Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida
This essay will be short, because the concept is dead simple.
Regular readers know that I have a libertarian bent. Not conservative, not Libertarian (meaning The Libertarian Party), but libertarian as in minimal government. My reasons are rooted in morality, and a thought (gedanken) experiment that I came up with while a college student.
Suppose we have a town with only five residents. Three in one family, and two in another. Three males and two females.
Now suppose the family of three wanted money from the family of two for some purpose. You can think of the purpose as worthwhile, such as a street, or a school, or a bad purpose, such as whiskey for a party. Would it be moral for the three to come to the door of the two with guns and extract their money? Of course not.
Suppose the issue is not money but behavior. On the good side, perhaps three wanted to ban drunk driving. On the evil side, the three males want the two females to go naked. Regardless of purpose, is it moral for the three to force the two to do as they want at gunpoint? Of course not.
Now let us inject an intermediate step. We will form a government representing the five people. Nobody gets to opt-out. All five are automatically entitled to vote, and burdened to obey the will of the majority. We hold referendums on streets, schools, whiskey, drunk driving and nudity. The majority vote on each issue becomes law. One person is appointed sheriff and given a gun. Anyone who refuses to obey the law is forced to do so at gunpoint. Does that change the morality? Of course not.
Think about it. There is no such thing as a moral way to govern five people if governance is backed up by the threat of violence.
Now let us scale up the size of the town from five people to, five hundred, five thousand, five million, five hundred million. Do the numbers change the morality? Of course not.
I believe that most people falsely believe that the morality is different when we deal with millions of people. I say they should go back and do the gedanken experiment themselves, scaling down society to only five people. Also, when people are forced to pay taxes into a general fund, and separately government decides what to do with those funds, people are fooled to think that changes the morality. It doesn't.
To those who would support government but only to do good and not evil, I say that the tyrannical majority has the exclusive power to decide what is good and what is evil.
But no society can be a free society, nor can we have property rights without two functions which only government can provide. Those two functions are external and internal security. Externally, the government must protect us from foreign attack. Internally, the government must protect us from fraud, theft, and violence. Private armies, and vigilantism don't work so they do not provide a viable alternative to government.
Therefore (even though the very concept of government I find morally repugnant), I concede that we must have a government to provide a military defense and a criminal justice system. But any government function beyond those, I view as unnecessary and thus immoral.
Here is another way of saying it: Whenever governmental power is enforced by the threat of violence (if voluntary compliance is not given), that is an extreme and heavy-handed tactic. To be moral, the use of violence must be as limited as possible. The power should only be used for those applications to which there is no alternative.