my pity.

And now come more excuses. “But the government is protecting you!” “But it’s not immoral when we have democracy!” “That’s the price you have to pay to live in a free society!” “If you don’t like it then leave!” “Think of the CHILDREN!” Or perhaps you fully agree with the notion that “government” action is violence, but you just don’t care. If you think that, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can say to you. But if you believe that “government” action is not inherently violent, then I have this to ask. At what point does an act transition from immoral to moral? If it’s immoral to impose one’s will onto others, then at what point does it cease to be immoral? If it’s immoral to rob a rich man, then how is it moral to tax a rich man? (I’ll wait for you to finish spewing out excuses and justifications like an obnoxious drunk spewing vomit.) Think of this for a while and I’m sure that you’ll come to the conclusion that the two actions are entirely different because they have two different names. Taxing and robbing are two different words, so they must be two different actions. This is another layer of proxy, though. Taxation is the act of compelling a man (by threat of violence) to surrender a portion of his property so it can be spent by someone else. The only difference between this and robbery is a matter of size. Robbery is perpetrated by one man against another; taxation is perpetrated by millions against millions more. Of course, no one defends the honor of the robber or makes up excuses for him. Because of the aforementioned magnifying effect (really just a type of proxy), the excuses of millions of persons in a mob are stronger than the excuses of one person. Everyone else is doing it; we’re all paying taxes together; think of the children; we never personally demand the money from our victims–only by proxy. If the fellows with suits decree a tax and the fellows with badges enforce it, then the act stops being immoral. Such an attitude has led to untold atrocities.

Let us return to the war on drugs. If ordinary humans break into a man’s house to steal his property, that is called “breaking and entering” and “theft.” If those ordinary humans are wearing costumes with badges and handcuffs, however, then it becomes a “no-knock raid.” If a husband tells his wife that she cannot drive the car without his permission or else he’ll extort money or throw her in a cage, that is called “domestic abuse.” But if that husband is sitting behind a desk at the DMV, then it’s called “drivers’ licensing.” I guarantee you that everything an abusive spouse may do, participants of “government” do to a far greater degree. But because we call things by different names, we believe that we are no longer held morally accountable for our actions. And here come more excuses. “But having a driver’s license is a matter of public safety!” “I don’t want to drive on the road along with unlicensed maniacs!” “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!” Because there’s no way auto manufacturers could be in charge of licensing in a way that’s based on voluntary exchange instead of violence, right? (You will eventually discover that every excuse and justification you come up with defending “government” will be not only factually wrong, but morally wrong as well.) Also, you skipped right over the point of what I was saying. You may agree with me, with a smug sense of self-righteousness, that enforcing drug prohibition is immoral, but as soon as I replace “war on drugs” with any policy you support, your smug little smirk will fall right off your face. Dressing up your language doesn’t change the nature of the actions that those words represent. “Government” can’t be a problem because it’s just a word masking violence behind proxy. Electing officials to impose your agenda onto others is no better than imposing your agenda onto others yourself, and in fact is worse. The robber does not pretend that he has your best interests at heart or that he will spend your money for your benefit better than you could if you had kept it.

When God asked Adam why he ate the fruit, Adam passed the blame onto Eve so that he would be innocent by proxy. When God asked Eve why she ate the fruit, she passed the blame onto the devil so that she would be innocent by proxy. And all this time later, we are still doing the same thing. Rather than taking responsibility for our actions, we are passing the blame onto others and passing our responsibility onto others. But it’s a lie. You are responsible for your actions and your beliefs. Even though you haven’t ever busted down an innocent man’s door to kidnap him for smoking a plant, you are still responsible if you morally support it. Time for another excuse. “I don’t support police brutality either! We just need to elect the right official who can fight corruption!” You miss the point entirely, dear reader. For one thing, if your system has to have the right person in office to work, then it’s a horrible system. Second, the problem isn’t who’s in office. As I’ve said several times before, the problem is the wickedness of the human heart. It’s not the wickedness of Bob or Steve or Cindy or Jennifer that’s the problem. Everyone has such wickedness. You can’t make the world a better place through violence because violence itself is negative. It doesn’t matter if someone is a “good” ruler and uses violence slightly less than the other guy, or uses violence to achieve what you want instead of what “they” want.  It would just be violence for a cause you like. If you disagree with this sentiment then it’s because you believe an act ceases to be violent if it’s carried out for your agenda. You, then, are no different from a robber, a scam artist, or a despot.

