by Bart 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 violate them.
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.
Gun control is an issue that most young people don’t understand because they have been taught that guns are dangerous and responsible for the deaths of countless persons every year. It is true that guns are dangerous, but people are responsible for the deaths of those they shoot, not the guns they use. Guns are only tools, and they are dangerous only in the hands of dangerous or careless people. Keep in mind that every person has a natural right to defend himself, even with a gun, as long he doesn’t violate the rights of others in the process.
I am sure that you have heard of the Second Amendment to the Constitution — it guarantees the natural right we all have to keep and bear arms. In other words, the government is not legally permitted to do anything to take our guns away. When the Constitution was written in 1787, why would the authors want to make sure that we could all keep our guns? Your civics teacher will never tell you this, but the reason is so that we could defend ourselves against our own government should the need should ever arise.
Does this sound crazy to you? If so, listen to what Thomas Jefferson had to say about gun ownership: “What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.” These are not the words of some whacko, but rather of the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence.
You should be extremely outraged at any politician who favors the idea of gun control. Though it seems like a small and meaningless act, taking away guns from the citizens of a country is one of the first steps that dictators take to rule their countries with iron fists. They know that once the people have been disarmed, there is nothing they can do to stop the government from violating individual rights. As long as citizens are armed, politicians will always think twice about doing very bad things to their own people. If you didn’t know why the Founding Fathers wanted you to own guns, you should 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