All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man; its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him. If it be aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; if it be democratic, then it seeks to protect the man who is inferior in every way against both. One of its primary functions is to regiment men by force, to make them as much alike as possible and as dependent upon one another as possible, to search out and combat originality among them. All it can see in an original idea is potential change, and hence an invasion of its prerogatives. The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are. . . .
The average man, whatever his errors otherwise, at least sees clearly
that government is something lying outside him and outside the
generality of his fellow-men—that it is a separate, independent and
often hostile power, only partly under his control, and capable of doing
him great harm. In his romantic moments, he may think of it as a
benevolent father or even as a sort of jinn or god, but he
never thinks of it as part of himself. In time of trouble he looks to it
to perform miracles for his benefit; at other times he sees it as an
enemy with which he must do constant battle. Is it a fact of no
significance that robbing the government is everywhere regarded as a
crime of less magnitude than robbing an individual? . . .
What lies behind all this, I believe, is a deep sense of the fundamental
antagonism between the government and the people it governs. It is
apprehended, not as a committee of citizens chosen to carry on the
communal business of the whole population, but as a separate and
autonomous corporation, mainly devoted to exploiting the population for
the benefit of its own members. Robbing it is thus an act almost devoid
of infamy. . . . When a private citizen is robbed a worthy man is
deprived of the fruits of his industry and thrift; when the government
is robbed the worst that happens is that certain rogues and loafers have
less money to play with than they had before. The notion that they have
earned that money is never entertained; to most sensible men it would
seem ludicrous. They are simply rascals who, by accidents of law, have a
somewhat dubious right to a share in the earnings of their fellow men.
When that share is diminished by private enterprise the business is, on
the whole, far more laudable than not.
This gang is well-nigh immune to punishment. Its worst extortions, even
when they are baldly for private profit, carry no certain penalties
under our laws. Since the first days of the Republic, less than a dozen
of its members have been impeached, and only a few obscure
understrappers have ever been put into prison. The number of men sitting
at Atlanta and Leavenworth for revolting against the extortions of
government is always ten times as great as the number of government
officials condemned for oppressing the taxpayers to their own gain. . . .
There are no longer any citizens in the world; there are only subjects.
They work day in and day out for their masters; they are bound to die
for their masters at call. . . . On some bright tomorrow, a geological
epoch or two hence, they will come to the end of their endurance. . . .