Even if you don’t support the war on drugs, there is something tyrants do that you support. Maybe you support corporate subsidies, bailouts, censorship, the income tax, a monopoly on fiat currency, medicare, socialized medicine, a standing army, gun control, a minimum wage, the deportation of immigrants, the EPA, etc. But there is ultimately no difference between the violence behind the war on drugs and the violence behind any other “government” action. If you would not hold a gun to the head of a business owner and demand that he hire a certain percentage of female employees, then you should not support the idea of someone in a costume doing it in your behalf. But everyone likes bias until it differs from their own.

Do you understand what I am saying? There is no such thing as government; there is only a group of persons who, compelled by confirmation bias, carry out various agendas by proxy. We place our faith in them because we want to believe that they are demi-gods who can bring about utopia by forcing others to go along with their plans. That is the fault of each individual who chooses to believe it. You cannot blame democrats or republicans; only individual human beings are to blame for their deceit. Government is not the problem (since it doesn’t exist); it’s a symptom of the problem. The belief that violence is a good thing is a symptom of the problem. The problem, really, is the belief that we are gods and we know best.

So how can you fix the problem? The first answer is to get your own house in order. Stop thirsting for power. Stop desiring to control other persons’ lives. It’s an odd mixture of narcissism and cynicism that compels a person to prescribe government as a remedy. You believe that humans are too stupid/evil/etc. to run their own lives, but smart/virtuous enough to elect other stupid/evil humans to run their lives for them. If you want the world to change, then be the change you wish to see. Instead of asking, “Without government, who would (_____)?” If you do it, then it shall be done. I don’t have to wonder how persons can be educated without government. I never have to wonder if private education is possible because I’m living proof that it is. I educate others every chance I get. I’ve given free music lessons, driving lessons, Latin and Japanese tutoring, etc. without being forced to at gunpoint. I’m not saying this to brag about my accomplishments–I’m saying it to prove a point. The kind of person who actively makes the world a better place is the kind of person who has no reason to put his faith in an imaginary entity run by corrupt psychopaths and supported by millions of bloodthirsty worshipers. If you see a problem in the world and your first instinct is to solve it at gunpoint, then you are sorely deceived.

More excuses? What is it this time? “But government needs to step in and fix things caused by freedom!” “There’s no way private charity can be active enough to solve these problems!” “We need government help to fill in the gaps.” “We need government to maintain peace and order!.” “We need to make the selfish people help too!” “THINK OF THE CHIIIIIILDREEEEEN!!!!!” There is great irony in the proclamation that “selfish people should do what I want.” The desire to make others do what you want is selfish. Aside from that, there is no doubt that problems will exist without violent policies, but that can never be eradicated. The real problem, remember, is the wickedness of the human heart. Utopia can never be brought about because there is still sin. I do not deny that a world without “government” would still be rife with sin and shortcomings. But the threat of violence, in and of itself, is a sin and shortcoming. The question is: would you rather live in a world of shortcomings with violent psychopaths controlling your life, or a world of shortcomings without them? That’s like asking, “Would you rather be hungry with a nail driven through your head, or hungry without a nail driven through your head?” The absence of “government” is no guarantee that some men won’t murder, but the presence of “government” is a guarantee that some men will. Consider that 8 Million private murders were carried out in the 20th century, compared to well over 200 Million state-sanctioned murders. Does that sound orderly and peaceful to you? We have been taught to think that anarchy is chaos, but it’s really the belief in “government” that is chaos.

