Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

We Are Not the Government, but America Is No Longer Anything More than the Government

Posted by M. C. on October 7, 2022

Connor Mortell

We must, therefore, emphasize that “we” are not the government; the government is not “us.” The government does not in any accurate sense “represent” the majority of the people.

Murray Rothbard wrote this in his popular Anatomy of the State. His point still stands to this day. The state cannot be said to represent “us” in any accurate or serious way. It may be even more true today than ever before. However, what is murkier today is who “us” even is. If “we” are not the government, then who are “we?”

“We” would logically reference what Rothbard described as separate from the state, the nation:

Everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture. Every person into one or several overlapping communities, usually including an ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions. He is generally born into a “country.”

While this would make sense as who “we” are, I struggle to believe this—in any meaningful way—describes anything that brings “us” as Americans together. Taking Rothbard’s descriptors piece by piece, almost none of them still apply. Everyone is born into a family which includes ethnic groups, but America has long been known as a melting pot with any number of ethnic heritages among its people, so it would be nonsense to say this played a role in bringing together the American nation. Generally speaking, there is a common language across America, however, it is merely the language of our former rulers—the British. If this drew us together as a nation, then we’d be equally drawn to Australia.

As for the “overlapping communities” we have almost no such communities drawing Americans together. Ethnic groups and cultures we’ve already addressed vary widely within America. Specific values have never been less cohesive than they are today. In the state of Texas, the average person likely believes that an abortion is committing murder against a child. In the state of California, the average person believes that an abortion is a sacred right for women.

In the state of New York, it was quite recently believed that going out without a mask was posing imminent harm to vulnerable people. At the same time, in the state of Florida it was almost ridiculous in many places to wear a mask. To pretend these groups have shared values is simply something of the past.

Religious beliefs do not hold as a common thread considering the country was founded in part on the freedom of religion. From that, many traditions diverge among the people. In fact, even the few traditions that are common among the residents of America are extremely varied across regions. While we are born into a specific place and are somewhat geographically together, we’ve expanded far beyond any real sense of vicinity.

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