Government and Parenting
There are many parallels between government and parenting. They include:
|Control over a jurisdiction||Territory||Family home|
|The presence of a ruler||The king, president, chancellor, etc.||Parents|
|The presence of subjects||The people||Children||Force/punishment against subjects||Jail||Being grounded||Unsolicited involvement in subjects’ affairs||Forbidding drug use; curfews, forced vaccinations|
There are additional parallels, but also some differences between government and parenting which vary in size and applicability. For example, parents don’t usually steal money from their children, whereas government steals money from its subjects through what it euphemistically calls ‘taxation’. But here, I want to focus on the similarities. And the biggest similarity, I think, is that both government and parenting are, at heart, epistemological projects.
Since children usually outlive their parents, one of the primary goals of a parent is to ensure that his children will one day be able to live without him. That takes knowledge. As children get older, they gradually create more knowledge, which in turn enables them to become more and more independent. This process involves the parent reducing his interference in his children’s lives step by step. Sustained interference, on the other hand, makes the road to independence more difficult.
Children are born cosmologists. They want to understand the world and explore and navigate it independently. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that while solicited guidance is welcome, sustained and/or unsolicited interference in a child’s life, especially as he gets older, leads to much frustration for both the child and the parent – even when done, as parents never fail to claim, for the best of reasons.
While society still encourages parents to rule young children with an iron fist, it looks down on those who wish to rule their adult children beyond some culturally acceptable threshold. This is one of the major cultural achievements of the West and cannot be said of other parts of the world where parents continue to exercise their often tyrannical control over their adult children until death.
Stranger, still, than a parent who wishes to have ever more control over his adult child’s life would be a child who wishes to become more dependent on his parents; who wants his parents to control his life and his siblings’ lives more as he grows older. And yet, this is precisely the situation we find ourselves in when applied to politics, considering our fellow man as our sibling and the government as our parent: the jealous bum ratting out his more successful sibling, getting the government to forcefully extract money from that sibling to give to the bum, to regulate the sibling’s business, to force the sibling to get vaccinated, etc. It’s like a child who wants his parents to force his siblings to share their toys with him, but either fails to see that this also increases his siblings’ and parents’ control over him, or, worse, wants to be controlled in that way. I believe this attitude toward one’s peers and oneself is a pessimistic one.
So, much like a child who has a healthy and natural interest in becoming truly independent and living life completely self-directed, every citizen should have the same interest when it comes to the government. He should feel a revolting disgust every time regulations are extended, every time he pays his taxes. (Imagine how utterly disgusted and wronged you would feel if your parents forced you, at the threat of violence, to give them part of your paycheck.)
A society requires knowledge to live without government. That’s partly why revolutions tend to fail. A good government, just like a good parent, has an interest in reducing influence over its subjects and increasing their independence. The idea of limited government is a lie: it must be a continuously shrinking government until it reaches size zero.
At the time of its founding, the United States’ government was so small it presented a promising path toward the truly free and government-less existence of its subjects. But over the centuries, despite all the talk of freedom and limited government, it has grown into a humongous apparatus that inserts itself into the lives of its subjects in as many ways as possible, it would seem – both solicited and unsolicited. Even when the American people try to solve their problems themselves – such as through cryptocurrency, be that a good or a bad idea – the government immediately wants to sink its parasitic, regulatory teeth into the issue. Regulation actively hinders the citizens’ growth of knowledge and makes them more dependent upon and controlled by the government. This is why Trump’s goal of getting rid of two regulations whenever a new one is introduced was a breath of fresh air. Like him or not, with Biden, this attitude has surely left the White House.
As children, we all rightly yearned to be free from our controlling parents. But as adults, our parents were replaced with a new authority: government. It seems that for some reason, many of us do not yearn to be free from this tyrant. There’s something deeply wrong with that. Changing this state of affairs will involve a gradual process of turning the tyrant more benevolent (this has partly happened in the West with some success); putting ever more of the tyrant’s knowledge in the hands of the citizens; and then the tyrant voluntarily and actively making himself obsolete.
A child cannot grow up without a parent. In the same way, society cannot work – at first! – without government. We’ve only come a few hundred years since the enlightenment, so we’re teenagers of sorts in our quest for freedom. As a society, we should not want to return to our ruler’s warm (or not so warm) embrace – we should want to live freely.
Thanks to Logan Chipkin for reading a draft of this article.