Thinking Outside the Aquarium: A Different View of Government Force

Much like a fish in a small aquarium, the citizens of modern-day nations have a distorted view of the world around them, and their relative freedom. They’ve never known a space any larger than the walls of their fish tank. From their perspective, the aquarium constitutes the limits of their world, and it is the only life that they can imagine.

I’m penning this essay in SurvivalBlog to encourage my readers to take a step back and think about the very nature of government — all governments, at all levels. Of the 195 nations on Earth, all but a few of them have much the same to offer their citizenries. The inhabitants of the vast majority of nations can only conceive of life within the constraints imposed upon them by their respective governments.

In essence, governments are like organized crime gangs, that go around collecting “protection” money.  They are simply better organized, have larger and more organized force backing them up, and have a facade of legitmacy. But in the end, they are still mafia-like gangs, albeit with cops, courts, and fancy flags.

Imagine a gang that is so large and so well-entrenched that it begins to dictate how people live, where they can go, and what they can buy or sell. It spies on all of their activities, tracks their movements, and listens in on their conversations. The gang issues a currency that they can inflate at will. The gang’s regulations become voluminous and increasingly labyrinthine, dictating that even hair stylists must buy a license. Eventually, more than 20 percent of all income gets taxed and then passes through government agencies. And then the gang decides that only gang members or their bodyguards should have guns. They say this is “just commonsense gun safety regulation.”

Modern governments, worldwide, share certain factors, whether they be a Democracy, Aristocracy, Oligarchy, or Dictatorship. Nearly all national governments share a common set of goals and tools. These include:

  • A strictly-enforced system of taxation.
  • A web of regulations.
  • Exclusivity of sovereignty and jurisdiction.
  • A monopoly of the legal use of force (violence).
  • Self-perpetuation.
  • Agencies or Ministries that develop their own fiefdoms.
  • Secure borders.
  • Licensure for any productive and profitable activity.  (Remember: A license is paying for permission to do something that the government had decreed to be otherwise illegal.)
  • Protecting the privileges of a few powerful individuals. (Every society appears to have its “Elites”.)
  • Rewards for those who “go along” with the system. (Tax incentives, grants, subsidies, et cetera.)
  • Treaties with other nations.
  • Legislatures or parliaments
  • Courts — with a system of jails and prisons
  • Police forces, and
  • Military organizations.

In my novel Land of Promise, I posited the establishment of a nation with a truly limited government. This government came very close to being no government, with the behavior of citizens constrained simply by the social norms of a populace that shares a common religious framework. In the case of the fictitious Ilemi Republic, that framework was Christianity.

In that fictional nation, the only exercise of force came from a citizen’s militia, raised to defend the nation’s borders from invasion. Otherwise, the citizenry was left alone to govern themselves.  I intended Land of Promise to be gedankenexperiment. If nothing else, I wanted to use it to illustrate just how over-governed we have become, in 21st Century western nations. My goal was to get people thinking about true Christian libertarianism. (Note: Not to be confused with “Capital L” Libertarianism, which in its modern incarnation has turned its back on God, has an obsession with drug use, and does not recognize the rights of unborn babies.)

The Media Is In On It

You certainly won’t see governments described as gang-like in mainstream media outlets. Why? Because the media is a complicitous part of the problem:

“Democracy has become a weapon of moneyed interests. It uses the media to create the illusion that there is consent from the governed. The press today is an army with carefully organized weapons, the journalists its officers, the readers its soldiers. The reader neither knows nor is supposed to know the purposes for which he is used and the role he is to play. The notion of democracy is often no different than living under a plutocracy or government by wealthy elites.” – Oswald Spengler

At The Crux

For many years, I thought that the solution to our nation’s problems would come by simply reducing the size of government with constrained budgets and with term limits.  The dilemma is that once they are in place, governments are just about ungovernable. They take on a life of their own, and inexorably expand their power and reach into every aspect of life in all modern societies. And most politicians seem to be corrupt even before they reach high office. So term limits are only marginally effective.

The ZeroGov Alternative

My friend Bill Buppert has often chided me for clinging to the notion that governments can be limited. Perhaps he is right, in espousing the goal of zero government.  He wrote the book ZeroGov: Limited Government, Unicorns and Other Mythological Creatures. He also wrote the Introduction to my novel Land of Promise. Here are two excerpts from that Introduction:

“This book is a blueprint for a future that diverts mightily from the historical trend line for the past few millennia. It seeks to reimagine a liberty revolution that puts individuals in the driver’s seat and tries to harness and limit government as much as possible. I’ve written extensively on why I think both American revolutions in 1775 and 1861 respectively were abysmal failures in delivering the individual freedom that Jim tries to flesh out in this book.

