Political Theory Paper #3

Political Theory Paper #3 - The Necessity of Government...

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The Necessity of Government Throughout this course, we’ve studied a large body of political literature dedicated towards exploring which mode of government works best for mankind. However, this is the first instance we’ve seen of somebody arguing for no government at all. Thoreau starts his essay with the quote we are given under prompt number 3. During his time, when the American government was a driving force behind many events, it’s quite a bold statement to say that government is useless. His arguments are coherent though, and the blight of slavery on American soil may have made some people agree with him. One person that would agree with Thoreau on somewhat different grounds would be Karl Marx. Judging from “The Communist Manifesto”, Marx would have a problem with the existing power structure in America, but to what extent would he agree with Thoreau that all government is unnecessary? First, we must examine why Thoreau thinks government is bad. His main arguments for the evils of government center on its lack of morals. He claims it is “but a tradition…each instant losing some of its integrity,” (Thoreau, pg.1). This is because the rule of the majority equals the rule of the strongest, who will inevitably exploit the rest of the population, turning them into machines that serve the state. People in government may attempt to do good things on their own, but they fail to change the current state of affairs because change takes too long. Opposition slows the process down, as the unscrupulous merchants and farmers in the South effectively stalled any reform in the slave trade (Thoreau, pg.2). Voting is useless because it holds no true power as an action; it simply “[expresses] to men feebly your desire that [some belief] should prevail,” (Thoreau, pg.2). Therefore, there is no way to change the status quo and create a better government because there is no effective method to do so, for “As for adopting the ways which
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the State has provided for remedying the evil,…They take too much time, and a man’s life will be gone,” (Thoreau, pg.4). Meanwhile, the government continues perpetuating injustices such as slavery. Even worse, the government uses your money to do it. This occurs because people are indoctrinated into yielding all of their freedom to the government. Thoreau uses the example that while you wouldn’t let your neighbor take money from you, you give everything you own to the government without second thought (Thoreau, pg.4). He argues that this trend should be reversed, and people should resist all governments except those that are equally just to all people and recognize the rights of the individual (Thoreau, pg.9). Until then, he offers himself as an
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This note was uploaded on 02/06/2012 for the course POLI_SCI 210 taught by Professor Somebody during the Winter '11 term at Northwestern.

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Political Theory Paper #3 - The Necessity of Government...

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