In the context of political debates, progressives and conservatives, we often forget that our participation in a modern, democratic, governed society is one that is supposed to be voluntary, and mutually beneficial. The reason we forget the notion of a voluntary society is because there are practically no ungoverned lands left on earth for which to retreat, which is really unbelievable if you take a moment to think about. There is practically no place on earth, where a person can go, to be left alone ungoverned, because governments have a complete monopoly on land. It’s probably for this reason most of all that I can sympathize with a conservative philosophy, if for no other reason than to have the symbolic reassurance that you could always quit an organization that you felt you no longer wished to be a part of. In my own experience, whenever I have felt disillusioned with a job or an organization, I’ve always found it quite mentally stabilizing to remember that I’m participating voluntarily, that I’m not a slave to any given occupation, and I possess the right to quit at any time. It’s only in the context of considering quitting something, that I can fully appreciate the merits and virtue of whatever it is that I’m participating in, and whether it’s truly working well for me. So when it comes to our government, or any government for that matter, because let’s face it, as Churchill famously once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”, I think it would be mentally stabilizing to be able to have the option to quit being governed.
The idea that one could go to a place to quit being governed, immediately sparks the question as to why you would quit. I often think about the inefficiencies an inequities in the world, including our governments, and wonder how we as people might better address the concerns of our own individual families, and then maybe turn our attentions to our neighbors, neighborhoods, and so on. I often ask people, what do you think the unemployment rate is on an Amish farm? The question being rhetorical, there is none, if you are physically capable of doing work, there is work you must do, in order to receive the dignity and respect of food, shelter, and social engagement. People have lived and continue to live successfully off of the land and their labor for thousands of years, and it’s only fairly recently, with all of our technological sophistication that we see a world filled with people forced to live without the dignity that simple labor used to afford. I’m routinely plagued by the feeling that, as world progress marches on, this self-sufficient form of occupation is becoming structurally unfeasible. So how did we get here, how did we get to this place in society? We sold our simple labor for technologies that would give us spare time, maximize productivity, and we soon found ourselves in a world so organized that simple labor no longer affords what it used to. We find ourselves relying on sophisticated technologies that we don’t know how to build, or systems so complex that we feel our opportunities are outside of our control.
I catch myself often romanticizing a world, a time, where a tract of land and simple labor could afford a dignified life for one’s family. Is there any occupation that is truly more virtuous than directly providing the food and shelter you and your family need to live? Any occupation more directly connected to the balance of the earth? Any system more resilient to external shocks. So it is, in this context, that I evaluate our governments, our social contracts, and our organizations ability to compel me to feel confident in abandoning the idea and notion that an un-governed, self-sustaining, simple labor model is the ideal way to live. I do know that people in groups are capable of achieving amazing things, amazing compassion, and amazing abundance, both actual and perceived, in a manner where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I know that technologies could allow for a more integrated, emotionally connected, and socially evolved human species that is capable of spending more time exploring ways to live in greater harmony with all life around us. So, to answer the question of why wouldn’t I quit being governed, it’s because I believe, and I hope, that we are capable as a species to understand, develop, and manifest a more compassionate, abundant, and emotionally connected society. This is my target, this is my carrot in the trade-off between an ungoverned life and a social contract which compels me to voluntarily be governed, for the benefit of the social good. It’s easy to get lost in the superficial rhetoric and ugliness that remains in politics today, but the next time you think about where your politics are, think of this, think of what compels you to voluntarily join any government at all, and what you believe you can achieve by doing so. After all, we do have choices, and in fact many more choices than we are often presented with.