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Do We Need Rulers and a Government?

September 22, 2014 | Guest Authored by Suhas Yernool

The other day, I was in World History class. We were answering some questions about the foundations of early civilizations. One of the questions was, “Many ancient peoples, including the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Israelites, lived in societies guided by well established laws. Do you think that having a code of laws is an essential aspect of civilization? Why or why not?”. This question appalled me because it made me wonder what someone would say if they tried to answer no. Most sensible people would have just agreed with that statement. I would be willing to bet that the class answered affirmative. Yet, being in debate, I decided to take a negative stance with a philosophical point of view and see what I could come up with. Furthermore, I had recently watched a TV series that explored themes of chaos and a world without governments. What the show expressed also inspired me to take this stance. Keep in mind that what I am going to write, does not reflect on my actual beliefs. Instead, I am exploring a different answer; a subtle proposition of value. Also, I am going on a broader spectrum and talking about why laws, governments, and leaders are unnecessary in theory. But are needed due to human nature. So I may stray from the original question.

A code of laws is not necessary for a civilization because they are a perpetual reminder of the lack of freedom that citizens possess. The lower classes do not have freedom because they are subject to the constraints of an oppressive government and their ruler. These leaders of the ancient world did anything they wished. Ramses the Great, Pharaoh of Egypt, built many statues and monuments to honor himself and his military greatness. Yet, he never fought his own battles. The spending was detrimental to the economy of ancient Egypt and the peasants suffered as a result. This can also apply to modern times. The world has already had to deal with radical leaders in the Middle East. The people who were willing to use chemical weapons to kill their own citizens who they deemed as “rebels”. Don't you think the world would be better off if people eliminated these leaders? It wasn’t too long ago that the government of the People’s Republic of China contributed to the deaths of 40 – 70 million citizens through forced labor and executions. People can only achieve true freedom when oppressive governments are torn down. It gives the people a chance to choose their own path and live by their own rules.

You may think that tearing down nations and governments will create chaos. But contemplate this -- the natural order is disorder. It can be possible to coexist without any form of government. The structure of nature, for example, does not have any specific government. The plants and animals in an ecosystem do not have any specific power over one another. Neither one is superior and one does not rule the other. The groups of these organisms all depend on each other for survival. They coexist in harmony. If they can live in such a way why can’t we? One could argue that it is in the nature of humans. It is in human nature for people to organize themselves and create a hierarchy. That is what the field of sociology is based on. There is always one person who always establishes himself/herself as the de facto leader. This is the way that it has been all throughout history. It is the reason why the social aspects of humans are so different from other organisms.

A leader is necessary to keep the people in line. Fyodor Dostoyevsky explores this theme his parable poem “The Grand Inquisitor” from The Brothers Karamazov. During the Spanish Inquisition, the Church is persecuting people for not submitting to the Catholic faith. Then Jesus himself descends down to Earth and starts freeing the people from their rulers. When the leader, the Grand Inquisitor, sees this happening, he throws Jesus into prison for his actions. He asks Jesus why he tried to give mankind the freedom to choose between good and evil. He says that humans are not noble enough to make the choice by themselves. With the freedom they have, they are always going to choose evil. The evil being that they kill each other. Man needs someone to make him do good. He claims that the worst thing Jesus did was to not make his followers bow down to him, contrary to the Grand Inquisitor. He saves them from their own vicious nature. “Freedom, free reason, and science will lead [the masses] into such a maze and confront them with such miracles and insoluble mysteries, that some of them, unruly and ferocious, will exterminate themselves; others, unruly and feeble will destroy each other.”- (“The Grand Inquisitor”, 225). In his philosophy, human beings are not intelligent enough to follow Christ for the sake of their own faith. They need something in return -- compensation. The compensation being the promise of heaven and paradise. In fact, mankind would be willing to throw their savior to the curb to get what they want. In the same way, rulers and government offer protection, food, and community so long as the masses follow them.

The answer to if a civilization requires laws turns out to be yes. The laws and regulations of a society limit freedom. Yet, the need for freedom is outweighed by the need for protection to save humans from annihilating each other. The only way to make life bearable for the masses is to enslave them by miracle and give them someone to bow down to. As a result of this sacrifice to make them happy, those who bear the knowledge may have to suffer. “For only we… shall be unhappy. There will be thousands of millions of happy babes, and a hundred thousand sufferers who have taken upon themselves the knowledge of good and evil… we shall keep the secret, and for their happiness we shall allure them with the reward of heaven and eternity.” (The Grand Inquisitor, 225-26). Yet, despite the suffering of the few from this knowledge, a society in which the majority are content through ignorance is perhaps the more stable, and thus the “better” civilization. After all, “ Ignorance is bliss”.

* For images attribution for this guest-authored post, please contact Linus.