If you dislike Coca Cola you are more than welcome to stop drinking it; but if you dislike Adolf Hitler or Che Guevara you cannot simply say “No thanks,” and continue to live your life in peace. You will be shot. If you dislike George Bush or Barack Obama you cannot simply say, “No thanks,” or else you will go to jail for breaking some “law” or another. There was a man named Irwin Schiff who refused to pay income taxes. He didn’t like being robbed by the IRS on a regular basis, so he said, “No thanks.” In 2015, he died of old age in prison. Being forced to do what others tell you to is the price you have to pay to live in a “free” society. If you don’t like a bodyguard you can fire him. If you don’t like police brutality, you still have to fund them with your paycheck or else they’ll kidnap you.

Now that you have run out of excuses for the time being (I hope), please use the opportunity to examine your beliefs and challenge them. You have been lied to your whole life, and trying to escape that indoctrination is very difficult. You have been taught that freedom constantly produces disastrous results and that our lord and savior Government must step in to save the day. You were told that Lincoln went to war to free the slaves, FDR ended the great depression, and Obama kept the peace in the Middle East. Such lies are so deeply ingrained in our minds that they can persist for years. I speak this from personal experience, having been a centrist democrat and before that a republican (sort of). Curiously, the war on drugs was my last great ideological holdout after having renounced my worship of government. I supported it simply on the basis that drugs are bad for you. What I eventually learned is that the belief in government is far worse than any drug. I still abstain from drug use, having never indulged once in my life; opposing the war on drugs does not mean that I want everyone to be addicted to drugs. All it means is that I do not wish to force my ideas onto others. I now apply this to every law and policy. If you do not hold the same position, let me ask you: Which of your rights would you like to have a democratically elected official violate? Would you like to have a law passed saying that you can’t use a cell phone past 6:00 p.m.? Would you like it if that leader passed a law prohibiting you from wearing jeans for no reason, or a law requiring you to purchase and carry a gun, as well as purchasing a minimum amount of ammunition and attending mandatory gun-care classes? If you think that government is good, then tell me which hypothetical law, violating your rights, you would support. If you can’t answer then you must realize that you only support government because you want to force YOUR ideas on others, not the other way around. Sure, you would gladly pay taxes to fund a program that you support, but if you had to pay the same amount of tax money on a program that you diametrically oppose, you would not be happy. Trying to end a program would be very difficult. If you don’t like automobiles you are more than welcome to spend your money on a bicycle or spend no money and walk. But if you want to stop funding a government program then you had better hope that your “representatives” agree with you. In the meantime you’ll still have to pay for the program you hate; otherwise you’ll be kidnapped, just like Irwin Schiff.

And that brings me back to the main point. “Government” isn’t the problem. It’s only a symptom of the thirst for power. The true problem lies within the hearts and minds of men and women who want to enslave their fellow humans (I’ll explain this on page two). The only way to limit this thirst is to learn love for God. If you love God, you will love your fellow man. If you love your fellow man, you will no longer wish to enslave them. If everyone on Earth suddenly stopped wishing to enslave each other, the world would be a dramatically better place, even with every other problem or symptom remaining. If you wish to see a world like that, stop loving yourself more than you love God. Be educated and educate others. Love others. Bring change into the world yourself instead of electing thieves and liars to try and do it for you. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Above all, challenge your own beliefs as much as you challenge others’. If you challenged your own beliefs even half as much as you challenged others’ then you would be a whole lot better off for it. The truth matters a whole lot more than your petty opinions.

One the next page, I would like to ask you some questions about what exactly qualifies slavery, because it’s necessary to understanding the role, if any, that “government” ought to have in a society. On the other hand, if you just want to leave an angry comment about how I hate America and I want the poor to starve and I’m a terrorist, the comment box is right below this article.


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