Oppressive Government Essay
As humans we have shared fundamental needs. Take personal survival as an example. To meet this need we must ensure our safety from the violence of each other and from the violence of people who are not members of our society. The mechanism to serve . . . this . . . goal is a government.’ Because I agree with Thomas Attig, I must affirm the topic that ‘an oppressive government is more desirable than no government.’
Before I continue, I’d like to define a few key terms in the topic. [All definitions are from American Heritage.]
Oppressive is defined as unjust or difficult to bear.
Government is the exercise of authority in a political unit.
Desirable is defined as worth having or seeking, as by being useful or advantageous.
Since the topic asks us to evaluate the most desirable situation for humanity, my Value Premise is Individual Welfare. In order to achieve individual welfare, my criteria are
1)The preservation of social order
2)The fulfillment of fundamental needs.
The only way in which to ensure individual welfare is to maintain societal stability while at the same time protecting the individual.
My first contention is that an oppressive government is more desirable than no government because government, in any form, provides certain advantages that are impossible for the state of nature to provide.
(1)First of all, a government provides individuals with external security. In other words, the mere existence of a government allows for society as a whole to have a defense mechanism against foreign powers because a government must provide such protection in order to preserve itself. The absence of a government, however, would leave individuals defenseless from outside aggressors. Any government, oppressive or not, provides for this basic external security, which is a prerequisite to securing fundamental needs.
(2)Secondly, government possesses the ability to maintain order within society. As Austin Fagothey states ‘Anarchists think that society can get along without authority, but this opinion is too optimistic; for what is socially good for us is not known equally for all; benefits and burdens must be distributed to all, and someone must choose among various means the ones to be cooperatively used.’ Thus even if a government is oppressive, it still acts as an enforcement mechanism by regulating interaction between individuals and preventing them from encroaching on each other’s rights, therefore securing a greater degree of freedom for individuals.
George Crowder concurs that ‘Government is able to secure an area of free choice by forcibly preventing others from encroaching upon it.’ In contrast, the state of nature lacks this common judge to settle disputes and is therefore perpetually insecure for individuals. Even if some order exists without government, it cannot be maintained for any significant period of time because conflicts will inevitably occur over finite resources. Thus oppressive governments provide for the protection of fundamental needs that individuals lack in the state of nature due to the lack of adjudication.
(3)Third, individuals are generally guaranteed a minimal protection of life under an oppressive government. Oppressive governments are not primarily concerned with taking away life because by systematically killing all of their subjects, such governments would be diminishing their own power. A. John Simmons agrees that ‘the attempt to get another in one’s power indicates precisely an intention not to kill but rather only to control or use another in some way . . .. [This attempt] shows a design only on their freedom, not on their lives (since [individuals] are valueless without their lives).’
Although oppressive governments have been known to violate life in certain instances, individuals can avoid such persecution by not speaking out against the government. Thus individuals at least know how to secure their rights under oppression whereas in the state of nature, no such method to protect rights exists. Oppressive systems therefore generally ensure protection of life because individuals know how to avoid any governmental encroachments. Thus society under an oppressive government is more desirable because it ensures a minimum protection of rights that the negative can in no way ensure.
My second contention is that an oppressive government is more desirable than no government because society with an oppressive government is more conducive to reform. If we examine the topic, oppression is going to occur on both sides. Thus it’s important to weigh the risks involved.
(1)First of all, an oppressive system possesses more potential for reform. Under an oppressive government, all individuals know who their common enemy is, and they are aware of the origin of the threat to their liberty. Simply because of this awareness, individuals are able to unite more effectively against this one consolidation of power. Vicente Medina explains that in an oppressive government, ‘we would be able to appeal to those [established] rules without resulting to violence, whereas under an anarchical state of affairs the actual threat of violence would undermine the development of an ethical and legal community, and consequently the development of our moral capacities.’ [Moreover, the oppression invoked by a government may be merely short term.] Thus more potential for change exists under an oppressive government because it would be much easier to reform the existing system than it would be to create an entirely new system.
(2)(2) Secondly, the state of nature, in contrast, has more potential for oppression. The absence of a government allows for conflicts to exist on many levels. Individuals, groups, and organizations would constantly be involved in variety of struggles, and each group would be vying for its own selfish interests. The state of nature is therefore characterized by a lack of unity. Because individuals are so divided in this state of nature, it becomes virtually impossible to unite and achieve a consensus on establishing a government. Thus the lack of unification hinders the pursuit of establishing a just system. Individuals’ needs and the social structure are therefore best protected under an oppressive government, which possesses a greater possibility for reform, therefore ensuring a great degree of individual welfare.