Man and the Right to Govern Himself

By Benjamin Olsen | United States

Can individuals govern themselves? In a recent conversation I had, the claim was made that without laws, people simply could not govern themselves. This was during a conversation where the example was brought forward that if we ceased to have laws preventing murder, then everyone would take to the streets and murder each other in a matter very similar to the Purge series of movies.

When John Locke argues for a liberal democracy, he argues against Thomas Hobbes’ theory of an absolutist government designed to keep people from the state of nature. Locke, however, argues for that state of nature and it being necessary as a transitionary period between government types. As libertarians, we are not arguing for the absence of government, but rather the reform of government. This is not to say that all libertarians agree on the form that government should take, but rather that some government is established that protects our natural rights. The governments that are in place today do not think about our natural rights. They have gone beyond their duties and now seek to curb our liberties in the name of security. Human beings inherently value security, but we have given up all our liberties for just a little bit more. Human beings fear violent death, so doesn’t it stand to reason that humans, without laws, would restrain themselves to avoid a violent death?

We must establish a government that gets back to the roots of its mission. In order to establish this government, or even have a discussion about what this government should look like, we must do what Locke directs, we must rebel. When discussing the French revolution, we focus on the reign of terror and lawlessness. But we fail to mention that even while the reign of terror was going on, people were living out their daily lives. There was not mass murder committed by the average citizen in the rural areas of France. The reign of terror only applies to a few select cities, if not just Paris. If a country has only one city in a state of revolt, but the rest are living peacefully on their own, doesn’t this suggest that we are indeed capable of self-government?

The interim period is the scariest, it means that men will be in charge of their own destinies for years. It will, in essence, be lawless, but man is able to govern himself. Locke argues that even when we live in a lawless society, we will still be civil to one another due to man’s fear of violent death. We have a conscience. we have morals. We are not the beasts of the earth. We are humans with rational thoughts. Will there be those who abuse freedom? Yes, there will. However, when the smoke settles and liberal democracy rises from the dust, we must not let the monsters influence the proper way to govern. We have a right to govern ourselves. We have a right to revolt if our rights are not protected by the current form of government. We have the right to exercise our rights. It is time to stop watching from the sidelines and to take action. I am not calling for armed rebellion but we must not shy away from protests. If we want change we must protest. We must revolt. We must govern ourselves.


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