Secession, devolution, and imperial dissolution are the rule and not the exception in human history especially, in the West. Western history is littered with defunct empires and sundered nation states. All of these are incubators for the next generation of government to take its place. Jim is providing a road map here, a how-to manual on a method to craft the limited government framework–and a ripping good yarn.

Full disclosure: I am a zero government abolitionist (hence the name of my blog) but I support any effort to stem the collectivist tide and I am willing to hear Jim out. I’m honored that Jim asked me to pen this Introduction. I’ve read a galley proof of the novel and loved the heart and soul animating the idea. The notion of the nation state is public enemy number one to anyone who cherishes and wishes to preserve any semblance of individual liberty and freedom not assimilated into the collectivist organism known as the state.

While I remain skeptical of any government ability to remain limited, I am happy to entertain any new notions that come down the pike. This is one of those.

Jim crafts an intriguing idea: Peacefully negotiate and carve a small section of unwanted land in Africa for political émigrés and refugees and see what one can sow with the notion of creating a system where all initiated violence is forbidden and self-defense from any aggression is encouraged. Let’s remember that murder begins where self defense ends and that the Ten Commandments, that ingeniously simple and elegant set of principles on which such a country may be based forbade murder and not killing. Imagine a country crafted along Christian principles that hearkens more closely to the Articles of Confederation than to the Constitution. This book speaks to that…

…He crafts a stage here pregnant with dramatic possibility and that illuminates a possible future for those despondent over the trajectory of the world you live in. While not an homage to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein, it riffs and syncopates on many of its themes: government fatigue, increasing surveillance state nonsense, the narrowing of the ability to be left alone. And the worst malefactor of all: the tremendous rippling of unintended consequences, bad judgment and sheer idiocy of big government causing an increasing cascade of the same. And herein may lay the fatal conceit of the leviathan state. Even to the most casual observer of all things government, one notices the large and small glaring examples of malfeasance and naked incompetence. While I think most conspiracy is more correlative than causative, if given a choice between incompetence and conspiracy for government ineptitude, I will champion the former every time.”


“Outside of the confines of places like Zomia in Southeast Asia, a state-repellant part of the globe; humans are more so than not corralled on to tax plantations with varying degrees of “freedom” accorded to either produce in fascist or socialist combines. The fascist model regulates all economic behavior through taxation and regulation with severely punitive measures against those who refuse to comply or evade the system. The socialist and communist models are more honest in their exploitation by rendering private property conditional on government approval. All of these collectivist models have one thing in common: no one can opt out of the system voluntarily without facing considerable violence from the state. If one doubts this in America, consider the consequences of refusing to stop for the flashing lights of the statist police in your rear-view mirror or refusing to pay your taxes at any level. Then you’ll discover just how problematically fragile your liberty is right now.

These are just some of the inspirations for Jim’s advocacy for the American Redoubt and I suspect that he is crafting this novel as a proof-house of some of the means to get there.

I also believe Jim is inspired by the soul-cleansing the desert provides since his new country in Africa is a rather desolate piece of topography. Many of us remember that scene in Lawrence of Arabia where Lord Feisal pegs Lieutenant Lawrence as one of those visionaries, those lovers of desolate places. The same Lawrence would tell us that “[a]ll men dream but not equally.  Those that dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible.” These are the practical visionaries, the men who put shoulder to philosophical wheel and make the Earth move. But then again, individual volition and innovation can make the most desolate place on Earth blossom and be fruitful through the magic of self-interested volition harnessed to a desire to be in command of your own life.”

Take note that Bill Buppert put his ZeroGov website on hiatus, in February of 2021. But I highly recommend digging into the archives, which are still freely available. And Buppert recently launched a series of podcasts on irregular warfare, titled Chasing Ghosts. Take a listen there.

A Campfire, Gone Out Of Control

Our founding fathers thought that they had lit a small, cozy campfire of a government. But it has grown into a raging inferno that is consuming every bit of available fuel in the forest.

Lastly,  there is the emerging threat of global governance. Led by the socialist World Economic Forum (WEF), many nations are banding together to form a supra-national government that would control everyone and everything.  It is only a matter of time before they make war on any nation-state that doesn’t go along with their scheme. Their oft-declared planned end game is truly ugly:  A World Government that subsumes human dignity, denies the existence of the nuclear family unit, redistributes wealth, assigns jobs, tracks every transaction, and quashes all personal liberty.

All of the aforementioned might seem depressing. There is no nation that provides a viable utopian alternative where we might migrate.  All nation-states have their drawbacks. And nearly all, sadly, seem to be on the common and inexorable path to higher taxation, more control, increased surveillance, and generally more government.

Please pray for our nation.  It is probably too late to restrain our government, but pray, we must. This world is not ours. Our home is in Heaven, with Jesus.- JWR

Permission is granted to re-post this essay, but only if it is re-posted in full.