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Legitimacy and Self-Government

Written by Gary North on September 17, 2016

I have been writing about legitimacy for decades. I recently republished an article I wrote on this in 1997.

Liberty flourishes under this environment: self-government under law. Individuals apply the legal principles to their own situations. The general rule is: “Just say no.”

When self-government declines in any government — church, family, or state — the enforcement arm of the government must devote an increasing quantity of institutional resources to policing. The central government becomes more authoritarian. At some point, if self-government is not restored voluntarily, it is replaced.

To gain voluntary cooperation, the government must be perceived by most participants as legitimate. If the government is seen as illegitimate, people begin to violate the rules at the margin. It may take decades for this to bring down the central government. It took from 1917 to 1991 for the USSR to collapse, but it eventually did.

This brings me to the topic at hand: the Presidential election of 2016. Both candidates are viewed negatively. There has never been a Presidential election that has been conducted on the basis: “The other one is worse.” This really is the lesser of two evils. We talk about it, but this time it’s the real deal. People are thinking: “How bad will it get if the other one wins?”

It is going to get unimaginably bad economically because of central banking, not party politics. The public will not perceive this.

The next President will be sworn into office under a cloud of suspicion and resentment. There are hard-core supporters of both candidates, but they are outnumbered by the skeptics.

In the case of Trump, he was not vetted by the Republican Establishment. This has never happened before. It is something new. So, the Republican Establishment is in no mood to cooperate. Trump will not get voluntary cooperation from within the party unless he wins in a landslide. But because the Libertarian Party is at last close to double digits, no candidate is likely to get a majority.

This will affect the man in the street in a time of economic crisis. People will look to Washington for guidance. They will not get it.

When this happens, voluntary compliance will erode. People want to believe that the people at the top know what they are doing. When that confidence fades, people will begin to break the law when they think they can get away with this. They will start taking care of themselves first.

We are going to see a growing loss of legitimacy over the next four years. The politics of trust is fading. This is good. People should not place much trust in Washington. The problem is this: “You can’t beat something with nothing.” The default mode is cooperation. But when this ceases to be true, people will chase after rainbows. I quote the late Jack Miller: “People will call for a man on a white horse. There are a lot of guys out there with brown horses and whitewash.”

Things decline slowly for a long time. Then they fall apart very fast.

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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