Page:Rise and Fall of Society.djvu/91

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Government and Property

We get some hint as to the reason for Government when we look to the emergence of this institution from embryonic Society, the one that sprang up on our western frontier. In the beginning, when our pioneers settled down to the business of making a living in the wilderness, the minuscule Society got along without any organized authority. The best there was, was individual authority, as represented by the gun which each pioneer kept at hand. To be sure, the primary function of this instrument was that of capital, a tool to facilitate the securing of food for the table or pelts for the wardrobe. Its use, however, was not confined to this productive purpose; when occasion arose, the pioneer resorted to it to protect life and property, and when so used the purpose was to oppose his will to that of the depredator. It was his authority against that of another.

Government is authority, and authority, in this sense, is the imposition of one's will on that of another, so as to induce behavior deemed desirable or to prevent behavior deemed undesirable. Regardless of the form of Government, whether the authority is exercised by a chief or a monarch or an elected official, whether the purpose is to satisfy his whim or to enforce a law, whether or not it has the sanction of public opinion, the action itself is the opposition of volition against volition. And even though the authority is accepted and readily complied with, it is the use or threat of force that gives authority its substance. Therefore, when the frontiersman made use of his gun to thwart the purposes of a depredator he was in effect acting as Government; he was exercising such force as he had at his disposal to compel compliance with his will.

He was protecting life and property. The value the individual puts on life is instinctive and primordial, and his