Frazier, Posted July 6, 2007
To every high-school student in this country between the ages of 15
and 18, this letter is to you. If there is ever something that you
should take the time to learn about, it is government.
Why? — you ask. If your idea of government is endless babbling by
old congressional codgers on C-SPAN, you’re partly right. The art of
government, or politics, is less entertaining than a visit to the
dentist. However, hidden among all the babble of congressional rules and
yeas and nays that you hear on television, the real secret that is never
explained to you in school is that government is force, and government
can use this force to violate your rights.
It is through government that other people can take your money,
forbid you to visit foreign countries, prevent you from drinking
alcohol, mandate attendance in public (i.e., government) schools, and
even force you into the military to possibly die in battle thousands of
miles away from American shores. In short, you need to be interested in
government because government officials can adversely affect your lives
in the most serious of ways.
Since government at its basic level is force, what should the role of
government be? After all, with force government can act in just about
any way that we allow it to, right or wrong. Philosophers have debated
the question for centuries, but a sound rule of thumb that has emerged
is that government should defend our rights, while at the same time not
In other words, government should protect us from the violence of
others but not initiate violence against us. The government should not
be allowed to steal from us, it should not be allowed to enslave us, and
it should not be allowed to murder us. In short, it should protect our
fundamental rights but not transgress them.
It sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Government should not
prevent any activity that does not violate the rights of another person.
However, you’ll see, in fact, that most of the things that government
does today violate individual liberty in one way or another. Let’s
look at an example.
The draft is an example of the government’s violation of individual
rights, and this one could have a profound effect on you. You may not be
familiar with the draft, but you should be, because it is a program the
government uses to enslave people your age. The draft is the process
whereby the government selects people to be part of the military. If
your name is selected, you have no choice — you must obey or be
punished. If the country is at war at the time you are drafted, you will
go through a short training period and then you will be sent into
battle, most likely in some faraway country. On the battlefield of
whatever country you are sent to, you will have to kill others in order
to survive and you may die yourself, most likely for a cause that’s
not worth killing or dying for.
Slavery is one of the most despicable crimes that can be committed
against anyone, and forcing a person to fight in an army is among the
worst forms of slavery. Not only is the victim’s labor stolen but
there is also a good chance he will die in the process. The draft is one
of the most egregious violations of individual rights our country has
ever committed. If he were alive, you could ask Daniel Webster, who
penned a famous essay entitled “On Conscription,” which you can
easily find on the Internet.
The idea that the government would draft you may sound far-fetched to
you right now, but it is has happened before. Ask your parents about the
Vietnam War; they will certainly know people who were enslaved and
perhaps even died as a result of the draft. And ominously for you, there
is talk in the air of instituting the draft again to serve in the
occupation of Iraq. If you didn’t know that, you need to pay more
attention to government.
There are many more examples of the abuses that we suffer at the
hands of government, but as long as you learn this one lesson — that
government is the biggest threat to the freedom of its citizenry —
you are well on the way to becoming an educated citizen and a patriot.
There are no parting words more appropriate with which I could leave you
than these words attributed to George Washington: “Government is not
reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous
servant and a fearful master.”
That is why you should pay attention to government.
The Future of Freedom Foundation