The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

Government is immoral

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/18/2017 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 509 times Debate No: 99089
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Round 1 is acceptance only
Round 2 is for argument
Round 3 is for rebuttal
Round 4 is for conclusions

Thanks and good luck!


I accept the challenge
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you to Con for accepting this debate.

Is government moral? To answer that question requires us to look at what is government and morality. Government can be defined as an organization that maintains a monopoly on a perceived rightful claim to use force in a fixed geographic area. In actual practice that means a group of humans that rules over other humans, ruling meaning to exercise the initiation of force or threats of force for social control or order.

But, what is morality? Morality is principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. So, what constitutes good or bad behavior or right or wrong? I argue here that the initiation of physical force or threats of physical force constitute bad behavior. When in kindergarten or as a child we learned this concept. We were taught that hitting people and taking their stuff is wrong because it violates the rights and liberty of another and leads to bad outcomes. We were never taught that there is an exception if I work for government. The very definition of government in that it initiates force or threats of force to attempt to create social order and utilitarian outcomes is the reason it lacks morality. The most obvious example of this is how governments amass resources though taxation or forceful confiscation of property from those it rules over.

Some may argue that a social contract exists, but there are problems with the idea of the social contract. One is that it is an invalid form of contract as others though perhaps in most modern nations contract on behalf of others who disagree though democratic or republican means(the concepts of governments, not the political parties). This doesn't follow as one cannot enter into contracts for another without some other consent involved. I can't buy a house and make you pay for it.

The idea of the social contract misunderstands the nature of political power. The state is not a voluntary association or club as its hallmark is the use of force or threats of force for compliance. There is also no methodology to withdraw consent from governments all together in a society as it is now. This lack of a true voluntary interaction is another hallmark of the immorality of the state.

One may argue that government is necessary for a functioning world. This is argued despite the fact that most human interactions require voluntary cooperation and force is damaging to those relationships. There is no evidence that a lack of a state would create poor outcomes. The only poor outcomes would be a disorderly establishment of the state after its long stood existence. A practical transition to voluntary associations and societies would have to take place.

If a peaceful person condemns all aggressive wars by one country against another, he is understood and applauded by the overwhelming majority of the people. But, when the same peaceful person condemns all aggressive actions by the state against its own citizens, he or she is misunderstood and repudiated by almost all of his fellow citizens. Why is this? Why does the person recognize one forceful action as being immoral but not the other? It is conditioning to accept what the state does as just and right without question or is something else at play?

The fact is it is a well understood fundamental tenet of any system of morality that no person has a moral right to initiate coercive action against another person. Given that government is immoral.

I would ask con to consider the following:
1) Why does the right to initiate force exist for the state and not individual citizens?

2) Wouldn't the ability to use force legitimately mean that the state has a higher claim over an individual that that individual does?

3) Have humans ever has a natural right to initiate force against other humans?

4) If the answer to #3 above is no then, how does one delegate a right one does not have?

I hold that if one honestly answers those questions you can only come to the consensus that governments are immoral.


Disclaimer: Personally, I do not think the government is moral. However, given certain assumptions that my opponent makes, I can show that they must concede government is moral. If my opponent would like to debate me on those assumptions after this, namely on property or morality, we could do that.

Argument 1a: Property

By looking at my opponent's recent debate: “Taxation is theft”, I conclude that my opponent makes the assumption that property is legitimate.

Property is grounded on the social contract theory. If a person wishes to own something, like land, that person must create a contract with the rest of the society around him. They must agree that this person has complete ownership, and can or cannot allow whomever he wants. Now, what happens when this person passes down this land to the next generation, and an entirely new generation of people exist. The new generation did not comply to that contract, yet the belief in property requires that every new generation is forced to consent.

In order for the protection of property rights to exist past multiple generations, some entity must also exist to protect and ensure those rights. This entity would be the government. Without the entity of the government, the ownership of land could not exceed one generation.

Argument 1b: Property

Once a government forms, they can seek to expand the nation by acquiring more land. For example, the government of the United States of America owns all of the land in the United States of America. Because the government has property rights, they are then allowed to make laws concerning the people who reside in their land. If property rights exist, it is moral the government to make laws, even laws that require taxation. Just as a landlord has the right to tax and enact policies to those who use his buildings and/or land, so does the government have the same right.

If you concede that the government did acquire the land legitimately, then you must concede that the government is moral.

If one argues that the government somehow did not acquire the land in a legitimate way, then it necessarily follows that any citizen in that land also acquired the land in an illegitimate way, meaning you have no more or less rights over the land than the government. If my opponent concedes this, then he must either concede that property itself isn't legitimate, or that the majority of humanity immoraly reside in illegitimate land.

Argument 2: Morality

My opponent makes the claim that the government is immoral. However, in order to prove this, my opponent must then provide and adequate theory of morality that withstands scrutiny. The issue is, though, that all the major theories of morality are plagued by the circular reasoning fallacy and the grounding problem.

For example: Utilitarianism argues that what is moral is the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This begs the question, what is good for the greatest number? Avoiding pain? But why is pain bad? Because it's not good. See, this is circular reasoning. Secondly, WHY should we do what is good for the greatest number of people. HOW is that something that is ethical? WHY isn't creating the most harm the most ethical solution. If evolution is true, and the most complex species achieved that status by surviving monumental catastrophes, wouldn't that then make pain a good thing? But then, one could as the question: Why is being a complex being a good thing?

So, unless my opponent can provide an objective moral theory that withstands scrutiny, he cannot prove that government is immoral.

If he does not provide an objective moral theory in which all humanity ought to live by, then he cannot escape moral relativism. If culture decides that government is moral, and almost every culture in human history has decided to create government, then government is good by this standard.

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